Bored Game

In the closing stages of an international tournament Réti was playing one of the weaker competitors and had obtained a won game… he seemed to fall into a brown study, did not move for ten minutes; then suddenly started up from his chair – still without making his move – and sought out a friend, to whome he explained he had just conceived an original and entrancing idea for an endgame study… His friend dissuaded Réti from demonstrating the idea on his pocket chess set, and Réti returned, somewhat disgruntled, to the tournament room, made some hasty casual moves and soon lost the game. – Harry Golombek, Foreword to his translation of Modern Ideas in Chess by Richard Réti

Réti went on to stay up all night working on his study, lost the next day’s game, and with it the tournament. His run of unsuccess at that point in his career was only terminated by his untimely death in 1929 from scarlet fever.

I feel for the man. Sometimes I’m exquisitely tuned in to chess and turn in commendable games. Other times, I’m bored with chess as other interests obtrude and distract from my focus. In particular, when programming projects are particularly interesting chess seems shallow, a sort of abacus next to the vastly shinier and more complex matrix of computer science.

The most striking thing I infer from watching videos of Kasparov playing is that Kasparov, another man of many interests, is able to dial it up at will. He seizes his head in his hands and grimaces and he has projected himself back into Chess World. Further, he is able to stay there until the end of the game. I need to be able to dial up focus in that fashion and intensity.

Jacques Delaguerre

Recognise the Pattern # 35

Today, we will see a typical exchange sacrifice on c3 (usually taking a knight) in the Sicilian defence. Black players like to make this sacrifice in order to get one or more following advantages:

1) Usually Black ends up with a knight and a central pawn against a rook with White’s busted pawn structure creating additional targets. Even if White has castled short this can prove to be sufficient compensation, though it varies from case to case.

2) White’s king won’t feel safe any longer in the absence of key defender and damaged pawn structure (usually if White castles long).

3) This typical sacrifice also increases the quality of other pieces, particularly Black’s dark square bishop and an active knight in the center.

4) It is very difficult for White to use his exchange in the absence of open files.

Here is an instructive example:

Nakamura against Gelfand in 2013

Q: In a given position Nakamura played 24. f5. How would you with the Black pieces?


24…Rxc3!! 25. bxc3 Qxa3+

25…Ne5 26. Kd2 Bd7 is an option given in chess informant.

26. Kd2 Nf6!

Compare the activity of each side’s pieces. The Black ones are far more active and dangerous than White’s.

27. Qd3

The bishop can’t be taken because of Ne4

27…Bc4 28. Qd4 d5! 29. exd5

29.e5 is bad in view of Ne4+.

29…Bxd5 and White resigned after black’s 41st move. Here is the rest of game in case you’re interested.

30.Rg1 Be4 31.Bd3 Qa5 32.Qb4 Qc7 33.Bxe4 a5 34.Qxb7 Qf4+ 35.Ke2 Rc7 36.Qb6 Nxe4 37.Qd4+ Kh7 38.c4 Rd7 39.Qe3 Ng3+ 40.Qxg3 Qxg3 41.Rxd7 Qe5+ 0-1

Would you like to dig out further on the same theme? Study the following games.

Shirov against Anand in 2008

Mamedyarov against Gelfand in 2011

Movsesian against Kasparov in 2000

Ashvin Chauhan

Cheer For The English

I thought today’s column should offer some cheer for the English after recent events. Sadly the game below is not against an Icelandic player but it does feature an English Opening played by English GM Jon Speelman. And it’s even a win!

Nigel Davies

Elementary Endings

Elementary endings are not as simple as they first appear.

In this week’s problem, each side only has one King and one pawn.

You can hardly make chess simpler…. But it is still a tricky problem. White has to play and draw.

How does White draw the game?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White wins with 1. Ra7!

Steven Carr

Chess and Music Part 6: Other Voices

These days it’s much harder to become a specialist in more than one field, but there are some who manage it. There are others who excel professionally in either chess or music while choosing the other as a hobby, or who play chess in their youth before switching to music.

In this week’s article I look at some lesser known examples of chess playing musicians in a variety of genres.

A musical contemporary of Smyslov and Taimanov, and, like the former, a baritone, Derek Hammond-Stroud (1926-2012) was a keen amateur chess player who competed regularly in the London League. His musical specialities were German song and opera, and Gilbert and Sullivan: you can see him here as Jack Point in a 1975 production of The Yeomen of the Guard, along with the delightful Valerie Masterson, who, as far as I know, doesn’t play chess. I haven’t been able to find any of his games online, but there may well be someone out there who played him and kept the score of the game.

While I never played Derek Hammond-Stroud in the London League, I did play my next musician there (it was a draw, since you ask, but not sufficiently interesting to post here). I also once played in a bridge tournament against the great violinist Alfredo Campoli, but that’s another story.

Welsh chess international Francis Rayner was an award-winning child prodigy pianist who continues to be very active in both music and chess. Listen to him here playing La Cathédrale Engloutie (the submerged cathedral), a beautiful piece by Debussy.

In this game Francis outplays GM Daniel King, about whose musical prowess you’ll hear much more next week.

Chess is not only popular amongst classical musicians. Leon Rosselson (1934-) has been writing and singing satirical and political songs for more than half a century. In this clip (and if you’re a Tory or a Republican you should probably look away) he’s performing alongside Hounslow’s finest, Robb Johnson, another political songwriter.

As a teenager, though, he was a promising chess player. Here’s a brilliancy prize winning game from the 1952 British Junior Championships.

Another folkie, Nic Jones (1947-), has been a passionate chess player all his life. As far as I know he’s never played competitively, but he’s clearly knowledgeable about the game as one of his albums, which has shamefully never been legally available on CD (the owner of the rights refuses to release them) The Noah’s Ark Trap. Here’s a lovely track from that album. Sadly Nic’s recording career was terminated by a catastrophic car accident in 1982, although he’s made some live appearances in recent years.

Moving on to the field of pop music, Bono (Paul Hewson) was an active club and tournament player as a young boy and claims to have played internationally, although his dad seems to dispute this. In 2014 he met Kasparov when Garry paid a visit to Dublin.

Ray Charles was, and Bob Dylan, for all I know, still is a keen chess player, but again neither played competitively and there seem to be no games available.

New age composer, pianist and singer Jason Kouchak (1969-), however, is a serious competitive player, and is also involved in many other aspects of the game. He installed a giant chess set for children in London’s Holland Park and is also involved with Chess in Schools & Communities. I’m afraid Jason’s music doesn’t appeal to me but that’s my loss: you may well feel differently. Here’s a sample with a chessy title.

Jason’s current FIDE rating is 1729 so he’s a decent player. Here’s a game against an American chess author.

Next week I’ll consider how chess and music can continue to work together: until then I hope you enjoy the games and at least some of the music.

Richard James

3rd British Webserver Team Tournament nearing close finish

With just five games to finish, the 3rd British Webserver Team Tournament is heading for another really close finish and possibly a tie break. BCCA Kings are currently leading with a final score of 13.5 points with both BCCA Knights and Pawn Stars on 13 points, although BCCA Knights and Pawn Stars both have one game to finish. Also in the running is ICCF Warriors with 12.5 points and still two games to finish, so can they catch up?

This year the teams have been more evenly matched with ICCF Warriors (Board 1 GM Mark Noble 2492; 2 SIM Olli Ylonen 2472; 3 SIM Andrew Dearnley (Captain) 2368 and 4 SIM Ian Pheby 2356) weighing in with an average rating of ICCF 2422; Pawn Stars (1 SIM Gino Figlio 2476; 2 SIM Michael Millstone 2439; 3 SIM John Rhodes 2389 and 4 Austin Lockwood (Captain) 2372) with 2419; BCCA KIngs (1 David Evans 2363; 2 SIM Alan Rawlings 2367; 3 Les Ellis 2289 and 4 Ian Mason 2199) with 2304; Scheming Mind A with 2283; BCCA Knights with 2233; BCCA Griffins with 2184 and Sussex Servers with 2173.

It is not really for me to predict the outcome of the remaining games, but you can view them at   Meanwhile, here is one of my own games in this tournament in which I found myself in a Modern Benoni in what looks like a very precarious position!

John Rhodes

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty Two

My opponent in this very short correspondence chess game is an ICCF master from Sweden. When White offered a draw on move number 11, I was surprised and then checked my database of games that had that position in them. I found that White won one game and the other three ended in draws. So, I accepted the draw.

This correspondence chess game started off as the Ruy Lopez and transposed into the Four Knights. I was trying to get the Berlin Defense because it is solid and drawish. This Four Knights gave me the draw that I wanted, only sooner than I expected it!

I had third place in this section before this draw and I remained in third place after accepting the draw. My annotations show the games in my database without any real comments.

Mike Serovey

The Good Players Are Usually Lucky

The good players are usually lucky. – Jose Raul Capablanca
You make your own luck. – Yogi Berra

Nine-year-old Sullivan McConnell is becoming a holy terror and climbing the ratings ladder. He could have equalized with 10… d5 instead of 10… Ne7.

For my part, I held the advantage after move 10 until the lame 37. Be3.  The moves 37. Bd2 or even 37. Bd6 were preferable.

Sullivan only lost due to his blunder on move 39 when 39… Kf7! was an immediate draw. 39… Kh7? lost material. It didn’t have to be a whole bishop, but he would rather that than two pawns.

The verdict: One needs luck to win starting with 1. g3, but I should learn to play more incisively in order to seize the luck earlier in the game.

Jaques Delaguerre

The Davies Family Chess Project

My son Sam turns 14 today so I thought I’d devote today’s post to him and our ‘chess project’, which is a little more than 6 years old. I taught him the moves in March 2010 and he’s now well established in the tournament circuit. His new ECF grade will be around 146-147 (around 1800 Elo) and he’s probably a bit stronger than that already.

There are of course many kids who are ahead of him but I’m very proud of the way Sam is doing. He’s not one of those kids who are brilliant academically and succeed at chess (to a certain level) in passing. Instead it’s been a tough journey with a lot of hard knocks. Yet every time he’s had a setback Sam has bounced back to become a better player, which shows the sort of character and mental toughness that will help him in everything he does.

SamHeywood2016Many people have been curious about his progress and the kind of regimen we follow. From a chess perspective it’s essentially a bespoke version of my Tiger Chess syllabus which has a strong focus on core skills. The main differences with the way most juniors are taught are that he does not waste time on tricky, tactical openings and there are strong strategy and endgame components. He plays regularly in tournaments but never plays in junior events. So almost all his games are against experienced adult players.

He does quite a bit of work on chess but we go for quality over quantity. We probably do around 5-6 hours a week together when he’s got school, 9-10 when he’s on holiday. In addition to this he does an hour or two of tactical work per week on Chessity and goes through some of my Tiger Chess videos in some of his openings. He doesn’t play internet blitz but plays quite a few blitz games against me, almost always in selected openings.

What does the future hold? Well if he keeps up his current work rate he should be in Open tournaments next year and be around IM level in his late teens. Since taking up chess he’s grown in confidence, done a lot better at school and has a lot of friends and acquaintances at tournaments. So I’d say it’s going very well.

Nigel Davies

It’s All About Timing

One difference between beginners and advanced players is their use of time. Advanced players make a point of wasting little time while beginners tend to waste a great deal of time. When I say beginners waste time, I’m not trying to be critical of the chess novice. Part of being a beginner is having to learn the game from the beginning which means learning by trial and error, making mistakes. As the beginner improves, they make fewer mistakes and have fewer problems during their games. One of the problems beginners have has to do with time or tempo.

Tempo is the way in which we measure time in chess. In chess, tempo refers to a single move. You can lose tempo or gain tempo depending on what you do during your turn or move. For example, in the opening game, if you move the same piece over and over again and your opponent develops a new piece with each move, you fall behind in tempo. Sound confusing? Let’s review what you should and shouldn’t do during the opening and see how it effects tempo.

During the opening phase of the game, your job is to control the center with a pawn, develop your minor pieces towards the center of the board, develop a new piece with each move, castle your King to safety and connect your Rooks. That’s what you should do. What you shouldn’t do is make too many pawn moves, bring your Queen out early and move the same piece over and over again. These are the things you should and shouldn’t do. How does this relate to tempo?

We know the name of the game during the opening is control of the board’s center. Since White moves first, it’s like having a free turn so you’re one tempo or ahead of Black. This means, if you’re controlling the Black pieces, that you cannot waste time and have to catch up or at least not loose any further tempo. White shouldn’t waste time either, especially being ahead in tempo from the game’s start! Let’s look at an example of a beginner’s game in which White wastes time or tempo.

White starts off correctly with 1. e4 followed by Black playing 1…e6, signifying The French Defense. When given the chance to place two pawns on central squares, White should always take advantage of this opportunity. However, White chooses instead to play 2. Bc4, which turns out to be a dreadful move after Black plays 2…d5, attacking the Bishop on c4. Since the pawn is worth one point and the Bishop three points, White decides to play 3. exd5, capturing with the unit of least value. Now we see White’s first real loss of tempo after 3…exd5. The Black pawn is protected by his Queen and, because of the difference in material value, White has to move the Bishop employing 4. Bb5+, another bad move. Why is it a bad move? Because Black simply blocks the check with 4…c6, forcing the Bishop to move once more! The White Bishop has moved three times so far. Two of those Bishop moves can be considered a free turn or move for Black. White has lost two tempi, one for each of the additional moves the Bishop made. That means Black is now ahead in tempo. Every bad move leads to a loss of tempo! It gets worse!

After 5. Ba4, Black logically develops the King-side Knight to f6 (5…Nf6). White brings the Queen out early with 6. Qf3. Black counters with 6…Bg4, attacking the White Queen and winning another gain in tempo because the Queen has to move, 7. Qg3. Notice the Knight on f6 protects the Black Bishop attacking the White Queen. Piece coordination is a must! Black’s tempo is growing greatly! White’s last move is proof of why we don’t bring our Queen out early! With 7…Bd6, Blacks gets to develop yet another piece while White’s poor Queen has to run with 8. Qh4. White’s position is getting worse and worse while Black freely develops his forces to active squares. Black’s next move, 8…Qe7+ attacks the White King.

The White King is forced to move to f1 with 9. Kf1 which means his majesty is now stranded, unable to castle. With 9…0-0, Black safely tucks his King away. At this point White is so behind in tempo that recovering from this dreadful position is nothing but a pipe dream! White tries to push Black back with 10. h3, attacking the Bishop, but little can be done to stop Black from winning! Black brings his Rook to e8 with 10…Re8, creating a battering ram aimed down the e file. White’s tries to hold back the attack with 11. f3 and Black responds with 11…Ne4. White thinks, “ah ha, I can trade Queens and reduce the attacking forces with 12. Qxe7. Rather than trade Queens, Black checks the White King with 12…Ng3+ and the White King goes on the run with 13. Ke1. Black now plays 13…Rxe7+, employing good timing in capturing the White Queen, delivering check and setting up the soon to be checkmate! The poor White King shuffles over to d1 with 14. Kd1, running away from the attck and Black plays 14…Nxh1. White again, tries to reduce the number of potential attackers with 15. fxg4 and Black ends White’s suffering with 15…Nf2#!

The problem for White was a great loss of tempo. Each time White had to move the same piece over and over again allowed Black the opportunity to introduce a new piece into the game which led to a swarm of attackers White couldn’t deal with. If you want to avoid being hopelessly behind in tempo, you have think carefully about you moves. White should have played 2. d4 rather than 2. Bc4. White also paid the price in full by bringing the Queen out early. The Queen is an easy mark for minor pieces and sadly, Black was able to develop new minor pieces while pushing the Queen around.

There’s a reason for the opening principles, namely, they work! Had White employed sound principles and avoided what you shouldn’t do during the opening, he might have fared better. Next time you play a game of chess, keep the idea of tempo in mind and use the game’s principles as if your life depended on them. Your chess game certainly does. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week. These guys know their opening principles!

Hugh Patterson