"Queer Moves in Chess"

"Queer Moves in Chess"

| 11 | Other

     I stumbled upon the following article while reading through the March 1903 edition of "Checkmate: Monthly Chess Review."  It looked familiar and I was able to determine I had seen it before in "Pollock Memories,"  a collection of his games and problems, compiled and published a few years after his death by the Irish problemist, Frideswide Fanny Rowland. However the article was first pubished in his own chess column in the "Baltimore Sunday News," date uncertain.

     The article had no accompanying games  although it referenced them. I found the actual, or suitable, games as it called for.  There were some discrepancies in the various versions of the article, as well as some ambivalences, typos and errors.  I tried to interpret them as the author intended, commenting (in black) where necessary. I also transposed the original descriptive notation into algebraic.

     The author was William Henry Krause Pollock. Without getting into tedious details, Mr. Pollock, who seemed to have spent time in both Dublin and Bristol, was born in Cheltenham.   He was medical graduate and interned at Dr. Steeven's Hospital in Dublin.   Pollock never attained his certificate to practice even though he qualified as a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin.   He was the Irish champion in 1885 and 1886 (winning every one of his 1886 games - against the likes of Blackburne and Amos Burn).  Although not one of the so-called "Greats," he was a chess master who participated in international tournaments and occasionally beat these "Greats" in their individual games.  In 1889  Pollock played in the 6th American Chess Congress in New York where he won the $50 brilliancy prize, and afterwards moved to Baltimore, Maryland.   Later, he moved to Montreal and in fact represented Canada in the famous 1895 tournament at Hastings.  During the Hastings tournament, he was noticeably debilitated. Following Hastings, he performed a chess tour Ireland then sailed back to Canada but due to his condition,  he returned to England not long after,  mere months before his death from that dreaded disease, tuberculosis.

     Pollock possessed one of those rare minds that saw chess not as a science, not even as a sport, but as an adventure and one that he fearlessly navigated.  Although his article is about strange opening moves he'd encountered or even invented, Pollock in no way recommends them. He just sees them as fascinating side-roads in his adventure.


Queer Moves in Chess

     It is astonishing what bizarre and unexpected moves can be found right in the opening of a game - nay, as early as the first, second, or third  moves.  I refer to such as can be made without danger, and even with advantage.  Anderssen made a great hit with 1. a3 in his match with  Morphy, and Boden took the great New Orleans player "out of books" with good results by 1...f6 [Actually, this move, sometimes called Barnes'  Defense, occurred in just one game against Morphy and was played by Barnes, not Boden. Pollock had actually written "1. P-KB3," which could be  1.f3, the Barnes' Opening, but there are no games at all where this was played against Morphy. So I interpreted to mean 1...f6, as it's not the only instance where Black's move was given in such manner].

Barnes vs Morphy:

     Some moves that have occurred in my own  experience will be less well known, and, therefore, amusing.

     On entering Simpson's Divan one morning some years ago I gave out that I had discovered an entirely new move for White in giving odds of a  piece, viz., on the first move.  Veteran Bird, who fears not to start a game with any move whatsoever, got up on his hind legs at this, but when I  took off the QKt and moved the Rook to the vacant square he sat quite still.  A gentleman shortly after came in and a well-known professional  player remarked sotto voce that he would like to tackle him for the customary shilling stake, but he always expected the odds of a Knight, as  was just strong enough to make it a very poor market. "Go in and try my new move," said I; he did so and won four games straight!

The position described above:

     I once told Showalter that in the great New York Tournament of 1889 I played 1. d4 against Max Weiss, who replied with 1...d5. "Now," said I  (as soon as my old friend had acknowledged he did not recollect the game), "I will give you 18 guesses as to what my second move was."  He  failed to guess it.  The move was 2. Qd3. (A good game too. See Tournament Book.)  There must be some sort of mind reading in this kind of  bluff, for I tied the game on Arthur Peter, who won the "free-for-all" at Lexington, Kentucky, and his first guess was 2. Qd3.

Pollock vs  Weiss :

     Another time I allowed a young New York player (who was smart enough anyway, to have gained one of Loyd's gold chess pins for solving)  no fewer than 27 guesses as to what a certain new defense which I had discovered to the Ruy Lopez was.  He did not find it, and finally  besought me to tell him.  It was 3...Na5! Quite a reasonable move, too. I have played it against Lasker and  Burn. [This move is, in fact, called the Pollock Defense in the Ruy Lopez]

Lasker vs. Pollock:




 An aside:
During Lasker's visit to Baltimore, he and Pollock had an interesting encounter:
A doable blindfold game, played at the Baltimore Chess Club, 1892. The members of the Club were treated to a novelty by Lasker encountering Maryland's champion, Mr. Pollock, both playing without seeing board or men. A large crowd watched the progress of the game with interest, and when at the end of the partie a veritable race ensued between the opposite Pawns to be first at Queening, the crowd was wild with excitement. Lasker's final manoeuvre, especially the intended sacrifice of his Queen, brought forth a volley of applause. ["Pollock Memories" p.149]

     Now, Alapin, the Russian master, comes out with four or five pages of analysis in "La Strategie" to prove that the correct defense to the Ruy  Lopez in 3...Bb4! [This was in the March,1896 edition and the move begins what is now known as the Alapin Defense] It is even worse than my move, if only because less ridiculous.

     Two or three years ago I showed Babson, the renowned problemist, a new opening which I had invented on the street.  I called it the "King's  Own Gambit."  it was 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Kf2 [Today, this is known also as the Tumbleweed Gambit]


     "I'll try it on Short" (a strong player with whom he had little success), said he, and he won 11 games straight at the opening.

     I have been reduced to such desperation when rendering odds of Knight to a player who had "got onto" all my opening tricks that I had to  make double fianchettos with Rooks instead of the Bishops, getting the latter out on to the Rook's squares.

     To get Staunton out of his grooves in the QP opening St. Amant repeatedly answered 1. d4 with 1...c5.  I played thus twice in the Hastings  Congress and would do it again.  I usually play Na6 and subsequently Nc7.





     There is hardly any hopelessly bad move in answer to 1. e4, except it be  1...f5.   Delmar is fond of opening with 1. g4 [Henri Grob was only a  child when Eugene Delmar died] in skittles, and 1. b4 has produced fine games.

     Steinitz has been defending the Ruy Lopez with3...Bc5 and 4...Qf6 with excellent results in his matches.


     I have seen the King moved as Black's first move -i.e., 1....Kf7, as a defense in a Pawn-and-move game.

     I have seen Bird win a dead lost game in a handicap tournament by taking a Pawn "en passant" with a Rook - in other words, "jumping it,"   Neither player noticed it, and the bystanders thought they had no right to interfere.

     And other moves too numerous to be related here.

     But I should like to see a position which Mr. Loyd told he he had constructed some years ago - or, at least, was constructing.  It was a sort  of problem in which both Kings were in perpetual check, and neither could escape, not would either side win or lose the game.  He called it "The  Whirlpool." [by all accounts, "The Whirlpool was never finished or it was finished and never published]

    One of Alapin's leading variations is curious: -
["Pollock Memories" supplied the position give below, followed by this text] and White is made to get into trouble after 11....f5 and 12...d6.  It is strange that so good a player failed to notice the great superiority of 11.  Re1.  Many other of his variations are very ingenious and more carefully worked out.




    The above photo is from Horace Fabian Cheshire's tournament book for Hastings 1895. In his brief biography of the competitors, Cheshire appropriately remarks about Pollock: "He beat Moehl in 1891, and could probably take a better position by treating the game more seriously."

    And his "BCM" obituary summed him up:

A scholar and a gentleman, Mr. Pollock was an excellent writer on all subjects connected with chess. He had a "sweet turn" for literary effect, and a happy wit that made his writings enjoyable. As a chess expert he was brilliant rather than profound. He was a fanciful player, delighting in prettiness, and therefore apt to lose games to the dull players of the exact school. He had a habit of over-refining his play, which not unfrequently resulted in defeat. In a word he was an artist rather than a scientist, and the poetry of chess was more to him than its prose. In tournaments he was always "a dreaded antagonist," even for the strongest masters to meet, yet he threw away games to weaker players; but with all these faults of his environments, his best efforts reached the high water mark of genius.

The cover/thumbnail image shows Tschigorin playing Steinitz at St. Petersburg in 1895. Watching are Lasker and Pillsbury.

More from batgirl
Beth Harmon, the isoLanni?

Beth Harmon, the isoLanni?

Rook Players

Rook Players