Category Archives: Annotated Games

How Good is Your Endgame?

Many readers will be familiar with the popular magazine feature, known in various places as How Good is Your Chess? and Solitaire Chess, in which the reader is invited to predict the next move in a master game, and is awarded points for selecting good moves.

Some time ago I showed you a couple of lessons based on shorter and lower level games suitable for use at intermediate level (up to about 100 ECF/1500 Elo).

As part of the Chess for Heroes project, which I’ll come back to in more detail, quite possibly next week if nothing else interesting happens in my life in the meantime, I decided to produce a few lessons using king and pawn endings, with the games taken from the Richmond Junior Chess Club database.

Here’s the first one, which was tested successfully at RJCC the other day.

Set this position up on your board. At various points in the game you will be asked to select a move for either White or Black. Sometimes you will have three moves to choose from, and sometimes you will have a free choice. In this position it’s Black’s move.

If you find a winning move you’ll score up to 10 points. If you find a drawing move you’ll score up to 5 points. If you find a losing move or an illegal move you’ll score no points.

Choose a move for Black:
a) Kc6 b) Kd6 c) g5

10 points for Kd6 – head to the king side to attack White’s weak pawns
5 points for Kc6 – the wrong direction for the king
0 points for g5 – loses to an en passant capture

1… Kc6

Choose a move for White:
a) a4 b) f4 c) Kg3

5 points for Kg3 – get your king into play
0 points for a4 or f4 – creating targets for the black king

2. f4 Kd5
3. Kg3 g5 (Ke4 was one of many winning moves)

Choose a move for White (free choice)

10 points for hxg6 – a winning en passant capture
5 points for fxg5 or Kf3 – both these moves should draw
0 points for anything else

4. fxg5 fxg5
5. f4 gxf4+
6. Kxf4 Ke6

Choose a move for White:
a) a3 b) Ke4 c) Kg4

5 points for Ke4 – taking the opposition (a4 and b4 also draw)
0 points for a3 or Kg4 – both of these moves should lose

7. Kg4

Choose a move for Black:
a) b5 b) Kd5 c) Ke5

10 points for Ke5 – Black will be able to approach the white pawns
5 points for b5 – this should lead to a draw
0 point for Kd5 – this will lose after Kf5

7… b5

Choose a move for White:
a) a3 b) b4 c) Kf4

5 points for Kf4 – the only move to draw by keeping the black king from advancing too far
0 points for a3 and b4 – both these moves should lose
8. a3 a5 (Black had the same choice as on the last move. Again Ke5 was winning.)
9. b3 (Again, White had the same choice as on the last move. Kf4 was still a draw, as was b4.)

Choose a move for Black (free choice)

10 points for a4, b4 or Ke5 – all these moves should win
5 points for Kf6 – this move should lead to a draw
0 points for any other move

9… b4
10. axb4 axb4
11. Kf4

Choose a move for Black (free choice)

10 points for Kf6 – Black wins by taking the opposition
5 points for Kd5 – this leads to a race in which both players promote
0 points for other moves – White will win the h-pawn

11… Kf6
12. Kg4 Ke5
13. Kf3

Choose a move for Black (free choice)

10 points for Kf5 – taking the opposition
5 points for all other moves

13… Kd4

Choose a move for White (free choice)

5 points for Kf4 – leading to a drawn position with black queen against white pawn on h7
0 points for anything else

14. Ke2 Kc3
15. Kd1 Kxb3
16. Kc1

Choose a move for Black (free choice)

10 points for Ka2 – the quickest way to win
8 points for Ka3 or Kc3 – these moves are less efficient
5 points for Ka4 or Kc4 – both these moves lead to a draw

16… Ka3

Bonus question 1: what would you do if White played Kb1 here?
a) Ka4 b) Kb3 c) b3

10 points for Kb3 – winning by taking the opposition
5 points for Ka4 or b3 – both these moves lead to a draw

17. Kc2 b3+

Bonus question 2: what would you do if White played Kb1 here?
a) Ka4 b) Kb4 c) b2

10 points for b2 – winning as White has to play Kc2
5 points for Ka4 or Kb4 – both these moves draw as long as White plays correctly

18. Kc1

Choose a move for Black (free choice)

10 points for Ka2 – forcing promotion
5 points for other moves – all of which are only drawn

18… b2+
19. Kb1 and the game was eventually drawn

At the end of the exercise you’re assigned a Chess Hero rating:

95-120: Chess Superhero

70-94: Chess Hero

45-69: Trainee Hero

Below 45: Future Hero

If you teach chess at this level, please feel free to use this yourself. I may well decide to change the marking scheme in future, perhaps awarding 5 or 0 points rather than 10 or 5 in questions where there are only winning and drawing options: I’m still thinking about this.

Richard James

A Poisoned Pawn

“… The notorious Poisoned Pawn arises after 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6, with current theory suggests that the b2 pawn is not too heavily laced with arsenic, but it would be suicidal to enter the line without specialist knowledge.”
Graham Burgess, The Mammoth Book of Chess, 2000 edition, pg. 176

Fischer’s love for this controversial Sicilian Najdorf line is legendary. He was not just a “specialist” but the “guru” of it. People understood that fast and followed their newly discovered guru by playing it often; that is how an opening line becomes popular and players of all levels try to become immortals by finding the next refutation or proof of its validity. The engines have changed the game a lot and one critical aspect is proving a lot of gambits wrong; however a handful of them are still tough to crack and Najdorf, the poisoned pawn is one of them.

Back in 2014 I tried my first Najdorf, poisoned pawn as Black in a correspondence game and we drew it in 25 moves by perpetual and without any novelties or deviations. The chosen line was so well analysed, it made no sense for either of us to deviate and hope to get anything out of it. Today’s game followed a well analysed line as well; what is impressive about it is the surgical positional precision white used to win the game. It is a game played in the ICCF teams Olympiad Final 19th edition, the last edition played by post; a number of games are played by email, but each board (teams consist of 4 players each) has 3-4 players insisting to stick with playing by post as intended. The current standings for the final from where you can also see the situation on each board, can be seen HERE

Have you also been impressed with the positional play by ICCF GM Rufenacht? I think it puts this line under a strong question mark and it does not stop just there; the computer won’t be able to help you a lot if you need assistance. Black did extensive research to get out of the maze and it did not find the Ariadne’s thread; maybe you will but be prepared for a long road ahead. Of course if you find it, it will be published in the following Informator. Please don’t forget to mention who launched you down this quest though; good luck!… If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian

Quick Decisions

“Choices are the hinges of destiny”
Pythagoras

In April we held the BC Championship qualifier for the continental final of Susan Polgar Foundation Girls Invitational 2017 in St. Louis. It is the second edition for us and the 14th edition for the continental final. This is a tournament exclusively for girls and over the years has helped discover promising talents, plus launch the career of many talented girls in North America. The format for us locally is 5 rounds Swiss or round robin (based on the number of entries) with the games being played under active time control (30 minutes per player, no increment). First place clear or after tie breaks qualifies to St. Louis. The tie break system is a written puzzles test consisting of solving 10 puzzles in 10 minutes or less. We have not had a tie so far, but each time the winner chose to take the test anyway just for fun.

Not sure how many of you are playing 30 minutes per player. This is a good option to play online. There is a decent amount of time to think about what you are doing, as well as it ends relatively quickly; in my opinion this is well balanced. Playing over the board under the same time control is not much different, but one needs to have some practice with it or the time pressure will get the better of you. What strategy you might consider to be successful? Here is my take on it:
1. Opening – you need to have reliable opening choices and play them well. There is very little time you can really spend on thinking about it and if you start guessing, time becomes your enemy rather quickly
2. Middle game – having a solid position will force the opponent to spend time deciding where and how to attack you. This is a good thing! A good middle game position builds up from the opening; here it is important to know typical setups and plans available out of your opening choices. One such setup to consider could be for example a specific pawn structure or a standard attacking idea
3. Endgame – do not ignore it, thinking there is little chance to reach it in such a short time! Being able to play a strong endgame could either allow you to defend stubbornly and force the opponent to find the win (mostly in increasing time pressure) or improve your position bit by bit and put your opponent in time pressure to defend a worst position

The game I have selected is a good illustration of the above. It was played in the 4th round and was of major importance in setting up the stage for the last round and deciding the first place. Black had played very serious up to that point and was rewarded with a bit of luck along the way by collecting wins in round 1 (when she was under assault) and round 3 (in an opposite colour bishops endgame). White on the other hand let a draw slip through her hands in round 2 when she kept the opposition for 3 moves and forgot to pay attention to it when playing the 4th move in a king and pawns endgame; her opponent gained the opposition and got the win. Looking at this position I can add a few details to help you understand better what was going on:
– White managed to play her preferred opening line
– Black decided to go pawn grabbing, probably because this was her first game where she could do that
– White’s clock was running well under 10 minutes, while black had 12+ minutes
– White is a player used to slower time controls, so here the time crunch was her enemy
– Ne5 is very well placed; kicking it out of there should have been high on White’s priority list
– the White pieces are lining up to storm the castle and that is worth the pawn White is down; that was the g-pawn black captured and has allowed white to place a rook on g3
– both Black rooks are not very useful, Rb7 being clearly the worst of them all
Who do you like here? What side would you prefer to play considering the time available? There is no right or wrong answer and it is pretty much based on what type of player you are. Let’s see what happened in the game:

Hope you found this article useful. A number of points could help you in any active game with reflection time up to an hour per player. We will continue to see faster time controls in many tournaments and being ready to play good is going to give you an edge. If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian

Fourth Time Unlucky

Here’s a puzzle for you, taken from a game I played the other day. It’s White’s move. What would you play?

While you’re thinking about your answer, here’s what was happening three boards away. My teammate, a new club member who, until a few weeks ago, had never played competitive chess, never recorded his moves or used a clock, and knows very little opening theory, was playing black against a seasoned campaigner (ECF 129). He’s very keen to play and improve so we’re selecting him for our matches whenever we can. It’s always important to encourage new members.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. d4 exd4
4. Bc4

A common choice at this level. You have to know what to do next. The usual reply is Nf6, which is fine as long as you know the Two Knights Defence and have good lines against both 5. O-O and 5. e5. If you prefer defending the Giuoco Piano to the Two Knights then you’ll probably prefer Bc5, which again will probably transpose after 5. c3.

On general principles, even if you don’t know the theory, you should get one of your pieces out rather than make a nervous reaction like..

4… h6

At one level it’s natural to be scared by the idea of Ng5, but after, say, 4… Nf6 5. Ng5, you can defend with either d5 or Ne5.

5. O-O Bc5
6. c3 dxc3
7. Nxc3 a6

Another unnecessary pawn move – just the sort of move we all tell our pupils not to play, and quite rightly so too. Perhaps he wanted to play b5 next move. The first time we met at the club we played a few friendly games, in one of which I played a similar gambit in the Ruy Lopez after he’d played some unnecessary pawn moves. After the game he asked me why I gave up the pawn.

Now White really ought to be pretty close to winning. He has several attractive attacking moves to choose from. The engines like Qb3 and Be3 (very happy for Black to trade and open the f-file) but White prefers a typical tactic in this sort of position.

8. Bxf7+

A temporary sacrifice to set up a fork.

8… Kxf7
9. Qd5+ Ke8
10. Qxc5 d6
11. Qh5+ Kf8
12. Ng5

I guess it’s tempting to threaten mate but there were probably stronger alternatives here. Black can meet the threat and then drive White’s pieces back.

12… Ne5

But not like this, though. The knight is open to attack here. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot 13. f4, which just wins at once, but instead White preferred…

13. Nd5 Nf6
14. Nxf6 Qxf6

Now Black has an awkward threat of g6, opening up a line of defence from f6 to h8 and winning a piece. The only way for White to keep an advantage now is to play 15. f4. Alternatively, 15. Nf3 leads to exchanges and a level position.

15. h3

Instead White misses Black’s threat and loses a piece.

15… g6
16. Qh4 hxg5
17. Qg3 Nf7
18. f4 Qd4+
19. Be3 Qxe4
20. fxg5 Bf5
21. Rac1 Rc8
22. Qf2 c5
23. Rce1 Qd5
24. Rd1 Qe6

Black has played sensibly over the past few moves and kept his extra piece. Now White spots a clever tactical idea to win a pawn…

25. g4 Be4
26. Rxd6

… but there’s a serious flaw.

If I told you Black had a mate in two in this position you’d have no difficulty finding it. If the opportunity for a snap mate comes along in a position in which you were just thinking about keeping your extra piece and checkmate hadn’t entered your head at all you could easily miss it.

But, as I keep on saying, you have to look at every forcing move: check, capture and threat.

It’s always nice to win a game with a queen sacrifice, but sadly for Black it wasn’t to be. There was an alternative win as well: Rxh3 when White has to trade twice on f7, ending up a rook down. No matter, though. Black’s still winning.

26… Qe8
27. Bxc5 Kg8
28. Rf6 Rxh3
29. Qd4

Now Black has another chance for an immediate win. It might not be so easy to find at this level, but 29… Rxc5 30. Qxc5 Qd7 leaves White with no defence against the twin threats of Qxg4+ and Rh1+ followed by Qd2+. He’s still winning easily, though after…

29… Rh1+
30. Kf2 Rh2+

Instead he could have traded to set up a fork: 30… Rxf1+ 31. Kxf1 Qb5+.

31. Kg3 Rg2+
32. Kh3 Rc7

Black stops to defend f7, but the computer finds 32…Nxg5+ 33.Kh4 Nf3+ 34.R6xf3 Bxf3 35.Rxf3 Qe1+ 36.Kg5 Qc1+ 37.Kxg6 Rc6+ 38.Bd6 Rxd6+ 39.Qxd6 Rxg4+ 40.Kf5 Qg5+ 41.Ke6 Re4+ 42.Kd7 Qg7+ 43.Kd8 Rd4, which is not possible for most of us to find over the board. The move also introduces the idea of transferring the rook to the h-file after the knight on f7 moves.

33. Re1

Now Black has a mate in six moves. Instead White might have tried 33. Rxf7 Rxf7 34. Rxf7, challenging Black to find the correct capture. The more obvious 34…Kxf7 leaves Black a rook ahead, but White can force a draw: 35.Qf6+ Kg8 36.Bd4 Qf8 37.Qe6+. Instead 34… Qxf7 35.Qxe4 Rxb2 should win.

34… Nxg5+
34. Kh4 Nf3+

An oversight, but it shouldn’t have mattered: I guess he must have overlooked that his bishop was pinned. The quickest mate was 34…Rh7+ 35.Kxg5 Rh5+ 36.Kf4 g5+ 37.Ke3 Rh3+ 38.Rf3 Rxf3#

35. Rxf3 g5+

There was still a mate: 35…Rh7+ 36.Kg5 Rh5+ 37.Kf4 g5+ 38.Ke3 Bb1+ and mate in two more moves.

36. Kh3 Rh7+

This should lose. Instead Black could draw by giving up his queen: 36…Rxg4 37.Rf8+ Qxf8 38.Bxf8 Bf5 threatening mate, when White can choose between 39.Qd5+ Rf7 40.Kh2 Rh4+ with a perpetual check and 39.Qxg4 Bxg4+ 40.Kxg4 Kxf8 with a drawn rook ending.

37. Kxg2 Bxf3+
38. Kxf3

The sort of obvious move you play without thinking – well at least I do, which is why I’m not a strong player! But it should only draw. Kf2, on the other hand, wins, as White will win the bishop later under more favourable circumstances.

38… Qxe1

Again, the obvious move you play without thinking – and again it’s a mistake. 38… Rf7+, taking time out to move the rook to a better square, would draw.

39. Qd8+ Kg7
40. Qxg5+ Kf7
41. Qf5+ Kg8

Or 41…Kg7 42.Bd4+ Kg8 43.Qg6+ Kf8 44.Bc5+ Re7 45.Qf6+ and wins

42. Qf8# 1-0

An exciting game but a sad end for Black. He’ll put it down to experience.

If you remember my articles from a few months ago (here and here) you’ll recognise the theme.

I was White, again facing the same opponent as in the first game quoted above, and again we both missed the same idea. In this case a bishop sacrifice decoys the black rook into a fork: 1. Bxd5 Rxd5 2. Qa8+. These ideas keep on coming up in my games – and every time I miss them, even though I’ve just been writing a chapter in Chess Tactics for Heroes based on this theme. The game, again, was eventually drawn. You may well see it in full here in a few months time.

We lost the 8-board match 3-5 but if we’d both taken our chances we’d have won 4½-3½ instead. Still, at least it was an end-of-season mid-division match with nothing at stake expect honour and grading points.

Richard James

This Is For You Mom!

WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor is the 2017 US Women’s Champion and GM Alex Yermolinsky has written a very nice piece about it HERE.  Her result is remarkable, a true tribute in the memory of her mom IM Cristina Adela Foisor who passed away in January, right before the Women’s World Championship 2017 in Tehran she qualified for. I remember playing in tournaments where Cristina and her husband IM Ovidiu Foisor were also playing while we were juniors. Ovidiu was a rising talent at the time, a regular member of the junior national team. Later on he moved into coaching and he is a well respected and successful chess coach. Cristina was even more successful, winning the Romanian Chess Championship five times (1989, 1998, 2011, 2012 and 2013), plus the title of EU women’s champion in 2007. It is no wonder their family also includes two strong players in Sabina and her sister WIM Mihaela-Veronica Foisor.

I have been following Sabina’s participation in US tournaments and as a member of the USA Olympic team for a few years now. Knowing her parents ties her to a time when we had no other worries than school, chess and fun. Her play this time around was very exciting. I followed closely the first 3 rounds and was impressed by the high quality of the games played and combativeness shown in general. Sabina did not back down and took no prisoners. The game I liked the most was from the third round and it gave me an opportunity to reflect again upon differences between human and engine play. Here is the game:

What do you think about this game? In my opinion this is high level, showing how far chess has advanced at the top in North America! What would your choice be as white at move 25 if you could be faced with this decision over the board and with no help but your knowledge? My choice would probably be for 24. h4 … first. I think you should not put much weight into not seeing the sacrifice 25. Ne7+ …; very few would see it if any. Noticing the fact Black’s castle is not protected and should be attacked is a definite plus; if you did see that, give yourself a pat on the back. How you take advantage of it is what makes each one of us different. Sabina’s choice was the best since it brought her the win; my sincere congratulations!

Valer Eugen Demian

MF Marius Ceteras

I met Marius for the first time back in 1990. It was my first selection into the lineup of “Portelanul Alba-Iulia”, the team I just joined after University and he was playing for at the time. We were playing in the second division of the Romanian National Team Chess Championship. He was the top junior at the time and had the fun assignment of scoring as many points as possible to help us win our matches; together with FM Dorin Serdean (another promising young local player at the time) the three of us became the excitement of the team. We got the nickname of “basketball players” firstly because of being tall and secondly for our quickly developed chemistry and knack to score 3-0 (three pointers) for our team most often than not. We employed most of the times the latest tricks Marius learned during his junior national team training camps; thank you again for those Marius! Our greatest accomplishment was promoting with our team to the first division for the first time ever in its history. We had a great in person relationship until my move to Vancouver, BC, Canada, a relationship we kept strong over the years despite the geographical distance between us. He was kind to send me a copy of his latest book, as well as to agree to this interview. Hope you will enjoy it!

Marius would like to start with a clarification of one of my points made in the previous article presenting his third book:
“My initiation book is used in about (20-30)% of schools and chess clubs, while the one on tactics is used in over 90% of them. There definitely are situations when the local teachers use their own materials.”

Please tell us a few things about yourself
I fell in love with chess when I was 10 years old. Apart from a few games played against my father and sister, I never played chess before attending the chess courses of Mihail Breaz, a national master who was the soul of chess activities in Alba Iulia, a beautiful city in the hearth of Transylvania. It was in Alba Iulia where the delegates of the National Assembly of the Romanians from Transylvania signed the Union of Transylvania with the Romanian Kingdom on December 1st, 1918. From the very first chess lesson, which I joined accidentally, I felt a special attraction for this wonderful game, most likely influenced by the very enjoyable atmosphere created by my first chess teacher. As a junior, my best results were national U20 champion titles in 1992 ahead of Andrei Istratescu and 1993 ahead of Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, the best Romanian chess players after the golden age of GM Florin Gheorghiu and GM Mihai Suba. In 1992 I finished 8th in the European Junior Championship in Sas van Gent (Netherlands).
My passion for chess continued over decades, even though, at a certain moment, I decided to put my favourite game behind and build a professional career as an electrical engineer. Since 1999 I work as an engineer in the national company of electricity and chess has become a secondary activity for me. Instead of playing regularly in chess tournaments, I teach young players from my city and surroundings, write chess materials and organize chess events. For a couple of years, I also played correspondence chess. Over the board I continue to play rapid chess tournaments whenever I get an opportunity and do so with quite good results. In 2014 I won Romanian Rapid Chess Championship and finished 4th in 2015. Last year I didn’t play because I got involved in politics as well and the tournament was organized during the electoral campaign.

What made you choose the path of teaching chess to the younger generations?
When I was around 16 year old, I started to teach chess because I got a desire to share the beauty of the game with other people. At the beginning I taught my fellow friends who loved the game, then I had a group of young students followed by more and more students. They were mainly juniors who already knew how to play chess and wished to improve their skills. In time I developed my method of training, therefore I decided to write my own manuals. This step was very important in my development as trainer, because writing a book helps you find the best ways to communicate with the students. I organized my courses better and the results improved. In 2015 could I no longer resist to the pressure of many friends from Alba Iulia, parents of young children, and I accepted to start teaching a few groups for young children. Now I have around 100 chess students between 4 and 10 years, additionally to the more experienced students whom I offer guidance to.

Who are your most successful students?
My most successful student is IM Mihnea Costachi, bronze medallist at the World Youth Chess Championship U14 in 2014 and multiple European champion in rapid chess, blitz and solving problems. At 17 years old, he is an IM rated 2430 and is permanently improving. Last week he played very well in Graz Open, drawing against GM Markus Ragger (rated 2703, #41 rank in the World) and defeating GM Mustafa Ilmaz (rated 2621). In 2015 following my recommendation Mihnea started to work with GM Szabo Gergely (who also coached the Canadian youth team in 2016). I became his second coach and support him in improving his play mainly in the endgames.
Another student of mine, Tudor-Vlad Sfarlog, was multiple national champion and silver medallist in European Youth Rapid Chess Championship. I am also very proud of many students who reached a National Master or FIDE Master level and later focused on other activities and performed excelently. One of them, the chess historian CM Olimpiu Urcan, is certainly well known to the chess public.

Your third book is now available for the public. Is there a connection between them? What drove you into this labor of love?
All my books are for beginners. “A Guide to Learn Chess” covers the rules of the games, the elementary mates and a few other basic aspects: the value of the pieces, identifying the opponent’s threats and logical thinking in chess. My second book, “A Guide of Chess for Students” is mainly focused on basic of tactics, 26 lessons out of 36 covering this subject. There are also 5 lessons on basic chess principles in opening, middlegame and endgame and 5 lessons on elementary pawn and rook endings. This second book is likely the most popular Romanian book of this century, being used probably in all Romanian chess clubs, in many clubs from Moldavia and some other chess clubs from Canada, Portugal and Brazil. There is no English edition of this book yet, as publishers prefer marketable books written by famous GMs, often for commercial purposes only. But this is not a problem for me, as long as I have thousands of Romanian chess players and coaches who enjoy my books.
My 3rd book, “100 Tests of Chess. Basic Tactics” has been written at the request of dozens of Romanian chess coaches, because they needed more tactical puzzles as support for their lessons on basic tactics. Actually this is the first book from a series of three books on tactics. This one is focused on tactical procedures used to gain material advantages. My next book on tactics will be dedicated to various types of mating patterns and attacks against the King. The final book of this series will pass to the next level, including more complicated combinations and techniques of calculating variations.
What players is this book receommended for? In my opinion it is optimal for players rated 1200-1600, but players 1600+ may also use it and find it helpful. They can try to solve the puzzles faster than normally, something that is usually called a blitz-solving contest. This type of training is useful at any level, even GMs sometimes use this method of preparation! For players rated under 1200 some puzzles may be rather difficult, so I suggest they use this book with tests only after they assimilated the basic tacticals first. The Romanian players could easily use this book together with my second book “A Guide of Chess for Students”.

Do you have any advices for the aspiring chess enthusiast and/ or club player?
I have no magical advice for them. In my humble opinion there is no path to success in chess except the continuous, hard work. My best student Mihnea Costachi studies chess around 2 hours daily ever since he was 5 years old. During the holidays he studies 4-5 hours daily. It is very important to study useful books for their level. Working with a good chess coach who may recommend the best books to study is certainly an advantage; however a chess player who aspires to improve his knowledge must understand from the beginning that his role is most important. The coach’s role must be to offer him guidance and good advices, but the hard work must always be done by the player. Don’t expect a coach to fill you up with all chess knowledge and never pay for 1 hour of chess training if you are not prepared to study alone about 9 hours for each hour of paid chess training.

What is your favourite puzzle or chess combination
It is of course one of mine! I met GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu many times in junior competitions and all our games ended in draws after big complications, even though we are close friends. The scenario was almost the same: Nisipeanu launched all-in attacks, while I defended very well and survived, sometimes with a little help from goddess Fortuna. Our last game was played in different conditions. We met in Romanian Team Championship in 2005, when Nisipeanu was already a top player in the World, rated 2670, while my rating was 2426 and I was rarely playing chess tournaments, being focused on my professional career as electrical engineer. Nisipeanu was in great form in 2005, winning the European title in Warsaw a month after our game. It was rather clear for me that I needed a miracle to survive one more time against my old friend. Hope you enjoy the game!

Valer Eugen Demian

Space Advantage

“A space advantage means little if there is no way to penetrate into the enemy position.”
Jeremy Silman, The Amateur’s Mind

It is very easy to throw around words like “space advantage”. One side can get that really quickly by playing aggressive or when the opponent is really shy and defensive. So you get it one way or the other; what now? It is very possible you get a bit tentative, expecting the “space advantage’ to perform some sort of miraculous voodoo and bring you closer to a win. That signals a new direction the game goes into and you should not go there. Another possibility is you get overconfident and keep on attacking, hyper extending yourself. This has been proven disastruous since the days of Alekhine and his famous defence. Have you ever played on either side of the following line? It was for a while my main weapon against the overzealous opponents, happy to have a d6-pawn and my queen trapped after only 11 moves. They never saw it coming…

Today’s game is meant to help you be confident when you get “space advantage’. Do what White did (penetrate into the enemy position) as much as possible and you will have a new weapon to use in your games.

Here is the link to the article “Bad ideas” if you wish to revisit it. What do we learn out of this game? First of all we learn that we must attack if we have the space advantage. Steinitz said:
“When a sufficient advantage has been obtained, a player must attack or the advantage will be dissipated.”
A space advantage is in most cases sufficient advantage to make you start the attack. The second thing we can learn is even if our style is a bit shy and defensive, we must find a way to give the opponent something to worry about or we stand no chance. Hope you find it useful. If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian

Activity Versus Material

“Help your pieces so they can help you”
Paul Morphy

This past week one of my level 2 students played the following game over the internet as part of his weekly assignment. He was supposed to practice the Bishop’s Opening if facing 1… e5 and he did do his best. The game does not look like much; still I believe its value can be found a bit deeper under the surface. My student, like many other players out there, has a tough time resisting material grabbing. We all have to fight this urge to grab free stuff, so let’s not be too hard on him or them. The difference is once you go through a few disasters because of that, you learn to stay away from it.

Chess today is focused on active play and initiative. This can be worth as much as a pawn or two, depending on circumstances. Everyone can read about a piece in the center, a Rook on an open file and even more advanced concepts like under promotion or such; however it is very hard to keep in mind something as hard to grasp as those 2 concepts. I grab a piece, I can see it and feel it. What does the active play give me to help me win the game? You don’t really see those pawn(s) it is worth. It takes time and practice to seek playing like this and become confident doing it. Please go over the game and annotations:

I hope this example will count as practice instead of a few of your own games. I know people say we learn from own experiences and have also done it as well, regardless of what my parents and teachers told me; however I am happy to say age makes us wiser and I have improved the percentage of times when I actually learned from others’ mistakes. It saves a ton of time and pain, believe me. If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian

Mednis Principles

“With major pieces (queen or rook) on the board, having bishops on opposite colors favors the side with an attack.”
Edmar Mednis

Not long ago I mentioned Mednis and his principles while annotating a voting game. You can review that article here. This time I have another nice example on how true these principles are and how they can help you decide and implement your strategy during your games. The following game has been played online with 3 days per move. It was a positional game from end to end and with my annotations I am trying to show that such games do not have to be complicated nor confusing to play.

Hope you liked it. The match was declared as won by Canada 1-0 by a shoddy team forfeit rule very early on. Both teams continued playing to the end. My other game ended in an interesting draw I might present later on. Match wise team Iran won it 281.5 – 260.5 (271 boards) even if it did not mean anything. It was and is ridiculous all players efforts on the chessboard were nullified like this. That is all I have to say about it. If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian

Dvoretsky to Lucena Connection (Part 1)

“Most commentaries in chess magazines and books are superficial and sometimes just awful. Once a certain experienced master explained to me how he worked. You put two fingers to the page with text on it and see that there are only moves under them – in other words, it is time to make a comment.”
Mark Dvoretsky

According to Wikipedia Mark Dvoretsky (December 9, 1947 – September 26, 2016) “… was widely regarded as the strongest IM in the world… he opted not to remain an active player and instead followed his urge to become a chess trainer…”. We all know what that decision meant to the chess World and the list of top grandmasters who were his students is overwhelming. His passing away a few days ago leaves behind an unquestionable legacy in chess training. Could not miss the opportunity to remember him with my modest article about a long endgame I played online about 1 year ago.

The following game was part of an online match between Canada and Serbia in WL2015 division B, played on 221 boards, one white and one black game on each board, plus 3 days per move reflection time. My minimatch ended in a tie, while the overall match was won by Serbia 223.5 to 218.5. In my opinion the moment when things became interesting in my game of choice is after move 33. Rf3 …

This is where the article should have ended. It does not because I chose the other move; until next time you get the chance to verify if the alternate winning move actually leads to a quick and simple win, as well as to ponder the ramifications of my decision. Hope the above annotations Dvoretsky was talking about will help you.

Valer Eugen Demian