Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April's Fool

This item I have been saving for some months now:

Below is a game I more than once have used in chess classes as it's rather thematic, short and finishes with a nice tactical blow.

Jan Plachetka - Lothar Zinn, Decin, 1974

1.Nf3 c5 2.b3 Nc6 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.e3 d5 5.Bb5 e6

It's a kind of reversed Nimzo Indian and White has got a good grip on the a1-h8 diagonal, including the central squares d4 and e5.

6.Ne5 Qc7 7.0–0 Bd6 8.Bxc6+ bxc6 9.f4 0–0

Now also Black's king is close to that long diagonal.

10.Rf3 Nd7

Black challenges White's grip on e5.

11.Rh3! g6? (Dia)

This now is a famous mistake. I am not sure how the position should be evaluated after 11...f6. There are at least two practical tests:

a) 12.Qh5?! doesn't quite convince: 12...fxe5 13.Qxh7+ Kf7 14.Rg3 Ke8 15.Rxg7 Ba6 16.Na3 exf4 17.exf4 Kd8 18.Bc3 Kc8 –+ Rogers-Bacrot, Cap d'Agde rapid 1998.

b) White probably should content himself with 12.Nxd7 Bxd7 13.Qh5 h6 14.Qg4 Kh8 15.Nc3 Rae8 16.Ne2 Re7 17.Rf1 e5 18.f5 and White had nice attacking prospects in Baeumer-Ripperger, Ludweiler 1994.


A very visual move.


Obviously not 12...gxh5? 13.Rg3+ Kh8 14.Nxf7 mate.


This is slightly more exact than 13.Qh6 when Black can prolong the struggle with 13...d4! 14.exd4 (14.Ng4 Nh5 15.Rxh5 f5! 16.Ne5 Bxe5 17.fxe5 gxh5 18.exd4 cxd4 19.Bxd4 Qg7 +=) 14...Re8 15.Ng4 Nxg4 16.Qxh7+ Kf8 17.Qh8+ Ke7 18.Qh4+ Kd7 19.Qxg4 +-.

13...gxh5 14.Nxf6+ Kh8

Or 14...Kg7 15.Ne8+ Kh6 16.Bg7+ Kg6 17.Rg3+ Kf5 18.Rg5+ Ke4 19.Nc3.

15.Rxh5 h6 16.Nxd5+ Kh7 17.Nxc7 Bxc7 18.Rxc5 1–0

Interestingly there is a quite amusing tag to the game. In John Pajak-David Norwood, Toronto 1985 Black instead tried the clever 10...Ne8(!!) 11.Rh3 g6 and was rewarded with 12.Qh5?? gxh5 0–1. This game concluded Norwood's very readable book "Winning with the Modern" (Batsford 1994) on a humorous note. I am not quite sure what should be the lesson to learn. Probably something like: Always check twice before you give your queen away.

His 12th (and last) move is sufficient reason for Pajak to get an honorable mention on a 1st of April's chess column. But that's not all. According to MegaBase 2008 the game was actually played on the first of April! When I noticed this, my first reaction was to check whether John Pajak was a real chess player or if the entire game was an invention by Norwood. And he indeed is - at the time when the game was played Pajak was unrated but he soon gained a respectable rating of 2310. There also obviously was a tournament in Toronto 1985 with, among others, GMs Joel Benjamin and Kevin Spraggett. The date, however, appears somewhat questionable as according to MegaBase all games were played on April 1st.

I will leave my research there - this game may well have been played on April 1st - and in my mind that's when it should have been played!


Anonymous said...

You're kidding about all games of the tournament being played on April 1, right? It was an 11 round tournament!

When I search for the Pajak-Norwood game (or any other game in the tournament) only the year is specified. Nice gag (if that's what it was). I fell for it!

Sverre Johnsen said...


It's tempting to claim that this was a clever joke intending to fool even those who had noticed that it was April 1st.

But I must admit that I made an honest mistake.

Some months ago I noticed that this game was played on April 1st 1985 (don't ask me where I saw it - I honestly don't remember). I found it curious and decided to investigate it and maybe publish it on April 1st. Then I forgot all about the game until the day occurred.

After having established that Pajak was a real player I went on to check whether the date too was correct. I found a number of games played in the tournament and they all seemed to be dated April the 1st and I assumed that this was a kind of 'generic' date - perhaps indicating that the tournament started that day. I decided that this was enough research - it was possible that the game actually was played on April 1st.

Now I see that you are right - only the year is given. What I thought was MegaBase's date was only unchecked date boxes and today they say April 16th. This obviously is a function intended to help ChessBase users entering the correct date for new games.

Facts aside: Until proven otherwise, I will assume this game was played on April 1st. In my opinion odds are better than 1/365 that I am correct!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can see exactly how that could happen! Sorry for misreading it as another April 1 prank (there were so many going around a couple of weeks ago). Thanks for the reply.

Thought I'd mention here that yours is one of my favorite chess blogs. I've been following it for over a year now and you've consistently managed to come up with interesting stuff.