Noooobody Expects the Hook and Ladder Trick

by admin on May 22, 2014

Thanks to Mike Splane for pointing this one out! On Tuesday Gata Kamsky won the United States Championship, in a pair of 25-minute playoff games. Here is the position in the decisive game, Kamsky playing White against Varuzhan Akobian:

kamsky akobian Position after 37.Qxf5. Black to move.

FEN: 2r2k2/q4p2/8/p4Q2/8/4P1P1/P4PP1/3R2K1 w – – 0 37

In this position Akobian played 37. … Qc5? Of course Black is dead lost anyway. With three extra pawns, White could even trade queens if he wants. But there is a much more stylish way to win. If you need a hint, look at the title of this post.

The answer, of course, is 38. Rd8+, which I named “the hook and ladder trick” in a Chess Life article several years ago. You could say it’s just a deflection, but there is an extra twist to it — if Black refuses to let the rook be deflected and plays 38. … Ke7 or 38. … Kg7, he loses a rook to 39. Rxc8. This is quite common in the hook and ladder trick.

Instead Akobian resigned. Immediate resignations are also quite common for the hook and ladder trick. When it works, it generally collects either a rook or a queen-for-a-rook. It’s quite a shock for the opponent when he goes from expecting a queen trade to losing a queen in the space of one move.

I hope I haven’t disappointed anyone with my lack of commentary on the U.S. Championship. My excuse is that my wife and I have been relaxing in Hawaii for the last six days, celebrating our 25th anniversary, and so my mind has been pretty far from the chess board. Actually, as far as I can tell, the world has kept on going pretty well in our absence. Maybe we should stay away longer next time!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashish May 22, 2014 at 9:25 pm

I think that “37. … Qc5?” is missing a question mark.


Ernest Hong May 23, 2014 at 8:37 am

Do you mean 39.Qxc8? Otherwise 39…Qxf5 -+.


admin May 23, 2014 at 11:01 am

Whoops! Thanks! I think I was still under the influence of jet lag when I wrote that. 😎


Mike Splane May 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I wonder how many people got your word play in the title to the Monty Python skit about not expecting the Spanish Inquisition.


Kevin June 7, 2014 at 8:03 pm

If 38…Ke7, 39. Re7+ is best, with mate by Qxf7 next move.


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