Chess

The late Hugh Alexander once told me of a game in which he allowed Alexander Alekhine, then the world champion, to mate him. Facing the choice of suffering ruinous loss of material or being mated next move, Hugh's initial instinct was to resign but then he thought: "No, after he has played so well, it would be churlish to deny him the pleasure of delivering mate." So Alexander, never less than a complete gentleman, played the move that allowed mate.

A look of horror then came over Alekhine's face. His reasoning had been: "He can't go there, because I mate him." When he did go there, Alekhine was struck with an "Oh no! I thought he couldn't do that" panic reaction. Then he composed himself, smiled, and played the mating move.

None of which explains the end of the Anand-Vaganyan game in Riga a few days ago. Finding himself under increasing pressure, Vaganyan made a horrible mistake with 20...f5, totally missing 21.Ne5! But what was he thinking when he took the bishop? There are five possibilities:

a) He thought Anand had blundered a piece away;

b) He thought it was a sacrifice, but missed 22.Qxf7 mate;

c) He was so disgusted he felt he deserved to be mated;

d) He picked up the wrong man;

e) He was being a gentleman.

a, b and e are unbelievable; d is ruled out because he would still have had time to resign before Qxf7. So c must be correct, unless someone knows better.

White: V. Anand

Black: R. Vaganyan

1 e4 e6 12 c4 Bd7

2 d4 d5 13 c5 Qc7

3 Nc3 dxe4 14 Rfd1 h5

4 Nxe4 Nd7 15 Nd2 Rd8

5 Nf3 Ngf6 16 Nc4 Bc8

6 Bd3 Nxe4 17 Qe3 b5

7 Bxe4 Nf6 18 cxb6 axb6

8 Bg5 Be7 19 Rac1 Bb7

9 Bxf6 gxf6 20 Qf3 f5

10 Qe2 c6 21 Ne5 fxe4

11 0-0 Qb6 22 Qxf7 mate

Final scores in Riga: Kasparov 71/2; Anand 7; Ivanchuk 61/2; Kramnik and Short 6; Gulko 5; Yusupov 41/2; Ehlvest 31/2; Kengis, Timman and Vaganyan 3.

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