Category Archives: Annotated Games

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty Two

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

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

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

Mike Serovey

I Had a Five-Way…

tie for first place in this section

My opponent is lower rated than I am and he is from Turkey. He had White and he was playing for a win in positions that were rather even. I offered a draw after making my 37th move. He declined my offer and then offered a draw of his own 27 moves later.

While analyzing the endgame I discovered that one line of play would often transpose into another one. While trying to win the endgame, my opponent went into and out of nearly evey line of play that I analyzed! When he finally realized that there was no win for him, then he agreed to a draw! Although I do admire persistance, I found his annoying!

I castled on the Kingside and White castled on the Queenside. Some chess coaches have commented that when players castle on opposite wings, then it is a race to see who can checkmate the opposing King first. I have found that I stand a better chance of winning that race if I also take care to protect my own King first!

All of the pawns stayed on the chess board until I played my 27th move. I call that a closed position and chess engines are weak in closed positions. I used my chess engines mainly to blunder check my analysis and to explore various ideas. White was basically following my analysis that was posted in the engine room on playchess.com and then looking to see if he could find a win that I missed.

When White offered me a chance to open up the b file I took it because that gave me an open file to use to attack the White King. White never left that file unprotected long enough for any of my remaining pieces to penetrate his pawn structure using that file. So, nothing came of that file being open.

Both sides took turns attacking and defending various pieces, pawns and squares. In the end, nothing came from all of that attacking, defending and counter attacking. This was a hard-fought draw!

This draw put the both of us into a five-way tie for first place in this section. All five of us drew the other four players in the tie and we beat the same patzer who now is in last place. There is no way to break that kind of tie.

Mike Serovey

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty One

This is my third a final loss to Corey Acor that will be published here. However, in chronological order, this is my first loss to Corey. I had won the previous round against Benson Walent and then lost this one to Corey Acor. Unless I move back to Florida, Corey moves to Colorado or Corey plays correspondence chess, I will not play Corey again.

I tried the Sniper move order in this OTB chess game and then I went for the Botvinnik System against a closed Sicilian. I made several errors in this chess game and resigned when I realized that I had dropped my Queen. From my move number 12 on, I was struggling and I was dead lost when I dropped my Queen. However, the loss of my Queen convinced me that it was time for me to quit that game.

Mike Serovey

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty

My opponent in this OTB Rapid Chess game became a USCF Life Master. I do not recall if he was yet a LM at the time that this chess game was played. This is one of three losses that I have to Corey Acor and my only loss to him with the black pieces.

My opening play with the Black side of the Closed Sicilian Defense may not have been that accurate, but I lost because I failed to realize that my King was in check and thus I tried to make an illegal move with my Rook on my move number 19. The only legal move with that Rook would lose the exchange so I resigned.

The rules do not require my opponent to tell me when my King is in check, but I usually will tell my opponents as a courtesy. Corey did not tell me that my King was in check until after I tried to make an illegal Rook move! Still, I consider Corey Acor to be a gentleman as well as a strong chess player.

I had lost to a master in Round 1 who was visiting from England. I won rounds 2 and 3 and then lost to this master in the final round. That gave me an even score against a fairly strong field for me.

Unfortunately, playing like a patzer every time that I faced Corey Acor made me look like a patzer to him! If Corey had not watched some of my chess games with other strong players he could have concluded that I barely know how to move the pieces! Sometimes, I rise to the level of my competition. At other times, I freak out and play like a beginner! With Corey Acor, the freak out factor kicked in.

Mike Serovey

Amateur Versus Master: Game Nineteen

My Queen Did Not Like This Bohemian Rhapsody!

Those of you who are old enough to remember the 1970’s may recall a rock music group that was called Queen. They had a hit song called Bohemian Rhapsody. You can view a video of this song being performed by Queen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ

My opponent in this correspondence chess game, White, lives in Bohemia and I have ancestors on my father’s side of the family that were from Bohemia. According to my grandfather, the original spelling of “Serovey” is “Syrovy”. He said that is means “raw”. That is why I m calling this correspondence chess game a Bohemian Rhapsody.

White got me out of my database of chess games on his thirteenth move and I struggled after that. His Bishop that was on the diagonal that runs from c8 to h3 created several problems for me and I was never able to neutralize it.

After analyzing several different ideas at various points in this correspondence chess game, I decided that I was lost anyways so I would try some wild ideas. They may have worked if I stuck this correspondence chess game out long enough, but I resigned at the end of my 58th birthday so that I could spend my time and energy on other things.

Mike Serovey

Nine Eventful Moves

Here’s a question for all teachers.

When teaching, do you prefer to present your pupils with high level material, expecting them to fill in the gaps for themselves and make rapid improvement? Or do you prefer to present them with material which is at or slightly above their level, to reinforce what they already know and perhaps teach them one new skill.

Most chess teachers seem to prefer the first method, but, especially when working with younger and less experienced players, I prefer the second method. Showing lower level players a master game will, as often as not, leave them confused, giving them information which they are unable to contextualise.

Which is why I spent 30 years collecting games played at Richmond Junior Club, with the intention of producing coaching materials based on what actually happens in kids’ games.

One thing I noticed was how many games are decided by opening tactics, with the same patterns repeated over and over again. This is why I included a lot of opening tactics in my book Move Two!.

Consider this game, played the other day at Richmond Junior Club between two players of about 1000 (Elo) strength.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

Black decided to try out a new opening, the Petroff Defence, but it transpired that he only knew the first two moves. In another game the same afternoon, played between two stronger (about 1500-1600 Elo) players, White tried 1. e4 c5 2. c3 but again only seemed to know the first two moves, being surprised that Black, who had seen the move before and knew what to do, replied 2… d5. He replied with the not very impressive 3. e5, when Black, instead of playing Bf5, leading to what you might consider either an advance French with the queen’s bishop outside the box or an advance Caro-Kann with an extra tempo, chose 3… e6, leading to an advance French which neither player seemed to know very much about. White seemed even more surprised when I explained that 2… d5 should be met by 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4.

As an aside, I consider the Petroff to be a reasonable choice for Black at this level as long as you know how to meet the tactics on the e-file. It requires a lot less knowledge of theory than 2… Nc6. The disadvantage is that it can easily lead to rather dull positions.

3. Nxe5 Nxe4

Now it’s clear that Black hadn’t made any attempt to study the Petroff. White, on the other hand, had learnt the Copycat Trap so knew what to do next. In future, Black will prefer the main line: 3… d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4.

4. Qe2

Most kids at this level know this, and when I demonstrated the game to a relatively small group (most of the club were at the UK Chess Challenge Megafinals) the following week, there were only a few who were unaware of what to do.

4… Ng5

Rather surprisingly, Black, a fairly experienced player, was still blind to what was going to happen next. One or two strong players have chosen this line, with 4… Qe7, as a surprise weapon, but as far as I can see Black’s going to be a pawn down with not a lot to show for it.

5. Nc6+

White was very well aware of what she should do next and gleefully pocketed the black queen.

5… Be7
6. Nxd8 Kxd8

White was ahead by a queen for a knight and just had to be careful. Her next move was absolutely fine.

7. d4 Re8

A black rook has appeared menacingly on the e-file, glaring at White’s royal couple. Alarm bells are ringing. Red lights are flashing. What should White do? Most of the audience the following week suggested 8. Be3, which looks extremely sensible to me, blocking the e-file and giving White time to get her king into safety by castling. 8. Nc3, intending to meet a discovered check with Be3, is also excellent. White saw that her queen was in danger and moved it out of the way, oblivious to the fact that the king was now exposed to a fatal double check.

8. Qd3 Bb4+

This time it was Black who knew exactly what to do, recognising the pattern of the familiar ‘Morphy’ rook and bishop mate.

9. Kd1 Re1#

And sadly, White was still a queen up, but a king down. All that in just nine moves.

Here’s what you might learn from this game:

  • If you want to try out a new opening you need to do more than learn the first two moves.
  • If your opponent plays the Petroff, play 3. Nxe5 and hope they fall for the Copycat Trap.
  • If you want to play the Petroff with Black remember to play 3. Nxe5 d6 followed by Nxe4 if the knight retreats (and be ready to play Qe7 in reply to Qe2).
  • Learn about how to place your line pieces (queen, rooks, bishops) in line with more valuable enemy pieces, understanding that if your piece is in the way you can play a discovered attack/check, while if your opponent’s piece is in the way it will be pinned.
  • Learn to understand and recognise (and see coming a long way off) discovered checks.
  • Learn about the idea of using discovered checks to win material (and being aware that the piece making the discovery will be, as long as it’s not next door to the enemy king, be immune from capture).
  • Learn about double checks – “the atom bomb of the chessboard” – and understand that a double check has to be met by a king move.
  • Learn the rook and bishop mating pattern – look at it in different contexts, for example Morphy v Aristocratic Allies.
  • Look at every check you could play – and look at every check your opponent could play in reply to your intended move.

Nine important lessons in just nine eventful moves. Cheap at half the price. And also just the sort of game I’d use for a very low level ‘How Good is Your Chess’ lesson.

Richard James

Amateur Versus Master: Game Eighteen

Although I have been able to draw masters in both Over the Board (OTB) chess and correspondence chess (CC), this correspondence chess game is the very first time that I have been able to draw an International Master (IM) in any variation of chess! I chose a rather boring (solid) chess opening and used both my databases and my chess engines to avoid any outright blunders. That combination worked in this correspondence chess game.

Although I was not sure of where the opening was going when this correspondence chess game started, we ended up transposing into the Vienna Game. This is the very first time that I have played either side of that chess opening.

After 15 moves I, Black, had the better pawn structure against someone who was rated 310 points above me. I was willing to accept the draw, but I was playing for a win because of that better pawn structure. However, I failed to find a way to capitalize on that slight positional advantage. When White offered the draw I accepted.

Mike Serovey

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

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

Amateur Versus Master: Game Seventeen

Double Dutch Defense

My opponent in this correspondence chess game lives in the Netherlands (Holland) and I played the Dutch Defense against him. That is like playing the French Defense against someone who lives in France.

Although I dropped a pawn on move number 20, the game was fairly even. Both sides defended well and the endgame ended up being fairly closed. I considered opening up the position in the endgame so that my bishop pair could become more powerful, but I decided against this because I was still down a pawn and keeping the position closed made drawing much easier.

This draw kept me tied for first place in this section.

Mike Serovey