Joys of Chess – Mitrofanov's deflection follow-up

by Prof. Christian Hesse
11/4/2013 – In a previous article earlier this week Christian Hesse showed us one of the most beautiful, profound, quiet moves in all of chess composition history. In conclusion he asked: "Has anything as fantastic as Mitrofanov’s deflection ever been successfully employed in over-the-board chess, at least in rudimentary fashion?" It has, as Prof. Hesse shows, in two tournament games. Enjoy.

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The mother of all moves – follow-up

In our previous article we saw one of the most famous moves in all of chess composition: Mitrofanov's immortal (and scarcely believable) deflection sacrifice. There was a follow-up question: has anything as fantastic as Mitrofanov’s deflection ever been successfully employed in over-the-board chess, at least in rudimentary fashion?" We take as our first inspiration the position from:

Ermenkov,E-Sax,G
Warsaw Int. Youth Tournament 1969

White to move

Materially, both sides are level. Still, the confusing tangle of possibilities seems to offer the better prospects to Sax. But appearances are deceptive: 1.d7! Qxf1+! A good counter. Black seeks salvation in a combination-based attack. 1...d2 is not good because of 2.Qa1+!. Now 2.Kxf1 d2 3.Qxf3! Rc1+, which leads us to the following position.

The black d-pawn is just about to promote and is a decisive nose ahead of its counterpart. Are things all over for White? No! Given up for dead, the latter astonished everyone with a sort of Mitrofanov-like deflection, here in the form of 4.Qd1!!, in order to slow down his opponent’s intended promotion. Here too, it was brilliant and brought about Black’s immediate resignation. The possible continuation 4...Rxd1+ 5.Ke2 Rb1 6.d8Q d1Q+ 7.Qxd1 Rxd1 8.Kxd1 demonstrates the drastic reversal in evaluation and Sax resigned. 1-0.

[Event "Warsaw Int. Youth"] [Site "?"] [Date "1969.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Ermenkov, E."] [Black "Sax, G."] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/5pk1/3P2p1/p7/P7/Q2p1pP1/2r1qP1P/5RK1 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "15"] [EventDate "2013.10.27"] 1. d7 $1 Qxf1+ (1... d2 2. Qa1+ $1 $18) 2. Kxf1 d2 3. Qxf3 Rc1+ {[#]} 4. Qd1 $3 Rxd1+ 5. Ke2 Rb1 6. d8=Q d1=Q+ 7. Qxd1 Rxd1 8. Kxd1 1-0

An even more impressive example from over-the-board chess can round off our chapter:

Möhring-Kaikamdzozov, Zamardi 1978

White to move (position after 76...Qf8)

White has a dangerous passed pawn, and in addition strong pressure against a cramped black position with an endangered king. Möhring has his f-pawn climb further up the board: 77.f7 Ng7 78.Qf6+! Kxh5 79.Kg3 b6. A better move was 79...Ne8 80.Qf5+ Kh6 81.Qe6+ Kh7 82.fxe8Q Qf4+. 80.Kh3 Ne8 81.Qf5+ Kh6 82.Qe6+! The immediate 82.fxe8Q would only be a draw. 82...Kh7 83.fxe8Q Qf3+ 84.Kh4! Qf2+ 85.Kh5 Qh2+

Things are looking like a draw: 86.Kg4 Qg2+ 87.Kf5 Qf3+ 88.Kg5 Qf4+ 89.Kh5 or 86.Kg5 Qf4+ 87.Kh5. But White has a magic trick at his command. Time for a Leopold Mitrofanov moment: 86.Qh3!!! A natural spectacle. The closer of the two white queens comes rushing in. One of the best moves ever played in over-the-board chess. 86...Qxh3+ 87.Kg5 Qg3+ 88.Kf6 Qf3+ 89.Ke7 Qxb3 90.Qh5+ Kg7 91.Qg4+, and Black resigned. After 91...Kh6 mate comes in at most four moves after 92.Kf6 Qf3+ 93.Qxf3 Kh7 94.Qg2 b5 95.Qg7#. 1-0.

[Event "Zamardi"] [Site "?"] [Date "1978.??.??"] [Round "4"] [White "Möhring, Günther"] [Black "Kaikamdzozov, Jivko"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A56"] [Annotator "Endgame Tactics RRA"] [PlyCount "181"] [EventDate "1978.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e5 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 g6 6. f3 h5 7. h4 Bh6 8. Bxh6 Rxh6 9. g3 Rh8 10. Bh3 a6 11. Bxc8 Qxc8 12. Qd2 Kf8 13. Nh3 Kg7 14. Kf2 Nbd7 15. Kg2 Qd8 16. b3 Qa5 17. a4 Rab8 18. Qb2 Qd8 19. Rhf1 Nf8 20. Rf2 N8h7 21. Rh1 Qe7 22. Rff1 Rhf8 23. Nf2 Nd7 24. g4 Nhf6 25. Qd2 Rh8 26. Rh3 Qd8 27. g5 Ne8 28. Nd3 Qe7 29. f4 Nc7 30. Rhf3 Rhf8 31. f5 Kg8 32. Ne2 Rbe8 33. Ng3 Qd8 34. R3f2 Kg7 35. Qe2 Rh8 36. Qb2 a5 37. fxg6 fxg6 38. Rf7+ Kg8 39. Nf4 Rh7 40. Rxh7 Kxh7 41. Nfxh5 Rf8 42. Qe2 Rxf1 43. Qxf1 Qe7 44. Nf6+ Nxf6 45. gxf6 Qf7 46. h5 gxh5 47. Qf5+ Kh6 48. Nxh5 Ne8 49. Kf2 Qf8 50. Kg3 Qg8+ 51. Kh2 Qf7 52. Kh3 Qf8 53. Kg4 Qg8+ 54. Kf3 Qf8 55. Ke2 Qf7 56. Ke3 Qf8 57. Kd3 Qf7 58. Kc2 Qf8 59. Kc3 Qf7 60. Kd3 Qf8 61. Kc2 Qf7 62. Kb2 Qf8 63. Ka3 Qf7 64. Ka2 Qf8 65. Kb2 Qf7 66. Ka3 Qf8 67. Ka2 Qf7 68. Ka1 Qf8 69. Kb1 Qf7 70. Kc1 Qf8 71. Kd1 Qf7 72. Kd2 Qf8 73. Ke1 Qf7 74. Kf1 Qf8 75. Kg1 Qf7 76. Kh2 Qf8 {[#]} 77. f7 Ng7 78. Qf6+ Kxh5 79. Kg3 b6 ({A better move was} 79... Ne8 80. Qf5+ Kh6 81. Qe6+ Kh7 82. fxe8=Q Qf4+) 80. Kh3 Ne8 81. Qf5+ Kh6 82. Qe6+ $1 ({The immediate} 82. fxe8=Q {would only be a draw.}) 82... Kh7 83. fxe8=Q Qf3+ 84. Kh4 Qf2+ 85. Kh5 Qh2+ {[#]and things are looking like a draw.} 86. Qh3 $3 (86. Kg4 Qg2+ 87. Kf5 Qf3+ 88. Kg5 Qf4+ 89. Kh5) ({or} 86. Kg5 Qf4+ 87. Kh5) 86... Qxh3+ 87. Kg5 Qg3+ 88. Kf6 Qf3+ 89. Ke7 Qxb3 90. Qh5+ Kg7 91. Qg4+ (91. Qg4+ Kh6 92. Kf6 Qf3+ 93. Qxf3 Kh7 94. Qg2 b5 95. Qg7#) 1-0


The Joys of Chess is an unforgettable intellectual expedition to the remotest corners of the Royal Game. En route, intriguing thought experiments, strange insights and hilarious jokes will offer vistas you have never seen before.

The beauty, the struggle, the culture, the fun, the art and the heroism of chess – you will find them all in this sparkling book that will give you many hours of intense joy.

Christian Hesse is a Harvard-trained professor of Mathematics who has taught at the University of California, Berkeley (USA), and since 1991 at the University of Stuttgart. He has written a textbook called 'Angewandte Wahrscheinlichkeitstheorie'.

Chess and literature are his main hobbies, and he also likes fitness and boxing. His heroes are the ones who fall to the bottom and rise again, fall and rise again…

From the foreword by World Champion Vishy Anand: "A rich compendium of spectacular highlights and defining moments from chess history: fantastic moves, beautiful combinations, historical blunders, captivating stories, and all this embedded into a plentitude of quick-witted ideas and contemplations as food for thought."

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Christian Hesse holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and was on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley until 1991.
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