One of my main interests of study of chess is underpromotion, the reasons why such an underpromotion is not only possible, but of necessity.
The most common underpromotion is that to a knight, which makes up over 90% of all such underpromotions (the other two are rook and bishop, in that order of popularity).
If player has to underpromote to a knight the most probable explanation is that he is trying to prevent a fork, check, skewer, or pin by his opponent.
This has happened in Master chess. But only rarely. And even rarer is when it happens more than once during a game.
Here is a delightful example.
Zurakhov-Koblenc USSR Ch., 1/2 Final Tbilisi, 1956 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 gxf6 7.Nf3 b6 8.Bc4 Bb7 9.Qe2 c6 10.O-O (10.O-O-O is ECO’s suggestion.) 10…Nd7 11.a4 f5?! 12.Ng3 Kf8 (Obviously Black doesn’t want to castle kingside. But the text is not any better.)
13.Bxe6! fxe6 14.Qxe6 Nf6 15.Nxf5 Bc8 16.Qe5 Bxf5 17.Qxf5 Qd5 18.Qf4 (>18.Ne5!) 18…Rg8 19.Rae1 Rg4 20.Qh6+ Kg8 21.Rxe7 Qxf3 22.g3 Rg6 23.Qh3 Qg4 24.Qxg4 Rxg4 25.c3 Re4 26.Rxe4 Nxe4 27.Re1 Re8 28.f3 Nd6 29.Rxe8+ Nxe8 30.Kf2 Nd6 31.b3 b5 32.Ke3 bxa4 33.bxa4 Nc4+ 34.Ke4 Kf7 35.d5 c5 36.f4 a5 37.f5 Nb6 38.d6 Ke8 39.f6 Kf7?! (Black missing 39…Nxa4!) 40.Ke5 Nd7+ 41.Kd5 Kxf6 42.g4 c4 43.Kc6 Ke6 44.g5 Nf8 45.h4 Nd7 46.h5 Ne5+ 47.Kc7 Kf5 48.Kb6 Ke6! (48…Kxg5? 49.Kxa5 and Black’s king and knight separated and White’s pawns will rapidly advance.) 49.Kxa5 Kxd6 50.Kb6 Nd7+ 51.Kb5 Kc7 52.Kxc4 Ne5+ 53.Kd5 Nf3 54.g6 hxg6 55.hxg6?! (After 55.h6! Ng5, the kingside is locked up and White can concentrate on the queenside with moves like 56.c4.) 55…Nh4 56.g7 Nf5
57.g8=N (This knight underpromotion is to prevent a fork that follows after 57.g8=Q? Ne7+, winning the queen and White is also down a pawn.) 57…Kb6 58.Kc4 Ne3+ 59.Kb3 Nd5 60.c4 Nc7 61.Nf6 Ne6 62.Ne4 Nc7 63.Nf2 Ne6 64.Nd3 Nd4+ 65.Kc3 Ne2+ 66.Kb4 Nd4 67.c5+ Ka6 68.Kc4 Nf5 69.Kd5 Kb7 70.Nb4 (70.c6+? Kc7 with the idea of Ne7+, equalizing.) 70…Ne3+ 71.Kd4 Nf5+ 72.Kc4 Ne3+ 73.Kb5 Kc7 74.a5 Nf5 75.Nd5+ Kb7 76.c6+ Ka7 77.c7 Kb7 (The White knight is keeping the Black’s knight out of play.) 78.a6+ Ka7
79.c8=N+ (Another knight promotion for the same reason. 79.c8=Q? Nd6+, and White is going to find winning the game an extremely hard thing to do. It should also be mentioned that 79.Kc5!! also wins. But the second knight promotion is so beautiful!) 79…Kb8 80.Kb6 (White now threatens 81.a7! , winning the game with his last pawn.) 1-0
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.)
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.
Wiede-Goetz 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
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 chess.com who asked, “What’s the minimum number of moves to force a checkmate using 3 bishops, assuming the position is farthest from checkmate?”
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.
Zuckertort? White to Mate in 1
Unknown 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;
Ko-Escalante 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+
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]
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.
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.]
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