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Intense pleasure from a chess move June 18, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Art, chess, computers, games, internet, personal.

I know, I am growing old… Do not get me wrong though – I still believe chess comes second as a means of providing pleasure to me. But this evening it came a close second indeed.

I was playing blitz chess on the internet – 5 0 games on the internet chess club (my handle there is tonno, by the way), which means five minutes for all your moves, and no move-by-move increments. After a French advance opening rather sloppily played by both of us, we reached the following position:


I am white, and black is to move. Can you see that white is better ? It should not be difficult to acknowledge, given the dominion of the c-file, the space, and the venomous “bad” bishop on g5 – a bishop which in similar positions white would love to get rid of, but which is instrumental in creating a bind here.

In the diagrammed position the correct continuation would have been 26. … Rc7 27.h3, Rhc8 28.Qb2 and the game could have gone on for many more moves. But I counted on the enticing position of my queen on c3, which had been only apparently placed there to hope for 26….Qxa3?? 27.Nc5+ (winning the black queen), as probably black thought, but to prepare a much meaner trick.

As black moved his knight with 26…. Na7, I felt a deep, deep wave of pleasure as I slid my queen up the c-file, only to stop it one square short of capturing black’s c8 rook: my move was played instantly, as if I were in a trance. I had not calculated the details in any way: it HAD to be the correct move. In these instances, which happen extremely rarely to me, I feel like a complete idiot savant: I do not have to compute, I see the solution.

27.Qc7!!!! is one of the most brilliant, beautiful, and esthetically pleasing moves it ever happened me to play in 23 years of “serious” chess practice. The queen stops en prise of the rook, immortal and yet certain of its own sacrifice. It can’t be taken, and yet it must be.

After 27….Rxc7 28.Rxc7+ Ke8 29.Rxa7, black paused and thought for a while. It is clear that he is utterly lost, but it is not easy to resign such a position. So he played 29…., Qd7 – a counter-queen sacrifice which is obviously not giving any hope. I replied 30.Ra8+, and black resigned. There follows 30….Qc8 31.Raxc8 Kd7 32.R1c7 mate.

Putting the position into Fritz 8 only diminishes my joy very slightly – everything is correct, there is nothing to blame about white’s play. But the fact that the silicon monster sees Qc7 in a fraction of a second is kind of annoying: it is just as if beauty was of no interest to computers: that move is worth 10 pawns, but it needs no more than a very quick look to them.

I now recall the last time I had such a vision during a chess game – and I reported about that experience in my Quantum Diaries blog too.


1. Kea - June 19, 2007

I wish I could appreciate the chess – but I don’t (my chess playing experience is limited to games with my little nephews). On the other hand, the mythological sacrifice of a queen in battle is something to which I can relate. Say, that does that put Particle Physics a lousy THIRD?

2. liquideggproduct - June 19, 2007

Hmmm…I suspect a lot of high-level players would have chosen that move out of instinct. So it’s not just computers!

3. Fred - June 19, 2007

It’s nice to see that you still have the time, thirst and mental grip for competitive chess. Blitz chess finally destroyed my last remaining nerves but I did enjoy the uncommon positions that were frequently presented. Computers have increased the enjoyment and participation of chess but they are truly born without a soul and have absolutely no instincts to speak of. As you know, this was appearant on several occasions when Deep Fritz beat Kramnik 4-2 last year. More importantly, they cannot even begin to appreciate the romantic thoughts of Kea despite her limited knowledge of the game. Therefore, you must be included in the realm of a lot of high-level players.

4. carlbrannen - June 19, 2007

I don’t actually play chess, but I do watch it several times per week. They play it at the local mall. Part of the pleasure is the very diverse group of people one meets there. It’s a natural magnet for immigrants. My favorite are the Russians who treat every game as a social opportunity to discuss the spirit of the game, and will replay it from the beginning with minor changes to the opening.

5. carlbrannen - June 19, 2007

Oh, and this is an elegant combination. The position is advantageous for white, but not apparently overwhelmingly so, and I don’t think that the combination is obvious. While white has a lot of power on the file, but the black king has two ranks to escape upon.

6. dorigo - June 19, 2007

Oh, no, Kea, Particle Physics is way below – third place is undobtedly a well-made creme brulee.


7. Kea - June 19, 2007

Creme brulee? Ah, I used to cook once upon a time – 8 egg yolks to 1L of tepid fine thick cream, not too much sugar and real vanilla.

8. dorigo - June 19, 2007

BTW Kea, what kind of queen sacrifices do you relate to ? Just curious… And don’t lose the recipe for the creme, I’ll visit you one day and you’ll want to prepare one for me🙂

9. dorigo - June 19, 2007

Liquideggproduct, I agree, it is a move that can indeed be played out of instinct. But in 99.9% of the cases, when one move springs to mind, it is scrutinized before being played. What was weird, even for a blitz game (we had plenty of it left), was playing it a’ tempo without thinking at all.

Fred, thank you for the compliment, but I unfortunately will never belong to the olympus of high level chess… I can, however, play the occasional nice game, even against strong competition. That is always good, and is all I can afford, given the lack of a second life to invest in gaming activities.

Yes Carl, watching chess played in the streets is fascinating, people from different cultures find a common ground – a battleground to be sure.

Cheers all

10. strings - June 19, 2007

Suppose that Black had instead moved Ne7, instead of Na7.
Would White have had a similar combination available?

11. Fred - June 19, 2007

Yes, but I still compliment you for ‘being in the zone’. The ability to act on our instincts to produce desired results is a nurtured talent. The following lines from Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure’ always reminded me of that action played out in slow motion:

Lucio: Assay the power you have.

Isabella: My power? Alas, I doubt —

Lucio: Our doubts are traitors
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.

Isabella’s slight pause is the linch pin that ultimately releases the power and brilliance of the thrust that ensues.

12. shazgood - June 20, 2007

Dorigo, that’s a cool move and an even better explanation of how it feels to play such a good move! I play blitz chess too and your post prompted me to annotate one of my games. Consider it in honour of your move!

13. The beautiful game « Sailing to Byzantium - June 20, 2007

[…] blogger called dorigo has shown his beautiful move (and it is great!). This inspired me to annotate one of my own games, shameless boaster that I am. […]

14. dorigo - June 21, 2007

Hi Strings, Nce7 is better than Na7. In that case, white retains his advantage, but he cannot win on the spot. The best move is then Qb2, keeping all the trumps.

Fred, I am afraid my knowledge of Shakespeare is inadequate to comment – I do remember by heart a good part of Antonio’s speech to bury Cesar, not to praise him, and also Hamlet’s famous discussion on whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Shazgood, thank you for your comment. Is the link below your comment pointing to your page ?

Cheers all,

15. Derek Slater - June 21, 2007

Qc7+ is a very beautiful move. Well done. I have a particular fondness for these “into thin air” sacrifices on an empty square (I have a blog entry by that title).

I don’t have a computer analysis engine to check my work, but am puzzled about the natural …Nxe5 in the diagrammed position. White appears to have a perpetual (e.g. 27.Qxc8+ Rxc8 28.Rxc8 Nxf3+ 29.gxf3 Qxb3 30.Rc6+ etc); interesting is 27.Qc7+ (anyway!) Rxc7 28.Rxc7+ Kd6 29.dxe5+ Bxe5 30.R1c6+ Qxc6 31.Rxc6+ Kxc6 31.Nxe5+ Kmoves 32.Nxf7. What am I overlooking?

16. dorigo - June 21, 2007

Alas, Derek, nice comment! You force me to show off the echo-variation, which was indeed much more interesting and which I would have probably failed to find at the board.

Your analysis is right until move 30th: after 27.Qc7+! white wins by 27.Rxc7 28.Rxc7+ Kd6 29.dxe5 Bxe5 30.Rb7!, when neither works 30….Qb5 31.Nxe5 Kxe5 32.Re1 Kd6 33.Bf4 e5 (33….Kc6 34.Rc7 mate) 34.Bxe5+ Ke6 (tragically, if 34….Kf5 35.Re5+ Kf6 loses the queen to Rxd5, or 35….Kg4 36.h3+ leads to mate) 35.Nd4+ Nxd4 36.Bxd4+ Kd6 37.Be5+ Ke6 38.Bxh8+ Kd6 39.Be5+ Ke6 40.Bd4+ Kd6 41.Rxb6+, winning the queen, nor does 30…Qxb3 31.Rxb6+ Kd7 32.Nxe5+ Ke8 33.Rb8 mate.

I think I will have to post this as an independent entry…


17. The unextinguishable beauty of chess « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - June 21, 2007

[…]  comment by Derek Slater to my post on the nice queen sacrifice 27.Qc7+!! forced me to analyze the position […]

18. paulhoffman - June 26, 2007

Very cool. I like this game.

Thanks, Paul

19. Nikita - February 3, 2009

Cool game and a clear diagram too!

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