Cross checks, deflections and stunning beauty

by Jonathan Speelman
8/8/2022 – Inspired by Gukesh’s remarkable win over Gabriel Sargissian in round 6 of the Chess Olympiad, star columnist Jon Speelman looked at a few more instances of cross checks and deflections that left a strong aesthetic impression. A beautiful study by the Danish composer Steffen Slumstrup Nielsen is included in the mix. | Photo: Stev Bonhage

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Splendid moves

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

Of all the players in the Chennai Olympiad, the one with much the best result as I write on Thursday, the mid-tournament rest day, is India 2’s top board Dommaraju Gukesh.

It’s one of the perks of organizing this great event that you’re allowed a second team and, if (as somehow quite unaccountably always seems to happen) there appear to be an odd number of teams at the critical moment, a third. India 1 are the old guard, though not counting this time with Viswanathan Anand; India 2, the young guns; and India 3 are also far from weak. Indeed, as I write, all three have 10/12 match points.

Gukesh himself has thus far won every game, with victims including Alexei Shirov, whom he beat as Black, and Gabriel Sargissian in the splendid game below for a 3000+ performance!

In one of the variations, it set me thinking about cross checks, and I’ve added an amazing game incorporating the same move: ...Qe7-h7+ in answer to Qh6+.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

I looked up cross checks and found an example of 37 half moves of checks in a row in an article by Gregory Serper. Obviously, it’s a task rather than chess as such, but still extremely impressive.


In recent weeks, I’ve been showing anybody who will listen a beautiful study by the Danish composer Steffen Slumstrup Nielsen. I thought I’d already done so in this column, but looking back apparently not. It was first sent to me by the English IM John Cox, but unfortunately I lost it in my inbox and when he resent it, it was only with the final move to find — and sufficient information for this to be quite easy. I therefore have no idea how I would have fared had I tried to solve it from the beginning.

Later, I managed to retrieve the whole study from Mr Nielsen’s Twitter feed and sent it to two former world solving champions, Jonathan Mestel and John Nunn. John had seen it before at a solving competition and Jonathan had not. Both said that they took quite a while to solve it. It’s an absolute gem, with pretty natural chess leading to the stunning finish.


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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.