Going through withdrawal now that the London games are over? Well, you can console yourself with the thought that the Chess Olympiad is going strong, in Istanbul, Turkey. The United States has a very strong team, with top twenty players Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky taking care of business on the first two boards. The following position arose in the Round Seven match-up between the United States and host country Turkey. The Americans won the match with a decisive 3.5-.5 win, dramatically improving their medal chances. They were helped by Nakamura’s win on Board One against Turkish Grandmaster Dragan Solak. In the position below, Black has just moved his queen from a5 to b5. He probably thought this forced the exchange of queens, since White does not have a good square for his queen that does not allow Black to play the very strong Rd2, with a strong counterattack. Can you find a good reply for White?

The position is optically a bit amusing, since it seems both kings are wandering freely around the board. Black was in trouble anyway, since he is going to lose his f-pawns to some maneuver involving Bg6, Rg7 and Rhh7. But with something like 30. … Rd6 he could probably have kept playing for a while. The move he actually played, however, makes life easy for white. Nakamura banged out 31.Qe6 mate, taking advantage of the pin on the f7 pawn.

I always find it a bit comforting when top grandmasters overlook such things. After all, we amateur types make blunders like that all the time! It’s also possible that Solak noticed the mate, but let Nakamura play it instead of simply resigning. Regardless, it’s a pretty mate.


  1. #1 uygar
    September 4, 2012

    I was following this game live online and went away from the screen for a while, and when I came back I saw that it ended with a mate. Very puzzling, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual checkmate at this level (not that I follow a lot of events). It *is* rare, right?

  2. #2 MNb
    September 4, 2012

    It happens now and then, but it is rare indeed.
    Solak obviously didn’t pay attention to the pinned pawn on f7; when I saw it I saw the mate immediately.
    Time trouble perhaps?

  3. #3 uygar
    September 4, 2012

    According to times on the official site, which can sometimes be wrong, Naka was the one that’s down on time:


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