Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chess is hard!

Jerry Neugarten, the chair of the Illinois Chess Association's Youth Chess Committee, is putting the finishing touches on the ICA's guide to curricula and study resources for young players.  I pulled out my copy of Irving Chernev's Logical Chess: Move by Move, a classic collection of annotated games for beginners, to see whether it belongs on the list.  It does indeed: it's a fun and instructive read.

But my silicon friend discovered something amazing in the final position of the very first game.  Can you discover it, too, using wetware alone?

 von Scheve - Teichmann, Berlin 1907
Position after 17...Bxf2
White to play resigned

Chernev explains White's resignation: "Black's threat was 18...Qh3+ 19.Nh2 Qxh2#."  ("#" is the abbreviation for "checkmate".)  "As 18.Rxf2 runs into 18...Nxf2#, there was no escape."

NEVER TRUST ANYTHING YOU READ IN A CHESS BOOK!  (This goes double for blogs written by patzers.)  99.9% of the time, the book will be right and you'll discover why your challenge was wrong.  But every so often, you'll discover something cool.


Frederick Rhine said...

How remarkable are we talking about? I see 18.Bf4!?, but 18...Qxf4 looks to be dead-won for Black. Also possible is 18.Bxf7+!? Kxf7 (or 18...Kf8, seemingly forcing White to try 19.Bf4) 19.Ng5+ Kg6 20.Qxg4 Qxg4 21.Rxf2, but that too looks hopeless for White.

Bill Brock said...

You're on the right track....

Frederick Rhine said...

As you know, you've showed me the solution. All I can say is that any human who can find it unassisted is a genius. And anyone who could find the way out in an actual game, not knowing that there is one, must be a GM - and probably not an "ordinary GM." Has anyone ever found a resource that phenomenal in actual play?

As you say, I was on the right track, so in a correspondence game (where I could move the pieces and had essentially unlimited time) I might find it. But with the clock ticking, no way.

Frederick Rhine said...

A couple of commenters at have found the solution. I don't know whether they found it themselves, or had silicon assistance. See

Bill Brock said...

The first two moves of the solution are forced. It's the third move that I find amazing.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Frederick Rhine said...

Chess admittedly has the feature that you only have to play one move at a time. If White doesn't get too dejected looking at his king's position, he should be able to find 18.Bxf7+! and the draw by perpetual if Black takes the bishop. There's no other decent move for White, and it's a good try for a swindle, at a minimum. Then after 18...Kf8!, White should be able to see that 19.Bf4! holds on at least another move. The rub, as you say, is that 20.Bh5!! is so hard to find. I think most players strong enough to find the first two moves wouldn't find the third, and would resign rather than play 19.Bf4, figuring that it only delayed the inevitable.