Saturday, June 28, 2008

Immortal Mates, Part III

Quiz time: White to move and black to move -- Blackburne's or Boden's mate? Solution at the end of the post.

Much to my dismay, the letter "c" hasn't any immortal mates to show for it. Let's move on to "d", then, and one of the pioneers of chess writing, Pedro Damiano (1480-1544). Caissa has played a cruel trick on Damiano's legacy by naming one of the worst defences to 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 after him: Damiano's Defence, 2. ... f6, which Pedro the chess sage condemned in his chess treatise and which has since been named in his "honour". Fortunately, she also rewarded Damiano with an immortal mate, whose trademark signature is a forcing two-move attack by a queen assisted by a pawn or bishop: Damiano's mate and Damiano's bishop mate.

Qf7+, Qd7#. Another queen mate, the Dovetail mate, takes its name from the dovetail setup of the king's pieces. They block the horizontal and vertical escape routes, allowing the queen to mate on the diagonal:

Merry mating!

(Solution to the quiz: 1. Qh7+ paves the way to Blackburne's mate after 1. ... Nxh7 2. Bxh7# / 1. ... Qxc3+! 2. bxc3 Ba3# -- Boden's bishops strike again!)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Controversy at the US Women's Championship Tournament

Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush had to decide the 2008 Women's Chess Championship in a blitz match (which was mutually agreed to by both players) after the both had played to a tie in the overall tournament. The blitz game was won by Anna in the very last possible second, and all heck broke loose near the end of the match with pieces flying around on the board and one was even thrown across the room by Irina Krush!

Krush has since drafted a letter claiming that her opponent should not be given the win due to the fact that she believes Anna was touching the pieces before Krush had hit her clock.

In part of her letter she exclaims, "And that's the crux of the matter. My opponent, seeing herself on the verge of losing on time, began playing moves before I had completed mine. She made her moves before I hit my clock, and as soon as I pressed the clock, it was punched back at me. That is how my lead in time was chipped away at..." The full letter can be found here on the USCF site.

Here is the normal speed video posted to YouTube which shows the entire game including the chaotic final moments:

The United States Chess Federation issued a full reply to the letter here and determined that nothing illegal happened during the match except for a knocked over piece not being placed back in the upright position during the game. According to the USCF response both players can be seen moving their pieces before the opponent hit the clock.

Definitely an interesting story! Paul Morphy Chess Games Added to Online Database

I have added a database of Paul Morphy games to the main site ( ) from a request sent in to me. Paul Morphy is known as quite possibly the first "modern" chess player, and many of his games have brilliant queen sacrifices among other notable attacking techniques. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Immortal Mates, Part II

Think you remember the immortal mates from our last segment? Test yourself! Which of the following positions features Anastasia's, Anderssen's and the Arabian mate? (White to move in each case, solution at the end of the post)

Today, the letter "b", and here we shall look at Blackburne's and Boden's mate. Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841–1924) earned himself the nickname "The Black Death" (can you think of a more badass name for a chess player?). The ingredients of Blackburne's mate are, as usual, an obstructed king, a knight and a bishop phalanx.

The English appear to be the champions of bishop mates! Samuel Standidge Boden (1826–1882), a contemporary of Blackburne, lends his name to another nasty bishop mate, preferably used against careless queen-side castlers. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce, Boden's mate:

Once again, a jolly good mating to you!

(Solution to the quiz: 1. Qxh7 leads to Anderssen's mate / 2. Rf8# and we have ourselves an Arabian mate / 3. Qxa7+ sets up Anastasia's mate Ra3#)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Renowned Journalist Tim Russert Passes Away

Tim Russert, an extremely respected American journalist, passed away today at the age of 58 while at work from an apparent heart-attack. His passion for honest and meaningful journalism was a rarity in today's North American media. He was known and respected world-wide for his engaging interviews and honest approach to journalism.

Adisa Banjoko (co-founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation and award winning author/public speaker) gives respect to Tim Russert in this thoughtful video posted to YouTube today.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Immortal Mates, Part I

Caissa does not bestow fame lavishly, but to her few champions and those who unravel the secrets of her game, she grants nothing short of immortality. Ruy Lopez sits on his throne on the Chess Olympus, smiling every time the bishop moves to b5. To his left, Philidor brushes his wig -- slightly disgruntled, perhaps, because he hasn't seen his d6 much in recent grandmaster games ("Sacrebleu!"). And Nicolas Rossolimo (one of the younger members of the chess pantheon) sips his wine, laughing a raucous laugh at this blogger's feeble attempts to squeeze a couple of cheap wins out of the Rossolimo variation in the Sicilian.

This is the heyday of chess opening fame. After all, few grandmaster games nowadays end in a decisive mate. But let us not forget that the ultimate goal of chess is to checkmate the enemy king, and those who "discovered" a mate deserve no less of our admiration, nor ring their names any less magnificent: Damiano, Greco, Morphy, RĂ©ti, Philidor, Blackburne, Legall.

On a more practical note, familiarising yourself with their mates, absorbing them till you know them by heart, is arguably more beneficial to the amateur player than studying openings. And in this vein, I would like to start a series on the various checkmates, from "Anastasia's" mate to the "Smothered" mate. Since I love the melody of chess names, I shall start at the letter "A" and proceed alphabetically. I draw on Mark Lowery's comprehensive chess site and a couple of excellent posts by chess blogger Batgirl, that go by the delightful title How Do I Mate Thee, Let Me Count The Ways. (She also has a fascinating website dedicated to Paul Morphy and the history of chess.)

Our first mate, then, is Anastasia's mate, named after a Chess novel by Wilhelm Heinse, Anastasia und das Schachspiel (the next entry on my to-read list!):

Ne7+! and the king is doomed. Similar to Anastasia's mate, the Arabian mate uses the combined power of the rook and knight to checkmate the king in the corner. The Arabian mate takes its name from its source, an old Arabian manuscript, and ranks among the earliest recorded check mates in history:

Once again, the knight delivers the death blow: Nf6+ and the rook finishes the king off! Anderssen, who achieved immortality through his "Immortal Game" against Lionel Kieseritzky in 1851, has also a mate named after him. In Anderssen's Mate you trap the enemy king with a bishop and rook:

Rh8#! Crucial to these mates is the restrained maneuverability of the enemy king, his own pieces blocking his escape route. Of course, these mates can appear in all sorts of different variations, but the basic arrangement remains the same. Until next time, good mating!

Lost our Moral Compass?

People called 911 within minutes of the accident, but the sheer amount of people who just drove by the victim, along with the people walking on the street taking pictures, led Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts to say bitterly that "We no longer have a moral compass...We have no regard for each other."

The victim of the hit and run is reportedly paralyzed from the accident and fighting for his life. Police are still seeking the arrest of the driver.

This incident is not only sounding off alarm bells in the United States, but in many countries including Canada. The hot button question is raised, "Are we losing our moral compass?".