An Annotated Collection of Short Chess Gems
As a project, I have decided to convert a selected sample of short games from the book entitled: 1000 Best Short Games of Chess, written by Irving Chernev in 1955.
Many of the games involve master players against amateurs, hence the brevity of the games. However, there are many examples of mistakes made by professional players in which one player was able to take quick advantage.
Here is a quick reference to the abbreviations that I will be using:
N - Knight
B - Bishop
R - Rook
Q - Queen
K – King
X - capture
+ - check
# - checkmate
O-O – Castle kingside
O-O-O – Castle queenside
1. d4 Nf6
2. Nd2 e5
Generally, knights should be played to c3 and f3.
As you will see, the N on d2 poses problems for
3. dxe5 Ng4
4. ¡¦ Ne3
White resigns, since capturing the knight on e3 is followed by mate in two moves. Any other move results in the loss of White¡¯s queen.
The final position of game 1.
Taylor – Amateur
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6 This is Petrov¡¯s Defense.
3. Bc4 Nxe4
4. Nc3 Nc5
5. Nxe5 f6 This is a fatal mistake. Now, White announces checkmate in 8 moves. Can you find the forced mate?
6. Qh5+ g6 7. Bf7+ Ke7 8. Nd5+ Kd6 9. Nc4+ Kc6 10. Nb4+ Kb5 11. a4+ Kxb4 12. c3+ Kb3 13. Qd1#
It¡¯s interesting to see the Black King being chased across the board and finally ending up on b3. The White Queen delivers checkmate by returning to its original square.
Amateur vs. Bruening
Before we look at this game, I should point out that in Western chess pawns are not referred to as pieces. So, in this game, Bruening wins the game by only moving pawns and not a single piece.
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. Bf4 cxd4 5. Bxb8 dxc3 6. Be5 cxb2
Naturally, White must now lose a lot of material. After 7. Bxb2, there would follow 7. ¡¦ Bb4+ and White eventually must interpose the Queen.
Correspondence Game, 1930
Warren – Selman
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ne4 4. a3 d6 5. exd6 Bxd6 6. g3 Nxf2
White resigns due to the unavoidable loss of the exchange.
If White captures the Knight on f2, then Black will play 7. ¡¦ Bxg3+ followed by the capture of White¡¯s Queen. If 7. Qa4+, then Bd7 is sufficient for Black to win material.
In conclusion, White¡¯s pawn moves were simply too passive.
Serpelt – Leganki
Leganki employs the French Defense, Tarrasch Variation.
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 exd5 5. dxc5 Bxc5 6. Ne2 Qb6
White has awkwardly placed the Knights on passive squares. Now, White must give up one of the Knights in order to prevent checkmate on f7.
Hamlisch – Amateur
This is another good example of poor Knight deployment. Black arrives at a Pirc/Modern Defense by transposition but plays too passively.
1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nd7 3. Bc4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bxf7+ Kxf7 6. Ng5+ Kf6 7. Qf3#
After 6. Ng5+, Black only has three possible moves. If the King moves to e8 or f8, then White will play 7. Ne6 winning the Queen. Perhaps, getting mated was less ignominious for Black.
De Legal – Saint Brie
This is one of the first recorded games employing this particular technique. Legal was a precursor of the very famous Philidor.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6
Black plays 2. ¡¦ d6, the Philidor Defense. It is a solid opening although considered to be somewhat passive.
This is a very famous position:
2. Bc4 Bg4 4. Nc3 g6 5. Nxe5
White ignores the pin on its Queen and unleashes a brilliant attack.
The game concludes as follows:
5. ¡¦ Bxd1 6. Bxf7+ Ke7 7. Nd5#
It¡¯s a very elegant checkmate with two Knights and a Bishop.
New Orleans, 1855
New Orleans, Louisiana was a veritable hotbed of chess activity in the 19th century. Here is an example of brilliant chess played by one of the chess masters active during that era.
The game begins with the King¡¯s Gambit, once a very popular opening.
1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Bg4 6. Qe2 Bxf3 7. Nf6#
The conclusion is superb in many respects. It is a grand example of double check. The only answer to double check is to move the King. However, The Black King has no available flight squares, so it is checkmate.
Muhlock – Kostics
Even though Black violates a basic principle of opening play by moving the same piece twice without having developed other pieces, it works out for Black in the end. The opening is the Vienna Game.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nd4 4. Nxe5 Qg5 5. Nxf7 Qxg2 6. Rf1 Qxe4+ 7. Be2 Nf3#
This happens to be a nice example of a smothered mate which is typically administered by a Knight.
You might wonder if the pawn on e5 was really taboo¡¦ Probably not. White could have moved the Knight back to g4, then e3 in order to protect everything.
Imbusch – Goring
In this Bishop¡¯s Opening, we reach a Vienna Game by transposition. White exquisitely exploits the weakness of the h2-g8 diagonal.
1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nxe4
Black captures the pawn on e4 with the expectation that a recapture on e4 will allow Black to fork the two pieces with 4. ¡¦ d5. White decides to capture on f7 with check. This is known as a desperado maneuver. To wit, Black has a hanging Knight, so White may freely give away the Bishop with check.
4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5. Nxe4 Nc6 6. Qf3+ Kg8 7. Ng5
Black can do little to prevent the mate on f7 outside of giving up the Queen. As you can see, there are no escape squares for the Black King. Black may capture the Knight, but then White will checkmate Black with 8. Qd5#.
If Black tries to protect the f7 square with a Queen move (Qe7 or Qf6) then White will win the Black Queen by playing Qd5+. Black must interpose the Queen on f7 or e6, both of which are covered by the White Knight.
Kraus – Costin
Long before the advent of global telecommunications, long distance games of chess were played by exchanging moves with your opponent by mail. It may have been one¡¯s hobby or a serious competition. In this game, Black spends too much time moving the Queen and is forced to surrender this major piece in the end.
1. d4 c5 2. dxc5 Qa5+ 3. Nc3 Qxc5 4. e4 e5
After this move, 4. ¡¦ e5, Black creates a glaring positional weakness on d5. That being said, if the players didn¡¯t make egregious mistakes, then we wouldn¡¯t be able to enjoy these miniatures.
5. Nf3 d6 6. Nd5 Ne7 7. b4 Black dutifully resigns after this move.
The hapless Black Queen has nowhere to go except for c6.
Thereupon, White will play Bb5. The Black Queen is pinned to the King, so the Bishop on b5 must be captured. This allows White to play 9. Nc7+ winning the Queen with an elegant knight fork.
Blake – Hooke
Queen sacrifices are almost always exciting and in this game it¡¯s no different. White finishes the forced mate by retreating the Knights to f3 and c3, respectively.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bc4 f5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nc3 exd4 6. Qxd4 Bd7 7. Ng5 Nc6 8. Bf7+ Ke7
Can you see the conclusion? There follows: 9. Qxf6+ Kxf6 10. Nd5+ Ke5 11. Nf3+ Kxe4 12. Nc3# The final position is very artistic:
Amateur – Goetz
In this game, the technique of under-promotion is demonstrated. When a pawn reaches the 8th rank, it may be exchanged for any piece. You may not obtain a new King, of course, but that might be an interesting new rule. In any case, most players prefer to receive a Queen since it is the most powerful piece. In this game, Black prefers to select a less powerful piece which provides a satisfying checkmate.
Here are the moves: 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. b3 Qh4+ 4. g3 fxg3 5. h3 g2+ 6. Ke2 Qxe4+ 7. Kf2 gxh1=N#
The Queen and Knight work wonderfully in tandem for the checkmate.
Borochow – Fine
Here is an example of how the Alekhine¡¯s Defense can go awry.
Generally speaking it is a sound defense, but Fine fails to make the requisite prophylactic moves.
1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. c4 Nb6 4. d4 Nc6
The idea of the opening is to entice White to advance its pawns so that Black may initiate a counterattack. However, Black develops its other knight prematurely. White has an elegant response. Can you guess what it is?
Game 14 (cont.)
There are several variations, but ultimately Black will lose one of the knights.
The game concludes as follows:
5. ¡¦ Nxe5 6. c5 Nbc4 7. f4
One of the knights will be captured, so Black graciously resigns.
It does raise an interesting point, though. When should you resign?
If your opponent is a highly rated veteran and you have lost a significant amount of material without compensation, then you should be polite and resign. On the other hand, if the rating difference is not disparate and there exists the possibility of counterplay, then by all means, play on. It is a matter of etiquette and making a proper evaluation of the position.
New York, 1896
Teed – Delmar
1. d4 f5 2. Bg5 h6 3. Bf4 g5 4. Bg3 f4 5. e3 h5 6. Bd3 Rh6 7. Qxh5+ Rxh5 8. Bg6#
White cleverly coaxes Black into pushing pawns in order to capture a Bishop.
Unfortunately, this leaves the Black kingside in disarray. The h5-e8 diagonal is
critical to the Black King¡¯s defense. White acutely exploits this weakness.
The method demonstrated is one of deflection.
White deflects the Rook from the diagonal allowing
the Bishop to deliver checkmate.
Amateur – Leonhardt
This elegant game displays the power of the Knight fork.
1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. Qxd4 Nc6 4. Qe3 Nf6 5. Bc4 Ne5 6. Bb3 Bb4+ 7. c3 Bc5
What was the critical error? 7. c3 exposed the weakness on d3.
Of course, capturing the Bishop allows the fork on d3. 8. Qe2 appears to be viable, but I don¡¯t envy the position. Instead, White plays Qg3, which allows 8. ¡¦ Bxf2+. After this, White succumbs to the Knight fork.
Greco – Amateur
Here we can see a great game by one of the first publishers of chess games.
Greco¡¯s opponent essays a defense which is known today as Owen¡¯s Defense.
1. e4 b6 2. d4 Bb7 3. Bd3 f5 4. exf5 Bxg2 5. Qh5+ g6 6. fxg6 Nf6 7. gxh7+ Nxh5 8. Bg6#
Here again, we see the exploitation of the weakness along the h5-e8 diagonal.
It¡¯s an important lesson to be learned.
Kaprinay – Hubner
1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2
Before the advent of computer chess, correspondence games were a satisfying way of playing a nice game of chess without the constraints of time controls. Basically, one had about three days to contemplate and make a move.
In this game, we see a typical English Opening with a fianchetto of White¡¯s bishop to g2.
Game 18 (cont.)
Bb4 5. Nd5 Nxd5 6. cxd5 Nd4 7. e3 Nf5 8. Qg4
Black has developed its knight and bishop in awkward positions.
White deftly capitalizes on this with an interesting and unusual fork with the queen. Black must lose one of the pieces, so resignation is the proper course of action.
Here are some links to the games in this collection. The games are in .pgn format, so you will need a proper reader, such as Winboard in order to view these games.