Chess

A lucky escape

6 August 2022

9:00 AM

6 August 2022

9:00 AM

I chatted to a spectator after one of my games at the Sparkassen Chess Trophy in Dortmund.

‘A close shave today, wasn’t it?’ he began.

‘Yes, I can’t believe my opponent escaped with a draw.’

‘No, I think you were losing.’

‘Oh, but didn’t you see my beautiful mating idea with b5?’

‘There’s a fly in the ointment – have another look,’ he said.


[The penny drops, eventually.] ‘Oops. Ah well, better lucky than good!’

Fortunately, my opponent shared my delusion during the game. And doubly so, in that my misplaced confidence spared me the need to conduct an arduous defence.

My opponent has just snatched a pawn on a3. After 39 Rf4 Re8 40 Rff7 Rb8 my rooks would hit a brick wall. Black will soon harass the b4-pawn, putting me firmly on the back foot. Then, I had a eureka moment.

Luke McShane – Rasmus Svane

Deutschland Grand Prix, Dortmund, July 2022 (See left diagram)

39 Rg8+ Ka7 40 Rf4 I slid this rook across with an air of finality. The threat is Rf4-f8-a8 mate, while 40…a5 is met by 41 b5, sealing off the king’s exit, e.g. 41…cxb5 42 Rff8 b6 43 Rg7+ Ka6 44 Ra8# Rasmus Svane, buried his head in his hands – evidently he had seen my splendid trick. Resignation, I knew, was imminent. And then he played Re7: a last ditch defence – or so I thought. I contemplated 41 b5, but it backfires horribly: after 41…b6! 42 Rff8? bxc5 43 Ra8+ Kb6 44 Rgb8+ Rb7! White is several pawns down and hopelessly lost. After long thought, it dawned on me that there was no way to win. 41 Rff8 b5! This was why he had to guard the rank with 40…Re7. Now 42 Ra8+ Kb7 43 Rgb8+ Kc7 and White would love to capture en passant, but alas, that was only legal at move 42! 42 f4. White can secure a draw at any moment, e.g. 42 Ra8+ Kb7 43 Rgc8 and Ra8-b8+ ad infinitum. I hoped something better might turn up, but it does not. Rg3 43 Ra8+ Kb7 44 Rgb8+ Kc7 45 Rh8 Kb7 46 f5 Re2 47 Rab8+ Ka7 48 Ra8+ Kb7 49 Rab8+ Ka7 50 Ra8+ Draw agreed. Imagine my surprise to learn that 39 Rg8+ was a blunder, and Svane’s 40…Re7 had let me off the hook. Instead, 40…a5! 41 b5 and now 41…Rc3! was the simple detail we both missed. Then 42 b6+ Ka6 is a shimmy up the drainpipe, or 42 Rff8 Rxc5 clears an exit on b6.

The tournament winner was Pavel Eljanov, one of Ukraine’s top grandmasters. In his first-round game, he found a neat way to promote a pawn without allowing perpetual check.

Pavel Eljanov – Matthias Bluebaum

Deutschland Grand Prix, Dortmund, July 2022 (See right diagram)

87 h8=Q Qe5+ Now 88 Kg8 Qb8+ 89 Kh7 Qh2+ looks like a draw, but… 88 Kf7! Qxh8 89 Qf5+ The crucial intermezzo Ka1 90 g7! With two queens, the checks soon run out, e.g. 90…Qa8 91 g8=Q Qa7+ 92 Kf6 Qb6+ 92 Qge6 with Qe5 to follow. Black resigns

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