A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Saturday, 31 October 2015

An Operatic Miniature

A large part of being good at chess is pattern recognition: seeing that the position in front of you is similar to one you've seen before, and is therefore likely to reward the same principles. I had a recent example of this in a cute little game which rather neatly resembled the famous Opera House Game.

The Opera House Game was a game played in 1858 between Paul Morphy, an American would-be lawyer and likely the greatest player of his generation, and a pair of European aristocrats who compelled him to play them while he was trying to enjoy a performance of Norma.

As a brief run-though of the Opera House Game: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Bg4 4. dxe5 Bxf3 5. Qxf3 dxe5 6.Bc4
White has got two pieces out while Black has none, and already threats are appearing on the board.
6... Nf6 7. Qb3 Qe7
White could actually win two pawns here, via 8. Bxf7+ Kd8 (8...Qxf7? 9. Qxb7) 9. Qxb7 Qb4+, but the queens come off and Morphy opts to just continue getting his pieces out.
8. Nc3 c6 9. Bg5 b5?
White has four pieces out and his rooks will arrive very shortly; Black has two pieces developed, one of which is pinned against the other. He also faces a real struggle to get pieces active, with both the c6 and e7 square occupied.
10. Nxb5! cxb5 11. Bxb5+ Nbd7 12. 0-0-0 Rd8
Black has very little space, with his king trapped in the centre and few of his pieces doing anything much. White now crashes through with a temporary exchange sacrifice:
13. Rxd7! Rxd7 14. Rd1
When attacking in chess, sacrificing one rook then bringing the other into its place is a classic maneuvre.
14... Qe6 15. Bxd7+ Nxd7
All is now set for the final flourish:
16. Qb8+! Nxb8 17. Rd8#
And White delivers mate with his last two remaining pieces.

My game does not have quite so nice an ending - largely because my opponent resigned when he saw what was coming - but is still rather nice.

loserforsale - nachtfalter, Chess.com, 10th October 2015
10 mins/game

1. d4 e5 2. dxe5 Nc6 3. Nf3 Qe7 4. e4 Nxe5 5. Nc3 Nxf3+ 6. Qxf3 Nf6 7. Bg5
You may already recognise some of the same patterns here. My plan as white is to castle and then to pay Nd5, which brings massive power to bear on f6 to win a pawn and prevent black from ever castling.
7...d6 8. 0-0-0 Be6??
This removes the queen's coverage of e5, which makes White's attack much easier.
9. e5 dxe5 10. Bxb7 Rd8 11. Bb5+ Bd7
Based upon the Opera House Game, can you guess what's coming?
12. Rxd7 Rxd7 13. Rd1
At this point my opponent resigned, though mate would likely have followed within five moves, e.g. 13...h6 14. Rxd7 Qxd7 15. Qc8+ Ke7 16. Qxd7#

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