9 June - 26 September 2001

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140. 26 September: The Kuwait Immortal

I moved this story to a separate page.

139. 13 September: Telltale times - the guest must be Fischer

Nothing more refreshing than a change of opinions, or as a friend of mine says: "I take back everything I said and claim the opposite."
    There were two candidates who could be the mysterious guest who beats masters and grandmasters with his sick openings - Fischer and a computer. In item 134, I said he couldn't be Fischer, but in the meantime, I found convincing evidence that he is not a computer.
    I found this evidence in a series of twenty-five 3-minute blitz games that 'guest71' played on 24 April 2001 against 'Beber', the French IM Robert Fontaine, who had then an ICC rating of 2827, and who has now a FIDE-rating of 2452. guest71, always with absurd openings, won 20 games, lost 3, and two games were drawn.
    Perhaps their most interesting game was:
guest71 - Beber, ICC 3 0, 2001
1.e4 c5 2.Ke2 Nc6 3.Ke3 g6 4.Nc3 Nd4 5.d3 Nf6 6.Kd2 d5 7.Ke1 Bg7 8.h3 O-O 9.a3 e5 10.Bg5 Be6 11.exd5 Bxd5 12.Nxd5 Qxd5 13.c3 Ne6 14.Be3 Rad8 15.Qa4 e4 16.dxe4 Nxe4 17.Rc1 a6 18.Be2 b5 19.Qxa6 c4 20.Rd1 Qf5 21.Nf3 Nxc3 22.bxc3 Bxc3+ 23.Nd2 Nc5 24.Bxc5 Bxd2+ 25.Rxd2 Rxd2 26.Kxd2 Rd8+ 27.Kc1 Qe5 (See diagram) White is two Bishops up, but he cannot prevent a perpetual with 28...Qa1+ or, after 28.Kb1, with Qf5+ 29.Ka1 Qe5+.
    White played the surprising 28.Bxc4 At first, I thought this was a typical computer move. My computer programs do look at it, but finally they play 28.Qxb5 Qa1+ with a draw. However, there is also a typical human maxim for this kind of situation: "You can only take one at a time." So why not Bxc4? - after Qxc5, you have 29.Qxb5, and will remain a pawn up. What makes Bxc4 human too, is that it does not change the result: after 28...bxc4 29.Qb6 it's still a draw with Qa1+. It could just as well be a very human last attempt to let the opponent go wrong, and win a drawn game.
    But there is something else. Good thing ICC even keeps this kind of game in their database, with times used for each move. When I looked at that, I was in for a surprise: guest71 never took more than 3 seconds for any move in that game, but 28.Bxc4 cost him 12 seconds.
    Computers do not vary their thinking times that much.
    There followed: 28.Bxc4 Qc3+ Black obliges and makes the decisive mistake. 29.Kb1 bxc4 30.Rc1 Qb3+ 31.Ka1 Rd2 32.Qc8+ Kg7 33.Bf8+ Kf6 34.Qc6+ Kf5 35.Qc5+ Kf6 36.Qe7+ Kf5 37.Qxf7+ After 5 seconds. 37...Kg5 38.Be7+ Kh6 39.Qf8+ Kh5 40.g4 mate

The three games guest71 lost, were all very strange.
guest71 - Beber, ICC 3 0, 2001
1.f4 e5 2.f5 d5
Here, after 9 seconds' thought, White played 3.g4 And after 13 seconds, Black replied 3...Qh4 mate

And what to make of this?
guest71 - Beber, ICC 3 0, 2001
1.e4 c5 2.f4 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.d4 Bg7 5.d5 Nd4
and White resigned.

In his only real loss, guest71 was totally wiped out after 1.e4 f6 2.d4 Kf7 3.Nc3 Kg6 4.f4 h5 But although Beber still had plenty of time, guest71 played on for a long time with only K+5p vs. K+N+6p.

One of the draws had two telling moments.
Beber - guest71, ICC 3 0, 2001
1.e4 b5 (10 seconds) 2.Bxb5 Ba6 3.Bxa6 Nxa6 4.Nf3 e5 5.O-O d6 6.d4 exd4 7.Qxd4 Nc5 8.Nc3 Qd7 9.Bg5 h6 10.Bh4 Ne6 11.Qc4 Be7 12.Bxe7 Nxe7 13.Rad1 Qc6 14.Qxc6+ Nxc6 15.Nd5 O-O 16.c3 Rfe8 17.Rfe1 f6 18.Nd2 Ne5 19.Nb3 Nc4 20.Re2 c6 21.Ne3 Nf4 22.Rc2 Nxe3 23.fxe3 Up to here, apart from his first move, guest71 had never spent more than 4 seconds. However, he needed 45 seconds for 23...Ng6 There followed: 24.Rxd6 Rxe4 25.Kf2 Ne5 26.h3 Re8 27.Nc5 Rxe3 28.Kxe3 (See diagram) After his little combination, Black has to win back his Rook, you'd say, and there is only one move to do it. But it took him 51 seconds to play 28...Nc4+ After 29.Kf3 Nxd6 30.b4 Nc4 31.a4 Kf7 32.Re2 Ne5+ 33.Kf2 h5 34.Rd2 Ke7 35.a5 g6 36.Rd4 Rd8 37.Ke3 Rd6, a draw was agreed.

To think that a computerized impostor would sometimes take a minute for a forced move to suggest that he's Bobby Fischer, would be too far-fetched. He must be Fischer, and he does this kind of thing to increase the odds he's already giving with his openings; he's also known to have added time to his opponents' clocks.
    At 58, Bobby Fischer is frighteningly strong at blitz.

138. 9 September: Rotate 90 degrees

Thanks to Eduardo Bauza Mercére for relocating this very strange game that I'd seen a lifetime ago.

Aloni - Czerniak, ch Israel 1967
1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4 Nc6 5.Be3 e5 6.d5 Nce7 7.Bd3 f5 8.f3 Nf6 9.Qd2 O-O 10.h3 f4 11.Bf2 g5 12.O-O-O Ng6 13.Nge2 Qe7 14.Kb1 Bd7 15.Bc2 h5 16.Nc1 Bh6 17.Nd3 Kg7 18.Rdg1 Rh8 19.Rc1 g4 20.hxg4 hxg4 21.Rhd1 Bg5 22.c5 Bh4 23.cxd6 cxd6 24.Bg1 Bg3 25.Ne2 Nh5 26.Nxg3 Nxg3 27.Bf2 Rh2 28.Bg1 Rhh8 29.Bf2 gxf3 30.gxf3 Rh3 31.Rg1 Rah8 32.Bxa7 Rh2 33.Bf2 R8h3 34.Qe1 Nh1 35.Bb6 Kh6 36.a4 Nh4 37.Bd1 Be8 38.Qa5 Rg3 39.Bd8 Qf7 40.Rf1 Ng2 41.Be2 Rgh3 42.Qb4 Qd7 43.Bb6 Qe7 44.Rc7 Qf6 45.Rc8 Bg6 46.Bd8 Qh8 47.Qxd6 Kh5 48.Qe6 Rg3 49.Bf6 Qh7 (See diagram) 50.Qg4+ and Black resigned.

137. 7 September: Queen's move of the year

In Kapnisis (2373) - Vajda (2507), World Junior (u20) Championship, Peristeri (Greece), 2001, the position on the left arose.
White played the baffling 28.Qd7+ A noncapturing Queen move to a square that is guarded by two Knights may have never happened before. Even if it's obvious in a way (detracting the Nf6 so you could mate with Nh5 is all you have on your mind) I think I'd still have put it in the top half of my 110 Most Fantastic Moves ever played 28...N8xd7 29.Rxd7+ Re7 30.Rxe7+ Qxe7 31.Nxe7 and White won.
    Thanks to Hartmut Metz for sending me this.

136. 5 September: Spot the loony

I'd like to make a collection of what could perhaps be termed 'Chess Family Language'.

Between regular blitz partners, or in coffee houses, playing habits arise, often in the form of lines (very often quotes) that are repeated time and again in certain appropriate situations. For instance, my friend M. and I liked to say 'Spot the loony' (the catch line of a Monty Python sketch) when we were about to punish a blunder. Another favourite of ours was the German 'Patt! Wie ist es möglich!' (Stalemate! How is it possible!) used after any sort of ridiculous move. This is what the Swiss master Gereben is supposed to have exclaimed when at an Olympiad, his opponent, when they were both in terrible timetrouble, suddenly made a few moves for both and declared it was stalemate. After having agreed to the draw, Gereben discovered it wasn't stalemate at all.

Here are some more.
- 'How beautiful Nature can be.' When playing a surprising move. Invented, as far as I know, by the late Dutch IM Nico Cortlever, but used by many others. ('Wat kan de natuur toch mooi zijn.')
- 'The poor chap decided to play the ball with his head - his old mistake.' Used by the Dutch IM Langeweg, to tell you you'd just invited him to play a crushing move - the quote is from a famous Dutch writer, Bomans. ('De ongelukkige meende de bal met het hoofd te moeten spelen, zijn oude fout.')
- 'Strange events permit themselves the luxury of occurring.' An American with whom I once played some games in Boston, but whose name I have forgotten, said that whenever I grabbed a piece he had left hanging. The quote, I believe, is from Charlie Chan, 'Chinese detective', a prewar film hero.

I'm awaiting good examples at my email adddress.

In Gereben - Ardiansjah, Siegen 1970, Black played 70...Qxg4+, after which he also executed all of the following: 71.Kxh6 Qg6+ 72.Kxg6 and now: 'Patt! Wie ist es möglich!'

135. 3 September: To Ilse

Jan Timman offered me his latest endgame study for a first publication. From here on, the words are his.
    "This study is dedicated to my wife Ilse, who celebrates her birthday today.
    For almost one week, I worked on the principal ideas and the foreplay. Materially, White is in a bad shape, but the combined forces of his two Rooks and the Bishop, which will reach the long diagonal, enable him to create an irresistable attack.
White to play and win
Jan Timman, 2001

    1.Bg2 First, the Bishop is fianchettoed. 1...Bh7 Black tries to control the crucial square e4, to counter the deadly danger on the long diagonal. An alternative is 1...f3, which enables Black to reach an endgame which, in a certain sense, is of theoretical importance. Because 2.Rxf3 would then block the long diagonal, 2.Bxf3 is imperative. The forced continuation is 2...Bh7 3.R6c4 Be4 4.Bxe4 Nxe4 5.Rxe4 and because of the bad position of his King, Black is lost, e.g. 5...Rd8 6.Rc5 Bd6 7.Rb5 and a pair of Rooks will be exchanged after which the white King reaches c6. Also losing is 6...Rd6+ 7.Rc6 Rxd5 8.Ra4, and the black King is in a mating net.
    After 1...Bh7, White continues with the rigourous sacrifice 2.Rxg3!, taking control of the square e4 again. 2...fxg3 Now, 3.Rc8!! is the only way to win. After the obvious alternative 3.d6, Black draws miraculously. 3...exd6 4.Rc4+ is then forced, after which he must choose between:
a) 4...Re4 5.Rxe4 d5 White must proceed carefully, because both after 6.Re8 Bd3+ 7.Kb6 Bc4 and 6.Rd4 Bc7! there is no win. The only winning move is 6.Re3! and Black's Queen's Bishop is dominated. Black must remain passive with 6...Bg8 after which White wins systematically: 7.Re7 Bd6 8.Re8+ Bb8 9.Bf1 and the Bishop reaches c6.
b) 4...Be4 5.Rxe4 d5! Only with this hidden stalemating motive can Black save himself. After 6.Re7, Rd8 ensures the draw.
    3...Bd3+ 4.Kb6 Bf1 The only way to prevent an immediate catastrophe on the long diagonal. But now White has a promotion combination. 5.d6+! Bxg2 6.d7 Black will lose decisive material now, while his Bishop obstructs his g-pawn. 6...Bc6 7.Kxc6 and wins."

134. 23 August: A telltale move

Rumors are growing that Bobby Fischer is occasionally playing on the Internet chess servers. He's supposed to log in anonymously as a guest, and then to beat grandmasters with improbable openings like 1.e4 c5 2.Ke2 Nc6 3.Ke3 or 1.e4 f6 2.d4 h5. See the stories on Chlodwig's Chess Page and on Leonid's Chess Theory Page, where you can also find some purported Fischer games, such as this one:

guest381 - zhong (2908), ICC 3 0 unrated, 7 July 2001
1.f3 d5 2.Kf2 g6 3.Ke3 Bg7 4.Kf4
(see diagram) Qd6+ 5.Ke3 Qb6+ 6.d4 e5 7.Kf2 exd4 8.Na3 Nf6 9.e3 dxe3+ 10.Bxe3 c5 11.Bb5+ Bd7 12.c4 O-O 13.Ne2 Bxb5 14.cxb5 d4 15.Bd2 Nbd7 16.Qb3 Rfe8 17.Nc4 Qe6 18.Nf4 Qe7 19.Rhe1 Qf8 20.Nd3 Rxe1 21.Rxe1 Re8 22.Rxe8 Qxe8 23.Nd6 Qe7 24.Nxb7 Nh5 25.Qa4 Nb6 26.Qxa7 and Black resigned.

Playing over these games, you get the impression that the mysterious guest is a fantastically strong player, but there are three reasons why he can't be Fischer:
1. As a chessplayer, Fischer was always a gentleman. The real Fischer would not insult his opponents with ridiculous openings.
2. As Fischer indicated in one of his Radio Bombo interviews, using pseudonyms is typically Jewish. The real Bobby Fischer would never stoop to Jewishly logging on as guest-so-and-so - he would choose a name that would robustly reveal who he is.
3. Most telling, the real Bobby Fischer would never play a move like Kf4, as in the game above, which is known to have always been favored by Jews. Just a few examples:

Rubinstein - Spielmann
San Sebastian 1912
Stein - Olafsson
Reykjavik 1972
Gelfand - Lautier
Groningen 1997

Now compare the real Bobby Fischer:

In this position, from Fischer - Gheorghiu, Vinkovci 1968, Fischer played 46.Ke3. You see, Fischer always played his King away from f4!

133. 19 August: The messenger - the Saavedra myth exposed

I moved this story to a separate page.

132. 17 August: The strength of the Erlking

You sometimes wonder how strong the King is. In a sense, it does not have a strength, because it cannot be captured or exchanged. But how strong would a King be that could be exchanged? In 'Fairy Chess', there is the Erlking, which moves like the King, but does not have its special function. It is sometimes seen in problems, but there, and in studies, pieces do not have a strength; they have a function.
    I asked some strong players how they would rate the Erlking, and most thought it would be about as strong as the Knight. I'm sure it's stronger. In Makruk (Thai chess), there is the Thon which moves one square diagonally in all directions, and one square straight forward. Makruk also has our Knight, which my Makruk-playing program trades against the Thon, and the other way around. That makes the Erlking, which covers three squares more than the Thon, a lot stronger than the Knight.
    My guess is that the Erlking is at least as strong as a Rook. Just like K+R (and unlike K+N or K+B), K+E can mate the lone King. And they (provided they are not separated) do not lose against K+Q, which K+R do. With an E at g7 and the King at h8, nothing can happen to you. My kingdom for an Erlking!

PS 21 August: Hauke Reddmann wrote that it is well known that in the endgame, the King has "the same or even more power than a Rook," while Joshua Green feels "the Erlking is weaker than a Rook but stronger than a Bishop (or Knight)". He shows the limitations of my reasoning, saying that:
K+R+B vs. K+R is a draw, but K+Q vs. K+R wins, therefore, Q is stronger than R+B.
K+R+B vs. K+2N wins, but K+Q vs. K+2N is a draw, therefore, Q is weaker than R+B.
I could add: K+Q vs. K+2N is a draw, and K+2N vs. K is also a draw, therefore Q is worth nothing.

PS 8 October: Thanks to Steve Wrinn for offering these quotes which seem to agree with my estimate of the Erlking as stronger than a Knight:
Steinitz (in the introduction to his Modern Chess Instructor, 1889): "Baron von Heydebrand in Bilguer's Handbuch very properly describes the power of the King for the Pawn ending as stronger than any minor piece, namely, a Knight or Bishop. We are inclined to extend this valuation to all parts of the game..."
Lasker, in Lasker's Chess Primer, gives the value of the King as Knight + Pawn.

Gian-Carlo Pascutto points out that in Losing Chess, the King might well be the strongest piece, because "it is mobile and can reach all the squares, and at the same time it is not too mobile, which makes it difficult to lure it out of its lair, and send it on disastrous errands."

Joost Hoogendoorn thinks that this discussion should not be limited to the endgame, and that the Erlking's value in the opening and middle-game is less than that of the minor pieces.

131. 14 August: One family check too far

On the website of the Lost Boys Tournament in Amsterdam, I found a very funny finale that happened in todays (fifth) round. In Gurevich (2633) - Happel (2218), White, sporting three connected passed pawns, was completely winning. Getting the Queen out of the way of any family checks with 52.Qd3 looks like a good idea, but there followed 52.Bb6 Rxa7 53.Bxa7 Rxf5 Gurevich had seen that; after 54.exf5 Nxf5+ 55.Kh5 Ng7+ Black can repeat moves. (Even 55...Nxe3 is possible; after 56.d7 Nf5 White still cannot stop the repetition.) 54.d7 Rd5 But he hadn't seen that. The second pawn falls; 55.exd5 allows that repetition again. 55.Qf4 Rxd7 56.Be3 Re7 57.Qxh6+ Kg8 58.Qf6 Sadly, Happel didn't see he could even take the third pawn, because after 58...Rxe4 59.Bh6 Re7! the Rook is defended by a family check. Now, after 58...Re6 59.Qd8+ Re8 60.Qd5+ Kh7 61.Bd4 Bg2 62.Qd7 Rg8 63.Qxg4 Bh1 64.Kh3, he had to resign.

130. 2 August: Don't know much about geometry

Sometimes we read about an attack "that plays itself", or we even dream about a whole chess game where we would mate our opponent, simply because we never had another move.
    The problem below is like that dream.
Selfmate in 50
Double maximummer
Unto Heinonen
Die Schwalbe 2000
I never had much use for this kind of Fairy problem, but this one has me laughing every time I play it over. In a maximummer, Black must always make his geometrically longest move, measured from the squares' centers (a1-b2 is longer than a1-a2). If he's in check, he must play the longest move that lifts the check. But a double maximummer? Then there would be no chess, just geometry - or could there be some fun in the choice between equally long moves?

1.Bd3 Rd1 2.Bf1 Rb3 3.Bd3 Rh1 4.Bf1 Rxf3 5.Bd3 Rd1 6.Bf1 Rb3 7.Rf2 Bxe6 8.Rf5 Rf3 9.Bd3 Rh1 10.Bf1 Rb3 11.Rf2 Bh3 12.Rf5 Rf3 13.Bd3 Rd1 14.Bf1 Rb3 15.Rf2 Bxd7 16.Rf5 Rf3 17.Bd3 Rh1 18.Bf1 Rb3 19.Rf2 Bh3 20.Rf5 Rf3 21.Bd3 Rd1 22.Bf1 Rb3 23.Rf2 Bc8 24.Rf5 Bxf5 25.Bd3 Bc8 26.Bg6 Bh3 27.Bxc2 Bc8 28.Bg6 Bh3 29.Bb1+ Kxb1 30.Rb7 Bc8 31.Rxb4 Bh3 32.Rb7 Bc8 33.Rxb3 Bh3 34.Rxg3 Bc8 35.Rxa3 Bh3 36.Rxh3 Qa7 37.Ra3 Bxe5 38.Rh3 Qa1 39.Ra3 Bh2 40.Rh3 Qa7 41.Ra3 Bxd6 42.Rh3 Qa1 43.Ra3 Bh2 44.Rh3 Bxc7 45.Ra3 Bh2 46.Bxh2 Rh1 47.Bb8 Rxh6 48.Bh2 Rxh2 49.Rh3 Qa7 50.Ra3 Qxh7 mate

Never in all of these 100 moves is there a choice - the whole thing works all by itself, like a witty, self-destructing clockwork.
    Joost de Heer, who sent me this, tells me that 100 is the record for this kind of machine.

129. 28 July: Defending humanity's honor (Computers can't play chess, ct'd)

I moved this story to a separate page.

128. 23 July: Some games

A little showcase of games readers sent me.

Quite often in the opening, a Knight captures a Rook on its corner square. Sometimes it happens twice in a game. An obvious question was answered by Ronald van Doorn when he sent me this blitz game he had played the night before:
Van Bolhuis - Van Doorn, blitz, Netherlands, 16 July 2001
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5 Nxe4
Not a bad way to decline this incorrect but, in blitz, very dangerous gambit. (See A breeze in the sleepy Four Knights' Game, elsewhere on this site.) 5.Qh5 Qf6 6.Qxf7+ Qxf7 7.Nxf7 Nxf2 8.Nxh8 Nxh1 9.Nb5 Nb4 10.Nxc7+ Kd8 11.Nxa8 Nxc2+ 12.Kd1 Nxa1 (see diagram.) Black won, but when the players repeated this line, White won a few games with it - the Na1 turned out to have far greater problems than the Na8.

PS 19 August: A reader sent me this game, played in a high school tournament.
Lewis - D'Aloisio, San Rafael, 1975
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qb3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d5 6.Bg5 dc 7.Qxc4 Qd5 8.e3 Ne4 9.Qxb4 Nxb4 10.Nxd5 Nc2+ 11.Kd1 Nxa1 12.Nxc7+ Kd7 13.Nxa8 Nxf2+ 14.Kc1 Nxh1 15.Ne5+ Ke8 16.Bb5+ Kf8 17.Nc4 f6 18.Bh4 g5 19.Be1 Ke7 20.Bb4+ Kd8 21.Nd6 Bd7 22.Nf7+ Ke8 23.Nxh8
(see diagram) and Black resigned.

Inspired by entry 73 in this Diary, about a hemmed-in Knight, Alexandre Côme sent me this game:
X - Côme, Paris, Apsap Open, 8 July 2001
1.Nf3 b5 2.g3 Bb7 3.Bg2 e6 4.O-O Nf6 5.d3 d5 6.Nbd2 c5 7.d4 Qb6 8.c3 Nc6 9.Nb3 c4 10.Nbd2 Bd6 11.Re1 O-O 12.Qc2 a5 13.h3 b4 14.Nh2 e5 15.Ng4 Nxg4 16.hxg4 Ne7 17.Nf3 e4 18.Nh2 f5 19.g5 f4 20.g4 Qc7 21.f3 e3 22.Kh1 Ng6 23.Bh3 Be7 24.b3 cxb3 25.Qxb3 Qxc3 26.Bb2 Qxb3 27.axb3 Rfc8 28.Rac1 Rxc1 29.Rxc1 Rc8 30.Rxc8+ Bxc8 See the diagram on the right.
    White resigned. All of his pieces, three of them, are locked in. A funny variation would be 31.Kg1 Ba6 32.Kf1 Bc4 33.bxc4 dxc4 34.Ke1 c3 35.Ba1 c2 36.Bb2 a4 and now White's King is locked in as well, and Black promotes a pawn at his leasure.

Dennis Monokroussos sent me a great adventure he once created and survived.
Monokroussos (2409) - Barcarola (2170), Parsippany, US, 1999
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 d6 4.d4 Bg4 5.d5 Nd4 6.Nxd4 Bxd1 7.Bb5+ Ke7 8.Nf5+ Kf6 9.h4 h6
(See diagram) 10.Bg5+ hxg5 11.hxg5+ Kg6 12.Rxh8 Bg4 13.Rxg8 Kh7 14.Rxf8 Qxf8 15.f3 Bxf5 16.exf5 Qe7 17.Ne4 a6 18.Bd3 Rh8 19.Kf2 f6 20.g6+ Kg8 21.g4 c6 22.Bc4 b5 23.Bb3 c5 24.c4 Rh2+ 25.Kg3 Rxb2 26.Rh1 Re2 (See diagram) 27.g5 Rxe4 28.fxe4 fxg5 29.Kg4 Qd8 30.Rh7 Qa5 31.f6 gxf6 32.Kf5 Qd2 33.Ke6 g4 34.Kxd6 g3 35.Rh1 g2 36.Rb1 Qd4 37.Ke7 Qxe4 38.Rg1 bxc4 (See diagram) 39.d6 cxb3 40.d7 Qb7 41.axb3 Kg7 42.Ke8 Qc6 43.Ke7 Qb7 44.Ke8 Kxg6 45.Rxg2+ Qxg2 46.d8Q Qc6+ 47.Kf8 Qb5 48.Qd5 Qb8+ 49.Ke7 Qc7+ 50.Ke8 Qc8+ 51.Ke7 Qc7+ 52.Ke8 f5 53. b4 (See diagram) cxb4 54.Qd6+ Qxd6 stalemate.

Position after 9...h6 Position after 26...Re2 Position after 38...bxc4 Position after 53.b4

The diagram below arises after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.e5 Ne4 7.Qg4 Nxc3 8.Qxg7 Rf8 9.a3 Nb5+ 10.axb4 Nxd4 11.Bd3 Qb6 12.Bg5 Nf5 13.Bxf5 exf5 14.O-O-O Qg6
It can be found as number 15, Tisdall - Lee, London 1981 in The 110 most Fantastic Moves ever played, elsewhere on this site. Imre Bartok sent me a game Sipos (a 14-year old hopeful) - Torma, Hungary 2000, where it had also occurred and looking in the databases, I found yet another example, Jevtic - Prokopisin, Hungary 1995.
All three Whites found (or knew) the brilliant winning move 15.e6!
The games ended:
Tisdall - Lee: 15...d5 16.Rxd5 Nc6 17.e7 Nxe7 18.Rd8+ and Black resigned.
Jevtic - Prokopisin: 15...d6 16.Rxd6 f6 17.Rd8+ and Black resigned.
Sipos - Torma: 15...d5 16.Rxd5 Nc6 17.e7 Nxe7 18.Rd8+ Kxd8 19.Qxf8+ Kc7 20.Qxe7+ and Black resigned.

127. 1 July: A hidden fork

In the 7th rapid match game Anand - Kramnik, yesterday in Mainz, Germany, there was a rare tactical moment.
Anand - Kramnik, "Chess Classics Champions Duel", Mainz, 30 June 2001
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6 5.Nb3 Nf6 6.Nc3 e6 7.a3 Be7 8.f4 d6 9.Qf3 a6 10.Bd3 O-O 11.g4 Nd7 12.Be3 Qc7 13.g5 b5 14.h4 b4 15.Ne2 bxa3 16.bxa3 (see diagram) 16...Rb8 With a threat that Anand missed. 17.O-O Nce5 Winning a pawn, because after 18.fxe5 Nxe5 19.Qg3 Nxd3 the c2-pawn was overloaded. After 20.cxd3 Rxb3 however, Anand somehow miraculously managed to draw: 21.Rfc1 Qd7 22.Nf4 Bb7 23.Rcb1 Qb5 24.Rxb3 Qxb3 25.Qe1 Qa4 26.Qd1 Qd7 27.Qg4 d5 28.Nh5 Qd6 29.e5 Qxe5 30.Qd4 Qxd4 31.Bxd4 f6 32.Rc1 Rf7 33.gxf6 gxf6 34.Rb1 Bxa3 35.Nxf6+ Kf8 36.Rb3 Bd6 37.Rb6 e5 38.Rxd6 exd4 39.Nxd5 Bxd5 40.Rxd5 Rf4 41.h5 Kg7 42.Kg2 Kf6 43.Kg3 Rf5 44.Rxd4 Kg5 45.Rd6 a5 46.h6 and a draw was agreed.
    In my story The Mother of all Forks, elsewhere on this site, I give a number of cases where even grandmasters like Hübner and Ljubojevic fell victim to this Ne5-fork. A World Champion missing it was something new, perhaps because this was also the first extended example of the Ne5-fork - it does not regain the piece immediately, but exploits a defensive fork, as White's overloaded pawn c2 might be termed.

126. 23 June: I gave Fischerrandom a chance

After criticizing it so harshly (see item 123) I thought I had an obligation to try out Fischerrandom chess for myself. I have to admit that I was not disappointed. Here's the game:

TK - A
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nbc3 Bb4 4.cxd5 exd5 5.e4 Bxc3 6.bxc3 c5 7.e5 c4 8.f4 f6 9.Rc2 fxe5 10.fxe5 Ndc6 11.a4 Nd7 12.Be2 Rf8 13.Rf1 Bg6 14.Ra2 Rxf1+ 15.Bxf1 b6 16.a5 Nxa5 17.Rf2 Rf8 18.Rxf8+ Qxf8 19.Ne3 Bd3 20.Bd2 Bxf1 21.Nxf1 Nb3 22.Qe1 g6 23.e6 Nf6 24.Bc1 Ne4 25.Bb2 Kg7 26.Kg1 Nf6 27.Ng3 Qe8 28.Qe3 Qf8 29.Qe5 Qe7 (see diagram) 30.Ba3 and my opponent, perhaps a bit prematurely, resigned.

PS 4 August: A reader told me that this wasn't Fischerrandom chess at all - the King must stand between the Rooks, so you can have castling. True, but this was my improvement: castleless Fischerrandom chess!

125. 21 June: Discovered

White to play
Noam Elkies, Internet 1999

As a reaction to item 120, about mutual discovered perpetual checks in Fairy Chess (this is not possible in chess), reader Jan IJben sent me this position, where such a perpetual is realised with only one Fairy piece, the Camel on b2. The Camel is a 3,1 leaper; the Cb2, if it were not pinned, would cover a5, c5, e3 and e1. White is in check, and it is possible to play 1.Nb5+ Cc5+ 2.Nd4+ Cb2+ 3.Nb5+ Cc5+ and so on.

I also found this old position by O. Stocchi, from L'Échiquier, 1930. Regular chess again. There could follow: 1.g8B+ Kc4+ 2.Nd3+ Bc6+ 3.Be2+ Nd4+ 4.Nxa2+ Nec2+ 5.Nf4+ Nxe2+ 6.exd7+, which is a series of 11 consecutive discovered checks. This record has probably been broken a long time ago, but not to my knowledge.

124. 20 June: Recycled pin

Last night on ICC, something happened to me that I do not experience too often in chess - I laughed out loud because I did something good. In the position on the left, from TK - T, Black played what I had hoped for: 1...Rxc5 (Re7!), stepping into a pin. 2.Rxb7 Re7? He should have settled for Bxb7. Now, I could use the pin for a second time: 3.Rxe7 Kxe7 4.Nxe6 Ra5 (What else?) And for a third time: 5.Nc5+ Kd6 6.Nb7+ winning the exchange.

123. 17 June: Count Van Zuylen van Nijeveltrandom chess, anyone?

Next week, during the "Chess Classic Mainz" in Germany, a "Fischer Random Chess" match will be played between Leko and Adams. How Fischer ever got the chess world to accept tying his name to this old idea, is a mystery. Shuffle chess has been known for over 200 years under various names, such as Pre-chess, Baseline Chess, Varied Baseline Chess, Meta Chess, Array Chess and others. The pawns are on the second rank, the pieces are shuffled on the first. Sometimes the arrays must be symmetrical; sometimes the players choose them; sometimes they are determined by lot.
    "Fischer Random" is an unpractical form, because a computer is needed to randomize the arrays, and it has some wacky castling rules - the first forcing you to have a computer at hand if you want to play it, the second making it impossible to play it against a computer when no human Fischerrandom player is around.
    Advocates of Fischers stolen invention also tend to forget that it sprang from his delusions. He invented it so Kasparov and Karpov couldn't fix their games anymore. He added the randomizing computer because otherwise they could still fix their games. Now if somebody thinks an invasion of purple potatoes from outer space is about to happen, and it can only be stopped if we all swapped our left and right shoes, that's OK with me, but it would be silly to have wrongfooted dancing contests as a result.
    Possibly the first time the shuffling idea was mentioned, was in 1792, in the first original Dutch chess book by Philip Julius, Count Van Zuylen van Nijevelt, a Dutch army general, senator of the French Empire, and one-time Napoleonic governor of Amsterdam. He did not like the openings with their boring repetition of patterns, which enabled weaker players to memorize moves with which they could beat stronger ones. He suggested determining the places of the pieces by lot, "because the positions can then be changed infinitely, and it will certainly not be possible anymore to study them beforehand."
    His idea does not seem to have caught on, but it was often reinvented. The oldest surviving shuffle games are from 1842; here is a slightly younger one.

Van der Hoeven - Von der Lasa, Baden-Baden 1851
It is not known whether this symmetrical array was determined by chance or by the players themselves. Note the two pairs of Bishops of opposite colors.
1.Nf3 b5 2.d4 d6 3.Ba5 f6 4.Ne3 e5 5.Qe1 Bxf3 6.exf3 exd4 7.Rxd4 Ne7 8.b3 Nc6 9.Nd5 Rb7 10.Re4 Bg6 11.Ne7+ Nxe7 12.Rxe7 Nd7 13.Qe6 Qg8 14.Qxg8 Rxg8 15.Bd4 Ne5 16.Bxe5 fxe5 17.Kb2 Kd8 18.Rxc7 Rxc7 19.Rc1 Kd7 20.Bxc7 Kxc7 and White resigned.

I'm not sure shuffling is a good idea at all. Its main purpose is to avoid openings theory, which is supposed to be an alien element in chess skill. I don't see why; willingness and ability to learn a vocabulary are essential in mastering a language. Without the openings, chess wouldn't be chess. The openings are not just a few memorizable tricks; through them, knowledge about the middlegame has accumulated during 500 years. Without that knowledge, the fantastic, wild games of today could not be played - chess would be put back 100 years. Shuffle games are not very interesting; playing them over is like following a guide who has never been to the museum himself.
    The count was wrong: one way in which grandmasters distinguish themselves from ordinary players, is their greater knowledge and better handling of the characteristics that arise through the openings. Could they beat amateurs just as easily in shuffle chess? It would be more interesting to have not just a Leko-Adams match but, for instance, a 4-way tournament between Leko, Adams, and two sub 2200-players who had won a qualifying shuffle tournament.

Note: I found the counts shuffle idea in an impressive new book by the Dutchman Henk Mesman - an almost 1000-page treatise of the artistic chess study, from the Arabic beginnings to 1900. I'll come back to it.

122. 12 June: Unguarded guards

Recently, I came across a few nice examples of one of my favorite themes, the Unguarded Guard. One in a game, one in a problem, one in a study.

In Benend - Wirthensohn, Ladenburg 2001, (which I found in this month's 'Schach'), White grabbed a pawn with 1.Nxb6! To his credit, Black did not grab the Knight (1...Rxb6 2.Qxb6 Rd1+ 3.Kh2 Qxe5), because he had seen what White had seen: the Unguarded Guard 3.Re1!! Rxe1+ 4.Kh2, and the back rank mate can only be stopped at the cost of a Queen. White won quickly after 1...Rc6 2.Na4 g5 3.Rxg5+ Kf8 4.Rg7 Rd1+ 5.Kh2 Bxb3 6.Rb4! etc.

In problems, Unguarded Guards are not seen very frequently. The rather heavy position on the left is a light but witty example:
Mate in 8, P. Ruppin, Probleemblad 1996
1.Kb5 White wants to play Nb3 mate, and Black has only one defence: 1...Be8+ 2.d7! Bxd7+ 3.Kb6 Bf5 The Bishop is back defending against Re4 mate, but now it interferes the Rg5. 4.Bxf6 (threatening Bxe5 mate) 4...Bg6 (Bxh7 5.Kb5 and Nb3 mate) 5.Kb5 Be8+ 6.Rd7! Bxd7+ 7.Kb6 Bf5 Interfering again, so: 8.Bxe5 mate A nice one-and-three-quarters tour of the black Bishop.

The study example is by far the most beautiful.
White to play and win, P. Joitsa, 1st Prize Revista Romana de Sah, 1984
1.Qf3+ With 1.Qa1+ Kb7 2.Qa6+ Kxc7 3.Qb6+ Kd7 4.Bxe6+ Ke7 5.Bxc8 White wins a Bishop, but not the game. 1...Ka7 2.Qe3+ Ka8 3.Bxe6 Black seems to be finished already, but: 3... Ba6+! 4.Ka5! After 4.Kxa6, Black forces stalemate: 4...Qc4+! 5.Kb6 Qxc7+ 6.Kxc7 Now, White threatens 5.Bd5+ After 4...Bb7, 5.Qa3 is winning, and after 4...Qh1, 5.Qe5 is winning. So: 4...Qh5+ (See diagram) 5.Qg5!! Instead of capturing a Bishop, White sacrifices his Queen with the ultimate Unguarded Guard. It is unbelievable that in a perfectly natural miniature setting, such a sacrifice is possible. After 5.Kxa6 Qe2+! 6.Ka5 Qa6+! 7.Kb4 Qb6+ 8.Qxb6 it would be stalemate again. Now, White wins: 5...Qxg5+ 6.Kxa6 Qg8! 7.Bd5+! Qxd5 8.c8Q mate.
    Readers who think they might have seen Qg5 before, are right. It is one of the best known and most beautiful moves of artistic chess. This study is in fact an elaboration of a 1967 study by Leonid Mitrofanov - see my story A genius' bad luck, elsewhere on this site.
    Naturally, the Revista jury knew about this famous predecessor - that Joitsa still won First Prize is a tribute to the elegance of the play in his economic and perfectly gamelike position.

Mate in 6
P. le Grand, 1991
PS 25 June: Saw a very funny and unusual example in a problem, where the Unguarded Guard is a (discovered) check itself.
    After 1.Nc3, threatening 2.Nd5 mate, Black has only two moves that do not allow a quick mate, d6+ and d5. There follows:
a) 1...d5 2.Nxd5+ Kd7+ 3.Ne7+ Kxe7 4.Bd6+ Kd7+ 5.Be7+ Kxe7 6.Rc7 mate
b) 1...d6+ 2.Bxd6+ Kd7+ 3.Be7+ Kxe7 4.Nd5+ Kd7+ 5.Ne7+ Kxe7 6.Rc7 mate

Depending on Black's Pawn move, White sacrifices Knight and Bishop in turn on the same square, to clear the c-line for his Rook.

121. 9 June: All Rook endings are drawn

As a postscript to item 4, Joshua Green sent me this from the April 1999 issue of Chess Life.
Steigman - Sloan, NY Open 1998
34.Rxe4 Qxd2+ 35.Kxd2 dxe4 36.Ke3 Re8 37.c4 g6 38.b4 Kg7 39.a4 h6 40.b5 g5 41.a5 cxb5 42.c5 Kg6 43.a6 bxa6 44.Rf1 g4 45.d5 Rc8 46.Kd4 e3 47.d6 g3 48.Kd5 e2 49.Re1 g2 50.d7 Rf8 51.Ke6 Rf6+ 52.Ke5 Rf5+ 53.Ke4 Rf1 54.d8Q Rxe1 55.Qg8+ Kf6 56.Qxg2 Rc1 57.Qxe2 and Black resigned

© Tim Krabbé, 2000, 2001

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