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You have ten seconds to find… July 8, 2008

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

… how to force black to resign, by playing a move as white in the following position:

position after 24....Qd2 with bob hicks, 7/7/2008

Of course, when you play blitz on the internet, there is nobody telling you there’s something worth looking for. You usually dash the most plausible move on the board, letting your opponent’s clock ticking instead than yours. Then you are allowed to think -if he gives you a chance. So, by asking you to find something in the position above, I am giving you a huge advice. And yet, the biggest hint must come from your nose, which starts itching at the sight of an exposed black king, your pieces amassed against it, and still your queen and your rook both en prise, the latter with a potential check to your king.

So, if you’ve read till here and have not found out what you should play here, you have virtually lost on time. This was a 5′ game, and after 24 moves on each side, we were down to about 1′ each. Here are approximately the thoughts that crossed my mind in the ten seconds it took me to play a move in the position above, which was reached by black moving 24….Qd4-d2:

“Hmm he’s threatening my queen. I don’t want to exchange queens in such an attacking position! I must play something like Qh5, keeping it in the whereabouts of the black king -and I also threaten his Bf5. But wait! He can play Qxe1 winning my rook, and with check! No, I have to defend the rook. Nf3 ? The pawn is pinned and I defend the rook and attack his queen -oh shoot, yes my queen is still en prise! Darn. Do I really have to take his queen ? But then I’d have no advantage left: Qxd2 Rxd2 hmmm. Wait, if instead I take Nxg4 I am defending my queen and threatening discovered check. If he then takes my queen I go Nxh6++, double check! And I take the bishop on the next move. Nice! Oh, but he can still take the rook with check, Qxe1+… But is it really so bad ? I go Kh2 and he has no further checks. Sure, he’s up a rook, but I am threatening Nf6 mate! How does he parry that ? Hmmmmmmm he can’t… Can he ? Can he ? Aargh. On Bh7 I have Nf6+ Kh8 Qxh7 mate, while on f6 I have… Hmmm…. Something for sure.  Shoot! I’ll have HIM think!”

I tried to be as accurate as I could, given my impaired memory. So, what were your own thought ? You were not as pressed by time as I was, but maybe you got to see that 25.Nxg4!! was possible ? Indeed, it not only is possible, but it is the only sure path to a win in the position. Let’s see why. Variations B, C, and D are sub-optimal, in decreasing order of strength. Variation A is the best one.

B) On 25.Rge3 (second-best, according to the computer chess program Fritz 8), black would play 25…. Qd4 trying to hang in there, in a complicated position that I could still royally screw up;

C) On 25.Qxd2 (the simplest) Rxd2 26.Nc4 Rd4 27.Nxb6 white is a pawn up but there is still a lot to play for;

D) On the forcing 25.Rxg4+ Bxg4 26.Nxg4 Qxh6 27.Nxh6+ Kg7 28.Nf5+ Kg6 29.g4 white is slightly worse, but will probably hold on to a draw.

A) Instead, on the elegant and strongest 25.Nxg4!! there are two variations:

A1) 25. … Qxh6 26.Nxh6+ Kh7 27.Nxf5 with a totally winning position;

A2) 25. … Qxe1+ 26.Rh2 f6 (the most stubborn) 27.Ne5+! with mate in all variations, like 27. …Ng5 28.Bc4+! and mate in three.
Definitely a nice way to end the day – I feel much less guilty of having spent my late evening playing chess, rather than writing about a new top quark mass measurement by CDF, which I have wanted to report on for a few days now. Maybe tomorrow…


1. Fred - July 8, 2008


On the second variation of 25.Nxg4

“A2) 25. … Qxe1+ 26.Rh2…”

shouldn’t it read … 26.Kh2 ?

Nice example of when playing chess, one discovers how the mind can shred time like no other. I believe it is second only to playing music in that regard. Was this the first game you had played that night or were you able to ramp your brain up with a few others beforehand?

2. dorigo - July 8, 2008

Hi Fred,

thanks for spotting the mistake (R = re, in italian for king). You’re right, it still amazes me how fast I can play some notes on the piano or on the recorder.

The game I showed was my last one of the night – played well after midnight, when I was totally done for. It is no coincidence that I stopped there though – I wanted to check some variations with Fritz and called it quits.


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