Insane, Surprising, or Beautiful Finishes, Part 2

  • IM Silman
  • | Dec 3, 2013

In last week’s article about insane, surprising, or beautiful finishes, I showed a horror story of a game by Irina Krush where she overlooked a mate in one (while three pawns ahead in an endgame), which cost her the World Championship for girls under 10. Seeing something like that one time in 10 years would be a fair try at odds. What I failed to mention was that at this same event, in the girls under 14 section, Jennie Frenklakh (the other American player) was two bishops ahead in an endgame and wondering why her opponent was playing on.


Yep, White’s down two full bishops (you might have thought that I was making it up!). She doesn’t even have an extra pawn. Playing on when you’re hopelessly placed is one thing, but when you’re two bishops down in an endgame... well, that’s just rude. Benko and I, who were the coaches for the American team, stopped looking at this travesty. 36...Be3 followed by 37...d4 and ...Bb7+, 36...e5, or any number of other moves would end the joke right away.

Instead, she played... 36...a5 which also wins hands down. There followed 37.g4 and now 37...g5, 37...e5, or 37...fxg4 force resignation. But poor Jennie, who was no longer paying attention to this silly game, tossed out 37...Ba6??? and experienced one of those, “I just got a lobotomy” moments when White played 38.g5 and proudly announced, “MATE!”

Irina’s and Jennie’s games were both played in the final round, and both walked into mates. Amazing... when it rains, it pours.

The lesson from both these games is clear: never stop concentrating until the opponent resigns! Of course, the way one learns this lesson is by repeatedly walking into things like this until you become so scarred by shock and pain that you look for checks and other nasty surprises before making any move, especially if the game is a “lock” win.

One of my students was on the happy end of this kind of thing a few weeks ago. The first game he showed me was completely resignable, but when I tried to stop so I could look at something more interesting and instructive he refused, saying, “Keep watching! Keep watching! It will blow your mind!”

The initial position in the board below looks grim (and indeed, many players would resign here), but White kept on going.

As painful as this stuff is, everyone does it from time to time. One of my many moments of idiocy occurred against grandmaster John Fedorowicz.

I played the opening well and Fed never had anything. When we reached this position I had intended to play 29...Rd6 when I anticipated a quick draw. However, I suddenly saw someone that I hadn’t seen in quite some time and I wanted to say hello. As I looked at this person, I reached out, grabbed my rook, stuck it on the d-file, and then realized that I had grabbed the wrong rook!!!

29...Rd8?? 30.Rxd8

After Fed made this move, he looked me in the eye and said, “You gotta pay attention!” I didn’t mind the jab. We were on very good terms, and I suspect he wanted a bit of revenge for the humiliation I put him through in the great beer caper in Wijk aan Zee, several months earlier.

30...Kxd8 31.Rd1+ Kc7 32.Rd5 and I went on to lose.

Anyway, if you don’t trust me, DO trust a grandmaster when he says, “You gotta pay attention!” It just takes one blink to spoil virtually any position.

John Fedorowicz | Photo Wikipedia

Of course, telling someone to pay attention is easily said, but how does one follow that advice? I find that attention lags when one thinks the game is coming to an end (an easy win or a dead draw), and it’s during those moments that you need to train yourself to sit on your hands and look around for tricks, treats, or other potential surprises. Take your time, enjoy the position and soak up every tasty bit of it before you make a move.

From Gloom to Glam

Skipping away from this depressing subject (it’s depressing for Irina, Jennie, and me!), we’ll cast away the gloom with a string of puzzles that all won tournament brilliancy prizes. 

Puzzle 1:


Puzzle 2:
Puzzle 3:

The next puzzle features a game where Black makes use of an old favorite opening of mine:

Puzzle 4:
Puzzle 5:

Puzzle 6:
Puzzle 7:

Puzzle 8:

Puzzle 9:
Puzzle 10:



  • 3 years ago


    Excellent article and awesome puzzles. Enjoyed puzzle 9 a lot.To be able to play so brilliantly like the players featured in the puzzles I think it takes an extraordinary level of talent and hardwork. Alas! mere mortals like me can only watch and wonder at the fireworks on the board.

  • 3 years ago


    it's true, I was ahead in the endgame of a game i played yesterday, I had my queen, a rook, a pawn, and my king.  He had a pawn and his king.  Looked good for me, take the pawn and mate him.  What did I do? I took the pawn without paying attention and caused a stalemate :(

    Good thing it was only a live game on here :)

  • 3 years ago


    puzzle 6 in the notes. If 17 .. d6, not 18. Qxd5 but 18. Bxd6+ cxd6 Qxd6+

  • 3 years ago


    Dear IM Silman,

    Great article. "Pay Attention" are the golden words we all must remember Laughing.

    You mention that if you go for Rd6 and the game would head for a draw. Really?? I think its black that has a better endgame and it will be a mistake for white to go for the Rook exchanges after Rgd1 Rgd8, RxR RxR, RxR KxR, Kf3 f5! and black's pawns are controlling the board and the king is in the center ready to invade whites camp.

    Let us know if you think otherwise.



  • 3 years ago

    FM Alliswell998

    I've been on the happy end before and countless times on the reveiving end! I'm a rook down and there is a forced mate in 3. Rated 2000 guy missed it and makes the only move that allows me to ban-rank mate him, gaining me 3rd place in the tournament! Also 1600 guy, 600 points lower rated than me. I play a good game, outplay him, am a rook and 2 pieces up. Get my ing mated in the middle because I missed a mate in 1. He had a bishop and 3 pawns left..... ohhh I lost a lot of points from that.

  • 3 years ago


    Great attacking chess! The last puzzle was frustratingly enjoyable. The queen sacrifice was bashed out, but then the mate was always just out of reach!

    In Puzzle 3, shouldn't 15...e4? be given a '!' instead? It must be 15. Qxc7 from the previous diagram that deserves the '?' .

  • 3 years ago


    I had a game once when I was rated around 1800 against a 2000 guy. I had black and got a fairly tough position to defend. Even though my position was worse before this happened, I think it still has it's place here. I looked deeply at the position, calculationg and evaluating and suddenly found a "miracle move" that seemed to keep everything together for me tactically. I even double checked it. I made the move and was still checking the lines when my opponent looked at me, smiled and said "brain tumor ?" and slowly dragged his queen across the board down in front of my king with mate.

    It's not only when we stop concentrating, but also when we dig too deep sometimes. A lot of bad mistakes comes after a long thought, like we also saw Anand do in Chennai for example. 

  • 3 years ago


    That game between Rossolimo and O'Kelley has an equally effective solution: 12. Qa3, with ideas similar to Rfd1 in the same position, but with the additional advantage of setting up attacks on along parallel diagonals that can even lead to mate if Black blunders (e.g. in the move order below trying to stop Rd5 by 15... Ne7??).

    For example: 12. Qa3 exf4 13. Nd6+ Kd8 (other moves just walk into check, and Black has nothing to fear from Nxf7+ and Nxh8, which simply dissipates the attack) 14. Rac1 Qb6 15. Rfd1 and now Black is out of good moves. Admittedly, Black can spoil the fun a bit by playing 12... Bf8, but White will still have the edge.

  • 3 years ago


    londonsystem22 that is a brilliant idea, it ended up costing Aronian a Lot.

  • 3 years ago

    FM TheNomNomFactor

    Nakamura-Aronian from the fairly recent sinquefield cup would be a great example for this, as both players had basically accepted the result as a draw and Aronian carelessly blundered the exchange

  • 3 years ago


    Too soon for Anand's masterpiece against Aronian? (That'd be the only puzzle I could solve)

  • 3 years ago


    Great Article! The last puzzle was particularly impressive!

    Random comment: Puzzle 8, the last text, it says black resigned... :)

    Edit: fixed now, thanks! Just my OCD or something, I had to notice :)

  • 3 years ago


    Thx for the article.

  • 3 years ago


    Most of these are really simple.  Maybe something more challenging next time ol' chap!

  • 3 years ago


    Loved the puzzles.

  • 3 years ago


    i played worse than these games. i was a queen up against a 1891, but i hanged two rooks and few pawns and my king was stuck on h8. i had to exchange q for 2 rooks then i lost badly in the endgameCry

  • 3 years ago


    a nice article

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