Thursday, June 19, 2008

Winning with the cat II

It was my birthday on Sunday, reminding me, as Tom Lehrer said of Mozart, of how little I've achieved. I went to the mountains and watched vultures circling overhead: you'd need a less gloomy, and thus less reasonable outlook on life than mine not to locate some fairly obvious symbolism in the sight.

Never mind, we all have to age some time. I got sent this photo by way of greetings:

it combines cats, chess and books, three great passions of my life (a photo combining football, cricket and classical music would probably cover most of the rest).

An intriguing photo. Well of course it's intriguing - it has a cat in it - but intriguing also for the position on the board, in which Kitty, naturally, has already established something of an edge. (It's also intriguing because Puss has so far declined to sweep the pieces to the floor, though judging by the first few moves it will presumably be the opponent who will feel obliged to do so.) But normally in photos of chess sets you either get complete nonsense positions, or something standard, a positions from a classic game or from a variation that the book is discussing. Can't be the book the kittypuss is reading though - that, as Tom observed on seeing the shot, appears to be a book of chess variants, judging by the unusual shape of the diagrams which are anything but square. I've seen better boards in a pub.

So what's this about? Tiddles' moves are sensible enough, presumably beginning 1.d4 2.c4 and 3.Nc3, but Black's moves are a mixture of the standard and the second-rate. Either it's a QGD in which Black has eccentrically decided to play 3...Nc6, or the knight moved on the second turn, and then Black saw fit to play 3...e6 - not so much unthematic as antithematic, given that the whole point of the Chigorin is to put pressure on d4, to which end the ability to play ...Bg4 is fundamental. (I admit I have seen Chigorin players play 3....e6 when I've played the White pieces, though in that case it would have been the line with Nf3. In that instance it probably makes even less sense than it does here. It never fails to amaze me how some club players can choose an opening and yet neither learn any of the moves nor understand any of the ideas involved.)

Either way, Hairy Maclary has also made an unusual, though more reasonable, decision, selecting 4.a3 to restrict the bishop that Black has not yet closed off of their own accord. I'd have played 4.Nf3 myself, but perhaps the idea was to emulate the Petrosian variation of the Queen's Indian, in which a young future world champion made a name for himself, a generation and more ago, by winning a lot of games with the same 4.a3.

Same move, same idea. Can it be that we have a budding Katsparov?


Jonathan B said...

A belated happy birthday to you Justin.

ejh said...

Thankyou. Actually I'm wondering if Black doesn't have 4...dxc4 with a plan of ...Na5 and then ...a6 and ...b5: if this is any good than a3 isn't best.

But if there's one thing you can be sure of about a cat, it's that the cat sees more than you do.

Tom Chivers said...

Don't know why I didn't backsurf the url before:-

"JUNE 3, 2006. Carol Dutcher of Midland, MI sent in a photo of her 3-year-old black and white cat named Sacha who loves to play chess with their human son Mark. In the photo Sacha is studing a book of chess and perfecting some of his moves to a checkmate." -- Link.

Tom Chivers said...

I'm wondering if Black doesn't have 4...dxc4 with a plan of ...Na5 and then ...a6 and ...b5: if this is any good than a3 isn't best.

Sounds like a poisoned paw...