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NWC: Home > Articles > Events > 2007 > S-Chess

First Ever Seirawan Chess Event!

On Saturday, March 31, 2007, a 12-board Seirawan chess simultaneous exhibition was held at the Vancouver Chess Centre.

Don’t be misled. While the simultaneous was in fact given by world renowned Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, former World Junior Champion, frequent top-ten ranked player, etc., etc., the game in question was not (classical) chess, but “Seirawan chess”, the name chosen (for legal reasons) for an increasingly popular version of chess devised by Bruce Harper and Yasser Seirawan a little over a year ago as they lamented the current state of chess.

With the goal of rendering existing opening theory obsolete, overthrowing the cruel reign of Fritz over the human imagination, drastically reducing the frequency of draws and making chess fun again, “Seirawan chess” (let’s call it “s-chess”) (re)introduces the often-considered knight-bishop (in s-chess the “Hawk”) and the knight-rook (in s-chess the “Elephant”). After his dreary loss to Alekhine in their World Championship match in 1927, Capablanca was an enthusiastic proponent of a version of chess which incorporated these two pieces, but he suggested playing on an 8 x 10 board. The idea never caught on.

S-chess uses a normal set on a normal 8 x 8 board. The extra pieces may be placed on the board when a square is vacated by one of the original pieces. Placement is part of the move of the developing piece, and only one piece may be placed at a time (so castling does not permit a player to put both the Hawk and the Elephant on the board, although it allows a choice of two squares for either piece).

The advantages to this approach are obvious: new sets and boards aren’t needed, just the new pieces; and because a standard 8 x 8 board is used, the relative value of the other pieces remains unchanged, as does almost all endgame theory (“almost all”, because there is always the possibility of promotion to a Hawk or Elephant). In short, while the new pieces open up all sorts of new possibilities in the opening, middle game and ending, it is still chess.

Yasser’s score in the simultaneous was 8 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses. He found it exhausting, because the games were adventures right from the start and he, like everyone else, had no body of opening or middle game theory to draw upon to save his energy.

A good time was had by all. No entry fee was paid by the players, no fee was charged by Grandmaster Seirawan, and no rent was required by the Vancouver Chess Center. The generosity and support of the Chess Center’s management, especially Toni Deline, was notable, as was the kindness and consideration of the players, who made substantial donations to the Chess Center. All in all, the event exemplified the new spirit that s-chess hopes to bring to chess, both on and off the board.

Let’s look at some of the games. To play these through, you need something to represent the new pieces – but not for long. Proper pieces are being manufactured and should be available to the public this summer.

Yasser Seirawan – Edward Enns
Vancouver, March 31, 2007

1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.Nc3 e6?!

This move is no better in s-chess than in classical chess.

4.Nf3 Ne7 5.Bh6/Hc1!

White exchanges Black’s g7-bishop by bringing his hawk into play on c1, rather than spending time on Be3, Qd2 and Bh6.


An interesting defensive idea, to cover the dark squares around Black’s king.

6.h4! d5 7.e5 Nf5 8.Bxg7 Hxg7 9.h5 gxh5?! 10.Bd3! Nc6/Eb8 11.Bxf5 exf5 12.Hf4!

White is in no hurry to recapture on h5. Black’s d5-pawn is now attacked, but Black either overlooks this or unsoundly sacrifices it.

12...b6? 13.Nxd5 Ed7 14.Nf6+

Black can now give up his queen, elephant or hawk. No one yet really knows their relative values, but everyone agrees they’re all worth more than a knight...

14...Qxf6 15.exf6 Re8+ 16.Kf1 Ba6+ 17.Kg1 Exf6 18.Rxh5/Eh1

White finally brings his elephant onto the board.

18...Be2 19.Hxe2 Rxe2 20.Rg5

A pin is still a pin.

20...Rae8 21.Eg3 Ee4 22.Rxg7+ Kh8 23.Exe4 R8xe4 24.Rxf7 Nxd4 25.Nxd4 1:0

The smoke has cleared and Black found himself in a classical chess game down massive amounts of material.

Yasser Seirawan – Duane Polich/Len Molden
Vancouver, March 31, 2007

1.d4 e5!?

In s-chess material is less important and gambits such as this might well be playable. Who knows?

2.dxe5 Nc6/Hb8 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 Bg4 5.Bf4 Qe7/Ed8

Black is trying one possible strategy in s-chess – rapid development. But, as we’ll see, development still has a qualitative aspect, and Black’s pieces (including the new ones) turn out not to work all that well.

6.exd6 cxd6 7.Nd5 Qe4 8.Qd3/Ed1 Bf5 9.Ee3!

Pinning Black’s e4-queen, but there is another threat, which Black misses.

9...Ee6? 10.Exf5! Nb4 11.Qxe4 Exe4 12.Nxb4 Exb4 13.0-0-0/He1! Exa2+ 14.Kb1

White’s king isn’t afraid of elephants – at least, not when they’re on their own.

14...Ea4 15.e4! a6 16.Hc3 Exc3+ 17.bxc3 g6 18.Ee3 Bh6 19.Bxh6 Nxh6 20.Bc4 Hc7 21.Bb3 0-0-0 22.Rd4 b5 23.g4 Rhf8 24.Rhd1 Ng8 25.Ng5 Rd7 26.Nxh7 Re8 27.Ng5 f6 28.Nf7 Kb8 29.Nxd6 Red8 30.Nxb5!

Who needs the new pieces? White’s knight, by moving six times in a row, single-handedly demolishes Black’s position.

30...Hxb5 31.Rxd7 Rxd7 32.Rxd7 Hxd7 33.Bxg8 He5 34.h3 Hh2 35.Bc4 Hg1 36.e5 Hxf2 37.Ed3! Hb6 38.Eb4 1:0

After the exchange of White’s elephant for Black’s hawk, White will be a piece ahead.

Yasser Seirawan – Tiffany Tang/Laura Harper
Vancouver, March 31, 2007

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3/Hb1 Nf6 4.Bf4 Be7 5.e3 b6 6.Nf3 Bb7/Ec8 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Nxd5 Qxd5/Hd8 9.Hc3 Qh5?!

Black’s queen soon gets into trouble. Grandmaster Duncan Suttles was kibitzing in this game (perfectly acceptable in s-chess simuls), but he didn’t start kibitzing soon enough...

10.Be2 Qg6 11.0-0/Eh1 0-0 12.Eg3

Not so much because White is convinced that a queen is more valuable than an elephant, but to protect White’s king.

12...Qxg3 13.Bxg3 c5 14.Rc1 Bf6 15.Be5!

White now begins a series of fine moves that lead to a winning position.

15...Bxe5 16.dxe5 a6?!

Logical, but Black doesn’t really have time for this.

17.Nd2! b5 18.Ne4 Hc6 19.Bf3 b4 20.Nf6+! gxf6 21.Bxc6 Bxc3 22.exf6!

Threatening 23.Qg4+ and 24.Qg7 mate.

22...Kh8 23.Bxb7

The point of White’s combination. Everything hangs.

23...cxb2 24.Rb1 Eb6 25.Bxa8 Exa8 26.Rxb2 Ec7 27.Qd6! Ed7 28.Qg3 Rg8 29.Rxb8! Exb8 30.Qxb8 Rxb8 31.Rc4

White is a pawn ahead in a winning rook ending. Even so, the rest of the game is worth playing out. Somehow the “chess” positions which arise out of s-chess games often seem to be more interesting and imbalanced than classical chess positions.

31...c4 32.g4 Rc8 33.f4 h6 34.e4 Kh7 35.Kf2 Rc5 36.e5 Ra5 37.Rxc4 Rxa2+ 38.Kg3 Ra3+ 39.Kh4 Rf3 40.g5 Kg6 41.Kg4 Rf2 42.h4 h5+ 43.Kg3 Rb2 44.Rc8 Rb3 45.Kf2 Rb4 46.Rg8+ Kf5 47.g6 Rxf4+ 48.Ke3 1:0

Yasser Seirawan – Eduardo Moura
Vancouver, March 31, 2007

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bg5/Hc1 Be7 4.c4 d5 5.Nc3 0-0/Ee8 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Na6/Hb8 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bxe7 Qe7 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.Be2 Nxc5 12.0-0/Ee1

Both players are playing solidly.

12...Ef6 13.b3 Bg4 14.Hb2 Eh6 15.Qxd5 Hc6 16.Qg5 Qxg5 17.Nxg5 Bxe2 18.Exe2 Ne4 18.Nxe4 Hxe4 20.Eg3

Is this best? The material balance ends up being a hawk and a pawn for an elephant, and the result is a draw – the first ever in s-chess!

20...Hxg3 21.hxg3 Rfd8 22.Rfd1 Ea6 23.a3 Ec5 24.Hc4 a6 25.Rac1 Rxd1+ 26.Rxd1 h6 27.Rd5 Ec7 28.Rd1 b5 29.He5 Ec5 30.Hd4 Ec7 31.He5 Ec5 32.Hd4 Draw

A legitimate result.

Yasser Seirawan – Alfred Pechisker
Vancouver, March 31, 2007

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3/Hb1 Nf6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Bg5/Ec1 Nc6/Hb8 6.Nf3 e6 7.e3

In s-chess the Slav Defence isn’t quite as dull as in classical chess, thank heavens.

7...h6!? 8.Bh4 g5!?

Black has an idea, although not necessarily a good one.

9.Bg3 Bd6/Ef8 10.Bb5 Eg8 11.Ne5 h5!?

And here’s the idea.

12.h3 Bd7 13.Hd3! h4 14.Bh2 g4 15.Bxc6 bxc6 16.hxg4 h3 17.Rg1 hxg2 18.Rxg2 Rxh2!? 19.Rxh2 Bxe5 20.dxe5

White has come out on top.

qm = 20...Qb6 21.Na4! Qa5+ 22.b4 Qc7 23.f4 Ne4 24.Nc5 Nxc5 25.bxc5 Qx5+ 26.Kf2 Ha6 27.Eb3 Hxd3+ 28.Qxd3?

After 28.Exd3, White’s position is winning.

28...Exg4+ 0:1

The elephant at its best. White’s f2-king and h2-rook are forked, and White’s king can’t cross the g-file to defend the rook, White Black will capture – with check!

Yasser Seirawan – Jamie Harper/Bruce Harper
Vancouver, March 31, 2007

There was a lot of kibitzing in this game, but it was the younger Harper who saw the key moves.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3/Hb1 d5

The Nimzoindian, if that’s what it is after 3...Bb4, can be met by 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.Hxc3. Of course, this may well be perfectly playable for Black, who can also place a hawk or an elephant at f8 on his third move.

4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Nf3 h6 7.Bh4 0-0/Ee8 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Bd3 c6 9.0-0/Ee1 Ne4!?

Lasker’s freeing maneuver.

11.Bxe7 Qxe7/Hd8 12.Bxe4 dxe4 13.Nd2 f5 14.f3 exf3 15.Qxf3 Nf6 16.Nc4 Hf7 17.Ne5 Hh5!

The first key move. Black’s h5-hawk dominates White’s f3-queen.

18.Qf2 Ng4! 19.Nxg4 Hxg4 20.Hc2

White has little choice, as his e3-pawn was also attacked.

20...Hxf2 21.Rxf2 Be6

Black is doing well.

22.Ef3 Ef6 23.Ee5 Rae8 24.Raf1 Ed7 25.Eg6 Qf7 26.Ef4 g5! 27.Ee2 Bc4 28.Rxf5!? Bxe2 29.Rxf7 Rxf7 30.Rxf7 Kxf7

Black could have played 30...Exf7 31.Nxe2 Rf8, but was afraid of a classical chess ending after 32.Hb3, since Black would only be ahead the exchange for a pawn. So the odd material balance of a knight and hawk vs. a rook and elephant arises, which must favour Black. But it was very difficult to find a way to activate Black’s heavy pieces.

31.Nxe2 Ef6

To prevent 32.Hf5.

32.Nf3 Ke7!? 33.Ne4 Ed5 34.Nc3 Eb6 35.Hf5+?

Falling for Black’s trap, if it can be dignified by even that term. After 35.b3 or 35.Na4, Black would have a long, hard task ahead.

35...Kf6 36.g4 Exb2 37.Ne4+ Rxe4! 38.Hxe4+ Ke6 39.Hc5+ Kf7!

The key move, missed by Bruce but seen by Jamie Harper. The intended 39...Kd5? 40.e4+ Kc4 loses to 41.Ha3! Kc3 42.Hxb2 Kxb2 42.e5, and White’s e5-pawn queens (or elephants or hawks...).

Instead White is now under attack, as Black threatens 40...Ee2+! (not 40...Exa2? 41.Hb3+) 41.Kf1 (41.Kh1? Ee1 mate) 41...Exh2 or 41...Exe3+.

White’s hawk is strong, but not strong enough to fend of a rampaging elephant, so White resigned. 0:1