Beware of silly checks

rare_sprongenThe Dutch have a saying ‘Een kat in het nauw maakt rare sprongen’. Roughly translated into English it might be something like ‘a cat in distress jumps in curious ways’. Maybe sometimes your opponent is like that cat in distress. Or it might be even you? 

For sure you have been in situations where you were totally lost, but couldn’t resist to give one last check before resigning the game? Of course! It happened several times to me. Mostly these checks are completely harmless. But sometimes there is a bit more to it.

I can’t remember the exact position, but it was something like this (see the diagram below).

The scene of my crime was a rapid game. Somewhere early in the game I had blundered the exchange. My position was quite hopeless. So I decided to go out with a bang and played 1. Bxf7+.

I hoped my opponent would play 1…Rxf7?? After which he will be mated: 2. Rd8+ Rf8 3. Qb3+ Kh8 4. Rxf8#. My opponent didn’t even wink with his eyes and played instantly 1…Kxf7.

Strange, it doesn’t look completely natural to capture the bishop with the king. But it is of course winning. I resigned and asked him ‘Did you see what happens after 1…Rxf7?’ He hadn’t. But does it matter? He had a great intuition and did not fall for such a cheap trap.

Falling for these kind of traps can happen to the best of us. What did I just say? It can happen to the very best of us. See the diagram below.

World champion Lasker played with the white pieces against Loman in a simultaneous exhibition (London 1910). The champ had sacrificed his rook on f8. Black is clearly lost because he can’t stop white’s h-pawn from promoting. Or can he?

Loman played 37…Rc3+ Lasker didn’t give this silly move much thought and played almost instantly 38. Kg4?? Winning was 38. Kf2. The next time Lasker came to the board, black played another, seemingly, useless check 38…Rc4+. Again Lasker replied very quickly 39. Kg5. 

When he made his next round he saw to his horror that black had played 39…Rh4!! Suddenly things look a bit different now. Lasker accepted his fate like a gentleman with 40. Kxh4 and resigned after 40…g5+! Now black can capture the pawn on h7 and it is all over. By the way, other king moves like 2. Kh3, 2 Kh5, 2. Kg3 or 2. Kf3 would also lose after 2…Rh4.

Lesson to be learned: allways be a bit suspicious when your opponent gives useless checks.

TheJoysofChessI found the Lasker fragment in The Joys of Chess (Christian Hesse) – Vengeful chess: the spite check

Publisher: New In Chess, 2011
Edition: Paperback medium
ISBN: 978-90-5691-355-7
Pages: 432
Language: English

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