Malcolm Pein on…The Queen’s Gambit and Vera Menchik


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Malcolm Pein revisits The Queen’s Gambit in today’s Daily Telegraph chess column as he looks back on the year 2020.

He draws parallels with the great Vera Menchik and presents a sparkling game in her honor. 

Malcolm Pein on…The Queen’s Gambit and Vera Menchik

The Queen’s Gambit was the biggest influence on the chess scene in 2020. A little more than 99 years ago, a real-life Beth Harmon, Vera Menchik, came to England and settled in Hastings. In two Hastings Christmas Congresses, 1930/31 and 1931/32, Menchik defeated Max Euwe, who was to become world champion in 1935.

Here Menchik defeats one of the most influential figures in British chess. Sir Stuart Milner- Barry, an England international, was one of the chess players who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. He was in charge of Hut 6, which worked on the Enigma codes.

V. Menchik – S. Milner-Barry
Hastings Congress 1934/35

Slav Defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 Bf5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e3 e6 7.Bc4 Nd7 8.0–0 Bd6 9.Qe2 Bg4 10.e4 Nf4 11.Qe3 e5

Vera Menchik

12.Bxf7+! Ke7 (12…Kxf7 13.dxe5) 13.Nxe5 Nxe5 14.dxe5 Bxe5 15.Bb3 g5 16.Qc5+ Kf6 17.Be3 Nd3 18.Qc4 Qd7 19.f3 Be6 20.Nd5+ cxd5 21.Qxd3 Rad8 22.f4 gxf4 23.Bxf4 Bxf4 24.Rxf4+ Ke7 25.exd5 1–0

Carlsen’s 2020

2020 belonged to Magnus Carlsen, who floated his company on the Norwegian stock exchange, created an online tour during lockdown, and won most of the events he played in.

M. Carlsen – H. Nakamura
Chessable Masters GpA Chess24

Queen’s Gambit

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0–0 6.a3 Nbd7 7.Nb5! Ne8 8.e3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 c5 10.dxc5 a6 11.Nbd4! (Much better than Nc3. Black never finds a good square for his queen) 11…Bxc5 12.0–0 Qe7 13.Rc1 Bd6 14.Ba2 Ndf6 (14…Bxf4 15.exf4 Nd6 16.Re1 threatens Nxe6 and Re1) 15.Ne5 Nd7? (15…Bd7 16.Qb3 Rb8 17.Rfd1 maintains strong pressure) 16.Ndc6! Qh4 (16…bxc6 17.Nxc6 Qf6 18.Bxd6)17.Bg3 Qg5 18.h4 Qf6 19.Ng4 Qxb2 20.Bxd6 bxc6 (Losing material, 20…Nxd6 is today’s puzzle) 21.Rc2 Qb5 22.Bxf8 Nxf8 23.h5 h6 24.Qf3 Qxh5 25.Qxc6 Nc7 26.Qf3 Nd5 27.e4 e5 (27…Nb6 28.Nf6+ gxf6 29.Qxh5) 28.Nxh6+ 1-0 (28…Qxh6 29.Bxd5 Rb8 30.Qxf7+)

Test Your Strength

Winning Move

White to play and win material

Highlight the test below this line to reveal the answer.

21.Ne7+ Kh8 22.Qxd6 threatens Nxc8 and Qxd7.

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