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When is the right time to give up?

Nobody has a clear recipe for that. It is generally accepted that one should show respect for their opponent and give up when the position is hopeless. But the actual definition of “hopeless” tends to be stretching dramatically.

I remember how one of my beginner students played an endgame with a king against a king and queen for many more moves than necessary and when, after the game, I asked him why he said: “Because I knew it was a draw! He was going to stalemate me anyway.” His opponent actually did, which made my work as a coach very hard as my student absolutely refused to believe me that it was “correct” to demonstrate sportsmanship and give up in that sort of situation.

At the opposite end of this dilemma, we all remember the recent notorious case at the Tata Steel 2019 tournament when a very strong grandmaster, Samuel Shankland, showed due respect for his opponent Anish Giri way too early and resigned in a drawn position.

The giving up dilemma doesn’t only affect the losing side. Similar situations have a known psychological effect on the winning side as well. It is very tempting to get comfortable in a winning position and start waiting for your opponent to stretch out his hand in resignation. At the very moment when you mentally “put a point in your pocket” and stop focusing on the remaining part of your game, your opponent might pull an unexpected rabbit out of their hat and mess up your plans.

Let’s look at a famous example of such negligence by not just anyone, but the World Champion Emanuel Lasker himself.

E. Lasker – R. J. Loman, Simultaneous display, London 1910.

Black to move


It is Black to move. Lasker has just scarificed his rook on f8 to create himself an unstoppable passed pawn on h7. The position looks hopeless for Black, doesn’t it? It would seem that only a miracle could prevent the h7 pawn from queening.

Here Loman played 35… Rc3+ which Lasker, obviously, considered nothing more than one of the last desperate checks to postpone the inevitable. He quickly replied 36. Kg4? and fell right into the ingenious trap. This was so surprising that its key moment even got its own name: Loman’s move. Do you see which one? Actually, I am not going to tell you just yet.

Long story short… If Lasker didn’t celebrate the victory one move too early, he wouldn’t have had any difficulties to see the 36. Kf2 winning easily. But still, what’s the problem with 36. Kg4? How can this be losing? Show me!

If you found the solution to the first puzzle, I want to challenge you to solve one more challenge about a miraculous rescue. This time it is a study. Obs! Obs! Yes, difficulty level: VERY HARD. But as the saying goes, “everything is difficult before it is easy.” Both tasks have the same tactical motif in common: Decoy. Once you have cracked the code about the Loman’s move, it will help you find the mechanism in use here as well.

A. Gerbtsman, Study, 1948

White to move and make a draw



DO NOT read this part before you have given yourself enough time to solve the tasks. This is when you will really appreciate the solution.

Task One. E. Lasker – R. J. Loman.

So, what does the Black’s rabbit in the hat look like after 36. Kg4? Black gives another check first 36… Rc4+ and, regardless of where the white king moves, for example 37. Kg5, next comes the Loman’s move: 37… Rh4!! This move temporarily stops the h7 pawn from queening, but what’s more important, this move works as a decoy, luring the white king to the unfortunate square. If 38. Kxh4, Black moves 38… g5+ with check, vacating the g7 square for his king. 39. Kxg5 Kg7 thus stopping the white pawn and with bright winning chances thanks to his pawn majority on the queen side.

Task Two. A. Gerbtsman, 1948.

As I mentioned before, even though this challenge requires a bigger portion of fantasy to be solved, both tasks are so similar in their nature, they could be twin brothers.

Alright! It is pretty obvious that immediate 1. Ra6 doesn’t help to stop the a2 pawn because of 2… Ba3 stepping in between. Every miracle needs some clever preparation! 1. Rb5+ first, forcing the black king to e6. Of course, stepping back onto the 4th rank is not good enough for Black, as White would then capture the important b4 pawn with check and then play Ra4. Thus 1… Ke6. Now 2. Ra5, attacking the a2 pawn. 2… Ba3 is the only move for Black again. And here comes the hard part of the task: 3.Bg7! White is actually not going to stop the pawn from promoting, he is preparing to ambuscade it! 3… a1 Q will be met with 4. Re5+ Kd5 5. Rd5+! Do you recognize the Decoy in action again? Capturing the rook 5… Kxd5 will run into 6. c4+ - a discovered check, opening for the bishop to attack the new queen. Moreover, the black king cannot escape the rook checks along the 5th rank at all, whatever square he prefers to grab the rook at, he will receive either 6. c4+ or 6. cxb4 discovered check.

Did you like the challenges? Read more about the Decoy and other tactical motifs in our Magnus Trainer app and get more motif-tailored puzzles in the Raja Riddle mini game.