Pandolfini's Puzzler #74: The Last Class

Pandolfini's Puzzler #74: The Last Class

| 80 | Scholastics

Professor: Hello, class.

They all greeted the professor as if saying goodbye.

Professor: Don't look so glum.

Rachel: Isn't this the last class?

Zephyr: All good things come to an end.

Lucian: Do they have to?

Wei: Yes, but each ending is a transition to a new beginning.

Zephyr: How philosophical. I'll have to remember that.

Hale: Especially during the depths of depression.

Thomas: Oh, cut it out already.

Idris: What are we going to do in this last session, professor?

Professor: I was thinking back to when I first got excited by chess.

Idris: When was that?

Professor: In December of 1962.

Lucian: How do you know that?

Professor: I used to keep a notebook. I still do.

Hale: What went in that notebook?

Professor: Any position that interested me.

Thomas: You mean the best moves and games?

Professor: Sometimes. But not always.

Rachel: So what then?

Professor: Any position that made me smile.

Zephyr: How charming.

Lucian: Are you going to share some of those special moments?

Professor: I think so.

Rachel: Can we see what you mean?

Professor: Why not? Maybe they'll help you smile.


Question 1: It's 1857. With Black, what did Morphy play here? 

Zephyr: I've seen that position before.

Professor: I'm sure you have.

Rachel: Did the position amuse you when you first saw it?

Professor: It did 52 years ago, and it does so now.

Hale: What else did you write down that December, professor?

Professor: I also wrote down this next position.

Question 2: London 1883. With White, what did Zukertort play here?

Ryan: That also comes from a famous game.

Wei: Zukertort against Blackburne.

Thomas: Why did you write this example down, professor?

Professor: I was stirred by the three exclamation points Fred Reinfeld gave Zukertort's move!!! 

Lucian: So what?

Professor: At that time, I had seen three exclams only twice before.

Rachel: Where?

Professor: In two other Reinfeld books.

Zephyr: Are you putting Fred Reinfeld down?

Professor: Not at all. He was the king of chess writing by far.

Thomas: But he did use lots of exclamation points.

Professor: That reminds me of my favorite Reinfeld annotation.

Ryan: Which one, professor?

Professor: In a game where White castled queenside, Reinfeld wrote "Castles Queenside!"

Idris: That's rather droll, professor. May we see another position?

Professor: Of course. The following setup also made me beam with delight. 

Question 3: With Black against Emanuel Lasker, what did Steinitz play here? 


Hale: It's a curious position without doubt.

Wei: Steinitz did lose that game, however.

Idris: It was no crime to lose to Emanuel Lasker.

Zephyr: Oh yeah, I guess he was pretty good.

Ryan: Why did you like that position, professor?

Professor: How often do you get to see a middlegame with all eight pieces on the home rank?

Ryan: True. But that's Steinitz for you.

Zephyr: You mean, that was Steinitz for you.


Wei: Actually, Ryan is right. The great players live on through their moves.

Lucian: Great players and great moves, can we see the next position, professor?

Professor: Your wish is my wish.

Question 4: With Black against Janowski, what move did Rubinstein play in this 1907 position?

Lucian: Heck, professor, that's not exactly a brilliant move.

Professor: True, but I like the way Rubinstein gets his queen into the game. 

Rachel: Sure. It's a nice maneuver.

Thomas: Though the game did go on for a long time thereafter.

Idris: Anyway, I can see why you wrote it down.

Zephyr: And why it made you smile. 

Professor: Here's another unforgettable position.

Question 5: It's 1914 in Naples. In this 1914 consultation game, with White, what did Tarrasch play?  

Hale: Wow, another celebrated position.

Professor: I had never seen that motif before.

Rachel: You mean, not before December 1962?

Professor: Right.

Thomas: It's almost like a composed problem.

Hale: And to think Tarrasch really played it.

Idris: It has that fancy name, too, the Plachutta Theme.

Wei: Named after Joseph Plachutta.

Thomas: However you capture the sacrificed piece, you mess up one of the defensive lines.

Zephyr: I see you know the Plachutta theme. 

Thomas: Aha.

Zephyr: Well, so does Zephyr!!!

Lucian: Since when do you speak of yourself in the third person?

Zephyr: Since ten seconds ago.

Professor: First person, third person, let's see another position.

Lucian: Who played it?

Professor: Keres at Noordwijk in 1938.

Wei: You don't mean his game against Spielmann?

Professor: Very good!

Question 6: With Black, what move did Keres play here?


Ryan: A simple, but very fine defensive move.

Hale: And against Spielmann, a veritable attack machine.

Professor: I loved the way Keres made the position fall apart.

Hale: Great stuff.

Lucian: A brilliant solution, yet a simple move. 

Zephyr: Simple can be hard.

Professor: It's time for another position.

Question 7: With White, what did Spassky play, and what didn't Bronstein do in response?

Thomas: Isn't that a position from the movie "From Russia With Love," one of the early James Bond films?


Professor: It's essentially the same game, but a little different.

Zephyr: Why did you like it so much, Professor?

Lucian: Did you like that Spassky let his f1-rook hang with check?

Zephyr: Twice?

Hale: Or did you like that Bronstein didn't take the rook right away?

Professor: All that, and more.

Wei: Today's engines tell us Bronstein should have taken the rook.

Zephyr: I'm glad he didn't, though.

Lucian: Why?

Zephyr: Because it inspired the professor to write it down.

Lucian: You mean, so we can have one last smile?

Zephyr: Probably.

Professor: Actually, there's another position I'd like to show. Maybe it will give you a final chuckle. 

Zephyr and Lucian: Oh goody.

Question 8: With White, what did Bobby Fischer play against Tigran Petrosian?

Idris: That was cool.

Professor: That's one reason I wrote it down.

Rachel: Also because it was played by Fischer against Petrosian?

Professor: Yes, but more than that, I loved how suddenly the game came to an end.

Hale: Like this class has suddenly come to an end?

Lucian: So that's it, huh?

Professor: I'm afraid so. 

Zephyr: I must admit something.

Professor: Yes?

Zephyr: I've really enjoyed being a part of this group.

Lucian: Me too.

Professor: That's very nice to hear.

Ryan: I know I've certainly gained from our class.

Wei: I wasn't here that long, but it's helped me, too. 

Professor: You've all done well.

Zephyr: Yes, we have.

Professor: But it's time to move on, for each of us to go our own way.

Hale: That sounds a little like Socrates at the end of Plato's "Apology."


Zephyr: We don't have to get so melodramatic.

Thomas: No we don't.

Professor: Yet there's a point here. Developing minds need constant challenge.  

Lucian: Can't you challenge us, professor?

Professor: No. Not any more. I've said it all. I have nothing new to say.

Idris: Who do you think will teach us in the future?

Professor: Why the same wonderful teachers you've always had.

Rachel: Who do you mean, professor?

Professor: The same ones who taught me.

Zephyr: Now I'm curious. Who are you talking about?

Professor: Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, and Alekhine. Fischer, Kasparov, Carlsen, and Caruana. And there are more from the past, with many more to come.

Wei: I get it. 

Idris: So do I.

Ryan: We learn by examining the games of the great players.

Hale: Naturally. Their games are the best teachers.

Professor: That's right.

Wei: Who knows? Maybe some of us will become good players.

Professor: And some of you might become good teachers.

Thomas: Why not?

Hale: If not chess, maybe teaching something else.

Wei: I can imagine the advice you'd give a hopeful player.

Ryan: Yeah, you'd tell them to work hard, stay focused, keep things in perspective, and things like that.

Idris: Of course. 

Wei: But what advice would you give an aspiring teacher?

Professor: I think I'd say something about what a teacher should try to do. 

Lucian: And what's that?

Zephyr: To show that study can have great value?

Rachel: While it can also be a lot of fun?

Professor: Yes and yes, but something else.

Hale: What else should a good teacher try to teach?

Professor: Self-reliance. Teachers should try to show students they don't need the teacher. 

Zephyr: I may not need you, professor, but I sure am going to miss you. 

Professor: Goodbye Zephyr, Lucian. Goodbye class. May Caissa always light your way.

Answers below -- Try to solve NM Pandolfini's puzzles first!

Answer 1: Morphy wins White's queen or mates. When I first saw this position in December of 1962, I marveled at the way h1 is guarded in the mating pattern. I still find it amazing.

Answer 2: Reinfeld gave Zukertort's 1. Qb4 three exclamation points. Regardless how many exclams it deserves, no matter what current analysis shows, I've always loved his move and Reinfeld's exclamation points. 

Answer 3: After 1...Ng8, I couldn't believe all the black pieces were on the home rank. Even buttressed by that intriguing array, it didn't help Steinitz. Lasker was just too good.

Answer 4: In this 1907 game played in Karlsbad, I  love the way Rubinstein brings his queen into the game, Qd8-b8-a7-c5-b4. What a way to travel!

Answer 5: Tarrasch's famous interfering bishop move has assumed a lofty place in chess history. 

Answer 6: Keres' simple move (1...Bb8) made a big impression on me when I first saw it. White's position just collapses.

Answer 7: I found this 1960 game played in Leningrad mindlblowing. I couldn't believe Spassky let his rook hang with check and Bronstein take it. 

Answer 8: As soon as I saw Fischer's mating net (1. Kc4!), I had to get out my notebook. December 1962 -- I loved that month.

A Final "Take Note"

We come to the end of this part of the journey, and echo the earlier discussion. We all want to play, but why does anyone want to teach?

For me, it's to instill in students a love for learning. Beyond that, nothing is more exciting to me than helping the promising young achieve their potential.

I often think back to when I began my teaching career, 43 years ago. One of the first things I did was to envision the goal. What did I want to give my students in the end? What would I tell them when it was over, as we were about to go our separate ways?

I came up with sundry thoughts, since expressed many times, to legions of youthful thinkers. If you want to succeed, I'd advise, commit fully. Sure, enjoy what you're doing. It's a reason to be alive, to revel in experience. But amid the pursuit of pleasing and satisfying reasoning,  always play for real, always give your all, always do your best.

To raise the stakes, I might put it this way:  “Act as if the future of humanity depends on your efforts. It really does.” 


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