Today’s winning 5-second tactics

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‘’Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.’’

Victor Hugo

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SENSATION: Rook beats Queen!

gm  Makropoulos, G

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im  Zichichi, Alvise

From a tournament in Rome 1981.  Zichichi (born 1938, died 2003) was a strong Italian chessplayer wrote many chessbooks and became the Italian National Champion in 1984. He beat several GMs, such as Spasski, Hort, Gligoric, Suetin and Hjartarson. When his player career was over, he became FIDE International Referee, member of the FIDE commitee for game regulations and president of the Italian Chess Federation. 

Zichichi

A.Zichichi 

Makropoulos, who is alive and well today and–possibly, apart from himself having won seven-Italian National Titles– needs absolutely no introduction to my readers.

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G.Makropoulos

The position is after 26 moves of play. Black stands ever so slightly better because of his more active and better co-ordinated pieces. Especially, the Black Queen–seemingly buried on a8–is infact a very dangerous piece…she looks with x-ray tunnel vision at the White monarch on h1 (there are any …Nxf3 tricks in the position for White to have to worry about). Probably White should play safe with 27.Bd4!?, making room for the White King to escape to g1 should the need arise.  

INSTEAD, Zichichi thought he saw a better move (remember Lasker’s axiom!) …

27.Nxb5!?

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Starting one of the wildest and most chaotic tactical fights that I have ever seen in chess!  As it turns out to be over-optimistic (brilliantly, I might add) we should really award it a ‘?!’ sign, but the depth of the play that follows could have hardly been calculated beforehand…so we spectators should just sit back and enjoy the anarchy as the pieces rise up in rebellion. White’s move threatens not just the Knight on e5 (RxN) but also Nc7, forking the Black Queen and Rook.  If now 27… axb5?! 28. Rxe5 Rxe5 29. Qxe5 Qxa2 30. Qxb5 Bxf3 31. gxf3 Qxc2 32. Bc4! and White is a bit better.

27…Nxf3!!

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 Defying White to do his worse!

28.Nc7! NxR!

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If now 29. Nxe1? Rxe1 30. Nxa8 Rxf1 with mutiple threats. If then  31. Qe2 Rb1! 32. Qc2 Be4! 33. Qc8 Rb2 34. Bc5 looks like it wins, but…

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34…Nd7!!! and Black wins: 35. Qxd7 Bxg2 36. Kg1 Bxc5 mating.

29.NxQ!

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 Count the pieces:  Black has just a Rook for the Queen!

29…Re2!!

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An amazing resource that Makropoulos had to have forseen before entering into this tactical labyrinth!  The threat is to just take the White Knight-pawn with either the Rook or the Knight. White is busted.  For example: 

30. Bxe2 Bxg2#;

30. Nxe1 Rxb2 31. Nc7 Rxa2 etc

30. h3 Nxg2 31. Bxe2 Nh4+ 32. Kh2 Bd6+

30. h4 Nxg2 31. Bxe2 Ne1+ 32. Kh2 Bd6+ 33. Kh3 Bg2#;

30. Qd4 Nxg2 31. Qb6 Be4 32. Qd4 Rxc2 etc

30. Nb6 Nxg2 31. Bd4 Ne1+ 32. Kg1 Nf3+ etc

30. Ba7 Rxc2 31. Qe5 Nxg2 32. Qb8 Be4 33. Bxg2 Rxg2 34. h3 Nh5 etc

30. Qc3 Nxg2 31. Bd4 Rxc2 32. Qxc2 Ne1+ 33. Qg2 Nxg2 34. Bxg2 Bxg2 35. Kxg2 Nd5 36. Kf3 f5 as in the game

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Quite simply, the Rook is stronger than the Queen!!  In the game Zichichi played the only reasonable try to survive…

30.Bd4!?

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 Making room for the King to be able to escape via g1

30… Rxc2! 31. Qb1!

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31…Nxg2!!

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Again the Black Rook is hanging, but the threatened discovered check is more important! Again, White must make the only move in order to survive a bit longer: Bad are both 32. Nb6 Nh4+ 33. Kg1 Nf3+ with a quick mate; or 32. Bxg2 Rxg2! and Black can resign.

The toughest nut to crack is 32.Kg1:

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Now 32…Nh4 is wrong, allowing White to escape after 33.QxR Nf3+ 34.Kf2 NxB 35.Qc7 BxN 36.Bxa6! and if anyone is better it is White!

32…Rd2!!!

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 WOW!! A quiet move seals White’s fate!

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Black moves is Rook out of harms way and threatens both Nh4 or RxB. After 33. Ba7 (33. Bxg2 Rxg2+ 34. Kf1 Ng4 35. Nb6 Nxh2+ 36. Ke1 Nf3+ etc) 33… Nh4!  and there is nothing to be done about …Nf3+ and most likely a quick mate.  Note that 33.Qc1 goes under after either 33…Nh4 or 33…RxB 34.BxN(g2) Rg4! etc

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Getting back to the game, with his back to the wall, Zichichi’s only reasonable option is to bit the bullet and give back his Queen, even though it allows Black to enter an ending a pawn up: 

33.QxR!

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 32… Ne3+ 33. Qg2! Nxg2 34. Bxg2 Bxg2+ 35. Kxg2 Nd5! 36. Kf3 f5!

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After such amazing,super-sharp tactics Black finds himself with an easily won ending.  Had the White Knight not been in such a bad position, then the win would not be so easy…as it is, the Knight can only extricate himself by allowing Black to exchange it, something Black is only too happy to comply with.  The game soon ended:

37.Nb6 Nxb6 38.Bxb6 Kf7 39.Bd4 g5 40.Bc3 Ke6 41.a4 g4+ 42.Ke3 Bc5+ 43.Ke2 Kd5

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Even my dead great- grandmother could win this one… A brilliant finish and even though Zichichi lost this one, he might take comfort in the words that the great Lasker liked to quote at times like this: ”All is lost save honor”

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