Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
OF THE myriad chess books written today, the majority are on openings. This isn't an accident since there is a public appetite for such and, equally important, it's relatively easy to write a passable one.

The endgame is another staple for readers and authors alike. The standard ones have long since been investigated but there's plenty of room, even today, for any volume which provides really good explanations of standard positions; and at a higher level there are various books (basically under titles of convenience) containing collections of specific more complex endings.

Most problematical of all is the middlegame, an area so broad that publishers tend to eschew this word in book titles for fear of scaring the punters off. While it's easy to collect middlegame positions it's extremely difficult to write on them coherently. So I was delighted at the reissue at the end of last year of one of the classics: Vladimir Vukovic's The Art of Attack in Chess (Everyman Chess, pounds 16.99) edited by John Nunn. The first edition came out in 1965 and in the spirit of the Sixties Vukovic showed a most commendable iconoclasm, subjecting analyses even by great masters to withering scrutiny. Of course, he was sometimes wrong himself - and John Nunn armed with a computer is a formidable team indeed to uncover such instances; but the principle of analysing positions for yourself is absolutely correct.

One interesting chapter deals with what he terms the "classic bishop sacrifice" and we more usually call the "Greek gift". This is one famous and critical instance.

As Vukovic pointed out, White needs not only the bishop which immolates itself, a queen en route to h5 and a knight which usually goes to g5, but also other supporting piece(s) to have a reasonable chance of success. Here there are the knight on c3 and the rooks which can come to the central files.

13... Kg6! was correct - not 13... Kg8 14 Qh5 Re8 15 Qxf7+ Kh8 16 Rad1 Bd7 17 b4 Na6 18 Rxd7 Qxd7 19 Nxe6; or 13... Kh6? 14 Nxf7+!. Black could have forced a repetition with 15... f4 16 exf4 Nf5 17 Qg4 Nh6 18 Qg3. Only 23... Ne2+? lost - 23... Rd8! still defended.

White: Jose Raoul Capablanca

Black: Lizardo Molina

Buenos Aires , 1911

Queen's Gambit Declined

1 d4 d5

2 c4 e6

3 Nc3 Nf6

4 Bg5 Nbd7

5 e3 c6

6 Nf3 Be7

7 cxd5 Nxd5

8 Bxe7 Nxe7

9 Bd3 c5

10 0-0 0-0

11 dxc5 Nxc5

12 Bxh7+?! Kxh7

13 Ng5+ Kg6!

14 Qg4 f5

15 Qg3 Kh6!?

16 Qh4+ Kg6

17 Qh7+ Kf6

18 e4 Ng6

19 exf5 exf5

20 Rad1 Nd3

21 Qh3 Ndf4

22 Qg3 Qc7

23 Rfe1 Ne2+?

24 Rxe2 Qxg3

25 Nh7+! Kf7

26 hxg3 Rh8

27 Ng5+ Kf6

28 f4 1-0