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Shelby Lyman on Chess: Perspiration, Not Inspiration

Hint and Explanation: Target the h-Pawn

In many ways, we live in a more competitive and difficult world than I remember growing up. Housing, affordable college tuition, middle-class jobs and health care, among other niceties and necessities, can rarely be taken for granted.

In part this reflects relative scarcity, in part a broad, secular, cultural change, which I leave to historians and sociologists to explain.

Clearly, sports are also affected.

Football is a prime example: Today’s players are bigger, stronger, faster and more skilled. They put more time into their sport on the practice field and off — where videotapes and the weight room require an additional effort.

Chess has not gone untouched.

Grandmasters who once could rely on talent and inspiration at the chessboard are likely to be mercilessly subdued by their computer-driven colleagues.

A decade or so ago, the delightfully gifted and formidable Armenian player Rafael Vaganian, then about 49, reflected on the changes, the high water mark of his career well behind him.

“We knew a bit, we studied a bit, then we improvised. … Nowadays, everything is checked by the computer. The game is often decided after 30 moves.

“I know it sounds like nostalgia and carping, but the chess we played in the ’70s and ’80s suited me better.”

Below is a win by Leinier Dominguez Perez against Wesley So from the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands.

Dominguez Perez So

1. e4 e5

2. Nf3 Nf6

3. Nxe5 d6

4. Nf3 Nxe4

5. Nc3 Nxc3

6. dxc3 Be7

7. Be3 O-O

8. Qd2 b6

9. O-O-O Bb7

10. h4 Nd7

11. Bd3 Nf6

12. Bd4 c5

13. Bxf6 Bxf6

14. Qf4 d5

15. h5 Re8

16. g4 g6

17. hxg6 hxg6

18. g5 Bg7

19. Rh7 d4

20. Bc4 Qe7

21. Qh4 Black resigns

Solution to Beginner’s Corner: 1. Bf6! (threatens Qxh6 mate). If … Rf8, 2. Qxh6ch Kg8 3. Qxg7 mate.