Shelby Lyman on Chess: Sports, Empowerment and War

Hint and Explanation: Better than 1. ... Qxg5.

The idea of sports as a form of manly empowerment is an old one.

Teddy Roosevelt, a future American president of Rough Riders fame, declared in Professionalism in Sports (1890): “There is a certain tendency … to underestimate or overlook the need and virile qualities of the heart and mind.”

Three years later, in an essay in Harper’s Weekly titled “The Value of an Athletic Training,” he argued that “manly out-of-door sports” could contribute to the growing role of the U.S. as a world power. Vigorous athletics would help build “courage, resolution and endurance.”

Curiously, the sedentary and minimally physical game of chess also was seen as a form of empowerment by leaders of the revolutionary Soviet society of the 1920s.

In 1963, Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky, a Soviet military commander in World War II and minister of defense in the 1950s and 1960s, wrote in Chess in the USSR, “We in the Armed Forces value chess highly because it disciplines a man, helps to increase strength of will and powers of endurance, develops memory and quick-wittedness, and teaches logical thinking.”

Two decades earlier, after months of excruciating and deadly face-to-face combat, Soviet armed forces drove Hitler’s powerful legions back from the gates of Stalingrad, Leningrad and Moscow.

Was training in chess a factor in their victory?

Below is a win by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov against Gabriel Sargissian from the FIDE World Rapid championship in Dubai, UAE.

Mamedyarov Sargissian

1. d4 Nf6

2. Bg5 e6

3. e4 h6

4. Bxf6 Qxf6

5. Nc3 Bb4

6. Qd2 d6

7. a3 Bxc3

8. Qxc3 Nc6

9. Nf3 O-O

10. e5 Qf4

11. Bd3 dxe5

12. dxe5 Bd7

13. g3 Qa4

14. O-O-O R(f)d8

15. R(h)e1 Be8

16. Rd2 Ne7

17. R(e)d1 Nd5

18. Qc5 b6

19. Qc4 Kf8

20. Qe4 Ne7

21. Qh7 Qg4

22. Nh4 Rxd3

23. Rxd3 Qe2

24. Rf3 Black resigns

Solution to Beginner’s Corner: 1. ... Qb6ch! 2. Kf1 Qf2 mate!