The Chicken Bone Revisited

In some previous posts I mentioned a tactic that Michael Hoffer and his students call “the chicken bone” because Black chokes on White’s king pawn like a chicken bone. Hoffer and company think that this tactic gives White quite an advantage, but I believe that White’s advantage is more psychological than it is tactical. White’s 60% win rate has more to do with Black panicking and playing poorly than it does with the actual position. Here, the threat of the threat is greater than the execution.

Michael Hoffer posted the following game in a Facebook thread and I copied it from there. I do not know who Muir is nor do I know his rating. This game was played back in 1988 in Lugano, Switzerland, but that is all I know about this game. I was not given the rest of the information.

I do not know what rating Miles Ardaman had at the time that this game was played, but his current USCF rating is 2265. Although I can’t prove it, I remember playing Miles back in 1975 when he was barely in his teens and rated 1400 USCF. I played the Black side of a closed Sicilian Defense and won. The last that I heard Miles was a psychiatrist in private practice somewhere in Texas. He, like many other strong players, was fond of playing the tournaments that used to be held in Plant City, Florida before they closed that hotel.

Playing 5.Qe2 is the beginning of the chicken bone setup. I believe that the Queen is played there in order to support the advance of the e pawn. Playing 7.e6 starts the choking process. Although Hoffer and company disagree on this, Houdini 4 gives 9… Nc6 as being Black’s best move here and it also gives Black a slight advantage. Black’s only move on number 10 is g5!. Everything else loses. Black resigned on move number 12 because the only way to avoid immediate checkmate is to give away plenty of material.

GM Ronald Henley also gave the following line in his Facebook post.

According to Henley, White has a clear advantage after move number 12. However, the game Basso,P (2208)-Solomon,K (2372) Trieste 2013 shows how Black can avoid many of these problems.

My final conclusion is that Black can survive the chicken bone as long as he or she remains calm and plays logical moves. Of course, it helps if Black has some prepared moves to play as well!

Mike Serovey


Author: Mike Serovey

Mike Serovey, MA, MISM is a USCF certified local chess tournament director, candidate master in correspondence chess and an avid chess player. Mike won the Under 1600 section of the state of Florida chess championship in 1986, won several Walter Muir sections and is currently ranked in the top 100 correspondence chess players in the USA.