SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
An old photo (1884) of Red Square, Moscow LINK
The year was 1884. John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the world. The Czar still ruled Russia. The legendary Paul Morphy had died in July of this same year. There was not yet an official ”World Chess Champion”–Steinitz would win that title some two years later in 1886. Emanuel Lasker was just a young lad of 15. Akiba Rubinstein was a mere baby of 1 year! Capablanca and Alekhine were not yet born…never the less the chess world was filled with talent and promise and about to explode!There were hundreds of chess magazines published in virtually every modern language. Opening books had already been known for decades. More than 95% of today’s endgame theory was already worked out! International chess was quickly developing, the London 1883 International Tournament tournament being the first super-tournament of the era! Already the ‘problem’ of the draw in chess was a hotly discussed item….It must have been interesting to have been alive at that time!
POSITION AFTER 29 MOVES:
From a match between these two Russian masters that took place in Moscow, 1884. The great Tchigorin needs no introduction to any serious student of the game, while as for the lesser known Solovtsov it suffices to say that he was the first Champion of Moscow (1899).
In the position above, White has what must be a winning attack. He has brought great force to bear on h7, and if it was not for the awkward position of White’s Queen, he could immediately seal Black’s fate by capturing with his Rook that sole pawn that shelters the Black monarch.
The problem is how to remove White’s Queen so that he not only covers the mate on g2 (!) but also maintains the threat on h7. It is not a trivial problem at all, as 30.Qf3 allows Black to turn the tables with the cunning 30…Nxd4!, and if then the equally cunning 31.Bxh7, then there follows 31…Qg1+!!. Black would answer the same against 30.Qe2.
In the game continuation White did not find the solution to this problem and the game was only decided by an unfortunate error later by Chigorin:
30. Rg1 ?! Rdf8! 31. Rh5 Qe7? [31… Rf7! holds the game] 32. Bxh7! Rxg4 33. Be4! [1:0] To stave off mate Black must surrender most of his pieces.
THE CORRECT SOLUTION IS REMARKABLE:
White threatens simply 31.Qf6! –pinning the Black Queen–and then mate on h7!
Black is helpless: if Black tries to capture the White Bishop by 30…Nxd4 then White changes gears and mates starting with 31.Rxh7+! QxR 32.Qf6+! etc. Or 30…Ne7 is only slightly better: 31.Rxh7+! QxR 32.Qf6+ Rg7 33.BxQ KxQ 34.Qh4+ Kg8 and now the mundane 35.Rg1 wins easily enough with technique.
Also inadequate is 30…Rdd7: 31.Rxh7+! QxR 32.Qf6+ Qg7 33.Qh4+! Qh7 34.BxQ and 35.Qf6+ winning the Knight.
The most efficient defence is
30…Rdf8, stopping Qf6, but then follows 31.Bxh7!!
Taking the Queen allows mate in 3 starting with 32.Bb1+ (or any squares between b1 and f5)
Little better is 31…QxR as it will be mate in 3 after 32.RxQ+, 33.Qh5+ and 34.Rg1. It appears that Black’s best is 31…Rf3, but after 32.QxQ+! RxQ 33.RxR is a simple technical win.