Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Naming and Contingency

In the previous post, we saw that the so-called "Maroczy Bind" was named for Geza Maroczy not because he played it, but because, after facing it, he popularized that setup. A bit of an injustice to Swiderski, but he's not alone.

To take a relatively recent and prominent example, the ...Qb6xb2 line in the 6.Bg5 Najdorf deserved to be named after Bobby Fischer if any variation did, but apparently it came to be known as the "Poisoned Pawn Variation" when some journalist during the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match asked about the opening and was told that Fischer had snatched a poisoned pawn.

Oh well. Even worse is the baptism of Damiano's Defense - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6? Damiano's connection to this horrible move was that he mentioned it in a treatise, refuting it! It would be more just if the opening had some other name and 3.Nxe5!, the first move of the refutation, was known as Damiano's Attack or something to that effect.

(In case anyone's curious, the main line proceeds 3.Nxe5 fxe5 [3...Qe7 lets Black regain the pawn and live, but with a clearly inferior position] 4.Qh5+ Ke7 [4...g6 5.Qxe5+ and 6.Qxh8] 5.Qe5+ Kf7 6.Bc4+ d5 7.Bxd5 Kg6 8.h4! [much more accurate than the immediate 8.Bxb7, though that may also win after 8...Bxb7 9.Qf5+ Kh6 10.d3+ g5 11.h4 Kg7 12.Bd2 g4 13.Qxg4+ Kf7 14.Qh5+ Ke7 15.Bb4+ c5 16.Bxc5+ Kd7 17.Qf5+ Kc7 18.Bxf8] h5 9.Bxb7! and now:

A. 9...Bxb7 10.Qf5+ Kh6 11.d3+ g5 12.Qf7! with a quick forced mate, as the threat of 13.hxg5+ Qxg5 14.Rxh5# can be delayed but not prevented.

B. 9...Bd6 10.Qa5 and a final divergence:

B1. 10...Bxb7 again leads to a forced mate, though it takes a little longer this time: 11.Qf5+ Kh6 12.d4+ g5 13.Qf7! [again] Bf4 14.hxg5+ Qxg5 15.Bxf4 [again threatening Rxh5#] Nf6 16.Qxf6+ Kh7 17.Qxg5 any 18.Rxh5#

B2. 10...Nc6 11.Bxc6 Rb8. Here at least Black won't get mated too quickly, but he's four pawns down with a bad position to boot. White's winning.)

Finally, there are also more minor nomenclatural injustices that arise due to the originator's modesty. The Polish GM Savielly Tartakower is the inventor of both 1.b4 (alternately called the Polish and the Orangatun [and in Russia, it's named after Sokolsky, who wrote a book on the opening]) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 - the "Catalan", named for the place he introduced the opening.

Does it matter? Perhaps no one is harmed, especially since there aren't any copyrights on chess moves and no royalties lost ("If I had a nickel for every time someone played that opening..."). But still, it is an injustice, in that the person who deserves the credit doesn't receive it (or in the case of Damiano's Defense, blame is improperly assigned).

A final, semi-bleak thought: if my recommendation is strictly followed, does it mean that in about 15 years, every new variation will be called something like the "Shredder 21" or the "Fritz 20"? Ugh!


  • At 4:32 PM, Blogger Victor Reppert said…

    Dennis: The term "poisoned pawn variation" was around long before 1972. I'm old enough to know.

  • At 10:54 PM, Blogger Dennis Monokroussos said…

    Thanks for the correction. I thought I had read the story I mentioned in Mednis's How to Beat Bobby Fischer, but a friend checked and it wasn't there. So I'm not sure where I read it, or if it's possible that the journalist part of the story is right even if the date is wrong.

    Mea culpa!

  • At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Dennis, in the B1 variation white's 16th move is of course Qxf6+, however in the text it reads Qxf7+. Great job posting the refutation to that defence by black, i would probably never see it until i had to play against it.

  • At 11:59 PM, Blogger Dennis Monokroussos said…

    Thanks, Filipe, for the appreciative words and the correction, which has been made.

  • At 4:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've read somewhere that a strong player beat Bobby F with the "Damiano defence" in a simul game! Any truth to that? Is there any risk 2.-f6 will become the Bobby defence? ;)


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