Throwing Away Your Queen
Any real fan of chess can tell you that, in many ways, chess is a lifelong addiction. Hundreds or even thousands (in some case, tens of thousands!) of chess books take over an apartment or house, chess sets can be found in bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms, and it’s not unusual to hear tales of fed up spouses saying, “It’s chess or me!” In my view, chess wins that contest easily since a caring spouse would never want to separate her/his mate from a love that will always be with him through thick or thin.
During dinner, the late, great Bent Larsen (the finest storyteller I’ve ever met) once told me about Friedrich Samisch (creator of the Samisch Variation against the King’s Indian) and how, right after he got married, remembered that he had committed to an international tournament. He apologized to his new bride and promised to get home as soon as possible. In those days travel took a long, long time. It was no surprise that the tournament and travel took two months, and when he finally made it home his wife rushed to his arms, saying, “I thought I’d never see you again!”
He comforted her, assured her that everything would be okay, and then noticed a letter that had been delivered to his home a few weeks earlier. It was an invitation to a very nice tournament and Samisch told her that he just had to play, apologized, and said he’d be back before she knew it. When he did return she was nowhere to be found. Such is life with a professional chess player!
The title of this article has two possible meanings. One interpretation could be that chess addiction can lead to “throwing away your wife aka queen.” However, the other interpretation would be the correct one; the main topic here is all about giving away your (chess piece) Queen (and loving it!).
One of my first chess books was the wonderful, MARSHALL’S BEST GAMES OF CHESS by Marshall. As a 13 year-old child, I have to admit that the following game had quite an effect on me.
Levitsky – Frank Marshall, Breslau 1912
1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Nc3 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.exd5 exd5 6.Be2 Nf6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Bg5 0-0 9.dxc5 Be6 10.Nd4 Bxc5 11.Nxe6 fxe6 12.Bg4 Qd6 13.Bh3 Rae8 14.Qd2 Bb4 15.Bxf6 Rxf6 16.Rad1 Qc5 17.Qe2 Bxc3 18.bxc3 Qxc3 19.Rxd5 Nd4 20.Qh5 Ref8 21.Re5 Rh6 22.Qg5 Rxh3 23.Rc5
Threatens 24…Qxh2 mate. But can’t the Queen be captured by three different pieces?
Marshall wrote: “The most elegant move I have ever played! The Queen is offered three ways, and White cannot accept the offer in any form.” His analysis:
* 24.fxg3 Ne2+ 25.Kh1 Rxf1 mate.
* 24.hxg3 Ne2 mate.
* 24.Qxg3 Ne2+ 25.Kh1 Nxg3+ 26.Kg1 Nxf1 and black’s a piece ahead.
Very, very nice! But what REALLY caught my attention was Marshall’s introduction to this game:
“Perhaps you have heard about this game, which so excited the spectators that they ‘showered me with gold pieces!’ I have often been asked whether this really happened. The answer is – yes, that is what happened, literally!”
Andy Soltis, in his extraordinary book, FRANK MARSHALL, UNITED STATES CHESS CHAMPION, looked a little deeper into the Marshall gold pieces story, and added the following:
“But in his original handwritten notes, there is no mention of coins being tossed. Marshall’s only comment was, ‘A purse was presented to me after this game.’ Yet he often repeated the gold pieces version to friends.”
The best explanation of what actually happened comes from Walter Korn, who would later edit editions of Modern Chess Openings. In America’s Chess Heritage, Korn recalled that the version he heard as a young player in Prague from witnesses to the game was that Alekhine and another friend of Levitsky’s, P.P. Saburov, had bet on its outcome. When their man resigned, they tossed their wagers onto the board in payment – gold marks and crowns.”
This sounds more reasonable, but the young Silman was more than happy to imagine dozens of spectators burying the players in Smaug’s riches (I was a huge Hobbit fan!). In fact, it was romantic tales like these (endless travel to exotic locations and endless gold) that ultimately convinced me to become a chess professional. Well, the travel part was accurate, but I’m still waiting for the gold.
Later I realized that Alekhine (one of my first chess heroes) had done something similar, predating Marshall by a year:
A. Alekhine - NN, Moscow 1911
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.0-0 0-0 7.cxd4 Bb6 8.d5 Ne7 9.e5 Ne8 10.d6 cxd6 11.exd6 Ng6 12.Bg5 Nf6 13.Nc3 h6
Black: “Move your Bishop!”
White: “I don’t think so!”
Black can’t take the Queen due to the pin along the a1-g8 diagonal, so it doesn’t seem to much of a relation to Marshall’s brilliance. But that will quickly change!
White: “Take my Queen! I dare you!”
Black doesn’t fall for 16…fxg6 17.Ne7+ Kh8 18.Nxg6 mate.
Black: “Okay, now I’ll take your Queen!”
White: “Take it!”
Desperation, but White had a multitude of crushing threats 18.Bxf7, 18.Nxg5, 18.Ne5, 18.Qh5, etc.). One sample: 17…Bc5 18.Bxf7 Bxd6 19.Nxg5 Nxg5 20.Qh5+ Nh7 21.Ng6 mate.
18.dxe7 fxg6 19.Ne5!, 1-0.
Not as cool as Marshall’s ...Qg3, but still very nice and definitely part of the ...Qg3/Qg6 Queen sacrifice theme.
Lightening struck again in 1967:
Nicolas Rossolimo – Paul Reissmann, Puerto Rico 1967 (C54)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Bxd2+ 8.Nbxd2 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Qb3 Nce7 11.0-0 c6 12.Rfe1 0-0 13.a4 b6 14.Ne5 Bb7 15.a5 Rc8 16.Ne4 Qc7 17.a6 Ba8 18.Qh3 Nf4 19.Qg4 Ned5 20.Ra3 Ne6 21.Bxd5 cxd5 22.Nf6+ Kh8
White would also have won easily with 23.Qxe6!! (23…fxe6?? 24.Ng6+ hxg6 25.Rh3 mate) and even moves like 23.Rh3 and 23.Nxh7. But 23.Qg6 is so much more fun.
Obviously 23…hxg6 falls to 24.Rh3 mate, while 23…fxg6 also dies a horrible death after 24.Nxg6+! hxg6 25.Rh3 mate. Best was 23…Ng5, though after 24.Qxg5 white’s a piece up and Black would have to resign.
A great way to end the game. White leaves the Queen hanging! Black resigned since even black’s best defense allows mate in a several moves.
I remember the late Jerry Hanken and his Parting With the Lady series in Chess Life magazine. His articles were, obviously, about Queen sacrifices. After dozens of Parting With the Lady articles, Hanken played Grandmaster Joel Benjamin in some tournament and got mated (no surprise since the rating difference was enormous). However, winning the game wasn’t enough for the always very funny Mr. Benjamin, and he published an article in Chess Life (about his win over Hanken) titled, Parting With the Gentleman. I still laugh whenever I think of it.
Anyway, Queen sacrifices are always fun, so I’ve added some puzzles about parting with your lady, which sometimes leads to the opponent parting with his gentleman and sometimes leads to something more mundane, like material gain. Some of the puzzles are easy, and some are very hard. Good luck!
In the following puzzle Black appears to be winning since white’s Queen is attacked by the d4-Knight and moving it to safety allows …Rxd5 with an extra piece for Black. Is White doomed?