The recent successful revival of the musical Chess, by Sir Tim Rice and the men of Abba, featured some genuine extracts from play in the staged re-enactments of decisive games. One of the most impressive — and most easy to identify even from a distance without opera glasses — was Bobby Fischer’s infamous and very loud rook swoop against grandmaster Pal Benko, who has just celebrated his 90th birthday.
Fischer-Benko; US Championship, New York 1963 (diagram 1) White has a powerful attack but his problem is that the natural 19 e5 is met comfortably by 19 … f5, when Black has no problems. Fischer’s solution is startling. 19 Rf6! Fischer famously described this as ‘rolling a boulder in front of the f-pawn’. 19 … Bxf6 20 e5 forces mate as the … f5 defence has been removed. 19 … Kg8 20 e5 h6 21 Ne2 Black resigns Black’s major problem is that if the knight on d6 moves then Qf5 in reply will force mate.
Curiously, I had fallen victim to a similarly violent ploy, even before the Fischer thunderbolt.
Sugden-Keene; Dulwich 1963 (diagram 2)
23 Rf6! Played to cut off the protection by the black queen of the h6-square. 23 … exf6 24 Bh6 c4+ 25 Kh1 Bg4 26 Rxg4! Rfc8 27 Rxg7+ Kf8 Now White forces mate with a neat combination. 28 Rxf7+ Kxf7 29 e6+ Ke7 30 Nf5+ Kd8 31 Qg8+ Kc7 32 Qf7+ Black resigns 32 … Kd8 33 Qd7 is mate.
To round off the trilogy here is an equally pyrotechnic example by International Master Byron Jacobs.
Byron Jacobs-‘Nostradamus’, Online Blitz Game 2011 (diagram 3) White is attacking with the major pieces but, given time, Black will defend with … Qe7 and … f6. 25 Rf6! Now 25 … gxf6 26 Qxh6 is mate and meanwhile White threatens to capture on h6. 25 … Qf8 26 Rxg7! Black resigns Black has three possible recaptures but all lead to mate.
On Sunday, the British Championship finishes in Hull. There will be a full round-up next week.