Friday 2 May 2008

The 10 second curse

Jonathan Speelman often bemoans the effect that the 30s increment has on the quality of endgames in modern chess, but imagine the damage that 10s increments cause. As an example, won one of the last games to finish at the ANU Chess Club the other night contained the following sequence of missteps and near misses. I'll leave the players unnamed as it isn't my intention to criticise their play, just to highlight the difficulty in finding the right moves when you only have 10 seconds to do so.

1...Kg7 [ 1...e5+ At the time I thought this was the drawing move, but Black explained after the game that he was still looking to win the position! He also felt that moving the pawn stopped him from playing Rf5+ which he used in the game.
As it turns out my instincts were correct as it is the only move that draws (with correct play!). 2.Kg4 e4 3.Kf4 e3 4.Kxe3 Kg7 And Black captures the g and h pawns.] 2.Kg5 Rf8 3.Rh1 Rf5+ 4.Kg4 Rf8 5.Kg3? Now it is White's turn to go wrong, although at 10s a move Black misses the right idea. 5...Kh8? Not only does this miss the draw, it puts the King into a mating net. [ 5...Rh8 draws as the g pawn is indefensible.] 6.Kg4 Re8 7.Kg5 e5 8.Rh5 Re7 9.Kh6 Watching the game I felt that Black seemed surprised to see himself in this position. 9...Re6 10.Rxe5 And once again Black was caught unawares, so much so that he missed the stalemate trick which would have saved half a point, but then again so did White! It seemed only the spectators saw what was up, and to their credit, they managed to keep their 'poker' faces. 10...Rf6 One more square would have done it! [ 10...Rxg6+ 11.Kxg6 ( 11.Kh5 Kxh7 12.Re7+ Rg7) ] 11.Re8+ Rf8 12.Rxf8#

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