I recently visited a bookstore and sensed that something terrible was going on. They had moved the chess books to a location next to the restrooms. Should they make the next obvious move, I thought, chess would have had it. I tried to see what could be saved, but found a horrible mess. The chess books were all over the shelves mixed with other books, mostly on gambling or magic, in no particular order. Perhaps it was meant to be like this and someone well knew what chess is all about. But there also were books about betting on horses and even one that suggested how to pick the most dominant horse out of a group of four.
I came home and found out that the theme of four horses had been exploited already in 1937 by a Swiss composer P. Heuacker. His treatment is featured in today's diagram (White:Kh7,Nd5,Nd6,P:e5; Black:Kf8,Na5,Nb3). In this wonderful composition, white sacrifices his pawn 1.e6 Nc6 2.e7+! Nxe7, leaving only four horses and the kings on the board. Amazingly, he rides the most dominant horse to victory after 3.Nf4 Nc5 (or 1...Nd4) 4.Kh8! placing black in zugzwang. The white knight on f4 mates next either on g6 or e6. Beautiful interplay!
The knight is the piece that shocks chess players the most. Its jumps are often overlooked, until too late. In the 1999 German championship, played last month in Altenkirchen, grandmaster Robert Huebner won a game in a mere 11 moves with the help of his knight. His opponent, Ulf Von Herman, was so disgusted that he folded his arms rather than face the former world champion challenger a pawn down. Huebner eventually won the German title, only the second in his career, scoring 7 points in 9 games.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Nbd2 c5 6.e4 cxd4 7.Bg2 (More popular is 7.e5 Ng4 8.h3 Nh6 9.Bg2.) 7...Nc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.0-0 Rb8 (Threatening to collect the e-pawn. In the game Bagaturov-Mastrovasilis, Korinthos 1998, black went for the same trick immediately with 9...Bc5 10.a3?! Ne3!, but white was able to mix it up 11.fxe3 dxe3 12.Kh1 exd2 13.Nxd2 Qc7 14.Ne4 0-0 15.Nf6+ gxf6 16.exf6 and made a game out of it.) 10.Re1 Bc5 11.h3? (White overlooks the main threat, but black already was doing fine.) 11...Ne3! (After 12.fxe3 dxe3 13.Kh2 [Not 13.Ne4 e2+ winning.] 13...exd2 14.Bxd2 white has no compensation for a pawn.) White resigned.
When the Austrian grandmaster Rudolf Spielmann wrote his classic "The Art of Sacrifice in Chess", he did not include in it a game he played in Vienna in 1926. Perhaps it was too trivial for him, but it contained a brave exchange sacrifice, followed by a brilliant knight sacrifice. Without this magnificent knight jump, Spielmann would not have been able to expose the weak squares surrounding the black king.
e1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.exd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Nge2 Nb4 8.Ng3 Nxd3+ (Safer was 8...h6.) 9.Qxd3 g6 10.0-0 c6 11.Rae1 0-0 (Black did not have time to block the e-file with 11...Be6, since white could press with 12.f4 or in Spielmann's style 12.Nce2 0-0 13.Nf4 Bd7 14.Rxe7 Qxe7 15.Nfh5!! winning.) 12.Rxe7!! (Incredibly, the black position collapses after this sacrifice. The main theme is a pin on the d8-h4 diagonal, but it would not be sufficient by itself. Spielmann had to come with another gem.) 12...Qxe7 13.Qf3 Kg7 (After 13...Bf5 14.Nxf5 gxf5 15.Qg3! black is defenseless, e.g. 15...Kh8 16.Qh4 Kg7 17.Qh6+ Kg8 18.Bxf6 winning; 15...Nh5 16.Bxe7+ Nxg3 17.fxg3 Rfe8 18.Bf6 with big advantage; or 15...f4 16.Qh4; or 15...Kg7 16.Bxf6+ Kxf6 17.Qh4+ Ke6 18.Re1+ winning.)
14.Nce4!! (The Austrian grandmaster must have seen this splendid jump before hesacrificed the exchange. Black succumbs to an attack on the black squares.) 14...dxe4 15.Nxe4 Qe6 (After 15...Qxe4 16.Qxf6+ Kg8 17.Bh6 white wins quickly. But after 15...Kg8 16.Bxf6 Qb4 17.Qf4 Re8 the knight makes different victorious leaps 18.Nd6! Re6 19.Qh6! Rxf6 20.Ne8! Qf8 [On 20...Qxd4 21.Qg7 mates] 21.Nxf6+ Kh8 22.Qxh7 mate.) 16.Bxf6+ Kg8 (After 16...Kh6 17.Qf4+ Kh5 18.Qg5 mates.) 17.Qf4 (...and there is nothing to do against 18.Qh6.) Black resigned.
Even the strongest players are vulnerable to surprising knight bounds. At the 1958 U.S. Championship in New York, the 15-year-old Bobby Fischer refuted Sammy Reshevsky's knight move to the edge with a pretty combination, where the key move was a stunning knight jump.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 Na5? (It must have been a shocking discovery for Reshevsky that this knight move actually loses.) 9.e5! Ne8 10.Bxf7+! (A winning combination based on a pin along the d-file. It was published in a Russian chess monthly before this game was played, but Reshevsky did not know about it.) 10...Kxf7 (After 10....Rxf7 the answer is the same.) 11.Ne6! dxe6 (After 11...Kxe6 black is mated with 12.Qd5+ Kf5 13.g4+ Kxg4 14.Rg1+ Kh5 15.Qg2 and black has no defense to several mates.) 12.Qxd8 and Fischer won in 42 moves.