Monday, June 29, 2009

Chess Graffiti

You can be pretty sure that when one of my posts does nothing more than copies the content of somebody else's, I've either found something I really like, or I'm being lazy. Or both. But don't worry about that. Instead, via Mark Weeks, take a look at this chess graffiti:

And with more of the surrounding area:

Chess work © Flickr user ohnoitsdaveoh under Creative Commons.

Yes, that's right. Not only is it really rather magnificent, but a white square is in the right-hand corner too.

And take a look at some of the detail:

The bishops are from the rap-group Run DMC (the pawns are speakers) but what of the other pieces? I have no idea. Do any of our readers know?

And another intrigue: if you take a look at the much larger original -and I recommend you do- you'll see that at the top the white squiggle is actually a vs, the yellow writing presumably the names of the two players. Indeed, the first yellow word is Grandmaster. Is it possible to identify the two players?

Finally, it turns out that this piece of chess graffiti is actually in Brighton, in the North Laine area. Have any of our readers seen it? Taken other photographs they'd like to share? Or know if on the wall opposite an opponent is painted, waiting eternally for that poised white pawn to land, or at least until his house is demolished, or until the council paints all over his face?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chess in Art Postscript : Gone Luco

Guest post by Martin Smith

Charles Bargue's 1882 game on a park bench in Chess in Art VI was a reminder what a delicious pleasure it is to savour chess, like strawberries, en plein air; especially when you put on your best bib and tucker and find a nice corner for the occasion. Somewhere in Paris would do, and the Jardin de Luxembourg (le "Luco" to the locals) is parfait.

These days the dress code is mercifully more relaxed than in Bargue's painting. Though eye-catching, a pink frock coat is no longer de rigueur, but red sleeves still cut a dash:

Nick Savides (1988)
Chess players (in Paris)

Nick Savides' sylvan scene is unmistakeably le Luco. There are the famous green chairs; the ranks of trees stumbling in cracked earth ringed by the flat horizon only (see Note 1); the sheltering sky of foliage blanking the fractious Metropole beyond. The picture intrudes on players oblivious in the privacy of their game. The public park is deserted and empty. Everyone has long gone, leaving behind their eloquent verdict on the opening moves: 1. e4 e6 (très bien) 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 (zut alors! the Exchange Variation ...yawn...où est le pub).

Editing people out is fair enough for a study of the loneliness of the long-suffering chess player, but as any habitué of le Luco knows: you may go there on your own, but you won't stay there alone for long. This is what chess is really like in le Luco...

See Note 2

...even on a quiet day: players, kibitzers, and green chairs as far as the eye can see. It is spectator sport – even in the endgame – with full-on dressed-down audience participation.

You could sympathise with Nick Savides for not attempting to capture such a busy scene with his brush, especially as they're playing three-minute blitz, and in his own slowplay-game-picture he put in the bare minimum of two characters. Contrast with Samuel John Peploe who, turning his attention to the more decorative areas of the Jardin, dashed this off in 1910...

Le Luco à la Peploe

...managing just a solitary figure; and Henri Matisse, in 1901-2...

Le Luco by Matisse

...who stripped out everyone so as to concentrate on the, err, path.

These two works make an interesting pair for their emphatic colour. In 1901 Matisse was en route to the high octane chromatics of Fauvism five or six years later. By then Peploe and his friends from Edinburgh were heading for France where they set up studios close to the Jardin, had great craic in the cafés of Montparnasse, and absorbed the discoveries of the "Wild Beasts". The Scottish Colourists had arrived (Note 3) to be known affectionately on the boulevards as the MacFauvists or the Wee Wild Beasties, I shouldn't wonder.

You don't have to go to Paris to visit the Luxemburg (sic) Gardens. There is a street of that name in Brook Green, a pleasant purlieu of West London. Amos Burn (1848–1925) "arguably England's strongest player between Staunton and Short" once lived there at Number 19 (Note 4). He produced what Tim Krabbé rates as one of the ten most fantastic moves ever played - blimey - as black in an "off-hand game" - hmmm - in Liverpool, in 1900, against a Mr. MacDonald. If you’ve not done so before, see how Burn had big Mac for breakfast.

MacDonald-Burn, Liverpool 1900. Off-hand game. 

Black to play "one of the ten most fantastic moves ever".

See Note 5 for solution and commentary. 

[Chess in Art index]
[Chess in Art collected]


1. That's a rip-off from T.S.Eliot's "The Waste Land". He was at the Sorbonne in 1910 just round the corner from the Jardin, though I'm not suggesting for a moment that le Luco was his inspiration. He wrote it in 1922. Trivia point: Part II of the work is titled A Game of Chess.

2. The photo comes from here: it's so much better than any of my rubbish snaps. The chess table is one of several provided by Le Sénat who run the Jardin.

3. Philip Long with Elizabeth Cumming, F.C.B.Cadell, J.D.Fergusson, G.L.Hunter, S.J.Peploe; The Scottish Colourists. National Galleries of Scotland, 2000.

4. Google Street View of 19 Luxemburg Gardens, London W6 is here.

The info about Burns living in London comes from Edward Winter.

The "strongest player" quote comes from here.

5. "At first blush, Black's position looks resignable: it appears that his bishop attacked twice and pinned to his king will fall and he will soon be checkmated. Burn produced the staggering 33...Qg4!!, leaving his queen enprise to three different White pieces. However, if 34.Bxg4 or hxg4, Black wins with 34...Bxd2. If 34.Qxg5+, Qxg5 35.Rxg5+ Kh6, Black wins a piece and the game. MacDonald instead tried 34.Rxg4 Nf3+ 35.Kg2 Nxd2 36.Rxg5+ Kh6 37.h4 Nxb3 38.Rf5 Nxa5 and Burn won in 11 more moves. The move is a rare example of the Novotny theme in practical play." Wikipedia: Amos Burn.

The Tim Krabbé quote is here (scroll down to No 258).

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Friend indeed

There's always been something of the pissing contest about chess, especially since they brought in ratings and we had an actual set of figures which we could use to measure ourselves against one another. Ray Keene (who famously lost a pissing contest with David Levy to see who would be the first to make a million) once suggested that when players go through a doorway, they go through in the order of their gradings, and while it would be a generous doorway indeed that allowed a player of any grading to pass through it at the same time as Ray, there is more than a little truth in the claim. We're all everybody's friend, provided everybody else recognises where they stand relative to us. And where they stand is just a little lower.

Much the same, I reckon, applies to Facebook friends, given that nobody wants to be thought of as a nobody, and nobody wants to be Billy-Hardly-Any-Mates with just a handful of people prepared to extend them the I Accept of friendship. I personally have a modest 77 Friends, most of whom I more-or-less like and some of whom I have actually met, and if I wish I can trawl through their Friends lists to see if there is anybody I've forgotten.

This is something like a game of Six Degrees of Separation albeit slightly harder given that there are still a few million people not on Facebook: in the real world I can get to Barack Obama in four jumps and I bet there are readers who can do better. However, the chess world is smaller and it ought to be possible to get to nearly anybody in two or three jumps. But not to Ray, alas, who appears not to be a member. A search revealed several Raymond Keenes - but not a single Ray Keene OBE.

I wasn't, however, necessarily expecting it to be quite so easy to get to Gary Kasparov, with whom, I was slightly surprisied to discover, I share several mutual friends. It would be bad manners for me to reveal who these are or indeed who any of Gary's Friends are (if you're registered, you can look for yourself) but I am sure I do not break any rules, written or unwritten, in saying that at the time of writing he has 2362 of them. 2362.

Impressive. And getting more impressive: at the beginning of the week it was only 2229. Gary's always been your man in a pissing contest and he's certainly up for this one. He's the only person I know with a Facebook total higher than my Elo rating and at the current rate he should overtake Veselin Topalov - and indeed himself - before summer is done.

But how does he manage it? It's a like a simultaneous display - with hundreds of boards. How do you cope with more than two thousand friends? How do you deal with all the messages? What do you do when the chat box says you have six hundred friends online? How do you even find the time to accept all the new ones, particularly as - given that you have so many friends - most of your life must surely be spent socialising?

Surely he contracts it out. He'd have to. Maybe he has a special team of assistants. Maybe if you send him a message, it's really Yuri Dokhoian who answers. Or his mother. Or maybe Mig* does it all for him. Or maybe I'm just jealous. When I am famous I will live in a house shaped like a rook. But I will also have absolutely millions of Facebook friends. And I shall pay Gary Kasparov to manage my account.

[* thanks to Morgan for this]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Simplicity II

White to play and win?

Following on from last week, just a king and a queen for each side today.

So what's going on?

Today's position was taken from GM Jon Speelman's 'Practical Endgames' column, Pergamon Chess Vol 53 No 2, May 1988

Monday, June 22, 2009


I'm a long-time complainer about the lack of evening chess events in London over the summer. And what have I done about it? Nothing, that's what. Nothing but complain.

But now, I am happy to at least advertise a new and very welcome addition to our empty summer calendars: The First Athenaeum Blitz Tournament. Hurrah! The event will be held on the evening of Monday 6 July 2009 from 6.45pm, the format a 10-round 5-minute Swiss, the cost to enter a trifling £5, a bargain especially since all prizes (less costs) will be plied back into prize money. To enter, email James Toon with your name, club and grade or estimated grade.

And oh, if you don't know where the Athenaeum Chess Club meet, their venue is at Dudley Court, Tenants' Hall, 36 Endell Street. Or for those who navigate by pubs, that's just along the road from Covent Garden's The Cross Keys, where no doubt you'll find me before and after the event.

I hope to see you there!

* * * * *

PS. Turns out, there's another reason -for me at least- to say Hurrah today: "It’s an exciting time to be a nerd," some guy called John Hodgman has just told Barack Obama - who has responded with the Vulcan salute:

No chess, but a Hurrah all the same.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Definitely Got Nothing To Do With Chess

Watch while the queen
In one false move
Turns herself into a pawn

Sleepy and shaken
And watching while the blurry night
Turns into a very clear dawn

Or so it says here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Department of A Likely Story: The Great Chessboxing Swindle

If you want to get chess into the news, get into a fight. It's Man Bites Dog as applied to chess: news defined not as what happens, but as what hardly ever happens.

Hence, perhaps, the success of chessboxing, which provides the chess-as-fight story on a plate. When I say "success", I mean "success in getting yourself written about" as opposed to anything else. In that field at least, it's doing really very well. The BBC, for instance, can hardly keep its hands off it: most recently in a piece by Mike Bushell for a progamme that used to be called Breakfast News but is now called Breakfast.

Other recent articles (among the many that Google will locate for you) include one in free-paper-cum-Tube-litter Metro and some perhaps surprising comments from Marina Hyde in the Guardian, referring to
the continuing success of chessboxing
the burgeoning success of chessboxing.
What this "success" actually amounts to is less than clear to this particular writer, although "persuading journalists to repeat unlikely claims" has not been the least obvious aspect. As witness, for instance, the claim in Metro that
chessboxing's really popular with women
which strikes me as longer on assertion than on evidence. Or promoter Tim Woolgar's claim - Metro again - that
2016 is a more realistic target
- a target, that is, for getting chessboxing in the Olympics. That claim, just a few weeks later had been revised to
we're being realistic about it, so we're not going for 2012 or even 2016
which may be the only invocation - or indeed indication - of "realism" I've seen connected with the whole chessboxing business. Not all that realistic, though, since - as nobody seems to have put to Mr Woolgar - there is not the slightest indication that chessboxing will ever be considered for the Olympics. Why would there be?

As far as I can see, the reputation - practically the myth - of chessboxing rests on a tiny number of events in a small number of countries. Or as far as the UK is concerned:
  • one chessboxing club in Islington
  • a couple of shows in Bethnal Green
  • a rather larger number of articles by journalists rather too quick to believe what they're told and what they've seen in other journalists' articles.
But that's how hype works, isn't it? Once one media outlet is talking about something, the others follow for fear of missing out. And nobody wants to be caught talking it down.

Other salient points seem to me to include these:
  • there are no professional chessboxers in the UK
  • there are no strong chessplayers training to be chessboxers in the UK
  • no strong chessplayer has ever taken part in a chessboxing bout in the UK.
As far as I've been able to discover, the strongest player to actually take part in a bout has been Matthew Read, a player a little below average club strength but, as it happens, manager of the London Chess Centre (proprietor Malcolm Pein) and veteran of a single chessboxing contest - which he won - at a Bethnal Green event (chess commentary provided by Malcolm Pein).

Might that change in the future? There are a couple of useful players among the members of the club (that's the club, of course) but none actually seem to be doing so much as preparing for a bout, let alone taking it up professionally. As for players of master strength, the club informed me that one promising young British International Master
is built like an ox and said he'll come to the club to try out chessboxing
which claim induced me to ask the player directly. His reply referred to himself as "of slight build" and said straightforwardly:
I am not a chessboxer and have no intention to try it.
Well I never.

Now as it happens, despite my title, I don't think Mr Woolgar and his colleagues are frauds. I do think however that they're making a lot of unlikely claims on the basis of not very much - and the reason that they're able to do so is that by and large, journalists do not know very much about chess (any more than they know about science) and therefore do not normally know what is, and what is not, believable. With the result that so much rubbish is broadcast and printed.

But it is, perhaps, a little worse than that, because it must be obvious to many people that the main reason chessboxing is receiving coverage is that it's a freak show. That it mostly seeks to make a joke out of chess, as do all the chess-and-fighting stories that preceded it, and a tawdry joke at that.

Because if this is not true, it is hard to explain why a news service that makes no mention in its online coverage of the country's national chess league, nor its national chess championship, nor even of the world championship while that event is taking place - presumably because of perceived lack of public interest - finds it necessary to cover every single event in an activity which has scarcely any competitions, scarcely any clubs and scarcely any followers.

Like hurricanes in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, chessboxing hardly ever happens. But that's the point. That's what news is. That's man bites dog.

Good night.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Smirin - Anand, Moscow 1994
White to play

Chess is such a simple game.

King and three pawns versus king and two. How difficult can it be?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Monday

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers," said Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, in 1943.

Ah, there's nothing like the 100% faulty prediction, the prophecy whose absolute inverse soon becomes undeniable fact, the bland and blasé statement said in passing, proven by time to be both blind and deaf to the turning cog of history ---- nothing quite like it for raising a superior little smile, a smirking look backwards at a whole life overshadowed by a single quotation.

Chess of course has its own infamous one-liners. "He doesn't understand anything about chess," Botvinnik said of a twelve year old Karpov in 1964, or so folk-lore says. And now, flicking through one of the forewords to The Ideas Behind the Chess Openings by Reuben Fine just yesterday, I thought to myself that I'd just discovered another one:
chess theory reached its full maturity in the period from 1930 to 1945, and is unlikely to change any more.
What moron said that!, I wondered. And when! Wasn't there a revolution in the 70s? The Hedgehog and all that? What about Kasparov raising the bar again and again and again? I skipped the page.

None other than Reuben Fine himself said it. In 1989. With a full view of most of the developments I casually supposed refuted his belief. Not so smug, so smurking, so superior now, eh? Quite the opposite... And not only that, it turns out that Thomas Watson was misquoted. Ah, happy Mondays.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Circular reasoning

The above circle is a lake. Point G is a girl in a boat. Point B is a brute who wants to catch her. The brute can only run along the shoreline, while the girl can float with her boat all over the lake. While the girl goes through a distance of a radius, the brute may cover a semi-circumference. Once she reaches a point on the shore before the brute, she must be considered to have escaped (she runs more quickly than him on land). Find out how the girl escapes.
- from Dynamic Chess Strategy, Mihai Suba, Pergamon 1991.

As it happens, Mihai Suba was in town last weekend, third on tiebreak while sharing the top score in a fifteen-minute tournament in Huesca. Your correspondent was there, purely as a spectator, sharing as I do Botvinnik's dislike of rapidplay chess: partly for reasons of health and partly because my results in that discipline resemble those achieved by Fort William.

Anyway, I didn't know Mr Suba was going to be there and if I had, I might have brought along my copy of Dynamic Chess Strategy and asked him what the solution to the puzzle was, seeing as I've never been able to work it out. Never mind: I shall ask our readers instead. Perhaps they can also tell me what the Xs on the diagram are all about, which go entirely unmentioned in Suba's text. I never even noticed that before this week. Perhaps that goes some way to explaining why I never solved it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why I love the Berlin Defence

Consider this position for a moment:-

OK, I know there are no Black pieces on the board. Just have a look at the White bits for the time being.

It’s pretty sensible I think you’ll agree. White’s advanced a central pawn to gain space, developed both knights to bishop three, castled his king into safety and more or less cleared his back rank. All that’s left to be done is find a home for the Bc1 and then it will be possible to bring the rooks to the d- and e- files. A clearer example of classical chess principles it would be harder to find.

Here, in contrast, it just looks like everything’s gone a little bit wrong for Black. He’s got a knight somewhat clumsily placed on f5 and no other bits have even made it out of the box yet. On top of that there’s doubled pawns, no immediate prospect of connecting rooks and a king that’s wandering about in the middle of the board. It’s true that Black’s got a brace of bishops but since they’re loafing around on their home squares it’s hard to imagine what they’re going to be doing for the foreseeable future.

So White appears to be doing everything right while Black seems to be doing everything wrong. Put these two set-ups together

and White must have a huge advantage right? Well apparently not, and that’s pretty damn amusing to me, but what I really love about the Berlin, though, is that on move nine Black doesn’t rush to make up for the total horlicks he’s apparently made of the opening thus far and after

1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Bb5 Nf6, 4. 0-0 Nxe4, 5. d4 Nd6, 6. Bxc6 dxc6, 7. dxe5 Nf5, 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8, 9. Nc3

he can consider such wonderful moves as

9. … h6 - time for a small pawn move at the side of the board. Who gives a toss about development?

9. … Ke8 – I like to think Black sends the king home in the hope that if he leaves it there for a bit White might forget it’s already moved and he’ll be able to get away with castling after all.


9. … Ne7 – My personal favourite this one. Black undevelops the only piece he’s managed to get off the back rank thus far (move a piece only once in the opening? Pah. I’ll make half my moves with the one knight and not touch anything else thank you very much) and blocks a bishop's diagonal to boot.

The Berlin Defence. It contradicts everything you learned about chess since you were a nipper and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever … and yet it can break the will of the strongest player who ever lived.

Got to love it. Right Tom?

Monday, June 08, 2009

From Who? To Whom?

As I was leaving a certain chess venue in south London, just the other week, I found upon the floor a scrawled up piece of paper, with a hand-written letter on it.

The letter seems to be about chess, and indeed is presumably from a chess player. Beyond that, I'm afraid I can't make head nor tail of it.

Take a look:

Who can it be to? Who can it be from?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

When I try to play chess ...

... this is what I see

Friday, June 05, 2009

Is this pig?

Of which figure in the chess world were the following phrases recently written, relating to their conduct in 1992-3?
Exceptionally greedy....avaricious....this grasping individual
If you answered "Nigel Short", perhaps because of the photo above, then nothing could be further from the truth. Instead you should, perhaps, remind yourself of the story about the wit at a dinner, who, on seeing another guest wave his meat in the air while shouting "is this pig?", replied "to which end of the fork do you refer?".

Indeed, on this occasion Nigel was at the handle end, the morsel of questionable quality being Lubosh Kavalek, Nigel's ex-second - notoriously, Nigel's ex-second - and the major target of an unappetising piece in the most recent edition of the estimable New In Chess.

For those who are not yet subscribers to the magazine, Nigel takes us through his victorious Candidates' Final agaist Jan Timman, and among the various clichés that clutter the piece like traffic cones at roadworks (the queen is "the lady", the bishop "the prelate", he sets a "diabolical trap") various personal attacks are made on Mr Kavalek - and others besides.

The content of these attacks are not entirely new, nor their nature. Students - reluctant students, in the main - of Nigel's polemical style are getting pretty much what previously on the syllabus, to wit a string of insults which have the effect, presumably unintended , of inducing the reader to have the maximum possible sympathy for his targets. Jan Timman escapes - on this occasion - with "delusional", Boris Spassky fares a little worse with "notoriously idle" and "pathological indolence" but Kavalek suffers the full force of Nigel's polemical powers, being guilty of "cowardice" and "crippling psychological deficiencies" as well as being "grossly irresponsible".

He likes an insult, Nigel, though not as much as he likes two of them, and not remotely as much as he likes a feud. You can't just fall out with him. Get on the wrong side of Nigel and it's a personal feud which has to go on forever, or until you are seen to have been absolutely in the wrong and until your personality is absolutely crushed.

This pattern has been repeated often enough to bore, rather than annoy: a quick scrawl on the back of an envelope to list previous victims of Nigel's feud-and-insult style came up with Eric Lobron, Richard Furness, Jan Timman, Simen Agdestein, Garry Kasparov, Gerry Walsh and of course the late Tony Miles, a tally which I can't imagine is anything like complete. (The legendary Miles obituary, by the way, is not presently available online*. Not presently.)

As I say, the general effect of this stuff is to nudge the reader's sympathies towards Nigel's opponent: in this instance, perhaps, speculating whether Kavalek's apparently "absconding" for a day may not have been connected to the way Nigel spoke to him, or whether Kavalek's demand to have a contract covering two matches rather than one wasn't actually rather prescient given Nigel's subsequent actions not just towards him but the chess world. But regardless of the rights and wrongs of the issue, the point that most obviously presents itself is that made by Kavalek himself a few years ago:
if he were not satisfied with my coaching after he defeated Anatoly Karpov, he should not have offered me anything. The fact that he did, speaks for itself.
If he were greedy, that is one thing, though not one which Nigel is necessarily in a position to complain about. But if he was also next to useless, why on Earth was he retained, let alone his apparently gargantuan demands accepted? To be fair, Nigel has an answer to this, and to be fairer still, it is one that he has made before. Courageously, he blames his wife.

The reader may, also detect a certain amount of - shall we say - projection in Nigel's psychological dissection of his one-time second, the phrase "he had chosen the most disruptive time to threaten to leave because he simply wanted to screw as much money out of me as possible" being one that brought this particular reader's eyebrows to a raised position. Moreover, commenting on "Karpov's parapsychologist, Zagainov", that "the charlatan was taking Karpov for a ride" may be perfectly reasonable in itself. But to laugh about it, on the grounds that Karpov was being made a fool of, does advertise a certain lack of self-awareness, when the whole thrust of your piece is to show precisely the same process happening at your expense.

Talking of Timman's notes in a previous New In Chess, Nigel claims that they give "a fascinating insight into his psychology": possibly the present article serves much the same purpose as far as Nigel is concerned (though, perhaps, a little less fascinating).

One of the odder, though perhaps more revealing, facets of the piece is Nigel's liking for a certain sexual metaphor: used, perhaps, a little adolescently, giving the reader the impression that the literary effectiveness of the metaphor was less important than the author's keenness to use it. Describing the eleventh game, he refers to a pawn sacrifice he made as "a nervous ejaculatory spasm": this is a strange thing to do, but stranger still is that it is not the first such usage in the piece. Writing - again, of a pawn sacrifice - in the opening game, Nigel says:
Instead of holding the position, as I should have done, I rushed forward in premature ejaculation.
What are we to think about this? Is Nigel trying to tell us something? Perhaps it's best if we don't go there. As Dr Freud never used to say.

[photo: Chessbase]

Perhaps it would be better still if Nigel - who is two weeks older than the present writer - shook off some of the more juvenile characteristics of his personality and grew up a bit. If you make it your habit - not just an occasional thing, but a habit - to insult people in order to try and destroy them, the cumulative effect is not at their expense, but at your own. You may or may not diminish their reputations, but you certainly gain one. And not all reputations are worth the gaining.

 [* Subsequent edit: it is now]

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Blue or Red Pill? III

Berescu – Mastrovasilis, Kavala 2005
Black to play

Previously on BORP you’ve been faced with the choice of whether or not to exchange rooks to head for an opposite coloured bishop ending or trade minor pieces to leave a rook ending.

Today your task is slightly different – it’s not so much “what do you want to do?” but “where would you like to sit?”

There are pawns on both sides of the board which might favour the bishop but on the other hand the f4-e5 pawn chain blocks several diagonals and might make the knight more appealing. Then there's the respective pawn majorities - Black's might be hobbled by the doubled pawn whereas White's might end up blockaded on the light squares.

So which side would you prefer to play?

Monday, June 01, 2009

The best move I never played

Here's a little puzzle to get your little grey cells puzzling merrily away this Monday morning.

In this position, from an online Chess960 blitz game, it's white to play and, indeed, win. That's not the puzzle though: with five white pieces pointing menacingly at the black king, some kind of breakthrough is obviously on the cards. And indeed, with 11.Rxh6 gxh6? 12.Nxe7+, I forced my opponent's resignation.

Instead, the puzzle is how does white win most accurately after 11. Rxh6 Be5! - the most defiant defence? If you want a clue (and an incentive) the !! comes on move 14. And frankly, I'm not sure two exclamation marks are quite enough . . .

PS. It being Chess960, I ought point out that whilst black has already castled, white has yet to do so (and indeed in the diagram position above, has not moved either king or rooks.)