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Alexander Beliavsky vs Larry Mark Christiansen
"I Can't Beliav It!" (game of the day Nov-13-2011)
Reggio Emilia (1987/88), Reggio Emilia ITA, rd 2, Dec-28
Catalan Opening: General (E00)  ·  1/2-1/2


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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Nov-13-11  ounos: The simple 33. Qxa2 ought to be winning, but of course, Beliavsky was convinced (and rightly so) that Ne8+ was even stronger. Too bad it was more complicated too :)
Premium Chessgames Member
  brankat: An ingenious play by L.Christiansen. Very entertaining game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <kdog83: Im glad to see FSR's wishes have finally come true>

Thank you! Me too! This is the greatest swindle of all time!

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <AylerKupp: I can never see a game with this variation without thinkiing of this game: L Palau vs S Kalabar, 1927. Black, intending to play 4...Qe7, played 4...Ke7 instead. He resigned when he realized that after 5.Bxb4+ he couldn't play 5...Kxb4.>

That happened in a tournament game in Chicago, Ed Perelmuter-Ron Washington, except that Ed - <extremely> kindly - let Ron replace 4...Ke7 with 4...Qe7. Ed eventually won anyway.

Nov-13-11  ZeejDonnelly: Finally, this is game of the day! As <FSR> has pointed out, this may very well be the greatest swindle of all time.
Nov-13-11  goodevans: 38 Qxf6? What a dreadful blunder.

Surely you've got to be suspicious when you're opponent just gives away his queen! Maybe there was a time trouble element?

<elohah> et al, I don't think the superlatives are quite justified. The fact that the swindle relies on the blunder on move 38 rather takes the edge off it for me.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <goodevans> That's how swindles are: if your opponent plays the best moves, you lose. The fact remains that Christiansen in a dead-lost position set up a series of ingenious traps. Beliavsky expertly navigated his way through them until he fell for the last one. An understandable error - he saw that there was no perpetual check for Black, but didn't realize that Christiansen had set up a stalemate. The conclusion is reminiscent of your namesake's so-called "Swindle of the Century" in Larry Evans vs Reshevsky, 1963. But Beliavsky-Christiansen is much superior because Christiansen set up a whole series of swindling lines, not just one as in Evans-Reshevsky.

Incidentally, a little-known fact that I discovered is that Evans himself coined the term "Swindle of the Century" in his magazine American Chess Quarterly. He again referred to the game as that in his book Chess Catechism. I don't know if any writer other than Evans himself called the game the Swindle of the Century. It is much inferior to this later game, and also to the much earlier game Marshall vs G Marco, 1904.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Here is what mathematician and chess master and composer Noam Elkies says about the relative merits of Evans-Reshevsky and this game:

<A beautiful idea, but in a presentation far from ideal. For one thing, the "Swindle" part of the name indicates that Evans could only achieve this conclusion thanks to the gross blunder 48 ... Qxg3?? by his opponent-- after 48 ... Qf6! 49 Rd8 Ng6 White could resign. (The "Century" part also tells us something: this kind of resource is very rare in practical play. Not, however, literally once in a hundred years-- recall that Reshevsky fell into a similar trap against Pilnik only a few years earlier, a trap that also became known as the "Swindle of the Century" for a while; the even more impressive stalemate swindle of Beliavsky vs Christiansen, 1987 now seems destined for the same title.) For another, after 48 ... Qxg3?? Evans could also have drawn by 49 Qg8+! (or 49 Qh8+!) Kxg8 50 Rd8+ leading to the same conclusion of stalemate or perpetual check by the desperado rook, so the drawing line is not unique. Lastly, the b-pawns are superfluous, since the entire combination works just as well without them. Let us try to fix those flaws:"> ...

Endgame Explorations by Noam Elkies

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: I annotated the last nine moves of this game in Wikipedia:

<Christiansen pulled off a masterful swindle, beginning with a knight sacrifice and four offered queen sacrifices in hopes of perpetual check, and ending with a sacrifice of queen and both rooks to achieve stalemate. In the position [after White's 29th move], Black's game is crumbling. White has the initiative over the whole board. He threatens Black's pawn on f7, and if Black defends it with 29...Nh6, 30.Qb6 will win Black's c-pawn and the game (if 30...Qd7, 31.Nxf7!). In desperation, Christiansen counterattacked with the remarkable 29...Nxf2!? 30.Kxf2 Ra3 31.Bxf7+ Kg7 32.Qe6 Ra2+. Here, Byrne noted in the New York Times that after 33.Qxa2 Rxa2+ 34.Bxa2 Ng4+ 35.Kg1 Qa7 36.Bb1 Qa3 37.Bd3 Qb2 38.Rc2 Qd4+, "White will experience difficult technical problems."[175] Instead, the game continued 33.Kg1 R8a3!, hoping for 34.Qxe7? Rxg3+ and the rook gives perpetual check along the third rank. Nor was 34.Kh1 Rxg3! 35.Qxa2 Ng4! appealing for White. Beliavsky preferred 34.Ne8+! Now 34...Nxe8? 35.Qxg6+ mates next move, and there is no perpetual check after 34...Qxe8? 35.Bxe8 Rxg3+ 36.Kh1. Undeterred, Christiansen played 34...Kh6! 35.Nxf6 35.Qxe7 Rxg3+ or 35.Qxf6 Qxf6 still leads to perpetual check. 35...Rxg3+ 36.Kh1 Qxf7! Offering the queen a third time, again hoping for perpetual check after 37.Qxf7? Rh3+ or 37.Ng8+? Qxg8! 37.Rd7! White offers his own queen sacrifice: if 36...Qxe6, 37.Rh7#! Another clear win was 37.Ng4+! hxg4 (37...Kg7 38.Qxe5+ is even worse) 38.Qxf7 Rh3+ 39.Kg1 Rg3+ 40.Kf1! Rf3+ 41.Qxf3, leaving White a rook up. 37...Qxf6! Black's last gasp, offering the queen yet a fourth time. 38.Qxf6?? White thinks that he can finally take the queen safely, since now there is no perpetual. White wins after 38.Rh7+! Kxh7 39.Qxf6 Rh3+ 40.Kg1 Rg3+ 41.Kf1 Rh3 41.Qe7+ Kh6 (41...Kg8? 42.Qe8+ Kh7 43.Qd7+ wins the rook) 42.Qg5+ Kh7 43.Kg1 Raa3 44.Kg2. 38...Rh2+! Ĺ-Ĺ After 39.Kxh2 Rg2+! 40.Kh3 Rg3+! 41.Kh2 Rg2+! 42.Kh1 Rg1+!, Black draws by perpetual check or stalemate. Noam Elkies observes that this is an "even more impressive stalemate swindle" than the Evans-Reshevsky "Swindle of the Century.".[176]>

Premium Chessgames Member
  Ladolcevita: I wonder if engines know how to figure out the stalemate variation.... This is simply amazing,very ingenious indeed!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gilmoy: <goodevans: I don't think the superlatives are quite justified. The fact that the swindle relies on the blunder on move 38 rather takes the edge off it for me.>

Providing a millenial amount of rope for a blunder is exactly what makes it a Millenial Swindle!!

The whole point is that tricking your opponent into overconfidence is the only chance you've got left. If he's at +8.x and <still> falls into your trap, he must have been Overconfident Approaching Icarious Hubris. And if he <knows> you've been playing for draw swindles for the last 8 moves, and he <still> falls into your 9th one -- then that's a <great> swindle!!

If the line had any forcing or compulsory aspect, then it'd be just a who-dat Immortal, not a swindle. (heh) If you think you're lost no matter what, you'd just resign. But if there's even a small chance that you could sow a trap on one line of N as a diabolical hidden-constraint on his planning, then you're entitled to try that (and <then> resign).

If the (half-point-)loser blunders in time scramble or bullet, we'd blame that, not him. But if he has plenty of time, uses as much of it as he wants, and <still> bites, then he's human, and we bow in awe to chess itself.

Vast credit still goes to Black for envisioning a clockwork machinery so intricate that it took about 8 tempi to set up, and then it sat in plain sight OTB and White <still> didn't see it. Deconstructing the trap afterwards, you have to wonder: How early did Christiansen see the possibility, and how many moves did he spend chasing the dream (as opposed to, say, trying to win)? It's the depth of his concept that boosts it way beyond most other swindles in the literature.

Nov-13-11  knighterrant999: Damn clever. I have fallen for this swindle in speed chess once or twice, although in much simpler positions. Perp or stalemate, at your pleasure. It is a beautiful thing.
Nov-13-11  DrMAL: Great swindle indeed! LOL. One last little oversight (38.Rh7+!) ruined Beliavski's otherwise well fought win. Kudos to Larry Christiansen for coming up with such clever plans.
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: <[Luke:] I canít believe it.

<[Yoda:] That is why you fail.>>

Nov-14-11  goodevans: <FSR> What takes the shine off this swindle for me is the magnitude of the blunder. <37 ... Qxf6> is hardly a subtle move and, as I said in my previous post, surely you've got to be suspicious when you're opponent just gives away his queen.

The swindle in Kasparov vs N McDonald, 1986 is far more subtle.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: A brilliant stalemate trap!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gilmoy: Quit yer <beliakhine> ^_^


Nov-14-11  njchess: Wow! One helluva swindle from Larry. It's not often you see a GM fall for one but it's hard to fault GM Beliavsky. This one was deep.

Tough game for GM Christiansen; White doesn't give him much room to play. He picks at the sides, but there isn't much there. Meanwhile, White builds what should be a game winning breakthrough on the queenside... only to be robbed.

Feb-19-14  MarkFinan: Great game and very sly yet skilled finish. But whoever wrote the pun for this should be made to spend a day in the company of Limpy Urcan! I can't beliav (Yeah. I can "pun" too 😏) that someone would submit this in the first place. Euwe numptie, lol! 😃
Apr-13-14  Mating Net: Double desperado Rook draw, for the swindle. Double delicious!
Jan-06-15  sfm: <goodevans: What takes the shine off this swindle for me is the magnitude of the blunder.> Right. This is 'the unsubtle swindle of the century'. A simple explanation would of course be extreme time pressure, so close to the 40 moves after a very hard fight.
Premium Chessgames Member
  searchforbobby1: I love this game! One of the best swindles of all time!
Jul-26-18  NBZ: On the debate about move 38: I think what makes it clever is the double draw motif. From 33. ... R8a3 onwards, Black has been playing for a perpetual, and White was very focused on preventing this. And just when White achieves his objective - by move 38, a draw by repetition is no longer possible - Black uncorks a stalemate, something that was not possible on move 38 and became accidentally possible only due to the location of the rook on d7. That's what makes it unusually difficult to see and why a player such as Beliavsky fell for it. A swindle it might be, but an obvious one it was not once we take into account the context of the last few moves.
Jul-27-18  Granny O Doul: One of the first issues of Chess Life I ever received, in late 1977, reports Christiansen swindling deFirmian at the US Open to win a Q ending from a couple of pawns down. I wondered how he did it, and I still wonder, because I've never seen the game published anywhere.
Jul-27-18  Howard: NOT to sound picky, but it was CL&R back in '77. The name didn't change to CL until '80.
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