Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hastings h-file Mate in Ruy Lopez

Do you know the famous opening trap I call the "Hastings h-file Mate"? It is a pattern that can be reached from many different openings. See game below. Forty years ago I memorized many openings variations. Such memory work gives you a great practical edge when you can choose in advance how you wish to play vs the most popular early moves. I memorized all 14 moves of this game. I thought knowing many traps would lead to easy wins. It sometimes does. But recognizing tactical patterns is much more effective.

Probably I found this in Irving Chernev's book "300 Winning Chess Traps". At first, I thought this game came from Dr. Emanuel Lasker's book "Common Sense in Chess", a series of lectures that Lasker gave in London in the spring of 1895. I cannot find this mate there.

The mate is illustrated here in the Ruy Lopez line played at Hastings in 1919. A generation earlier, the same opening line was played in Maroczy-Marco, but Black played more solidly, not allowing the mate. I call it the "Hastings h-file Mate".

Let me set up the board and explain how this mate works. This checkmate theme is a variation of the back rank rook mate. Here the mate is done on the h-file with the help of a knight and queen sacrifice, prior to the rook mate. Here's what to look for:

Black has castled kingside with a normal Rf8, Kg8 and pawns on f7, g7 and h7; however the typical Nf6 has moved away and does not cover h7. Ready for the combination?

White begins with 1.Ne7+, driving the Black king from g8 to h8. There follows 2.Qxh7+ forcing Black to capture Kxh7. Finally White slides over to the h-file for mate: 3.Rh5#. Black's king has no moves since he has a pawn on g7 and the Ne7 covers g8 and g6.

Berryman-Straat, Hastings 1919 begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 [The Open Ruy Lopez is almost always played 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6] 6...Nc5 7.Nc3 [7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.Nxe5 leaves White with a better pawn structure while Black as two bishops.] 7...Nxa4 8.Nxe5 Nxe5? [8...Be7 9.Nd5 0-0 10.Nxc6 dxc6 11.Nxe7+ Kh8 12.Qh5 Be6 13.Rxe6 fxe6 14.Ng6+ Kg8 15.Nxf8 Qxf8 16.Qg4 Nb6 17.Qxe6+ Kh8 18.b3 Re8 19.Ba3 Qxf2+ 20.Kxf2 Rxe6 21.Re1 Rxe1 22.Kxe1 1/2-1/2. Maroczy-Marco, Budapest 1896] 9.Rxe5+ Be7 10.Nd5 0-0 11.Nxe7+ Kh8 12.Qh5 d6 [This allows the thematic mate, but there is no playable defense. 12...g6 13.Qh4 and White is going to win a lot of material. 12...h6 13.d3 and White threatens to rip open Black's kingside with 14.Bxh6 winning.] 13.Qxh7+ Kxh7 14.Rh5# 1-0

London 2.Bf4 Playbook: How to begin. London 2.Bf4 Tactics: How to win quickly.

Sets: Chess Games 1.e4 Series and Chess Games 1.d4 Series
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  1. A.D. Clark writes: Dear Rev. Sawyer,
    I thank you for the effort to write your article and I did enjoy the personal impact the game had for you.
    I came across your article while searching for H-File Mates after seeing it mentioned in the Wikipedia article about checkmate patterns.
    However, I was disappointed, since the checkmate pattern in your article is a classic Anastasia's Mate, not an H-File Mate at all. Do you still want to call it the Hastings H-File Mate?
    Last, if you do know of any games that use the H-File Mate, please let me know.
    All the best to you and yours,
    A. D. Clark

  2. Thanks A.D. Clark. I like the descriptive name h-file mate because both the mated and mating piece are on the h-file. But I will link to the site you note because it is an excellent list of mates: