A fresh look at some stalemate play
There are draws, and then there are draws. When I achieved the grandmaster title 30-odd years ago, there were about 40 of us in the world. In round-robin tournaments it was not uncommon for grandmasters to draw with each other quickly and save their energies for the less highly ranked players, thus giving the term ``grandmaster draw'' to the world. This was the draw by agreement or consent. A draw by perpetual check is not uncommon; often one player sacrifices for what seems to be a crushing attack but is not quite able to deliver the final blow. He has enough initiative to keep checking, and a draw is the result. Recently I attended an elementary school tournament and one young lad was strutting and looking as if he were winning. When I strolled over to his position, I saw that he was fighting on gallantly with a lone king against the army of his adversary. When I asked him why he appeared so optimistic, he proudly replied that he was playing for stalemate, happy that he remembered this rule, learned the previous week.Skip to next paragraph
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The stalemate is seldom encountered in world class events, so let the reader enjoy today's featured swashbuckling encounter between two very strong grandmasters, Andrei Beliavsky of the Soviet Union and Larry Christiansen of the United States. This game is taken from the superstrong all-grandmaster event at Reggio Emilia, Italy. The half point lost by Beliavsky cost him a first place tie with countryman Vladimir Tukmakov and enabled Christiansen to move into a tie for 2nd-4th place with Beliavsky and Hungarian Zoltan Ribli.
1. P-Q4 N-KB3 2. P-QB4 P-K3 3. P-KN3 B-N5 ch 4. B-Q2 Q-K2 5. B-N2 BxB ch 6. QxB P-Q3 7. N-QB3 O-O 8. N-B3 P-K4 9. O-O R-K1 10. P-K4 B-N5 11. P-Q5 (a) BxN 12. BxB QN-Q2 13. P-QN4 P-QR4 14. P-QR3 R-R3 15. N-N5 N-N3 16. QR-B1 PxP 17. PxP Q-Q2 18. Q-Q3 R-R5 19. Q-N3 KR-R1 20. KR-Q1 P-R4 21. P-R4 P-N3 22. R-N1 N-N5 23. B-K2 Q-K2 24. R/N-B1 P-QB3 (b) 25. PxP PxP 26. P-B5 (c) PxP 27. PxP N-Q2 28. N-Q6 N/Q-B3 (d) 29. B-B4 NxBP (e) 30. KxN R-R6 31. BxP ch K-N2 32. Q-K6 R-R7 ch 33. K-N1 (f) R/1-R6 34. N-K8 ch (g) K-R3 35. NxN RxP ch 36. K-R1 QxB (h) 37. R-Q7 (i) QxN 38. QxQ? (j) R-R7 ch Draw
A.White advances before Black plays BxN and N-QB3-Q5, a beautiful square for his knight. Black's reply is predicated on the general rule that the side with a spatial disadvantage should exchange to mitigate the problem of piece deployment. The next 15 moves see White striving for P-QB5 and Black trying to prevent this advance.
B.Seeking counterplay, Black makes this bad move, probably overlooking White's 26.P-B5.
C.Stronger than the playable 26.NxP, which enables Black to scare up counterplay with 26.... R-R6 and 27.... Q-B3. Now if 26.... PxN; 27.PxN, and White dominates the board with threats such as R-B7 and P-N7.
D.White threatened 29.QxP ch, QxQ; 30.NxQ, KxN; 31.RxN ch.
E.Since the passive 29.... N-R3; 30.N-B8!, Q-K1; 31.N-N6, R-R6; 32.Q-N2, R/8-R4; 33.R-Q6 is unpalatable, Black plays for complications and indulges in ``coffeehouse'' chess which eventually succeeds.
F.This wins, as does 33.QxR, trading the queen for two rooks.
G.But not 34.QxQ, RxP ch, and the rook gives perpetual check on the sixth rank.
H.Another bluff, hoping for 37.QxQ, R-R6 ch, and draws as in Note G.
I.So that if 37.... QxQ; 38.R-R7, mate. But 37.N-N4 ch, PxN; 38.QxQ would have forced Black's capitulation, since the perpetual was off.
J.Having warded off all perpetual-check attempts, he succumbs to the stalemate joke. 38.R-R7 ch, KxR; 39.QxQ wins quickly here. In the final position after 39.KxR, R-N7 ch, 40.KxR is stalemate, and if 40. K-R1, R-N8 ch or 40. K-R3, R-N6 ch, with the same result.
International Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier is a former US champion and has won or shared the US Open title five times.