Thursday, 27 June 2019

The Shortest Game

AT last weekend's Steve Boniface Memorial in Bristol I played - and lost - my longest ever recorded game, which took a draining 141 moves.
It got me thinking about my shortest decisive games, ie competitive games which resulted in a win or a loss.
I have 12 such games that finished in 10 moves or fewer, with Black winning eight of them. I seem to do rather well at this sort of thing as 10 of the 12 games were won by me.
Here is the shortest:
John Nicholson* (1910) - Spanton (1982)
Isle of Man 2007, Round 6
Spanish Closed Berlin
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Ne7!?
This is known as Mortimer's Trap, named after a James Mortimer who, if ChessBase's Mega database is taken as the sole authority, played it with a particular lack of success in the late 1800s. My notes to the game include a Kenilworth Chess Club online quote from Michael Goeller: "If White does not fall for the trap and does play aggressively, he can get a strong attack in at least three ways: with an early h4 thrust to harass the wandering knight on g6, a d4 break to blow open the centre, or a direct attack on f7 by Bc4 and Ng5."
And yet 4...Ne7!? comes to be the analysis engine Stockfish10's top choice!
Can you see the trap White has fallen into?
5...c6 0-1
White resigned because he is losing a piece. Stockfish10 gives White's best as 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Bc4+, giving Black the upper hand - but not a winning advantage - after 7...d5.
Note that 6.Nc4? threatens mate but is easily met by 6...Ng6 or 6...d6. I was planning 6...d5?, but as John Saunders pointed out with the help of Fritz (I cannot recall which version), Black stays in the game with 7.e5.
Here is my quickest checkmate:
Jim Ship (119) - Spanton (160)
Southern Counties Chess Union Championship 2011-12, Herts @ Sussex
Albin Countergambit
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bg5!?
This logical-looking but uncommon continuation has been tried by strong players, including grandmaster Keith Arkell.
5...Be7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7?!
More popular, and almost certainly better, is 6...Ngxe7.
This defends against 7...Qb4+, but that was not the threat it appears to be at first glance, eg 7.Nxd4! (I see from my notes that I was expecting 7.Qd2, which is solid but not as strong) Qb4+? 8.Nc3 Qxb2? 9.Ndb5, when White wins material. Better in this line is 7...Nxe5, but Black does not seem to have sufficient compensation for his pawn-minus.
8.Nxd4?? Nd3#
*This is the Irish John Nicholson; not to be confused with England's John G Nicholson.

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