If, as I suggested a while ago, our choice of openings tells us something about ourselves, it must be equally true for our favourite moves.
We've had quirky openings (from Justin and Tom), and the odd bizarre king move, but as often as not, our favourite moves so far have involved a good deal of wildness (or is that randomness? - see here here and my own first choice here and decide for yourself).
One of my all time favourite moves, on the other hand, is really quite mundane - nothing more than a quiet offer to exchange queens. It's not the move itself but the context in which it was played that continues to impress me nearly two decades on.
In the last round of the 1990 Manila Interzonal, Nigel Short found himself paired as Black against Mikhail Gurevich. The situation was clear, if not particularly rosey for our hero – while the former Soviet only needed a draw to qualify for the candidates matches, Nigel had to win.
Not exactly tossing caution to the wind, Gurevich played into the Exchange variation of the French Defence and after,
1. e4 e6, 2. d4 d5, 3. exd5 exd5, 4. Nf3 Bg4, 5. h3 Bh5, 6. Be2 Bd6, 7. Ne5 Bxe2,8. Qxe2 Ne7, 9. O-O O-O, 10. Bf4 Re8, 11. Qg4 Bxe5, 12. Bxe5 Ng6, 13. Bg3 Nd7,14. Nd2 Nf6, 15. Qf3 c6, 16. Qb3
they reached this position.
Now the idea behind 16. … Qb6 is apparent, even to me. If White captures then … axb6 is, in effect, a developing move because it opens up the a-file for the Rook. If White doesn’t capture then the Queen is stuck doing nothing on b3.
It seems Black is slightly better in this position and … Qb6 is not, in many ways, a difficult move to find. Still, to offer an exchange of queens in a position where the pawn structure is symmetrical and both sides have castled on the same side yet you have to win at all costs … that shows balls of steel I think.
In the pub after the recent Metropolitan tournament Andrew cited fighting spirit as the key weapon in a chess player’s arsenal. I’m sure he’s totally right, and it’s the character Nosher shows in slowly grinding down his opponent after the Queen swap that keeps this game right up there as one of my favourites of all time.
Perhaps it’s because I know, deep down, that I don’t have that prepared-to-go-to-any-lengths will to win myself that I admire this game so much.