Tilting at Windmills

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.”Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”

“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.”

—Part 1, Chapter VIII. Of the valourous Don Quixote’s success in the dreadful and never before imagined Adventure of the Windmills, with other events worthy of happy record.
Today I’m going to spend some time talking about one of the most amusing and destructive devices in the chess arsenal: The Windmill. The windmill is arguably the most damaging tactical device at your disposal in a chess game. They occur fairly infrequently which makes it a special guest at tournament level chess. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a windmill it is quite unpleasant. Essentially a windmill is when through a series of checks repeated in succession you have the opportunity to garner a lot of material. Usually this occurs with a rook and a bishop working in tandem, although it can be done with the queen as well. A classic example of this can be seen in the game Torre-Repetto – Lasker (the windmill begins with a sham queen sacrifice with move 25.Bf6!):
A fairly straight-forward example of a windmill in action. The rook bounces from the g7 square to give check and push the king to h8 where upon its removal of the bishop will be give check via a discover check from f6. The rook happily gobbles up material every move. As you can see getting caught in such a windmill can be disastrous. Perhaps Don Quixote was on to something…
Black resigned because in the final position white can essentially march his king up through the center and black is helpless to stop him because his rook is trapped in the corner and his king is trapped next to the rook; creating a most amusing dilemma where the knight and bishop dominate both the king and the rook.
Additionally the Queen can create a windmill like affect when she oscillates by giving check and grabbing material…
That last game was a very dramatic example of just how devastating a windmill can be in regular practice. In the next example a windmill is used to salvage a draw from otherwise difficult position.
This was played in a simul on ICC, as you can see I misplayed the opening horribly, I then went into a lousy middlegame where I was further outplayed by my GM opponent. Finally I woke up and decided that I wasn’t going to go out like a punk, where I launched a desperate attack at his king, which was rewarded by a checkmate (40. … Qf3! when 41. … Rxg2+ and 42. … Qxg2# is inevitable), which I missed in view of taking a draw (41.Bxg2 Rxg2+ the windmill 42.Kh1 Rg3+ draw by perpetual).
I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into one of my favorite tactical devices. As always if you have other games that you know of where the windmill is used, or you have any questions, comments or topics you’d like to see explored please let me know!

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