Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Think Like a Grandmother

In addition to chess, one of my pastimes has been reading detective and mystery fiction, where my tastes run to the classic writers of the genre, especially Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald (and more recently James Lee Burke). So, when I felt the need for someone to engage in lighthearted discussions in my BDG World writings, an alter ego, a foil, as it were, it was only natural that I hit upon my friend Peter Atzerpay, a no-nonsense, direct sort I envisioned, and always introduced, as a well-known private detective and strong amateur chessplayer. Peter never hesitated to set me straight, as his did in this introduction to a piece I wrote for the June July 1991 issue, BDG World 46:

My friend, Peter Atzerpay, the well-known private detective and strong amateur chessplayer, called last month immediately upon receiving his copy of BDG World 45.

"Purser," he said, "you're starting to think like a grandmother!"

Having once had two adorable grandmothers, I was inclined to take this as a compliment. But before I could thank him, he continued, "Now look at game 964," he said. "At the end you give all those fancy lines under variation a, 22...Ke6. Reminds me of my grandmother serving tea, all those little lace dollies and things. Why not just 23.Qxg6+ Kxe5 24.Re4#?".

What could I say? "You're right, Pete."  grandmother

"And variation b, after 22...Kf8, etc, etc, makes no sense either. What you probably meant was 27.Rg4+ and mate in two.”

"Right again, Pete." I could only hope my contriteness projected over the phone lines despite the AT&T breakup.

"Well, you can do better," he said. "Get rid of that little old lady thinking of yours, all that lace and cobwebs analysis. Flush out your mind, man."

And with that he was gone, off on some important new case, I imagine. But his words stung. Nothing hurts like the truth (except maybe a back-rank mate), and when I started looking through some of my games I had to admit he was right. Let me show you what I mean:

Purser,Tom (USA) - Gaberc,J (Yugoslavia)
Correspondence ICCF, 1979/80
Lemberger Countergambit

1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nxe4 Qxd4 5.Bd3 f5 6.Nf3 Qb6 7.Neg5


7...e4 [7...h6 and now what??] 8.Bc4 exf3 9.Bf7+ Ke7 10.0-0

10...h6 [Up to this point we've been following Diemer-Schoenfuss, Rastatt 1954, which went 10...Nc6 11.Re1+ Kf6 12.Bxg8 Rxg8 13.Qd5 Nd8 14.Qxd8+ Kg6 15.Qe8+ Kh6 16.Ne6+ 1-0]

11.Re1+ [11.Bxg8 also works]

11...Kf6 12.Qd8+ Ne7 13.Bb3! 


13...hxg5 White's 13th looks simple now, but I worked hard on my analysis of Black's possibilities: [See the link at the end of this game.]

14.Qe8 Nd5 [14...Qxb3 15.axb3 Nbc6 probably allows Black to put up the strongest resistance.]


15…Qxf2+ 16.Kxf2 Bc5+ 17.Kxf3 Rxe8 18.Rxe8


18...Nd7? [18...c6? 19.Rxc8 cxd5? 20.Rxc5] 19.Re6+ Kf7 20.Bxg5 Kf8 [20...Nf8 21.Rc6+ Ne6 22.Rxc5] 21.Rae1


21...Nf6? 22.R6e5? [The grandmother moment--missing the simple mate in two with 22.Rxf6+ gxf6 23.Bh6# In my defense, I was playing over 100 games at the time and had already marked this one up in the win column, so didn't give it any time (a typical grandmotherish excuse).]

22...Nxd5 23.Rxd5 Bd6 24.Bf4 b6 25.Bxd6+ cxd6 26.Kf4 Bb7 27.Rxf5+ 1-0.

To be continued…

Play through this game with additional notes and download PGN here.