You can be the hero


Like chessmen and emojis, people follow patterns. In many chess games, each bishop traverses only a fraction of its allotted 32 squares. Emojis seem limited too, such as the smiley face icon expressing one happy emotion. Typically, I limit myself to about 50 square miles near Dallas, Texas. However, chessmen, emojis, and people are sometimes heroes.

Leave your typical pattern, decide what matters, and make a difference in the world

A hero is “admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” On a normal day, only my pet rabbit thinks I am the hero. I teach online for The University of Texas at Dallas and write articles, such as this one. During my work hours, my pet rabbit Denis and I sit in front of my laptop. I pet Denis and care for his every need, as he is elderly and infirm. Normally, I leave Denis only for my daily swim, a visit to my children’s apartment, or a grocery store run.

George Aboud, Laura Schein
George Abud, Laura Schein sing “Anyway”

On February 18, I left Denis at my children’s apartment to be cared for by my daughter Clarissa, a veterinarian. My son William and I flew to New York City. On February 19th, I presented to New York City school teachers about “Girls in Chess.” My presentation summarized research, asked discussion questions of teachers, and shared some mini-games (chess variants) for teachers to practice then later use with their students. One participating teacher commented, “In addition to the variants that we played, the substantive discussion that you led was entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking in equal measure.” Thus, I was the hero to 40 chess teachers for the afternoon of February 19th.

William went to Hadestown at 2:00 p.m., while I was presenting. Then, together, we went to Emojiland at 8:00 p.m. Emojiland was fantastic; if you can see it Off Broadway, you should! My favorite song from Emojiland is “Anyway,” which is available on YouTube. “Anyway” captures profound themes of Emojiland, including that “we just do the best we can with our unique design” and that we all matter, anyway.


Having returned to Denis and my laptop on February 20, I am sharing chess thoughts, inspired by the song “Anyway,” about White’s light-squared bishop. For example, in the Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation, White’s light-squared bishop is traded off on move 4: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6. The light-squared bishop moved just twice before exiting the game. Trading on c6 doubles Black’s pawns, which matters. Thus, the light-squared bishop does “matter anyway” despite its brief existence.

In other games, however, White’s light-squared bishop “can be the hero” by sacrificing itself on h7 against a castled black king for a checkmating attack. One chapter of the Chess Opening Workbook for Kids explores this Bxh7+ sacrifice and the following position is from that book. Find the winning combination; you know its first move.

According to the book’s author FIDE Master Graham Burgess, the solution is:

1. Bxh7+ Kxh7 2. Rh3+ Kg8 3. Qh5 Bh4 4. Rxh4 Qxh4 5. Qxh4 and White will win.

However, Black can avoid checkmate, though at the cost of material, with 1… Kh8 2. Rh3 Ndf6 3. Bg6+ Kg8 4. Bxf7+ Rxf7 5. Ng6 Nh7 6. Rxh7 Rf5 7. Rh8+ Kf7 8. Ne5+ Rxe5 9. fxe5 Bb4 10. Qf3+

If you found the combination, you made that light-squared bishop the hero. You can be the hero too: Leave your typical pattern, decide what matters, and make a difference in the world.

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