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Chess Tactics: how a mouse challenged a lion

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In an earlier article (lesson in chess tactics), we discussed a little about Alekhine and his extra-ordinary combinations. This game was played when he was already known as a formidable chess player and two years later he became the World Champion. His opponent with Black pieces was Mr. Nescio Nomen. (Have you heard of him? If not, see at the end of this article.)

Position after 11 moves.

Position after 11 moves

If you look at the chessboard situation after 11 moves, Black has been able to develop quite well. If Alekhine does not appear to have gained any advantage over Black, that itself can be considered a great play by Black, particularly for a player of his standing! But you must admit, Black has played in line with those chess strategies and chess tactics that we have discussed.

The play proceeded:

12. Bf3 Rac8  
13. Qe2 Rfd8  
14. Rad1 b5  
15. a3 Ne8  
16. Bxe7 Nxe7  
17. e5 Bc6  
18. Nd4 dxe5  
19. fxe5 Qb6  


Position after 19 moves.

Position after 19 moves

White probably was planning a King-side attack for which his QB was at g5, his Q and B had the d1-h5 diagonal and his Rooks could move to g-file and h-file via row 3. Black took some steam out of it by forcing exchange of White QB. White then opened the d3-h7 diagonal possibly to post his KB on e4 and moving his Q to h5 and subsequently positioning his rooks. You have probably seen something similar in his other game described earlier on how to attack the castled King.

But Black again made a timely intervention by trying to exchange White’s KB. White did not want to shift the KB which would hand over the a8-h1 diagonal to opponent’s QB. So White thought of bringing his knight quickly to the other side via d4 and f3 if his KB was captured or taking out Black’s offensive QB. But he overlooked the weakness of this knight move.

Do you see how Black found the weakness of White Knight on d4, supported by the Rook only and standing in the open diagonal leading to the White King. This offered an opportunity to Black for creating a pin and Black readily grabbed it. This prevented the Knight from removing Black’s QB and Black could bring his Knight to f5 for piling up pressure on d4 square.

By trying to take his King to a safer position, White suffers a setback with loss of the Knight. (It is worth analyzing whether Qf2 would be a better move for White).

But it still needed Black to play correctly to press home his advantage against a player like Alekhine. As you can see in the following moves, Black did not falter in his steps! Black was trying to simplify by exchanging the pieces as it would leave him with extra Knight and similar pawn strength to get a winning advantage in the end game. White of course could not allow that. White then tried to grab pawns but Black rose up with the tactics of giving up a pawn somewhere to grab a White pawn elsewhere while maintaining some subtle threats on White’s back row and King position!

20. Kh1 Rxd4  
21. Rxd4 Qxd4  
22. Bxc6 Nxc6  
23. Ne4 Qxe5  
24. Qf3 Qf5  
25. Qe2 Qg6  
26. c3 Ne5  
27. h3 f5  
28. Nd2 Qf6  
29. a4 Nd6  
30. axb5 axb5  
31. Re1 Ndc4  
32. Nxc4 Nxc4  
33. b3 Na5  
34. Qxb5 Qxc3  


Position after 34 moves.

Position after 34 moves

White could do nothing much except taking the pawn offered by Black after which Black finishes off the game quickly.

35. Rxe6 Qc1+  
36. Kh2 Qf4+  
37. Kh1 Rc1+  
38. Resigns  


If you can take the lesson from this and keep up your confidence, you can be the giant-killer next time as Mr. Nescio Nomen (“NN” in chess parlance, “unknown name” in Latin)!