Monday, May 4, 2009

My Favorite Moves (1)

I am going to start another series of occasional posts, in which I highlight some of my favorite moves. This is not meant to be a compilation of the "greatest" moves ever made, but is rather a selection of my personal favorites, based on my own subjective, aesthetic criteria. To the extent there is a pattern or theme to the moves, I think they are all moves that have a certain paradoxical quality. Many of them are superficially bizarre or rule-breaking, but on a deeper examination, are in fact completely logical. They are almost all moves that it would never have occurred to me to play.

The first move is justly famous will probably be familiar to most readers. I still remember the thrill I felt when I first saw this game, however, and it still gives me pleasure to watch Short's king creep forward to help the queen deliver the final blow.

Nigel Short - Jan Timman
Tilburg (4) 1991

White has seized control of the d-file and the dark squares around Black's king. But how can he finish Black off? The queen cannot mate alone; White needs one more piece. The knight is immobile because of the mate threat at g2.

White could try to open up the kingside and bring a rook into the attack with a sequence like 31. Rd3 Rc8 32. R7d4 Rce8 33. g4. Then 33...hxg4 34. h5 gxh5 35. Qg5+ Kh7 36. Qxh5+ Kg8 37. Rxg4 is mate. (Other 34th moves for Black also lead to mate in this line, usually on g7 after White plays h6.) But Black can try 33...Qc5! 34. gxh5 Qe7, when White is still better, but there is no immediate win. Pawn-up endgames are not likely to lead to much for White, with his shattered queenside pawn formation.

Short's solution is brilliant: if the knight and the rooks cannot join the attack, he will use the only other piece available: the king!

31. Kh2!! Rc8

If 31...Bc8, White needs to change plans. With the mating threat on g2 gone, White can play 32. Ng5! Bxd7 33. g4! Bc8 34. gxh5 Bb7 35. f3 with mate to follow a few moves later.

32. Kg3! Rce8 33. Kf4! Bc8 34. Kg5 1-0

White threatens Kh6 and mate on g7. If Black blocks this threat with 34...Kh7, then White plays 35. Rxf7+ (or 35. Qxg6+) Rxf7 36. Qxf7+ Kh8 37. Kh6 with mate in 2.

It is amazing that Black was so helpless that he could do nothing about the king's march deep into his position, even with queen, two rooks, and a bishop still on the board.

1 comment:

  1. Rule breaking in chess is especially great because chess rules are meant to be broken.