The Hennig-Schara Gambit

I briefly touched on the Hennig-Schara Gambit in my last post (an opening named after two players).

But after I reviewed it, I thought it might be a fascinating subject to share. So here are some surprising opening moves for you, the good reader.

The gambit starts with the moves, 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4. White gets an early advantage while Black develops. The game can easily enter lines where tactics and unclear continuations come into play.

Basically, with the c-file and d-file open, Black’s dream position would be one that he would castle queenside and have the enemy king stuck in the center. This obviously cannot happen in all games as can White castle kingside and Black often has a problem developing his b8-bishop, necessary for him to castle queenside.

But before going over the main lines, let’s first take a look at well-known trap that many Black players fall into, especially in speed chess.

Fidlow-I. Mayer
Berlin, 1950
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.dxe6 dxc3?

6.exf7+ Ke7 7.fxg8=N+! Rxg8 8.Bg5+ 1-0

Instead of 5…dxc3? Black should have responded with 5…Bxe6 and gain a tiny, minute advantage.

Zeljko Mackovsek-FM Sergey Trussevich
Josipa Ipavca Memorial
Sentjur, Slovenia, Sept. 14 2011
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.dxe6 Bxe6 6.Ne4 Nf6 7.Nxf6+ Qxf6 8.Nf3 Nc6 9.g3 Bc5 10.Bg2 O-O 11.O-O Rfe8 12.Bg5 Qg6 13.a3 h6 14.Bf4 Rad8 15.Ne1 Bg4 16.Bf3 Bh3 17.Bg2 Bg4 18.Bf3 Bxf3 19.Nxf3 d3 20.exd3 Rxd3 21.Nd2 Nd4 22.Qb1 Ne2+ 23.Kh1 Nxf4 24.Qc1 Qc6+ 25.f3 Re2 0-1

Which leaves White with taking the pawn. He can either take it immediately with 5.Qxd4 or the move after with 5.Qa4+ Bd7 (played to disrupt Black’s development and close the d-file, at least for the moment).

White’s first plan, 5.Qxd4 is an obvious move. Black’s response is overwhelmingly in favor of 5…Nc6, if only because 5…Nf6 fails.

Sylvan Beach, 1904
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nf6?! 6.e4 exd5 7.exd5 Be6 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.d6 Nc6 10.Qd3 Be6 11.Bf4 a6 12.Bxc6+ bxc6 13.Nf3 Qb6 14.O-O Rd8 15.Rfe1 Nh5 16.Rad1 Qb7 17.Be5 Nf6 18.Bxf6 Rxd6 19.Nd4 gxf6 20.Ne4 c5 21.Nxd6+ Bxd6 22.Nxe6 1-0

And White almost has to play, after 5.Qxd4 Nc6, the move 6.Qd1, as 6.Qa4 fails spectacularly.

Maribor, 1934
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qa4 exd5 7.Nf3 Bc5 8.Qb5 Qd6 9.g3 Nf6 10.Bg5 Ne4 11.Nxe4 dxe4 12.Nd2 O-O 13.Nxe4 Bb4+ 14.Bd2 Bxd2+ 15.Nxd2 Nd4 16.Qc4 Be6 17.Ne4 Qb6 18.Qd3 Rac8 19.Nc3 Qxb2 20.Rb1 Qxc3+ 0-1

R. Q. Martin-Radoicic
New York Open 1967
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qa4 exd5 7.Nf3 d4 8.Nb5 Bd7! 9.a3 Rc8 10.Nbxd4

10…Bb4+!! 11.Kd1 Nxd4 12.Qxb4 Nc2 13.Qe4+ Be6+ 0-1

And now with the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd1, a tabiya has been reached, with chances for both sides.

Moscow Ch., 1945
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd1 exd5 7.Qxd5 Be6 8.Qxd8+ Rxd8 9.e3 Nb4 10.Bb5+ Ke7 11.Ke2 Nc2 12.Rb1 a6 13.Ba4 Bc4+ 14.Kf3 Ne1+ 15.Kg3 Rd6 16.f4 Rg6+ 17.Kf2 Nd3+ 18.Kf3 Ne1+ 1/2-1/2

Chigorin Memorial
Leningrad, 1951
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd1 exd5 7.Qxd5 Be6 8.Qxd8+ Rxd8 9.e3 Nb4 10.Bb5+ Ke7 11.Kf1 Nf6 12.Nf3 Nc2 13.Rb1 Bf5 14.Bd2 g5 15.Rc1 h6 16.e4 Nxe4 17.Rxc2 Nd6 18.Nd4 Nxb5 19.Nxf5+ Kf6 20.Nxb5 Kxf5 21.Ke2 1-0

J. Breytenbach-M. O’Sullivan
South Africa 1982
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd1 exd5 7.e3 Nf6 8.Nf3 Bc5 9.Bb5 O-O 10.h3 a6 11.Ba4 Qd6 12.O-O b5 13.Bc2 Be6 14.b3 Rad8 15.Bb2 d4 16.exd4 Nxd4 17.Ne4 Nxe4 18.Bxe4 f5 19.Nxd4 fxe4 20.Nc2 Bxf2+ 21.Kh1 Qg3 22.Qh5 Rd5! 23.Qe2 Bxh3 24.Qxe4 Bxg2+! 0-1
(25.Qxg2 Rh5+)

Thompson (2189)-Jepson (2412)
Copenhagen Open
Denmark, 2001
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd1 exd5 7.e3 Nf6 8.Nf3 Bb4 9.Bd3 O-O 10.O-O Bg4 11.Nb5 Qb6 12.a3 Be7 13.Nc3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 Ne5 15.Qe2 Rfd8 16.Bc2 Rac8 17.Bf5 Rc6 18.e4 Qa6 19.Qxa6 Rxa6 20.Nxd5 Nxd5 21.exd5 Rxd5 22.Be4 Rd7 23.Bf4 Bf6 24.Rfe1 Ng6 25.Bxg6 hxg6 26.Re8+ Kh7 27.Be5 Rd2 28.Rb1 Re2 29.f4 Rc6 30.Rf1 Rcc2 31.Rf3 Rxg2+ 32.Kf1 Rxh2 0-1

Bayram (2308)-Essing (2253)
European Ch.
Batumi, Georgia, 2002
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd1 exd5 7.e3 Nf6 8.Nf3 Bb4 9.Be2 Ne4 10.Bd2 Bxc3 11.Bxc3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 O-O 13.O-O Be6 14.Nd4 Na5 15.f4 Qf6 16.Qe1 Bf5 17.Nxf5 Qxf5 18.Rd1 Rfe8 19.Bd3 Qe6 20.Rf3 f5 21.Qh4 g6 22.h3 Rac8 23.g4 Rxc3 24.gxf5 gxf5 25.Kh2 Kh8 26.Rg3 Rc7 27.Rdg1 Qf7 28.Qg5 Rcc8 29.Bxf5 Rcd8 30.Rg4 1-0

One line which we DO NOT recommend for White is: 6.Qd1 exd5 7.Qxd5 Bd7 8.Nf3 Nf6 9.Qd1 Bc5 10.e3? Qe7 11.a3 O-O-O 12.Be2? Bh3!

The following games demonstrate the reasons why.

Dr. A. A. Mengarini-M. Radoicic
Third Forum Open
New York, 1967
[Hans Kmoch, “Games from Recent Events”, Chess Review, July 1967]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd1 exd5 7.Qxd5 Bd7 8.Nf3 Nf6 9.Qd1 Bc5 10.e3 Qe7 11.a3
(11.Be2 is urgent.) 11…O-O-O 12.Be2 (Now White returns the Pawn for no obvious reason. 12.Bd2 is indicated. White has a difficult job then but does after the text move also.) 12…Bh3 13.Qc2 Bxg2 14.Rg1 Bxf3 15.Qf5+ Kb8 16.Qxf3 Ne5 17.Qf5 g6 18.Qc2 Rd7 19.b4 Bb6 20.Bb2 Rc8 21.Rd1 Rdc7 22.Qb3

22…Bxe3!! (This brilliant breakthrough destroys whatever dreams of safety White has.) 23.fxe3 (On 23.Nb5, Black probably continues with 23…Bxf2+ 24.Kxf2 Ne4+) 23…Nf3+! 24.Bxf3 (Or 24.Kf2 Rxc3! 25.Bxc3 Rxc3 26.Qxc3 Ne4+, etc.) 24…Qxe3+ 25.Be2 (White has nothing better.) 25…Qxg1+ 26.Kd2 Qg5+ 27.Kc2 (Or 27.Ke1 Qh4+ 28.Kd2 Rxc3! or 28.Kf1 Qh3+ 29.Ke1 Ne4 30.Rd3 Qh4+ with a winning attack.) 27…Ne4 28.Rd3 Rxc3+! 29.Bxc3 Rxc3+! 30.Rxc3 Qd2+ 0-1

Eric Marathee (2068)-Herve Daurelle (2230)
Paris Ch.
France, July 24 1999
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nc6 8.a3 Nf6 9.Qd1 Bc5 10.e3 Qe7 11.Be2 O-O-O 12.Nf3 Bh3 13.Qb3
(13.Qa4 may be the only move here – RME.) 13…Bxg2 14.Rg1 Bxf3 15.Bxf3 Ne5 16.Bh1 Rhe8 17.Na4 Nd3+ 18.Ke2 Ne4 19.Bxe4 Qxe4 20.Bd2 Nf4+ 21.Ke1 Qf3 22.Qd1 Nd3+ 0-1

White has better luck with 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 as Black’s counter attack is slowed down by his bishop on d7.

Bill Wall-P. McKone
Palo Alto, CA, 1989
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Nf3 Nf6 8.Bg5 Nc6 9.Qe3+ Be6 10.O-O-O Be7 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Qh6 Qc7 13.e4 Nb4 14.Kb1 O-O-O 15.Nd4 dxe4 16.Be2 Rxd4 17.Rxd4 Bxa2+ 18.Nxa2 Qc2+ 19.Ka1 Nxa2 20.Rc4+ 1-0

A main line goes 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nf6. Now the question is, “Can White take the b7-pawn?” The answer is yes. But it’s not recommended.

C. Ford-P. Herbers
CalChess Ch.
Stade, CA, 1994
[The reason not to grab the “b” pawn.]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nf6 8.Qxb7?

7…Nc6 9.e3 Nb4 10.Bb5 Nc2+ 11.Kf1 Nxa1 12.Bxd7+ Nxd7 13.Qe4+ Be7 14.Qb1 Ne5 15.Qxa1 Rc8 16.Nge2 Qd3 17.Qb1 Rxc3 0-1

“weiran” (1775)-“mrjoker” (1778)
Blitz Game
ICC, September 6, 2008
[The reason not to grab the “b” pawn, part 2. Louis Morin is presumably “mrjoker”.]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nf6 8.Qxb7 Nc6 9.Bf4 Nb4 10.O-O-O
(10.Rc1! was much better.) 10…Rc8 11.Kb1 Rxc3 (A little too fancy. I saw 11…Bf5+! 12.e4, but simply missed 12…Qxd1+! 13.Nxd1 Bxe4+.) 12.bxc3 (I was expecting 12.Rxd7. Even with the help of Fritz I cannot find anything better than a perpetual check after 12…Qa5 13.a3 Qf5+ 14.e4 Nxe4 15.Ka1 Nc2+ 16.Ka2 Rc5 17.Bb5 Nc3+ 18.bxc3 Nb4+ 19.axb4 Qc2+ etc.) 12…Bf5+ 13.Kb2 Qxd1 14.Qb8+ Kd7 15.Qxa7+ Kc6 16.Qc7+ Kb5 17.c4+ (Again it seems as if a perpetual check should be the logical outcome after 17.Qb7+ Kc4 18.e4+ Qxf1 19.Nf3 Nd3+ 20.Kc2 Nb4+ 21.cxb4 Qd3+ 22.Kc1 Qc3+ 23.Kd1 Nxe4 24.Nd2+ Nxd2 25.Qxf7+ Kd3 26.Qxf5+ Ne4 27.Qh3+ etc.) 17…Ka6 (Sorry, no more checks.) 18.Kc3 Qc2+ 19.Kd4 Qb2+ 20.Ke3 Qc3mate 0-1

White’s best is to ignore the offered pawn.

Neuman (247)-Kasper (1948)
Marienbad Open
Marianske Lazne, Czech Republic, Jan. 15 2011
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nf6 8.Qb3 Bc5 9.Nf3 Bc6 10.Bg5 O-O 11.e3 h6 12.Rd1 Qe7 13.Bh4 g5 14.Bg3 Ne4 15.Nxe4 Bxe4 16.Bd3 Bb4+ 17.Ke2 Nc6 18.Bxe4 Qxe4 19.Qd3 Qe6 20.Qb3 g4 21.Nd4 Qxb3 22.Nxb3 Rad8 23.a3 Be7 24.Rxd8 Rxd8 25.Rd1 Bf6 26.Rxd8+ Nxd8 27.Nd4 Kg7 28.Kd3 Kg6 29.b3 Be7 30.a4 h5 31.Ke4 Bb4 32.Kd5 1-0

Jorczik-S. Buecker (2345)
Staufer Open
Germany, Jan. 5 2010
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nf6 8.Qd1 Bc5 9.Nf3 O-O 10.e3 Nc6 11.Be2 Qe7 12.O-O Rfd8 13.a3 a6 14.Bd2 b5 15.b4 Bd6 16.Qc2 Rab8 17.Rfd1 Rb6 18.Be1 Bg4 19.g3 Rc8 20.Rac1 h5 21.Ng5 g6 22.Bxg4 hxg4 23.Nge4 Nxe4 24.Nd5 Qe5 25.Nxb6 Rc7 26.Nd5 Ng5 27.Nxc7 Ne7 28.Ne8 Nf5 29.Nxd6 Nxd6 30.Rxd6 Qxd6 31.Qc8+ Kh7 32.Qxg4 Qd5 33.Qh4+ Kg7 34.Qd4+ 1-0

So Black usually plays 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nc6, and after 8.Qd1, another tabiya is reached. Let these be a starting point for your analysis!

Vasja Pirc-Alexander Alekhine
Bled, 1931
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nc6 8.Bg5 Nf6 9.Qd2 h6 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.e3 O-O-O 12.O-O-O Bg4 13.Nd5 Rxd5 14.Qxd5 Ba3 15.Qb3 Bxd1 16.Qxa3 Qxf2 17.Qd3 Bg4 18.Nf3 Bxf3 19.Qf5+ Kb8 20.Qxf3 Qe1+ 0-1
(21.Kc2 Rc8 22.Qg3+ Ne5+ 23.Kb3 Qd1+ 24.Ka3 Rc5 25.b4 Rc3+)

M. Fenollar Jorda (2129)-Jo Molina (2341)
Mislata Open
Spain, Aug. 27 2009
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nc6 8.Bg5 Be7 9.Bxe7 Ngxe7 10.Qd3 O-O 11.O-O-O Qa5 12.Qxd7 Rad8 13.Qg4 Nb4 14.Rd3 Nxa2+ 15.Nxa2 Qxa2 16.Nh3 Rc8+ 17.Kd2 Qxb2+ 18.Ke3 Ng6 19.f4 Qb6+ 20.Kf3 Qf6 21.Qg5 Qc6+ 22.Kg3 Rfe8 23.e3 Qc1 24.Kf3 Rc3 25.Rxc3 Qxc3 26.Bb5 Qxe3+ 27.Kg4 Rc8 1-0

Kashlinskaya (2288)-Solovjova (2275)
Russian Women’s Cup
St. Petersburg, Nov. 4 2009
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nc6 8.Bg5 Nf6 9.Qd2 h6 10.Qe3+ Be6 11.Rd1 Qe7 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.Nd5 Bb4+ 14.Nxb4 Nxb4 15.Qd2 Nxa2 16.Nf3 O-O 17.e3 Bb3 18.Ra1 Rad8 19.Nd4 Rfe8 20.Be2 a5 21.O-O b6 22.Bf3 Nb4 23.Rfc1 Qg6 24.Rc7 Nc2 25.Rxc2 Bxc2 26.Qxc2 Qxc2 27.Nxc2 Rd2 28.Nd4 Rxb2 29.g3 Re5 30.Nc6 Rc5 31.h4 Rcc2 32.Rd1 g6 33.Rd7 Rxf2 34.Bd5 Rfd2 35.Bxf7+ Kf8 36.Rxd2 Rxd2 37.Bb3 Rb2 38.Ba4 b5 0-1

Voloshin (2411)-Koziak (2484)
Niki Open
Nachod, Czech Republic, July 8 2011
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nc6 8.Bg5 Nf6 9.Qd2 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.Bg3 Bb4 12.f3 Qa5 13.e4 Rd8 14.Bd3 Be6 15.Nh3 Bc4 16.Nf2 Bc5 17.Nd5 Qxd2+ 18.Kxd2 Nxd5 19.exd5 Bxd5 20.Rhe1+ Kf8 21.Ke2 f5 22.Rac1 Bb6 23.Rxc6 Bxc6 24.Bxf5 Bb5+ 25.Bd3 Bxd3+ 26.Nxd3 Rh7 27.Nf2 Bxf2 28.Bxf2 Rc7 29.Bxa7 Rc2+ 30.Kf1 Rdd2 31.b4 Rxg2 32.a4 Rxh2 33.Bc5+ Rxc5 34.bxc5 Rh1+ 0-1

GM Karpov-IM J. Hector
Haninge, 1990
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nc6 8.e3 Nf6 9.Qb3 Bc5 10.Nf3 O-O 11.Be2 Be6 12.Qa4 Qc7 13.O-O Rad8 14.Bd2 Ng4 15.Rfd1 Bd6 16.g3 Qe7 17.Be1 f5 18.Nd5 Qf7 19.Ng5 Qh5 20.h4 Bc8 21.Nf4 Bxf4 22.Rxd8 Nxd8 23.Qxf4 Nc6 24.Qc7 1-0

K. Strand – H. Sabel
Norway vs. Finland, 1990
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nc6 8.e3 Nf6 9.Qb3 Bc5 10.Nf3 Qe7 11.a3 O-O-O 12.Qc2 Kb8 13.Be2 g5 14.b4 g4 15.Nh4 Bb6 16.Bb2 h5 17.O-O-O Rc8 18.Nf5 Bxf5 19.Qxf5 a5 20.b5 Nb4 21.Kb1 Rc5 22.Qf4+ Bc7 23.axb4 Bxf4 24.bxc5 Be5 25.Na4 Bxb2 26.Nxb2 Ne4 27.Rc1 Nxf2 28.Rhe1 Rc8 29.e4 Rxc5 30.Rxc5 Qxc5 31.Bc4 Qb4 0-1

A Brilliant End (almost)

It has been said that high ranking (say, Expert and above), resign too soon. This means that the high-ranking player (H-RP), finding that he is two pawns down (and sometimes even less than that), realizes that he cannot save his game against another H-RP and rather than waste two hours trying to save the game, or be the object of embarrassment or ridicule, he gently tips his king over, shakes the hand of his opponent, and gracefully resigns.

But there are times when the spectators want to see the rest of the game. They may have paid to see the tournament or match and they want the full value for their money.

Some want to root for the underdog, the one would not give up. After all, there is some romantic aspect about a fighter who refuses to give up.

Some spectators want to see blood spilled. They want the winner to effect the eventual mate by the most forceful, brutal way.

Finally, in case of a potentially brilliant game, many spectators they want to see the full display of sparking moves and crafty play from beginning to end. And maybe tell their grandchildren about it.

To be sure, these resignations, where spectators might reasonably want the game to continue, happen more than you might think. Let me give you an example.


Blitz game, Sept. 9 2020
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4

[Of course, White has other moves he can try.

I. Palacio (2172)-IM D. Charochkina (2356)
Titled Tuesday, Aug. 4 2020
4.c3 Bd7 5.d4 a6 6.Ba4 b5 7.Bb3 Na5 8.Bc2 Qe7 9.O-O g6 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Bg5 (>11.a4) 11…Nf6 12.Nbd2 Bg7 13.Qe2 O-O 14.Rad1 Rfe8 15.Rfe1 Rad8 16.Nf1 Nc4 17.b3 Nb6 18.Ne3 Bc6 19.Rxd8 Qxd8 20.Rd1 Qc8 21.Bxf6 Bxf6 22.h3 h5 23.Nd5 Bxd5 24.exd5 e4 25.Bxe4 Bxc3 26.Qc2 Bg7 27.Bd3 Qd7 28.Qc6 Rd8 29.Be4?? (29.Qb7!) 29…Qxc6 (And 30.dxc6 Rxd1+ 31.Kh2 f5.) 0-1.

But I prefer 4.d4, which is more simple and direct. It’s a personal preference.]

4…Bd7 5.O-O Nge7

[ECO give this game: Grohotov-Balashov, USSR, 1968, 5.O-O exd4 6.Nxd4 g6!? 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.f4 c5 9.Ne2 f5 10.exf5 gxf5 11.Ng3 Qf6 12.Bd2 Bg7 13.Bc3 Qf7 14.Bxg7 Qxg7 15.Re1+ Ne7 16.Qe2 +/=]

6.d5 Nb8 7.Qe2 f5?! (This move creates a weakness after the bishops are traded.) 8.Bxd7+ Nxd7 9.c4 Nf6 10.Nc3 Rc8 11.Bg5 (11.Ng5! is quicker in disrupting Black’s position and plans.) 11…Ng6 12.exf5 Ne7 13.Bxf6 (13.Rae1 is another strong plan. But as mentioned before, I prefer direct and simple moves.) 13…gxf6 14.Nh4 (14.Nxe5!? should be analyzed more.) 14…h5 15.f4 Qd7 16.fxe5 dxe5 (16…fxe5? and now 17.Ne4! is much stronger.) 17.Ne4 Bg7 18.Ng6 (The immediate 18.Rae1 is stronger.) 18…Rh6 19.Nc5! (After causing chaos on the kingside, White attacks on the queenside and center.) 19…Qd6 20.Ne6 Bh8 21.Nxe7 (21.Qd2!) 21…Qxe7 22.c5! Kd7? (> 22…Bg7) 23.Rad1 (While the text move is good, 23.Qb5+! is decisive. But I wanted to push my d5-pawn.) 23…Qf7 24.Qb5+ c6 25.dxc6+ Ke8 26.cxb7+ Ke7

1-0 (Black resigned before White could play 27.bxc8=N#!!. This is a move I would be proud to show off. And not just to any future grandkids.)

Fun Opening Tasks

An opening task is simply a goal that must be met from the initial position of the pieces. All moves must be legal to reach the goal and complete the task.



Tasks have been proposed such as the finding or creating a game in which have the most consecutive pawn moves by one player.



Years ago, in my early twenties, I challenged myself to find the quickest way to deliver a smothered mate. To my surprise the solution was quite easy to find. In fact, there were two solutions.


1.Nc3 g6 (alternately White can mate by 1… e6 2.d4 c6 3.Ne4 Ne7 4.Nd6#) 2.Ne4 e6 3.d4 Ne7 4.Nf6mate 1-0



Then I wanted to find the quickest way to win a game by a promotion. Better, if I can find an underpromotion. So, in these pre-Internet days, I had to find the answer in a chess book.


I searched longer than my previous quest, but I did find such a game. If remember correctly, it was from a Chernev book.


Strasbourg, 1880
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.b3 Qh4+ 4.g3? fxg3 5.h3? (Black now has a forced mate in three.) 5…g2+ 6.Ke2 Qxe4+ 7.Kf2


7…gxh1=Nmate! 0-1


The time between these two tasks, and the third one presented below, was about 30 years. This third task was proposed by a member of who asked, “What’s the minimum number of moves to force a checkmate using 3 bishops, assuming the position is farthest from checkmate?”


This is what I came up with.


[Escalante, 2020]
1.e4 e5 2.d4 Ba3 3.dxe5 Bxb2 4.Bxb2 d5 5.Bc4 d4 6.Ba3 Kd7 7.e6+ Ke8 8.exf7+ Kd7 9.fxg8=B Nc6 10.Bce6+ Ke8 11.Bgf7mate 1-0




Of course, the King of such opening tasks is Sam Loyd (January 30, 1841 – April 10, 1911), who not only solved some very unusual opening tasks, but created literally thousands of chess problems, math puzzles, logic problems, and folding paper tricks.





One of his most famous tasks was to find the least number of moves in which a stalemate position can occur.


The solution may not be known to most players, but two enterprising young Swedish players decided to use it in one of their games. Apparently, they didn’t know or care what the organizers thought about their rather short game. Probably the latter.
Johan Upmark-Robin Johansson
Swedish Jr. Ch.
Borlange, 1995
[ECO: A10]
1.c4 h5 2.h4 a5 3.Qa4 Ra6 4.Qxa5 Rah6 5.Qxc7 f6 6.Qxd7+ Kf7 7.Qxb7 Qd3 8.Qxb8 Qh7 9.Qxc8 Kg6 10.Qe6 1/2-1/2


There seems to be some confusion about underpromotions. Some players believe the rule for underpromotion goes something like this: “a pawn, upon reaching the eighth rank can be promoted to any piece”. This definition can produce some rather interesting problems. For example, it is White to move and mate in the following two problems.


White to Mate in 1




White to Mate in 1



White’s first move in both problems is, of course, an underpromotion. Just not to his own color. In the first diagram, White checkmates with 1.g8=black Knight, while in the second, he mates with 1.bxa8=Black Rook.


The exact rule for underpromotion is that a player may promote to a Queen, Rook, Bishop or Knight of his own color.



There is at least one more misunderstood area of underpromotion. Some players insist that you may not legally promote to a piece that did not come with the original set. That means you could not promote a pawn if you still had your original seven pieces (Not counting the King; if you need to promote to a King it probably means that you’ve already lost the game). And you certainly could not have three Knights on the board at the same time. The pawn then must remain immobile after reaching the 8th rank.


However, the rule clearly states that you may have three (or more!) Knights. You can promote to a dark colored Bishop, even if your original one is still on the board. You may also have as many as nine Queens at the same time (eight promoted pawns plus the original Queen). In fact, the biggest obstacle to having nine Queens at the same time may be your opponent, who may not want to defend against the armada!


This may seem simple enough, but there is still confusion out there in the tournament arena.


The following is a game played by the author;


Southern California Open, 1996



47.Nd3+ Kb1 48.Ke1 [48.Nc1? and Black can either play 48…Nf3+ or 48…Nf6 (with the idea of Ne4), winning in either case. Now back to the underpromotion theme. If Black promotes to a Queen, White would be forced to take the Queen with 49.Nxc1 Kxc1. The two Knights versus none are overwhelming, but if Black underpromotes then White could conceivably ignore the new piece. In any case, Black loses nothing by underpromoting.] 48…c1=N [Now White went off to the Tournament Director (TD), complaining that Black could not have three Knights on the board at the same time. And I should promote to a Queen. What did he expect to win by that argument!? The TD told him my move was legal and sent him back to the game. Where he promptly erred.] 49.Ne5? (Now three Knights versus one are better odds for White’s survival than two Knights versus none. But when White starts moving his Knight away, it becomes three knights versus none. And the White King is soon overwhelmed.) 49…Kc2 50.Kf1 Nd3 51.Nf7 Ne3+ 52.Kg1 Nf3+



0-1 And mate next move.




Choose Your Promotion

The word QUEEN has two definitions in chess. Let’s look at both.

QUEEN (def. 1) (+S) [n. A piece combining the moves of the rook and bishop, making the strongest piece at the beginning of the game.]

QUEEN (def. 2) (+ED, +ING, +S) [v. To promote a pawn to a queen]


OK, fine.


But what if someone wanted to promote to a Bishop, Rook, or Knight? You can’t Bishop a pawn. And Rooking a pawn doesn’t make sense either.


Now, it is possible you could Knight a Pawn, but only if the man’s name is Mr. Pawn and he does something really very good for the British Empire. But since we are only talking about chess, this doesn’t make sense after all.


Interesting is the fact is that you can King a piece in checkers (or “draughts.”). But you can’t Queen a piece in checkers or in chess (only pawns).




The umbrella term for promoting a pawn to Knight, Bishop, or Rook, is “underpromotion”. Which, at first, sounds like a demotion. But all it means is the piece the pawn is being promoted to is not the strongest piece possible, even if the underpromoted piece actually wins the game (as promoting to a queen can sometimes lead to an immediate stalemate).


By the way, the word PROMOTE is defined as [v. To upgrade a pawn, upon reaching the eighth rank, to a Rook, Knight, Bishop, or Queen, of one’s own color.]


You can’t promote your pawn to a piece of the opposite color, even if it will benefit you (and yes, this can happen).]


Confused? Good! Just wait until we start talking about OPPOSITION and ZUGZWANG.

An Underpromotion Story

I enjoy games with underpromotions. 

Here is one of my favorite games. You’ll see that not all underpromotions are necessary, or even good.


A GM learns this lesson the hard way.



GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2784)-
GM Hikaru Nakamura (2792)
Blitz Game
Paris Grand Chess Tour
France, June 25 2017
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 O-O 5.Bg5 c5 6.e3 cxd4 7.exd4 d5 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Be2 h6

[This position has occurred a few times before in Grandmaster chess, the latest two being, surprisingly, other blitz games. (1) 9.Be2 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.Bg3 Ne4 12.Rc1 Nc6 13.O-O Bxc3 14.bxc3 Bf5 15.Ne5 Rc8 16.f4 Nxe5 17.fxe5 Qd7 18.Bd3 Kg7 19.Qf3 Bg6 20.c4 dxc4 21.Bxe4 Qxd4+ 22.Kh1 Qxe4 23.Qf6+ Kh7 24.Rce1 Qd4 25.Rd1 Bd3 26.Qe7 Qd5 27.Rf6 c3 28.Rd6 c2 29.Rc1 Qe4 30.Qf6 Kg8 31.Qxh6 Qf5 32.Rf6 Rc6 33.h3 Rxf6 34.exf6 Qg6 35.Qxg6+ Bxg6 36.Kg1 Rd8 0-1 [GM A. Tari (2584)-GM Wei Yi (2707), World Blitz, Doha, Qayar, Dec. 29 2016], and (2) 9.Be2 h6 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.O-O Bxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.Re1 b6 14.Nd2 Be6 15.Nf1 Na5 16.Ne3 Rac8 17.Rc1 Rfd8 18.Bd3 Rc7 19.g3 g6 20.Ng2 Nc4 21.Rc2 Re7 22.Qc1 Bf5 23.Rxe7 Bxd3 24.Rxa7 g5 25.Rd2 Nxd2 26.Qxd2 Be4 27.Ne1 Re8 28.a4 Bf3! 0-1 (White loses fastest with 29.Nxf3? Qxf3, with the idea of 30…Rd2. But even with the better 29.h3 Re2 30.Qd1 g4 31.hxg4 Bxg4 32.Nd3 Qf3 33.Ra8+ Kg7 34.Ra7 Qe4 35.Kh2 Qf3 36.Kg1 Qe4, he is quite lost.) [GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2784)-GM Carlsen (2832), Blitz Game, Paris Grand Chess Tour, France, June 21 2017]. Yes, the last game was played in the same event, just four days before the current game! Speaking of the current game, let’s now return to it.]

10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.O-O Bxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.Re1 b6!? 14.Nd2 Be6 15.Nf1 Rac8 16.Ne3 Ne7 17.Rc1 Ng6 18.g3 Rc7 19.f4 Ne7 20.Bd3 Rfc8 21.Qd2 Bd7 22.Ba6 Rd8 23.Bd3 Qd6 24.f5 Kh8 25.Rf1 Ng8 26.Ng4 b5 27.Ne5 Be8 28.Rce1 Rdc8 29.Qf4 Rd8 30.Re3 f6 31.Ng6+ Bxg6 32.Qxd6 Rxd6 33.fxg6 Rd8 34.Bxb5 Ne7 35.Bd3 Rxc3 36.Rxe7 Rxd3 37.Rfe1 Rf8 38.Rf7 Rg8 39.Rxa7 Rxd4 40.a4 Rg4 41.Rd1 Rxg6 42.Rxd5 Rg4 43.Rdd7 Rb8 44.Kg2 Rb2+ 45.Kf3 h5 46.Rd5 Rb3+ 47.Kg2 Rb2+ 48.Kh3 Rg5 49.Raa5 Rxd5 50.Rxd5 g5 51.g4 Rb3+ 52.Kg2 hxg4 53.Rd4 Kg7 54.Rxg4 Kg6 55.Rc4 Kh5 56.h3 f5 57.Rc8 Rb2+ 58.Kf3 Rb3+ 59.Kg2 Ra3 60.Rh8+ Kg6 61.Ra8 Kf6 62.a5 Ke5 63.a6 Kf4 64.a7 Ra2+ 65.Kf1 Kf3 66.Ke1 f4 67.Rg8 Rxa7 68.Rxg5 Ra1+ 69.Kd2 Kf2 70.h4 Ra3 71.h5 Rh3! 72.Rf5 f3 73.Kd3 Ke1 74.Re5+ Kf1 75.Rf5 Kg2 76.Ke3 f2+ 77.Ke2

77…f1=N [77…f1=B+ and 77…f1=Q+ 78.Rxf1 Rxh5 are obvious draws. Reportably Nakamura couldn’t find a bishop and didn’t want to promote to a queen, so he made the promotion to a knight (presumeably there was an available knight) to try to secure a draw. He almost made it.] 78.Rf2+ Kg1 79.Rxf1+ Kg2 80.Rf2+ Kg1 81.Rf5 Ra3 82.h6 Rh3 83.Rf6 Kh2 84.Kf2 Rh4 85.Kf3 Kh3 86.Rg6 Ra4? (The problem-like move, 86…Kh2!, is the draw. But how many players would find the move in a blitz game?) 87.h7? (And White missed 87.Rg1 and 87.Rg3+, both winning. Suffice to say Black missed some draws and White missed a few wins.) 87…Rh4 88.Rg7 Rh6? 89.Kf4 Kh4 90.Kf5 Rh5+ 91.Kg6 Kg4 92.Kf7+ 1-0