Chess Scenes At a Death Bed

Mike Basman, June 2022

The hospital rang me to say my brother was in danger of dying, so I came down a couple of hours later to find him sleeping in his bed, with his eyes slightly open.  I began to speak to him but he did not respond.  The nurse came in, and I said that my brother had cheated death so many times before, maybe he would escape again this time.

The nurse said, No, did I not notice that he intermittently stopped breathing for a while, and then resumed again, and that this was a sign on impending death.

The nurse left and I got out my chess set and a book called, “Relax with Chess and win in 20 moves”, one of the first books that I had borrowed from Esher Library in Surrey over 60 years ago.

I began to play over a game from a simultaneous display by Grandmaster Canal, which was in the book, explaining the moves to my brother, even though he probably couldn’t hear me.

At one point in the game this position was reached:-

Canal, playing several amateurs at the same time, now sacrificed two rooks by 11 axb4 Qxa1+ 12 Kd2 Qxh1 reaching the following position:-

Here Canal sacrificed his queen in the classic fashion by 13 Qxc6+! bxc6 14 Ba6 check mate.

But there was a fascinating aside in the book (and there are many in this remarkable work), which claimed that, instead of taking the second rook “Microscopically preferable was 12 … Ne5! 13 Bxe5 and only now 13 … Qxh1

Now the Queen sacrifice at c6 does not work, because black has a flight square at d7.  I began to analyse this position, talking to my brother all the time, and eventually found something like the book continuation of 14 Qxf7 Rd7 15 Qe8+ Rd8 16 Qxe6+ Rd7 17 Qe8+ Rd8 18 Bg4 check mate;  more tricky is 14 Qxf7 Ne7! (clearing the back row) 15 Qxe6+! Rd7 16 Bg4 Rd8 17 Qd6!

Now, because of the pin from the bishop at g4, black will be mated on b8 or c7.

At this point I looked up from the board and saw that my brother had stopped breathing.

ROBERT MOORE (1948-2022) died at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon of 3rd June, 2022.  His 74th birthday would have been on 1st July 2022, and it would be nice if readers of this article could raise a glass to him on that day, in celebration of his life.

“He fought the world, but the world won.”

Article photo: A picture of Robert with eldest sister Janny on the left, myself on the right.  The picture was taken by the fourth member of the family, Rosemary.

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