The Ugly Chess Move

White to move

Take a good look at this position and enough time to chose a move before reading further…Details about the game will follow later.

How did you assess the position?

Let us look at the position from the eyes of a Chess teacher. If a student showed me this game expecting comment I would begin by saying, “This is a dream position for the General of the white pieces for many reasons. White has a preponderance of material on the king side because his two rooks are on the e-file whereas the two black rooks are on the queen side. In addition, the bishop on d3 is exerting pressure on the black king side, specifically the g6 pawn. The white queen is working in coordination with the black squared bishop, which is ready to move into enemy territory. Take the two black squared bishops off of the board and replace the white bishop with the queen on f4, for example, and you will see the entire white army is either on the king side, or exerting force toward the king side, which is where the king resides in this position. The entire white army is opposed by a lone, lonely knight of f6. Therefore the natural move for white would be Bh6.”

I chose this position because I happened to be watching the game in progress. The game was played in the third round of the recently completed Charlotte Open, which began on the first day of the new year and ended January 5, 2020. Atlanta area player FM Benjamin Moon

was in charge of the white pieces. His opponent was GM Ulvi Ilqar Oglu Bajarani,

from Azerbaijan. These are the moves that brought us to the position:

1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 c5 3 e3 Nc6 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Be2 cxd4 6 exd4 g6 7 c3 Bg7 8 O-O O-O 9 Nbd2 Bg4 10 h3 Bxf3 11 Nxf3 a6 12 Re1 e6 13 Bd3 Nd7 14 Qd2 Re8 15 Re2 b5 16 a3 Qb6 17 Rae1 a5 18 h4 Nf6 19 Nh2 b4 20 g4 Rec8 21 h5 bxc3 22 bxc3 a4. According to ChessBomb the last move was a mistake. When the white move 23 appeared on the board I thought there had been some kind of transmission problem because it was so UGLY! Ben played 23 Re3?

I could not help but wonder if Ben had developed a case of Grandmasteritis. It often happens that players, for whatever reason, do not play up to their usual level when sitting across from a titled player. After the move 23…Na5 appeared on the board I realized Ben had, in fact, blundered horribly by playing one of the most ugly moves ever played on a chess board. I have no idea what was in Ben’s mind upon playing such a weak move, but maybe he wanted to move the ugly rook on e3 to h3?! The Stockfish programĀ  at the ChessBomb gives this variation as an improvement: 23. Bh6 Qb3 24. Bxg7 Kxg7 25. Qf4 h6 26. Bxg6 Qb8 27. Qf3 Qc7 28. Bd3 Rh8 29. Rxe6 fxe6 30. Rxe6 Qf7 31. Rxc6 Rac8 32. Ra6 Rhe8 33. Qf5 Rxc3.

The game ended after 23. Re3 Na5 24. hxg6 hxg6 25. Rh3 Nb3 26. Qb2 Qa5 27. Bb1 Nxd4 28. Qb7 Qb5 29. Qe7 Nc6 30. Qd6 Rd8 31. Bd3 Qb6 32. Qc7 Qxc7 33. Bxc7 Rdc8 34. Bf4 Na5 35. g5 Nh5 36. Be5 Bxe5 37. Rxe5 Rxc3 38. Ng4 Kg7 39. Rf3 Nc6 40. Ree3 Nd4 41. Rf6 Rh8 0-1