A multiplicity of Monarchs

by Jonathan Speelman
12/18/2022 – At a time often known for excess — and at the end of a year when we’ve had two different monarchs and three different prime ministers in the United Kingdom — Jon Speelman considered it fitting to explore chess positions with more than two queens on the board. Remarkably, these positions arise rather frequently (relative to how rare this situation is) in games involving the ever-creative Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Four queens plus

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

A Merry Christmas to everybody as we reach my final column of the year — the next will be on January 1st 2023.

I was wondering what to do when I came across a recent blitz game (on another server) in which both sides had two queens, and I started thinking about this.

King Charles IIIAt a time often known for excess (and at the end of a year when we’ve had two different monarchs and three different prime ministers here) this seemed a fairly topical theme, so I used the material search on a database of about 3.3 million games.

I had expected this to be fairly rare, and it was, but there were still over 1200 examples. So I gradually filtered with increasing rating requirements until I got to at least 2650 ratings for both players. There were 30 of these, and I chose the ones I found most interesting. Then, out of curiosity, I made it at least two queens each and a third for at least one player (obviously losing the rating requirement) and there were 13 of these — in two of which both players had three queens!

I’ve ended up with 16 games. Three of them, rather amazingly, involving French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. From number 9 onwards it’s 3 queens v 2, and the last two feature 3 v 3!

I hope you’ll enjoy the festive fare, and we can return to some leaner and less uncommon cuisine next time.

One other thing. I have a vague memory of a study found by using tablebases in which there are several queens on the board and nothing else, and it is zugzwang. Can anybody please remind me either through the comments here or email?

[Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters]


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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.


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