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Warning: It is helpful to know chess notation and some chess terminology before engaging this write up.

Life on the Chess Board

Michael Basman is an ingenious International Master of chess. He began playing the game at the age of ten and has been hooked ever since. In 1973, He went undefeated in the British Championships. In 1981, Basman recieved his International Master title and ever since has devoted himself to teaching the art of chess to children. He has even organized large events such as the U.K. chess challenge, which attracts thousands of players each year. His devotion to teaching the art of chess is probably the only thing preventing him from becomeing a Grandmaster. He is most noted for his work with unorthodox chess openings including the Grob, St George Defense, and Polish Lines (sometimes refered to as solosky or orangutan). Far too often, he is criticized by chess players for his irregular play. Stronger players tend to find his technique amusing and poke fun at him. While spectating a tournament, a colleague pointed to a game that began 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.c3 Nf6 5.e5 Nd5. He asked, "This isn't one of yours, is it?" Basman just laughed and replied, "It looks like a bastardized Basman Sicilian." Despite criticizms, Michael Basman is a brilliant player with an exceptional ability to calculate deep combinations of play. He deserves our respect.

Basman Brilliancies

While Basman doesn't believe that games should be judged by their result, he has beaten many strong players with his unusual technique. Here is an example of one of his brilliancies.

This game was played between Chandler (white) and Basman (black) in the 1985 British Championship. It began...

1.e4 e6
2.d4 a6
3.c4 b5!?
4.cxb5 axb5
5.Bxb5 Bb7
6.Nc3 Bb4
7.Qe2 f5
8.Nh3 fxe4
9.Qh5+ Kf8
10.Ng5 Nh6
11.0-0 Ra5!
12.Ngxe4 Nf5
13.Nc5!?(diagram)

b=black w=white p=pawn K=king Q=queen B=bishop N=knight R=rook

 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
8|    | bN |    | bQ |    | bK |    | bR |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
7|    | bB | bp | bp |    |    | bp | bp |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
6|    |    |    |    | bp |    |    |    |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
5| bR | wB | wN |    |    | bN |    | wQ |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
4|    | bB |    | wp |    |    |    |    |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
3|    |    | wN |    |    |    |    |    |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
2| wp | wp |    |    |    | wp | wp | wp |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
1| wR |    | wB |    |    | wR | wK |    |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|

The position looks hopeless for black. White has many strong threats. He is attacking the bishop on b7, Bxd7 is a strong move, and Bg5! is decisive. Out of this complicated position, Basman found...

13...Bxg2!! =+

A fantastic sacrifice! Not only does Black win back his gambitted pawn, but he will also have more activity at the end of the combination. If white is not careful, he could lose a piece and/or destroy his pawn structure. One possible continuation would be...

14.Kxg2 Bxc3
15.Nb7 Qh4!
16.Qxh4 Nxh4+
17.Kh3 RxB
18.KxN? Bxd4!
19.Nd8 Ke8
20.Bg5 Bf6 -+

There is no saving the knight on d8.

From what looked to be a winning position for white, Black won a piece, and isolated three of white's pawns. However, white could nullify his loses by playing 18.bxB with a roughly equal game.

It should be noted that 13...Bxg2!! was discovered upon later analysis. In the actual game Basman played 13...Ba8? and lost to 14.Bg5!. However, we should base our judgments not on the result of the game, but the player's potential to succeed from the critical position (the climax of a chess game). This ability is what makes Basman a great player.

Another great quality of Basman's play is his unorthodox technique. This allows him to see moves that most players would never consider doing, even if it is advantageous. They mentally overlook moves that are normally weakening to their position. Basman can often surprise his opponents as he does in the following game played against P. Walker(white).

1.e4 e6
2.Nf3 a6
3.g3 d5

Basman was trying to play the St. George Defense, but Walker wouldn't cooperate. So, Basman just swings into the French Defense.

4.e5 c5
5.Bg2 Nc6
6.0-0 g5!(diagram)

b=black w=white p=pawn K=king Q=queen B=bishop N=knight R=rook

   A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
8| bR | bB |    | bQ | bK | bB | bN | bR |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
7|    | bp |    |    |    | bp |    | bp |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
6| bp |    | bN |    | bp |    |    |    |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
5|    |    | bp | bp | wp |    | bp |    |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
4|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
3|    |    |    |    |    | wN | wp |    |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
2| wp | wp | wp | wp |    | wp | wB | wp |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|
1| wR | wN | wB | wQ |    | wR | wK |    |
 |----|----|----|----|----|----|----|----|

A signature Basman move. Few players would recognize the value of this pawn thrust. White's passive play gives black very little difficulty. Both black's kingside and queenside are weak, but white will not have any chance to take advantage of that. This pawn thrust will completely tie up white's pieces and weaken the defense of the king. It is very easy for player's to overlook this idea as black's position is very open.


7.c3 g4
8.Nh4 h5
9.f4 Be7
10.Na3 Bxh4
11.gxh4 Nh6
12.Nc2 Nf5
13.Ne3 Nxh4
14.Qe1 Nxg2
15.Nxg2

The game is already decided as Basman is up a pawn and Walker's king is still exposed. However, Basman still finishes it off with a masterful touch.

15...Bd7
16.d3 Ne7
17.Be3 d4!
18.cxd4 Bc6
19.Nh4 Qd5
20.Qg3 cxd4
21.Bd2 Nf5!
22.Nxf5

White can not allow Nxh4 with a mate looming at g2.

22...exf5
23.Kf2 h4
24.Qg1 Qf3+
25.Ke1 Qxd3
26.Rc1 Bb5
27.Rf2 g3
28.Rg2 h3
White resigns

Walker must give up a rook or be mated.

So, Basman made a very unusual move that had fantastic positional value. Most players of master caliber would subconciously reject 6.g5! because such a move early in the game usually spells doom to the one who played it. Basman has the advantage over his opponents of recognizing the value of such moves.

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