A First

My friend, A., started a writing class. Her first assignment was to make a list 10 things of her “firsts”, and then write about them.


Intrigued by this idea, I decided to write about one of my “firsts”.







I was in grade school in the early 1970’s and in the fourth grade.


I played a simple Scholar’s Mate [For those who don’t know the moves, they are 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qf3 Nd4? (played to attack White’ queen and threaten …Nxc2+, but actually loses) 4.Qxf7mate].


I was joyful. Happy. My dad played it against me and I thought it was the best way to win and why did people need chess books?


Then doubt.


Was this it? Was this the best one could achieve in chess? To win a game in four moves? Was this the only, or at least the best, way to win? Why did Grandmasters Fischer and Spassky take so long to move in their match?


Spassky Fischer


Didn’t they know about Scholar’s Mate?


It was only later I discovered that the game of chess is incredibly complex.


And what I have learned in the last 40+ years of studying this game is;


(1) Black does not have to respond 1…e5 to White’s first move.


(2) There are opening variations that go past the 10th, the 20th moves.


(3) There is usually a middle game.


(4) There are endings to learn.


(5) Books exist to help the beginner, the novice, the merely good player, the experienced player, the expert and the master.


(6) And Grandmasters know Scholar’s Mate.

IM Nino Khurtsidze

It was widely reported today that IM Nino Khurtsidze had lost her battle with cancer today. She won the World Junior Girls Chess Championship in 1993 and 1995, one of the few players who won it more than once.


She also won the women’s Georgian championship five times and earned her IM (not WIM) title in 1999.


She played for the Women’s World title last year in Tehran. The following game below is perhaps the best game she played in that tournament.


GM Natalia Zhukova-IM Nino Khurtsidze
Women’s World Ch.
Tehran, 2017
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 d5 5.a3 Bd6 (More common is 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5) 6.e4 (If White can safely get in .e5, or at least keep her pawn on e4, she will have a significant advantage. In the Nimzo-Indian, and to a certain extent all other Indian defences, this is a thematic idea for White. The “e” pawn has to go!) 6…dxe4 7.fxe4 e5 8.d5 b5!? (A TN. And apparently a good one!) 9.Nf3 bxc4 10.Bxc4 O-O 11.Bg5 h6 12.Bh4 Bg4 13.h3 Bh5 14.g4 Bg6 15.Qe2 Nbd7 16.Rg1 (The white king has no safe haven if the game gets complicated or if Black attacks. Which she does.) 16…Qb8 17.Bb5 Qb6 18.Kf1 Rab8 19.Nd2 a6 20.Nc4 Qa7 21.Nxd6 cxd6 22.Bf2 Qb7 23.Bxa6 Qxb2! (Blowing open the squares around the White king. He is still unsafe.) 24.Qxb2 Rxb2 25.Re1 (White’s king is still more vulnerable than Black’s. And the black pieces are ready to storm White’s position.) 25…Ra8 26.Bb5 Rxa3 27.Bxd7 Rxc3 28.Bf5 Bxf5 29.gxf5 Rxh3 30.Bg3 Rb3 31.Bf2 Rhf3 0-1 (Once White’s “e4” pawn goes, the “d” and “f” pawns are going to fall as well.)