Raymond Keene

Rice gambit

Rice gambit
Text settings

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.