08 February 2017

Inspired by Morphy

Lesson of the Week

This week's lesson for advanced students features part of a complex struggle that reveals how Yasser Seirawan was inspired by Paul Morphy's Opera game (see "Chess at the Opera"). This game was played as part of a match between Jan Timman and Seirawan billed as "Best of the West." Timman and Seirawan were the top chess players outside of the Soviet Union.

Seirawan,Yasser (2635) -- Timman,Jan H (2660) [E21]
Hilversum (m/5) 50/564, 1990

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qb3 c5 6.a3 Ba5 7.Bg5 Nc6 8.0–0–0 Bxc3 9.d5 exd5 10.cxd5 Be5 11.dxc6 Qe7

White to move


Seirawan explains why he rejected both 12.Nxe4 and 12.e4 in a lecture at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (24 April 2013), available on YouTube.

12...Bxd7 13.e3 Rd8

Seirawan's extensive annotations in Chess Informant 50/564 are quite instructive. Here he gives five alternatives for Black that all lead to a decisive advantage for White. The longest line begins 13...Bd6. Seirawan gives as best for White 14.Bc4 Be6 15.Qa4+ Bd7 16.Bb5 O-O-O 17.Qa6+ with the idea of Rxd6, attempting to decoy the queen to the same diagonal as the king to set up Bf4.


As in the Opera game, sacrificing the exchange sets up a pin that wins back the material and keep the enemy king in danger.

14...Rxd7 15.Bb5 Bd6 16.Rd1 0–0

Timman's position is a little better than the Duke and Count because the dark-squared bishop came out early. It is possible to castle out of the pin on the rook.

17.Bxd7 Qxd7

Now, however, the bishop is pinned against the queen.

White to move


Piling on the pin.


Black's only chance is to set up some tactics of his own. Seirawan must be careful with an open c-file.

19.Qc2 Ne8 20.Ng5

White threatens checkmate, so Black must move a pawn in front of the king.


20...g6 is met by 21.Ne4

21.Qxc4+ Kh8 22.Bxd6 Nxd6 23.Qd5 Rd8 

White to move


All the forks on f7 are well defended against, in part because Black has a zwischenzug with a check along the c-file. For example 24.Qxd6?? does not decoy the queen to d6 for a deadly fork. Instead, Black plays 24...Qc8+ and wins White's queen.

24...Qc8+ 25.Kb1 Rd7 26.Qxd6 1–0

Black will be forced to give up the queen for the rook to avoid checkmate. White has an elementary endgame after this exchange.

My beginning students this week worked of learning basic checkmates using the cards described in "Lesson of the Week" (26 March 2014).

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