Sunday, July 24, 2016

Morphy's Knight in the Corner

For me, the most amazing thing about Morphy was not how far ahead he was of other players at that time. For me, it was the phenomenal ability to play crazy tactical positions blindfold, and his brilliance at odds games. Here's a game he won when he was about 12 against his uncle, playing at odds of a rook!

The final position is quite extraordinary, with a knight on h8 delivering mate!

Of course Black could have defended better, but that is hardly the point. Building a repertoire of mating patterns is more important than building an opening repertoire for most players. Building tactical awareness  and vision is the single most important improvement factor for beginners, and even intermediate level players.

Chessbase 13 allows a search of similar moves, and the unusual Ng6xh8 is certainly a move worth checking out. The database search brought up 751 games where the move Ng6xh8 has been played, of which white scores over 70%. One game that isn't in the database is Potter-Matthews London 1858.

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 [The Danish Gambit] 3..c5 4.Nf3 d6 5.Bc4 Nc6

So the first thing to consider if you really want to get a Ng6xh8 manouvre in, is that fast development is the key to early attacks. Morphy knew this as well as anyone. Open lines help as well! 6.0-0 d3 7.Re1 Bg4

Black's play has been too slow, too many pawn moves. If the centre was open, then black's king would be in the firing line. 8.e5 Nxe5? [one pawn grab too many]

9.Nxe5!! An excellent queen sacrifice 9..Bxd1

Now there's a discovered check on the e-file crying out to be played, but Potter wants more, he wants it to be a double check. 10.Bb5+ Ke7 11.Bg5+! A fantastic check skewering black's queen.

11..f6 Not the best defence, but black was lost whatever he did, so he might as well block the check and hold on to his queen. Anyway, it lets us see another Nxh8# move!!

Now it's mate in 2 starting with the double check 12.Ng6+ Kf7 13.Nxh8#

A very similar position has arisen to the Morphy-Le Carpentier game!

And for those of you who think these things are a bygone relic of the 1800's, here's a game from the 2000's. Now it won't be Grand Masters playing this sort of chess anymore, but then again, the majority of players reading this blog won't be Grand Masters. And even the GM's will have a chance to play this sort of thing during their simuls. So look at these games, add the pattern to your repertoire, and most importantly, don't let these things happen to you.

In this position white has sacrificed a piece, but now has mate in 2 starting with the double check 1.Ng6+ and then 1..Kxf7 2.Nxh8#

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