Readers’ showcase: In search of the immortal game!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Who has not heard of the Immortal Game ? While one can argue that Anderssen vs Kieseritzky was a much flawed masterpiece, there is no doubt that chess lovers can appreciate the incredible brilliance that such a game requires. And of the pleasure that chess fans have derived from it. Can one not say the same of diamonds and emeralds?
Canadian chessplayer Ralph Deline sent me the game you find below and he describes it as his immortal game. And a grand game it is too! Enjoy!
POSITION AFTER 12 MOVES:
The opening is one of those ‘fast and loose’ lines of the Scandanavian Defence–worked out by the Portuguese in the 1990’s– where Black castles Queenside in total disregard for the safety of his King, hoping to break into White’s King’s position with g5-g4 before the roof collapses on his own King.
In practice results are even, surprisingly. I have never trusted this line for Black and my own praxis supports the thesis that Black is simply playing poker. However, modern chess is not just about what you should play, but also what you can actually get away with! Black wins plenty of pretty games in this line…
IN THE POSITION above, White has declared his intention to strike first. Deline had already every intention of sacrificing his Knight on b5, the only thing that was not worked out were the details! (that would depend on Black’s play) Probably the most precise move is 13.d5!?, but Deline’s move is perfectly logical:
Now if 13…Kb8 White intended 14.d5! Black has little choice but to take the Knight
13… axb5 14. Qa8 To be seriously considered is 14. cxb5!? Nb8 15. Ne5 Qe8 16. Rac1 with a strong initiative. 14… Nb8 15. Ne5!? (15.cxb5!?)
Where should Black park his Queen?
The most challenging aspect of such speculative, intuitive attacks is the multiplicity of seemingly reasonable alternatives, not just for the attack but also for the defence. Almost at every turn one is tempted to vary from the game continuation. In such positions, even the very best in the world can find themselves lost in a myriad of variations. And let us not forget that the clock is running and errors begin to creep into play….
Here White was not certain that Black could not play 15…Qd6!?, when 16.Nxf7 Qb4! 17.Pxb5 Qxb2! leads to total chaos. Probably White should just play the simple 16.Pxb5. INSTEAD, Black played more solidly:
15… Qe8 16. cxb5
I think that White has a promising position! Now that the c-file is open Black must watch out for a frontal attack involving Rooks. Here Black can consider chopping wood, starting with 16… Bd6!? 17. Rac1 Bxe5 18. dxe5 Rxd1 19. Bxd1 Qxb5 but after 20. Ba7 Kd7 21. Bxb8 Qb6 22. Ba4 Ke7 23. Qa7! Qxa7 24. Rxc7 White has a raging attack despite the exchanges.
So Black instead tries to chase away the White pieces:
16… f6 17. Rac1!?
Deline plays with great energy and courage! Already a piece invested in the attack, he does not shy away from further sacrifices in search of a brilliancy. Many would have been satisfied with 17.Nc4
17… fxe5 18. Rxc7!!??
What poet can resist such a move?
I am reminded of a story of the late Bronstein, when playing against the legendary attacking player Tal. At one point Bronstein could probably win by purely technical means, but instead he decided to sacrifice a Rook! He later explained that he could simply not let pass such a move against Tal! Here Deline must have felt immortality at his doorstep…
18… Kxc7 19. Rc1 Kb6 only good move! 20. d5 Bc5
White has sacrificed a Rook and two pieces to draw out the Black King!
The position is still very difficult for both sides. It is curious that the Queens have such secondary roles in this game!…Deline finds the most challenging way to proceed:
The mate threats multiply! Remarkably, the Black King can actually escape with perfect play…but it is almost impossible to find! The ONLY try is 21… Kc7! 22. b6! now 22… Kd7?? loses after 23. Qxb7 Kd6 24. bxc5 Nxc5 25. Bxc5 AND 22… Kxb6?? allows 23. Qa5#;BUT, there is a way: 22… Kd6!!! 23. bxc5 Ke7 24. Qxb7 Qd7 (24… Kf8? 25. c6±) 25. d6 an amazing position! 25…Kf7 26. Qxd7 Nxd7 27. b7 Nexc5 28. Bxc5 Rb8 and Black should eventually win.
Probably only a computer could find this salvation, and so we should not deny Deline his brilliancy for his spectacular handling of the attack
INSTEAD, Black actually thought he was winning with his next move!
Stops the mate on a5, attacks the White Queen and defends the Bishop on c5! What more can one expect of a single move?
WHITE TO PLAY AND MATE BY FORCE!
Brilliant! After having already sacrificed a Rook and two Knights, White now sacrifices his Queen!
There is no defence to mate in 3 moves, at most.