The Funny Side of Chess

Chess is a great game and more often than not rather serious, but there can be cute moments. Even very cute… Who said that chess isn’t an art?

Underpromotions

Underpromotions pop up all the time in endgame studies but not that much in OTB chess. Sometimes you have an opportunity to underpromote to a piece that is equivalent to a queen (since your opponent will take it anyway), but as IM Justin Sarkar showed in his article, there are pitfalls…

My funniest underpromotion was:

Idnani

Black clearly should’ve resigned a long time ago… There are numerous mates in one and mates in two here. I decided to end in style with 47.a8B#!

Another example:

Eigen

Black is totally winning here, but 29… Re1 doesn’t work because of 30.Rxe1 fxe1Q 31.Qxf8#, right…? Well it doesn’t, since after 30.Rxe1, I played 30… fxe1N+! winning the game immediately.

These two examples are naturally somewhat silly since the side underpromoting was completely winning anyway, but there’s one underpromotion that is important in endgame theory…

Underpromotion

Black’s pawn is almost there… but if he plays … e1Q, white has Ra1#. Therefore black has to play …e1N+! because it is a check. The ensuing rook vs. knight endgame is a draw. The same trick works with an f- or a g-pawn, but not with an h-pawn, since the knight gets trapped in the corner.

If you haven’t seen this one before, I’d recommend you study it a little. I myself don’t actually think I’ve ever had this one on the board, but I or you probably will someday…

Stalemate

Oh boy, this is fun if you are on the correct side of the board, it really is.

There are legendary stalemate tricks in online rapid/blitz/bullet due to the existence of premoving (making a move of your own before your opponent makes their move in order to save time on your clock). And yes, this move is played as long as it’s legal, even if your opponent played something completely different than what you expected. You may think you know your opponent’s move, but you may be for a rude surprise.

Rosen

Here is Eric Rosen’s trick. Black is obviously completely lost in the pawn endgame after Kxf7, so black tried his last trick with 69… Kh8!!, and he was in luck since white premoved 70.h5 after which it is stalemate.

I recently saw another brilliant trick in the chess.com Bullet Championship:

Bortnyk

White is obviously completely winning here as well. Both players had only seconds left at this point, but black set a genius trap with 66…Bb8!!, and white, none other than Grischuk, fell for it by playing/premoving the natural 67.a8Q?? after which it is stalemate.

Unfortunately, these brilliant techniques don’t really work in OTB chess, though I have witnessed a couple examples of diabolic stalemates that were entertaining for spectators like me. There have even been a couple stalemate tricks in high-profile games like Jakovenko-Gelfand. But who says that stalemates have to be diabolic tricks…?

Colas

I was black in this game, and I had survived the worst. My queen had been harassing the white king for quite a while, but here black has one drawing move: 76… Qf6+!, since if white plays 77.Qxf6 it’s stalemate. My opponent played 77.Kc7, and since we had already had the position twice before, I claimed a threefold repetition after 77… Qc3+ and the game was a draw.

(Note: tabelbases say that 76… Qf6+ is not the only drawing move; 76… Qa1 is also supposedly a draw. I won’t pretend that I can explain why…)

Neat, right? In all seriousness, moves like 76… Qf6+ are easy to miss, especially towards the end of a long game, but they could save you half a point!

Any diabolical experiences?

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