Chess: I'm sorry, but I think this opening is off

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WHY are manuals on chess openings not required by law to display a play-by date? Why has nobody demanded their money back, with damages, after losing a game through following faulty analysis? Why does the Consumer Protection Act not apply to assessments of chess positions?

Such thoughts must have passed through the mind of the loser of today's game, a remarkable miniature played by correspondence in 1991. The Wittmann-Malinin game opened with an unfashionable line of the Ruy Lopez: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. Re1. If Black now defends his e- pawn with Nd7 or Bd6, White may hope for advantage after 8. d4, so the game continued, as recommended by all the theoreticians, 7 . . . Bg4 8. h3 Bh5 9. g4 Bg6 10. Nxe5, reaching the diagram position.

All the books now point out that 10 . . . Bxe4 loses to 11. g5 when Black loses a piece for nothing. White must have felt a little suspicious when his opponent continued in that manner, but he could hardly have guessed Black's following move. After 11. g5 came the remarkable 11 . . . Rg8]]

The obvious point is to bring the rook into action on the open file after 12. gxf6 gxf6+, but more subtly, White has no advantageous way to get his king off the danger line. After 12. Kh2 Qd4, Black threatens both Qxe5+ and Qxf2 mate, while 12. Kf1 invites Qc8 with dangerous threats.

White therefore took the bait with 12. gxf6 gxf6+ 13. Ng4 f5 14. Kf1 when 14 . . . Qd6] kept up the pressure. Any move of the knight from g4 can now be met by Qh6. The game ended remarkably with 15. Nc3 Bh1] and White, still a piece ahead, resigned. If he loses the knight on g4, his game is disastrous and 16. Ne3 is again met by Qh6.

Finally 16. Ke2 (to threaten Rxh1) would lose to 16 . . . Bg2 17. Ne3 Qe6 18. f4 (otherwise Black plays f4) Bxh3 and White is defenceless against the threat of Bg4+ or a quick invasion of his K-side. One can understand how theory came to overlook the move 11 . . . Rg8, but unless an improvement can be found at White's 12th move, the whole variation with 7. Re1 may have passed its play-by date.

I came across that game in the Spring 1993 issue of Kingpin, a deliciously irreverent magazine published three times a year. At pounds 5.60 per year, each issue costs less than pounds 2.50, but some find even that worth paying for its concentration on the fun side of chess. The current issue has such features as 'Did Steinitz play Jack the Ripper', 'Great Swindles of Our Time' and 'Confessions of a Crooked Chess Master', as well as a wicked parody of the more serious chess magazines and a photo of Jim Plaskett.

Further details and a sample copy may be obtained from Kingpin, 45b Empress Avenue, Ilford, Essex IG1 3DE (Tel: 081-554-8266).

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