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October 29, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Chess/Open Thread 10-29-2016: Halloween Edition [OregonMuse]

Bill Stephens

Good afternoon morons and moronettes, and welcome to the Saturday Afternoon Chess/Open Thread, the only AoSHQ thread with content specifically for all of us chess nerds who pay homage in the temple of Caïssa, goddess of the chessboard. And, for those of you who aren't nerdly enough for chess, you can use this thread to talk about checkers, or other games, or politics, or whatever you wish, only please try to keep it civil. Nobody wants to get into a tomato fight on a Saturday afternoon. Except if you'll be making spaghetti later on.

About The Pic

This title of this painting Checkmate, and it was painted digitally by artist Bill Stephens, about which he says:

This is a commissioned work in which an old man is playing chess with the devil for his soul. The jars on the mantle are filled with the souls of those who lost. If you look close, you see the man really sweating.

Click on the pic to embiggen, and if after you do that, you notice that your cursor now has a '+' on it, you can click it again to make the pic even biggener. You'll really be able to see the detail Stephens is talking about. His painting is actually quite beautiful.

I noticed all the jars, and also the empty one on on the table, just sitting there ready to be used. Also, I can't really tell what the pieces are, but I do notice that White doesn't have very many left. Things are looking mighty grim for Old Bill.

I showed this painting to Mrs. Muse. After acknowledging that it was indeed disturbing, she said "we don't know what the devil looks like, but I can well imagine that it would be more like this painting then some guy in a red suit with horns and a tail, carrying a pitchfork."

Problem 1 - White To Play (21)

White had better be careful. His king is dangerously exposed and Black controls 2 open files.

Hint: White mates in 3

20161029 - Problem 1.jpg
r6k/ppp4r/3pqNP1/6Q1/3P4/8/PPP3P1/2K5 w - - 0 1

(This problem looks vaguely familiar, but I do not have it checked off in my database as having been used before. My apologies if this is a repeat. It's marked now, though, so hopefully there will be no 3-peats.)

Problem 2 - White To Play (49)

Hint: White mates in 4

20161029 - Problem 2.jpg
1r3rk1/1p1q1p1n/p1pP1Pp1/2P1P3/P5pQ/2N4P/5RK1/1R6 w - - 0 1

Scary Variation #1 - The Halloween Gambit

Also known as the Schultze-Mueller Gambit, this opening, which dates back to 1888, was an attempt to pump some life back into the boring old Four Knights Game. White does this by throwing away one of his knights for a pawn:

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Nc3 Nf6

20161029 - Halloween Gambit.jpg

A violent attempt to seize the center and drive back Black's knights.


There are two ways to retreat. 5...Ng6 and 5...Nc6. If 5...Ng6 then White chases the f6-knight with 6.e5. Similarly, if 5...Nf6 then White attacks again with 6.d5.

This looks like a most irritating opening to face as Black, one of those openings that are obviously bad, but not easily refuted. But it seems to me that if you only keep calm and don't panic, you should be able to hold on to the piece. There's not a great deal of theory that's been developed (at leased, compared with other openings), so I'm sure there's lots of room for experimentation.

The wikipedia entry for this gambit is actually quite informative.

Also The Halloween Gambit: How Scary Is It? is an in-depth (and free!)lecture put by Jonathan Schrantz at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

Long-time internet chess commentator Tim Krabbe refers to the Halloween gambit as an an example of an "impolite" opening. He wrote an interesting article about it back in the early days of the internet, which you can still access it here.

Problem 3 - White To Play (53)

How can White get himself a big advantage here?

Hint: White wins material

20161029 - Problem 3.jpg
3r1r1k/pp2N1qp/3p2p1/2n1b3/8/4BR1Q/PPP4P/5R1K w - - 0 1

Problem 4 - White To Play (298 )

What's best for White in this position? Let's see how much of the decision tree you can map out.

Hint: White mates in, at most, 5

20161029 - Problem 4.jpg
2r3k1/3n4/p2ppbPR/1p6/n4P2/2PBQ3/q1P5/2K4R w - - 0 1

Scary Variation #2 - The Frankenstein-Dracula Variation

This is a variatian of the Bishop's Opening (also reachable from the Vienna Game) and got its name from Tim Harding, who published a book on the Vienna Game in 1976, in which he said that the bloodthirstiness of the character of play was such that "a game between Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster would not seem out of place."

1.e4 e5
2.Nc3 Nf6
3.Bc4 Nxe4!?

And here the fun begins. Naturally, White can't win material in this position as 4.Nxe4 is met with 4...d5.

4.Qh5 Nd6

Meets the threat on f7 and pressures the bishop on c4.


Also possible is 5.Qxe5+ Qe7 6.Qxe7+ Bxe7 7.Be2

6.Nb5 g6
7.Qf3 f5
8.Qd5 Qe7
9.Nxc7+ Kd8
10.Nxa8 b6

20161029 - Frankenstein - Dracula Variation.jpg

Black is setting up for Bb7 to snag the knight. He'll still be down the exchange, but has attacking chances as compensation.

Here's another internet antique, an article on this variation by the aforementioned Tim Harding that belongs in a museum. Not that the analysis is antiquated, but the link is to a .txt file and I think it's from prior to 2000(!)

Endgame of the Week (ESD 2000 24)

They say it's not possible to checkmate with just a knight, but that's not strictly true. But if your opponent has a pawn, you can use that to your advantage. This is White needs to do to bring this game to a successful conclusion.

20161029 - Endgame.jpg
8/8/8/8/8/4N2p/5K1k/8 w - - 0 1


Solutions Update

Problem 1 - White To Play

20161029 - Problem 1.jpg
r6k/ppp4r/3pqNP1/6Q1/3P4/8/PPP3P1/2K5 w - - 0 1

There's no time to dawdle. White needs to get his butt in gear.

All of Black's moves are forced.

1.g7+ Rxg7
2.Qh6+ Rh7

Problem 2 - White To Play

20161029 - Problem 2.jpg
1r3rk1/1p1q1p1n/p1pP1Pp1/2P1P3/P5pQ/2N4P/5RK1/1R6 w - - 0 1

Black in horribly compromised on the dark squares around his king, which White sees he can take advantage of.


Threatening 2.Qg7#


Black tries to stave off the inevitable. He's hoping White will fall for 2.Qxh3 Qxh3+ 3.Kxh3, but White instead shuts the counterattack down with


Inferior is 2.Kh2 Nxf6 3.exf6 Qxd6+ 4.Kh1 Qxf6 5.Rxf6. It's a win for White but considerably messier

So Black tries


White is undeterred.


Black is a move short.



Problem 3 - White To Play (53)

20161029 - Problem 3.jpg
3r1r1k/pp2N1qp/3p2p1/2n1b3/8/4BR1Q/PPP4P/5R1K w - - 0 1

1.Rxf8+ Rxf8
2.Rxf8+ Qxf8

And now...


Oh ho! Knight fork! And the knight can't be captured because the h7 pawn is pinned. So Black is forced to move his king out of check.


And White should go on to win.

Problem 4 - White To Play (298)

20161029 - Problem 4.jpg
2r3k1/3n4/p2ppbPR/1p6/n4P2/2PBQ3/q1P5/2K4R w - - 0 1

Given the nature of these problems, you probably could have guessed the first move:

1.Rh8+ Bxh8

Black is forced to take. Otherwise, if 1...Kg7, then 2.R1h7# cooks his goose.

2. Rxh8+ Kxh8

Actually, 2...Kg7 is probably Black's best hope, but I'll analyze this line separately.

3.Qh3+ Kg7 (if 3...Kg8, then 4.Qh7+ Kf8 5.Qf7#)
4.Qh7+ Kf6

So, getting back to 2...Kg7, White naturally replies


And now Black has to seriously consider whether he just shouldn't resign. His king is over there practically by itself and there's little hope he can bring his other pieces over to help out with the defense. One futile try is:

4.Qh3 Nf6

(if instead 4...Kf6, then 5.Qh8+ Ke7 6.Re8#)

OK, that didn't work. Maybe Black can stop White from using that h-file to shove that queen down his throat:

4.Kd2 Qh1

There, now the h-file is secured. However...

5.Rg8+! Kxg8
6.Qxe6+ Kh8
7.Qe8+ Kg7
8.Qf7+ Kh8

So what can Black actually do after 2...Kg7? My chess app found this line:

3.Rxc8 Qa3+
4.Kd2 5.Qc5!?

Forcing a queen-for-rook trade.

5.Rxc5 Naxc5
6.Qd4+ Nf6

And White should be able to win from this position.

Endgame of the Week

20161029 - Endgame.jpg
8/8/8/8/8/4N2p/5K1k/8 w - - 0 1

Nothing too complicated. Some might even say it's too easy. If so, don't worry, the one I have picked out for next time is more difficult. Fun, though.

1.Ng4+ Kh1

An important "waiting" move. Black cannot move his king, so the only legal move left is to advance the pawn. Which, coincidentally cuts off his king's only escape route.


Hope to see you all next week!


Note: that cryptic line of letters and numbers you see underneath each board diagram is a representation of the position in what is known as "Forsyth-Edwards Notation", or F.E.N. It's actually readable by humans. Most computer applications nowadays can read FEN, so those of you who may want to study the position, you can copy the line of FEN and paste into your chess app and it should automatically recreate the position on its display board. Or, Windows users can just "triple click" on it and the entire line will be highlighted so you can copy and past it into your chess app.


So that about wraps it up for this week. Chess thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to my yahoo address: OregonMuse little-a-in-a-circle yahoo dott com.

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