Shelby Lyman on Chess: Instrument of Survival

Sunday, August 16, 2015
Hint and Explanation: 
Too Easy for a Hint

Yuri Averbach, a former Soviet champion and the world’s oldest grandmaster at 93, is also a chess historian.

Assuming that chess originated in India because its pieces — chariots, elephants, cavalry and infantry — mirrored the four-part Indian army, he offered a real-life rationale for the game in a 2012 interview for Chess in Translation: In the first centuries AD, he said, “a flood of savages from Central Asia rushed through the passes in the Hindu Kush to reach northern India. They had to learn how to fight off the attacks. The result was the emergence of chess.”

Be that as it may, there is little doubt of the utilitarian value of chess. As Averbach told Chess in Translation, there is a saying attributed to Ardashir I, the founder of the Sassanid Dynasty, that goes like this: “I don’t understand a sultan who’s incapable of playing chess. How can he rule his kingdom?”

According to Auerbach: “(I)t really is true that in Iran, chess was used to train young princes.”

There have been other leaders, especially the Russian revolutionaries, who placed a priority on popularization of the game. Ten years after the inception of a massive chess program, which for some had an explicit military rationale, the number of expert Russian players had increased from 300,000 to 5 million.

If chess is seen as a mirror of life for personages as disparate as Benjamin Franklin and Garry Kasparov, it is because of the practical demands made on it by centuries of its advocates.

Below is a win by Vladimir Kramnik against Hou Yifan from the Dortmund international tournament in Dortmund, Germany.

Hou Kramnik

1. e4 e5

2. Nf3 Nc6

3. Bb5 Nf6

4. Qe2 Bc5

5. c3 O-O

6. d3 h6

7. N(b)d2 d6

8. O-O Ne7

9. d4 a6

10. dxc5 axb5

11. cxd6 Qxd6

12. Qxb5 Ng6

13. Re1 b6

14. Nc4 Qe6

15. Ne3 Nxe4

16. Qd5 Nc5

17. b4 Bb7

18. Qxe6 Nxe6

19. Nf5 R(f)d8

20. a4 Rd3

21. Be3 Rxc3

22. a5 Rb3

23. axb6 cxb6

24. Rxa8ch Bxa8

25. Bxb6 Bxf3

26. gxf3 Ng5

27. Kh1 Nxf3

28. Re4 Nf4

White resigns

Solution to Beginner’s Corner: 1. ... Rf7! (threatens ... Rf1 and ... e1=Q). (Ernst-Kovalenko ’15).

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