Thursday, January 16, 2014


Even after a lot of years playing chess, the game still surprises me with lovely maneuvers and beautiful combinations. Regularly I try to write about it on this blog like in the articles problemmoves or de paardenlokker. This time I want to show a nice fragment which I recently met in one of my games.

In my game against the Danish player Jens Frederiksen I calculated a nice variation in the middlegame in which I promoted a pawn thanks to some sacrifices. Often a pawn is promoted in the endgame (especially if the opponent doesn't resign quickly as in my article open with the f-pawn) but it is rather rare that this happens early in a game. If the promotion is executed after a meaningful combination of moves then we can speak about the Excelsior-theme. The name is obviously known from the problem-world in which strict rules are applied. Arves indicates that we can only talk about an Excelsior-theme when in the solution a pawn promotes from the starting-position (2nd/ 7th row) on his own column. Now I even believe my fragment fulfills these strict requirements, see below.
[Event "Open Leuven 2de ronde"] [Date "2013"] [White "Frederiksen, J."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C68"] [WhiteElo "1730"] [BlackElo "2347"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2kr2nr/1pp2ppp/p1pb2b1/8/6P1/2NP1N1P/PPP1KP2/R1B1R3 b - - 0 13"] [PlyCount "41"] 13... h5 14. Nh4 $2 {(The standard answer on blacks last move but here the lag in development is too serious by which white can not spend time for it. Necessary was Bg5 with a tenable position. )} Re8 {(Precise.)} ( 14... hxg4 $6 15. Nxg6 Rxh3 $6 {(Better is still Re8 although white now has the extra option Ne4 compared with the game.)} 16. Bg5 Re8 17. Kd2 $13 { (Here we notice that black has a problem with the knight on g8.)}) 15. Be3 { (The best as after Kd1 black completes the excelsior-theme: black promotes a pawn with a combination starting from the starting square and ending on a square of the same column.)} (15. Kd1 $6 Rxe1 16. Kxe1 hxg4 17. Nxg6 gxh3 18. Nxh8 h2 $19) 15... hxg4 16. Nxg6 Rxh3 17. Rg1 Nf6 18. Kd2 fxg6 19. Rg2 $6 {(More stubborn is Rae1.)} g3 $6 {(I create a free pawn but I have to admit that building quietly further my position with c5 is a bit stronger.)} 20. f3 $6 {(White misses the liquidation to a lost endgame. Mandatory was fxg3 although also after that move black still has a clear advantage.)} Bb4 21. Rag1 Nd5 22. Bg5 Rh2 23. Rxh2 gxh2 24. Rh1 Nxc3 25. bxc3 Bd6 26. f4 Rh8 27. Ke2 Kd7 28. Kf2 Ke6 29. Kg2 Kf5 30. Kg3 b5 31. d4 Rh5 32. Kf3 Rh3 33. Kg2 Kg4 0-1'/>
It is a bit sad that it only concerned a variation and didn't pop up in the game. The game likely could have gone differently as afterwards when I asked my opponent if he also noticed the promotion then he didn't understand what I want trying to ask. Now probably some people will claim this is no pure Excelsior as some necessary non-pawn moves were interposed. Arves doesn't speak about forbidding such non-pawn moves but there exists discussion about this subject. Tim Krabbe believes that it is permitted and of course he also wrote something about this theme, see this article. Now there is not only a discussion about the interposing of non-pawn moves. Some people consider also that a promotion doesn't have to be on the column of the pawn. For others it is even not necessary to start with the pawn from the starting position. An everywhere approved terminology isn't known to me so just like the naming of the Turton-Bristol (which I used in my article problemmoves) we better accept the fact that more than one description of the theme is used.

If we use a more broad description of the excelsior-theme then we can find a nice collection of games in the databases. The very active internet-user Domdaniel even made a full webpage of double excelsiors which exists of taking pieces. One of them I selected in which the famous Polish/ French grandmaster Savielly Tartakower nicely won with black.
[Event "Paris, France"] [Site "Paris, France"] [Date "1954.09.23"] [White "Rosenberg"] [Black "Savielly Tartakower"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D47"] [PlyCount "38"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. e4 b4 10. e5 bxc3 11. exf6 cxb2 12. fxg7 bxa1=Q 13. gxh8=Q Qa5 14. Ke2 Ba6 15. Qxh7 Nf6 16. Qh4 Q1xa2 17. Kf1 Q5a4 18. Qe2 Qxe2 19. Kxe2 Qc2 0-1'/>
For more pretty stuff please click on the link but lots of examples are using the same opening which decreases the value. As we are now talking about the Excelsior I find it appropriate also to show once more the first problem of this theme built by one of the pioneers of chess-problems: Samuel Loyd. Besides a nice story is connected to this problem.

Loyd had a friend whom claimed to always be able to indicate which piece would deliver mate on the board. As a joke Loyd created a position and proposed a bet to his friend that he would not be able to show a piece which could not deliver mate in a main-line. His friend accepted and pointed to the pawn on b2 which let him lose the bet. Later the assignment connected with the problem became that white has to deliver mate in 5 with the least likely piece or pawn.
[Event "White to play and deliver mate in 5 with the least likely piece or pawn."] [Date "1861"] [Round "?"] [White "?"] [Black "?"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "n1rb4/1p3p1p/1p6/1R5K/8/p3p1PN/1PP1R3/N6k w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "9"] 1. b4 {(White threatens Rd5 - Rd1# and Rf5 - Rf1#)} Rc5 2. bxc5 {(Now white threatens mate on b1.)} a2 3. c6 {(Again the threats are Rd5 - Rd1# and Rf5 - Rf1#)} Bc7 {(The only move preventing both threats in such way that it does not lead anymore to mate in 5. )} 4. cxb7 {(With black last move the escape square for the knight has disappeared by which nothing can be done anymore against the promotion and the mate in 1.)} Bxg3 5. bxa8=Q# 1-0'/>
The problem went around the world and the name Excelsior always stuck to this remarkable theme. Did you see recently something funny or extraordinary and are you willing to share then this blog is available.


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