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David Bronstein vs Leonid Alexandrovich Shamkovich
Ch Moscow (1961), Moscow URS
Scandinavian Defense: Marshall Variation (B01)  ·  1-0


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sac: 38.Rh8+ PGN: download | view | print Help: general | java-troubleshooting

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: <marcusantoinerome><In the game, Shamkovich played the weaker 39...Rb3+ which also allows mate, but he should have played 39...Re2 40.Rxe2 Nc7 41.Re7 Kg8 42.Rxc7 Kf8 and Black escapes the mate.>

It depends on how you define "escaping mate". After the line above, mate is still clearly in view: The black king is trapped on the back rank by white's rook, and the white king merely needs to walk over and administer the final blow.

May-09-06  Halldor: On a second thought 38.♖h8+!! is the best and most natural move, it is a blow that demonstrates clearly that White is about to win the game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  WannaBe: I saw the same thing <YouRang> did, push the pawn first...
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: An elegant finish! ♖h8+ chases the king to the corner-and g6 confines him permanently to "death row".
May-09-06  chessic eric: i am happy to say I also saw 38.g6, but I am upset I missed Bronstein's idea, which is instructive. I pushed the g-pawn to control f7, and wasn't thinking about its control of h7, since the h1 rook had it covered.

The idea is silly that black's ability to give away his knight and rook constitutes some demonstration that Bronstein's play was weak. I think part of the reason some people become excellent at chess is that they enjoy the search for novel, cooperative ways to use their pieces. I would think that Bronstein saw the rather obvious g6, but decided to demonstrate that the weaknesses in black's position were more structural than material. Sacrificing a rook to win while simultaneously making such a point is the kind of chess I'd like to play more often.

May-09-06  eaglewing: The key move for a clearly won White position is g6, we should all agree about that. Rh8 is the fancy move and it needs the followup g6 desperately to win. The other way around is not true, g6 Kf8 Rhe1 wins not as fast as with Rh8 involvement but it does it safe and secure.

So I'll agree to disagree about a few points:

<Halldor: 38.h8+!! is the best and most natural move> Sacrifices may be best but are never natural moves is my point of view.

<YouRang: define "escaping mate"> The Rh8 fancier valued shortest way to mate. That is not the case due to the anti-sacrifice <throwing away his rook and knight>, which, agreed, in this case does not matter. My definition of "escaping mate" in this situation would be to be not mated by pawn g5/g6 and white rooks alone. If the white King is needed, it constitutes building another mating net.

<Several posts about "romantic, beauty sacrifices"> My point: Truly romantic sacrifices need to be the only way to win despite and/or involving substantial material disadvantage.

In this case Rh8 could be called fake. You may call the decisive g6 only something like effective, cruel and making it hopeless for black, I call it a cold beauty, which is superior in absence of a "true" romantic sacrifice. Nevertheless, I don't want to criticize Bronstein, he might be that kind of genius, who sees the sacrifice earlier than the earth-bound move g6.

<YouRang: it's an exercise in futility> In this case: Maybe. But I wanted to point out, that you need to watch out in general for lines sacrificing back material. Sometimes they do make a difference. And if you would like an exercise in futility, consider the puzzle position modified by:

White: Pawn a3 removed, King to g4.
Black: Rook to b3, add pawns a3 and b2.

May-09-06  Halldor: <eaglewing: ...the puzzle position modified>:

click for larger view

6k1_pp2R1p1_2p5_1nPp2P1_3P2K1_pr6_1p6_7R w

May-09-06  yalie: i saw g6 .. since it was deadly I assumed it was the solution .. so didnt even consider rh8
May-09-06  chessic eric: <<eaglewing>: The key move for a clearly won White position is g6, we should all agree about that. Rh8 is the fancy move and it needs the followup g6 desperately to win. The other way around is not true, g6 Kf8 Rhe1 wins not as fast as with Rh8 involvement but it does it safe and secure.> I'm not sure if you've seen this line, but the fastest mate involves both g6 and Rh8+, in that order: 38.g6,Kf8

Your argument is strange to me - any move played here will need some kind of follow up, since this is not a mate in one puzzle. To say that 38.g6 is a better move than 38.Rh8+ because it can withstand being followed by inferior moves assumes that bad moves will be played. I don't think that should be the definition of a move's merit, but rather its opposite. Instead of playing <safe and secure> I think trying to make the best move forces one's thinking to meet that level of play, and prevents the wasting of time considering sub-par variations.

The way I see it, both g6 and Rh8+ are dependent on each other to finish the game well. It is true that anyone playing Rh8+ first better play g6 next, but unless 39.g6 has been planned, one has no business playing 38.Rh8+! It is also true that playing g6 first doesn't require as much precision to continue on to a win, but achieving that precision is a loftier chess goal than winning any individual game.

May-09-06  Halldor: <eaglewing> You've made a NEW and very nice puzzle, your modified position. There g6 is the only winning move, 1.g6!! Re3 2.Rxe3 Nc7 3.Re7 b1Q 4.Rxb1 Kf8 5.Rbe1 a2 6.Rxc7 a1Q 7.Rc8#.

In YOUR puzzle Rh8 is a blunder of course, 1.Rh8+?? Kxh8 2.g6 Re3 3.Rxe3 Nc7 and White is lost.

Premium Chessgames Member
  outplayer: Obviously, everybody saw 38.g6 and win. Bronstein decision was not only brilliant but unstoppable win.
May-09-06  Mendrys: From what I have read on Bronstein, he lived for these types of combinations (38. Rh8+). He even admits that he has lost games because he was looking for the "beautiful, artistic" move. This was his way and we should be grateful as he has given us many of these beauties.

The Lesson for the rest of us I suppose is that you should go for the more decisive win. Of course this position is easy to calculate for a player of Bronstein's strength. For many of us however, a move like 40. Re3 while still losing in this position may very well turn the tables in similar positions.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: White's 38...Rh8+!! initiates a Stoke-Adams Attack leaving black with only a Vinegar-Stroke Defence.
May-09-06  zb2cr: Count me among the 38. g6 crowd.
May-09-06  EmperorAtahualpa: Spotted it in a matter of a few seconds, just like on monday. Nice puzzle!
Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: Hi <eaglewing>.

<YouRang: define "escaping mate"...My definition of "escaping mate" in this situation would be to be not mated by pawn g5/g6 and white rooks alone. If the white King is needed, it constitutes building another mating net.>

I think the standard definition of a <mating net> is: "A position in which one player (with correct play) can force mate, no matter what the opponent does."

After either 38. g6 or 38. Rh8+, black is in a mating net. To say that 38. Rh8+ allows black to step out of one mating net and into another is IMO, a distinction that is neither necessary nor helpful.

Both win soundly. Therefore, it's just a matter of preference. Against a computer, I suppose I would prefer 38. g6. Against a human, 38. Rh8+ might be more impactful. But it's not a big issue.

BTW, thank you <Halldor> for putting <eaglewing>'s puzzle in FEN form. As for that: Yes, if your opponent is about to promote a pawn to a queen, you think twice before taking your rook off the back rank.

May-09-06  Jarlaxle: <markwordsmith> you're right, although i do find things like that annoying, i shouldnt be harsh... i must have been in a bad mood, my apologies <netlava>
May-09-06  nateinstein: In my frank opinion, those who think g6 is better than Rh8+! failed to find the correct move and want to justify why a good move is better than the strongest move. Forget about material on the board, checkmate wins the game! Prolonging the game only allows for more mistakes. I agree that if you see the mate in 6, then g6 is surely just as playable as Rh8, but don't try to convince me its better :).
May-09-06  SeamusD: Bronstein is an artist first and foremost, so given a choice of winning methods, he characteristically chose the prettier one.
May-09-06  cloim: Interesting debate.
What is the best move?

In the case of two winning moves, the best move is the one that you see.

g6 was my first candidate move, but I never analyzed it. The winning line wasn't immediately obvious to me, so I looked for other possibilities. Second candidate move was the rook sack. It clearly forced things into a won position, so I went with it.

No reason to waste time looking for a "shorter" win.

May-09-06  apawnandafool: <seamusd - Bronstein is an artist first and foremost> I agree, very beautiful. I also think this game should be called "Bronstein's Silent Knight". Black is forced to develop the knight to a6, and there it sits useless. Notice how black's four pawns, ABCD, trap it inside a beautiful pawn-corral for almost 20 moves. All of the action is directed away from the knight to make things more painful for black.

A Silent Knight(17-35)

click for larger view

27.White to move

And when it does try to enter the game, it's immediately ordered back into its pen by Bronstein's menacing rook. At which time, black is totally lost.

May-09-06  RandomVisitor: FWIW
1: Bronstein David - Shamkovich Leonid, Ch Moscow Moscow (Russia) 1961

click for larger view

Analysis by Rybka 1.2f:

1. (#6): 38.g6 Rb3+ 39.Kf4 Rf3+ 40.Kxf3 Nxd4+ 41.Kf2 Kf8 42.Rxb7

2. (#12): 38. Rh8+ Kxh8 39. g6 Re2 40. Rxe2 Nc7 41. Re7 Kg8 42. Rxc7 Kf8 43. Kf4 b6 44. Rxa7 Ke8 45. cxb6 Kd8 46. Rxg7 Ke8 47. b7 Kf8 48. Rf7+ Ke8 49. b8=Q#

May-10-06  eaglewing: <Halldor> Thanks for modified puzzle graphic and comments.

<chessic eric> I've seen the comments about the fastest mate, that's why I wrote g6/Rhe1 is not as fast. My point of view is from the practical position, preferring therefore the <safe and secure> against OTB errors. Your point of view seems to be more the one based on given unlimited, inerrable available postgameanalysis. Then, it is fine and clear to me that you may come to another conclusion about "best" move and what "chess goal" you want to achieve. BTW, I value Rh8 as nice sacrifice and instructive, too, but wanted to oppose those comments, which gave the impression Rh8 is the fastest and in any kind of thinking easiest and only valueable solution.

<cloim: In the case of two winning moves, the best move is the one that you see> I agree. My was the mate threat g6, then seeing the R+N moves are just time delays and for Kf8 I was satisfied with renewing the matethreat by Rhe1. With this solution i had no patience to look for other/faster options.

<YouRang> Your mating net definition is a good general one but I think it misses a situation dependent move limit, not necessarily announced. Why? You know comments like "Black gets mated or loses its Queen". Why bother noting the alternative, when a lost Queen (not a sacrificed or exchanged one) means already being in a mating net according to your definition. Mating net should define something more specific than "won position".

To me making this difference is helpful, but I'm fine to just disagree with you about it.

Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: <eaglewing><Mating net should define something more specific than "won position".> I agree. On the other hand, it shouldn't be so specific that it requires mate within "N" moves, or only by "these" specific pieces.

I think the idea of a mating net is a forced win, where the player can clearly see the winning line(s). In this case, after 38. Rh8+, I don't think Black ever escapes from a clear win for White.

I'm fine to simply disagree also. Thanks for the interesting discussion. :-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: When facing a tactical fork in the road, I have never been realy interested how many moves each branch takes: For one, I am already way too busy examining the position and keeping the running score on material; for two, I never found much benefit in a shorter move count.

I understand that the number of moves is often viewed as an ancillary measure of accuracy of the forcing road taken. But way too often I found the shorter paths more murky then the longer ones: In fact, it makes sense that doubly edged continuations when caution is thrown into the wind frequently save a move or two over more prophylactic ways to play.


In a chess school in Russia, two boys come to their instructor to decide the question whether in some position it was better to simply capture queen or give a mate in three. The instructur replies: "It was better to take the queen. Queen up, the mate is easy."

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