The New King Of Meme Openings

The New King Of Meme Openings

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When I was 12 years old, we got a school assignment to write an essay about a personal hero. I had just finished reading the immortal classic The Twelve Chairs, and the book had a profound effect on me. It was difficult not to fall in love with the main protagonist of the book, Ostap Bender. A charismatic man with a fine sense of humor was the complete opposite of the traditional characters of books that we studied at school. So I decided to write my essay about Ostap Bender.

I have to admit that it was a questionable decision because, despite all his charisma, Ostap Bender was a crook. In my defense, I was only 12 years old and was completely blown away by GM Mikhail Tal's favorite book. Moreover, some twenty years later, FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov erected a statue of Ostap Bender in his Chess City.

Mikhail Tal in 1964
How could anyone disagree with the legendary Tal? Photo: Dutch National Archive, CC.

My school assignment was almost half ready when our teacher decided to take a look at it. I proudly showed her my work, but her reaction was quite unexpected. She got mad—very, very mad! She didn't bother to explain that Ostap Bender is not the best role model. She was upset for a different reason.

"What were you thinking about?" she was practically yelling. "Our country is preparing to celebrate Vladimir Ilich Lenin's birthday, so you are supposed to write about Lenin!" she concluded very angrily. Thanks to my teacher, I got another valuable lesson about double-speak, which helped me a lot in the future. Of course, I wrote my essay about Lenin and got a perfect grade!

Talking about chess heroes, I have never hidden my preferences. It is mostly World Champions (pretty much all of them) and some extraordinary grandmasters who never got the highest title (like GM Viktor Korchnoi, for example). In some cases, I hope that they just haven't gotten the title yet (like GM Hikaru Nakamura). There are also chess players, like IM Rashid Nezhmetdinov, who became my heroes for their artistry.

Hikaru Nakamura at Norway Chess 2023
Will Nakamura prove my preference for world champions? Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Now, I have a new chess hero that's in a category I cannot really define. He's still young, and who knows, maybe one day he'll become a world champion. He definitely values art in chess. But, he is also something new—something related to the modern meme culture.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to GM Jergus Pechac. The readers of my column might remember the game which was featured in this article:

In that article, I wrote: 

Due to an obvious mouse slip, he [GM Boris Gelfand] leaves his queen under attack. By simply capturing the queen, you would win the match and proceed to the next round of the FIDE World Cup qualifier. What would you do?

The young Slovak grandmaster didn't want to win the game and the match this way, so he offered a draw! Caissa, the goddess of chess, decided to reward Pechac, who won in the armageddon and advanced to the next round. While I am sorry for my old friend Gelfand, I am extremely happy that chess chivalry is alive! 

Pechac at the FIDE World Cup qualifier. Photo: European Chess Union.

As you can see, unlike my childhood hero Ostap Bender, Pechac has a very high moral standard! But what about his chess and the meme culture? Let me explain. You might have seen a video that was popular a couple of years ago.

A nicely dressed young man at a concert is visibly uncomfortable. He is probably waiting for his date because he is constantly looking at his watch, but the date never shows up. Finally, giving up hope, he thinks, "Ah, screw it!" and shows his true inner self.

When I looked at Pechac's games, I saw some similarities with the video. In his recent tournaments, Pechac played all kinds of solid openings like the Queen's Gambit or the boring Berlin Defense.

And at some point, just like that dancing man, Jergus probably thought, "I've had enough," and then all hell broke loose!

For starters, he decided to start playing GM Vladimir Kramnik's type of chess and never castled:

Then he said "hold my beer" to all the people who think they are "brave" when they play the Bongcloud in a meaningless blitz game. Can they do it like Pechac and push their rook pawns against 2600+ grandmasters in official tournament games?

By the way, unlike the Barnes Opening and other meme openings, Pechac's push of his a-pawn has a point. It takes just one natural-looking move for White to lose his b5-bishop!

Yes, even after blundering the bishop, I would still prefer White's position. But still, it is a very unexpected turn of events in such a classical opening as the Ruy Lopez! By the way, if you are collecting opening traps, here is a similar one for you:

Finally, Pechac turbocharged his meme mode and played 1.Nh3 against a very strong Romanian grandmaster and well-known opening expert, GM Alexander Motylev:

Now I've seen everything! All hail my new chess hero, GM Jergus Pechac!

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