Monday 9 November 2015

Fearful symmetry

One stage that a lot of chessplayers go through when starting out is the 'copy cat' stage. Trying to play risk free chess, they think that copying their opponents move can't hurt. The only problem with this is that chess isn't a symmetrical game, and there are of course some moves that can't be copied (You normally can't meet a check with a check, unless it is chess on TV).
Some openings do lend themselves to symmetry more than others, with the Four Knights Opening and the Symmetrical English springing to mind. Even then one player usually breaks the symmetry around move 10 or so.
The longest "symmetrical" game is the following between Rotlewi and Eljaschoff (according to Tim Krabbe). Even then it is not truly symmetrical (symmetry is broken as early as move 2), although from move 3 the moves match (although if the only condition is that the final position is symmetrical then I have seen plenty of endgame's that end this way.) The other issue with this game is that is was apparently just a very long agreed draw between the two players in the final round of an event. In fact White missed a much stronger continuation on move 13 (demonstrating the danger in copying) with the line 13.Bxe5 Bxe4 14.Bxg7 Bxg2 15.Bxf8 Bxf1 16.Qg7# stopping Black from replying.

Rotlewi,Georg A - Eljaschoff,Moissei Zacharowits [C49]
All Russian St Petersburg (19), 1909

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