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Thursday, February 12, 2015

You Can Take Rat Poison On It!

     I was looking through Arnold Denker's great book, The Bobby Fischer I Knew, and he was telling about one of Al Horowitz' favorite sayings, "If I tell you it wins, you can take rat poison on it!"

     Denker gave the following position from the game Horowitz vs. Alex Kevitz, New York, 1931.

     Horowitz announced mate in seven and Kevitz resigned. It got me curious, was there really a mate in 7? Yes, there was: 22.Qg5 g6 23.Qh6 gxf5 24.Rg4+ fxg4 25.Bxh7+ Kh8 26.Bg6+ Kg8 27.Qh7+ Kf8 28.Qxf7mate
     They don't announce mate any more. First, few games get that far these days and technically, I supposed it could be considered against the rules to talk to your opponent as he might think it's annoying.
According to one arbiter, if someone claims that a position is mate and it is not, then the claim has no more status than a spectator making a comment. If a player claims checkmate and it is checkmate, it would have been checkmate whether or not the comment was made. If a player claims a mate and it is not, the game continues and there is no penalty for it.
     Sometimes a player deliberately does make a false claim in order to try to get his opponent to think it is mate and stop playing without looking at the board. That is considered bad sportsmanship and the player who falsely announces checkmate may be subject to sportsmanship penalties if there is any indication that it was done deliberately. Such penalties can be as severe as loss of the game, but it is not automatic. Usually the tournament director will warn the player to stop doing it or adjust clock times before considering forfeiting the game. Article 3.8b of the FIDE Laws of Chess indicates that "Declaring a check is not obligatory". USCF rule 12F states "Calling check is not mandatory".
     A long time ago in a junior tournament I had an opponent announce mate in 6 against me. I didn’t see it and asked to play it out. He got real snotty, called me a couple of names and fetched the TD who told him he wasn’t Morphy and he had to play it out. Every move he slammed the pieces down and hammered the clock (mine). As he delivered mate (in 6, of course) he called me an (expletive deleted) got up and stomped off.
     Capa  wrote, "We have been criticized for not announcing mate in four moves when we could have done so. The reason is very simple - we never announce mate, even if it is mate in one move. In our opinion announcing mate is in poor taste and evinces a certain exhibitionism which is foreign to our character. Besides, announcing mate would in no way have prevented our opponent from continuing playing, which he should have been entitled to do."
      Back in the mid-1800's Mrs. Ellen Gilbert was famous for long announced mates, but those were in correspondence games.  When it comes to OTB games, there was an announced mate in 36 moves, the record, HERE.
     In the following position, B. Burt vs. J.H. Blackburne, Bristol 1869, Blackburne announced mate in 9 moves: 9...Bd4+ 10.Rf2 (10.cxd4 Rxg2+ 11.Kh1 Rxh2+ 12.Kxh2 Qh4+ 13.Kg1 Qg3+ 14.Kh1 Qg2mate) Rxg2+ 11.Kf1 Rg1+ 12.Kxg1 Qg5+ 13.Kf1 Bxf2 14.Qa3+ d6 15.Qxd6+ cxd6 16.Kxf2 Qg2+ 17.Ke1 Qg1 mate. He was correct.

     Here's the position from a game John F. Barry vs. H.N. Pillsbury, Match, Boston 1889. Pillsbury has just played 31...h6 and Barry announced mate in 13. Is it really?

     Yes, Barry was correct: 32.Rxg7+ Kxg7 33.Re7+ Kg8 34.Qxh6 Bg1+ 35.Kh1 Bd4 36.Qg5+ Kh8 37.cxd4 Qxd4 38.Qh4+ Kg8 39.Qg3+ Kh8 40.Bc3 Qxc3 41.Qxc3+ d4 42.Qxd4+ Rf6 43.Qxf6+ Kg8 44.Qg7 mate
     The following position was taken from The American Chess Journal of 1876. It says the position was taken from a game between an amateur and a "Mrs. W," the leading lady player in New York...she announced mate in 6.

Black to move

Highlight for solution: 1...Rh3+ 2.Kg2 Rf2+ 3.Rxf2 Qxe4+ 4.Kf1 Rh1+ 5.Qg1 Bh3+ 6.Rg2 Qe2 mate.
     Of course, you can't always take rat poison on it...in Bled, 1931 the tournament book by Hans Kmoch says that Bogoljubow announced a mate in two against Asztalos in the following position:

Bogoljubow announced "Mate in two moves!" Asztalos looked at the position and said "I do not see it". Then Bogoljubow played 51.g6+ and laughing loudly said, "I apologize, please, I did not notice that your king gets out..." After 51...Kh6 52.Kf4 Qf2+ they agreed to a draw.
     Here's a game where Louis Paulsen announced mate in 11 while playing four blindfold games!!

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