A Trap for a Grandmaster

(From the book "Chess Traps, Pitfalls and Swindles" by Al Horowitz)

"At the Manhattan Chess Club, Al Horowitz often played with an arch-duffer known as a "Professional Rook-odds player." Always receiving odds of a Rook, Mr. P.R.O.P. was willing to play for any stake his opponent might name. His main ambition in life was to improve his chess to the point where the Masters would ignore his arrival at the club.

That happy day never came. In fact, whenever Mr. P.R.O.P. entered the club rooms, the pros vied with each other to be the first to get him. Some even went so far as to greet him before he came into the club.

One day Mr. P.R.O.P. walked in; and immediately singled out Horowitz.

"I have a proposition for you," he said. "I'd like to play at the usual odds for a stake of ten dollars." Nothing new in this; but then Mr. P.R.O.P. went on:

"During the course of the game, at any time I don't like your move, I'll suggest a different one. Every time you take back your move and play the move I suggest, I give you a dollar. On the other hand, if you refuse my suggestion, it cost you nothing."

After a moment's tought, Horowitz agreed. What could he lose? The game proceeded: 

PLease read carefully the game notations for the continuation of the story.

(While creating this blog, I removed White's Queenside Rook. For some reason, the Rook did not go away. Just imagine that Rook is not there)


  • 9 years ago


    I want to see the rest of the game. How the hell does he blow such a huge material lead?
  • 9 years ago


  • 9 years ago


    That is an amazing game.
  • 9 years ago


    lol! you left in white's extra rook! I've seen this before. Highly amusing.
  • 9 years ago


    Nice article, I enjoyed it.
  • 9 years ago


    I sometimes make that kind of mistake when I play in blitz and lightening game Embarassed
  • 9 years ago


    Benws, Horowitz was a great player, a Grandmaster in my book. Too bad that he never got the title. I seriously doubt that he took any more "suggestions" from Mr. P.R.O.P.
  • 9 years ago




    [Event "rook odds game"]
    [Site "Manhattan Chess Club"]
    [Date "????.??.??"]
    [White "Al Horowitz"]
    [Black "Mr. P.R.O.P."]
    [Result "1-0"]
    [FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/1NBQKBNR w Kkq - 0 1"]

    1. d4 Nf6 { Horowitz played 2.e3, after which his blachearted opponent commented, "Capablanca generally plays 2.Nd2, instead of 2.e3. Play 2.Nd2, instead of the move you've made, and you get a dollar."
    "If it's good enough for Capa, it's good enough for me," Horowitz repplied, putting the e-Pawn back on its original square and continuing with:  } 2. Nd2  { For some mysterious reason, Mr. P.R.O.P. seemed very gratified by Horowitz's accomodating change of mind. Equally mysterious was his reply:  } 2...e5  { What surprised Horowitz about this move was that it was the first time in the history of chess, as far as he knew, that a Rook-odds player had willingly parted with a Pawn. His first tought was to take the Pawn; but then it occurred to him that this was the move that Mr. P.R.O.P. wanted. Why waste a dollar? So Horowitz craftily played the timid 3.e3, producing the expected reaction from Mr. P.R.O.P. "If you take the e-Pawn instead, you can have another dollar!"
    No sooner said than done. Horowitz put the e-Pawn back on its original square a second time and played:  } 3. dxe5  { To which the reply was:  } 3...Ng4  { Horowitz played 4.Nf3, developing a piece and guarding the advanced e-Pawn. Again Mr.P.R.O.P. had a suggestion.
    "If you take back your last move," came the soft insinuating voice of Satan, "and play 4.h3 instead, you can have another dollar."
    At this point Horowitz's suspicions were belatedly aroused. What was the point of so much generosity? Perhaps, he said to himself, he wants me to play 4.h3 so that he can answer 4...Nxf2. But the sacrifice would be silly, just a check or two by the Black Queen, and then Black has nothing. Perhaps, he continued, he just wants to be sure of winning the e-Pawn. That's more like it! After all, you can expect a Rook-odds player to think like a Rook-odds player. That's it! he wants the e-Pawn.
    And so, Horowitz agreed to put his Knight back on g1 and earn a dollar by playing:  } 4. h3  { Three dollars to the good and smugly awaiting further windfalls, Horowitz was rudely awakened by Mr. P.R.O.P.'s next move:  } 4...Ne3  { Too late, much too late, Horowitz realized that his opponent's last suggestion was not a windfall but a pitfall! If White plays 5.fxe3, he runs into 5...Qh4+ 6.g3 Qxg3 Mate.
    So, to the accompaniment of thunderous guffaws at his expense, poor Horowitz could do nothing better than:  }5. Ngf3 Nxd1 6. Kxd1 { Which left him with the overwhelming material disadvantage of a Knight against Queen and Rook.

    (To complete the saga of Horowitz's downfall via a windfall that was really a pitfall, we must record that he finally won the game!)  }

  • 9 years ago


    He won that game? just shows that if you're really good, you can win any losing position. i wonder if he took any more suggestions from Mr. P.R.O.P.
  • 9 years ago


  • 9 years ago


    hahaha, cool!
  • 9 years ago


    What a silly story.  I love it!  I wonder how long it took Mr. P.R.O.P. to devise that.
  • 9 years ago


    haha, very entertaining write up! Thanks a lot. :)
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