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is chess in the Olympics

  There is currently no chess in the Olympiad. The Chess Olympiad is a chess competition officially organized by FIDE since 1927 and takes place in even-numbered years. Before World War II the event was occasionally held every year. There was also an unofficial Chess Olympiad series that ended in 1976. Although chess is covered in the sports sections of many newspapers around the world, it is not one of the recognized sports in the Olympic Games. However, FIDE is now a member of the International Olympic Committee and follows its rules. This means that chess could one day become an Olympic event, although most knowledgeable observers say this is unlikely. The World Chess Championship is a competition held annually by the international chess organization FIDE to determine the World Champion of chess. Both men and women are eligible to participate in this championship. The World Champion does not have to be the player with the highest Elo rating: the 2006-2007 World Champion, Vladimir Kr

How to Win in a Lost Position

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Is there any possible way to turn the tables around and win despite having not just a worse position but a lost one? Do you think that this kind of situation is insane? Perhaps, you would say that only by a miracle can someone win in chess even if they are already losing. Or maybe if they have the skills of the World Champion, or the strongest chess engine in the world. Then they would have a chance at such a feat.

Even then, you would probably say that a lost position is lost, and there’s no way to win it. And you’re probably right, there’s no way to win it. But let’s look at it from a slightly different perspective. The aim of someone who’s not winning in chess is simply not to lose. Or, to be more direct about it, they would rather take a draw over losing or resigning, if that were still possible.

Surely, there must have been a few games in the history of chess where such a marvel has happened. But that would usually happen when the winning side makes a horrible mistake that gives away the whole advantage. Furthermore, with the advancement of modern technology, such cases would rarely be seen in high level tournaments and matches of today.

However, after doing a bit of research and looking up games online, I found a few famous games where we see the exact concept of a miraculous blunder occurring. And these two games were both from the romantic era of chess, around the late 19th century and early 20th century.

One of the games was between two very famous groundbreaking grandmasters of their time which could be a good game to study as an example of endgame calculation. So let’s try to look at these games.

Hamppe – Meitner, Vienna, 1872

This was a crazy game from the get go and as I said, this was taken from the time when romanticism in chess was the trend. That means players would ideally want to go big or go home, putting everything on the line, entering very risky or shaky positions, and making as many flashy sacrifices as possible because that was what brought out the beauty of chess.

Even now, we like to see some cool sacrifices but we have become more practical and stoic about such recklessness. It would only be a great idea if it was actually a solid sacrifice. For that, we have players like Tal although some of his games or ideas wouldn’t be considered sound in the age of computers. Perhaps, the closest we’ve got to a well-rounded, balanced yet efficient tactician would be Kasparov, and maybe Anand in his prime.

Most players today are very holistic in their playing style and approach which tends to make a lot of their games boring or uneventful. That may be the reason why more people would rather watch or play blitz games because they tend to be more exciting.

Fischer tried to shake things up with his Fischerandom, now called Chess 960, where the initial positions of the pieces apart from the pawns are mixed so as to foster creativity instead of simply memorizing lines and variations. More chess variants are being produced today.

Sites like lichess have created King of the Hill and Crazyhouse which is similar to bughouse chess. even has a variant for four-player chess which, as the name implies, pits four players in one board. Each player takes their turn one at a time and the goal of the game is to be the last person standing. Chess is definitely evolving more than ever.

Anyway, back to the game, I have no idea why those moves were made other than the simple fact that they did it on a whim. They weren’t thinking about the most efficient way to develop their pieces or even about their king’s safety. White, in this game, was running around the board with his king, probably playing catch me if you can with Black.

Despite the abject disregard for solid chess principles and strategy, White continued on his leisurely stroll with the king and neglected to develop any of his pieces. On the other hand, Black seemed to say “screw it” and proceeded to throw in the kitchen sink and sacrifice all his pieces for no particular reason. However, in the final moments of the game, Black’s saving grace was a perpetual.

You’ll see that because of the excursions made by White’s king, he is caught in a draw or die situation, which ends up being a “win” for Black. Although to be honest, neither of them won this game, literally and figuratively. I don’t see the point of their moves at all aside from the fact that they made a spectacle out of their game. I guess as long as they had fun with it, that’s all that matters. Though, I wouldn’t have fun if I were playing this poorly.

Alekhine – Reti, Vienna, 1922

Now, on to something with more substance, sense, and practical use. After a grueling and sharp opening and middle game, they arrived at an endgame in which Black is down a pawn. With some careful maneuvering, Black was able to exchange both rooks leaving him with a king and two pawns versus a king and pawn.

You might think that after the last position, White was at least better because of his outside passed pawn. But when you look at it carefully, with the right technique and timing, Black has a drawn endgame.

Black’s goal is simply to capture the outside passer and then run toward the other side of the board to stop White from queening. White wants to distract Black’s king while he queens his other pawn but Black is just in time either to go in front of the pawn or to box the White king.

With this game, it’s more about technique but it wouldn’t have been possible if one side hadn’t made an inaccurate move at some point. And in this case, it’s 57. g4. It takes an good amount of foresight to see all the way through the end. Because of a little inaccuracy in the endgame, Alekhine lost the slightest bit of advantage he had.

Drawing chances and slight advantages

These games are called "The Immortal Draw" games because the way they ended in a draw was quite epic. From being in a totally lost position, the players were able to turn the tables around and managed to squeak a draw in the end.
Though it would be best to always look for a win in a match, there will come moments when you would find yourself at a disadvantage. In those cases, you would most likely hope for a draw, if your opponent doesn’t make any mistakes. The slightest bit of inaccuracy can actually go a long way as well.

That being said, there are players who are able to squeeze out victories even from the sliver of advantage that they get. One example is Magnus Carlsen who has made a huge career in chess out of simply being one of the best endgame technicians in the world. Couple that with his stamina and massive patience, there is no doubt he is one of the toughest World Champions in history.


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