'Round, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel/Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel.' This is, of course, the opening lines to The Windmills of Your Mind, the unlikely hit song that made Noel Harrison a legend. His big global No.1 hit of 1969 also won the Oscar that year for the best original song in a film, that film of course being The Thomas Crown Affair starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.
This is a movie that is also famous for a 7-minute chess scene in it; a truly masterful piece of cinematography that is so seductively played out between McQueen and Dunaway. And the reason I bring this up today, is that late last week, while watching some of the live action on Chess24.com from the 17th European Individual Championship in Gjakova, Kosovo, it was Harrison’s song that was the one that was spiralling through my mind after I was alerted to a game with a spectacular windmill theme to it.
In real life, a windmill is a machine which spins around in the wind, generating energy. In chess, it is a combination - immortalised in the famous game Carlos Torre vs Emanuel Lasker from Moscow 1925, where the young Mexican caught out the former world champion with such a theme - where one player keeps putting his opponent in discovered check over and over again. The piece which moves out of the way (to make a discovery) gobbles up the opponent's pieces, one after another.
In order to really understand what it is, though, it is best that you see one in action - and the game that had Harrison’s song never-endingly spiralling in my mind came from the young Russian Daniil Dubov, who with a stunning queen sacrifice cranked up his winning windmill, not for a huge material gain, but for a decisive mating attack.
Photo © | Moscow Blitz
GM Daniil Dubov - GM Ante Brkic
17th European Indiv. Ch., (8)
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Vienna Variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Bg5 Bb4+ The Vienna Variation, something akin to the Nimzo-Indian Defence. 5.Nc3 h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 Ne4 8.Qc2 h5 9.h3 Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 Nxg3 11.fxg3 Nc6 The immediate hit on g3 fails. If 11...Qd6 12.Kf2 h4 13.gxh4 gxh4 14.cxd5! exd5 15.e4! and White is beginning to rip open Black's position, with ...Qg3+ achieving nothing. 12.e4 dxe4 13.Qxe4 Qd6 14.Kf2 Bd7 15.c5 Qe7 16.Rb1 0-0-0 Putting his king into safety while at the same time defending b7. It looks natural, but little does Black know that he is in fact 'castling into it', because Dubov has laid the foundations for a very spectacular sacrificial attack. 17.Ne5! The point being that Black has no time for ...Nxe5, as White has the little matter of Qxb7mate! More importantly, the knight on e5 plays a key role in what comes next, as it covers the d7 square. 17...f5 18.Qf3 g4? Black's in a bad way, but he doesn't quite realise just how bad as he hasn't yet seen Dubov's stunning riposte. Instead, the only option now was 18...Qe8 to double down on the protection of c6 - but even here, although there is no stunning sacrifice, White has a superb position and should go on to easily win. 19.Ba6!! (See Diagram) A truly spectacular windmill mating concept that works because the bishop cannot be taken! 19...gxf3 If 19...bxa6 20.Nxc6!! gxf3 21.Nxa7# Black therefore has no alternative other than to accept the queen and allow his opponent to demonstrate the 'windmill'. 20.Bxb7+ Kb8 21.Bxc6+ Kc8 22.Bb7+ Kb8 23.Bxf3+ Kc8 24.Bb7+ Kb8 25.Bc6+ Kc8 26.Rb2!! 1-0 And with the knight covering the d7 escape square for the Black king, there's no way now to stop White from simply playing Rhb1 followed by Rb8 mating; and after 26…Rdf8 27. Bxd7+ Qxd7 28. Rb8+! Kxb8 29. Nxd7+ Kc8 30. Nxf8 Rxf8 31. Kf3 Black is left two pawns down in an hopeless rook ending.