Last week's column provoked a lot of comments. Most of you enjoyed the humorous puzzles, but some readers had different opinions. Some of them were quite interesting. Like one of the readers wrote: "Seems a bit silly to invent your world with its own chess rules just for a fluff article". Thank you! It was always difficult for me to answer the question ‘How come everyone loves "Star Wars" except you?’ Now I know my answer: “Seems a bit silly to invent your world with its own rules just for a fluff movie franchise!”
An image depicting Hatsuyume
Fortunately, most of the readers did exactly what the article was intended for: they smiled! There is a saying in Russia that can be translated like this: “You will act the whole year the same way as you have entered it.” I just hope that all of you fellow chess players entered the year 2014 with a wide grin on your face!
So, was the article completely useless from a chess point of view? Even if it makes you smile, can it make you a better chess player? You might be surprised, but the answer can be yes! For evidence, let me tell you a story described by GM Eduard Gufeld in his book.
GM Gufeld was participating in the 34th Soviet Championship in Tbilisi. The tournament started in December 1966 and ended in January 1967. On January 1st he played a game against GM Aivar Gipslis. Gufeld had a winning position, but made a bunch of mistakes and eventually lost. Every chess player knows how difficult it is to sleep after such a disaster. But eventually he falls asleep and one random dream changes another. First he is playing soccer with his friends, then he goes for a long hike... Suddenly one of his coaches with a broad smile offers him to solve a chess puzzle: a checkmate in a half-move. Yes, this is the puzzle:
The puzzle we discussed last week!
Suddenly Gufeld realized the unbelievable opportunity that he missed in the game he just played:
During the game he thought that 2.Kh1 loses for sure after 2...Qe3!, but thanks to the humorous puzzle he suddenly found the way to win the game! Can you find it too?
After this startling discovery, Gufeld wakes up and goes to call his friend (a reporter who was writing about the tournament in a newspaper). So, he grabs a score sheet and.... realizes that it was just a dream in the New Year's night! In the real game the black pawn was on h5, which makes the whole combination unplayable:
After this incident Gufeld swore to always put his score sheet under his pillow. But of course considering Gufeld's terrible hand writing, he mentioned that this trick didn't actually prevent the future mistakes in his analysis while he was sleeping.
Now let's get back from a dream to the reality. Try to find how famous Soviet Grandmaster Leonid Stein finished his game against Hungarian GM Lajos Portisch.
In conclusion, let me state an obvious fact: even though, as you could see, a humorous puzzle can potentially improve your chess, you can learn much more about chess by studying the games of Fischer or Kasparov.