Parting With the Lady: Hanken's Ghost

  • IM Silman
  • | Aug 26, 2014

Today we’ll enjoy a lighthearted (with a tad of “morbid” tossed in) look at the time-honored queen sacrifice. I’m calling it “Parting With the Lady” in honor of the late Jerry Hanken, who wrote a number of excellent articles with that title.

At some point, grandmaster Joel Benjamin -- who put out the fantastic chess humor magazine Chess Chow -- wrote a very funny article titled “Parting With the Gentleman.” I suppose I could follow this article up with one devoted solely to games where people mate themselves, but I’m not sure if that would be very well received.

Worse yet, perhaps people would emulate it, and we’d see a spate of self-mates in tournaments all over the globe! Hmmm...lemming just might catch on!

I often do trips down memory lane, so when Hanken’s ghost came to visit me the other day I was reminded of internet announcements of his death in 2008.

However, he didn’t die in 2008. Turns out some idiot made it up, and Jerry Hanken himself had to set the record straight:

I have always wanted to be able to quote my favorite humorist Mark Twain who said "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

Anyway, I will resist the temptation to write my own obit. I simply can’t go now as I must wait at least until I play in my 50th US Open in 2017 and then I will have to put it off until I play in my 60th consecutive American Open in 2024. After that, I’ll think of something.

"Down you mongrel death, back into your kennel, I have stolen breath from a reed of fennel..." –- Edna St.Vincent Millay.

Jerry Hanken by queene4

Sadly, he really did die a year later, in 2009. (I visited him in the hospital and, as fate would have it, was the last chess player to see him alive.)

Jerry Hanken’s great loves were chess and Shakespeare, and it’s clear that his Parting With The Lady is a play on words from Romeo and Juliet (parting is such sweet sorrow). Perhaps Hanken is the only person in history to seamlessly merge both chess and Shakespeare into one homogenous whole.

So Jerry, I’m going to mix your Shakespearian-bred title with my Rocky Horror Picture Show brain (please read the prose in puzzles 8 and 9). Ready? Okay, let’s do the time warp again!


Puzzle 1

Puzzle 2:

Puzzle 3

Puzzle 4:

Puzzle 5:

White is no less than THREE pawns up. However, the Canadian grandmaster Biyiasas was known to be an escape artist, and when White made an error on his last move (White moved his Rook from a4 to a8) Black instantly grabbed his chance! Can you see it?

Puzzle 6:

Puzzle 7:

Puzzle 8:
Puzzle 9:
Puzzle 10:
Puzzle 11:

Earlier in the game, Benko sacrificed a piece for a crushing attack. He was easily winning, but a series of incomprehensible moves (no doubt caused by Benko’s typical time pressure) allowed Fischer to turn the tables.

article image:  Queen of the table by Matt Zhang



  • 2 years ago


    great puzzles!

  • 2 years ago


    A couple more Queen sacrifices from Petrosian.

  • 2 years ago


    Hey Mr Silman, Speaking of Mr Hanken's quote, about 60th birthdays...and since it is after midnight...of the 28th...Happy big 60 to you!

  • 2 years ago


    puzzzle six screwed with me so much

  • 2 years ago


    Fantastic stuff!!! Thanks a lot.

  • 2 years ago


    What an awesome article! Coincidentally, my name on is: SurreptitiousQueen! I love her so much! This article was amazing! Thank You.

  • 2 years ago

    NM greatunknown

    Chess and Shakespeare?  Surely Howard Staunton deserves a mention.  Perhaps Staunton did not merge the two as well as Jerry did.

  • 2 years ago


    It seems that Jerry Hanken was a verry special person. Sorry that no one who know him better did not put a record for him at the wikipedia.

  • 2 years ago


    In puzzle 7, 3...R2b3 is a blunder, it should be R8b3!

  • 2 years ago


    mecuelgalapieza puzzle 6 Qxa6+ pxQ 

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    @ 33antonis

    it seems 3. R8b3 was a stronger move with threat of Bb5#

    answering your question: after Qe1 Rb2 with threat R8b3 and Bb5#

  • 2 years ago



    I see that it drops a piece; Qxa6 b7xa6 Nc6+ Kb7 Nxe7 Rxe7

  • 2 years ago


    I'm surprised Kasparov's 1990 World Chess Championship queen sac in game 20 wasn't in there despite how on his, Qh5 I think it was, he missed a mate in 5 or 6 starting with Nf7+

  • 2 years ago


    @ 33antonis

    Μαλλον ειναι ορθογραφικο λαθος το 3. ...R2b3. Αν επαιζε 3. ...R8b3 απειλώντας ταυτόχρονα Q και Bb3#, τότε φορσάρει το 4.Qxb3

  • 2 years ago

    IM DanielRensch

    I miss Jerry. He really was a staple for those who "grew up" playing West Coast chess events (like myself).

  • 2 years ago



  • 2 years ago


    Puzzle 6: 1.Qxa6+ Kxa6 2.Ra8++ ¿Noone else can see it??

  • 2 years ago


    During the 2008 US Championship Qualifier in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Hanken offered a token monetary award to whomever played the first queen sac of the tournament.  As chance would have it, Hanken found himself to be the first victim.

    To the best of my knowledge, however, Hanken never paid up on the promise.

  • 2 years ago


    wow wow wow 

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