Known Knowns

There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. – Donald Rumsfeld

I quoted this quote before in my article Unknown Unknowns. Here we’re dealing with known knowns, some of which can appear unknown when one sits down at the board.

For instance, I knew better than 5. Bd3. When Black plays a peremptory 4… d5 in the 4. e3 line of the Nimzo Indian, Black has forfeited the opportunity to take on c3 and set up the attack on the d-pawn with c5 & e5 to neutralize White’s center or force it to advance to d5 and become immobile and vulnerable to lateral attacks, or even a kingside attack. The correct response is 5. a3!

Later, I saw 18. Rxc6!! but played the fishy 18. Bf4!? instead. It’s hard to explain. I think I may have been hoping my opponent would just drop his queen.

Finally, an unknown unknown: Stockfish finds the interesting 25. Rc5! which I certainly did not consider. It’s a waiting move which puts Black in near zugzwang: the White rook and bishop restrain Black’s two rooks and doubled f-pawn. Once either Black rook leaves the file of its partner, White’s invasion of the seventh rank has no answer.

Jacques Delaguerre

Finish of Adrian Hollis Memorial CC Tournament

As I predicted in June 2015 and confirmed in September the clear winner of the Adrian Hollis Memorial CC Tournament was ICCF GM Nigel Robson (ENG) with a remarkable score of 8/10 (+6, =4, -0). The final game of the tournament finished in a draw at the end of April 2016 between GM John G. Brookes (ENG) and SIM Nigel Burne (ENG). GM Richard Hall (ENG) and SIM Richard Beecham (SCO) were joint second both with 5.5/10 (+2, =7, -1). Fourth, with the same score but lower Baumbach tie break was SIM Nigel Burne who, of course, would have been second if he had won this last game.

The late Adrian Hollis was a very distinguished classical scholar, with a career mainly focused on Hellenistic and Roman poetry. He was also a strong over the board player who played in several British Championships finishing seventh equal in 1961.

We were given a small incentive to win games and it is interesting to note that nearly 31% of the games were decisive. Despite my disastrous start in 2014 by throwing away a game with a clerical error and an early loss to SIM Harvey Williamson (ENG), who was fifth with 5/10 (+2, =6, -2), I was content with my 4/10 (+1, =6, -3) and ninth place being the lowest rated player. My main ambition was not to be last and this I managed to avoid! This was possibly the strongest ever British CC tournament excluding overseas players, with an average rating of 2504 which included a World Championship silver medalist and candidate.

A cross table of the tournament can be found here: – https://www.iccf.com/event?id=41391

Here is the final game. Note that the six piece Tablebase rules apply: –

John Rhodes

Manufacturing Passed pawns (3)

Seeing the two previous examples in “Chess for Life” called to mind another similar case, which has always been a favourite of mine.
In the diagram, it is far from obvious how Black can create a passed pawn. Unlike the Arkell examples, he is not a pawn up and has no pawn majority. But despite this, Salov conjures up a decisive passed pawn on the h-file, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. He starts with


A lovely example of producing a passed pawn when there appeared at first sight to be no hope of doing so.

Steve Giddins

Stop The Passed Pawn

In this week’s problem, White is faced with the task of stopping Black’s pawn from winning the game by being promoted into a Queen.

This is not an easy task. How does White move and save the game?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that Black can draw with 1… Rxh7! 2. Kxh7 Kxc3 3. g5 a2 4. Ra5 Kb2 5.g6 a1=Q 6. Rxa1 Kxa1 7. g7 c3 8. g8=Q c2 with a theoretical draw, as White can never take the pawn on c2, as he will stalemate the Black King on a1.

Steven Carr

Rook Endings (4)

Two more practical examples of rook and pawn against rook from games played at Richmond Junior Club.

In this position the good news for Black is that his king is in front of the pawn and the white king is subject to mating threats on the side of the board. The bad news is that his rook is badly placed, and that it’s White’s move. (If it was Black to move he could win by moving his rook in a westerly direction.)

His plan should be to get his rook round the back to threaten mate, while White will need to counter this by moving his rook away to check the black king from the other side.

White now has two moves to draw: Ra6 and Rb6. He needs to meet mate threats with horizontal checks, and has to be as far away as possible from the enemy monarch.

But instead he played 55. Re6, presumably with the idea of keeping the black king on the f-file. Now any westerly rook move is winning for Black. He chose 55… Re1, having observed correctly that the pawn ending would be winning. White went back behind the pawn: 56. Rf6, and now, out of Black’s 17 legal moves, 11 are winning and 4 are drawing. The quickest winning moves are Re7 and Re8, both mating in 21 moves according to the tablebases. He actually chose one of the drawing moves: 56… Re2, missing the winning plan of threatening mate on the h-file. Now White again has time to draw by moving his rook over to the far side of the board (note that this is one of many positions in these endings where you want your rook on the side rather than behind the passed pawn). This time, Ra6, Rb6 and Rc6 all draw, but in principle he should move as far away as possible. Instead, stuck with the mistaken idea that rooks always belong behind passed pawns, he played 57. Kh3.

Now Black has four winning moves: Re8, Re7, Re5 and Re3 (but Re4 is only a draw). Still not thinking about potential checks on the h-file he chose perhaps the least obvious of these, 57… Re3. White played 58. Kh2 when Black has a choice of 14 moves, of which 8 win and 5 draw. As you would expect by now, the quickest wins are Re8 and Re7. Instead he went for one of the drawing options: 58… Ke2.

Now White has 16 possible moves, but only one of them draws: Kg3, hitting the f-pawn. After his actual choice, 59. Kg1, though, Black can again win by moving his rook in a northerly direction, again planning a check from behind. Instead he gave up and pushed the pawn: 59… f2+. White was happy to capture the pawn: 60. Rxf2+, and a draw was agreed.

If you’re down to the last few minutes on the clock, or, as is likely these days, playing on an increment, it’s all too easy to think inflexibly, as both players did in this example. Black seemed to be thinking purely about how to push his f-pawn, while White was just trying to prevent this. Neither player was thinking about how to check the enemy king.

Our final example starts off by being about getting your king in front of the pawn, but when Balck fails to do this it’s just about calculation. Will White calculate accurately? We’ll see.

Black has to make his 52nd move. He has 15 moves to choose from, three of which lose his rook, although one of them, Rg2, still draws (rook against pawn is another interesting subject). There are 10 winning moves and two other moves that draw: Rg4 and the move he chose, 52… f3.

Now it seems very natural and obvious to push your pawn, and you’ve probably been taught that passed pawns should be pushed, but when you possess the only remaining pawn on the board you often want your king in front of the pawn. This is the case here.

White found the only move to draw: 53. Kd4, correctly rushing back with his king. His rook is well placed on the h-file here, preventing the black king from travelling to g2 via h3. Black pushed the pawn again: 53… f2, for the moment preventing the white king’s approach. White again found the only drawing move: 54. Rf7. (Rg7+ would have led to king and queen against king and rook, which would have been another story entirely.) Black naturally replied by defending the pawn with 54… Rg2.

On his 55th move White has no less than 21 choices (the maximum number of 8 king moves and 13 rook moves, one short of the maximum, for those of you who care about this sort of thing). Nine of them draw and the other twelve lose. The most obvious draw is the simple Ke3 just winning the pawn and demonstrating to black that he pushed his pawn too quickly. However he was seduced by the skewer 55. Rg7+, no doubt playing too fast to notice that after he won the rook Black would promote.

Now Black has six king moves, but the only one to win is Kf6, when he’ll reach the tricky ending king and queen against king and rook. It’s mate in 28 according to the tablebases, but would he have been able to win? We’ll never know because instead he played 55… Kh4.

White’s now drawing again if he finds 56. Rf7, getting back behind the passed pawn and preparing to meet 56… Kg3 with 57. Ke3, when Black can make no progress. His actual choice of 56. Rh7+ was too slow, though, because now after 56… Kg3, which Black played, his king will have time to reach g1 via h2. The game continued 57. Rg7+ Kh2 58. Rh2+ Kg1 and Black won by promoting his pawn.

Richard James

The Importance of the Endgame Seven

Today, we’re going to look at an endgame position that arises from time to time. It’s a position that the skilled endgame player can easily win. However, when the beginner is faced with this same position, a draw is usually the result! Fret not, because with a little knowledge and practice, even the beginner can turn this seemingly bad position into a stunning victory! Let me start by introducing our actors playing out this endgame drama. Stepping onto the stage for white are the King, a dark squared Bishop, a light squared Bishop and a pawn. However, each of the two examples will employ only a single Bishop of one color. Black is represented by a lone King. There are some important ideas to consider in this type of position when considering your endgame plan. If you don’t have a plan, you have nothing (perhaps a painful loss).

In both our examples, we’re trying to promote a Rook pawn, a pawn working it’s way up the h file in this case. Rook pawns can be tricky for both players to deal with because their on the edge of the board. This means they’re difficult to attack and difficult to defend. Why? Because you can only access the squares on one side of the pawn in question rather than squares on either side. Remember, Rook pawns can be difficult for either side to deal with. The next potential problem we face in this type of endgame position is created by the Bishop. In example one, the Bishop’s not a problem but in example two, the Bishop creates a bit of a problem. The problem has to do with the color of the promotion square and the color of the squares the Bishop controls. If the Bishop can control the promotion square, there is no immediate problem. If the promotion square is the opposite color of the Bishop, you’ll have to work a lot harder to promote your pawn. Ideally, you want to have a Bishop that can can control the promotion square in this type of endgame position. Take a look at the first example:

Here, we have an example of a Bishop that controls the white pawn’s promotion square. This is a crucial factor in securing an easy victory. The first thing the beginner should notice is the opposition of the two Kings. In each article in this series, we’ve talked about the importance of King opposition in endgame play. Also note that the King can easily defend either his pawn or Bishop. In the majority of endgame positions you’ll encounter, the King must be active and must be close to his remaining forces in order to protect them. During the opening and middle-game, our pawns and pieces serve as bodyguards for his majesty. However, in the endgame the King often becomes a bodyguard. The King must, in most cases, protect the material you have on the board in order to deliver checkmate. Your King becomes a deadly attacker and defender during this phase of the game!

We know from previous articles that we want to think about where we don’t want the opposition King to go, in this case, away from the h8 square where mate will be delivered. We also need to know where we want the opposition King to go, in the above example, the h8 square. Pawn and piece coordination are critical. Your material must work together as a team (no “Pawn Solo” action). This being the case, we can see that the Bishop on e7 controls the f8 square, so the black King cannot use that square for escape. Therefore, our Bishop is on the right square. White’s first move is 1. h7+ which forces the black King to h8. Note that the white King is protecting the pawn!. Black plays 1…Kh8 and only now do we move the Bishop with 2. Bf6#. A very simple example to help reinforce the ideas required in this type of position. Remember, piece coordination rules the endgame!

Now, what happens if we have a Bishop whose color doesn’t match that of the pawn’s promotion square? For a start, things become a bit more complicated!However, just because our Bishop isn’t able to control the promotion square doesn’t mean all is is lost. Though it does mean we have to play very carefully! The key here is to use our King and Bishop to keep the black King from settling in on the promotion square for white’s pawn, h8. Take a look at the example below. Remember, where do you want the opposition King to go and not to go?

Again, it’s all about herding the opposition King, in this case away from the square he wants to go to, h8. If he gets there even five pounds of dynamite won’t extract him from that square! The black King wants to go to h8 to stop the white pawn from promoting. Therefore, we can stop the black King dead in his royal tracks by playing 1. Bh7. With 1…Kf6, the black King tries to slide around the white pawn and Bishop. Again we find that King opposition plays a critical role in this position. After 2. Kf4, white has effectively positioned his King so that, with the aid of the pawn and Bishop, the opposition King is kept off of the g file. In the endgame, your pawns and pieces must work together in a coordinated manner. Black’s King can’t make any headway in getting to the h8 square. After 2…Ke6, white plays 3. Kg5 which bolsters the h pawn and further shuts out the black King.

Here we’re going to see a bit of a dance between the two Kings as one tries to infiltrate the promotion square and the other tries to stop it. Black plays 3…Kf7 attempting to keep white’s King from further strengthening his position. No problem says white, it’s time to put the King’s back into opposition with 4. Kf5. Black responds with 4…Ke7 and white moves the King closer to the 8th rank with 5. Kg6. The idea to keep in mind is that white wants to use his King to shield the pawn trying to promote. Black is pushed back with 5…Kf8 and white puts his King back in opposition with 6. Kf6. Black plays 6…Ke8 and now we employ the Bishop again with 7. Bg8. When black plays 7…Kf8, the beginner might panic and quickly whisk the Bishop away to safety. However, the correct move is 8. h7, using the pawn to protect the Bishop. This was the point of moving the Bishop to g8!

With nothing better to come up with, black plays 8…Ke8 and it’s all over when white plays 9. h8=Q.

In the above example, white was able to effectively use a Bishop of the wrong color (from a promotion viewpoint) to aid in the promotion of the h pawn. In chess, as in life, when you get handed lemons (or the wrong colored Bishop), make lemonade (or promote a pawn). Always use your King and any material you have in a coordinated effort. Your King is priceless in the endgame and a bad Bishop can do good things, provided you use him wisely. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

I Had a Tiger by the Tail, Conclusion

In a previous article located here, I mentioned my games at Stan’s NetChess where I have a record of 70-12-6. The last two of those wins are posted below.

I am in an event that is called “Greatest Philosophers of the Western World Tourney”. I no longer remember if a player needs to outscore his or her opponent by four wins or if the first player with four wins in the match, wins each match. Either way, I am still waiting for two other matches to finish before I can begin the final round of this event. That round will determine the overall winner of this event. So far, I have lost only one game in this event! If you see my analysis of Round 3 of this match below, you will see that I got away with some opening blunders in that turn-based chess game.

In the final game of this match, my opponent played out a clearly lost endgame. I have yet to figure out why some people will play out hopelessly lost endgames in anything that resembles a correspondence chess game! I am not likely to make a blunder under those playing conditions!

And this is Round 4, the final round of this match.

Mike Serovey

Quiet Moves Run Deep

Quiet moves often make a stronger impression than a wild combination with heavy sacrifices. – Mikhail Tal

My game tonight was a satisfying positional crush.

The Symmetrical English (A36) after 1. c4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 is straightforward for both players.  Black fianchettos, and thereafter, if White goes left, Black goes right, so to speak.  If White aims to restrain Black with pawns on c2-d3-e4 and Nge2, Black goes for e6 and Nge7.  If White shoots for e3, Nge2 and d4, Black can do the same, possibly leading to the most symmetrical of symmetrical Englishes where both sides push the queen pawn two squares, or possibly leading to a topical line wherein White plays Ne2-f4 before castling to restrain Black’s d7-d5. Alternatively, Black can restrain White’s  d2-d4 by pawns on c5-d6-e5 with Nge7.

This last was my opponent’s choice. It’s perfectly good if one doesn’t dither, but Black dithered on moves 8 and 9, which is all it takes in such positions to give White an easy-to-play game versus a difficult defensive task for Black, who is likely to have to abandon a queenside pawn for nebulous kingside chances.

Black blundered on move 24 and found himself possibly able to reach an appalling  pawn down queen-and-bishop ending. Having no taste for such, my opponent instead tried to keep the pieces on and the game was over in a few moves.

Recognise the Pattern # 30

In my last article we saw how to break down fianchetto castled position by opening up the h-file with the help of h4-h5 lever, but sometimes your opponent can physically block the h file with the piece (usually a knight on h5/h4). In such situations it is often a good idea to sacrifice an exchange in order to open lines against the opponent’s monarch. Before sacrificing like this there is one very crucial point one must consider; there are more chances that exchange sac won’t work if your opponent can protect h7 (h2) reasonably.

Here is an example that covers the theme.

Kasparov against Piket in 1989

Q: In this position Black played 31…Bd5. How would you evaluate this move?

A: This bishop move is a mistake as it allows exchange sacrifice on h5, otherwise it wasn’t possible even with a free move for White. For example 31…a6 (just a random move) 32. Rxh5 gxh5
33. Qh4 and now Bd7 threatening to take on f5 then to protect the h7.

Let’s get back to game.

31…Bd5? 32. Rxh5! gxh5 33. Qh4

33…Qc4

Now the …Bc6-d7 idea won’t work because of Qh3 followed by Re1>h2 threat.

34. Qxh5 Qf1+

Other moves like Rd8 or Rc8 won’t work because of Qh6! followed by Rh3.

35. Kb2 e5 36. Qh6!!

Threatening f6! & the knight is untouchable because of pin along the e file. The position is lost for Black.

36…Kh8

If 36…f6 then 37. gxf6 Qg2 38. Ne2 wins.

37. g6

and Black resigned after 3 more moves.

Ashvin Chauhan

Manufacturing Passed Pawns (2)

This is another example of rook endings guru, Keith Arkell, manufacturing a supported passed pawn, using the same technique as we saw in last week’s example. Once again, this comes from “Chess for Life”.

Again, the obvious way to create a passed pawn from Black’s majority is by arranging e6 and d5, but this would leave the d-pawn passed, but isolated. Instead, Arkell knocks out White’s e-pawn with


as a result of which he is left with a passed pawn on the d-file, which is defended by a colleague on e7. Black duly won.

Steve Giddins