A Brilliant Game With An Unexpected Twist

A Brilliant Game With An Unexpected Twist

| 195 | Tactics

Plot twists are popular in Hollywood because people really love them. After his breakthrough mega-hit The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan decided that every single movie he produces should have one at the end. As a result, while watching his movies I cannot help but start guessing from the very beginning what plot twist is prepared at the end. Then, when the plot twist is finally revealed, sometimes you want to re-watch the movie, since the fact that the protagonist was dead the whole movie changes your perception of the events. 

Today I would like to show you a very beautiful game that has a twist. But unlike M. Night Shyamalan, I am revealing the twist at the very beginning, so you don't need to replay the game in order to really appreciate what really happened here. So, without further ado, let's see the game.

A cascade of sacrifices culminated in a very cute checkmate. I could pretend that I found a never-before-published game of Alexander Alekhine, but since I already announced a twist, I am going to reveal it right away. The game was played by one of my students. Now, my dear readers, can you guess the rating of the kid who played White? Do I hear 2000? Nope! 1500? Closer, but still wrong. His USCF rating is lower than 600. Much lower. As a matter of fact, it is closer to 500!

My student emailed me his games played during Presidents' Day weekend and when I stumbled upon the above-mentioned game I got speechless. "You gotta be kidding me!" was all I could think. Yes, throughout the years, my students have surprised me with highly sophisticated play on numerous occasions. For example, in this old article, I compared my student's game to the one played by a famous grandmaster. But in that case, the student's USCF rating was 1543 and not just 500!

Never in my life did I wait for a lesson with my student so eagerly, because the natural question "How is it even possible?" was burning me. Finally, the day arrived and we could discuss the game.

White's attack started with a cool little pawn sacrifice. 

This kind of pawn sacrifice is well-known and happens in many openings. Here is just one example:

Nevertheless, I had doubts that my student knew about this sacrifice. "Oh, I just blundered the pawn!" the kid answered my question. To be totally honest, I wasn't that shocked. First of all, blunders are an integral part of the game of chess at the sub-1000 level. Besides, I also saw a clear blunder that happened later in the game:

To give the kid huge credit, he didn't give up after his blunder and played a bunch of powerful moves that completely turned the game:

I really like the exchange sacrifice 18. Rfe1! It reminds me of the following iconic game by GM Bobby Fischer:

I was absolutely sure that my student never saw Fischer's game. How did he find this sacrifice on his own then? "Umm, I actually blundered the rook as well," my student confessed reluctantly. While it was a bit disappointing, the following powerful sequence of moves that included a queen sac was not a blunder... or was it?

"It was a real sacrifice, not a blunder!" my student assured me. I am very proud of him! Yes, he missed Black's only defense 22...Rf7 expecting only 22...Kh8?? Nevertheless, it is an extremely impressive play for a very young kid. 

And now comes the sad part. The beautiful checkmate shown at the beginning of the article didn't actually happen (didn't I promise you a twist?). My student missed a forced checkmate in four moves and actually lost the game:

Despite numerous mistakes, it is a very instructive game on many levels. First of all, it demonstrates that you don't need to be a grandmaster to play creative chess and potentially produce a masterpiece. Also, it teaches you to never underestimate your opponents regardless of their ratings: everyone is capable of playing the game of their life if all the stars align!

Finally, don't be afraid to make mistakes. More than once, I've seen players who play very conservatively out of fear of blundering. Yes, mistakes are unavoidable, but this is how we learn. And besides, if you play aggressive, attacking chess, sooner or later you'll produce your own masterpiece that you'll treasure forever! 

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