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January 22, 2004
Both chess books I had as a child contained a full introductory chapter with miniatures. I never appreciated the educative value of short games (if anybody has an idea, please, let me know) but recently I found an important historical reference. As Garry Kasparov mentions in the very first page of the first chapter of his book "My great predecessors"(Everyman Chess 2003): ?A manuscript of the legendary representative of the ?Italian School? Gioacchino Greco (1600-1634) is full of miniatures resembling those that occur with all novices.?
Searching the HCL database with 2003 games I found that there are 10 games with checkmate in only 5 moves. However, a private game holds the absolute record as it ended with checkmate in only three moves:
I am not going to mention any name here except for footyhead who has a unique record: He played the same game against two different opponents scoring the point:
It is amazing that he did it twice! Here is a second pair of footyhead's games against two different opponents:
Both (pairs of) games are almost identical. The lesson we learn, is always to study our opponents? games when enrolling in a new tournament. footyhead must follow this instruction too, because he also holds the negative record: He has played 3 games against cantilever and lost all of them in 9 moves with an identical move order!!
Very short games happen even between GMs as the following examples show. One player resigns after realizing a decisive blunder in an early phase of the game.
Lautier,J (2596) - Bologan,V (2608) [B10]
1.c4 c6 2.e4 d5 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nbd7 6.Nf3 a6 7.d4 Nb6 8.Ne5 Nbxd5 ?? 9.Qa4+ Bd7 10.Nxd7 1-0
Here is another game. This time White resigns.
Lutz,C (2590) - Dautov,R (2595) [B12]
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 e6 5.Be3 Nh6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.c3 Nf5 8.Bf4 Bxc5 9.Bd3 Nh4 10.Nbd2?? Nxg2+ 0-1
Games from PlayChess database
One may say that a miniature game is a very compact example of a big chess battle including all phases of a game (opening, middle game, endgame). This is not so. A miniature is actually a game that never escapes the opening phase. One side either blunders or underdevelops, offering the chance to the opponent to attack with all of his forces. The following example shows exactly that. White is under pressure and commits a blunder.
Three minor pieces attack White's Kingside; the position is crucial. White decides to take the d5 Knight, the safest option since Black cannot take the Bishop (or can he?) 7.h3 or 7.f3 would be much better moves, though White must play very carefully to balance the game. 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nxd5 A beautiful Queen sacrifice and mate in 2 follows: 8... Nf3+ 9.Kf1 Bh3+ 0-1
Most miniatures have something in common. The checkmate is achieved by the Queen (f7 square for White, f2 for Black) with the support of a Bishop (c4 or d5 for White, c5 or d4 for Black) or a Knight(e5/e4). Here is a typical example.
Last move was a mistake. A move like 7...c6 or 7...h5 or even 7...Rg8 would be much better in order to improve Black's defense. As you can see White's attack is tremendous: 8.Bxd7+ Nxd7 9.Qh5+ g6 10.fxg6 Bg7 Development? What for? The end is near. A move like 10...Nf6 can only delay the end. White mates in 2: 11.gxh7+ Kf8 12.Qf7+ 1-0
Finally there are games that the blunder comes surprisingly. One side, White in the following example, gives the opportunity to his opponent to achieve a quick mate. One must always double check next move especially when hostile pieces have crossed the border.
December 19, 2003
Hello Playchess pals.
I have created a big database with all HCL games played in this site, and I intend to report regularly on many chess related topics, based on the completed games from this site. In order to experiment with this absolutely new for me task, I decided to start with the quite entertaining conclusion of a game of chess: The stalemate.
During 2003 in Human Chess League 16 games ended with stalemate. I am going to present you 4 cases.
Most endgame studies with a few pieces on the board advice to double check carefully our next move in order to avoid a stalemate. The defending King is usually near the border and an attacking Rook or Queen guards all escaping squares. Most stalemates just happen in such a position after a careless move. The first example is characteristic.
Can you find a mate in 2?
What a pity, because after 54.h8R Black has only one available move: 54.Ka1 and 55.Rh1#.
Black blunders his 46th move. He should have played 46.f4. After 47.Ke4 Ke6 48.Kd4 Kd6 39.Ke4 Kc5 has managed to advance his King to the 5th rank leaving White with a doubt which is the best way to delay checkmate.
Yet, he played 46... fxg4+. After 47.Kxg4 the game is drawn. However, White presents an excellent technique to achieve this target. After 47... Kg6 his retreats without leaving g-file 48.Kg3 and after 48... Kf5 he takes the opposition with 49.Kf3.
Any other move is bad for White. Black advances the pawn 49... g4+ and an identical cycle of moves repeat: 50.Kg3 Kg5 51.Kg2 Kf4 52.Kf2.
The cycle repeats once again: 52... g3+ 53.Kg2 Kg4 54.Kg1 Kf3 55.Kf1. Black advances the pawn 55... g2+ 56.Kg1.
Black has two choices. He either abandons pawn protection or plays 56... Kg3 stalemate, offering me the chance to remind you of basic pawn endgame positions.
Black has just one move available: b7-b6. In any other case 37.R1d7 would be considered as an exemplary pin, reducing the mobility of the opponent. But the position requires a different way of thinking. Considering the zugzwang, White should search for a move that mates the opponent after he plays b7-b6. If no such move can be found, he must allow Black's next move by removing the Queen or the Rook from the 6th and 8th rank respectively. Yet, the mating move exists: Qg6-h7. So, a waiting move is necessary: 37.e4 or 37.g5 or 37.h5 have the same result 37...b6 38.Qh7#.
Black has a huge material advantage. Notice that White can move only one piece: his Queen. He sets a beautiful trap by playing 52.Qe5. Black decides to take the Queen for free and dominate the board after 52... Rxe5. Alas! The game is over: Stalemate.
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