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The Darwin Awards

GM Ján Markoš | October 4, 2011 – 10:552 Comments | 825 views
The Darwin Awards

This article is dedicated to all who like black humor. You may have heard about so-called Darwin Awards. There is also a movie made, several books written and many websites dealing with these controversial prizes.

Translated by: Dusan Turcer

What is it? A definition of the official website reads:

Darwin Award celebrates the people who help evolution by removing themselves from the gene pool of the human species. These heroes sacrificed their lives to improve the chances of our children for survival.

Translated into normal language: Darwin Award for a particular year is given to the person who died in the stupidest and most ridiculous way.

Among the winners we could find a man who got a new office on the thirtieth floor of a skyscraper. He had a beautiful panoramic view of entire New York from his table because one of the walls of the office was completely glassed-in. Of course, the glass was unbreakable. The man wanted to demonstrate this unbreakability to one of his visitations. He ran against the wall, crashed into it – and the glass shattered.

Darwin Award was also granted to the man who mounted the engine of the fighter onto his car; it was really driving faster, but not only that. It was flying up several hundred meters.

One young Brazilian couple behaved quite incomprehensibly. Going by car on one of the busiest highways, at 6 a.m. in the mist, they got a strong desire for each other. Thus they side-tracked the car in the right traffic lane so as to make a quick and passionate love. A driver of the truck was, however, not able to brake fast enough.

Even in the world of chess, we will find similar suicides; players who eliminate themselves from the important competition in a totally silly and absurd way. Why don’t we award those chess players?

So I decided to give these five Darwin Awards in the category of chess:

In terms of cronyism, I will award myself first. I was doing really good on the European Championship for players under 16, which was held in the Greek town Litochoro; however in the seventh round, something happened:

Markos – Jakubowski, Litochoro 1999, White to move:

Black sacrificed the knight, but he is holding a draw. White Nf3 is under attack and can’t be covered. However, after the knight retreats, the white king will lose the protection and black rooks will deliver the stalemate. But I found a “salvific” idea: what if I covered the g2 by the knight instead of covering the h2? And so I played 39.Ne1??; and as the reader can easily discover, I got mated instead of achieving the stalemate: 39…Rf1 #.

My chances of medal placement has gone this way.

Only a few months later I discovered that my game with Jakubowski has its famous predecessor – the last game of the World Championship match between Steinitz and Cigorin. Cigorin deserves Darwin Award for sure:

Cigorin – Steinitz, Havana 1892, White to move:

The score of the match was 9:8 for Steinitz; the system of 10 winning games was played. Cigorin is a piece up in the position on the diagram; everybody was expecting an easy win and equalized match score. Russian, however, played unbelievable 32.Bb4??, missed the mate in two moves and lost the match immediately.

Also Veselin Topalov lost the World Championship match by the suicide in the last game. What he did in the 12th game of the match with Anand was a surprise for the entire chess world.

There was nothing special happening at the beginning of the game; Anand chose the ultra-safe Lasker line of the Queen’s Gambit in which two pairs of minor pieces are exchanged very quickly. He found a strong novelty in this line and managed to equalize. Diagram displays the position after the 30th move of Black.

Topalov – Anand, World Cup Match, Sofia 2010:


Topalov takes the poisoned pawn in an incredibly careless way and allows Black to open the lines for his long-legged pieces. Instead, natural 31.Nd2! keeps the equality, e.g. 31…fxe4 32.Nxe4 Bxe4 33.fxe4 Rd4 = leads to a completely drawish major piece endgame.

31…e4 32.fxe4??

And this is pronouncedly a hara-kiri! It would be very hard to find another similar blatant suicide among World Championship matches. Yet it is prima facie evidence that the black queen on e4 controls the entire chessboard and the white king on h3 will not feel comfortable at all. It is possible that Topalov moderated his intuition by the (false) calculation, but it is even more possible, that he preferred his wishes to reality. He could still pull the handbrake by playing 32.Re3.

White is slightly worse after 32…exf3+ 33.Kg1 Qg5 34.Qc2 Rcd7 35.Re1, but he can still defend successfully.

32…Qxe4+ 33.Kh3

 33.Kf1 Qh1+


The most logical continuation. Also the rook is centralized now.

34.Ne3 Qe8!

It is possible that Bulgarian overlooked this obscure queen retreat. All other moves would lead to equal positions. But now (because of the mate threat on h5) he is forced to weaken his king even more and make the job of black pieces easier.

On the contrary, Anand claimed that he saw this move much sooner, even before the thirtieth move.

35.g4 h5

Also the only move, but very logical one. The white king is lost.

36.Kh4 g5+

 Also 36…Qd8+ 37.f6 hxg4 was winning, e.g. 38.Ra6 Bb7 39.Rxa7 g3+ 40.Kxg3 Qd6+ 41.Kh3 Bc8+ is winning the rook.


37.Kxg5 Rg7+ 38.Kh4 hxg4 is not playable at all.


It is funny that such a position can arise in the World Championship match. It looks like a game between two club players, or a fight between a champion and amateur. All black pieces are active and white king stands on h4.

Indian player won easily and became the world champion. But Topalov had a lot of to explain to his native audience…

Although he didn’t please Bulgarians, he pleased Indians and other fans of Anand. Kramnik made sad the entire planet in the following example; perhaps except for the programmers of Deep Fritz software.

Deep Fritz – Kramnik, Bonn 2008, Black to move:

Black is doing fine in the position on the diagram. He is holding a draw after 34…Kg8 without problems. Perhaps Kramnik considered this move so automatic that he somehow saw his king on g8. He played 34…Qe3?? and was mated on h7.

The last awarded is Anatoly Karpov for the quickest loss in his career. We can fully cite it; it will not take up much space here.

Christiansen – Karpov, Wijk an Zee 1993:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.Nc3 c5 7.e4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Nc6 9.Nxc6 Bxc6 10.Bf4 Nh5 11.Be3 Bd6??

12.Qd1 1-0

The obscure retreat of the queen is winning a piece.


It is a long way from amateur to a Grand Master, one sometimes stumbles...

It is a long way from amateur to a Grand Master, one sometimes stumbles...


I admit, this article is a bit vicious. But its message is essentially positive: If you make a stupid mistake next time, overlook a piece or a checkmate, do not despair.

You’re in a good fellowship. There were a lot of suicides committed on the chessboard by many players before you, often very famous ones. In addition, a chess player has not only one life; he has as many lives as many games he plays. He is therefore practically immortal…

So if you lost the game in especially naive way, send me an email. Maybe I will appreciate your efforts and will publish it in one of the next articles…

This post is also available in: Slovak

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Comments (2)

  • Noman says:

    cool tuohgh being a proponent of open fights ALApanov botvinik i am not likely to see this kind of position any time soon.but nonethe less i will save it for future use. Nice one bro

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