April Fools’ Day: Chess Miniatures and GothamChess


On April Fools’ Day, it’s possible to trick oneself and others. Highlighted is Marvelous Modern Miniatures: 2020 Games in 20 Moves or Less and International Master Levy Rozman’s matches with International Master Greg Shahade and with the bird-feed seller Dadang Subur.

2020 Games in 20 Moves or Less

Marvelous Modern Miniatures

Russell Enterprises, Inc. published Marvelous Modern Miniatures: 2020 Games in 20 Moves or Less. Its copyright date is 2020 and the book’s author is FIDE Master and FIDE Trainer Carsten Hansen. The book is 520 pages long. When I initially flipped through its pages, I exclaimed, “I didn’t think that there were this many games played in 2020! The book must be using online games.” I assumed that every game in the book had been played in the year 2020. After all, “2020” was in the book’s title, the copyright year was 2020, and maybe the author searched online sites for games of 20 moves or less.

Then I read Hansen’s introduction, which listed former World Chess Champion Vasily Smyslov as having a game in the book. Hmm, I thought, Smyslov is dead. This collection of games must not be from 2020. I had managed to trick myself, an April Fools’ Day joke on me.

Hansen’s book is organized by openings, specifically by ECO (Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings) codes. I liked that each game has a diagram at its critical juncture, where one needs to find the best move.

I checked the book’s index for games played by U.S. Women’s Chess Champions, since I am writing a book on that topic. I could not find five-time champion Diane Savereide, or my own name, but then I spotted “Graf” in the index. Hooray, I thought, three games by Sonja Graf, the U.S. Women’s co-champion in 1957 and champion in 1964. But I had tricked myself again, as the games were by another Graf. A second April Fools’ Day joke on me!

Find Grandmaster Alexander Graf’s win, as White against Grandmaster Namig Guliyev after 14…Bxc3.

chess diagram

Click to reveal the solution

The normal reaction to a capture is a recapture, for example 15. bxc3 or 15. Rxc3. What Graf played may be called either an in-between move, an intermezzo, or a zwischenzug.

Nxf7 Kxf7 16. dxe6+ Kf8 17. Bd6+ Re7 18. exd7 Ba5 19. Qe6 1-0

When watching Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade’s Twitch channel on March 8, I saw another zwischenzug. The zwischenzug was played by International Master Levy Rozman (whose Chess.com username is GothamChess), as Black, against Jennifer’s brother, International Master Greg Shahade (GregShahade) in a game in five minutes with a one-second increment.

At move 29, White has a 2.48-pawn advantage, according to a computer engine. Then White plays 30. Rd1?? What zwischenzug did Rozman play, instead of trading rooks? 

chess diagram

Click to reveal the answer

30… g4 31. Qxf5 31… Rxd1+ 32. Kh2 Rxf5 33. hxg4 Rff1 34. Bh4 Bxe5+ 35. Nxe5 Rd2 36. b4 Re2 37. Nc6 Re4 38. Nxa7 d4 39. Nc6 d3 40. Bg5 Rxg4 41. Be3 Re4 42. Bg5 Re2 0-1

After Rozman’s move, Black has a 4.64 pawn advantage and wins easily. At seven minutes and 30 seconds into his YouTube recap of the entire Rozman–Shahade match, Rozman explained the likely cause of Shahade’s blunder on move 30 and how he found the best reply.

Levy Rozman won that March 8th match (13.5–10.5) against Greg Shahade. Six days earlier, in a casual game played on March 2, Rozman lost to an Indonesian player, with a username of Dewa_Kipas. Based on that player’s 1000-point rating rise in 30 days, uniform move times, and high rate of accuracy in every game, Rozman accused Dewa_Kipas of cheating.

In real life, Dewa_Kipas is Dadang Subur, a bird-feed seller from Indonesia. His son said that his father had chess expertise. Some Indonesians believed that Subur was a good chess player. But an early “April Fools’ Day” joke was on the believers, when Dadang Subur lost 0–3 in a widely-viewed match with Woman Grandmaster and International Master Irene Sukandar.

Happy April Fools’ Day! If you are tricked on or off the chess board, play some good tricks, or some good moves, in return.

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on Amazon.com.