One of the aspects that I enjoy about chess is the mystery associated with ideas, tactical brilliancies and of course concepts that players are prepared to play and try out in the heat of battle. One of my favourite books that I enjoy going over is Secrets of Spectacular Chess (Everyman Chess, 2008, Second Edition) by Jonathan Levitt and David Friedgood. They spent quite some in the Introduction talking about chess aesthetics which they describe as the value of developing an eye for the beauty of the game. They argue that the beauty of chess can be considered under hedonism (pleasure seeking), cultural/ artistic value, educational and practical value. After discussing the above items, they then introduce their own concept to appreciate chess aesthetics which consists of the following elements
- Paradox – the authors describe this under the description Surprise, outrageousness
- Depth- subtlety, complexity where the idea is not immediately obvious
- Geometry- patterns, repetitions, echoes
- Flow:- describes the smoothness of movement
I have taken a look at the top sections of the SA Closed in 2019 and based purely on my subjective choice. I have selected the following positions and extracts from games for your enjoyment of chess aesthetics!
- In the first round there was an interesting game between SA Closed debutants Du Plessis and Engelbrecht.
WIM Anika du Plessis WFM Hanri Engelbrecht
What did White play in the following position?
You guessed it! Nd6 wins the exchange as the e7 square must be covered. After Bb7 white played Nxe8 followed by Nxe7 winning both rooks for the two knights!
Engelbrecht as White has just played pawn to b3. February as Black exchanged the bishop on f1. Was there a better move for Black?
The move that suggests itself is in fact pawn to a5 because if the Bc4 is captured then a pawn becomes a 100 metres athlete! And didn’t they say Black pawns run faster than white pawns!
- Robyn Van Niekerk (W) ended second at the event and will now be going to her second Olympiad. What move did she play here to win the exchange against Grobbelaar (B)?
Robyn Van Niekerk
Van Niekerk played 28 Bd4 attacking the rook but also indirectly threatening to win the knight on g4 that lacks flight squares.
- Michelle Fisher has represented South Africa at several Olympiads and other international events. She found some nice tactical blows in the following position. What was the winning move for Fisher as White against Du Plessis as Black?
WFM Michelle Fisher
Fisher found the Bobby Fischer like move Rc8 to win the game immediately. After Rxc8 then White responds Rxc8 to which Black must respond Bxc8 which will allow Ng6+ winning the queen and mating in the process!
- Two Olympiad teammates Van Zyl as White played against Selkirk. The following position was reached after some enterprising play by Black.
WIM Charlize van Zyl WCM Rebecca Selkirk
Black played the exciting pawn to g5 forcing the play. Enjoy the game!
(3) Van Zyl,C (1677) – Selkirk,R (1819) [A00]
2019 South African Closed Chess Champion Curro Durbanville, Durbanville (5.3), 11.12.2019
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Nxc6 dxc6 8.0–0 Nf6 9.f4 e5 10.fxe5 Ng4 11.Kh1 Bc5 12.Qf3 Be6 13.Bf4 0–0–0 14.Qg3 g5 15.Bxg5 Rdg8 16.Qh4 Nf2+ 17.Rxf2 Bxf2 18.Qxf2 Rxg5 19.Ne2 Qxe5 20.c3 Rd8 21.Qe3 h6 22.Nd4 Qd6 23.b4 Rh5 24.g3 Rg8 25.Ne2 Bg4 26.Nf4 Re5 27.a4 f5 28.b5 fxe4 29.Bc4 Bf3+ 30.Kg1 Rge8 31.bxa6 Qc5 32.axb7+ Kxb7 33.Rb1+ Ka7 34.Qxc5+ Rxc5 35.Be2 Rxc3 36.Bxf3 Rxf3 37.Rc1 Kb7 38.Ne2 Rd8 39.Rc2 e3
40.Nc3 Rd2 41.Rxd2 exd2 42.Nd1 Kb6 43.Kg2 Rf7 44.g4 Ka5 45.h4 Rf4 46.g5 hxg5 47.hxg5 Rg4+
48.Kf2 Rxg5 49.Ke2 Kxa4 50.Nc3+ Kb3 51.Kxd2 Rg2+ 52.Ne2 c5 0–1
- Van Zyl played her fellow Nelson Mandela Bay resident Jesse February and produced a stunning game! What did White play in this position?
WIM Jess February
All the elements are there for the following combination:
12. Bxh7+ Kxh7 13. Ng5+ fg 14 hg+ Kh8 15. Rh8+ Kxh8 16. Qh5+ Kg8 17. G6 Nf6 18. Ef6
(5) van Zyl,C (1677) – February,J (1897)
2019 South African Closed Chess Champion Durbanville, South Africa (7.8)
1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 e6 3.e3 d5 4.Nd2 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Ngf3 Bd6 7.Bg3 0–0 8.Bd3 b6 9.e4 Be7 10.e5 Nd7
11.h4 f6 12.Bxh7+ Kxh7 13.Ng5+ fxg5 14.hxg5+ Kg8 15.Rh8+ Kxh8 16.Qh5+ Kg8 17.g6 Nf6
- Fisher played Van Zyl and these two evenly matched players played an interesting game!
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What move did White decide the game with? After 19. Rxc6 black resigned as the Black king would be overloaded after 19. Qxc6 to which the reply would be Rxe7+!
- One of the players that have impressed me with her play has been Nina Marais. She has developed into a strong tactical player and I think she will very soon start to represent South Africa at senior level. The following game will have more than one diagram.
WCM Nina Marais
Fisher playing Black has just played 9. ..Be6. 10. Marais then went for the queen sacrifice 10.
E takes Nf6 BxQb3 11.
White now proceeded to capture the black Bishop on g7 threatening Rf8 which compelled Black to capture the pawn on g7 thus allowing white to play a takes Bb3. So, the scene was set for the three pieces to play against the Black queen. And play they did! After many adventures the following position was reached with Marais as White to play. Find the winning move.!
White played the quiet but deadly Nf2 attacking the queen and also threatening Ne4 + winning the Rd6.
- In the next game Laubscher and Selkirk played a strategic game but tactics abound! Laubscher as White had played Nf5 to which Selkirk responded with Nf6. What did Laubscher as White now play?
WIM Anzel Laubcher
Yes, that’s correct! Bxf6 forces Bxf6 because the g pawn can’t capture due to mate and after Bxf6 then the square d6 is unguarded! White then won the exchange and the game.
- In the following game Van Niekerk lost the exchange against Engelbrecht but plays hard to get compensation with her two Bishops. What should White play in the following position?
White decided to play for mate and played 33. Rc7. If Black now plays Bxe4+ followed by Bxf3 then White will respond Bf7+ followed by Bb4+! And mate to follow. Both players were in extreme time trouble. The game continued with 33.. Bxe4+ 34. Kc1 Nb3+ 35. Bxb3 Ra8. 36. Bb4 and White was able to win very quickly after that because of the power of the two Bishops.
(3) van Niekerk,R (1648) – Engelbrecht,H (1463)
Durbanville, South Africa Durbanville, South Africa (10.7)
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.cxd5 Qxd5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.Qxb4 Nxb4 7.Nxd5 Nxd5 8.dxe5 Nb4
9.Kd1 Be6 10.Bd2 0–0–0 11.Nf3 Ne7 12.Kc1 Nxa2+ 13.Kb1 Nb4 14.Rxa7 Kb8 15.Ra4 c5 16.e4 Bb3 17.Ra5 b6 18.Rb5 Kb7 19.Be2 Ba4 20.Rxb4 cxb4 21.Bxb4 Ng6 22.Bc3 Bb3 23.Nd2 Be6 24.g3 Nxe5 25.f4 Nc6 26.f5 Bc8 27.Bc4 f6 28.Nf3 Kc7 29.Rc1 Bb7 30.Bd5 Kd7 31.Bd2 Na5 32.Be6+ Ke8 33.Rc7 Bxe4+ 34.Kc1 Nb3+ 35.Bxb3 Ra8 36.Bb4 Bxf3 37.Rxg7 Rc8+ 38.Kd2 Rd8+ 39.Ke3 Bd5
40.Ba4+ Rd7 41.Rxd7 1–0
- Last round games are always difficult. There are nerves and final positions and prizes to consider. Nina Marais played Robyn Van Niekerk and got this position. How did she continue?
Nina found the stroke Bxh6 and after gh6 White played Nf4 to which Black replied Qe7 but after Qf5+ Black resigned.
- Engelbrecht is White against Selkirk. Selkirk now forced the decision. What did she play?
Rxg2+ forces mate!!
Thank you for taking the time to read and engage with this article!
Dr Lyndon Bouah