Surprise Mating Attacks

Surprise Mating Attacks

Feb 3, 2016, 12:00 AM |
22 | Tactics

     The following is a reprint of a charming article composed by Al Horowitz in "Chess Review," Nov. 1953. Of course, this version has been updated to Algebraic Notation with the digital supplanting the physical.

Al Horowitz with Bill Lombardy in 1962

     Undoubtedly what occurs in the following position is a surprise - for white, not for Black.  As Black is a piece and two pawns behind, he might as well headed for the showers unless he had an inkling of what is about to happen.

Black to move

Black's design is diabolic

1. . . .Qh3!
2. Resigns

There is nought to be done about 2. . . ..Qxg2#; for if gxh3, Nxh3#.

    Both White and Black were surprised by the "surprise mating atack" in the following position.  In fact neither player saw it until after the game.

White to move

The first move in routine.
1. Rxg7+   Kf8
if  1. . . .Kh8, White mates by 2. Rxh7+  Kg8 2. Rh8#
2. Rg8+!
An unusual tactical motif involving a line and square clearance.  For reasons which will become apparent, it is essential for White to clear the King Knight file and also the square, g7
2. . . .Kxg8
3. Rg1+
While the ultimate objective is not yet clear, the immediate short—term goal is to utilize the Rook on the open King Knight file.
3. . . . Kf8
4. Bg7+
Now a reason why the Rook was jettioned in manifest.  White's Bishop pre-empts that square
4. . . .Kg8
5. Bf6+  Kf8
The stage is set for a new and climatic motif.
6. Rg8+!
To force the Black King into the open so White's Queen can draw a bead on it with check.
6. . . .Kxg8
7. Qg2+  Kf8
8. Qg7#

     Often the surprise mating attack is truly the climax of a profound and well calculated "Combined Operation" (see next chapter).  It is then the far seen stinger on the tail of a combination or series of combinations.  In the following position, Black has manifestly sacrificed earlier.
     White is doing everything within his power to repel the enemy invasion.  But it is too late.  His King's stronghold hs already been breached.  It is now only a question of how Black is to proceed.

Black to move

1. . . .Ne2+
Involving several tactical motifs — for one, the Knight's sacrifice is a line clearance; for another, it is an interference.
2. Rxe2
Else the interference works and 2. . . .Qg2 is mate.  But now the Rook on e2 serves as a block in what is to follow — another tactical motif out of the line clearance.
2. . . .Rf1+ !!
As in our previous example, the first sacrifice clears the path for a second.
3. Kxf1
Otherwise, mate on h1.
3. . . . Qh1+
4. Kf2  Ng4#
A pretty picture.  Note how White's Rook on e2 blocks its King from exiting that square.


     Surprising mating attacks are not necessarily born of desperation.  They may well be the natural procession of moves, appearing desperate and surprising because they involve a sacrifice of material.  As we said originally, "Checkmate of the enemy King is the principal goal of the game of chess."  When it is possible, everything else is subordinate.  And, many times, when a surprise mating attack is possible, it is the only way to win.  In a move or two, the chance may pass, never to return.
     The following position is somewhat typical. Indeed, White may well win in the long run, anyway.  But the process will be adruous, to say the least;  whereas the surprising mating attack is immediately decisive.
White to move

     Black's piece are cramped.  His vital peril, as will be seen, is the blocked and blocking position of his Bishop.  In a few moves, that might be remedied.  But White is on the move!

1. Nf5+
Penetrating the bastion of the Black Monarch.
1. . . .gxf5N
If 1. . . .Kf7, 2. Rxh7+ is a decisive blow; and on 1. . . .Kh8, Black is mated soon after 2. Rxh7+  Kxh7 3.Qh1+
2. Rxh7+
These sacrifices had better be correct or White will be in for a surprise.
2. . . .Kxh7
Not 2. . . .Kg6  3.Qh5 mate.
3. Qh5+  Nh6
Not 3. . . .Kg7  4. g6, as then there is no defense to the checkmate at h7.
4. Qxh6+  Kg8
5. Qg6+   Kh8
6. Be3     any
Mate cannot be averted.
7. Rh1#

                                                          COMBINED OPERATIONS

    The elements of combination play, the check, the capture and the threat, and the various motifs, such as the pin, the fork and the double atack, are the structure of the mechanism for executing plans.
     On occasion, when the plan is a simple one, a singularly independent tactical operation may suffice.  More often than not, however, the administration of the plan involves tactics in concert, in effect, a compounding of the motifs.  Such is the nature of what we call "combined operations."

     Inumerable tactical ideas govern the play in the following setting.  Yet a cursory appraisal leaves the impression that it is nothing more than a Knight fork.
     How many motifs are employed?  At least six are obvious.  They are (1) the threat of mate, (2) the mating net,  (3) interference, (4) the overworked piece, (5) the sacrifice and (6) the Knight fork.  And many of these recur.
The ultimate objective is hardly apparent at the outset
1. Bh6
First, a simple move, threatening mate (1) by means of a common mating net (2).
Black can defend in various ways.  If 1. . . .Ne6, the Knight interferes (3) with the defense of the Bishop by its Rook, and White continues with Nxe6.
If Black attempts a counter—attack by 1. . . .Bxg2+, it fails after 2. Kxb2, RxB\e2+  3. Kf3 ; for if 3. . . .Qe5 (defending against the mate at g7), the Queen has reliquished the protection of the Knight (4) and White wins with 4. Rxd8+
If Black plays 1. . . .Qe5 at once,  2. Nxe4 wins; for the Queen cannot recapture (4) and still guard g7.
Hence —
1. . . .Be5
The Bishop guards against the mate threat by a counter—attack on White's Queen; but it shuts off the defense of the other Black Bishop (3)
Since White's Queen is attacked, it does not appear to matter that Black's Queen Bishop is "en pris." Yet, the is just the difficulty,
2. Nxe4!
Material sacrifice (5), a prelude to the end, the Knight fork (6)
2. . . .Bxf6
More or less forced, as otherwise Black in out a piece.
3. Nxf6+  Kh8
4. Bg7+
Another sacrifice (5) to draw the Black King into the culminating Knight fork (6)
4. . . .Kxg7
5. Nxe8+  Resigns.
For, after White picks off the Queen, he has acheived his end, a vast material superiority.


Black to move

     Material is approximately even in the following position.  But Black's Pawns could become easy targets.  So it is up to Black to do something to alleviate that prospect.  Curiously, at least four different tactics are employed in this comparatively simple position.
1. . . .. Ng3+
Material sacrifice to bring about a preconceived setting.
1. hxg3
Practically forced as after 2. . . .Nxf1, Black is a piece to the good.
2. . . . hxg3+
3, Kg1   Nf2
Black sets up a mating net.
2. Rxf2
4. . . . Rh1+ !!
To draw the King awayfrom its present square.
5. Kxh1   gxf2
Resigns. For the Pawn queens by force. 

     Thus, we have seen a Knight sacrifice, a discovered check, a Rook sacrifice, a mating net and a Pawn promotion.


     For beauty, the following combination has few peers, and in the combined operations, there are interference, a triple sacrifice and a mating net to bring about the denouement.

White to move

The first move must predict the rest.
1. Bd6 !
1. . . . cxd6
Black must take or lose material, and 1. . . .Bxd6 is no better.  Mate still results in the ultimate sequel.
2. Nf6+ !!  gxf6
another sacrifice, to breach the King postition.
3. Rg1+  Kh8
4. Qxh7+
And here White renews his process of expenditure with a third sacrifice, to establish a mating net.
4. . . . Kxh7
5. Rh5#

   There are combined operations which seem more like "swindles" so complete is the magic of the combinations.  Such is the one which evolves from the following position, the end of a game between the American master [James] Mason and [Simon] Winawer in the Vienna Tournament of 1882.  Mason was no slouch if the pyrotechnics employed here is any evidence.

"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair."

1. Rxg5!
A Rook sacrifice, merely to clear the path for entry of White's Queen to the seventh rank.
1. . . . hxg5
Otherwise, the Rook enters itself with fatal effects.
2. Qh7+  Nd7
Not  2. . . . Kd8  3. Qh8+  after whichWhite wins easily.
3. Bxd7
With critical threats of discovered check.
3. . . . Qg8
Not 3. . . .Qxd7  4. Qxd7+, Kxd7  5. Rxb8 after which White's material superiority is established and decides.
Now, indeed, Black can reply to any discovered check with 4. . . .QxQ.   It seems that White has miscalculated.
4. Rb7+ !!!
4. . . . Kxb7
Not 4. . . .Rxb7  5. Qxg8, a case of the overworked piece.  Nor 4. . . .Kd8  6. Qxg8+, an example of interference.
But now the Black King is in position for what is to follw.
5. Bc8+    Resigns
     Double, discovered check, with interference. Because of the double check, Black's King must mve and because of the interference, Black's Queen must go. To boot, White picks off another Rook shortly.

     Not a single action of the chessboard, no matter how minute or ineffectual, is self contained.  Its reaction reverberates to the farthest ends of the playing field.  Hence, it is always well to remember that there are sixty—four squares on the board.

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