Monday, February 26, 2007

Advice from Alekhine

In their tournament game played at Dresden in 1936 Alexander Alekhine noticed that his opponent Efim Bogoljubow had set a clever trap for him. If Alekhine captured a certain pawn Bogoljubow would reply with a move that won a piece. After some reflection Alekhine decided to fall into the trap because in the concrete situation Bogoljubow's piece was going to be no match for Alekhine's pawns. “White falls into the trap,” wrote Alekhine, “and thereby proves that it is the fastest way to win!”

In the late stages of a tournament game many years ago my opponent set a trap to win my queen. In the diagrammed position I am an exchange ahead but in compensation my opponent has a strongly centralised knight and is also ahead on the clock. My last move was 1.Ne8 attacking his bishop. Objectively speaking the strongest reply is 1...Bf8 but my opponent saw an opportunity for a tactic and played 1...Bh6!?

The idea is obvious: if 2.Bxh6 then Black replies 2...Nxf3+ and White's queen is lost. But I could also see that if I take on h6 then Black's king will suddenly be short of squares. With the seconds ticking down and Alekhine whispering in my ear I went ahead and played 2.Bxh6! anyway. My opponent gave an audible gasp and banged out the move 2...Nxf3+. There followed 3.Kh1 Nxd2 and now I calmly played 4.Nf6+! This is a clearance sacrifice that gains time to bring White's rook into the attack. After 4...Nxf6 5.Rc8+ Black was forced to resign since he is mated in a couple of moves.

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.