Category Archives: Annotated Games

My Ode to Odette

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is a French woman who is named Odette. At the time that I am writing this, Odette is in dead last place with five losses, no wins and no draws. Although she is alive (as far as I know) her chances of getting more than a couple of wins or draws is dead. Thus, the ode.

In 1967 American Country singer Bobbie Gentry wrote and recorded a hit song entitled Ode to Billie Joe. In 1976 the song was made into a movie. What is still not clear to me is if the song and the movie are based upon a true story or if this all came from the imaginations of some talented writers.

The description from the  movie on  YouTube is as follows, “A seventeen-year-old boy is seduced into a homosexual act. His guilt over the incident drives him to commit suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge, leaving his girlfriend behind.”

If you want to know more about this story then you can click on the following links:

Odette played some moves in this chess game that are about as bad as jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge. Fortunately, she is alive to play more chess games. Because this chess game is rather short, my analysis below is more about what was not played than what was.

Mike Serovey


1977 Major Open Part 1

Returning to the consideration of some of my less bad tournaments, we turn to the Major Open in August 1977. The Major Open was then, as it is now, the tournament below the British Championship itself.

My one previous appearance at the British, in 1973 at Eastbourne, where I played in the First Class Tournament, the section below the Major Open, had been a disaster as I collapsed completely due to fatigue in the last few rounds. This time I knew I was a stronger player and hoped I was also mentally strong enough to cope with 11 rounds over 12 days.

In the first round I had white against an ungraded opponent from a prominent local family of chess players and chose the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez. His response was not the best (6… h5 is to be preferred) and left me with a slight advantage. His decision to give up bishop and knight for rook and pawn on move 18 didn’t turn out well and I was eventually able to score the full point in a long game. A more efficient 53rd move (Bg7 rather than Be5+) would have shortened the process.

In the second round I was paired against a German player, who might or might not have been the Josef Böcker who was rated 2200+ in the late 1980s, and was faced with one of my favourite systems, the Botvinnik Blockade.

1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. e4 c5 4. g3 Nc6 5. Bg2 d6 6. Nge2 e6 7. a3 Nge7 8. Rb1
a5 9. Nb5 d5

I should imagine this was a complete oversight, missing the knight fork after the exchanges on d5.

10. cxd5 exd5 11. exd5 Bf5

Already desperation although moving the knight would have kept me in the game. Now there was no reason for White not to take the knight: 12. dxc6 Bxb1 13. cxb7 Rb8 14. d4 is just winning because the bishop is coming to f4.

12. d3 Ne5 13. Be4

Better was d6 with advantage to White. Now it seemed natural to displace the white king, but the engines tell me I should have preferred Qd7, hoping to regain the pawn.

13… Bxe4 14. dxe4 Nf3+ 15. Kf1 Qd7 16. Kg2 Qxb5 17. Kxf3 O-O 18. Bg5 f6 19. Bf4 g5 20. Bd6 Qd7 21. Bxc5 f5 22. Kg2 fxe4 23. Nc3 Rf5 24. Qb3

Instead 24. Bxe7 Qxe7 25. d6 maintains the extra pawn with advantage. Now I regain the missing pawn and have an attack down the f-file.

24… Nxd5 25. Rhd1 Bxc3 26. bxc3 Qf7 27. Bd4 Rf8 28. Rd2 b5 29. Qc2 e3

Choosing to force a draw by perpetual check.

30. Bxe3 Nxe3+ 31. fxe3 Rf1 32. Qb3 Rxb1 33. Qxb1 Qf3+ 34. Kh3 Qh5+ 35. Kg2 Qf3+ 36. Kh3 Qh5+ 1/2-1/2

Richard James


Drawing This Correspondence Chess Game Was No Hassell

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is from England and his last name is Hassell. As some of my readers may have noticed, I like to play with words and the names of my opponents!

Originally, I wanted to trade down into a King and pawn endgame or to use my remaining Bishop to go after my opponent’s pawns that were on dark squares. However, when he offered a draw on move number 27 I accepted the offer because I realized that there just was not enough play left in the position to justify my spending my time and energy on trying to win that rather closed endgame.

This cc game is one of three draws that I have in this section.

Mike Serovey


An American Defeats Henry the Eighth

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is not really Henry VIII of England. However, his name is Henry and he is from Finland. Also, while playing chess with this Henry I kept thinking of an old song from 1965 by Herman’s Hermits called “I’m Henry Vlll I Am”. You can watch and listen to a YouTube video featuring this song here:

I started this correspondence chess game with the Réti Opening and the game transposed into the English Opening, and then something that resembled the Botvinnik System. This Henry decided to play an unusual line against me. Although he was using a combination of chess engines during this chess game, he went against what the engines recommended and played an unsound sacrifice. That was the main reason that he lost this cc game.

This is my second win in this section. After one win and one draw I moved into fourth place out of thirteen in this section. With two wins, three draws and three losses I am still in fourth place at the time that I am writing this.

Mike Serovey


What’s for Lunge?

Some part of a mistake is always correct. – Tartakower

Once again a glorious and haphazard victory when my opponent lunges at White’s 1. g3 position. Well, that’s oversimplifying it. White’s position was genuinely inferior to the point of material loss, but care was required. My Candidate Master opponent played nervously and moved a bit too rapidly and found his way to a lost position.

After my opponent’s 10 … Nb4! material loss was inevitable for White.  Black won the exchange, but it cost him his fianchetto bishop. White could then have exchanged on c5 and snarfled Black’s c-pawn immediately which would restore something close to material equality, but the plan of applying pressure on the long black diagonal was irresistible, despite the flaw that after 16 … h5 White’s knight could have become marooned on e5.

Black’s impetuous lunge was really 16 … f6 which justified White’s previous play and allowed White at least equality. But after that, Black’s fashion of cleaning up the mess on the kingside caused Black to lose a pawn. Grabbing it back in time pressure was a game-loser.

At the end,  Black resigned, because on 28 … Ke5 29. Nf3+ Kd5 30. Qd8+ White wins the bishop with check, and if 28 … Kg5 it’s mate in 7 starting with 29. Ne4+ !

Jacques Delaguerre


Islington Open 1976 Part 3

1976 was the year Christmas came six days early for me.

Just look at what happened in my games in the last two rounds at Islington.

Going into Round 5 on 2/4 I was paired with the white pieces against Paul Littlewood, who had a grade of 214 at the time of the game. Paul had been British U18 Champion in 1972 and British Under 21 Champion in 1975, and would later become an International Master and win the British itself in 1981.

1. e4 c5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 a6 4. g3 Rb8 5. a4 e6 6. Bg2 Nf6 7. f4 d6 8. Nge2 Qa5 9. O-O b5

We’re only on move 9 but already Paul gives me an early Christmas present, blundering a piece to a simple tactical idea which is very common in this type of position.

10. e5 Nxe5 11. fxe5 dxe5 12. d3 Bd7 13. cxb5 axb5 14. Bg5 b4 15. Bxf6 bxc3 16. Bxe5 cxb2 17. Bxb8 bxa1=Q 18. Qxa1 c4 19. Be5 cxd3 20. Nf4 f6 21. Bc3 Qa6 22. Qb1 Qxa4 23. Nxd3 Bd6 24. Bb4

Chickening out by heading for the ending. In principle, with an extra piece, not many pawns and the enemy king exposed, I should keep the queens on the board, but sitting opposite such a strong opponent clouded my judgement. The right plan was to play for the attack with 24. Qb6 Ke7 25. Qf2.

24… Bxb4 25. Qxb4 Qxb4 26. Nxb4 Ke7 27. Rc1 Rb8 28. Nc6+ Bxc6 29. Rxc6 Rb1+ 30. Bf1 f5 31. Rc7+ 1/2-1/2

Again chickening out by offering a draw in a position where I could still have tried to win. On paper a draw was an excellent result but with a bit more courage I might have won. The story of my life, I guess.

In the final round I had black against another strong young opponent, Glenn Lambert, who was graded 205 at the time of the game. The following year he was beat Eugenio Torre in the Lord John Cup in London. Torre had beaten Karpov in Manila in 1976, and was to do so again in London in 1984. Sadly, Glenn was later diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, dying in 2003.

But in this game he was about to give me another early Christmas present as it seems he wasn’t in the mood for playing chess.

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. g3 Bxf3 6. exf3 Nc6 7. d5 Nd4 8. Bg2 c5 9. dxc6 Nxc6 10. Bd2 h5 11. O-O Nh6 12. Re1 Nf5 13. Rc1 O-O 14. f4 Rc8 15. Bh3 Ncd4 16. b3 a6

Up to this point the engines have a slight preference for White’s bishops, and here prefer 17. Nd5 e6 18. Ne3, to trade off a pair of knights and gain control of the vital d4 square. The way White plays it, though, is fine for Black and over the next few moves I gain the advantage.

17. Bg2 b5 18. cxb5 axb5 19. a4 Qb6 20. Nd5 Qa7 21. axb5 Nxb5 22. Rxc8 Rxc8 23. Qe2

Another indifferent move. Black can either pin the bishop (Rc2 or Qa2) or drive the queen away:

23… Nbd4 24. Nxe7+ Kf8 0-1

White’s 24th move just loses a piece in obvious fashion, but there was still no need to resign, bearing in mind what happened when I was a piece for two pawns ahead in my previous game. I guess he just wasn’t in the mood for playing chess. This sometimes happens, of course, in the last round if the tournament hasn’t gone well for you. The was, remains, and will probably always remain the only time I’ve beaten an opponent graded over 200 in a slowplay game. The following year I was able to tell everyone that I should be world champion: I’d beaten Lambert, who had beaten Torre, who had beaten Karpov.

So I finished on 3½/6, having played four opponents graded over 200 for one of my best tournament results. I was very lucky on the last day, though, as Paul Littlewood uncharacteristically lost a piece in the opening while Glenn Lambert seemingly had little interest in playing chess that day. Something else I just noticed while writing this: my opponents that day had something else in common: they shared the same second name: Edwin.

Richard James


Islington Open 1976 Part 2

My third round opponent was Kevin Wicker, a prominent player and author during the 70s and early 80s. He was joint British U18 Champion in 1970 and very active for some years thereafter before disappearing from the chess scene sometime in the mid 80s. I played Kevin three times in the 70s, being fortunate to draw twice (Bloomsbury 1973 and Charlton 1977) but on this occasion I was out of luck. His grade at the time of this game was 201.

My opening wasn’t very impressive: I usually play too negatively against strong opponents and my opponent launched an attack against my castled king.

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e3 Bb4 4. Nge2 O-O 5. g3 Re8 6. Bg2 c6 7. O-O d5 8. cxd5 cxd5 9. d4 e4 10. Qb3 Nc6 11. Nf4 Bxc3 12. Qxc3 Bg4 13. h3 Bf3 14. Bxf3 exf3 15. Qb3 Qd7 16. Qd1 g5 17. Nd3 Qxh3 18. Qxf3 Ne4 19. b3 Re6 20. Bb2 Nd2 21. Qxd5

I decide to grab a centre pawn, also hitting the g-pawn. The engines now think Black has is doing well if he defends his g-pawn with Qg4 or Ne4 but instead my opponent plays more directly, ignoring the g-pawn and threatening mate.

21… Rh6 22. Qxg5+ Kf8 23. Ba3+ Ke8 24. Qg8+ Kd7

Now I have two plausible checks. Nc5+ leads to a perpetual check in all variations but instead I make the wrong choice and Black soon manages to evade the checks. I guess it looked natural at the time to capture the pawn but surely bringing another piece into play, even without any calculation, is more likely to be correct.

25. Qxf7+ Kd8 26. Qf8+ Kc7 27. Qf7+ Kb6 28. Bc5+ Ka6 29. Nb4+ Nxb4 0-1

In the fourth round I had black against an ungraded opponent who launched a premature king-side attack.

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4 e5 5. d5 Nf6 6. Be2 O-O 7. Bg5 h6 8. Be3 a5 9. g4 Na6 10. g5 hxg5 11. Bxg5 Nc5 12. h4 Qe8 13. f3 Nh5 14. Nb5 Qd7 15. Nh3 Ng3 16. Rh2 f5 17. Qc2 fxe4 18. fxe4 Ngxe4 19. O-O-O c6 20. dxc6 bxc6

I’ve won a pawn and opened up the centre against the white king, but here Qxc6 would have been a simpler and stronger alternative. Now White decides to sacrifice a piece to set up a pin on the d-file.

21. Nxd6 Nxd6 22. Qxg6

White could instead have regained the piece by playing Be3, followed by c5 when the knight moves away, but this is also good for Black.

22… Ne6

This is not good for Black, though. The right move is Nce4. Now White should play 23. Bd3, with dangerous threats against the black king. The engines claim equality for black only by sacrificing his queen after 23… e4 24. Nxe4 Nxe4, and there’s no way I would have found that over the board.

But instead…

23. Bg4 Qf7 24. Qc2

Not wanting to trade queens is understandable but now Black has an attack as well as an extra piece.

24… Nd4 25. Rxd4 exd4 26. Bxc8 Raxc8 27. Bf4 Qxc4

Either a strange decision or an oversight. After Nxc4 Black’s just a rook ahead. For some reason I choose the ending with an extra exchange, but it’s still more than enough to win.

28. Bxd6 Rf1+ 29. Kd2 Bh6+ 30. Ng5 Qxc2+ 31. Kxc2 Bxg5 32. hxg5 Kf7 33. Bc5 Rd8 34. Rd2 Rf4 35. Rd3 Rd5 36. b4 axb4 37. Bxb4 c5 38. Bd2 Rf2 39. Kb3 Re5 40. a4 Ree2 41. Kc2 Ke6 42. Kd1 Ke5 43. Be1 Rg2 44. Rd2 Rxd2+ 45. Bxd2 Kd5 46. a5 c4 47. a6 Kc6 48. Bf4 Kb6 49. Be5 d3 0-1

Richard James


Amateur Versus Master: Game Fifteen

This chess game was played in Tampa, Florida, USA back in 2013. The US Chess Federation (USCF) awarded the title of Life Master to my opponent, Corey Acor, some time prior to this chess game being played. This is one of three rated chess games that I played against Corey and I lost all three of those rated chess games. I believe that this one was my quickest loss to him.

I made a couple of second-best moves early on in this chess game and then blundered outright on move number 12. Things for White went downhill quickly from there. All three of my losses to Corey were due to blunders like the ones that I played in this chess game.

Mike Serovey


Islington Open 1976 Part 1

Continuing my series featuring some of my less bad tournaments from the 1970s, we reach the 1976 edition of the famous Islington congress, which, in the 1970s, used to attract a very large entry every December.

In 1976 I played in the Open section and in my first game had White against a promising junior with a grade of 148.

We’ll whizz through the first part of the game:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. c3 e5 6. d4 cxd4 7. cxd4 exd4 8. Nbd2 Nge7 9. Nb3 O-O 10. Nbxd4 Qb6 11. Be3 Nxd4 12. Nxd4 Qa5 13. Qb3 a6 14. Bc4 Nc6 15. Nf3 Ne5 16. Nxe5 Qxe5 17. Rab1 Rb8 18. Rfd1 b5 19. Bd5 Bb7 20. Bc5 Bxd5

21. Rxd5

No idea why I gave up a pawn like this. Looks like some sort of miscalculation. Instead Qxd5 was equal.

21… Qxe4
22. Rbd1 Rfe8
23. f3 Qe6
24. Qa3 Rbc8
25. Rd6

Making matters worse. Now my computer tells me that Qc4 gives Black a winning advantage.

25… Qe2
26. R6d2 Qe6
27. Bf2 Qc6
28. b3 Bc3

Black’s last few moves have not been the most accurate and now I win the pawn back.

29. Rxd7 Bg7
30. R7d6 Qc2
31. Qxa6 Ra8

I’m now a pawn ahead (perhaps I shouldn’t have taken on a6) but Black can gain compensation by playing 31… Bf8 32. R6f5 Re2. Instead he obligingly heads for an ending which I manage to win.

32. Qxb5 Qxa2 33. R6d2 Qa6 34. Qxa6 Rxa6 35. Rd8 Ra8 36. Rxe8+ Rxe8 37. Kf1 Bf8 38. Re1 Ra8 39. Rb1 Bd6 40. h3 Kf8 41. b4 Ke8 42. b5 Kd7 43. b6 Rb8 44. Ke2 Kc6 45. Kd3 Rd8 46. Kc4 Kb7 47. Rd1 Rc8+ 48. Kb5 Rc6 49. Ra1 Rc2 50. Ra7+ Kb8 51. Bd4 f5 52. Rxh7 Bf4 53. Bc5 Be5 54. Re7 Bf6 55. Rf7 Bd8 56. Bd6+ 1-0

My second round opponent was the US master Ed Formanek, who would become an international master the following year. He often played in England and had a BCF grade of 228 at the time. I had the opportunity to use my pet line against the French Advance, with which I scored very heavily for several years.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. c3 Nge7 6. Bd3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Nf5 8.
Bxf5 exf5 9. O-O Be7 10. Nc3 Be6 11. Qb3 Qb6

Qd7 and Rab8 are the usual choices in this position. Heading for an ending with two sets of doubled pawns might not be wise against a Heffalump.

12. Qxb6 axb6 13. b3 h6 14. h4 Kd7 15. Bd2 Rhc8

It’s natural to double rooks but I should have preferred f4, freeing my bad bishop.

16. Rfc1 Ba3 17. Rcb1 Nb4 18. Ne1 Rc6 19. Kf1 Rac8 20. Nb5 Nc2 21. Nxa3 Nxa3 22. Rc1 Nc2 23. Nxc2 Rxc2 24. Rxc2 Rxc2 25. Ke1 h5 26. Kd1 Rc8 27. a4 Ra8 28. Bb4 b5 29. a5 b6

Giving White a passed a-pawn doesn’t turn out well.

30. a6 Kd8

Incomprehensible. Ra7 or Kc8 would keep me in the game. Now it’s just lost.

31. Bd6 Kc8 32. a7 Kb7 33. Bb8 Rxb8 34. axb8=Q+ Kxb8 35. Ke2 Kb7 36. Kf3 Kb8 37. Kf4 Kb7 38. Kg5 g6 39. Kf6 Kb8 40. Ke7

Richard James


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R5

In the last round I didn’t get my expected pairing of Black against Robert Bellin. Instead I had my third consecutive white (and my fourth in the tournament) against Belgian international Richard Meulders.

The game was an English Opening, with my opponent choosing the Botvinnik Blockade, a plan which I had often used myself, and still use now on occasion, having learnt it from Ray Keene’s book on Flank Openings.

1. Nf3 c5
2. c4 Nc6
3. g3 g6
4. Bg2 Bg7
5. Nc3 d6
6. O-O e5
7. d3 Nge7
8. Rb1 O-O
9. Ne1

The recommended plan. The knight’s going to c2 and e3 to enable me to establish a knight on d5.

9… Be6
10. a3 a5
11. Nc2 Qd7
12. Ne3 Bh3
13. Ned5 Bxg2
14. Kxg2 Rab8
15. Bh6 f5
16. Bxg7 Kxg7
17. e3

Forty years ago I was aware of the idea of meeting f5 with f4 to blunt the attack in this sort of position, and that was certainly an option either here or next move. I must have thought f4 was not possible for Black here.

17… h5
18. h4 f4

Black is happy to sacrifice material for a speculative attack.

19. exf4 exf4
20. Nxf4 Rxf4

Of course. The engines prefer White but it’s not so easy to defend this sort of position over the board, especially against a strong player like my opponent.

21. gxf4 Rf8
22. Nd5

This is already a mistake leaving White in a lot of trouble. It looks natural, I suppose, to trade off an enemy piece but I really shouldn’t have allowed the black knight into d4. The correct plan, which is what I played two moves later, was Re1, meeting Rxf4 with Re4, when White has good chances of defending successfully.

22… Nxd5
23. cxd5 Nd4
24. Re1 Rxf4
25. Re4 Qf5
26. Rxf4 Qxf4
27. f3 Nf5
28. Qe2 Nxh4+

It’s not so easy to decide which of five possible king moves is best. The engines prefer Kh1 although it doesn’t look obvious to me that the corner is going to be the white king’s safest option. Black’s still a lot better though. He’ll have two connected passed pawns for the exchange while the doubled d-pawns are both weak. Kf2, holding onto the f-pawn for the time being, is the engines’ second choice but they still think Black has a winning advantage. This position is an excellent example of how well the queen and knight work together as an attacking force.

29. Kh3 Nxf3

The only defence now is Kg2 when Black’s a lot better but has nothing immediate. Instead the game and the tournament end on a note of anticlimax when I fail to notice the mate threat.

30. Rf1 Qg4#

A disappointing end to the tournament but still, overall, an excellent result for me. A few months previously at Ilford I’d demonstrated that I could lose games regularly by making horrendous blunders, but here I proved that, on a good day and with a following wind, I could more than hold my own against anyone below master standard.

Richard James