Category Archives: Annotated Games

Adventures with 1… e5 (8)

My first game of 2016 was for Richmond B against Hounslow A. While my team tends to vary a lot, Hounslow had fielded the same three players in the same order on their top boards all season. I knew I was on board 3 so I was expecting to play an old friend, the Thames Valley League President, David White, who is rated slightly below me.

David’s openings are predictable. He meets 1. e4 with the Sicilian Dragon and 1. d4 with the Benko Gambit. With his name-matching colour he opens 1. e4, playing 2. c3 against the Silician and the King’s Gambit against 1. e4. As he occasionally plays in rated tournaments I was able to find several of his games on my database.

In the past I’ve always met the King’s Gambit with 2… Bc5 (four games between 1988 and 1992) but I’ve tried various things online, most often the little-known 1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nf3 f5.

I’d read John Shaw’s monumental work on the opening fairly recently, though, so had some knowledge of 3… g5. The line David preferred seemed to lead to Black’s advantage so, when I was awarded the black pieces I decided to give it a try.

1. e4 e5
2. f4 exf4
3. Nf3 g5
4. h4

The usual move, of course, but, according to Shaw, Black can obtain easy equality. Instead he recommends the much less popular 4. Nc3 as White’s only serious try for an advantage.

4… g4
5. Ne5

The Kieseritzky Gambit. 5. Ng5, the Allgaier Gambit, is not to be recommended against a well-prepared opponent.

5… d6

Nf6 is a more complicated alternative. My choice returns the pawn for an active position.

6. Nxg4 Nf6
7. Nxf6+ Qxf6
8. Nc3 Nc6
9. Bb5

9. Nd5 is met by 9… Qg6 10. d3 (Qf3 runs into Nd4) 10… Qg3+ 11. Kd2 Nb4 and if White goes after the rook Black has a perpetual.


9… a6 was the old move, when, for example, Short-Shirov (Las Vegas 1999) was drawn. Black’s king is going to live in the centre anyway, and d8 has some advantages over e8, so this looks like a slight improvement.

10. Bxc6 bxc6
11. Qf3 Rg8
12. d3 Bh6
13. Ne2

This is virtually a losing move. According to Shaw, White’s only sensible move is 13. Qf2 when he analyses 13… Rb8, when an exchange sacrifice on b2 is looming, although he tells us that Bg4 is also possible. An example featuring an up-and-coming teenager: 13. Qf2 Rb8 14. Rxb2 15. Bxb2 Qxb2 16. O-O Qxc2 17. Nxf4 Qxf2+ 1/2-1/2 (A Fedorov – M Carlsen Dubai 2004) as after 18. Rxf2 Bg7 Black is winning back the exchange. I also note with interest: 13. Qf2 Rb8 14. Nd1 (preventing the exchange sac) 14… Rg3 15. O-O Qg6 16. Bxf4 Bxf4 17. Qxf4 Rxg2+ 18. Kh1 Rg4 19. Qf6+ Qxf6 20. Rxf6 Rxh4+ 21. Kg2 Ke7 22. Rf3 Bg4 23. Rf4 Rg8 24. Kf2 Rh1 0-1 (G Bucher – M Goodger British Championship Canterbury 2010)

13… Bg4
14. Qf2 Bxe2
15. Kxe2 Kd7

Here I finally deviate from one of the games I’d come across that afternoon when preparing for this encounter. D White – G Bucher (Sunningdale 2013) concluded 15… Rg4 16. c3 Qg6 17. Rh2 f5 18. h5 Qe6 19. Qd4 fxe4 20. Qh8+ Rg8 21. Qxh7 f3+ 22. Kf2 e3+ 23. Kf1 e2+ 24. Ke1 f2+ 0-1 Grant Bucher had clearly learnt something from his loss against Martyn Goodger three years earlier and had wisely switched to the black pieces. Either move leaves White (name or colour) with a difficult position.

16. c3

16. Rh3 Rg4 17. c3 Rag8 18. Rh2 Qe5 19. Kf1 f3 20. gxf3 Rg1+ 21. Qxg1 Rxg1+ 22. Kxg1 Qg3+ 0-1 (G Ricca – P Van Hoolandt Imperia 2007) was no improvement.

16… Rg4

Good, but Rh3 might have been even better.

17. Bd2 Rag8
18. Rag1 c5

At this point I noticed that my a-pawn was en prise and played this just to be on the safe side. 18… Qe6 was better, though.

19. Kf1 Rg3
20. Rh3 R8g4

Throwing away most of my advantage. Instead: 20… Qe6 21. Rxg3 fxg3 22. Qe1 Bxd2 23. Qxd2 f5 and White’s king will be fatally exposed.

21. d4

21. Rxg3 Rxg3 22. d4 keeps White in the game.

21… cxd4

Releasing the pressure again. As always I was getting too nervous in a winning position. 21… Qg6 should have been preferred: for instance 22. dxc5 Qxe4 23. cxd6 f3 24. Rxg3 Qd3+ 25. Ke1 Qb1+ with mate to follow.

22. cxd4

22. Rxg3 Rxg3 23. Qxd4 Qxd4 24. cxd4 gives Black an endgame advantage, but David’s choice in the game just loses.

22… Qe6
23. Qe2 f3

This felt right at the time, and my instincts were correct.

24. Qb5+ Ke7
25. Rxg3 Rxg3
26. Bxh6

26. Kf2 is the last chance, when I’d have to find 26… Qg4 27. Bg5+ (27. Bxh6 Qxh4 28. Kf1 Qxh6) 27… f6 28. Qc4 Rxg2+ (careful not to allow White a perpetual) 29. Rxg2 Qxg2+ 30. Ke3 Qe2+ 31. Qxe2 fxe2 32. Kxe2 fxg5 33. hxg5 Bxg5 with an extra piece in the ending.

26… Qxh6
27. Qc4 Qf4

Covering d6 as well as threatening a deadly discovered check.

28. Qxc7+ Kf8
29. e5 fxg2+
30. Ke1 Qe3+
31. Kd1 Qxg1+
32. Kc2 Qf2+
and White resigned

Richard James


Kids and Chess, Part One

A few years ago one of the chess coaches in the Tampa area had an annoying habit of telling his students that I hated little kids. Because I got tired of that, I decided to make a sarcastic reply if I heard him say that again. He did during one of his group lessons, so I replied with, “Actually, they taste quite good with a little peanut oil and basil”! I got a laugh from that. So, now I am including a few quotes by W. C. Fields about kids.

W. C. Fields quotes about kids

I do not actually hate or eat kids, but I may want them to think that I do! Considering that I have been playing rated chess off and on for 41 years, I really do dislike losing to someone who has been alive less than 20 years! In this case, I lost to someone who has been alive about one third as long as I have been playing chess!

My opponent is this Wednesday night tournament round is a thirteen-year-old girl. Her mother was the TD for this event. I lost the previous round to a gentleman that is older than I am. I told both Sara and her mother, Shirley, that I had a lousy tack record in OTB chess against human females regardless of age or rating. That is true, but I need to correct a few things. Prior to this loss, my last loss in an OTB chess game to a human female was to a 17-year-old Dutch girl who later became the under 21 female champion of the Netherlands. She was not exactly a patzer! Sara, my opponent is this loss, is the number five ranked female of any age in the state of Colorado. Again, not exactly a patzer!

The correction is that I beat and drew Sara’s sister, Rebecca, and I beat some female beginners in Tampa prior to moving to Colorado. However, Sara is one of three teenage girls that I have lost to in OTB chess in the past 20 years or so. Prior to getting out of the US Army in 1986, I never lost an OTB chess game to a human female! Now, that record is shattered.

Also, prior to my discharge from the Army, I rarely lost to a kid that was lower rated than I was. Since then, I have had only one loss to a lower rated kid that I can remember. However, that rating difference was over 800 points! I have also barely escaped losses to lower rated kids on at least two occasions in the past five years.

Across the range of ratings that my opponents have had and the time that I have been playing chess, my losses to kids after I graduated from high school have numbered less than the number of wins against them. However, I do not know the exact numbers.

Mike Serovey


Adventures with 1… e5 (7)

Last season I played six games with Black starting 1. e4 e5. They all continued 2. Nf3 Nc6, whereupon I encountered 3. Bb5 and 3. Bc4 twice each, and 3. d4 and 3. c3 once each.

I chose unusual ways to meet the Spanish: 3… g6 in one game and 3… Nge7 in the other. After the latter game my opponent told me he’d have played the Exchange Variation if I’d played 3… a6. I’d been wondering whether, considering that I only play 15-20 games a year and am coming to the end of my chess career, it was worth learning a main line defence such as the Marshall. How often would I get the chance to play it?

In the spirit of enquiry, I decided to find out whether my first Spanish opponent last season would have followed the main lines, so, when I found myself once again with the Black pieces against Paul Shepherd (congratulations to Paul for having become Surrey champion since we last met) I decided to ask him by playing 3… a6.

I hadn’t quite decided what to play against 4. Ba4 but as it turned out I wasn’t going to have to make that decision. Yes, he decided to trade on c6.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Bxc6 dxc6
5. O-O Bg4

This is what I teach my pupils so I decided to play it myself.

6. h3 h5

A considerable improvement on the similarly motivated Fishing Pole Trap. Of course it’s not a good idea for White to take the bishop.

7. d3 Qf6
8. Be3

The more complicated alternative is 8. Nbd2 which my opponent rejected because he didn’t know the theory, unaware that I didn’t know it either.

8… Bxf3
9. Qxf3 Qxf3
10. gxf3 Bd6
11. Nd2 Ne7
12. Rfd1

The usual choices here are Rfb1 (which looks rather strange to me) and Nc4.

12… O-O-O

Ng6, c5 and f6 have all been played here, but the engines seem happy enough with my choice. A not terribly interesting GM example: 12… c5 13. Nc4 Nc6 14. c3 Ke7 15. Kf1 f6 16. a3 a5 17. a4 g6 18. Ke2 Ke6 19. Rg1 Rhg8 20. Rg2 Rad8 21. Rag1 Kf7 1/2-1/2 A Volokitin (2600) – V Akopian (2689) Sochi 2004

13. Kf1 Ng6

Or 13… f6 14. Ke2 g5 15. Rg1 Ng6 16. c3 Rd7 17. Nc4 Be7 18. Rad1 c5 19. a3
Rhd8 20. Rd2 h4 21. Rb1 Nf8 22. b4 cxb4 23. axb4 b6 24. d4 exd4 25. cxd4 Ne6
26. d5 Ng7 27. Na3 Bd6 28. Nc4 and a draw in 65 moves in A Ruszin (2125) – H Asabri (2228) Budapest 2007

14. Ke2 Nf4+
15. Bxf4 exf4
16. Rg1 Rhg8
17. Nc4 g5
18. Rg2 f6
19. Rag1 Be7
20. Rh1

White might have played h4 at any time over the last few moves. Now I decide to put a stop to that idea, after which there shouldn’t be too much happening.

20… h4
21. Ra1 Rge8
22. Kd2

But this is very careless, allowing a potential fork should the white knight move to a5. I managed to spot this and played…

22… b5
23. Na3 Bxa3
24. bxa3 Re6
25. Rb1 c5
26. Rgg1 c4
27. Rgd1 Red6
28. Ke2 cxd3+
29. cxd3 Rd4
30. Rb4 Kb7

It’s not looking too for for White in this rook ending, but he could try to hold on with Rb3 or Rxd4 rather than giving up a pawn with…

31. Rdb1 Rxd3
32. a4 Rd2+
33. Ke1 Rxa2
34. axb5 axb5

A very poor decision, played without any thought at all. Instead, simply 34… a5 when White has no counterplay and Black has an easy victory in prospect.

35. Rxb5+ Kc6
36. Rf5 Rdd2
37. Rxf6+ Kd7
38. Rf7+ Ke6

Natural, I suppose, but another poor decision. 38… Kd6 39. Rf6+ Ke7 was the way to go, again with a simple win.

39. Rxc7 Re2+
40. Kd1 Red2+

Offering a draw, which was accepted. After 41. Ke1 I have nothing better than repetition.


Not a good game. My opponent made a careless mistake on move 22 and took a risk which left him with a lost position on move 31. I then threw away easy wins on moves 34 and 38. The same thing happened, you will recall, in the game I demonstrated last week. The better my position the more nervous I become and the worse I play. It’s always been what’s going on in my head more than anything else which prevented me becoming a better player. Would I ever win another game against a highly rated opponent?

There was no reason to complain about my position from the opening, though. 1… e5 still seems to be working well: perhaps I should have played it all my life.

Richard James


One Good Blunder Deservers Another One

This chess game is from the first round of a chess tournament that is being played on Wednesday nights in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There is one round each Wednesday night and I have completed two rounds so far. I have lost both rounds, and there are only eight players in this section! I should have an easy time with Black in the third round.

This event is being played in a restaurant that is called Smashburger. The food is OK, but the playing conditions are poor. The lighting there is not good and I have to wear a hat to keep the overhead lights out of my eyes. The noise level is too high for me to play good chess. Some of the players are wearing headphones and drowning out the noise with music. However, I have yet to try that. With my hearing problems the music may become just as distracting as the ambient noise there. I doubt that I will play there again after I complete this event.

My opponent in this chess game is older than I am and owns his own computer business that he works with his son. Paul misplayed the opening and I ended up two passed pawns on the queenside. However, I blundered on move number 51 and the game was lost for me after that.

Mike Serovey


Adventures with 1… e5 (6)

Last season, long-standing readers may recall, I switched from playing the Sicilian to 1… e5 in reply to e4.

Just as last season, I’ve had the black pieces in most of my games so I’ve had several more opportunities to imitate my opponent’s e-pawn advance.

My first 1. e4 e5 game this season was against Alfie Onslow, a recent member of Richmond Junior Club who has outgrown the Saturday group and is now about my strength. I’d expected something like a Catalan or an English but discovered he’d switched to 1. e4.

Let’s look at the game.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Nf6
4. d3 Bc5
5. c3

This is the way most stronger players choose to handle the Italian these days. White avoids the theory and tactics of 4. Ng5 or 4. d4 as well as the boring 5. Nc3 so popular in kiddie chess, heading for a strategically rich middle game.

5… d6
6. Nbd2 Bb6
7. Bb3 a6
8. Qe2

This looks rather artificial. White’s planning to leave his king in the centre for the time being.

8… O-O
9. h3 h6
10. Nf1 Be6
11. Ng3 Qd7
12. Nh4 Ne7
13. Nh5

Starting a king-side attack which we perhaps both over-estimated. This sort of thing looks tempting from the white side and scary from the black side. A stronger or more confident player than me wouldn’t have panicked, though.

13… Nxh5
14. Qxh5 Bxb3
15. axb3 Qe6
16. Nf5 Nxf5
17. exf5 Qf6
18. h4 g6

By this point I was getting worried about a potential g4 followed by g5 but, as usual, I was fearing phantoms. I can always meet g5 with Qxf5 when his g-pawn is pinned so I should just continue with a move like 18… Rfe8 or 18… d5. Instead I panicked and sought a tactical solution which only gave Alfie some genuine attacking chances.

19. Qxh6 Qxf5

Suddenly both players have king-side attacks. I guess it takes a certain amount of courage to ignore Black’s threat and press on regardless with h5, but perhaps that’s what Alfie should have done. We can look first at 20. h5 Qxf2+ 21. Kd1 when White’s king is safe and Black has to deal with the threats on the h-file. Her Majesty has to scuttle back with 21… Qf6 22. hxg6 Qg7 when White can win the exchange by trading queens followed by Bh6+ or, even stronger, continue the attack with 23. Qh3, with the idea of Ra4, which gives White a winning attack. So instead Black must play 20… Bxf2+ 21. Ke2 Bg3 (best) 22. Ra4 g5 (best) 23. Bxg5 f6 (best) 24. Be3 when Stockfish gives White a slight advantage (don’t ask me why).

Back in the real world, though, most of us would, as Alfie does, stop and defend f2. But now White’s position is not so easy to handle and I gradually outplay him over the next few moves. The computer, of course, suggests various improvements which need not detain us here.

20. Be3 Bxe3
21. Qxe3 Kg7
22. Rh3 Rh8
23. Ra4 d5
24. g4 Qf6
25. g5 Qe7
26. Qf3 c6
27. Kf1 Raf8
28. Qg4 f5
29. gxf6+ Qxf6
30. Qg3 Rh5
31. Rg4

This should have been the losing move.

31… Rf5
32. Rh2

Or 32. h5 Rxf2+ 33. Kg1 Rf1+ 34. Kh2 Qf2+ 35. Qxf2 R8xf2+ 36. Kg3 Rf6
37. Rxg6+ Rxg6+ 38. hxg6 Kxg6 with a winning rook ending.

32… Rf3
33. Qg1

A desperate shot which, because I don’t stop to think, pays off. I’d assumed he had to play 33. Qg2 when I’d seen that 33… Rxd3 could be met by 34. h5, keeping White in the game, so had planned, correctly, to play Qf5 instead, which is indeed winning. But when Alfie played 33. Qg1 instead I went into autopilot and played what I was going to play against the move I’d expected without any further consideration.

Now, with a skewer coming up, 33… Rxd3 is winning very easily, but there’s a significant difference after…

33… Qf5

… because g2 is available for his rook so White has the tactic, which of course I’d completely missed…

34. Rxg6+

… which was accompanied by a draw offer.

There are quite a few variations to consider, and, running towards the end of the session, I used up too much time trying to work them out so had little choice but to accept.

We’d both considered the pawn ending after 34. Rxg6+ Qxg6 35. Rg2 Rxf2+ 36. Qxf2 Qxg2+ 37. Kxg2 Rxf2+ 38. Kxf2. Yes, it’s another OPP ending: I was wondering if I had some sort of sacrificial breakthrough on the queen side but I don’t and the position is, according to the engines, drawn after either 38… a5 or 38… c5. After anything else White plays 39. b4 when his OPP apparently wins.

In this line White also has the option of 36. Rxf2 Qxg1+ 37. Kxg1 when Black can choose to keep the rooks on the board by playing, say, 37… Rh8, but that also appears to be equal.

Another try for Black is to head for a RR v Q ending after 35… Qxg2+ 36. Qxg2+ Kh7, again with probable equality.

There’s also yet another option for Black, which neither of us had considered at all. Instead of taking the rook I could play 34… Kh7 when Black’s attack looks, superficially, stronger. Stockfish analyses 34…Kh7 35.Rg7+ Kh8 36.Rg5 Qxd3+ 37.Kg2 Qe4 38.Kf1 Qb1+ 39.Kg2 Rxf2+ 40.Qxf2 Rxf2+ 41.Kxf2 Qxb2+ 42.Kg1 Qc1+ 43.Kg2 d4 (43…Qxc3 44.Rh3) 44.cxd4 exd4 45.Rh3 when Black has queen and some extra pawns against two rooks. At first it thinks Black’s winning but, after further consideration, doesn’t seem at all convinced that he can do much about White’s plan of Rhg3 followed by a perpetual along the g-file.

So perhaps a draw was the correct result in the final position but my carelessness on the previous move threw away the full point.

Richard James


Bishops and Knights

I’ve always felt that there’s one thing above all that makes chess such a fascinating game. We have two types of piece in our army which have very different abilities yet are very similar in value. It’s this interplay between knights and bishops which goes a long way towards making chess so interesting.

I recently had the honour of playing Stefano Bruzzi for the first time. Stef represented Italy in the Clare Benedict Cup way back in 1960, and, a few years later, moved to England. He’s played for Surbiton Chess Club for many years but, surprisingly, we’d never encountered each other over the board until last month.

(The Clare Benedict Cup was an international team tournament for counties in Western Europe which took place annually between 1953 and 1979. It was funded by the American writer and patron of the arts Clare Benedict (1870-1961), a distant relation of James Fenimore Cooper, best known as the author of The Last of the Mohicans).

The game was a short and, on the surface, uneventful draw, but on several occasions we both had interesting decisions to make concerning minor piece trades. Most of the decisions that fell to me I probably got wrong.

As usual (at least over the past season and a half) I was awarded the black pieces.

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 Nc6

It’s not very often these days I have the luxury of playing someone significantly older than myself. I’ve had mixed results with this opening (I think there are a few promising lines for White) but considered it unlikely that my opponent would have studied it in any depth.

3. Nf3

He has to decide which knight to develop first. I’m going to meet 3. Nc3 with 3… e5 and after 4. d5 my knight’s going to e7 followed by g6. After 3. Nf3, though, we reach a somewhat eccentric Nimzo-Indian type position.

3… e6
4. Bg5

Almost certainly not the best move. Nc3, a3 and g3, in that order, are the most popular moves here. The bishop is just a target on g5.

4… h6

The first minor piece decision falls to White. Retreating looks natural but Bxf6 is also perfectly reasonable.

5. Bh4 Bb4+
6. Nc3

Here and on the next move I turn down the opportunity to play Bxc3, doubling White’s c-pawns. An interesting alternative, though, would have been 6… g5 7. Bg3 Ne4 8. Qc2 Nxg3 9. hxg3 g4 10. d5 gxf3 11. dxc6 fxe2 12. cxd7+ Bxd7 13. Bxe2 Bc6 which has been seen in several games.

6… d6
7. e3 O-O
8. Qc2

Now I no longer have the chance to saddle White with doubled c-pawns. Should I have taken the opportunity? Don’t ask me!

8… e5

Here White has to decide which structure he wants to play. He can push with d5, trade with dxe5 or maintain the tension, which is what he chooses to do.

9. O-O-O

An interesting choice which looks slightly risky as the king might be exposed there, but it does have the merit of unpinning the knight on c3.

9… exd4

Very careless. I spend much of my life teaching children about the danger of having doubled f-pawns in front of your king in Giuoco Pianissimo type positions. I also explain that this idea can happen in many openings so you always have to be on the lookout and see it coming a long way off. Here, though, I forgot my own advice. Now was the right time to trade minor pieces on c3, even though I’m no longer doubling his pawns. 9… Bxc3 10. Qxc3 Qe7 is about equal.

Now Stefano thought for some time, during which I realised I had a problem if he played 10. Nd5. I have to continue 10… dxe3 11.Nxf6+ gxf6 12.a3 Bd2+ 13.Nxd2 exd2+ 14.Qxd2 when my computer thinks White is slightly better, with more than enough compensation for the missing pawn.

Instead, much to my relief, he preferred to trade bishop for knight on f6.

10. Bxf6 Qxf6
11. Nd5 Qd8

Now White has the chance of another minor piece trade, this time on b4, but he rightly spurns the opportunity because the bishop on b4 is now awkwardly placed.

12. a3 Ba5
13. b4

There was a sharp alternative giving Black the chance to sacrifice a piece. A computer generated variation: 13.exd4 Ne7 14.Nxe7+ Qxe7 15.b4 Bb6 16.c5 dxc5 17.dxc5 a5 18.cxb6 axb4 19.a4 b3 20.Qxb3 Be6 21.Re1 Qc5+ 22.Qc2 Qa3+ 23.Qb2 Qc5+ with a perpetual check.

13… Bb6
14. exd4 a5

Again White has to decide whether or not to make a minor piece trade. 15. c5 Ba7 16. b5 Ne7 17. Ne3 was another option which seems OK for Black. This time he selects the knight for bishop swap.

15. Nxb6 cxb6
16. b5 Ne7
17. d5

Fixing the pawn structure in this way helps Black, but I guess he wanted to keep the queen side closed. 17. Bd3 was also possible when Black’s pawn structure doesn’t look too healthy but he has plenty of piece activity and White’s king might become exposed.

17… Bg4
18. Rd4

Giving me the opportunity to double his f-pawns… and offering a draw. After a move like Be2 or Qe4, for example, Bxf3 would be reasonable, trading off White’s potentially active knight and leaving Black with a horse heading for g6 and e5 against a not terribly useful bishop.

Now the choice of whether or not to trade minor pieces falls to me. I didn’t seriously consider playing 18… Bxf3 19. gxf3 when his rook might be coming to g1 and all his pieces are pointing at my king. But my computer tells me that Black is fine after 19… Ng6 followed by Qf6 and putting a rook on e8. A stronger or more confident player than me would have continued in this way.

The move I was considering was Qd7 (not the best square for Her Majesty) when the position is indeed about equal. Anyone who knows me, though, will not be at all surprised that I accepted Stefano’s proposal to share the point.

Richard James


Outside Passed Pawn (2)

The reason for my interest in the type of pawn ending you saw last week was a recent game in which I had the white pieces. We reached this position, with Black to play after hoovering off all the big guys very quickly, ending with a trade of rooks on the d-file.

Just as last week, if you’re a chess improver yourself, play through these positions before reading on. If you’re a chess teacher, give them to your students to play through. Feel free to add some more tweaks yourself and see what happens.

The game finished bathetically as my opponent (rated slightly below me) carelessly failed to notice my threat to create an OPP. 24… c4?? 25. g4 Kc6 26. h5 Kd6 27. h6 and Black resigned.

In fact this position is not very exciting. Black has four drawing moves. He can play f5 to prevent g4 or move his king to the c-file (it doesn’t matter which square) when he’ll be able to stop the pawn from queening. Reasonable play from both sides will then result in a draw. I’d have to be careful, though, not to play h5 at the wrong time when I’ll just end up losing it.

It’s interesting to tweak the position to see which positions are winning for White and which are drawing. Let’s assume White has played g4 and place the kings on different squares.

Try this, for example, with White to play.

Here White, according to Stockfish, has three winning moves: h5, Kd3 and Kf3. Ke3, though, is only a draw.

Let’s play a few moves.

1. h5 gxh5 2. gxh5 Ke6 and now the white king has to decide which way he’s going.

The simple plan is to head towards the h-pawn. We’ll then be able to give up our passed pawn and capture the two black king-side pawns in return. A sample variation: 3. Kf3 f5 4. Kg3 Kf6 5. Kh4 b5 6. b4 cxb4 7. cxb4 a6 8. h6 Kg6 9. h7 Kxh7 10. Kg5 f4 11. Kf5 f3 12. Kxe5 Kg6 13. Kf4 Kf6 14. Kxf3 and wins.

We can also win by going the other way, but it’s rather more complicated. For instance: 3. Kd3 Kf5 (other tries: 3… f5 4. h6 Kf6 5. Kc4 a6 6. Kd5 e4 7. h7 Kg7 8. Ke5 Kxh7 9. Kxf5 and wins or 3… b5 4. c4 b4 5. h6 Kf7 6. Ke4 Kg6 7. h7 Kxh7 8. Kd5 Kg7 9. Kxc5 e4 10. Kd6 f5 11. Ke5 and wins) 4. a4 Kg5 5. Ke4! Kxh5 6. Kf5! e4 7. c4 a5 8. Kxf6 (Kxe4 is simpler but this is more fun) 8… Kg4 9. Ke5! Kf3 10. b3! (In this line White only wins because he has this spare move) 10… Kxf2 11. Kxe4! Ke2 12. Kd5! Kd3 13. Kc6! Kc3 14. Kxb6! Kxb3 15. Kb5! and wins.

On the other hand, 3. Ke3, as Winston Churchill is alleged to have commented when meeting a new young MP called Clive Bossom, is neither one thing nor the other, and in fact loses after 3… f5 when White won’t be able to hold the h-pawn, leaving Black with an extra pawn and a simple win.

Richard James


Amateur Versus Master: Game Sixteen

ICCF International Master Gerhard Vetter Was Unfettered in Winning This Correspondence Chess Game!

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is an IM from Germany. This correspondence chess game was played on the ICCF server and in accordance with their rules, which allow for the use of chess engines. Vetter is a friendly gentleman, but he cut me no slack once I started losing this correspondence chess game!

This correspondence chess game is one of four losses that I have in this section. At the time that I am writing this I am still in fourth place out of thirteen and Vetter is in  clear first place with five wins and five draws. We both have two games remaining in this section.

Although I had difficulty in pinpointing the losing move, I think that 24… Bd4 was it. I could not recover after White’s reply.

Mike Serovey


I Got Eaten Alive at Jarecki Park!

Fans of Steven Spielberg are familiar with the Jurassic Park movies in which some scientists recreated various species of dinosaurs. The  dinosaurs got lose and chased some people around and ate them. Jarecki sounds like Jurassic and once I started losing this correspondence chess game I felt like I was being chased by a pack of velociraptors. At the point where I resigned, I felt like I had one velociraptor on my left arm, a second velociraptor on my left leg, a third velociraptor on my right leg, and a fourth velociraptor was eating my guts. With only my right arm free and my only weapon being  a pocket knife, I could not fight off the velociraptors. So, I ended the pain of being eaten alive by cutting my own throat with the knife (resigning)!

This correspondence chess game is one of four losses that I have in this section. The winners of the other three games are now in the top three spots in his section and I am in fourth place at the time that I am writing this.

In this correspondence chess game I decided to play the Modern Defense and to try the Sniper move order. I ended up transposing into an Accelerated Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defense.

I cannot pinpoint any one move as being the losing move, but things began to go badly for me around the 17th move of this correspondence chess game. In the course of three moves I went from doing OK to losing and the chess engines gave me no warning that I was heading into trouble!

On move number 21 I sacrificed a Rook for a Knight because I was losing anyway and I had hoped that I could get an attack going against the White King. A better course of action would have been to sacrifice that Rook for the White Bishop that was threatening my King. That might not have been enough to save this correspondence chess game for me, though.

In the future it is unlikely that I will try this move order again.

Mike Serovey


1977 Major Open Part 5

With two rounds to go I was on 5½/9. Two more good results would give me my best ever tournament performance. In round 10 I was black against a good friend, Bill Phillips, who had started Pinner Junior Club shortly before Mike Fox and I started Richmond Junior Club in 1975. Bill is still an active player, having recently participated in the FIDE Open at the London Chess Classic, and, now as then, about the same strength as me. We’re still in touch, as well, following each other on Twitter.

Our encounter was not short on excitement, as you’ll see.

1. Nf3 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. Nc3 Bg4 5. e3 c6 6. h3 Bxf3 7. Qxf3 Nd7 8. Bd2
Ngf6 9. Bd3 e5 10. O-O-O

Looks risky, especially combined with the rather random g-pawn push which follows. 10. O-O was safe and equal.

10… O-O
11. g4 Qb6
12. g5 Nh5
13. Ne2

Allowing a tactical blow giving me a nice position.

13… exd4
14. exd4 Nc5
15. Bc2 Ne6
16. Be3 c5

Piling the pressure on the pinned d-pawn. White could defend with Qe4 or Qg4 but instead goes for some dubious tactics.

17. Rd3 cxd4
18. Rb3 Qc5

18… Qa6 would have given me a winning attack after, for instance 19.Ra3 (19.Bd2 is relatively best: 19… Qxa2 20.Ra3 Qxc4) 19…Qxc4 20.Bd2 Rac8 21.Qd3 Qc6 22.Re1 Nc5 23.Qf3 Qb5 with d3 coming next.

19. Bd2 Qxc4
20. Kb1 Nc5

Looks natural, I suppose, but this is a mistake, losing the d4 pawn. The computer prefers Rae8 here with pressure on the knight on e2.

21. Rb4 Qe6
22. Nxd4 Qd7
23. Nf5

After this nice move White is doing fine.

23… gxf5
24. Qxh5 Ne4
25. Be3

An exchange sacrifice at this point is also possible: 25.Rxe4 fxe4 26.Bxe4 f5 27.gxf6 Bxf6 28.Bh6 Kh8 29.Bxf8 Rxf8 which looks equal. Now I might have played 25… d5 to prevent this idea.

25… a5
26. Rxe4 Qc6

Or 26…fxe4 27.Bxe4 Rfe8 28.Qxh7+ Kf8 29.Qf5 Qxf5 30.Bxf5 which is about equal. Instead I go for the other rook.

27. Rh4 Qxh1+
28. Bc1 Rfc8
29. Qxh7+ Kf8
30. Qxf5 Rc5
31. Qf4

Better was 31.Qe4 Qxe4 32.Rxe4 d5 33.Re2 with equal chances.

31… Rac8

A dreadful mistake, presumably overlooking White’s 33rd move. Instead I have to stop and defend the d-pawn: 31… Be5 32. Qe4 Qf1 when my computer gives me an advantage.

32. Qxd6+ Ke8
33. g6 Rxc2

Black’s king is too exposed. The best I can do is 33…f5 34.Qe6+ Kd8 35.Qg8+ Kc7 36.Qxg7+ and the king flees to safety but at too much cost.

34. gxf7+ Kxf7
35. Rf4+

Bill chooses the wrong check. He has a forced mate with 35.Qd7+ Kg8 36.Qe6+ Kf8 37.Rf4+ Bf6 38.Rxf6+ Kg7 39.Qf7+ Kh8 40.Rh6#.

35… Ke8

And here we agreed a draw, although White can reach a queen ending a pawn ahead after 36.Qg6+ Kd8 37.Qd3+ Kc7 (37…Ke7 38.Re4+ Kf7 39.Qd7+ Kg8 40.Qe6+ is mating) 38.Qxc2+ Kb8 39.Rc4 Rxc4 40.Qxc4 Bh6 41. Qc3 Bxc1 42. Qxc1 Qxh3.

A very lucky escape for me, so I was still on +2, and found myself with white against a leading local player, John Henshaw, who was graded well above me, in the last round.

A Sicilian Defence with c3 soon transposed into a French Tarrasch. It wasn’t really deserving of any more than a brief commentary.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c3 d5 4. exd5 exd5 5. d4 Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd6 7. O-O Nge7 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. Nb3 Bd6 11. Nbd4 Bg4 12. Bg5 (Be2 and Qa4 are the usual choices.) 12… Qb6 13. Qb3 Qc7 14. h3 Bh5 15. Bd3 a6 16. Qc2 Bg6 17. Bxg6 hxg6 18. Qd3 Rac8 19. Nxc6 bxc6 (There’s no real reason not to play Qxc6 and keep the a-pawn.) 20. Bxe7 Bxe7 21. Qxa6 Bd6 22. Rfe1 Rb8 23. Qe2 Rb6 24. Rab1 (I now have a solid extra pawn, but as so often I chicken out by offering my opponent a draw which he has little choice but to accept. I guess I was tired after a long tournament and happy to share the point with a much stronger adversary.) 1/2-1/2

So I finished the tournament on 6½/11, an excellent result by my standards, which demonstrated again that, on a good day, I was able to hold my own against county standard opposition.

What happened next? You’ll find out next week.

Richard James