Monday, September 7, 2009; 9:20 AM
The Latvian-Russian chess composer Mikhail Platov (1883-1938) was the younger and lesser-known of the famous Platov brothers. He died in a forced labor camp, where he was sent for making disparaging remarks about Stalin. "White draws" is the task in his 1904 work (White: Ka6,Rd8,Bb5,Nd6,P:h5; Black: Kh6,Qd1,Bg5,Nh7,P:d5). The solution, pleasing and elegant, will be revealed next week.
Napoleon and Tango
It was a clever hoax that has fooled the chess world for some time: a game Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly played in 1804 at Malmaison chateau, where he resided with his wife, Josephine. Napoleon's opponent was Josephine's "dame du palais" or lady-in-waiting, Madame du Remusat. There is no doubt that the two played chess against each other. "He did not play well, and never would observe the correct moves," Remusat disclosed in her memoirs. The game later was revealed to be the creation of a hoaxter, not played by Napoleon and du Remusat.
The game itself is skillfully created. White's first two moves show Napoleon's love for horses and a disdain for opening theory. Black, on the other hand, plays the first three moves according to the principles of Francois-Andre Danican Philidor, who emphasized the power of the pawns. Born this day in 1726, Philidor not only was regarded as the best chess player of the 18th century but also was a talented musician, composing more than 20 operas. His chess reign lasted almost a half-century; he died Aug. 31, 1795. In the game, the Philidor pawns could have destroyed white's horses. Instead, black allowed an elegant king's hunt.
1.Nc3 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.e4 f5 4.h3? (Digging trenches is not in Napoleon's style. The game switched to the Philidor defense, but Napoleon missed the near-refutation: 4.d4! fxe4 5.Nxe4 d5? 6.Neg5 h6 7.Nf7!! Kxf7 8.Nxe5+ and white should win.) 4...fxe4 5.Nxe4 Nc6 6.Nfg5? ("Accident, hazard, chance, whatever you choose to call it, a mystery to ordinary minds becomes a reality to superior men," Remusat quoted Napoleon. The move drops a piece.) 6...d5 7.Qh5+ g6 8.Qf3 (Threatening 9.Qf7 mate.) 8...Nh6? (A turnaround. The emperor was on the verge of defeat: After 8...Bf5 black would win a knight. White wins now, hunting madame's king to mate.) 9.Nf6+ Ke7 10.Nxd5+ Kd6 11.Ne4+! Kxd5 12.Bc4+! Kxc4 13.Qb3+ Kd4 14.Qd3 mate. A perfect blitzkrieg, a devious creation.
I showed the game at the Brisbane Girls Grammar School in 1996 before I played a simultaneous exhibition. The Australian girls took Napoleon's style to their hearts, charging with their black knights forward on the first two moves. Never in my life did I face such a furious, coordinated attack by black cavalry. Little did they know they were not following the emperor, but were dancing a tango at the chessboard.
Although the defense with the black pieces was played nearly 85 years ago, the Moldavian coach Vyacheslav Chebanenko called it the Tango only two decades ago. The black knights provoke pawn advances in the center and that may create weaknesses in the white camp. The Grunfeld Indian defenders took the idea further, using the Tango as an antidote to the sharp system 3.f3, as in the following duel between the two-time U.S. champion Hikaru Nakamura and the five-time Russian champion Peter Svidler. The game was played at the end of last month in Amsterdam, where the team of Experience defeated the Rising Stars, 27½-22½.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 (The Tango 2...Nc6 had been played by the Mexican Carlos Torre against the German Fritz Samisch in Baden-Baden 1925. After 3.d5 Ne5 4.e4 Ng6 5.f4 e5? 6.f5 black had problems. Instead of 5...e5? black should play 5...e6!? and GM Georgi Orlov showed the black knights in full glory with the following line: 6.Bd3 exd5 7.e5 Ne4 8.cxd5 Qh4+ 9.g3 Bb4+ 10.Bd2 Nxg3 11.Nf3 Bxd2+ 12.Nbxd2 Nxf4! 13.Bf1 Qh3!! 14.Ng5 Qg2!! 15.Bxg2 Nd3 mate. However, the followers of the black knights dance were not very happy about the solid preventive move 3.Nf3.) 3.f3 Nc6!? (The square f3 is taken by a pawn and the delayed Tango gains in force.) 4.d5 (Nakamura goes for it. Other moves do not present danger. For example, the game Anand-Carlsen, Linares 2009, continued 4.Nc3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 e5 8.Bb5 Bd7 9.Ne2 Bg7 10.Be3 0-0 11.d5 Na5 12.Bd3 b6 and black equalized. Another point comes after 4.e4 e5! 5.d5 Nd4 6.Be3 c5 7.dxc6?! dxc6! and black protects his strong knight in the center.) 4...Ne5 5.e4 d6 6.Ne2 (Leaving his queenside pieces sleeping, but after the usual 6.Nc3 Bg7 white has problems developing the kingside.) 6...Bg7 (The undermining 6...c6 7.Nec3 Qb6 makes it harder for white to castle.) 7.Nec3 0-0 8.Be2 e6 9.f4 (Playing aggressively. After 9.0-0 or 9.Be3, black can assail the center with 9...exd5 10.cxd5 c6.) 9...Ned7 10.0-0 (Keeping the space makes white's center vulnerable. After 10.dxe6!? fxe6 11.Be3 white has a slight edge.) 10...exd5 11.cxd5 Re8 12.Bf3 Nc5 13.Re1 h5 14.h3 b5! (Threatening to destroy the center with 15...b4 and forcing white to play sharply.)
15.e5!? (After 15.a3 Bb7 black is fine.) 15...dxe5 16.fxe5 Nfd7 17.e6 Ne5 18.Nxb5 (After 18.exf7+ black can simply play 18...Nxf7, for example 19.d6 Rxe1+ 20.Qxe1 Bb7; or 19.Be3 Rxe3! 20.Rxe3 b4 with a good game.) 18...Ncd3?! (Tempting, but too complicated. The simple 18...Nxf3+ 19.Qxf3 fxe6 seems better.) 19.exf7+ Kxf7 20.Rf1 Kg8 21.Be4? (Nakamura's queenside pieces have not moved, but with 21.d6!? he would have been still in the game. For example, after 21...Nxf3+ 22.Qxf3 black should avoid 22...Nxc1 23.Rxc1 Be6! 24.dxc7! Qg5 25.N1c3 a6 26.Re1! Qe7 27.Qc6 axb5 28.Nxb5 and white has an overwhelming pressure, but after 22...Bf5 23.Nxc7 Qxd6 24.Nxe8 Rxe8 25.Nc3 black still has to equalize.) 21...Nxc1 22.Qxc1 c6? (The more efficient 22...Ba6! could have netted black a piece, for example 23.N1c3 c6 24.dxc6 Nxb5 25.Nxb5 Qb6+; or 23.a4 c6 24.dxc6 Bxb5 25.axb5 Qd4+.) 23.N5c3 Ba6 24.Re1 (Allowing a quick storm, but even after 24.Rd1, covering the square d4, black's attack succeeds: 24...Qh4 25.dxc6 Ng4! 26.hxg4 Be5 and white is getting mated.) 24...Ng4! 25.Qd2 (On 25.hxg4 Bd4+ 26.Re3 Qg5 27.Kf2 Qf4+ wins.) 25...Qb6+ 26.Kh1 Nf2+ (The computers suggest 26...Bh6! 27.Qc2 Nf2+ 28.Kh2 Bd3 and black wins, for example 29.Qb3 Bf4+ 30.g3 Ng4+! 31.Kh1 Qf2, mating soon.) 27.Kh2 Nxe4 28.Nxe4 Rxe4 29.Rxe4 Qxb2 30.d6 Rd8! (Svidler could have played 30...Qxa1, but the rook move excludes tricks and secures victory.) 31.d7 Be5+ 32.g3 (Running into a cross-pin that leaves black a piece up.) 32...Rxd7! (Game over after 33.Qxb2 Bxb2.) White resigned.
Alex Lenderman won the 41st Atlantic Open, played Aug. 28-30 at the downtown Washington Westin Hotel. The New York grandmaster-elect went undefeated, drawing one and winning four games. The event attracted 374 players in seven sections.
Chess Club in Ashburn
A new chess club was founded five weeks ago in Ashburn, Va. It already has 50 members. They meet Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons at the Sakasa Tea and Coffee House. More information at their impressive Web site: www.meetup.com/Ashburn-Chess-Club.
Solution to Last Week's Puzzle
Aug. 31: White mates in four moves by Walter Irving Kennard (White: Ka7,Rf1,P:a3,c2,c3,c4,f5; Black: Ka5,P:a4,a6,b6,c6,f6): 1.Rc1! b5 2.c5 b4 3.cxb4+ Kb5 4.c4 mate; or 1...c5 2.Rd1 b5 3.Rd5 bxc4 4.Rxc5 mate.