One of the most picturesque mates in chess is a smothered mate, preceded by a queen sacrifice. Usually the enemy king is entombed in the corner, but the romantics of last century smothered the kings in the middle. Some of their published creations were so perfect, that they looked like games composed to please the eye of a reader. Often the victims were unknown opponents, vulnerable to blunders.

Henry Bird, created a smothered mate game in London in 1886 against an amateur player. Playing a less-known variation of the King's Gambit, Bird first sacrificed a rook before he parted with his queen.

Bird - Amateur

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Nc3 (Some sources named this variation after a Dutchman, Captain Quaade. It leads to a rook sacrifice.) 4...g4 5.Ne5 Qh4+ 6.g3 fxg3 7.Qxg4 g2+? (Surprisingly, winning the rook is not smart. Playable is 7...Qxg4 8.Nxg4 d5.) 8.Qxh4 gxh1Q 9.Qh5 (In the game Taylor-Amateur, played in England in 1874, white continued the attack with 9.Nd5 and won brilliantly after 9...Na6 10.d4 Be7 11.Qxe7+!! Nxe7 12.Nf6+ and black resigned, since 12...Kf8 leads to 13.Bh6 mate; and 12...Kd8 ends with 13.Nxf7 smothered mate.) 9...Be7? (Clearly a bad choice, but after 9...Nh6 10.d4 d6 11.Bxh6 white is winning.) 10.Nxf7 Nf6 11.Nd6+ Kd8 12.Qe8+! Rxe8 13.Nf7 mate.

In another game, played in Boston in 1897, white gave away all his light and heavy pieces, except the knight that delivered the smothered mate.

Young - Dore

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nxe4 6.0-0 Nd6 7.Nxc3 Nxc4 8.Re1+ Be7 9.Nd5 Nc6 10.Bg5 f6 11.Rc1 b5 12.Rxc4 bxc4 13.Ne5 fxg5 14.Qh5+ g6 15.Nf6+ Bxf6 16.Nxg6+ Qe7 17.Rxe7+ Bxe7 18.Ne5+ Kd8 19.Nf7+ Ke8 20.Nd6+ Kd8 21.Qe8+! Rxe8 22.Nf7 mate.

Last month, during the European Women Zonal tournament in Saint Vincent, Italy, two players followed the footsteps of the romantic players. The variation of the Alekhine defense, chosen by Natasha Regan of England invites fire. Her opponent, Monica Vilar Lopez of Spain, attacked with an incredible intensity, not looking back. After missing better defenses Regan self-destructed under a pressure and Vilar Lopez delivered a pretty smothered mate.

Vilar Lopez - Regan

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 dxe5 5.Nxe5 g6 (A famous king's hunt starts here after 5...Nd7 6.Nxf7! Kxf7 7.Qh5+ Ke6 8.c4 with unclear consequences.) 6.Qf3 (White is not ashamed to deliver mate on the square f7.) 6...Be6 7.c4 Nb4 8.d5?! (A brave decision, instead of winning a material with 8.Qxb7 Qxd4 9.Qxa8 Qxe5+ 10.Kd1 N4c6 11.Nc3 and defending.) 8... Nc2+ 9.Kd1 Nxa1 10.Nd2 Bf5 (A quick way to get mated is 10...Bg7 11.dxe6 0-0 12.exf7+ Kh8 13.Nxg6+ hxg6 14.Qh3+ Bh6 15.Qxh6 mate.) 11.Bd3 Qd6 (Better was to challenge the knight with 11...Nd7) 12.Nxf7?! Kxf7 13.g4 Ke8 (Again 13...Nd7 was preferable.) 14.gxf5 gxf5 15.Bxf5 Nd7 16.Ne4 Qb6 (Suddenly white is turning the table. After 16...Qe5 17.Bd2 Qxb2 18.Qh5+ Kd8 19.Ng5 white has a powerful attack.) 17.Qh5+ Kd8 18.Ng5 Nf6 (Leads to a smothered mate, but the game is lost anyway.) 19.Nf7+ Ke8 20.Nd6+ Kd8 21.Qe8+ Nxe8 22.Nf7 mate.

International news

Viswanathan Anand won the 1998 Chess Oscar for the best performances in the last year. The fast improving Alexander Morozevich surprisingly finished second, ahead of Garry Kasparov. It is Anand's second Oscar in the row. The votes came from 271 journalists and chess experts from 57 countries.

Lembit Oll, an Estonian grandmaster, died tragically on May 17 near Tallin. Oll was one of the most talented players on the professional circle. He eliminated Morozevich in the last FIDE World Championship in the Dutch city of Groningen in 1997.

Boris Gelfand, Ilya Smirin and the former Soviet champion, Lev Psakhis, won the Invitational championship of Israel last month, all scoring 6.5 points in 9 games.

U.S. news

The Chicago Open, played on May 28-31, attracted a record 809 players. The Open section had 113 players. It included 24 grandmasters. Seven of them: Alexander Belyavsky, Georgi Kacheishvili, Alexander Goldin, Georgy Kaidanov, Alexander Shabalov, Dmitry Gurevich and Alexander Ivanov tied for the first place, all scoring 5.5 points in 7 games.

The current U.S. women's champion Irina Krush, age 15, played a former Junior world champion, Tal Shaked, to a 2-2 tie in a challenge match in Tucson, Arizona, over the Memorial weekend.

Jared Hecht of Arizona won the 1999 National Elementary School Championship inPhoenix, Arizona, played on May 14-16. The best local player was Eric Ma of Rockville, finishing 20th.

Solution to today's study by W. Vollmer (White: Kf2,Na7,P:a5,c5,h2; Black:Kb7,Bb8,P:a6,c7,h3): 1.c6+! Kxa7 2.Kg1! Ka8 3.Kh1 Ba7 stalemate.