Chess with Ferb: Queens Gambit Battles Betwixt Beth and Benny

Benny aka Ferb played some mean chess

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

*_The Queens Gambit: Puzzling Positions in Kentucky, Mexico City and Paris
The Queens Gambit: Moscow Edition

For a more philosophical discussion, visit

Lilith and the Queen’s Gambit: Two Ingenue who Learn to Love through Sacrifice

First, consider first this puzzle from Benny’s friends in episode 6, Adjournment:

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3 moves to win, K-Q7 is how you begin. “Lord that’s fast!”

Notice first that a Black pawn is hiding behind Black’s King, on KB5; White begins

  1. 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
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Various checkmates

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.

Chess Sets Historic and Dangerous in Harry Potter
The Scotch may have been a thematic opening for Harry, Hermione and Ron to play

The Leaky Cauldron and International Master Jeremy Silman give an excellent discussion, which we summarize here.

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Starting Position for Harry, Hermione, and Ron Weasley’s triumph
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Evil Red-Marge-Queen x Bart-Pawn Lisa-Rook attacks Queen Marge, vacates c5 for Harry/Bishop later
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Evil Red Marge-Queen slays hapless Lisa-Rook Heroic Ron-Weasley-Knight Sacrifices himself
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Her Evilness intervenes … … only to fall wretchedly
Evil-Homer (Red Monarch) suffers final ignominy and crushing defeat.
Harry (Bishop) delivers the woeful blow,
supported by Hermione (Rook)and Grandpa (Bishop)

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:

Harmon Watts
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.

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The Sicilian Defense,
with 5. … a6 Najdorf variation

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

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“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.”

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“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 …

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a) Position after 10. Bxf6 gxf
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b) Benny and his Jets bear down on the h file

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 …”

Harmon Watts
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.

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Benny’s attack means no Christmas for Beth’s pieces

“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.

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A Queen’s Gambit Accepted position is quickly reached

Beth Benny
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
White’s position

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8. … Bd6 begins the middle game

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
… Bxa3
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
14. R(f)d1

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Rd1 … Nd3 but how to get here??

Speed Chess with Benny and Friends (Episode 6: Adjournment)

3x Speed Chess – Impressive!!

This is an impressive sequence: Beth plays Bennie, Nice Boy and Dude <for lack of identifying names> in speed chess – where each side has just a few minutes for all their moves, looks like maybe 5 minutes, possibly less. Nice Boy is clean cut in the center, Dude (lower) looks to have some surfboarding in his background, though probably not from his ostensible residence of NYC. Beth of course wins every game, 3 rounds of them. Let’s take a look (at a little slower pace than real time)

Beth (W) vs. Nice Boy (B)

  1. e4 c5
  2. Nf3 Nc6 another Sicilian, but of a slightly different stripe
  3. d4 cxd
  4. Nxd4

This game jumps forward quite a bit to show a move by Beth

Nice boy; A move; the final position
The Final Mate; board is something like this

The hypothesized final position looks slightly different than in the vague photo above, but works.

Beth 1 Nice Boy 0

Beth (W) vs. Dude (B)

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. c4 c5 a Benoni Defense! I think the only one in the series, a highlighted opening in Bobby Fischer v. Boris Spassky 1972 World Championship match, and featured in the 2014 Pawn Sacrifice movie with Tobey Maguire, Leiv Schreiber
  3. Nf3 dxc but it quickly transposes to something more like the Tarrasch Defense to the Queen’s Gambit
A Benoni Begins
h4 Qc5; Bd3 Qd6; O-O-O sequence shown
Final Mating Sequence (action shot)

Beth (White) vs. Benny (Black) I

  1. e4 c5 the typical albeit belligerent Sicilian Defense appears yet again
  2. Nf3 d6
  3. d4 cxd
  4. Nxd4
N(c5) x (pawn) e6 sacrifice begins the mating ritual
Benny’s King flees for his life

after Qd3 Bg7 – White’s Queen moves to invade, Black’s Bishop to set up defense –

Qf5 ch Kg8; Rx(N)d5 Qx(N)a4; Re7 ends Benny’s misery

Benny’s back rows are vulnerable as is his N on d7. Qf7 ch then Qx(B)g7 mate is nearly unavoidable, Black is losing … lost either way

The second round of games are shown much more briefly, with the final moves of each being featured.

Beth vs. Dude

Dude does not Beware the Poison Horse

Beth vs. Nice Boy

Beth moves quickly and confidently (as White) though Boy would seem to resign prematurely but dramatically

Beth vs. Benny

Beth finishes nicely, Benny can only glare

after Benny takes the sacrificial N at h5, Beth zooms in on the Black Monarch with
Rg3 Kh8; Qx(B)g7 checkmate

In Round 3, only the conclusion to Beth’s destruction of Benny is shown. The game follows the “Most Famous Game Ever Played,” between the American chess phenom Paul Morphy (1837 – 1884, who is often mentioned by Beth and Harry; like Bobby Fischer, he retired from chess young – at age 22 – spending the rest of his life as a lawyer and wandering in general, passing away at age 47) and Duke Karl and Count Isouard during an opera in Paris, 1858), described by Agadmator here. This short game (17 moves) is often used to demonstrate the value of rapid development – moving all your pieces once before moving any twice is one such good idea. Note how quickly White develops an attack by developing all of her ok his pieces! Meanwhile, several of Black’s pieces are bottled up and never do even move once.

Morphy / Dukes of Hazard
1. e4 e5;
2.Nf3 d6;
3.d4 Bg4 an outdated defense (loses a pawn to de; 5.Qxd1 Kxd1; 6.Nxe5)
4. dxe Bxf3;
5. Qxf3 dxe;
6.Bc4 (threatening 7. Qxf7 mate) Nf6;
7. Qb3 (threatening both 7.Bxf7 ch and also 7.Qxb2)

3. … Bg4 ? 7.Qb3!

7. … Qe7 8. Nc3 instead of 8.Qxb2, since “Qxb2 is a butcher’s move, and Morphy was an artist”
8. … c6
9. Bg5 b5
10. Nxb5 cxb5
11. Bxb5+

9. … b5 challenge 11.Bxb5 ch

11. … Nbd7
12. O-O-O Rd8
13. Rxd7 Rxd7
14. Rd1 Qe6 to relieve the pin on Black’s N

13. Rxd7 14. … Qe6

15. Bxd7+ Nxd7
16. Qb8+ Nxb8
17. Rd8 checkmate

Game, Set and Match

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