Benny’s games and discussions with Beth lacked the international charm of the other venues (Mexico City, Paris, Moscow), and frankly cluttered up the other pages.* But they were highly interesting on their own terms, though often played, as bewailed of the the tournament in Columbus, Ohio, “with plastic pieces on vinyl boards” unlike the more exotic venues abroad. So here they are, starting off with a puzzle presented in Benny basement chess lair, followed by Beth’s game against Benny in the US Open championship in Las Vegas, Benny’s humiliation of Beth at speed chess, then Beth’s return match(es) with Benny and two friends, simultaneously at speed chess.
For more chess from The Queens Gambit, visit
For a more philosophical discussion, visit
First, consider first this puzzle from Benny’s friends in episode 6, Adjournment:
Notice first that a Black pawn is hiding behind Black’s King, on KB5; White begins
- K-Q7 (straight toward bottom of board, we are seeing the board from Black’s side)
Two sequences each lead to checkmate of the Black King:
a) … K-KN7 2. N-Q6 then if K-KB6 (return to original square) 3. N-K8 mate
if K-KR6 3. NxP (KB5) mate
b) … B-KN7 2. N-Q8 B move any (the K can’t move anywhere) 3. N-K8 mate
Tricky Harry Potter Ending
Before we delve into Beth and Benny’s quite cerebral games, let’s take a look at another famous chess puzzle, the ending to the chess game in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry and Ron play chess earlier in the series with a replica of the famous Isle of Lewis Chessmen, 12th century pieces discovered on the Scottish isle in 1831.
The Leaky Cauldron and International Master Jeremy Silman give an excellent discussion, which we summarize here.
Doubled Pawns are No Big Deal: Beth Tries too hard to Baffle Benny
Harmon’s game against US Champion Benny Watts offers similar interpolative sleuthing, though much less of the game is shown. Benny has 2 draws thus far in the tournament, Beth had a perfect score: thus, a draw would give Beth the US Open Title. But Beth wants not so much just to win, but to beat Benny, who has annoyed her with his cocksure attitude … So, in Episode 4, Doubled Pawns, she faces Benny in the US Open final game, with the White pieces against Benny’s Sicilian Defense:
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cd
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 a6 this is all pretty standard, with Benny choosing the Najdorf variation with 5. … a6.
Perhaps an ode to the famed Grandmaster of the same name whom he legendarily
[though Watts is fictional] played to a draw at age 8 in Copenhagen in 1948.
6. Bc4 e6 Harmon plays the Sozin Attack Bc4 move, a favorite line of Fischer’s
7. Bb3 b5 some aggressive Queenside play by Black, supported by the humble 5. … a6 earlier
8. O-O Bd7
9. Bg5 Be7
10. Bxf6 gxf a surprise, Watts accepts doubled pawns when he need not, since Bxf6 was possible
“I thought he could see what I was planning. I still had time to get out of it, but he took the piece [obviously] just as I planned [duh; he took with the P not the B, the real surprise]. I wanted to hammer his weaknesses. I wanted to show that apple-pie baking pirate that I could beat him, even though he thought I didn’t play the way he thought I should.”
“But he captured my center pawn, my protected pawn, the pawn that had held his Queen to her corner for most of the game. He forced an exchange of Queens. Then I saw what it meant: with the Pawn gone, I was open to a rook-bishop mate, because of the Bishop on the open diagonal”
Thus, the problem is to get from a to b, incorporating Beth’s narrative above …
We leave the long middle game speculation for another time, and jump to solving the finale of the game.
From here, Beth narrates [note White P is missing on g5 above]
“”I could protect my retreating Knight by moving one of the Rooks over …”
Rg4 … this R on g4 will protect White’s N when it retreats to g2 to block check
“but the protection wouldn’t last, because his cherry-pie-baking-innocent-looking knight would block my King’s escape.” (Black N on c5 prevents a K-d3 escape from marauding Rooks)
… Rh1 ch
“The more I looked the worse it all became. He caught me completely off guard. It was brrrr-utal. Harumph. It’s the kind of thing I did to other people But I missed it, because I was thinking about doubled pawns… I <poutily> needed a counter threat, I needed a move that would stop him in his tracks, but there wasn’t any. I thought maybe I could trade my way out of it if he attacked too fast, but he was careful. I had to retreat, but he kept coming. I wanted to scream.”
“I spent half an hour studying the board, and decided Benny’s move was even sounder than I thought” hmmmm …
Kf2 is the *only* move she has here …
… R(1) h7 ch
Ng2 … and here we see that Benny moves something on Beth’s left side of the board, but the actual move is obstructed from view. It would appear to be
… Nd6 ch and Beth’s King and R(b4) are forked; now down the exchange (R for N), pawn and in
a dominated position, Beth decides that further resistance is futile.
“You’ll resign now” Mr. Shaibel’s spirit advises Beth, and she does.
Speed Chess with Benny (Episode 5: Fork)
During the tournament in Ohio, Beth meets with Benny and his friends one evening and Benny puts his speed chess skills he picked up in NYC to profitable use: one $5 game from Beth after another. Benny later admits that he picked up speed chess playing in NYC, where m Beth opens with a Queen’s Gambit and they reach an equitable middle game position.
1. d4 Nf6; 2. Nf3 d5; 3. c4 dxc4; 4. e6 e3; 5. Bxc4 c5 Benny challenges the center
6.O-O a6; 7. b3 cxd4 Beth would seem to hope to pressure the center with b3 allowing Bb2 8. Nxd4 Bd6 recapture with exd, rather than Nxd4 as played, would better hold the center, despite
giving White an isolated d pawn; now Black’s e pawn is unrestrained and cramps
Now it is a little bit of a puzzle to get from 8. … Bd6 to the position below. We need to account for the following:
a) the white square bishops have been traded off, with h3 by /White likely precipitating the exchange
b) the black square bishops have also been traded, likely with White recapturing on a3
seem reasonable, setting the stage for Benny’s (Black’s) final assault
c) Black has advanced his pawn e6-e5-e4, and doubled Q and R on the c file
If you give up already … here is a plausible sequence (actual moves are not shown until the diagrams below)
9. Ba3 White’s center is desperately vulnerable, possibly 9. f4 (to restrain e6-e5-e4) and eventually e4
herself would be a better plan
10. Nxa3 e5! “and the caissons go rolling along”
11. Nf3 Bg4 Black’s white-square Bishop is free to move once e5 was achieved
12. Be2 … e4 attacking the pinned N on f3 would have been uncomfortable, so the pin is broken
… Nc6 Black’s queenside is developed; Black can recapture QxQ with R instead of K
13. Qc2 O-O