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SANDS: Tweeters all thumbs in friendly world chess match
They’re allowed 140 characters, but Team Twitter lasted only 22 moves. As part of the opening ceremonies for the London Chess Classic last week, the nine English and international grandmasters in the field took on the world in a friendly game via Twitter, with fans around the world tweeting in their preferred moves.
So much for the vaunted wisdom of crowds - the collaborating grandmasters (who included a world champion and the world’s No. 1 ranked player on their squad) punished an ill-advised pawn grab on Move 5(!) to score an easy win, even after missing a spectacular sacrificial combination themselves.
White’s 5. Bxh5?! gxh5 6. Qxh5 isn’t exactly wrong, but Black will get a strong attack, a big lead in development and a lasting initiative for his lost pawn. The half-open g-file in front of White’s king only increases the first player’s defensive burden.
Black even recovers his pawn after 10. Nxd4 Qxd4, as 11. Qxh7? Rxg2 12. Rf1 Qe5+ 13. Kd2 Bg4 is just winning. Still, after 13. Nc3!? (the more modest 13. c3 Bg4 14. Nd2 Qe2 15. Qd5 c6 16. Qe4 was worth a look) Bxc3 14. bxc3 Bd7 15. Ba3, Team Twitter has managed to generate an actual threat along the e-file; unfortunately, Black’s threats hit home first.
Thus: 15. … Bc6 16. f3 Qe3+ 17. Kg2 0-0-0 18. Rae1? (those itchy Twitter thumbs can’t resist this too-obvious move; much better was 18. Bc5 Qxc3 19. Bxe7 Rd2+ 20. Kh1) Qxc3? (and now it’s the nonet of grandmasters who overlook a shot, with the stunning 18. … Rxg3+!! 19. hxg3 [Kxg3 Rg8+ 20. Kh3 Bd7+ 21. Kh4 Qf4+] Rd2+ 20. Kh1 Bxf3+!! 21. Qxf3 [Rxf3 Qxe1+] Qh6+ 22. Kg1 Qh2 mate!; luckily, Black’s advantage is huge even with the oversight) 19. Bxe7 Rd2+, and Black’s pieces are hovering around the White king.
One last thumb-slip from the tweeters sends White over the edge: 20. Kh1? (mandatory was 20. Rf2 Qxc2 21. Rfe1 f5 22. Rxd2 Qxd2+ 23. Rf2 Qd7, and White has some survival chances because of the opposite-color bishops) Rf2! (a nice interference shot found by Norwegian star Magnus Carlsen, setting up the deadly threat of 21. … Bxf3+) 21. Rxf2 Qxe1+ 22. Kg2 Qxe7, and with White piece down with no compensation, the moderator decided it was time for #resigns.
Through two rounds of real over-the-board chess in London, Carlsen is one of three players tied for first at 1 1/2- 1/2. American star Hikaru Nakamura, who had a rough time at last month’s super-elite event in Moscow, has started well with a nice second-round win over strong Armenian GM Levon Aronian.
Chess by committee has a long and respectable history, including cable matches between clubs in the early 19th century and consultation games where teams of players debate and decide moves as a group. One of the game’s first true brilliancies was a consultation game - Paul Morphy’s offhand sacrificial masterpiece played against two French noblemen at a Paris opera house during his triumphal European tour.
Chess historian Edward Winter (whose archival diggings apparently have proved that every colorful chess story is apocryphal and every memorable chess quote is misattributed) has cast severe doubts on the provenance of today’s second game, allegedly a consultation match pairing then-reigning world champion Emanuel Lasker and Polish-French master David Janowski with two lesser lights in a friendly match in Paris in 1909. The fact that Lasker - who had a lopsided 27-4 career edge over Janowski - and his partner succumb so easily and spectacularly only enhances the suspicion.
Still, the play here is so entertaining that it would be a shame to ask too many questions. Out of a hyper-Romantic Danish Gambit, Janowski & Co. are already three pawns down when the fun starts in earnest: 14. Qh5 c6 15. Nc7! (better than 15. Ne7+?! Kh8 16. Bxf7 Qh6 17. Qf5 Na6 18. Re3 d5 19. Nxc8 Raxc8 20. Rh3 g6 21. Qxc8 Qg7 22. Rxh7+ Kxh7 23. Qh3+ Qh6) g6 (whoever was playing Black was not likely to fall for 15. … Qxc7? 16. Qxf7+! Rxf7 17. Re8 mate!) 16. Qh6 Qxc7 (see diagram). The in-between pawn move seems to have disrupted White’s combination, but things are just getting started.
There followed 17. Bxf7+!! Kxf7 (Rxf7 18. Re8+ Rf8 19. Rxf8 mate) 18. Qxh7+ Kf6 19. Qh4+ (Qe7+ wins more prosaically) Kg7 20. Re7+ Rf7 21. Qd4+ Kf8 (Kg8 22. Re8+ Rf8 [Kh7 23. Rh8 mate] 23. Rxf8+ Kxf8 24. Qf6+ Kg8 25. Re1, and there’s no defense to 26. Re8+) 22. Qh8+! Kxe7 23. Re1+ Kd6 (Qe5 24. Qxe5+ Kd8 25. Qe8+ Kc7 26. Qxf7) 24. Qe5 mate. Black’s entire queenside remained a spectator for the whole game.
Twitter-Grandmasters, London Chess Classic, December 2011
1. e4 g6 2. d4 Nf6 3. e5 Nh5 4. Be2 d6 5. Bxh5 gxh5 6. Qxh5 dxe5 7. Qxe5 Rg8 8. Nf3 Nc6 9. Qh5 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Qxd4 11. 0–0 Qe4 12. g3 Bg7 13. Nc3 Bxc3 14. bxc3 Bd7 15. Ba3 Bc6 16. f3 Qe3+ 17. Kg2 0–0–0 18. Rae1 Qxc3 19. Bxe7 Rd2+ 20. Kh1 Rf2 21. Qf5+ Kb8 22. Rxf2 Qxe1+ 23. Kg2 Qxe7 0–1.
Janowski/Soldatenkov-Lasker/Tabenhaus, Paris, 1909
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About the Author
Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.
At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...
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