Jellie Wobbles

A very quick question for you.

You’re White in this position. Imagine it’s a blitz game so you don’t have time to think very deeply: your first thoughts are important. What would you play here?

When doing some historical research I chanced upon a game between two London club stalwarts of the inter-war years. Ernest Montgomery Jellie (White) was playing for Hampstead in a match against the Rest of Middlesex. Not a blitz game but I wanted a quick answer from you. His opponent was Sydney Meymott of Ealing Chess Club.

Jellie essayed the Alekhine-Chatard Attack against Meymott’s French Defence. Stockfish, by the way, quite likes 6. h4 for White, at first preferring it to Bxe7 before deciding Black’s best option is to take the proffered pawn. Meymott, however, turned down the pawn and a few moves later the antagonists reached this position.

It looked natural to White to stick his knight on the outpost on d6, and this is what he played, probably without too much thought. But in fact it’s a losing move. Meymott continued with Nc6, followed by f6, undermining the outpost and forcing Jellie to trade off his proud steed for Black’s otherwise ineffective bishop on c8. Black, with his strong centre pawns and lead in development, went on to win the game, although at one point White missed a fleeting (but perhaps not obvious) chance of salvation.

White had a lot of better moves than Nd6 here. Probably best is queen-side castling, to avoid the possibility of Qb4+, when White has a definite advantage.

Which move did you come up with?

I’m pretty sure I’d have played Nd6 in the diagrammed position in a blitz game, and quite probably in a slower game as well. But it’s superficial thinking, and this sort of superficiality can be fatal. The obvious moves are not always the best. I was interested in this position because I know I’ve lost several games in the past by thoughtlessly occupying an outpost with a knight in positions where it’s not correct to do so.

Here’s the game.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through View all posts by Richard James

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