The Ecphorizer

Chess in a Hurry
John Cumming

Issue #15 (November 1982)

Who would've thought chess could be played so fast

[quoteright]The game of chess has been characterized by purveyors of vulgar superstition as an exceedingly time-consuming activity. While we of the chess-playing fraternity are well aware that we are under no obligation to disabuse those so misinformed, yet out of pure and charitable instincts

The race is not to the swift, etc, but chutzpa wins every time.

I have decided to present some examples of how sweetly short chess can be.

In a recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle, George Koltanowski reproduced the shortest tournament game ending in mate:

KIEL 1893

Lindemann         Echtermayer
1. P-K4                 P-Q4
2.PxP                     QxP

At this point, white (Lindemann) intended to pick up his knight and place it on the third square in front of his bishop (QB3), but grasped the bishop instead. He unwittingly placed his bishop upon the QB3 square, a move that is impossible within the rules of chess in the position given. Echtermayer then claimed the right (according to the tournament rules of the time) of making his opponent retract the illegal move and make another, legal, move of Echtermayer's choosing. The forced move was: 3. K-K2, whereupon Echtermayer promptly moved Q-K5, a checkmate! I am reminded that in the old Austrian Empire high born officers who were convicted of capital crimes were sometimes granted the "honor" of giving the order to fire at their own executions. This curious practice has now disappeared, along with the tournament rule which was so fatal to Lindemann. Nowadays an illegal move is simply taken back.

Several years ago I heard Kolty recount the very shortest game he knew of from tournament play. It was one in which one of the players announced (jokingly) that he was resigning, even before he made his first move. His opponent held him to it! The race is not to the swift, etc, but chutzpa wins every time.

Finally, here is "the shortest game on record from master tourney play" as recorded by Al Horowitz in his book The Golden Treasury of Chess:

PARIS, 1924

A. Gibaud             M. Lazard
1. P-Q4                 Kt-KB3
2. Kt-Q2                 P-K4
3. PxP                   Kt-Kt5
4. P-KR3 ?           Kt-K6 !!
5. Resigns

If white captures the adventuresome knight, then Q-R5ch is one move short of mate. If the knight is not taken, the white queen goes, leaving white with a singularly unpromising game. 

When not wallowing in dictionaries, John Cumming amuses himself by destroying his fellow Mensans at the chess board.

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John Cumming

john served as a medic in the Vietnam War then returned to Silicon Valley where he has worked as a tchnical writer and programmer at a number of Valley firms. In the 70s - 90s, John held many appointed and elected positions in local and national Mensa - notably as editor of the SFRM newletter Intelligencer and Local Secretary of SFRM, as well as serving as Regional Vice Chair for a number of years. John enjoys a good game of chess and likes nothing better than to curl up and read ancient or niche dictionaries, many of which are reviewed in these pages.