Author Archives: Richard James

About Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard is currently the Curriculum Consultant for Chess in Schools and Communities (www.chessinschools.co.uk) as well as teaching chess in local schools and doing private tuition. He has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966 and currently has an ECF grade of 177.

London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R3

I’d started the tournament with 1½ out of 2, and, as expected, I was paired against another higher graded opponent in Round 3. This time I had White and found myself sitting opposite a strong Manchester player, Dr Graham Burton, who is still active today.

Here’s what happened.

1. Nf3 c5
2. g3 Nc6
3. Bg2 g6
4. d3 Bg7
5. e4 d6
6. O-O e5
7. Nc3 Nge7
8. Nh4 Nd4
9. f4 exf4
10. Bxf4 O-O
11. Nf3 Bg4
12. h3

A careless mistake, losing a pawn. Now Black plans to trade everything off and win the ending.

12… Nxf3+
13. Bxf3 Bxh3
14. Bg2 Qd7
15. Qd2 Be6
16. Bh6 f5

This looks a bit loosening.

17. Bxg7 Kxg7
18. exf5

Stockfish prefers d4 here, when it thinks White is close to equality.

18… Nxf5
19. Ne4 Nd4
20. Ng5 Bf5
21. Rae1 Rae8
22. c3 Rxe1
23. Rxe1 Ne6

A mistake, allowing me to win the pawn back. Nc6 was correct. But I missed my chance to play the tactic 24. Bxb7 when 24… Nxg5 25. Qxg5 Qxb7 is not possible because of 26. Re7+

24. Nxe6+ Bxe6
25. Qe3 Re8

Another poor move, walking into a pin. Rf6 maintains the extra pawn.

26. Bh3 Kf7
27. Qf3+ Bf5
28. Rxe8

Rather inaccurate. 28. Qd5+ leads to an immediate draw.

28… Kxe8
29. Bxf5 gxf5

Black still has his extra pawn, but with his king side pawns split and White’s active queen a win looks unlikely.

30. Qd5 Kd8
31. Kf2 Kc7
32. Kf3 Qa4
33. Qxf5 Qxa2
34. Qxh7+ Kb6

White regains his lost pawn and the game seems to be heading towards a draw.

35. Qh2 Qd5+
36. Ke3 Qg5+
37. Kf3 a5
38. g4 Qd5+
39. Ke3 a4
40. Qf4 Ka5
41. g5

White’s g-pawn is beginning to look dangerous. Black now has to be careful.

41… b5

This is too slow. Qg2 was the way to draw. Black has to activate his queen and play for a perpetual check.

42. g6 b4
43. cxb4+

The pawn on c3 was required to restrict the black king’s options. The winning move was Qf6, preparing Qd8+ in some lines, hitting d6 and potentially controlling Black’s promotion square.

43… cxb4
44. g7

But here Qf6 would only draw as Black now has the safe b5 square for his king.

44… a3
45. bxa3 bxa3
46. Qf8 a2

Black had a perpetual check here with either Qg5+ or Qe5+ but instead he mistakenly goes for the four queens ending.

47. g8=Q

Of course Black can’t trade before promoting because of the impending skewer.

47… Qe5+
48. Kf3 a1=Q

In four queens endings the player with the first check usually wins.

49. Qa8+ Kb5
50. Qgb8+

There was a mate in two: 50. Qc4+ Kb6 51. Qcc6#

50… Kc5
51. Qc7+ Kd4
52. Qc4#

So a lucky win for me against a significantly stronger opponent, but, in all honesty, not a very good game. Black’s endgame play was surprisingly poor considering his grade.

With 2½/3, due for Black, and sure to be paired against another strong player, would my luck run out in round 4? You’ll find out next week.

Richard James

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London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R2

In the second round of the London Chess Fortnight 5-day open I had black against a promising young player called Colin Crouch. Colin, of course, later became an International Master, and was sadly lost to us a few months ago.

I’ll skim through most of the game quickly. There’s one interesting position coming up which I’ll consider more closely.

1. d4 g6
2. c4 Bg7
3. Nc3 d6
4. e4 Nd7
5. Be3 e5
6. d5

This is very much what Black’s hoping to see in this line.

6… Ne7
7. Bd3 O-O
8. Qd2 f5

Black has a King’s Indian type position which a couple of extra tempi. In the King’s Indian Black’s queen’s knight often goes to c6 and then to e7, while the king’s knight often goes to d7 from f6, to prepare f5. In this game the knights have reached d7 and e7 in two moves rather than four so Black can get in f5 very quickly.

9. Bh6 Nf6
10. Bxg7 Kxg7
11. exf5 Bxf5
12. f3 c6
13. Bxf5 Nxf5
14. dxc6 bxc6

The engines like Black here but the central pawns might become loose later on.

15. Nge2 Qb6
16. Na4 Qe3
17. Rc1 Qxd2+
18. Kxd2 e4
19. f4 e3+
20. Kc2 Rfe8
21. h3 h5
22. Nac3 a6
23. Rhd1 Rad8
24. Nd4 d5
25. Nxf5+ gxf5
26. cxd5 cxd5

The engines prefer Nxd5 here. Trading knights on c3 is probably not a good plan as White is able to surround and win the e-pawn.

27. Rd4 Ne4
28. Re1 Nxc3
29. bxc3 Re7

Again not best. Kf6, preparing counterplay on the g-file, looks like an improvement.

30. Kd3 Kf6
31. Rxe3 Rxe3+
32. Kxe3

Reaching a rook ending where White has an extra pawn. Is it enough to win?

32… Ke6
33. Kf3 Rc8
34. Rd3 Rc4
35. Kg3 Ra4
36. Rd2 Rc4
37. Kh4 Rxf4+
38. Kxh5 Rc4
39. Kg5 Rxc3
40. Re2+ Kd6
41. Kxf5 d4

Now it’s a race. Black has a central passed pawn advancing down the board while White has two connected passed pawns on the g and h-files.

42. h4 d3
43. Rd2 Kd5
44. g4 Kd4
45. g5 Ke3
46. Rh2

This leads to a draw. The question, which I’ll return to after the game, is whether White can improve by playing Rd1 instead. The engines will tell you White’s winning, but are they right?

46… d2
47. Rxd2 Kxd2
48. g6 Ke3
49. g7 Rc5+
50. Kg6 Rc6+
51. Kh7 Rc7
52. Kh8 Rc4

Black just manages to draw by eliminating the h-pawn on his way to skewering the white king and queen.

53. g8=Q Rxh4+
54. Kg7 Rg4+
55. Kf7 Rxg8
56. Kxg8

Now the result is clear.

56… Kd3
57. Kf7 Kc3
58. Ke6 a5
59. Kd5 a4
60. a3 Kb3
61. Kd4 Kxa3
62. Kc3

And the draw was agreed.

Let’s return to the position after White’s 46th move alternative: Rd1. White’s hoping to gain a vital tempo in comparison with what happened in the game.

Here’s a sample variation as analysed by Stockfish and Houdini:

46. Rd1 Ke2
47. Rb1 Rc5+
48. Kg4 d2
49. g6

Now if Black promotes White has gained the necessary tempo to win, so instead he tries…

49… Rc4+
50. Kh5 Rc5+
51. Kh6 Rc6

51… Rc1 52. Rb2 Ke1 53. Rxd2 Kxd2 54. g7 Rc8 55. h5 and White wins.

52. h5

The pawns must advance together. Not 52. Kh7 Rc1 53. Rb2 Rh1 54. g7 Rxh4+ 55. Kg6 Rg4+ 56. Kf7 Ke1 57. Rxd2 Kxd2 58. g8+ Rxg8 59. Kxg8 and Black wins.

52… Rb6
53. Rxb6

(53. Rg1 Rf6 54. Rg2+ Rf2 55. Rxf2+ Kxf2 56. g7 d1=Q 57. g8=Q and according to the 7-man tablebases 57… Qd7 is the only move to give Black a draw.)

53… d1=Q
54. g7 Qd2+
55. Kh7 Qd7
56. h6 a5

The engines give White a winning plus here but are unable to find a way to make progress so it looks to me like it might be some weird sort of positional draw unless someone out there can prove otherwise. A sample computer generated variation:

57. Rf6 Qc7
58. Kh8 Qc3
59. Rf8 Ke3
60. Ra8 Qf6
61. Re8+ Kd3
62. h7 Qd4

If you know how White can win this please feel free to let me know.

Next time, onwards and upwards into round 3.

Richard James

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London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R1

The Evening Standard London Chess Fortnight, organised by Stewart Reuben, took place in August 1975 at a hotel in Earls Court, West London. The main event was an 11 player all play all tournament which was memorable for providing Tony Miles with his first GM norm. (Miles 7½/10, Timman and Adorjan 7, Sax 6, Nunn 5½ etc).

Among the subsidiary events was a 5-day open Swiss in which I took part. My first round opponent, AA Aaron, seemed, from his name, determined to make the top of the grading list (he clearly hadn’t taken Jacob Aagaard into account). I had the white pieces and opened quietly with a double fianchetto. We’ll skip quickly to the interesting bit.

1. Nf3 d5
2. b3 Nf6
3. Bb2 g6
4. g3 Bg7
5. Bg2 O-O
6. d3 Nbd7
7. c4 dxc4

Rather obliging, trading a centre pawn for a wing pawn.

8. bxc4 Nh5
9. Bxg7 Kxg7
10. d4 c5
11. d5 f5

Again rather obliging. Black now has a backward e-pawn.

12. Nbd2 Ndf6
13. Qb3 Qc7
14. Qe3

The engines prefer Qc3 here.

14… f4

The engines tell me 14… e6 is possible here as after 15. dxe6 Bxe6 16. Qxe6 Rae8 White’s queen is trapped. He can try 17. Ng5 to set up a potential fork but Black can just move his king, leaving the white queen stranded.

15. Qe5 Qxe5
16. Nxe5 Nd7
17. Nd3 fxg3
18. hxg3 Rb8
19. a4 b6
20. e4

With a nice position for White, which, over the next few moves, gets to look even better.

20… Nhf6
21. Ke2 Re8
22. Bh3 Nf8
23. Bxc8 Rexc8
24. e5 Ne8
25. f4 a6
26. Rab1 Nc7
27. Ne4 b5
28. axb5

The other capture was also possible: 28. cxb5 axb5 29. d6 exd6 30. Nxd6 Rd8 31. axb5 Nfe6

28… axb5
29. Ndxc5 bxc4
30. d6 exd6
31. Nxd6 Nd5

Black chooses a tactical defence based on the knight fork on c3. The alternative was to give up his c-pawn: 31… Rd8 32. Nxc4 Nfe6 33. Ne4

32. Rxb8

Now I had to decide which rook to capture. As it happens, the other one was better, although at my level it was too hard to calculate:

32. Nxc8 Nc3+ (32… Rxb1 33. Rxb1 Nc3+ 34. Ke3 Nxb1 35. e6 and Black will have to give up one of his knights for the e-pawn.) 33. Ke3 Nxb1 and Black will be unable to keep his c-pawn while stopping White’s e-pawn.)

32… Rxb8
33. Ra1

The wrong plan. Charlie the c-pawn is Public Enemy No 1 and needs to be stopped. I should have played 33. Rc1, hoping to be able to round him up.

33… Rb2+
34. Kf3 Rb8

Missing an opportunity, according to the engines. Passed pawns should be pushed, even at the cost of a knight. A sample variation:

34… c3 35. Ke4 c2 36. Kxd5 Rb1 37. Ra7+ Kh6 38. Nd3 Rd1 39. Rc7 Rxd3+ 40. Ke4 Rd2 41. Ke3 Rg2 42. Ne4 Ne6 43. Rc3 Kg7 44. Kd3 h5 45. Rxc2 Rxc2 46. Kxc2 h4 47. gxh4 Nxf4 with a draw.

35. Ra7+ Kg8
36. e6

I have no idea why I didn’t just take the pawn here, when White should be winning.

36… g5

Again I don’t understand why he didn’t push his pawn:

36… c3 37. e7 Nxe7 38. Rxe7 c2 and now the only way to draw is to let Black queen while setting up a perpetual at the other end of the board: 39. Nce4 (If White wants to stop the promotion it will cost him both his knights: 39. Nd3 Rb3 40. Ke4 Rxd3 41. Rc7 Rxd6 42. Rxc2 and Black is winning) 39… c1=Q 40. Nf6+ Kh8 41. Nf7+ Kg7.

Now the cutest way to draw is 42. Nh6+ Kh8 (Black will be mated if he takes either knight: 42… Kxh6 43. Ng8+ Kh5 44. Re5+ g5 45. Rxg5# or 42… Kxf6 43. Ng8+ Kf5 when White can choose between 44. g4# and Re5#) 43. Nf7+ Kg8 44. Nh6+, repeating moves.

The second cutest way to draw is 42. Ng5+ Kh6 (Kh8 is also a draw) 43. Kg4 and this time Black has to give a perpetual check to avoid getting mated.

37. e7 g4+

37… Nxe7 38. Rxe7 gxf4 39. gxf4 and White retains a vital pawn along with his extra piece.

38. Kxg4 h5+

38… c3 might lead to an amusing finish. Taking on f8 is good enough but the nicest way to win is to underpromote to a knight on e8. 39. e8=Q is no good because of Nf6+ 39. e8=N Rxe8 (39… c2 40. Rg7+ Kh8 41. Nf7#) (39… Kh8 40. Nf7+ Kg8 41. Nh6+ Kh8 42. Rg7 leads to mate) 40. Nxe8 and White wins.

It would have been good to win the immortal five knights game in this way. Perhaps I should emulate Alekhine and publish this variation as if it actually happened.

39. Kf3

Good enough, although there was no reason not to take the h-pawn. Now White can win the c-pawn and his extra piece decides. No further comment is required.

39… Nxe7
40. Rxe7 c3
41. Nce4 Nh7
42. Nxc3 Nf6
43. Nce4 Rb3+
44. Kg2 Ng4
45. Re8+ Kg7
46. Kh3 Rb2
47. Kh4 Nf6
48. Nxf6 Kxf6
49. Kxh5 Rb3
50. Kg4 Rd3
51. Ne4+ Kg7
52. f5 Kf7
53. Re6 Rd1
54. Nd6+ Kg8
55. f6 Rf1
56. Re8+ Kh7
57. f7
and Black finally resigned.

So I won my first game after an interesting but flawed struggle. Tune in again next week to find out what happened next.

Richard James

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Ilford Interlude: Forty Years On

I was planning to return to my occasional series highlighting some of my better tournament performances in the 1970s, but you might be amused to see my worst performance.

For many years a weekend tournament was held in the East London suburb of Ilford over the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend, and I played several times in the 70s. This is the other side of London from me and involved a long commute on three trains. Here’s what happened in 1975. Is it really forty years ago?

The first round went well. I managed to draw against a promising teenager named Shaun Taulbut, a future IM who is currently the Chairman and Co-Editor of the British Chess Magazine. In the second round I was paired against Richard O’Brien, a prominent player and organiser who later became well known as an author and publisher. I reached an equal position but played too passively and was driven back in the ending. This was before the days of quickplay finishes and if your game was still in progress when time was called someone (usually Bob Wade at Ilford) came round to adjudicate. In this game I was deservedly awarded a loss.

I was hoping for an easier game in round 3, but no such luck. I was again facing a stronger opponent. I reached an active but slightly loose position with Black and then this happened:

Choose a move for Black. You probably did better than my choice of Rbd6, inexplicably walking into a knight fork.

I finally encountered a low rated player in round 4 and, having the white pieces, was expecting to treble my points tally.

1. c4 e5
2. Nc3 Nf6
3. Nf3 Nc6
4. g3 d5
5. cxd5 Nxd5
6. Bg2 Nxc3
7. bxc3 e4
8. Ng1 f5
9. f3

Timman chose the pawn sacrifice 9… e3 against Larsen (Bled/Portoroz 1979 ½:½, 50) but my opponent preferred a different way of giving up a pawn.

9… Bc5
10. fxe4 O-O
11. d4

And now, not liking my central pawns, he gave up a piece.

11… Nxd4
12. cxd4 Bxd4

This is quite tricky for White. My silicon assistant tells me 13. Bb2 Bxb2 14. Qb3+ Kh8 15. Qxb2 fxe4 is White’s best bet, but he still has to untangle his position and his king will remain stuck in the centre. But 13. Qb3+ Kh8 14. Bb2 doesn’t work: Black has 14… Be6 15. Qxe6 Bxb2 16. Rb1 Bc3+ 17. Kf1 fxe4+, regaining the piece with a winning position.

This was still much better than my move, though. No doubt without much thought, I moved my threatened rook to its only square, b1, overlooking the obvious reply Bf2+ winning my queen and eventually the game.

With just a half point from my first four games and having lost in such a ridiculous fashion, I was very tempted to withdraw from the tournament and went so far as to write a note to the controllers, but I eventually decided to return the next day and play the last two rounds.

Round 5 featured another blunder, but this time I was the beneficiary. In this position my opponent played 19. h4, unguarding the g3 square and again allowing a knight fork. The game continued 19… Ng3 20. Qf3 Nxf1 21. Rxf1 h6, which wasn’t best (21… e4 instead), when White won a pawn after 22. Qh5 Kh7 23. Bxh6, but it was still enough to win the game.

In the sixth and final round I had the white pieces. A series of exchanges led peaceably to a rook ending. In this position I had to decide on a plan. Going after the b-pawn with Kd3 was fine for a draw. Going after the g-pawn with Kf4 was also fine for a draw. Instead I decided to go after the d-pawn and played Kd5, which, after my opponent’s obvious reply, was sadly not fine for a draw. Another absurd oversight, my third in the last four games.

By that time I was a reasonably competent player so how could I possibly have made so many crude mistakes within two days? I still find it hard to explain. Making one mistake is perhaps explicable at my level, but making three mistakes can only be attributed to a complete loss of confidence and an inability to deal with bad experiences. The long train journey home was not a lot of fun.

Meanwhile I had some more tournaments coming up. The following month Kingston Chess Club held a weekend tournament to celebrate their centenary. I scored 2/5 against a fairly strong field: not brilliant but a definite improvement. Two of my opponents in that event are both currently active on the English Chess Forum: Kevin Thurlow and Nick Faulks, who is also secretary of FIDE’s Qualifications Committee.

That summer a big international chess festival took place in London, and that was to be the venue of my next tournament. Would I manage to avoid silly mistakes there? Find out as this series continues.

Richard James

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Chess Games for Heroes (2)

Here’s another Chess Games for Heroes offering in which students are shown a game, asked to find the best move in certain situations, and are rewarded with points for making good choices.

Game 2
Howard Staunton – Alfred Brodie
London 1851

This game was played in the first ever international chess tournament, held in London in 1851. Howard Staunton, the winner of this game, was one of the strongest players in the mid 19th century as well as the organiser of the tournament. Alfred Brodie was an amateur drafted in at short notice when some of the expected players failed to arrive on time. Can you play as well as Staunton?

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6

Choose a move for White

3. d4

5 points for this move, Nc3, Bc4 or Bb5. 3 points for c3 or Be2. This is the SCOTCH GAME.

Choose a move for Black

3… exd4

5 points for this move, Black’s only good reply. 2 points for d6, Nf6 or Nxd4.

Choose a move for White

4. Bc4

5 points for this move, Nxd4 or c3. Nxd4 is the main line of the SCOTCH GAME. 4. c3 is the GÖRING GAMBIT. 4. Bc4 is the SCOTCH GAMBIT. White plays for quick development rather than stopping to take the pawn back.

Choose a move for Black.

4… Bb4+

3 points for this move. 5 points for Nf6, Black’s safest reply, which is a variation of the TWO KNIGHTS DEFENCE. 3 points also for Bc5, Be7 or d6.

Choose a move for White

5. c3

5 points for this move, gaining time by attacking the bishop. 2 points for Bd2.

5… dxc3

Choose a move for White

6. 0–0

5 points for this move, bxc3 or Nxc3. White again goes for quick development but taking the pawn on c3 was also good.

6… Qf6

Choose a move for White

7. e5

3 points for this move. 5 points for Nxc3, probably the best move. 3 points also for bxc3, Bg5, Qc2 or Qb3. White sets a trap, hoping Black will capture the pawn.

Bonus question 1: what would you play if Black played Nxe5 here?

5 points for Nxe5.

Bonus question 2: what would you then play if Black played Qxe5?

10 points for Re1.

7… Qe7

Choose a move for White

8. a3

2 points for this move which is a bit slow. 5 points for Nxc3 or bxc3, taking a pawn back.

8… cxb2

Choose a move for White

9. Bxb2

No points: this is the only sensible move. Otherwise Black will capture the rook on a1 and get another queen. Lose 5 points if you played anything else.

9… Bc5

Choose a move for White

10. Nc3

5 points for this move, getting the knight out onto a strong square. 2 points for Qc2 or Qd3.

10… d6

Choose a move for White

11. Nd5

5 points for this strong move, attacking the black queen. 2 points for exd6.

Bonus question 3: What would you play if Black played Qe6 now?

10 points for Nxc7+, a FORK winning the queen.

11… Qd8

Choose a move for White

12. exd6

5 points for this move. This capture opens two lines of attack for White: the e-file and the long diagonal. 3 points for e6 and 2 points for Re1.

12… Bxd6

Choose a move for White

13. Bxg7

5 points for this move, capturing a pawn and trapping the rook in the corner. No points for anything else.

13… Bg4

Choose a move for White

14. Re1+

5 points for this move, moving the rook to the open file, checking the black king and setting a trap. 5 points also for Bxh8: capturing the rook must also be good.

14… Nge7

Choose a move for White

15. Nf6#

10 points for this move. White spots a clever checkmate. 5 points for Bxh8 which will also win easily.

Howard Staunton won this game by developing his pieces quickly and opening lines for an attack on the enemy king. Black played a risky opening, accepting the gambit pawns. He then made two mistakes. He should have played Ba5 rather than Bc5 on move 9, to capture the knight if it went to c3. His 10th move, d6, was also a mistake, allowing Staunton to open the e-file.

Finally he overlooked the checkmate but he was going to lose his rook on h8 anyway. It would still have been easy for Staunton to win the game.

If you didn’t score well on this game think about how you can develop your knights and bishops quickly. Exchanging pawns will help you open lines for your pieces. Castle quickly and then use your rook in the centre of the board.

Richard James

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Chess Games for Heroes (1)

Last week I introduced you to the concept of Chess Games for Heroes: short games for use by chess teachers in clubs, small groups or one to one, where students have to guess the next move (or rather select what they consider to be the strongest move) and receive points for good suggestions.

Here, as promised is the first game.

Game 1
Gioacchino Greco – NN
About 1620

This is one of the earliest surviving games of chess. Gioacchino Greco was an Italian chess player born in about 1600. In 1625 he published a book of games, which were probably his opening analysis. Here’s one of them. Can you find his moves?

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6

Choose a move for White.

3. Bc4

5 points for this move, Nc3, d4 or Bb5. 3 points for c3 or Be2. This is the ITALIAN GAME.

Choose a move for Black.

3… Bc5

5 points for this move, the GIUOCO PIANO, or Nf6, the TWO KNIGHTS DEFENCE. 3 points for Be7 and 2 points for d6.

Choose a move for White.

4. c3

5 points for this move, d3, Nc3, 0-0 or b4 (the EVANS GAMBIT). White plans to play d4, controlling the centre.

Choose a move for Black.

4… d6

2 points for this move. 5 points for Nf6, the best move, attacking e4. 3 points for Qe7 or Bb6.

Choose a move for White.

5. d4

5 points for this move. 3 points for 0-0, d3 or b4. White has two strong pawns in the centre.

5… exd4

Choose a move for White

6. cxd4

5 points for this move, keeping his two pawns in the centre.

6… Bb4+

Choose a move for White

7. Nc3

5 points for this move, or for Kf1 (it’s usually better to block in this sort of position but Kf1 creates various threats here). 3 points for Nbd2 or Bd2.

7… Nf6

Choose a move for White

8. 0–0

5 points for this move, d5 or Bg5. 3 points for Qd3 or Qc2. Black can now win a pawn but White is getting his pieces out quickly and Black hasn’t castled yet.

Bonus question 1. Suppose White plays 8. d5 here. Choose a move for Black in that position.

5 points for Bxc3+

Bonus question 2. Now suppose that after 8. d5 Black plays Ne7. Choose a move for White in that position.

5 points for Qa4+, a FORK winning the bishop. This is why Black had to play Bxc3+ after d5.

8… Bxc3

Choose a move for White

9. bxc3

No points for this obvious recapture. Also no points for d5. If you played anything else you lose 5 points.

9… Nxe4

Choose a move for White

10. Re1

5 points for this move, putting a rook on the open file and PINNING the knight. 3 points for d5, Qc2 or Nd2.

10… d5

Choose a move for White

11. Rxe4+

5 points for this interesting sacrifice. 5 points also for Ba3, stopping Black from castling. White has lots of good moves here: 3 points for Bxd5 (after Qxd5, Ng5 will win the piece back because of the PIN), Bg5, Bd3, Nd2 or Ng5.

11… dxe4

Choose a move for White

12. Ng5

5 points for this move, threatening to capture on f7.

Choose a move for Black

12… 0–0

No points for this move, which, as you’ll see, loses. 5 points for Ne5 (White can’t take the knight because he’ll lose his queen). 2 points for Rf8 or Be6.

Choose a move for White

13. Qh5

5 points for this move, giving White a winning attack.

Bonus question 3. What would you play if Black played g6 here.

5 points for Qxh7# – CHECKMATE ends the game.

13… h6

Choose a move for White

14. Nxf7

5 points for this move, giving White a winning attack. 2 points for Bxf7+.

14… Qf6

Choose a move for White

15. Nxh6+

5 points for this move, a DOUBLE CHECK leading to mate. 2 points for Bg5 which wins the queen.

15… Kh8

Choose a move for White

16. Nf7+

5 points for this move. 2 points for Nf5+, Ng4+ or Ng8+, which take longer.

16… Kg8

Choose a move for White

17. Qh8#

5 points for this move: it’s CHECKMATE!

Black played a natural but not very good move on move 4 after which he was always in trouble. White occupied the centre with his pawns, developed his knights and one of his bishops quickly (he didn’t need to use the other bishop), castled quickly and put his rook on the open e-file. Black tried to castle to make his king safe but this gave White a winning attack.

Richard James

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Chess Games for Heroes: Introduction

Most of you will be familiar with magazine articles and books with titles such as “How Good is Your Chess” and “Solitaire Chess” where the author asks you to guess the moves made in a master game. You score points for matching the master’s move or for finding other good moves. You may also lose points if you select a bad move.

I’ve often used Daniel King’s excellent (if over generously marked) “How Good is Your Chess” articles in CHESS with my older and stronger pupils but I wanted something different to use for younger children and within lower level groups in chess clubs. For this environment I required an activity which could be completed within 30 minutes using very short games (no longer than about 15 moves) with uncomplicated opening play and simple tactics.

So I decided, as part of my continuing Chess for Heroes project, to produce some of my own and try them out with my pupils. A couple of months ago I wrote up two games (one from Greco, one played by Staunton) and tested them with our new Intermediate Groups at Richmond Junior Chess Club as well as with private pupils.

Each game comes with a teacher’s sheet, giving the game along with the places where the pupils are asked to find moves and the scores they receive for their choices. Mostly these will be the winner’s moves but sometimes also (in the opening or at a critical defensive point) they are asked to find the loser’s moves. There are also bonus questions: what would you play if your opponent had played a different move. The pupils receive an answer sheet. They have to write each answer in notation (prior knowledge of how to record your moves is essential for this activity) and there’s also space for the number of points they score for each move. At the end the pupils add up their points and receive a rating: Chess Superhero, Chess Hero, Trainee Hero or Future Hero. If you’re working with a group the children will be keen to find out who has scored the most points. In a class environment you’ll probably want to use a demo board but you might also like to ensure that the children have the correct position set up on a board in front of them.

The response was interesting. My private pupils seemed to enjoy them. The children at Richmond Junior Club also enjoyed them but were taking a long time to think of their moves, some of them remarking that “This is really hard”. Children who will usually take little more than 10 seconds per move in their games were, when faced with the task of selecting the best move in the position, unable to come up with an answer within two or three minutes. I took pains to make it clear to them that their objective was to find the best move, not to guess what was played in the game, and that they might on occasion score more points for finding an improvement on the actual move. In order to complete the activity within the time I allocated for it I’ll need to impose a time limit of a minute for each move in future. If they haven’t written anything down by then they don’t score any points for that move.

This is precisely the difference between casual chess and competitive chess. If you’re playing a casual game against a friend you might not be too bothered about finding the best move or about the result. You might even get frustrated if you think your opponent is spending too long on his moves. If you’re playing a competitive game, though, your job is to find the best move you can in the time you have available. Perhaps the most important thing for chess coaches to do if they want to convert social players into serious players is to get them to understand the difference. If you agree with this, you might think this sort of lesson could be an effective way of achieving this aim.

I’ll be posting the first two Chess Games for Heroes lessons over the next two weeks and writing some more over the Summer holidays. It would also be good to find a publisher for this and the rest of the Chess for Heroes project at some point.

Richard James

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Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 5

Going into the last round I was on 4½/6, with a chance of first place if I won my final game. I found myself playing White against one of the highest graded players in my section and a QGD Exchange Variation soon appeared on the board.

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Nf3 Nbd7
5. cxd5 exd5
6. Bg5 Be7
7. e3 c6
8. Bd3 Ne4

You can do this if you like but, as you might expect, Black usually castles in this position.

9. Bf4 Ndf6
10. Qc2 Nxc3

Rather obliging. Bf5 was another option, but Black could also castle here, offering a pawn. Stockfish analyses 10…0–0 11.Nxe4 dxe4 12.Bxe4 Nxe4 13.Qxe4 g5 14.Bg3 f5 15.Qe5 f4 16.exf4 g4 17.Nd2 Bf6 when Black has a lot of play.

11. bxc3 Bg4

This is just bad. He could still have castled.

12. Ne5 Bh5

And this is a blunder.

13. O-O

Missing the chance to play Rb1 which just wins a pawn. Qc8 or Qd7 would be met by Bf5.

13… Bg6
14. Rab1 Bxd3
15. Qxd3 Qc8
16. Bg5

Another inaccurate move. I should have taken the opportunity to play c4, which Black could now have prevented by playing b5.

16… Ne4

This is just crazy. I really can’t imagine what prompted him to play this move. Last round nerves, perhaps? All I have to do is open the centre and Black will have no defence.

17. Bxe7 Kxe7
18. c4 f6
19. cxd5 Nd6
20. Nc4

Stockfish recommends the piece sacrifice Rfc1 here. Black’s best bet now is to trade knights but instead he loses quickly.

20… cxd5
21. Nxd6 Kxd6
22. Rfc1 Qd7
23. e4 b6
24. Qg3+ Ke6
25. Rc7 1-0

So I finished on 5½/7, enough for a share of first place. Four wins with white and three draws with black. In the immortal words of Mr Punch, that’s the way to do it.

Looking back at the games I was lucky that all my black opponents played rather feebly in the opening and in each case I was able to gain a significant advantage early in the game. Two of my white opponents played unambitiously and allowed me easy equality. Only in round 4 was I in any trouble, where I blundered a pawn and should have lost the subsequent ending.

For the first time I was feeling confident about my chess. A few weeks later the new season was under way. My first seven matches resulted in seven wins, several against fairly strong opponents. My next tournament, one of the large open Swisses which were popular in London at the time, saw me extend my winning sequence to nine before losing to a strong opponent in the second round. Although I’d cut out most of my blunders and was happy with my defence to 1. e4, I’d still lose the occasional horrible game to opponents who knew the opening better than me.

The question that interests me is whether or not I was a stronger player 40 years ago in my mid 20s than I am now in my mid 60s. I think players of, say, 1800-2000 strength are stronger now than then, which, given the increased knowledge of chess, is what you’d expect. If I’d continued to play regularly and take chess seriously I’d be stronger now than I was back in the mid 70s. But I chose not to, so, perhaps I’m about the same strength.

In a few weeks time I’ll revisit another tournament from my past.

Richard James

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Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 4

Going into round 5 I was on 3/4 and had white against an experienced tournament player who, back in 1962, had won the Barstow Cup, which appears to be the individual championship of the Civil Service Chess League.

He chose a passive variation of the Old Indian Defence which left him short of space and without any realistic pawn breaks.

1. c4 Nf6
2. Nc3 d6
3. d4 Nbd7
4. e4 e5
5. d5 c6
6. f3 h5

Looks rather odd: I suppose he wanted to prevent a later g4. Be7 is the usual move here.

7. Be3 Qc7
8. Qd2 Be7
9. Bd3 Nf8
10. Nge2 Ng6
11. b4 a5
12. b5 c5

Blocking the queen side, but only White has chances on the king side.

13. Ng3 b6
14. Nf5 Bf8
15. O-O-O Bd7
16. h4 O-O-O
17. Rdg1 Ne7
18. g4

The first pawn break.

18… g6
19. Nxe7+ Bxe7
20. g5 Nh7
21. f4

The second pawn break.

21… exf4
22. Bxf4 Bf8
23. Qh2 Bg4
24. e5

The third pawn break.

24… Bf3
25. exd6

Stockfish recommends the exchange sacrifice 25. Qh3+ Bg4 26. Rxg4 hxg4 27. Qxg4+ Kh8 28. Re1.

25… Qd7

Unexpectedly deciding not to take back on d6, when White would still have stood clearly better.

26. Bf1 Bg7
27. Bh3 Bg4
28. Bxg4 hxg4
29. Na4 Kb7
30. Re1 Rde8
31. Qg2

Giving Black a chance. There were several much better alternatives, for instance 31. Bd2, threatening Bxa5. Bd2 also controls e1 so there’s a second threat of Re7, followed, after two captures on e7, by Re1.

31… f5

Black misses the best try: 31… Qf5, threatening the bishop on f4 as well as infiltration with Qd3. Stockfish at first considers the position equal but eventually finds a way for White to thread his way to a win starting with 32. Bd2.

31… Qf5 32. Bd2! Qd3 33. Rxe8 Rxe8 (33… Qa3+ 34. Kc2 Rxe8 35. d7 transposes) 34. d7 and now Black can try:

A) 34… Rd8 35. d6+ Qf3 36. Qxf3+ gxf3 37. Rf1 f5 (37… Rxd7 38. Rxf3 f5 39. Bxa5 Rxd6 40. Re3 bxa5 41. Re7+ Kc8 42. Rxg7 Nf8 43. Rg8 Rd8 44. Nxc5+–) 38. Rxf3 Nf8 39. Re3 Nxd7 40. Re6 +–

B) 34… Qa3+ 35. Kc2 Qxa4+ 36. Kb1 Qa3 37. d6+ Ka7 38. Bc3 (only move) when Black’s defences are all insufficient:

B1) 38… Rg8 39. Bxg7 Qd3+ 40. Qc2 Qe3 41. Bc3 Rd8 42. Re1 Qf4 43. Qd3 g3 44. Be5 Qg4 45. Bxg3 +–

B2) 38… Rb8 39. Bxg7 Qd3+ 40. Qc2 Qe3 41. Bc3 Qf3 42. Re1 Nf8 (42… Rd8 43. Kb2 Rxd7 44. Re7 Qb7 45. Qe2 Nf8 46. Rxd7 Nxd7 47. Qxg4 +-) 43. Re7 Rd8 44. Re8 Rxd7 45. Rxf8 g3 46. Be5 g2 47. Bh2 Qg3 48. Bxg3 g1Q+ 49. Qc1 Qxg3 50. Qd1 Qxd6 51. Qxd6 Rxd6 52. Rxf7+ Kb8 53. Kc2 +-

B3) 38… Qxc3 39. dxe8Q Qa1+ 40. Kc2 Qxa2+ 41. Kd3 Qxg2 42. Qxf7+ Qb7 43. Re1 Qxf7 44. Re7+ Kb8 45. Rxf7 Bd4 and now not

B3a) 46. Rxh7? g3 47. Re7 Kc8 48. Re1 (48. Re2 Bf2 49. h5 g2 50. Rxf2 g1Q) 48… g2 49. h5 g1Q 50. Rxg1 Bxg1 51. hxg6 Bd4 –+ but either

B3b) 46. Ke4! g3 47. Kf3 Nxg5+ 48. hxg5 Kc8 49. Rc7+ Kd8 50. Rb7 +- or

B3c) 46. Re7! Kc8 47. Ke4 g3 48. Kf3 g2 49. Kxg2 Nf6 50. gxf6 Bxf6 51. Rc7+ +-

Would I have found Bd2 in the game? Who knows?

Black’s actual choice, though, made it easy for me.

32. Re6 Qd8
33. Rhe1 Bd4
34. Re7+ Ka8
35. Nxb6+ Qxb6
36. Rxe8+ Rxe8
37. Rxe8+ 1-0

I was now on 4 points out of 5, playing on board 1, and, for the first time in my life, in with a chance of winning a tournament.

My opponent in Round 6 was, I think, the Allan Gardner who is still active today as a player and organiser in Bolton, and is still very much the same strength as me. I started off with the Modern Defence, but my opponent, who may well have read Ray Keene’s Flank Openings, headed for a King’s Indian Attack rather than occupying the centre. I in turn chose to transpose into a Sicilian Defence, opting for the Staunton set-up which had also been recommended by Ray Keene in various contemporary publications.

1. e4 g6
2. Nf3 Bg7
3. g3 c5
4. Bg2 Nc6
5. O-O d6
6. d3 e6

I’ve often played the Botvinnik blockade, e5, in this type of position.

7. Re1

White’s plan is familiar against the main line of the King’s Indian Attack, but not really appropriate here.

7… Nge7
8. Nbd2 O-O
9. Nf1 Rb8
10. h4 b5
11. Rb1 a5
12. Bg5 e5
13. Qd2 Be6
14. Ra1 f6
15. Bh6 d5
16. Bxg7 Kxg7
17. N3h2 dxe4
18. Bxe4 Bd5
19. Bxd5 Nxd5
20. Nf3 Qd7

At this point I chickened out and proposed a draw, which was accepted. I’m probably slightly better here and could well have played on.

Richard James

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Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 3

So, going into Round 4 I was on 2½/3 with the black pieces against one of the stronger players in my section. My opponent gave me the opportunity to try out a line recommended by Keene and Botterill in their book on the Modern Defence. The game would, like my first round game, eventually reach an ending with rook and 4 pawns against rook and 3 pawns on the same side.

1. e4 g6
2. d4 Bg7
3. Nc3 d6
4. f4 c6

Not so fashionable these days when a6, under the influence of Tiger Hillarp Persson, is often preferred. Keene and Botterill recommended a6 against an early Be3, but a6 in this position was relegated to their final chapter on the Avant Garde.

5. Nf3 Bg4
6. Be3 Qb6
7. Qd2 Bxf3
8. gxf3 Nd7
9. O-O-O Qa5

So far both players are following the book. Keene and Botterill gave three variations here, f5!?, Kb1 (the move almost always played today) and Bc4, my opponent’s choice.

10. Bc4 b5
11. Bb3 Nb6
12. Nb1

Rather craven. Keene and Botterill quoted a 1971 game between Adorjan and Jansa in which f5 was played. Qd3 and Kb1 have also been tried here.

12… Qxd2+
13. Nxd2 d5
14. c3 Nf6
15. Bc2 Nfd7

Not a very impressive choice. 15… Bh6 to pin the f-pawn, possibly followed by a later Nh5 (a sort of left-handed Nimzo-Indian plan) would have been more to the point.

16. b3 e6
17. h4 f5
18. Rdg1 Nf6?

Simply leaving a pawn en prise. I should have played Kf7 instead.

19. exf5 exf5
20. Bxf5 Kf7
21. Bd3 Bh6
22. Nf1 Nh5
23. f5 Bxe3+
24. Nxe3 Nf4
25. Kd2 Nxd3
26. Kxd3 Nd7
27. Rh2 Rhg8
28. Rhg2 Nf6
29. fxg6+ Rxg6
30. Rxg6 hxg6
31. Ng4 Nxg4
32. fxg4

Reaching a rook ending where White has a good extra pawn and every expectation of winning.

32… Rh8
33. Rh1 Re8
34. h5 gxh5
35. gxh5 Kg7
36. h6+ Kh7
37. Rh5 Re6
38. Re5

At this point both players had to calculate the pawn ending after the rook exchange. I guess we both just assumed it was an easy win for White. White is indeed winning quite easily, but he’ll have to negotiate a queen ending to score the full point.

38… Rxe5 39. dxe5 Kxh6 40. Kd4 Kg6 41. Kc5 Kf5 42. Kd6 b4 43. c4 d4 44. e6 d3 45. e7 d2 46. e8=Q d1=Q+ 47. Kxc6 and White should win.

Instead I preferred to keep the rooks on the board, heading for rook and 4 against rook and 3, although, with the black king badly placed, White should still win.

38… Rxh6

Reaching the first time control.

39. Re7+ Kg8
40. Rxa7 Rh3+
41. Kc2 Rh2+
42. Kb1 Kf8
43. a4 bxa4
44. bxa4 Ke8
45. Rc7 Rh6
46. Kb2 Kd8
47. Rg7 c5

Losing another pawn, but there was nothing any better.

48. Rg5 Rh2+
49. Ka3 cxd4
50. Rxd5+ Kc7

At this point time was called at the end of the first session. White had to decide which way to capture on d4. Every Russian schoolboy (or girl) knows that rook, a and c pawns against rook is very often a draw, and the tablebases confirm that is indeed the case here. Taking with the pawn should win, though. The difference becomes clear later on.

51. cxd4 Kc6
52. Rc5+ Kd6
53. Kb3 Rh1
54. a5 Rb1+
55. Kc4 Rc1+

The second time control.

56. Kb5 Rb1+
57. Ka6 Rb4
58. Rb5 Rxd4

White has followed a winning plan, giving up his d-pawn, and now, because Black’s pieces are further away, White can promote his a-pawn.

59. Ka7?

But instead White makes an inexplicable error. He was winning easily with either Kb6 or Kb7, but now the black king can get close enough to draw.

59… Kc6
60. Rb7 Rd8
61. a6 Rh8
62. Rb8 Rh7+

Another sealed move after time was called at the end of the second session (which must have been a short session after dinner). I guess we continued the following morning.

63. Ka8 Rg7
64. Rh8 Kb6
65. Rh6+ Kc7
66. Ka7 Rg8
67. Rf6 Rh8
68. Rf1

At this point the tablebases tell me Black has five moves which draw: Kc6, Rc8, Rh4, Rh3 and Rh2. It’s interesting to see why other moves lose. Fortunately for me I managed to find one of the drawing options.

68… Kc6
69. Rc1+ Kb5
70. Rc7 Rh6

The only move to draw.

1/2-1/2

I’d scored 1½ points from two rook endings in which I could easily have scored only ½. I was starting to agree with Ken Norman that endings were far from boring, and that playing them well reaps its reward.

Richard James

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