When A Chess Simul Goes Wrong

When A Chess Simul Goes Wrong

| 59 | Amazing Games

Simultaneous exhibitions are always popular among chess fans.

A simul is a unique opportunity for a club player to meet a grandmaster or even a world champion over a chessboard and maybe even beat him!

When I was a kid, I never missed such an opportunity, so whenever there was a simul announcement, I was one of the first players to sign up. I was already a pretty decent player and yet I kept playing in the simuls.

I remember when I was playing my first tournament with a master norm, a very strong master named Vladimir Malaniuk (a future grandmaster) was giving a simul on a free day. Of course I signed up!

As it happened, first I played Malaniuk in the simul and then, two days later, I played him in a tournament game. I lost both games. 

Learning chess from a very strong player is not the only benefit of a simul. The sheer experience of playing a grandmaster is priceless!

Take for example the following game played by my student in a simul vs. Bu Xiangzhi, one of the strongest Chinese grandmasters:

Beating a guy who recently knocked out Magnus Carlsen from the World Cup is a huge confidence booster!

Bu Xiangzhi
Bu Xiangzhi.

One month later, Brandon was playing another grandmaster (this time it was a regular rapid tournament) and it's no surprise that he wasn't too shy and finished the game with a direct kingside attack:

Now you can see that sometimes a game in a simul can be a tough test for grandmasters too, especially if they play kids who are underrated and hungry for chess!

So it shouldn't come as a surprise to you that the worst-ever result in a simul happened in the Soviet Pioneer Palace in 1951, when the British IM Robert Wade played 30 local school children age 14 and below.

After seven hours of play, IM Wade managed to make 10 draws, losing the remaining 20 games!

In order to avoid such disasters, grandmasters sometimes use tricks. The oldest trick in the book is a draw offer. Unless it is a very special case (it was said that Capablanca always offered a draw when he was playing a woman), a draw offer usually means that a grandmaster is losing! There is nothing wrong with a draw offer of course, but I've heard about more creative attempts.

Here is a game from another simul:

When the master made a full circle and returned to this table, his opponent was still shaking his head.

"You don't like your position?" the master politely asked his opponent.

"Why, of course not, I am losing in all the variations!" the amateur replied, and quickly showed the lines he calculated:

The master listened to his opponent very attentively and then asked: "If you hate your position so much, would you like to switch colors?"

The amateur couldn't believe his luck, so he instantly agreed to this proposal. Then the game continued:

I've heard about many such tricks, but nothing beats this (likely apocryphal) story. 

A master was playing a very old gentleman, who was spending a lot of time on every move. It looked like the old gentleman's thoughtful play was going to pay off as the master found himself in a completely lost position, where his opponent was going to promote his pawn in all the variations.

Judge for yourself:

White was about to resign when an ingenious idea came to mind. He confidently played 1.a4-a3!

Black naturally pushed his pawn in the opposite direction: 1...h4-h5. The game continued: 2. a3-a2 h5-h6 3. a2-a1=Q!

At this point the old gentleman realized that something weird had happened and said: "It is very strange. I thought that I was going to promote my pawn first. I probably pushed it in the wrong direction."

The master immediately assured his opponent that he would be lost regardless of the direction his pawn moved.

"Look," the master said, "say you push your pawn down (1. a4-a3 h4-h3 2. a3-a2 h3-h2 3. a2-a1=Q h2-h1=Q 4. Qa1xh1). So you see, you were going to lose your queen anyway."

The poor old guy was so shocked by the unexpected outcome that he didn't even notice that in the last variation both pawns were moving in the same direction! He just uttered, "Chess is such a mysterious game," and left the building.

Despite these tricks, I recommend you play as many simultaneous exhibitions as you can. Besides the obvious chess benefits, they are always a lot of fun!

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