Friday, 18 May 2007
Aesthetic vs practical in Chess
When researching today's chess puzzle, I came across this position from Westin - Karlsson, Stockholm 1973. Black won beautifully by 'walking into' a knight fork:
1 ... Kf7; 2 Nxd6+ Ke7; 3 Qxb5 Nf4+ with mate next move
There's no doubt that 1 ... Kf7 is an inspired and beautiful move. Indeed, Kotov awards it two exclamation marks in "Train Like a Grandmaster", but is it the best move in the position? What if White declines to play the queen winning fork, and instead plays something like 2 Qd2? Black is still considerably better, but the game is prolonged.
The strongest moves in this position are in fact more straightforward options like 1 ... Rf6 or the more difficult to spot 1 ... Qe8 (see our previous post about pieces going backwards).
What gives us the greatest pleasure, the aesthetically beautiful concept or the best practical move? Would Reti - Alekhine have claimed it's place in chess history if Alekhine had played the routine but strong ... Ra3 instead of ... Re3?
I'll leave you to ponder this paradox between pleasure and perfection in chess, and to dream of the chance to play ... Kf7 or ... Re3!
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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.