Clash of the Titans!
“A recorded game of chess is a story in symbols, relating in cipher the struggle of two intellects; a story with a real plot, a beginning, a middle, and an end, in which the harmonies of time and place are scrupulously observed; the fickleness of fortune is illustrated; the smiles of the prosperous, the struggles of adversity, the change that comes over the two; the plans suggested by one, spoiled by the tactics of the other - the lures, the wiles, the fierce onset, the final victory. An hour's history of two minds is well told in a game of chess.” – Jose R. Capablanca
I continue to marvel at how this diminutive game magically captures universe-sized complexity without ever burdening the player. All the strategy and tactics one could hope for are all there, but the player need only make one move at a time to unlock General Pandora’s Box. Perhaps there is a lesson there for modern game design? Perhaps less is more? It’s a paradox that seems fitting for such a metaphysical experience as a game of Chess.
There is something else I have noticed about Chess: the multiplayer experience is unmatched. I’ve had lots of multiplayer experiences, but I don’t think any are as intense as those found in Chess. Again, it has to do with the bare but brutal nature of the game. Simply, there is no complexity to hide behind; no randomness with which to explain away a poor performance. Chess is, at its core, single combat at its brutal best.
Speaking of single combat, one of the fiercest games of the GameSquad Fall Invitational has just come to a close. Let me tell you, this game had all the fury of when Achilles engaged Hector in single combat outside the gates of Troy (I’ll let you decide who was who in this match)! This is one martial contest that Homer probably would have sung about.
Sing, O goddess....
(3) RooksBailey (1779) - bevanbraves (1554) [D02]
GameSquad Fall Invitational Chess.com, 27.11.2010
[Fritz 11 (30s)]
1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 sidelines, including 2...Nf6 3 g3 and 2...Nf6 3 Bf4
I was feeling adventurous, so I went with a Queen’s Pawn opening.
A pawn gambit. I almost always take the offered material. A bird in the hand is better than one overhead. Or something.
3.dxc5 Nc6 4.Bf4
Shoring up e5’s defenses against a Black invasion.
Checking the archives:
[4.c4 d4 (4...Nf6 5.cxd5 Qxd5 6.Qxd5 Nxd5 7.a3 e5 8.b4 e4 9.Ng5 Bf5 10.Bb2 Be7 11.Nh3 e3 12.g3 Be4 13.f3 Bf5 14.Bg2 0–0 15.0–0 Rfd8 16.f4 a5 17.b5 Na7 18.b6 Nc6 19.Rc1 Brook,O-Tozer,R (2255)/Oakham 1988/TD/½–½ (70)) 5.e3 e5 6.exd4 e4 (6...exd4 7.Bd3 Qe7+ 8.Be2 Bf5 9.0–0 0–0–0 10.Bd3 Qxc5 11.a3 ½–½ Werner,D (2390)-Kuban,G (2260)/Oberursel 1989/GER) 7.Ne5 Nxe5 8.dxe5 Qxd1+ 9.Kxd1 Bxc5 10.Nc3 Bf5 11.Be3 Bxe3 12.fxe3 Ne7 13.Kc2 Nc6 14.Be2 Nxe5 15.Rhf1 Bg6 16.Rf4 0–0 17.Nxe4 Rae8 18.Kc3 Nxc4 Bergs,T-Petrovs,V/Kemeri 1937/HCL/0–1 (43); 4.e4 d4 5.c3 e5 6.Bb5 Bxc5 7.Nxe5 Nge7 8.Nxf7 Qb6 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Nxh8 dxc3 11.0–0 cxb2 12.Bxb2 Qxb2 13.Qh5+ g6 14.Qxc5 Qxa1 15.Nc3 Qb2 16.Qc4 Bg4 17.Nf7 Bh5 18.g4 Qd2 Dzagnidze,N (2446)-Skripchenko,A (2489)/Rethymnon 2003/CBM 096 ext/1–0; 4.Nbd2 e5 5.Nb3 Bxc5 6.Nxc5 Qa5+ 7.c3 Qxc5 8.Be3 Qd6 9.g3 Nge7 10.Qd2 0–0 11.Bg2 b6 12.Nh4 Ba6 13.Rd1 Rfd8 14.f4 Qe6 15.0–0 f6 16.f5 Qf7 17.b3 Rac8 18.Qb2 e4 Djurkovic,M (2182)-Zavadil,M (2096)/Znojmo 2005/CBM 106 ext/0–1 (31); 4.e4!? Nf6 5.exd5 Qxd5 6.Qxd5 Nxd5 7.Bc4²]
4...f6 Prevents intrusion on e5 5.e4
If he wants the pawn, the Queens must die. Is it worth it for him?
Yes! Okay with me – Queens make me nervous. They’re sort of like ICBMs.
6.Qxd8+ Nxd8 [6...Kxd8 7.Nfd2 e5 8.Be3=] 7.Bb5+
7...Nc6 Black's piece can't move: f8 [¹7...Bd7!? is interesting 8.Bxd7+ Kxd7=] 8.Nfd2² e5 9.Be3
Those pawns stacking up on the e-file were already making me nervous. Doubled pawns can act as a very effective battering ram.
9...Bf5 10.Nc3 a6 [10...0–0–0±]
The temptation was there to just exchange his Knight for my Bishop, but I saw a devious alternative. If I moved 11.Nd5, I could fork his King and Rook if he grabbed the Bishop. It was worth a try!
11.Nd5 [¹11.Bc4!?+-] 11...Rd8
Darn. Time for Plan B. Might as well take what I can get.
12.Bxc6+ bxc6 13.Nc7+ White forks: a6+e8 13...Kf7 Black loses the right to castle
There’s that and a pawn, I suppose.
14.Nxa6 Ne7 15.0–0–0 [¹15.c4!?= should be considered]
I’d rather have my king castle on the less active side of the board than take Fritz’s advice. My opponent can still make trouble for my King, though:
15...Ra8³ 16.Nb4 Nd5 17.a3 Controls b4 17...Nxe3 18.fxe3 Bxc5 19.Rhf1
This for that...er, those:
19...Bxb4 [19...Ke6!? 20.Kb1 Bxe3 21.Nxc6 Bg4 22.Nxe4 Bxd1 23.Rxd1 Rhc8 24.Rd6+ Kf5µ] 20.Rxf5= Bxd2+ [20...Bc5 21.Re1=] 21.Rxd2 A double rook endgame occurred
I was happy with this position at the end of the middle game.
Not prepared to give control of the d-file to Black. I reinforce the d-file Rook with his brother.
22...Rd5 23.g4 g5
Cautious, small moves.
...And I just undid my previous strategy. Don’t recall why. All I can figure is that I was hoping for a complete exchange of Rooks with the idea of running the a-Pawn for a touchdown.
24...Rxd1+ 25.Kxd1 Rd8+ 26.Rd2 The idea is Rf2-d2-d6-d5.
Is that the idea, Fritz? Because I don’t recall. But you seem to be right based on my next move.
26...Rh8 27.Rd6 c5 28.c4 Ke7 29.Rd5
Fritz had an interesting comment here: “White can be proud of that piece”.
“There stands Rook like a stone wall!” Sir Rook, I salute you for your courageous performance on the battlefield!
My opponent opens a new front. I knew it was only a matter of time.
30.h3 [30.Rxc5? doesn't work because of 30...hxg4 31.Ke1 Rxh2–+] 30...hxg4 31.hxg4 Rh1+ 32.Kc2 Rh4
I single-mindedly begin to push the a-Pawn towards nobility. The game depends on it!
33.a4 Rxg4 34.a5 Rh4 35.a6 A strong pawn
Yes, it is!
35...Rh8 [35...Rh1 36.Rxc5 Ra1 37.Rc7+ Kd6 38.Ra7=] 36.Rxc5² g4 37.Kd2 g3 White has to watch this pawn
Yes, I do! It was giving me nightmares. Time to put the King to work.
38.Ke2 Ra8 Black threatens to win material: Ra8xa6 39.Ra5 f5?? [¹39...Kd6= the rescuing straw]
Don’t worry, Bevan. I’ll screw it up sooner or later. I always do.
40.Rxe5++- Kf6 41.Ra5 Kg5
A kingly battle for Black’s g-Pawn begins.
42.Kf1 [42.a7 Kf6 43.b4+-] 42...Kg4 43.Kg2 [43.a7 Kf3 44.Rxf5+ Kxe3 45.Rf7+-] 43...f4=
Fritz is correct to note that the position slipped from being in my favor to a draw. It was here that I started to go from endgame optimism to endgame fear. My a-Pawn was close to promotion, but Black had assembled a force that could easily overwhelm my ability to stop him from gaining a new Queen (I told you that doubled pawns make for an effective battering ram!). It was here that I panicked and started making blunders.
44.exf4 e3 Black advances the passed pawn 45.Ra1 Kxf4? [45...e2 46.Re1 Rxa6 47.Rxe2=] 46.Rf1+ [¹46.b4 e2 47.b5+-] 46...Ke4= 47.Kxg3?? gives the opponent new chances. [¹47.Ra1= and White is still in the game]
That was a silly blunder to snatch up Black’s g-Pawn at the potential cost of the a-Pawn I was hoping to promote. But like I said, I had begun to panic about losing control of Black’s two passed pawns.
47...Kd3 [¹47...e2 might be the shorter path 48.Re1 Ke3–+] 48.Ra1?? sad, but how else could White save the game? [48.Rd1+ Kc2 49.Rh1–+]
Fritz calls this a blunder, but I am not sure why. I eventually did make the move it recommended one ply back (I am assuming it was expecting Black to move 47...Rxe6), protecting the a-Pawn. Not sure of the blunder here.
48...e2 49.b4 [49.Kf2 doesn't get the cat off the tree 49...Kd2–+] 49...Rxa6!! Double attack: c4/g3.
This was an excellent move on the part of Black. I never saw this very clever Rook sacrifice coming. With it, my opponent removes my threat of a Pawn promotion while simultaneously ensuring his! Brilliant!
50.Rxa6 [50.Rxa6 e1Q+ Double attack; 50.-- Rxa1 Mate threat] 50...e1Q+
He promotes his Pawn to a Queen and systematically begins taking apart my forces. It was at this point that I started to have flashbacks to this epic fight scene where I was most definitely in the shoes of Hector:
That still remains the best choreographed fight scene on film. Gonna have to watch Troy tonight. Another Wolfgang Petersen classic.
But back to Chess. Where was I...oh yeah:
This is when my opponent said “Get up. I won’t let a stone take my glory.”
Clowny daggers, y’all.
Must try to protect my last Pawn.
52...Qb8 53.c5 Qb7 54.Rd6+ Kc4 55.c6 Qc7 56.Rg6 Qe5 57.Rg5 Qe4+
Another nice move by my opponent. There goes my Pawn. And any chance of a victory.
What next transpires is a deadly dance where a single misstep would spell doom for me, or a draw for my opponent. Again, I’m no longer playing for a win now, just for a draw. It’s the best I can hope for. And it’s a forlorn hope at that as Queen beats Rook every time. Still, I try to stay on the offensive as much as possible.
58.Kh5 Qxc6 59.Rg4+ Kc3 60.Rg3+ Kd2 61.Rg6 Qe8 62.Kg5 Ke3 63.Kf5 Qd7+ 64.Re6+ Kf3 65.Ke5 Qd3 66.Rf6+ Ke3 67.Re6 Qc4 68.Kf5+ Kf3 69.Rf6 [69.Rd6 doesn't change anything anymore 69...Qe4+ 70.Kf6 Kf4–+] 69...Qd5+ 70.Kg6+ Kg4 71.Kg7 Kg5 72.Rg6+ Kf5 73.Rf6+ Ke4 74.Rf7 [74.Kf8 doesn't do any good 74...Ke5 75.Rf1 Qd3–+] 74...Qe6 [¹74...Ke5 and Black can celebrate victory 75.Kg6 Qd3+ 76.Kg5 Qd8+ 77.Kg6 Qg8+ 78.Rg7 Qe8+ 79.Kg5–+] 75.Rf6 Qe5 76.Kg6 Qd5 77.Rf7 Qc5 78.Kf6 Qf5+ 79.Ke7 ½–½
79…Qg5+ 80.Ke6 Qg6+ 81.Ke7 Ke5 82.Kf8 Qh6+ 83.Ke7 Qg5+ 84.Kd7 Qg8 85.Ke7 Qc8 86.Rg7 Qc7+ 87.Kf8 Qd8+ 88.Kf7 Kf5 89.Rg1 Qc7+ 90.Ke8 Qb8+ 91.Kd7 Qa7+ 92.Kc6 Qxg1 93.Kb5 Qf2 94.Kc6 Ke6 95.Kc7 Qd4 96.Kb8 Qg7 97.Ka8 Kd5 98.Kb8 Kc6 99.Kc8 Qh8# 0-1
Whew! This time Hector avoids being dragged around the gates of Troy.
Well played, my honorable opponent!
This was a great game. It contained everything that Capablanca mentioned in his quote. And I guess that is why I will always keep coming back to Chess.
You can play through the entire game here: