Tag Archives: chess story

A chess game of a different kind!

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In 1967,some chess matches were held between USSR and USA. The first two matches were drawn, probably as expected by people in consideration of the players of such even temperament and capability! But the third match was won in the manner described below by the USSR player with the White pieces.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Nc3 Bc5
4. Nxe5 Nxe5
5. d4 Bd6
6. dxe5 Bxe5
7. f4 Bxc3+
8. bxc3 Nf6
9. e5 Ne4
10. Qd3 Nc5
11. Qd5 Ne6
12. f5 Ng5

The actual move by Black loses quickly but it is not clear if either of the players considered the following option!

12. f5 c6
13. Qd6 Qh4+
14. g3 Qe4+
15. Kf2 Qxh1
16. Bg2 Qxh2
17. fxe6 fxe6
18. Ba3 Kf7
19. Qe7+ Kg6
20. Rh1 wins

The actual game continued:

13. h4 f6
14. hxg5 fxg5
15. Rxh7 Rf8

If 15. … Rxh7 16. Qg8+ Ke7 17. Bxg5#.

16. Rxg7 c6
17. Qd6 Rxf5
18. Rg8+ Rf8
19. Qxf8#

If you think that the play was mediocre with Black playing worse than an amateur, you are correct as both the players were computers! That way, move 15. Rxh7 holds interest in that it may be the first genuine sacrificial move by a computer!

You may also wonder that both being computers, with far greater calculation power and memory compared to humans, wouldn’t their moves be of higher standard at near equal level with a draw as the likely outcome?

Of course, chess playing computers depend on the close interaction between chess experts and programming experts to raise their game. So, question arises – did USSR have better chess experts or better programmers than USA?

It is also a matter of conjecture if US computer makers tried to make amends for above fiasco nearly 40 years later by trying to create a computer to defeat a Russian champion!

A chessboard is only an 8×8 grid but holds a lot of power! Part II

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Continued from Part I

Curious, the king did as he was told. The sage said that, as the first installment starting from that day, he wanted just a single grain of rice to be put on the first square (the algebraic notation was unknown then, otherwise he would have said a1 square)! The king could not believe his ears and amusingly asked the sage what he would do with a single grain when his granaries held millions of tons (or whatever it came to by the number and weight system of those days)!

The sage said that he had not finished stating his demand. For the first day (that is for the first square) he wanted that single grain but next day he wanted twice that amount meaning 2 grains of rice. For the third day he would need double the previous day’s quantity which comes to 4 grains and so on till the king reached the 64th square.

Whatever talents the king might have got, mathematics was certainly not one of those and so he condescendingly agreed thinking all the while about the foolishness or idiosyncracy of that holy man!

I am writing this for modern chess players who have a much better concept of mathematical formulae than that king of Varanasi. You will realize that the Sage’s demand would need the king to give 2 raised to the power of 64 grains (actually one grain less) to the sage!

And how big a number is that? Not much, only 18,446,744,073,709,551,616! Taking the average weight of a grain of rice to be 25mg (there was no genetically modified hybrid rice grains those days, which can weigh three times as much!) 40 grains would be 1gm and 40000 would make 1kg. So the above number of grains would weigh 461,168,601,842,738kg or to simplify matters, about 461,169 million tons! It is estimated that the whole world now produces about 550 million tons of rice annually. To produce that chessboard full of rice, it will need 838 years by current standards and remember that in the times of that boastful king, the rice production was certainly nowhere near the figure we used!

What is the upshot of all this in relation to our story? There simply was not that many grains in the world for the king to give to the sage! The king of course realized it before he could cross the sixth row of the chessboard and had to seek forgiveness from the sage for his brash behavior and promise. Understanding the repentance of the king, the sage gave him his blessings and asked him to distribute whatever grain had been collected to the people of his kingdom. The sage went away happy in the knowledge of leaving the king a much wiser person!

A chessboard is only an 8×8 grid but holds a lot of power! -Part I

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Here we are not discussing anything about a chess game or chess moves or chess pieces – only telling a story that uses the 64 squares!

This is about a king whose seat of throne was the holy city of Benares (or Varanasi, to give the correct Indian name). He had a great amount of wealth and wielded considerable power but basically he was a good ruler. But as luck would have it, he contracted some mysterious disease for which the royal physians, or anybody for that matter, could not provide a cure and his condition started deteriorating day by day. Then one day his chief adviser brought information about a sage who seemed to have great inner power but led a very humble life without much want. The king sent his adviser to request the sage to come and save his life, if it were possible.

The sage took pity at the King’s condition and agreed to attend to him and cure him also. The King was so elated that he promised the sage anything he wanted as he felt that his wealth and power were enough to keep that promise! The sage said that he would ask for his ‘reward’ only after he made the king well.

The sage started administering some herbal medicines every day and the king’s health started improving. Soon came a day when the sage told the king that he was cured and no longer needed the medicines and the king surely felt like that. So now he remembered his promise and asked the sage what he wanted.

The sage, a man of great wisdom, realized that the king was now physically well but still suffered from some mental delusion. He felt that the king would be a much better person if his mind could be cured of the vanity and arrogance that made him declare the reward in that fashion, as if wealth and power could buy everything!

Those days chess used to be a royal passion and the sage decided to use the chessboard for bringing the king down to earth and making him a wiser person. So he asked the king that he would like to take his reward bit by bit over 64 days so as not to put too much strain on the king’s resources. The king wanted to know what item could be of the magnitude that needed to be split like that. So the sage requested the king to place a chessboard by the side of his throne.

What did the sage want? Click here to find out

Morning shows the day?

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In 1979, in a category IX tournament (average elo rating 2451-2475) held in (the then) Yugoslavia, there were 16 players. There was one player who was 16 year old and did not even have any FIDE rating in a field of 14 Grandmasters (including a former World Champion) and one IM. Reportedly, a mistake on the part of Russian Chess Federation (they thought it was a junior tournament!) enabled him to participate (or were they trying to groom him in an underhand way?)

Whatever may be the truth, that player did not lose a single game  winning 8 and drawing 7 and won the tournament with a lead of 2 points over the player who came second. This was the first Grandmaster norm for the player as he earned a rating of 2595! I read about this in a syndicated column of Michael Stean in a sports magazine of those times and he predicted World Championship for that young player. Garry Kasparov vindicated him by winning the world championship six years later in 1985.


How far deep can you analyze?

Unlike what you may think, even players of GM caliber are said to go only about 4-5 moves deep in middle games. With a still crowded board, the sheer number of possibilities go beyond the capability of human brain. In end game it is different as there are not many pieces and only a handful may be active in a position.

With this background, you will definitely find it very interesting to play through the moves of the 1956 game between Bobby Fischer and Donald Byrne (available at many sites). Fischer was a 12 year old kid and was playing with Black pieces. Byrne was 26 year old and had won the US championhip three years earlier. By his 17th move, Fischer offered his queen to White to get two minor pieces in exchange and a good attack! But the point of his queen sacrifice became clear with his 24th move, after which Fischer gained decisive material compensation. A few moves later, it was apparent that White had a losing position and could as well resign. But Byrne played on quite sportingly to allow the kid the satisfaction of delivering a checkmate, which Fischer did on move 41. You will not find Byrne making any serious error but the way Black played between his 17th and 24th moves, we are bound to think that Fischer had seen to a depth of 7 moves!


Is this how chess games are won?

If you ever feel miserable after losing a game through your blunder, please don’t and take heart that you may be in a very enviable company! Samuel Reshevsky was a child prodigy, a US champion, a Grandmaster in 1950, a strong contender for world championship and author of several books including “How Chess Games Are Won”! In 1973, he had a game as White against Vladimir Savon who became a GM in 1971 and was never a contender for World Championship. Just take a look at the board position after 39 moves.


The following set of moves gives White a forced win.

40. g5+ Kxg5   40. … Bxg5 allows 41. Rh8#
41. h4+ Kxh4   41. … Kh6 allows 42. Rh8#
42. Qf4#  


What does Reshevsky do? He played 40. Qxg6+?? and Black gratefully accepted the queen by 40. … Bxg6. What a way to lose a winning position!


Is this how world champions adopt winning strategy?

Take a look at the 1993 game Karpov played as Black against Christiansen. The game went:

1. d4 Nf6  
2. c4 e6  
3. Nf3 b6  
4. a3 Ba6  
5. Qc2 Bb7  
6. Nc3 c5  
7. e4 cxd4  
8. Nxd4 Nc6  
9. Nxc6 Bxc6  
10. Bf4 Nh5  
11. Be3  


Position after 11. Be3:

grandmasterly way to gift a piece?

11. Bd6??  
12. Qd1 Resigns  


Black cannot avoid losing either the bishop or the knight getting only a pawn in exchange. Karpov must have felt disgusted with himself and resigned forthwith.

How many violations did Karpov make regarding the winning strategies we discussed? Losing tempo by moving same piece twice, retarded pawn development, backward Queens pawn blocked by an unsupported bishop, knight placed on the edge of board, no coordination among pieces …