Australian rules

by Jonathan Speelman
1/17/2021 – Noting that Australia is the continent with the greatest variety of venomous animals, star columnist Jon Speelman explores creepy-crawlies in chess — i.e. tiny moves that often have a huge effect, far beyond their visual impression. He then looks at games in which Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov make use of such creeping manoeuvres.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.



[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

When I checked just now, I was unsurprised to confirm that Australia is the continent with the greatest variety of venomous animals.

Many of these are creepy-crawlies, and it was in connection with creepy-crawliness that I was looking, since today we examine the most toxic of concepts: the creepy-crawly (or as people actually say) creeping move.

This is typically a tiny move with the queen shifting just one square to change the tactics; hard to find, they often have a huge effect, far beyond their visual impression. I’ve also included a second type of move which I personally sometimes miss: collinear moves, in which typically a rook goes some way along a rank or file but not where you are expecting. And a third, in connection with one of my games with Garry Kasparov — I don’t quite know what to call it, in which a piece lands on a hook which was unexpected, at least by me.

I have a feeling that there’s a game by Smyslov (at least I think it was Smyslov) in which, as White, he played something like Qd5-c5 — certainly a one-square queen move round about that part of the board — and it proved decisive. Irritatingly, I can’t find it, and if readers would like to help me out in the comments it would be much appreciated.

Boris SpasskyWhen I searched for creeping moves, I instead found a nice win by Boris Spassky [pictured] against Viktor Korchnoi in their Candidates final match in Kiev 1968. (Incidentally, Spassky won this one 6½-3½; I confused it for a moment with the CT final in Belgrade 1977, the humdinger both on and off the board which Korchnoi won 10½-7½, but not before losing four games in a row at one stage).

Next I’ve got a famous Karpov v Spassky game with a glorious retreat. Apart from this, it has several small but deadly moves, most notably Karpov’s 27th.

Then there are a couple of games with collinear rook moves: not so difficult to see in theory, but both of which I was at least a little surprised by when I first saw them.

And finally one of the games I drew with Garry (I had a pretty large minus score but nothing like as bad as against Ivanchuk) in which both 27.Rd4 and — despite being forewarned — 37.Rf4! surprised me at the time.

Creepy-crawlies are fun — at least if they are half a world away. They can be difficult to find during a game, but may have a huge effect. I’d be delighted to receive more examples of these from readers to use in future columns.  

Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov | Photo: Dutch National Archive


How I became World Champion Vol.1 1973-1985

Garry Kasparov's rise to the top was meteoric and at his very first attempt he managed to become World Champion, the youngest of all time. In over six hours of video, he gives a first hand account of crucial events from recent chess history, you can improve your chess understanding and enjoy explanations and comments from a unique and outstanding personality on and off the chess board.


Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register