A spectacular king hunt in the Northumberland Open
Tim Wall at the Kilkenny Masters, 2016

A spectacular king hunt in the Northumberland Open

Oct 8, 2017, 3:22 PM |


Here is an interesting game that proves the old saying, 'Fortune favours the brave!'

It was played in the recent Northumberland Open, and I needed to win to stand a chance of getting into the prizes.

After an adventurous opening, the Vaganian Gambit in the Trompowsky, I threw caution to the winds and unleashed a barrage of piece sacrifices to drag Nik Tavoularis’s king out into the open. Even though after the game I admitted that I hadn’t seen all the variations, my intuition (that there must be some kind of checkmate attack) turned out to be correct.

To quote Admiral Nelson: "Forget maneouvres - go straight at 'em!'

My notes to the game:

a) 4 Nc3 begins the famous gambit named after Armenian grandmaster Rafael Vaganian, who used it to devastating effect to score win after win in the 1970s. It is still regarded as a dangerous attacking weapon, so it’s a perfect choice for a last-round, must-win situation.

b) 21 Qg3 shows White’s intention to go for a kingside attack, knowing that at some point his bishop may be trapped at h4. White figures that, with all his pieces (apart from the c3 knight) in the attack, chances are high of catching the king in a rabbit hunt.

c) 23…g5 means Black is going for it! Only two outcomes are now possible: Either Black’s king will survive and he will win on material, or the attack will crash through and the king will perish. Both players were now getting short of time, and going for broke!

d) 25 Rf6 begins the cascade of sacrifices. If 25…Rxf6 26 Rxf6, and White will break through to the king with Bxg5. Note how useless Black’s pieces on the queenside are – temporarily, his king is without protection and White’s pieces smell blood in the water!

e) After 29 h4, White has sacrificed a rook and two bishops, yet there is no defence for the Black king. If 29…Bg4 it was wasn’t clear to me during the game how I was going to checkmate – but like Mr. Micawber in Charles Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’ I assumed that ‘something will turn up.’ In fact, after 30 hxg5 Kxg5 White has a lovely checkmate with 31 Qe3+! (sacking yet another rook), as after 31…Kxf6 31 Qh6 is what is called an “epaulette mate”, as the Black pieces at e7 and e5 prevent his escape.

f) After 29…Ng7, 30 Qg7! is a classy finish. If the rook is captured, it’s 31 Qg5 mate, and otherwise there is no way to avoid mate on h6.


White: Tim Wall (Forest Hall)

Black: Nikolas Tavoularis (Leam Lane)

Opening: Trompowsky, Vaganian Gambit