Independent Pursuits: Chess

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
LAST MONDAY, I examined the rules regarding pawn promotion. This time it's castling. In the ancient game of Shatranj, a precursor of modern chess, the king moved as in our game, but there were no extensions to its powers. These first appeared, possibly in the 13th century, in the form of a leap which could take the king from e1 to any of c1, c2, c3, d3, e3, f3, g3, g2, g1 or even further.

The modern idea of castling by moving a king and rook simultaneously developed from this, initially with multiple variations - kingside castling could take the form of Kf1 and Re1, Kg1 and Re1 the present form of Kg1 and Rf1, Kh1 and Re1 etc, etc - and had stabilised by the 17th century everywhere except in Italy, where "rogue forms" remained in use right up to the beginning of this century.

The modern rule, which I shall paraphrase, is that the king moves two squares along a rank towards a rook, which then jumps over it landing on the square next to it.

Both the king and the rook must be unmoved, and there must be no pieces between them; moreover, the rook must be on the first rank - problemists at one stage had fun with the idea of castling along the e file with a newly underpromoted pawn! Castling is illegal if the king is in check or has to move across, or to a square that is attacked; but you can castle after being in check (as long, of course, as you didn't parry it by moving the king). The rook can be attacked, or move over a square that is attacked.

Such an unusual move leads to all sorts of effects and records, which are treated in detail in Startling Castling by Robert Timmer, published by BT Batsford last year. There are things like the latest known in a master game - he gives a couple on move 46, though I subsequently found an instance from the Hungarian Team Championship in 1993-4 where it was as late as move 48; and occasions when it has a particularly powerful effect, such as the well known but vicious trap of White castling queenside with check simultaneously attacking a black rook on b2.

I recently fell victim to a "startling castling" myself - though I had in fact foreseen it - in a splendid game that will no doubt appear in future editions. 19 0-0!! was a tremendous blow; though I'd have had much better chances after 19... Rag8!

White: Yasser Seirawan


Jon Speelman

Elista Olympiad 1998

Modern Defence

1 d4 g6

2 e4 Bg7

3 c4 d6

4 Nc3 Nc6

5 Be3 e5

6 d5 Nce7

7 g4 f5

8 f3 Nh6

9 Be2 Nf7

10 h4 Ng8

11 exf5 gxf5

12 Qd2 Nf6

13 gxf5 Bxf5

14 Nh3 e4

15 Ng5 Qe7

16 Nxf7 Kxf7

17 fxe4 Nxe4

18 Nxe4 Qxe4

19 0-0!! Rhg8?

20 Bh5+ Kf8

21 Rxf5+ Qxf5

22 Bg5 Be5

23 Rf1 Qxf1+

24 Kxf1 Kg7

25 Be7 Kh8

26 Qh6 Bg7

27 Qe6 Bxb2

28 Bf7 Rg3 1-0