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Checkmate!

Lately I’ve been trying the occasional game of chess against the computer at a website I found at Chess.com, but I’m badly out of practice at the game, so it’s been frustrating — the lowest skill setting poses no challenge at all, but the next one up — called “Easy” — has been embarrassingly unbeatable. But I just managed to make some lucky moves or something, and managed not only to win a game at last, but to win it in 13 moves without losing a single piece — and without taking anything but one pawn! The whole thing was just maneuvering pieces around to threaten or hem in the opposing (black) king and to counter potentially threatening moves by black, until finally I had the king backed into a corner and just needed to figure out the right way to finish it off.

Okay, admittedly, I undid a couple of moves here and there when I realized I hadn’t made the best choice. Since I was playing a computer, I could do that without penalty. But even so, it’s the first time I’ve managed to remember some of what little I used to know about chess strategy, so I’ll take it. I think what made the difference is that I pulled back from the aggressive, capture-what-you-can playing style I’ve been using and focused more on strategy and positioning my pieces to threaten the king. Usually I try to wear down the opponent’s forces so I’ll have a clearer shot at the king, but generally end up sacrificing too many of my own in the process. Focusing more on the ultimate goal helped a lot, and there’s a lesson there.

Here’s the whole game in the site’s chess notation, in the format (white move, black move):

  1. e3, d5
  2. Bb5+, c6
  3. Qe2, Kd7
  4. Nc3, Kd6
  5. e4, Bd7
  6. e5+, Ke6
  7. Nh3, f6
  8. Nf4+, Kf5
  9. d4, Na6
  10. Bd3+, Kg5
  11. h4+, Kh6
  12. Ne6+, g5
  13. hxg5#

So that last move, the only capture in the game, was just a pawn taking another pawn… yet by so doing, that pawn put the black king in checkmate along with my king’s rook, and with the black king’s paths of retreat blocked by my queen, king’s bishop, and king’s knight. And of my sixteen pieces, I only moved seven: three pawns, both knights, the queen, and the king’s bishop. Black also moved only seven pieces: four pawns, the queen’s knight and bishop, and the king. But fully half of black’s twelve moves were of its king, and the last 2/3 of those were to get out of check — and I checked it with a pawn three different times! The triumph of the little guy! Also I only moved my queen once, just sort of using its position as an anchor point for the formation I assembled to keep the black king on the run.

Admittedly, the whole thing was mostly luck, but still, that’s one heck of a game — to lose no pieces and to win by taking only a single pawn. I doubt I’ll manage the like of that again even if I manage to improve my chess skills to the point that I really know what I’m doing.

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  1. John Edgeworth
    September 16, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Chris,

    Very Cool on taking up Chess again, I also used to play a little in High School and on and off again over the years. What site did you go to. It may be fun to also try my luck at the super easy,beginners, basic “mode”

    Thanks

    John E.

    PS Waiting for your new book release.

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