Features Feb 23, 2021 | 3:54 PMby Sean Marsh

Chigorin's Checkmates

Mikhail Chigorin (1850-1908) is one of the founding fathers of Russian chess. He lost two matches for the World Chess Championship title against the first official champion Wilhelm Steinitz, in 1889 and 1892. A highly creative player, he enjoyed a long and successful chess career, despite dying at the comparatively young age of 57. 


His sharp tactical eye helped him win many games in style, which brings us nicely to our selection of Chigorin’s checkmates.

Unusual Back-Rank Checkmate

Mikhail Chigorin – Eugene Znosko-Borovsky
Kiev 1903

White to play


Chigorin spotted an unusual way in which to exploit a weakness on the back rank.

26.Ne7+

Forking the king and queen.

26…R8xe7

Or 26…R2xe7 27 Qxe7! intending 27…Rxe7 28 Rd8+ Re8 29 Rxe8 checkmate.

30.Rd8+ Re8

Black looks safe, until we see White’s next move.


31.Qf8+!! 1-0

Black’s only move is 31…Rxf8 but then 32.Rxf8 is checkmate, so he resigned instead. 1-0.

Queen Sacrifice

Mikhail Chigorin – Alexander Solovtsov
Moscow, 1884

White to play


Black’s position certainly looks fragile, but what is the most efficient way to make it crack?

45.Qxd8+!

A queen sacrifice!

45…Nxd8

46.Nc7 checkmate


A queen sacrifice and a knight checkmate to follow. Every chess player dreams of such things.

The Old Weakness

Mikhail Chigorin – Szymon Winawer
Monte Carlo, 1901

White to play


The weakest square in Black’s camp is f7. At the start of a game it is only protected by the king. It can remain a weak point even after Black has castled, as is the case here.

19.Bxf7+!

Black doesn’t have to accept the sacrifice but after any other move he is going to lose a lot of material.

19…Kxf7

Essentially, Black’s way of resigning the game.

20.Qe6 checkmate


A disaster for Winawer, but it is only to be expected against Chigorin if one leaves f7 in such a weak state.

Knightmare

Mikhail Chigorin – Emanuel Schiffers
St Petersburg, 1880

White to play

Chigorin has already sacrificed material to develop this excellent attack and he throws more wood on the fire in order to keep it burning.


24.Qxe7+!

Another queen sacrifice!

24…Rxe7

25.Rxe7+


25…Rf7

Or 25…Kg8 26.Bc4+! Rf7 27.Re8+ Kg7 28.Ne6 checkmate. The attack still runs like clockwork after Black’s defense of choice.

26.Ne6+ Kg8

27.Re8+ Rf8

28.Rxf8 checkmate


Fabulous play by Chigorin!

Chessable Course

There are many more beautiful checkmating patterns in the course, The Checkmate Patterns Manual, by International Master John Bartholomew and CraftyRaf. This course won third place in the Chessable Awards for 2020.


There is a shortened, free version of the course here.

See also:


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