Chess: The strange case of the postal poisoned pawn

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The Independent Culture
REAL men play international correspondence chess. Not for them the quick thrills of a six-hour tournament game, when they can savour the joy or torment of a postcard on the mat, each move weighed down with the results of days of mental effort.

I was put off postal chess when the Dane Jorn Sloth (a curiously appropriate name for a postal player) told me that he was about to win the world championship. 'I have a winning rook and pawn endgame,' he said, 'but it will take another 18 moves to force the win and play has slowed down to about one move a month.'

I know the misery of defending a lost game. The thought of having to suffer it for 18 months told me that I do not have the emotional constitution required for postal play. Today's game, from a recent international match between the Czech Republic and the Ukraine, was a real quickie, probably over in less than a year.

Generally it is risky to play a sharp opening by correspondence. The theory can change while your move is in the post, but here White introduces an extraordinary sacrifice in a position studied to death in the 1970s.

In the 'Poisoned Pawn' variation of the Sicilian Defence, Fischer's 12 . . . Qa5 practically put 10. e5 out of business in grandmaster play. White usually continued 13. 0-0, but if Black avoided any unpleasant sacrifices on e6, his defences seemed to hold.

In this game, Manduch played the sacrifice before castling. Rarely do you see such a violent move as 13. Bxe6 followed by as quiet development as 0-0 and Kh1.

The first point was that after 13 . . . Qxe5+, White was ready with 14. Kd1] fxe6 15. Re1. The second point came with the move 17. Ne4] Black cannot take the queen without allowing Nd6 mate.

Playing 17 . . . Ndxe5, Black must have analysed that 18. Nd6+ Kd7 was not dangerous for him, but he missed the strength of 18. Qd6] After 18 . . . Qd5 White can win simply with 19. Rad1 Qxd6 20. Nxd6+ Kd7 21. Nf7+, so Black decided to chase the queen away with 18 . . . Nf7.

Then came 19. Rxb7]] and it was all over. Nxd6 is met by 20. Nxd6 mate, and Bxb7 by 20. Qxe6+ and mate next move. Meanwhile, White threatens Re7+ and there is no defence.

----------------------------------------------------------------- White: M Manduch Black: V Kashlyuk ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 e4 c5 11 fxe5 Nfd7 2 Nf3 d6 12 Bc4 Qa5 3 d4 cxd4 13 Bxe6 fxe6 4 Nxd4 Nf6 14 0-0 Bc5 5 Nc3 a6 15 Kh1 Bxd4 6 Bg5 e6 16 Qxd4 Nc6 7 f4 Qb6 17 Ne4 Ndxe5 8 Qd2 Qxb2 18 Qd6 Nf7 9 Rb1 Qa3 19 Rxb7 1-0 10 e5 dxe5 -----------------------------------------------------------------