Category Archives: Annotated Games

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

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty Four

NOT the Latvian Gambit

My opponent in this ICCF correspondence chess game lives in Latvia. This was pretty much a standard Sicilian Defense with no gambits involved.

During the course of this correspondence chess game, I offered a draw twice. White took 15 days to decline the first draw offer and 21 days to accept the second draw offer. He was looking for a win that he was hoping that I missed. He failed to find one. I believe that there was no win for him to find in this correspondence chess game.

I drew my previous game with Guntis, but that game is not yet published anywhere. This draw put me into a tie for first place in this section and I now have second place on tie breakers. I expect to win my remaining games In this section, but that still does not guarantee that I will finish in first place.

Mike Serovey

How NOT to Play Against Stronger Opponents

This win against a much lower-rated opponent put me into temporary first place in this section. However, games that finished after this one did dropped me back into a tie for fourth place.

Going through the crosstable for this section I played over my opponents games that he has finished. So far, he has one forfeit win and about five losses. He will most likely finish in the second to last position. In every game that I looked at, he played the same Carro-Kahn like set up as both White and Black. I sent a message to him telling him that passive play against strong opponents will get him clobbered every time!

On move number 7 White played a novelty that may not have been that good. Move number 12 was also weak because is was played to support move number 14, which was an outright blunder. After Black’s 14th move, White was dead lost. White resigned when Black had checkmate in 5 moves.

I now have enough content in the membership area of my chess site to start taking a few new members to help me beta test this site. I gave Tai one free membership to this site and he has yet to do anything with it. I will take up to a total of 10 free members to beta test this membership area. After that, I will be charging for access to this site. If the beta testers do not give me any useful feedback, then I will cancel their memberships and they will have to pay to rejoin this site! If you are interested in joining then contact me.

Mike Serovey

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty Three

I Had Some Klewe How to Draw This Correspondence Chess Game!

My opponent in the correspondence chess game is an ICCF master who lives in Germany.

White has a tendency to play unorthodox openings. In this correspondence chess game, White chose Benko’s Opening and I responded with the Modern Defense. We then transposed into the Kings Indian Defense, Panno Variation. Although I ended up playing some lines that I had never seen before, thanks to my databases of games, I was able to play a solid variation.

As Black, I ended up with a slight positional advantage and I kept that slight positional advantage after some middle game exchanges that traded down into an endgame. Part of that advantage included tandem (They are also called Horwitz Bishops after Bernhard Horwitz and mistakenly called Harrwitz Bishops after Daniel Harrwitz.) bishops that were aimed at the White Queenside. I still had those tandem bishops on move number 40 when White offered a draw, but there were no targets left on the Queenside for those bishops to attack. Because I was unable to find a way to capitalize on the very slight positional advantage, I accepted the draw offer.

This draw puts me into a temporary tie for third place in this section and fourth on tie breaks.

Mike Serovey

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