Mating skills!

Lynch-Halstead 1986, White to move and win

Lynch-Halstead 1986, White to move and win

Back support

Black to move and win

Black to move and win

Back support

Black to move and win

Black to move and win

In a position where both sides seem to be attacking, the turn to move can be priceless. If it were White’s turn, then 1.b5 means that losing is out of the question. But it’s Black’s turn, and that makes all the difference.

1…h3! 2.Bf3

2.Bxh3 Rxh2+! 3.Kxh2 Qg3+ 4.Kh1 Qxh3 mate!


A delicious retreating move that ends all hope. Black plans to move the rook to g8 to provide back-up for a monstrous queen sacrifice.


Too little, too late. Nothing could be done about the inevitable bomb that is about to explode in White’s camp.

3…Rg8 4.Qb1

Stopping the queen sacrifice on g1. Trying to bail out with 4.Qxb7+ Qxb7 5.Bxb7 Kxb7 will eventually lose as the Black f-pawn will impudently march forward to f2 followed by the rook dropping the hammer on g1.

4…Qg2+! 5.Bxg2 hxg2 mate!


Mating skills

Lynch-Halstead 1986, White to move and win

Lynch-Halstead 1986, White to move and win

Sometimes it takes real skills to finish off a powerful attack. After 33 moves, White has chased the Black king out into the open and now can end the game with a few deft strokes.


A devastating shot that White unfortunately missed, most likely due to time trouble. Instead, he played 34.Nf7+? and allowed the Black king to help conquer its counterpart by marching all the way down the board after Kf4 35.Nd6+? (Best was 35.Qh6+ Kf5 36.h4 when White can still play for a win) 35…Ke3! 36.Qe7+ (Now 36.Qh6+ no longer helps because of 36…Ke2! 37.Qc1 Qd1+! trading queens with a dominant king in the ending; 36.h3 doesn’t help either because of 37…Kf2!) Kf2! 37.h3 Qd1+ 38.Kh2 Qg1#


34…Kh5 35.g4+ Kh4 36.Qh6#; 34…Kh4 35.Qh6#

35.h4+! Kh5

35…Kxh4 36.Qf4+! (White could have won the queen with 36.Qh6+ Kg3 37.Qh2+ Kf2 38.Qg1+, but mate is probably better) Kh5 37.g4+ Kh4 38.g5+ K-any 39.Qg4#


Quiet, simple and crushing. The threat to mate on g5 is merely a prelude to the killer pawn advance. The less patient 36.g4+? doesn’t work because of 36…Kxh4 37.Qh6+ Kg3 38.Qh2+ Kxf3 and Black has slipped the noose.


36…Qd1+ 37.Kh2 or 36…h6 37.g4+ ends in the same way.

37.g4+ Kxh4 38.g5+ K-any 39.Qg4#


Ever backwards!

Smejkal-Hracek 1996, White to move and win

Smejkal-Hracek 1996, White to move and win

My good friend Ronald Simpson, ever the attacking play, used to always say, “Ever forward, never backward!” With due respect to Ronnie, in chess, backward moves can have incredible potency, as seen in this diagram. White to move played:

33.Rxf6! gxf6 34.Bd5! Qa1 35.Rd4?

Unfortunately missing the killer retreating move 35.Rd1!, which nets the queen. After the move actually played, the game continued in dramatic, if blunder-filled, fashion.


The only move! White dare note take the queen.


36.Kxg1 Bxd4+ and 37…Rxc2


Black had to weather the storm with 36…Qxd4! 37.Qg6+ Kh8 38.Qxh6+ Kg8 39.Qg6+ Kh8 40.Bxf7 (40.Qh5+? Kg7 41.Qxf7+ Kh6)  Qd7+ 41.g4 Be3 42.Qxf6+ Kh7 and White has to take the perpetual check.


Missing a new win by another retreating move 37.Bg2! (threatening catastrophe with 38.Rg4+ and 39.Qf5 or 39.Qh7) Qf2 38.Rf4! Qe3 39.Bd5! (Shuttling back and forth. The threat of Qg6 is reignited.) Kh8 40.Qf5! Rg8 41.Qxf6+ Rg7 Rg4 +-


And now a devastating retreat will end the game in Black’s favor.

38.Rf4 Qxf4+

Pretty, but even more final was 38…Be7+ 39.Kh5 Qh3+ 40.Rh4 Bxh4 41.ghx4 Qg4+ 42.Kxh6 Qg6#

39.gxf4 Be7+

White resigned on pain of losing his queen.