The Magic Square In Chess

The Magic Square In Chess

| 41 | Fun & Trivia

Mikhail Tal was known not only for his fierce attacks and beautiful sacrifices but also for his amusing stories that made even non-chess-players smile. We discussed one such story in this article. Here is another anecdote told by Tal in his book "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal":

"An amusing episode accompanied the start of this tournament. The day before, on the birthday of one of my friends, by no means a chess player, someone suddenly expressed the desire that in my game with the Dutchman Kuijpers the following day I should sacrifice something.
'Which piece, and on which square, would you like?' I asked jokingly. 'Well, let's say a Knight on e6.'

"The following day I had naturally forgotten this conversation, and my game with Kuijpers first proceeded quietly, and then became more complicated in the time-scramble. I made a move, and with time-trouble over, Kuijpers realized that mate was inevitable and resigned. In the foyer, my delighted friends gathered round.

'Good man! Did you do it on purpose?'
'Do what?'
'Well, make that last move with your Knight at e6?'

"I immediately remembered and realized that my chess prestige in these circles had risen sharply, and so as to maintain this, I pompously asked:

'What would you like me to sacrifice tomorrow, and where?'"

As much as I like this story, there is a fly in the ointment. Look at the game: First of all, the Ne6 move wasn't a sacrifice, and also Black could've won the game toward the end.

Fast forward to today. One of the main heroes of the recently concluded Olympiad in Baku was GM Baadur Jobava.

Not only did he win the gold medal on board one with a rating performance over 2900, but he also demonstrated the spectacular kind of chess we all love. It seems to me that Baadur must have made a similar promise during the famous Bermuda party. But unlike Tal, he must have chosen the h6-square for his sacrifice. Judge for yourself:

Try to figure out what would happen if Black doesn't capture the Nf5 and instead plays 15...Bf8.

Hmmm ... how to meet 15...Bf8? And where did I leave my car keys?

Yes, Jobava would still sacrifice a piece on the same h6-square! In this article, we discussed ways to spice up modern super-tournaments. One remedy would be to make participants promise to sacrifice something on a certain square ... or just invite Baadur Jobava to play!

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