Talks a Good Game

Talks a Good Game

| 17 | Other

     The following piece was written by Paul Hugo Little,
    a rather diverse writer and a chess expert himself.

    Many people have probably encountered someone
    like the chess expert described in the story below.

(The diagrams and Algrbraic Notation were not part of the original story.)


     He was in the doorway before we saw him, standing in our midst quite suddenly as if he had been a visitation from above.
     We blinked our eyes and well we might, for his attire was incredibly colorful.  The principal thing was his tie, a red and green affair with white dots.  We glued our eyes on it while he told us about his triumphs in foreign fields.  It seems he played a man, who drew with a man, who lost to a man, who got rook odds from Alekhine.  Naturally we were interested in such prowess and wanted to pit our puny skill against this expert.  There was nothing much else scheduled for that evening, anyway.
     "Ah yes," he said casually, "I should welcome an encounter with one of your finest players.  I feel somewhat in the mood for a partie this evening.."
     Such a declaration set us agog, since we duffers generally say, "I'll take the whites" when we want a game, and sit down abruptly opposite our intended victim.  But, of course, he was different.  We could see that at a glance.  Maybe it was the tie.
     He walked over to a corner of the room and sat down at a solitary table.  He fingered the pieces without much animation.  We were thrilled.  That was the way a grandmaster handled pieces - just like that.  He set up an end game.  We wandered over to the table and stood respectfully about him.  
     "Have you seen this?"  he asked.  "White mates in four.  My own work."
     We looked for a while. and then one of our old members reached over rudely and said, "That's cooked.  You can mate in two with best play," and started to show him.  But the expert swept the pieces off the board.  "Its correctness is beyond question," he said disdainfully.  We were thrilled again.
     "I have in mind a variation," he announced, looking up at us with an expression of boredom.  
     "I should like to try it on one of your experts.  I'll play White, of course."  And he lighted a cigarette with effortless nonchalance.  We murmured among ourselves, and finally one of our number was pushed forward to match his wits against the genius.  He seated himself and set up his black pieces deferentially.  The expert set up his own, putting the bishops where the knights belonged and then changing them with a bored mien when someone called attention to their misplacement.
     Exciement ran high.  Or player was a good, substantial sort with an unimaginative style.  How would he fare against the combinative brilliance of this expert with a foreign record?  
     The expert player 1. Kt-KB3 (1.Nf3) on his first move, turning to us with a superior smile and saying, "This opening was wrongfully credited to Reti.  Of course, you know Zukertort was its inventor."  We could only nod in silent agreement, struck dumb with wonder.  Our colleague played Kt-KB3 (1...Nf6) also.  The expert raised his eyebrows in surprise.  
     "So?" he queried.  "Spielmann holds P-K3 as best. But, of course, you can play what you like."  We were flattered by his graciousness.
     The expert played 2. P-B4 (2.c4) to which our member replied with 2. P-KKt3 (2...g6).  

     "The Grunfeld Defense," the expert commented.  "Good, but not good enough against the modern treatment I have devised."
     He took half and hour and then played his third move of P-Q4 (3.d4).  B-Kt2 (3...Bg7) was Black's third.  So it was to be a positional battle, we thought, and moved about nervously, hoping for the best.  The next few moves were as follows: 4. Kt-B3 (4.Nc3), 0-05. P-K4 (5.e4), P-Q3 (5...d6); 6. B-K2 (6.Be2), Kt-B3 (6...Nc6);  7. P-Q5 (7.d5), Kt-Kt1 (7...Nb8).  The expert blinked in surprise at this retreat.

     "A Nimzowitsch move," he observed, "but quite bizarre and bad. I refute it in this vigorous manner," and he played 8. Q-K3 (8.Qb3).  Our member replied QKt-Q2 (8...Nbd7), and the game went as follows: 9. B-Q2 (Bd2), P-K4 (9...e5); 10. Q-B2 (Qc2).  

     "This seems like a wasted tempo,"  the expert remarked, "but you will soon see the subtle point it contains."  We watched as our member shook his head dolefully and played 10 ... R-K1 (10...Re8).  The expert pondered some fifteen minutes, and then replied 11. P-QR3 (11.a3), the game proceeding as follows: 11...Kt-B1 (11...Nf8); 12. P-R3 (12.h3), P-KR3 (12...h6); 13. P-QKt4 (13.b4), K-R2 (13...Kh7); 14. 0-0-0.  

     "Most authorities favor castling on the King's side," the expert said in a melancholy tone, "but on the other hand, I feel that my move is a better positional move.  It implies a vicious attack."  We felt sure our member was soon due to succumb, and could only wring our hands in silent agony.  He did not share our anxiety, and played  14...B-Q2 (14...Bd7).  The game went on inexorably: 15. KR-KKt1 (15.Rhg1), P-R3 (15...a6); 16. P-KKt4 (16.g4), Kt-KKt1 (16...Ng8); 17. P-KR4 (17.h4), P-QKt4 (17...b5); 18. P-Kt5 (18.g5), P-KR4 (18...h5); 19. PxP (19.cxb5), RPxP (19...axb5); 20. K-Kt2 (Kb2), Q-Kt1 (20...Qb8); 21. Kt-K1 (21.Ne1), Q-R2 (21...Qa7).

     The expert looked up at us with a triumphant leer.
     "Now," he said in an excited voice, "you will see the fruit of my fine play.  I am about to embark upon my combination.  Observe closely."
     With a dramatic wave of his hand, he played 22. KtxP (22.Nxb5).We shook in our shoes, for we were sure that our colleague was lost beyond redemption.  He did not, however, even wait to ponder, but instantly replied 22...BxKt (22...Bxb5).  The expert played 23. BxB (23.Bxb5) with a fearsome smash of the piece he thus captured.  He turned to look at us.

     "You see," he said calmly, "what good play can accompish. Al this was carefully figured out in advance.  Concentration is the prime factor in a game of chess.  Always remember that," and he turned back to the table.
     Our member, who had said absolutely nothing during the entire two hours of play (the expert consuming an hour and three quarters of this time), frowned and said in a dry voice, "Did you figure this out too?" and played 23...QxPch (23...Qxe3+).  The expert sat immobile in his seat, studying the position.  Finally he looked up again and said cheerfully, "What the Germans call a spite check," and played 24. K-Kt1 (24.Kb1) with a decisive thump.  
     Our member said, Mate, I think," and played 24...Q-R8 (24...Qa1#).

     There was a long pause.  Then the expert rose, pushed away his chair, and walked slowly to the door of the club,  On the threshold he stopped, looked back at us and said in a puzzled tone, "Spielmann still considers P-K3 to be Black's best."
     Then he was gone into the night, tie and all.  We have since that evening never had a master in our midst, but we shall never forget this expert-in-conversation.

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