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Thursday, March 6, 2014

C.H.O’D. Alexander’s Fantastic Move

      The following game between Sir Stuart Milner-Barry and C.H.O’D. Alexander was played in Cambridge, 1932 and it was, according to Tartakower, “A feast for the eye and mind.”
      The Cambridge, 1932 Premier final standings were:

1)Sultan Kahn (5.0)
2-3) Johannes Van den Bosch and Alexander (4.5)
4) Sir George Thomas (3.5)
5-7) Vera Menchik. T.H. Tyler and F.D. Yates (3.0)
7) F.D. Yates
8) Milner-Barry (1)

van den Bosch (right)
     All the players are well known names except perhaps Johannes Hendrik Otto graaf van den Bosch (12 April 1906, The Hague – 15 November 1994, Hilversum). He was a Dutch noble, lawyer, banker and chess master. He represented The Netherlands in the Olympiads three times.
     The opening, a Pierce Gambit which is a branch of the Vienna, arising from 1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 f4 exf4 4 Nf3 g5 and now characterized by the move: 5 d4 has a fascinating history. The gambit gets its name from English master William Timbrell Pierce (1839-1922) and his brother James Pierce (1833-1892).
     The first mention of it was apparently in the January 1886 issue of British Chess Magazine, to which they both regularly contributed. They played a lot of test games with the line, both in friendly and correspondence tournaments, including many games between the two brothers. Chess players in Brighton, Sussex also held a tournament in 1886 to investigate the gambit and numerous articles about it appeared during the later 1880s and 1890s. Towards the end of 1888 the publication of Pierce Gambit, Chess Papers and Problems by the brothers appeared.

     This game features threats, counter threats, sacrifices and counter sacrifices and lots of tension. Alexander’s 21st move is one of the most versatile I’ve ever seen. It fulfilled many functions: 1) masked the d-file 2) unmasked his own g-file 3) deflected white’s Q 4) attacked a N and 5) cut off the white K’s flight. What more could you ask from a single move?

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