Oh, Fortuna!

May 19, 2008, 10:42 PM |

"Luck is not chance; it’s toil. Fortune’s expensive smile is earned."
– Emily Dickinson

One of the great differences between chess and other wargames is the element of chance. It has been observed - sometimes with respect, other times with derision - that there are no dice in chess; no randomly dealt cards; no element of pure happenstance whatsoever. However, that is not to say that there is no element of luck in chess. Indeed, chess, perhaps more so than any other wargame, properly mimics the alternating moods of the goddess Tyche. For in real war, as in chess, our successes and failures are not determined by pure random chance; no one rolls a die to see if an assault will succeed. Rather, victory or defeat is often due to hard work that capitalizes upon moments of good fortune.

The following game is an excellent example of luck at work on the chess board. Due to an oversight on my part, my opponent had an excellent opportunity for victory. Then Tyche smiled and my luck improved significantly….

[Date "2007.2.17"]
[White "Crusader Scott"]
[Black "Knight Ryder 2007"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C46"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Bc5 4.Bc4

Wow! That was quite a horseback tour of Europe, from Vienna to Italy!

4…d6 5.d3 h6 6.Be3 b6 7.Bxc5 bxc5 8.Bd5 Bb7 9.Qd2 Nf6 10.O-O-O O-O
11.g3 Qb8 12.h4 Bc8 13.Bxc6 Bb7 14.Bd5 c6 15.Bb3 Bc8 16.Kb1 a5 17.a4 Qc7 18.Nh2 Be6 19.f4 exf4 20.Qxf4 Nh5 21.Qf3 Nf6 22.Nf1

This move was an oversight that would cost me a rook. In retrospect, the knight’s move to f1 seems so obviously deficient that I shake my head in bewilderment at making that move. This is a good example of luck working in my opponent’s favor…the luck of me suddenly coming down with a bout of chess blindness, a syndrome that occurs “when the player overlooks possibilities on the chess board because he is concentrating on other ideas and plans.”

CM10 comments: “Leads to 22...Bg4 23.Qf4 Bxd1 24.Nxd1 Nd7 25.Nfe3 Ne5
26.Nc4 Nxc4 27.Bxc4 Rab8 28.Rf1, which wins a bishop and a knight for a rook and a knight. This was white's only serious miscue, but white was able to stay close and eventually mated.”

22…Bg4 23.Qf4 Bxd1 24.Nxd1

Black wins the exchange (Rook for Bishop). At this point, I was not hopeful. Black had a solid position, while I was not at all happy with the disposition of my pieces.

24…Rab8 25.Nde3 Nh5 26.Qf3 Nf6 27.Nf5 Kh7

I don’t quite remember why, but when I saw my opponent react to my knight move with his king, I felt Tyche throw her lot in with the White army.


With this pawn move, I began setting up what I had an inkling was going to be a strong assault against the Black king’s stronghold. If only I get a lucky break….



Bingo! With the Black knight abandoning its guard duty on g4, the way is almost open for my Queen to engage in a little regicide.


Will my opponent spot his fatal weakness? CM10: “Threatens checkmate (queen captures pawn).”


Nope! The way is open! Charge! CM10: “Black gives White a forced mate opportunity. Much better is Rg8. g6 leads to 30.hxg6+ Kg8 31.gxf7+ Kh7
32.Rxh6# and checkmate. This move was black's fatal mistake. White followed the mating combination to win the game.”


CM10: “White tightens the noose with mate in 2.”



31.Rxh6# 1-0

With a slip, the game was almost out of my reach. Then again, with a slip on my opponent’s part, victory was mine!

Who says there is no element of luck in chess?