My Turn to Lunge

Still strumming my harp on the Caissic theme of lunging, the premature unbuckling of the position to the detriment of the lunger, I offer this game from a few weeks ago. This time I am the lunger.

In the diagrammed position, I opened the center with 14. d4 ? thinking to free my game. Instead, I freed my opponent’s game and dissolved all the tension created in the position by the opponent’s prior lunging at me with 10… g5!?

Better was simply 14. Qd2 connecting the rooks and preparing to bring them towards the center files as appropriate.

Instead, the game petered out into what my opponent felt was a dull draw.

Jacques Delaguerre

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Did I Lose on the Board?


This position is taken from the last round of my most recent tournament. It was must win situation for me because of a slightly strange rule that White has to win because a draw would count as a Black win! To decide the colors you just need to toss a coin and unfortunately I got the White pieces.

It was obvious to me that the game is draw so I was just not interested and was moving pieces with my hands!

1. h5??

The two questions marks are because the move was made without any further calculation. Actually it is not blunder but in fact it gives White some practical chances.

1…Kg5

The obvious reply.

2.b4 b6 3.b5 Kxh5

I resigned after 2 further moves.

What was it that I missed?

I missed that after Kxh5? the game is still draw and that careful play is required by Black!!
Amazingly I missed:

4. Kf4 Kg6

The only move because if 4…g6 then 5.f3 is winning and if 4…g5 then Kxf5 is winning for White.

5.Ke5 Kg5

5…h5 can be met by f4 and Black can’t win.

6.Kd6

Now it is Black who needs to be careful to hold the game.

So I was not lost on the board but it was already lost in my mind.

This is a common issue to be addressed for many people including me. After making a mistake very few of us try hard to save the game. The question is not that we can’t save it but before resigning on the board we have already surrendered inside, which might result in multiplying our mistakes. This should not be the case.

After this game I was not able to sleep as this was not the first time this had happened. So I have to work very concretely in order to overcome the problem. Here is a solution which might work for me and you too that is not very hard to do: When you feel that you made a mistake then just don’t react automatically but give yourself some time and look at the board with fresh eyes. Perhaps you might be able to save some games.

Apart from this after White’s accidental h5 :) the position becomes a really interesting and dynamic one and worth studying deeply. At first even the engine shows that Black is winning after …Kxh5 but it is far from the truth.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Minority Interests (5)

To complete this series, a game which is possibly the best anti-Minority Attack game I have ever seen. Kasparov puts on a veritable master-class. Note many of the themes we have already seen, such as using d6 as a knight outpost. Most striking of all is how Kasparov exchanges queens in the middle of his kingside attack, realising that his play on that wing is also a deadly a positional plan, involving the undermining of the white pawn structure. Nimzowitsch would have loved the game!
You can find this game, with much more extensive notes, in my book “50 Essential Chess Lessons”.

Steve Giddins

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King and Pawn Endings are Difficult

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White draws with 1. Kb7!

If Black replies with a5, White continues with 2. Kxc7 a4 3. Kd6 a3 4. f7! and White queens his pawn.

In this week’s problem, White has to play and win.

It is quite difficult. One difficulty is that when White promote his c-pawn, Black will be left with a pawn on the rook’s file. Generally, that is a draw as the best White can usually do is stalemate the king in the corner of the board.

But in this particular example, White can eventually deliver checkmate.

How does White win?

Steven Carr

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Adventures with 1… e5 (8)

My first game of 2016 was for Richmond B against Hounslow A. While my team tends to vary a lot, Hounslow had fielded the same three players in the same order on their top boards all season. I knew I was on board 3 so I was expecting to play an old friend, the Thames Valley League President, David White, who is rated slightly below me.

David’s openings are predictable. He meets 1. e4 with the Sicilian Dragon and 1. d4 with the Benko Gambit. With his name-matching colour he opens 1. e4, playing 2. c3 against the Silician and the King’s Gambit against 1. e4. As he occasionally plays in rated tournaments I was able to find several of his games on my database.

In the past I’ve always met the King’s Gambit with 2… Bc5 (four games between 1988 and 1992) but I’ve tried various things online, most often the little-known 1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nf3 f5.

I’d read John Shaw’s monumental work on the opening fairly recently, though, so had some knowledge of 3… g5. The line David preferred seemed to lead to Black’s advantage so, when I was awarded the black pieces I decided to give it a try.

1. e4 e5
2. f4 exf4
3. Nf3 g5
4. h4

The usual move, of course, but, according to Shaw, Black can obtain easy equality. Instead he recommends the much less popular 4. Nc3 as White’s only serious try for an advantage.

4… g4
5. Ne5

The Kieseritzky Gambit. 5. Ng5, the Allgaier Gambit, is not to be recommended against a well-prepared opponent.

5… d6

Nf6 is a more complicated alternative. My choice returns the pawn for an active position.

6. Nxg4 Nf6
7. Nxf6+ Qxf6
8. Nc3 Nc6
9. Bb5

9. Nd5 is met by 9… Qg6 10. d3 (Qf3 runs into Nd4) 10… Qg3+ 11. Kd2 Nb4 and if White goes after the rook Black has a perpetual.

9…Kd8

9… a6 was the old move, when, for example, Short-Shirov (Las Vegas 1999) was drawn. Black’s king is going to live in the centre anyway, and d8 has some advantages over e8, so this looks like a slight improvement.

10. Bxc6 bxc6
11. Qf3 Rg8
12. d3 Bh6
13. Ne2

This is virtually a losing move. According to Shaw, White’s only sensible move is 13. Qf2 when he analyses 13… Rb8, when an exchange sacrifice on b2 is looming, although he tells us that Bg4 is also possible. An example featuring an up-and-coming teenager: 13. Qf2 Rb8 14. Rxb2 15. Bxb2 Qxb2 16. O-O Qxc2 17. Nxf4 Qxf2+ 1/2-1/2 (A Fedorov – M Carlsen Dubai 2004) as after 18. Rxf2 Bg7 Black is winning back the exchange. I also note with interest: 13. Qf2 Rb8 14. Nd1 (preventing the exchange sac) 14… Rg3 15. O-O Qg6 16. Bxf4 Bxf4 17. Qxf4 Rxg2+ 18. Kh1 Rg4 19. Qf6+ Qxf6 20. Rxf6 Rxh4+ 21. Kg2 Ke7 22. Rf3 Bg4 23. Rf4 Rg8 24. Kf2 Rh1 0-1 (G Bucher – M Goodger British Championship Canterbury 2010)

13… Bg4
14. Qf2 Bxe2
15. Kxe2 Kd7

Here I finally deviate from one of the games I’d come across that afternoon when preparing for this encounter. D White – G Bucher (Sunningdale 2013) concluded 15… Rg4 16. c3 Qg6 17. Rh2 f5 18. h5 Qe6 19. Qd4 fxe4 20. Qh8+ Rg8 21. Qxh7 f3+ 22. Kf2 e3+ 23. Kf1 e2+ 24. Ke1 f2+ 0-1 Grant Bucher had clearly learnt something from his loss against Martyn Goodger three years earlier and had wisely switched to the black pieces. Either move leaves White (name or colour) with a difficult position.

16. c3

16. Rh3 Rg4 17. c3 Rag8 18. Rh2 Qe5 19. Kf1 f3 20. gxf3 Rg1+ 21. Qxg1 Rxg1+ 22. Kxg1 Qg3+ 0-1 (G Ricca – P Van Hoolandt Imperia 2007) was no improvement.

16… Rg4

Good, but Rh3 might have been even better.

17. Bd2 Rag8
18. Rag1 c5

At this point I noticed that my a-pawn was en prise and played this just to be on the safe side. 18… Qe6 was better, though.

19. Kf1 Rg3
20. Rh3 R8g4

Throwing away most of my advantage. Instead: 20… Qe6 21. Rxg3 fxg3 22. Qe1 Bxd2 23. Qxd2 f5 and White’s king will be fatally exposed.

21. d4

21. Rxg3 Rxg3 22. d4 keeps White in the game.

21… cxd4

Releasing the pressure again. As always I was getting too nervous in a winning position. 21… Qg6 should have been preferred: for instance 22. dxc5 Qxe4 23. cxd6 f3 24. Rxg3 Qd3+ 25. Ke1 Qb1+ with mate to follow.

22. cxd4

22. Rxg3 Rxg3 23. Qxd4 Qxd4 24. cxd4 gives Black an endgame advantage, but David’s choice in the game just loses.

22… Qe6
23. Qe2 f3

This felt right at the time, and my instincts were correct.

24. Qb5+ Ke7
25. Rxg3 Rxg3
26. Bxh6

26. Kf2 is the last chance, when I’d have to find 26… Qg4 27. Bg5+ (27. Bxh6 Qxh4 28. Kf1 Qxh6) 27… f6 28. Qc4 Rxg2+ (careful not to allow White a perpetual) 29. Rxg2 Qxg2+ 30. Ke3 Qe2+ 31. Qxe2 fxe2 32. Kxe2 fxg5 33. hxg5 Bxg5 with an extra piece in the ending.

26… Qxh6
27. Qc4 Qf4

Covering d6 as well as threatening a deadly discovered check.

28. Qxc7+ Kf8
29. e5 fxg2+
30. Ke1 Qe3+
31. Kd1 Qxg1+
32. Kc2 Qf2+
and White resigned

Richard James

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When Trouble Comes Knocking

Inevitably, there comes point in every chess player’s career, be they beginner or professional, when they find themselves in trouble on the chessboard. Beginners find themselves in continual trouble as they learn the game but that trouble eventually becomes less frequent as they improve. I’ve had students remark that they get into trouble because they’re still learning the nuances of the game. I remind them that even the world’s top players can fall victim to problems during their games. It’s how you handle those problems that counts. The more playing experience you have, the more likely you are to avoid trouble before it happens and if you do find yourself in trouble, the more likely you are to deal with it successfully.

As you improve, you make better moves based on sound planning and avoid the problems that come with making bad moves based on poor planning. However, you can still fall victim to a troublesome position in which you are at a disadvantage that could cost you the game. Maybe you miscalculated, missing a potential opposition move that sends your position into turmoil. The beginner will panic while becoming overwhelmed by the dark cloud of defeat, often giving up before trying to fight back. Always try to find a solution when faced with a problem.

I have my beginning students finish their games no matter how bad the position. With more advanced students, I teach the fine art of resignation, but only if the position is hopeless. Beginners tend to get into trouble very early on due to a lack of opening and middle game skills. Most beginner’s games conclude before the endgame starts.

It’s easy enough to get my students to apply the opening principles, having a pawn control a central square, the development of minor pieces towards the center and early castling. However, when it comes to exchanging material, things go south quickly! To avoid being on the losing end of an exchange, we assign dollar figures to the pieces rather than a relative point value. My students have a fondness for money and when they’re thinking about exchanges of material in financial terms then tend to make better decisions. You wouldn’t trade a $9.00 Queen for a $3.00 Knight or Bishop or worse yet, a $1.00 pawn. It’s simple Chessonomics! Don’t trade down unless doing so wins the game!

Let’s say that you, our intrepid beginner, make a bad trade in the opening. Rather than panic, examine the position. Look at the opposition pawns and pieces, then look at yours. Make sure your opponent’s pawns and pieces are not in a position to do further damage, such as capturing any hanging or unprotected material belonging to you. Then look at the activity of your minor pieces. Are they well placed, aimed towards the board’s center. Look to see if your opponent’s damaging capture on their last move left them vulnerable to a potential tactic such as a fork, pin or skewer. The point here is that you should look to see if that last opposition move left any weaknesses. Many times, a beginner will grab a valuable piece of material from their opponent only to have that opponent come back with an even deadlier attack. Always look before panicking. When you panic your brain tends to focus on the emotional aspects of the problem at hand rather than the practical issues, such as how to get out of trouble.

With beginners, the loss of the Queen (which is why you don’t bring her out early) extinguishes any thoughts of winning the game. However, this isn’t always the case! A beginner who snatches his or her opponent’s Queen from the board often becomes a bit relaxed in their strategic thinking. After all, they just took your most powerful weapon away from you. This can give you a needed opportunity to strike back but you have to carefully assess the situation. The key again, is to not panic and look for ways to equalize. Look to see if you can reduce the dollar amount you just lost! If your opponent uses a Rook ($5.00) to capture your Queen ($9.00) and you can capture that Rook with a pawn or piece (assuming you won’t lose that pawn or piece as well), capture the Rook. Then the loss becomes less. Instead of losing an entire $9.00, you reduce your loss to $4.00. I’d rather lose $4.00 than $9.00.

When beginners attack they often do so in a haphazard manner, leaving weaknesses in their position. In the case above, look at the position and see if there are any weak spots in the opposition’s defenses. If you can’t find any and you’re down in material, build up your own defenses around your King. Position pawns and pieces in a way that makes it extremely difficult for your opponent to launch an attack. Beginners will often give up a great deal of material trying to break through to your King which could restore the balance from a dollar and cents standpoint.

Play for the draw if you opponent has the material advantage, especially when playing beginners. All too often, I see one student with a lone King and the other student with an overwhelming number of pieces left on the board. Beginners don’t understand the dangers of stalemate when they have too much material. They carefully arrange their major and minor pieces around the enemy King and when it’s the Kings turn to move, he has no place to go and the game ends in stalemate. Again, rather than panic when faced with an overwhelming force, try to keep your King away from the edges of the board and force a stalemate. Drawing a game is better than losing it. Of course, you should always play to win but sometimes a draw is the best you can do.

Endgame play is the hardest phase for the beginner because they simply don’t play enough of them early on in their chess careers. If you’re the player with a lone King against an opposition King and pawn, rather than submitting to defeat, play for a possible draw. Of course, if you’re playing an experienced opponent, that opponent will know how to promote the pawn properly. If your opponent moves the pawn first, so their King is behind the pawn as it works its way towards the promotion square, you can end up with a stalemate. Most beginners don’t know about King opposition and keeping his majesty in front of the pawn attempting to promote.

The idea of this article is to force you to look at troubled positions logically before throwing in the towel and giving up. When beginners play beginners, seemingly devastating attacks are too often flawed. By examining a position closely and logically, you sometimes find that things aren’t as dark as they seem. You will learn a lot more about this great game if you at least attempt to work through your positional troubles. By looking at a bad position and trying to determine a good course of action, you’ll become a much better player, even if you lose. Have faith in yourself and don’t simply give up without a fight! Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

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Kids and Chess, Part One

A few years ago one of the chess coaches in the Tampa area had an annoying habit of telling his students that I hated little kids. Because I got tired of that, I decided to make a sarcastic reply if I heard him say that again. He did during one of his group lessons, so I replied with, “Actually, they taste quite good with a little peanut oil and basil”! I got a laugh from that. So, now I am including a few quotes by W. C. Fields about kids.

W. C. Fields quotes about kids

I do not actually hate or eat kids, but I may want them to think that I do! Considering that I have been playing rated chess off and on for 41 years, I really do dislike losing to someone who has been alive less than 20 years! In this case, I lost to someone who has been alive about one third as long as I have been playing chess!

My opponent is this Wednesday night tournament round is a thirteen-year-old girl. Her mother was the TD for this event. I lost the previous round to a gentleman that is older than I am. I told both Sara and her mother, Shirley, that I had a lousy tack record in OTB chess against human females regardless of age or rating. That is true, but I need to correct a few things. Prior to this loss, my last loss in an OTB chess game to a human female was to a 17-year-old Dutch girl who later became the under 21 female champion of the Netherlands. She was not exactly a patzer! Sara, my opponent is this loss, is the number five ranked female of any age in the state of Colorado. Again, not exactly a patzer!

The correction is that I beat and drew Sara’s sister, Rebecca, and I beat some female beginners in Tampa prior to moving to Colorado. However, Sara is one of three teenage girls that I have lost to in OTB chess in the past 20 years or so. Prior to getting out of the US Army in 1986, I never lost an OTB chess game to a human female! Now, that record is shattered.

Also, prior to my discharge from the Army, I rarely lost to a kid that was lower rated than I was. Since then, I have had only one loss to a lower rated kid that I can remember. However, that rating difference was over 800 points! I have also barely escaped losses to lower rated kids on at least two occasions in the past five years.

Across the range of ratings that my opponents have had and the time that I have been playing chess, my losses to kids after I graduated from high school have numbered less than the number of wins against them. However, I do not know the exact numbers.

Mike Serovey

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More Lunging

“When you see a good move, look for a better one”  – Emanuel Lasker

Lasker’s advice is probably the best single piece of chess advice ever given. Over the past few months, I’ve been exploring the opposite, which I’ve taken to calling “Lunging”.

Lunging at the opponent, rather than building up the position and advancing in serried array (“coordinated formation”) seems to be the cause of much difficulty encountered in chess games, at least at amateur level.

Jacque Delaguerre

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Chess & Mental Differences

Nobody can deny the fact that chess players as a whole are a somewhat eccentric bunch. It needs a special kind of mind to devote vast swathes of time to a board game that is so intense and so abstract, most ‘normal’ people just don’t get it. I don’t know of any studies on the mental differences of the chess playing community but suspect we’re very well represented by people with Asperger traits.

Speaking for myself I come from a line of people with ‘non standard’ brains and count myself as fortunate that with me it skipped a generation! There again I never had a problem spending huge amounts of time going through chess games and codifying and studying openings. One of my earlier recollections is of being forced to go on a family walk on a sunny day rather than go through Bobby Fischer’s games, my parents were obviously concerned.

Nonetheless I haven’t had any episodes that gave me massive cause for concern apart from one which might have been down to more recent obsession with chi kung and tai chi. I woke up in the middle of the night convinced that I’d missed the school run and slept through until it was dark, and only found my son asleep in his room after phoning the police to ask what I should do. When I later mentioned this to my teacher he did advise me that there are possible side effects to these arts due to the changes that take place in the body, and that I shouldn’t worry about it. Fortunately there has been no recurrence.

Are there practical implications for chess players if you don’t have a standard brain? For those with Asperger’s and autism the chess scene can be something of a refuge as a lot of others will understand you! Traits such as ruthlessness, paranoia and a lack of social skills and compassion can be the rule rather than the exception and you can merrily discuss an obscure variation of the Sicilian Najdorf to an attentive audience. Anxiety and depression, which also seem quite common, are an altogether more difficult thing to deal with as even the treatment may play havoc with your game. Nonetheless it might be better to keep taking the tablets as this chess player’s harrowing tale indicates. Arbiters have a hard enough job with the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet without having to call the men in white coats.

So welcome to the chess world, a wacky den of ‘individuals’ that is a haven for those with different brains. But remember that not all of them will have exactly the same brain difference as your own (or the same meds for that matter) so it can be good to cut them a little slack.

Nigel Davies

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Minority Interests (4)

Thus far, we have seen successful examples where Black manages to exchange light-squared bishops early, which usually favours him. Against an accurate white move-order, this is not possible, but Black is still not without counterplay. A piece attack on the kingside is his main weapon. The following game sees this work very well against slow white play. Fuster hunts down and eventually annexes the poor black a-pawn, but while he is doing so, his kingside comes to resemble the Marie Celeste, and his monarch pays the price.

Steve Giddins

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