Second to Nunn


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It is Checkmate Monday once more and today we have several players coming second to Nunn.

That is, of course, the famous English Grandmaster and author John Nunn. The link to Checkmate Monday is the timely release of Grandmaster Nunn’s classic book, 1001 Deadly Checkmates, as a Chessable course.

John was one of the world’s top 10 players at the height of his playing powers. Although he rarely plays now, due to being so busy with Gambit Publications, John is still a highly dangerous tactician. He also won the World Championship in Chess Problem Solving on no fewer than three occasions.

Checkmate Action

Let’s jump straight into some checkmate action from John’s own games.

Second to Nunn

John Nunn – Lajos Portisch
World Cup, Reykjavik, 1988
White to play

Portisch is one of the world’s most successful players. Yet even a many-times Candidate for the World Championship cannot see everything and Portisch allowed a fabulous finish in this game.

John played 33 Qxh7+!! and in the course he says ‘…and for a moment Portisch looked stunned. At first he couldn’t see the point of the Queen sacrifice; then he realized that it was a forced mate after:

4.Rh4+ Kg7
5. Bh6+

…followed by 6.Bf8#. Portisch resigned (1-0) and it was a point to me. If a strong grandmaster such as Portisch can overlook a mating pattern, then anybody can.’

Queen Sacrifice

We all love to finish a game with a queen sacrifice. A gifted tactician such as Grandmaster Nunn has played more than his fair share, including this one.

John Nunn Checkmate Attack

John Nunn – T.C. Fox
Bristol, 1980
White to play

This is a forced checkmate in four moves, which sounds daunting. However, the variation is an easy one to follow after the first move.

1 Qxf8+! Kxf8

2 Bh6+ Kg8 (2 …Bg7 3 Re8 checkmate is slightly worse)

3 Re8+ Qf8

4 Rxf8 checkmate.

Queen on the Attack

Of course, there are many more checkmate opportunities to be had if the queen stays on the board. In this example, Black is three pawns down but a show of dexterity by the queen makes the current material imbalance irrelevant.

The eventual threat of checkmate leaves White no better choice but to resign or give up the queen.

Short - Nunn

Nigel Short – John Nunn
Brussels, 1986
Black to play

38 …Qf1+

39 Kh4 Qf5!

John Nunn Checkmate ThreatAn exemplary move! Grandmaster Short resigned here, 0-1.

Checkmate is threatened on h5 and after 40 g4 (to make room of the king) 40 …g5+! 41 Kg3 (41 Kh3 Qf3 checkmate) Ne4+ White has to give up the queen for the knight either now or after 42 Kg2 Qxg4+ 43 Kh1 Ng3+ and 44 …Qxd4 (or 43 Kf1 Nd2+ and 44 …Qxd4).

Nunn Attacking

John Nunn – Nigel Short
Brussels, 1986
White to play

Curiously enough, both of the games between the two players in this particular event featured checkmate attacks.

The queen stars in this one, too – but another piece starts the ball rolling.

30 Rxg7+! and Grandmaster Short resigned; 1-0.

This is because of the following sequence.

30 …Kxg7

31 Bh6+!

Nunn Checkmating ShortA fine shot and very easy to miss over the board.

Now 31 …Kg8 or 31 …Kh8 lose to 32 Qxf8+ Rxf8 33 Rxf8 checkmate.

The alternative, 31…Kxh6, allows 32 Qh4+ Kg7 33 Qh7 with an usual checkmate pattern.

Incidentally, we shall feature some of Grandmaster Short’s own checkmating attacks in due course, to make up for showing two of his defeats this time.

Chessable Course

If you enjoyed those examples of players coming to second to Nunn then you may like to investigate our new Chessable course on 1001 Deadly Checkmates by the man himself.

1001 Deadly Checkmates

Checkmate Monday will return next week!

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