- Desperado (chess)
In chess, a desperado piece is a piece that seems determined to give itself up, typically either (1) to sell itself as dearly as possible in a situation where both sides have hanging pieces or (2) to bring about stalemate if it is captured (or in some instances, to force a draw by threefold repetition if it is not captured) (Hooper & Whyld 1992:106–7). Andrew Soltis describes the former type of desperado as "a tactical resource in which you use your doomed piece to eat as much material as possible before it dies" (Soltis 1975:246). Desperado pieces are often knights, perhaps because their ability to hop over other pieces makes them able to survive longer.
- 1 Examples of the first definition
- 2 Examples of the second definition
- 3 Related articles
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
Examples of the first definition
Petrosian versus FischerPetrosian-Fischer 1958
A simple example of the first definition comes from a 1958 game between future World Champions Tigran Petrosian and Bobby Fischer. In this position, White had just moved his knight from the f3 square to capture a pawn on e5. The white knight can be captured, but the move also opened a discovered attack on the black knight on h5. If Black captures the knight he will lose his knight and be a pawn down. Black must sacrifice the knight for material to avoid becoming a pawn down.
- 12... Nxg3
- 13. hxg3 Bxe5 (Fischer said that 13... dxe5 would have been better) (Fischer 2008:24–25).
Bogolyubov versus SchmidBogolyubov–Schmid, West German Championship 1949
A classic example of the first definition is Bogolyubov–Schmid, West German championship, Bad Pyrmont 1949. In the position at right, Schmid played the surprising novelty 5...Nxe4!?, with the point that 6.Nxe4 would be met by 6...Qe7 7.f3 d5, and Black will regain the sacrificed piece. According to the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, White can then gain a small advantage with 8.Bb5 Bd7 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.0-0 dxe4 11.fxe4! g6 (or 11...0-0-0 12.Qf3) 12.Qf3 Bg7 13.c3 0-0 14.Bf4 c5 15.Nb3 Bc6 16.Qg3! Tartakower and DuMont recommend 7.Nb5 (instead of 7.f3) Qxe4+ 8.Be2 Kd8 9.0-0 "with compensations for the mislaid pawn." (Tartakower & du Mont 1975:39–40). Instead, play continued 6.Nxc6 Nxc3! initiating a sequence of desperado moves, where each player keeps capturing with his knight, rather than pausing to capture the opponent's knight. Black cannot pause for 6...bxc6?? 7.Nxe4 Qe7 8.Qe2, leaving White a piece up with a winning position. 7.Nxd8! White must also continue in desperado fashion, since 7.bxc3? bxc6 would leave Black a pawn up. Nxd1 Again the desperado move is forced, since 7...Kxd8?? 8.bxc3 would leave Black a queen down. 8.Nxf7 Since 8.Kxd1 Kxd8 would leave White a pawn down, the knight continues capturing. Nxf2 Still continuing in desperado fashion, in preference to 8...Kxf7 9.Kxd1 with material equality. 9.Nxh8 Nxh1. Between them, the desperado knights have captured thus far two queens, two rooks, two knights, and three pawns. The complete score of the game is below:
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Nxe4!? 6.Nxc6 Nxc3 7.Nxd8 Nxd1 8.Nxf7 Nxf2 9.Nxh8 Nxh1 10.Bd3 Bc5 11.Bxh7 Nf2 12.Bf4 d6 13.Bg6+ Kf8 14.Bg3 Ng4 15.Nf7? Better is 15.Bd3 followed by Ng6+ "with a probable draw" (Tartakower & du Mont 1975:39–40). Ne3 16.Kd2 Bf5! 17.Ng5 Desperation. 17.Bxf5 Nxf5 18.Ng5 Be3+ wins. Bxg6 18.Ne6+ Ke7 19.Nxc5 Nxc2! The desperado knight strikes again, this time with deadly effect. Not 19...dxc5? 20.Kxe3 with equality. 20.Bh4+ Ke8 21.Ne6 Kd7 22.Nf4 Nxa1 23.Nxg6 Re8 24.Bf2 Nc2! 25.Nf4 If 25.Kxc2, Re2+ followed by ...Rxf2 wins. Nb4 The knight departs, having captured in its 13 moves White's queen, both rooks, a knight and three pawns. Its White counterpart captured the queen, a rook, both bishops, a knight, and two pawns in its 14 moves. 0-1
Tal versus KeresTal–Keres, Candidates Tournament 1962
Another example of this type of desperado is Tal-Keres, Candidates Tournament, Curaçao 1962 (see diagram at left). Seeing that White's knight on d4 is unprotected, Keres offered to simplify the position with 18...Nd3!, when 19.Bxd3 Bxd4 20.Rb1? would allow 20...Qf6! forking White's b and f-pawns. Instead, Tal went in for complications with 19.Nc6? Nxf2!, when either 20.Kxf2 Qb6+ or 20.Nxd8 Nxd1 21.Nxf7 Nxb2 22.Nxd6 Nc4! 23.Nxc4 Bxa1 would leave with a material advantage. Tal tried 20.Qf3? Nxh3+! 21.Kh2 If White captures the knight, 21...Qb6+ regains the piece and leaves Black with a won game. 21...Be5+! 22.Nxe5 dxe5 23.Rad1 If 23.gxh3, Qxd2. 23...Nf4! Now 24.Bxf4 is met by 24...Qh4+. Black won (Soltis 1975:247–48).
Examples of the second definition
Pilnick versus ReshevskyPilnick-Reshevsky, US Championship, 1942
One of the best known examples of sacrificing a desperado piece to achieve stalemate is the game between Carl Pilnick and Sammy Reshevsky, U.S. Championship 1942 (see diagram at right). After 1... g4?? 2. Qf2! the white queen is a desperado piece: Black will lose if he doesn't capture it, but its capture results in stalemate.
Evans versus ReshevskyEvans-Reshevsky, 1963
Another of the best-known examples involves a swindle in a game by Larry Evans versus Reshevsky.  Evans sacrificed his queen on move 49 and offered his rook on move 50. White's rook has been called the eternal rook. Capturing it results in stalemate, but otherwise it stays on the seventh rank and checks Black's king ad infinitum. Either a draw by agreement will occur or a draw by threefold repetition or the fifty-move rule can eventually be claimed (Averbakh 1996:80–81), (Evans 1970:15).
- 47. h4! Re2+
- 48. Kh1 Qxg3??
- 49. Qg8+! Kxg8
- 50. Rxg7+
Reshevsky versus GellerReshevsky-Geller, Zürich 1953
Reshevsky also fell into a stalemating trap against Efim Geller in the 1953 Candidates Tournament. In the diagram at right, after 53... Rf3+!, 54. Kxf3 would be stalemate. If 54.Kg2, then 54... Rxg3+!, winning a crucial pawn; again, White couldn't take the rook without resulting in stalemate. The game continued 54.Ke2 Rxg3 55.Rxf5+ Kxh4 and the players agreed to a draw a few moves later. In light of these three games, the Russian analyst Verkhovsky observed that Reshevsky apparently suffered from stalemate blindness every 11 years.
Keres versus FischerKeres-Fischer, 1962
Another famous game saved by the possibility of stalemate is Keres-Fischer, Curacao 1962, although Fischer avoided the stalemating lines and allowed Keres to draw by perpetual check instead. In the position shown on the left, Keres played the centralizing 72. Qe5!! Fischer commented:
What's this? He makes no attempt to stop me from queening!? Gradually my excitement subsided. The more I studied the situation, the more I realized that Black had no win.Keres-Fischer
Now if 72. ... g1(Q), 73. Bf5+ Kg8 (73. ... Kh6?? 74.Qh8#) 74.Qe8+ Kg7 75. Qe7+ Kg8 (75...Kh8?? 76.Qh7#) 76.Qe8+ draws by repetition; if 72. ... Qf2+, 73.Kh3 g1(Q) 74.Bf5+ Kh6 75. Qf6+ Kh5 76. Bg6+! Qxg6 77. Qg5+!! and either capture is stalemate. The game continued 72... Qh1+ 73. Bh3. Now if 73... g1=Q, 74. Qh5+ Kg7 75. Qg6+! and either capture of the queen results in stalemate (see the diagram on the right) – otherwise the white queen keeps checking the black king: 75...Kh8 76. Qh6+ Kg8 77. Qg6+! Kf8 78. Qf6+ Ke8 79. Qe6+, and Black must repeat moves with 79...Kf8, since 79...Kd8?? runs into 80.Qd7# (Fischer 2008:233). The game continued 73... Qxh3 74. Kxh3 g1Q 75. Qe7+ Kh8 76. Qf8+ Kh7 77. Qf7+ ½-½ (van Perlo 2006:127).
Tilberger versus DrelikiewiczTilberger-Drelikiewicz, Poland 1970
Sometimes it is possible for the inferior side to sacrifice two or three pieces in rapid succession to achieve a stalemate. An example is seen in the diagram at left. Black saved the draw with 1...h3+! 2.Kxh3 Qf5+! 3.Qxf5 not 3.Kg2? Qxd7 Rxg3+! 4.Kh4 Rg4+!
Korchnoi versus VaganianKorchnoi-Vaganian, 1989
In Korchnoi-Vaganian, Skellefteå 1989 , a similar three-piece sacrifice might have enabled Vaganian to save the game. From the position at left, Vaganian played 35...Qxc2+? 36.Kh3 Qa4 37.Kh4. Jacob Aagaard notes that now "White had a winning endgame, which Korchnoi indeed won." Aagaard instead recommends 35...b6!!, when the natural 36.Qxc6 would be met by 36...Ne3+! 37.Rxe3 Qf1+! (diagram at right) 38.Kxf1 stalemate (Aagaard 2004:28).Korchnoi-Vaganian
Korn versus PitschakKorn-Pitschak, 1936
In Korn-Pitschak, Brno 1936, White's desperado queen and rook saved the draw despite White's apparently mobile e-pawns. After 1...dxe2!, Black appeared to be winning in light of 2.Qxd4 exf1(Q)+ or 2.Qxe2 Qh4+ 3.Kg1 Qh2#. Instead, Korn played 2.Rf8+! Kxf8 3.Qf5+ Ke8 2...Kg8? 3.Qf7+ Kh8 4.Qf8# 4.Qf7+ Kd8 5.Qf8+! Ne8 6.Qe7+! Now 6...Kxe7 is stalemate, while 6...Kc8 7.Qb7+! Kd8 8.Qe7+! repeats the position (Korn 1966:16) (Pachman 1973:17–18).Korn-Pitschak, 1936
Hegde versus PalatnikHegde-Palatnik, 1988
This endgame position is from a game between Ravi Gopal Hegde and Semon Palatnik, Calicut 1988. The position appeared in the endgame section of Chess Informant 45. Black resigned in this position, but he has an easy draw:
- 1... Bg7!
- 2. Rh4 Bd4! (threatening 3...Bxa7), etc. (Dvoretsky 2006:237). Capturing the bishop results in stalemate, otherwise the bishop keeps the rook from checking on the eighth rank.
Vasilevich versus KosteniukVasilevich-Kosteniuk, 2000
Now the game ended with 56. Qg4+!. If Black captures the queen, it will be stalemate. If Black instead plays 56... Kh6, 57. Qg6+! forces Black to capture the queen. 55... Qc3+ followed by 56... Nf3 would have allowed Black to keep her decisive advantage.
- Chess terminology
- Swindle (chess)
- Aagaard, Jacob (2004), Excelling at Chess Calculation, Gloucester Publishers, ISBN 978-1-85744-360-8
- Averbakh, Yuri (1996), Chess Middlegames: Essential Knowledge, Cadogan, ISBN 1-85744-125-7
- Dvoretsky, Mark (2006), Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual (second ed.), Russell Enterprises, ISBN 1-888690-28-3
- Evans, Larry (1970), Modern Chess Brilliancies, Fireside, ISBN 0-671-22420-4
- Fischer, Bobby (2008) , My 60 Memorable Games, Batsford, ISBN 978-1-906388-30-0
- Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1992), The Oxford Companion to Chess (second ed.), Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-866164-9
- Korn, Walter (1966), The Brilliant Touch in Chess, Dover Publications
- Pachman, Ludek (1973), Attack and Defense in Modern Chess Tactics, David McKay
- Šahovski Informator, Belgrade. Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, Vol. C (1997), at 271 n.26.
- Tartakower, Savielly; du Mont, Julius (1975), 100 Master Games of Modern Chess, Dover Publications
- Soltis, Andrew (1975), The Art of Defense in Chess, David McKay, ISBN 0-679-13043-8
- van Perlo, Gerardus C. (2006), Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics, New In Chess, ISBN 978-90-5691-168-3
- McDonald, Neil (1996), Practical Endgame Play, Cadogan, ISBN 1-85744-176-1 Another example of a desperado piece from Pein-de Firmian, Bermuda 1995, is on page 35. The game may be played over online here.
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