Games: Chess

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The Independent Online
The annual championships of the Johannes Zukertort Memorial Home for Disturbed Grandmasters in Vienna are always looked forward to by all admirers of true art in chess. For the residents, sated by a lifetime of successful competitive endeavour, while away their final years in pursuit not of more empty victories, but only in search of beauty.

This year was adjudged one of their most successful events ever, with every game ending in a perfect draw. As the satisfied combatants said, there were no winners other than the game itself.

The diagram position is an excellent example of the artistry shown in the games.

When I saw the pieces on the board as shown, with Black to play, I felt certain that the perfect record of draws was about to end. Any move of the bishop on c8 delivers checkmate. I left the room to buy a cup of tea, and when I returned the pieces had been put away.

"Is the game over?" I asked one of the arbiters.

"Yes," he replied. "Draw."

He could see I was flabbergasted, so added: "By stalemate."

"Oh, I said. "You mean Black missed the mate and instead managed to stalemate White."

"No," he replied calmly, "it was White who stalemated Black."

I reset the pieces in the diagram position from memory and confirmed that we were indeed talking about the same game.

"Yes," said the arbiter, "it was Black's move here, and White delivered stalemate 34 moves later." Then he went away and left me to work it out.

You might like to see if you can do so too.

What, given up already? Okay, here's the answer.

For the first 25 moves, White plays Kb8 and Ka8 while Black plays 1.f3, 2.f2, 3.f1=B, 4.Bd3, 5.Bb1, 6.Ba2, 7.Qb1, 8.f5, 9.f4, 10.f3, 11.f2, 12.f1=B, 13.Rf2, 14.Kf7, 15.Ke6, 16.Kd5, 17.Kc4, 18.Kc3, 19.Kb2, 20.Ka1, 21.Rb2, 22.Rff2, 23.Bf5, 24.Bc2, 25.d3. Play now continues: 26.Kb8 Be3 27.Kc7 e5 28.Kxd6 Bc1 29.Ke6 Rd2 30.Kf5 e4 31.Kg4 Be2+ 32.Kxh3 e3 33.Kg2 Bd1+ 34.Kf1 e2+ 35.Ke1 - White's 34th move from the diagram and Black is stalemated.

(Composed by Zdravko Maslar in 1958.)