Monday, June 30, 2014

A Missed Hook and Ladder Trick

I visited the Kenilworth Chess Club on Thursday where I participated in round 4 of the Summer Tournament.  I have annotated my game with Dr. Richard Lewis, whom I have known since the 1980s when he was president of the Westfield Chess Club for many years.  Our game was played quickly and was not one of our best, but it had a very amusing ending as Dr. Lewis resigned in a position where he could have won material using a tactic that LM Dana Mackenzie has called "the hook and ladder trick" (see diagram).  The tactic was pointed out immediately after our game by Kevin Chen on the next board.

Lewis - Goeller after 27...Qd4??
White to play and win material.
The name "hook and ladder" describes the image that the tactic presents, as Black's Queen can be imagined as standing at the top of the precarious "ladder" of the Rook's support from d8.  White can use the "hook" of 28.Re8+! to pull the "ladder" out from under the Queen and win material (using a form of deflection).  If Black's f-pawn were at f7, then Re8+ would absolutely force 28...Rxe8 dropping the Queen to 29.Qxd4.  Here, though, Black can escape the check with 28...Kf7 but White still wins material after 29.Qxd4 Rxd4 30.Rxc8.  The game would be rather drawish after 30...Rxa4, but certainly White would have gone from resigning in an apparently lost position to having the only chances to win! 

In his 2006 video lecture titled "The Hook and Ladder Trick" at (members only), LM Mackenzie laid out the motif very thoroughly, beginning with the game Aronian - Svidler, Tal Memorial 2006, which offers a very high level illustration. Mackenzie later published his idea as an article in Chess Life (July 2007) and recently revisited the theme at his blog, discussing the end of one of the Kamsky - Akobian tie-break games from the recent US Championship.  Those original contributions have since been copied by others, including in an article for kids by Jessica Prescott at and a nice online video discussing the Aronian - Svidler game.

Missing that trick at the end of my game has made me want to spend a little more time on tactical training, so I was glad to see that LM Mackenzie recently came out with a series of video lessons, drawn from his videos, titled Tactical Motifs 1.  You can find extensive previews of this video online and it looks like a worthwhile investment.

Thursday night at the Kenilworth Chess Club was also of interest as I got to meet IM Leslie Leow, who has lived very near to the Kenilworth Chess Club for many years but never visited the club before.  He has very generously donated his collection of Informants 1-50 to the club, which we have very happily added to the club library.

The KCC library.
IM Leow played some remarkable games during his chess career (Chess Tempo seems to have the best collection), which stretched from the late 60s to early 90s and included winning the Singapore Chess Championship in 1979 and 1984.  He will represent Singapore at the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso as its non-playing team captain later this summer, after which he will soon be moving to the west coast.  On behalf of the club, I would like to thank him for his gift -- and personally thank him for the chance to play a few blitz games during his visit.

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