The Discovered-check Revisited
We are taught to avoid the opponent’s dreaded discovered-check almost from day one of us learning to play the game. And with good reason: who amongst my readers has not yet demonstrated in his own games just how lethal the discovered-check can be?
(Note: This article was originally published in 2013, updated in 2017 and re-published today because it is such a timeless theme in chess.)
Sometimes, however, in the heat of battle, circumstances are such that we can not avoid our opponent having his discovered-check. The trick you must then learn is how to courageously survive this nasty check.
Witness the following two remarkable examples from grandmaster chess where not only does one escape from the feared discovered-check, but one also goes on and wins!
gm Khismatullin,D – gm Al Modiahki,M St. Petersburg, 9.10.2013 Chigorin Memorial
Returning to the position after Black’s 22nd move (22…Qc8):
This next example is even more incredible! Played at the Candidates Tournament of Montpellier 1985, this game features both players simultaneously threatening discovered checks!
gm Spassky Boris:
From the 1985 Candidates Tournament in Montpellier. Position after 25 moves of play. One of my favourite Spassky attacking games! Since I also participated in this tournament, I was able to follow this game as it was played. I remember being so impressed with Spassky’s impenetrable poker face as he calmly made a positional sacrífice of a piece to try to expose the White King. Slowly the threats started to mount, but Sokolov defended equally skillfully…
In the game continuation Sokolov defended against the threatened double discovered-check with 26.Nfh2! and the game continued 26…Bxd4! 27.QxB+ Rg7 (such a calm move!) 28.Re2 Re8! and now instead of exchanging on e8 (when Black stands better and eventually won) White must play 29.Be4!? with an unclear game. (The whole game can be replayed HERE)
When analyzing the game at home years later I really tried to find a more convincing way for White to play, but could not. However, I did find some fascinating stuff. Take a look at this (from the above position):
26.Rxe5!? Nf2+! 27.Kg2 Nxg4!
A very curious position! Both sides have discovered checks threatened. But the most fascinating part is that even though White is a piece up and has the move, his discovered check can do absolutely no damage to Black, whose coming discovered check is LETHAL and will win the game in just a few moves.
For exemple, if now 28.Re8+ Ne5+ 29.RxR+ RxR+ with a winning attck. Or if instead 28.Rg5+ Ne5! 29.Rg6!? Bh3+ 30.Kg1 Rxg6+ 31.Bxg6 Rg8 etc. OR if 28.fxg4 Qxg4+ 29.Kf2 Qh4+! is crushing . Finally, 28.Rh5+ Ne5+ is curtains. Sokolov was right to avoid this line.
CONCLUSION: not all discovered checks lead to the bank!