Category Archives: Annotated Games

Sometimes You Win and Sometimes You Don’t

I am posting two different games from the same section here. In the first game my opponent dropped a Bishop on the thirteenth move of the game and he resigned when I took it. My opponent in this first game is from the Netherlands. My opponent in the second game is from Canada.

In the second game we played much longer and agreed to a draw. These results put me in temporary first place in this section. I also got a draw against the other player who is higher rated than I am in this section. With 4 draws and a win I am alone in first place in this section and I am winning my last game in this section. However, that may not be enough to keep first place if one of the players that I drew wins more than 2 games in this section.

My notes in this second game, plus what I have stated above, pretty much cover what happened in this game.

Mike Serovey

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Chess with Chris and Kenny

Back to the Ruy Lopez next week unless anything else happens. Today there’s something different I have to share with you.

I returned from Richmond Junior Club last Saturday to see the sad news that one of my oldest chess friends and most regular opponents, Chris Clegg, had died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 66.

I’d known Chris for more than 40 years and saw him regularly at matches in the Thames Valley League between my club, Richmond, and his club, Kingston. We played six times in a decade between 1978 and 1987, and then, strangely a 22 year hiatus before four more recent encounters.

Chris started playing chess at his secondary school, taking part in junior tournaments and soon joining his local chess club where he remained for the rest of his life. Every time we played Kingston we knew he’d be there, captaining the team. If we were playing at Kingston he’d be the first to arrive to set up the furniture and equipment, and the last to leave, having put everything away. He’d even arrive early for away matches and help set everything up without asking or being asked. Chris would be at almost every tournament in the London area, arriving on his own and leaving on his own.

By profession he was a solicitor, but he retired very early. He had no family, living with his mother until she died some years ago. His other interest was bird watching. Chris was one of those highly intelligent, rather introverted people who tend very often to be drawn to chess. As his Kingston Chess Club colleague John Foley wrote in his obituary on the English Chess Forum, chess kept Chris going and Chris kept Kingston Chess Club going.

The chess world has always needed, and will continue to need, the likes of Chris Clegg. At his best he was a county standard player, a bit short of master strength. But, more importantly, he was an organiser who worked at a local level, never seeking fame or recognition. Chess isn’t just about producing grandmasters. Without dedicated organisers there would be no grandmasters and no chess.

Here’s an exciting game from a Thames Valley League match a few years ago in which both players missed wins.

But there was also good news recently: news that, as Bruce Mubayiwa reported on this site, Kenny Solomon has become South Africa’s first grandmaster. A great achievement in itself, but notable also for Kenny’s background, growing up in a township notorious for drug abuse and gang violence.

From his website:

“Kenny was exposed to gang culture from an early age. Kenny realised that if he didn’t create his own future, he would merely become a pawn in this scene, trapped in the violent, oppressive cycle of gangsterism. Strong family values and his early interest in chess kept him away from these influences and compelled him to make choices about his fate.

“After getting into chess at the age of 13, he would play blitz games with his older brother and a friend in the Solomons’ backyard, amidst lines of dripping washing.”

Note that he taught himself to play chess in his teens. Not starting young is no barrier to becoming a grandmaster.

Chris Clegg and Kenny Solomon, two very different people and two very different players, but united by their passion for chess. I’m not sure whether chess made either of them smarter but it had an enormous social impact on both of them. It enabled Kenny to escape from the gangs and drugs of a South African township, taking him to Europe where he married an Italian girl, and to grandmasterdom. It gave Chris a purpose in life and a means of connecting with an increasingly alien world (he never used the internet or even owned a mobile phone).

There’s something else they have in common as well. I don’t know when Chris learnt the moves: probabbly round about the age of 11, as we all did in those days. There’s a loss to Ray Keene from the 1961-62 London Under 14 Championship, possibly his first tournament, on chessgames.com. I would guess that they both started their obsession with chess at about the age of 13 or 14. Not at 7 or 8 as children do today.

Regular readers will know that I consider the social benefits of chess at least as important as the academic benefits, and that these benefits really kick in for older rather than younger children. I’ll leave you with a quote from a recent interview with the comedian Stewart Lee.

“But also the things that get you when you’re 13 or 14, that’s when you’re most susceptible and if you’re lucky enough to encounter a good thing when you’re 13 or 14, it will stay with you for your life.”

Chris and Kenny were both lucky enough to encounter a good thing when they were 13 or 14.

Richard James

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Victor Was Not Victorious

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s I played three or four rated chess games against Victor E. Hakala. I lost one of those chess games and I won the rest of them on time forfeit. A search on Google for one of his photographs informed me that Victor died back in 2001. I was unable to find a photograph of Victor, but I remember that he bore a strong resemblance to Grandmaster Pal Benko. Victor E. Hakala also had Benko’s tendency to get into time trouble, but not GM Benko’s overall talent!

In the chess game below from 1990, Victor played the Colle System. This is one of the few times that I have won against it, but this win was on time forfeit. All of my wins against Victor E. Hakala were on time forfeit! The advantage changed hands several times during this chess game and we both missed a few things! When Victor started to get into time trouble it seems that I just tried to run him out of time and that I stopped looking for the best moves on the chess board. Victor completed his thirtieth move and then his flag fell before I could reply. I failed to note what the time control was for that chess game.

Victor’s fourth move was a novelty and is not in my database of games. It seems that he was the only one to try that move against me. His fifth move was not the best and it brought his Queen out early. I continued to develop normally. I castled early while White delayed castling for a few moves. On move number ten I started to gain time by harassing White’s Queen and Bishop. On move number 15 I failed to prevent a move that White missed. My seventeenth move and White’s eighteenth were both errors because we both missed a good  move for White. By move number 21 we had reached equality. On move number 25 White recaptured with the wrong Knight and I missed the win of a pawn. I had several chances to take that pawn and I never did. The position was even when Victor overstepped the time control.

Mike Serovey

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My Gripes About Correspondence Chess

Because Nigel has a “no offense” policy for this blog I will not use the names of the people that are involved in my stories. However, the guilty parties know who they are!

On ICC (the Internet Chess Club) I had numerous occasions in which my opponents exceeded the time controls and got off with warnings! Repeat offenders got off with warnings and were given extra time to play while I was NOT given any extra time to play my moves! That is why I quit playing correspondence chess on ICC.

I have had similar problems playing correspondence chess under the rules of the US Chess Federation (USCF). As I see it, the USCF rules for correspondence chess are not only inconsistent, but they are also inconsistently enforced. In an Over the Board (OTB) game, if my opponent takes too long to move and runs out of time he or she loses. The only out for my opponent would be if the clock was defective or not set properly. If my opponent had a heart attack, got food poisoning or was arrested in the middle of the game he or she would still lose if the clock ran out! This is not the case with cc!

I have played people who were already in prisons when the chess games with them started. These prisons sometimes have their own rules for how mail to inmates is handled. Now, I have an opponent who was free when our games started and he ended up in the county jail where he lives while our two games were in progress. It took two months for me to realize that I had not heard from this particular opponent and I sent him repeat moves. It took two more weeks to get replies from him. The TD for these games stated that I am supposed to charge this opponent for the amount of reflection time that he is actually thinking about his moves and not for “transition time”. If my opponent can’t get his mail while he is in jail, does that really count as “transition time”? I would say, “No”! By my calculations, this opponent ran out of time and I should win on time forfeit! However, I am being told otherwise!

The following was copied from the USCF website:

transmission time: The time a move is in the custody of the
Postal Service, that is, from the postmark date to date of delivery
at the recipient’s address.

This makes it clear that the time that my moves are sitting in someone’s mailbox is not transmission time!

The game below is from my most recent draw in correspondence chess that was played on the ICCF server. This draw leaves me in fifth place out of seven in this section. In my only remaining game from this section I am winning, but my opponent in that game has yet to finish any of her games in that section. I need to win this last game and then have her win a few of her other games if I am going to finish any better than tied third place in this section.

Although the move order can vary depending on what my opponent plays and what mood I am in, I played the Botvinnik System in this chess game. My opponent played the Kings Indian Defense. On move number 8, he started a maneuver with his King’s Knight that I rarely see in OTB chess. On move number 9 he put his Knight on d4, which has annoyed me on a few occasions.

For some reason that I no longer remember, I rejected 12.e5. At first glance it looks like it should win material, but the chess engines are saying otherwise. My move number 10 gets my Queen’s rook off the long diagonal that Black’s dark-squared Bishop is on and supports b4 on my next move. Black continued with his Knight maneuver. I continued with my kingside expansion. I then locked up the Kingside and we exchanged light-squared bishops. Further exchanges led to a position in which neither one of us had any advantage.

Then, we both centralized our rooks and tried to get some play on the Queenside. After a few more exchanges my opponent was left with a backward pawn on the b file and I had a backward pawn on the d file. A few moves later I found a good outpost square for my Knight on b5, but it failed to amount to anything.

On move number 30 , I put my remaining Rook on the open a file and I also had my Knight on b5. Again, these slight positional advantages were not enough to win. Further exchanges across the board lead to my having a passed pawn on the d file, but it still was not enough to win, so I settled for a draw against a provisionally lower rated opponent. These draws against provisional 1800 rated players has hurt my rating some. If I can’t consistently beat 1800 and 1900 rated players  then I will not likely ever get my ICCF rating over 2200 points!

Mike Serovey

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Checkmates in Queen Endings

Perhaps my all time favourite chess book is Chess Curiosities, by Tim Krabbé. There’s a chapter in this book about strange occurrences in queen endings.

The other day I was looking at games played by some of my friends in the recent London Chess Classic FIDE Open when I came across something which reminded me of this chapter.

Former RJCC star Richard Cannon was being outplayed in a queen ending by an opponent rated 300 points below him when this position arose.

It’s been a long struggle but now, on move 89, White is on the verge of victory with three extra pawns, one of which is about to queen. He can win at once with Kf7, when Black has to trade queens to avoid immediate mate. Instead he played 89. Qh5+, which is still winning easily. After 89… Kg8 he could centralise his queen again with 90. Qd5+ and then push his pawn to d7. But instead he pushed at once: 90. d7 Qa3+ 91. Ke6 Qa6+. Now White regrets leaving his queen offside. He’s either going to lose his d-pawn or lose his queen and promote his d-pawn (after, say, 92. Kf5 Qb5+ 93. Kf4 Qxh5 94. d8=Q+) when he’s going have to start the winning process all over again. Not fancying this he tried to keep both his pawn and his queen by playing 92. Ke7, only to find that, completely out of the blue, he’d lost his king instead when Black produced 92… Qf6+ 93. Ke8 Qf8# giving Richard a rather fortunate point.

It’s very easy to make this sort of mistake, and Krabbé gives examples of strong grandmasters suffering embarrassing defeats in this way. It’s been a long game, you’re feeling tired, you’re running short of time or perhaps playing on increments. You’ve long since switched out of Middle Game Mode and into Endgame Mode where you’re thinking about king activity and assuming there won’t be any possibility of checkmate.

I know from personal experience just how easy it is because almost a year ago I lost a game myself in the same way. There were some fascinating tactics earlier in the game, which I might share with you some other time, but for now consider this position.

I had the white pieces and, just as in the previous example, was trying to promote my d-pawn in a queen ending. The problem was that my king had nowhere to hide so I could expect no more than a draw. With not much time left I pushed the pawn here after which my young opponent swiftly demonstrated a mate in four: 44. d7 Qh1+ 45. Kg4 f5+ 46. Kf4 Qe4+ 47. Kg5 h6#

Note that the mate only worked because 44. d7 unpinned the black f-pawn by cutting off the white queen. Instead any sensible move such as 44. Qe7 would have drawn as long as I didn’t run out of time.

So I looked through some games played in 2013 in BigBase 2014 to see what else I could find.

I guess White was a bit unlucky in this one. You might think someone with a 1988 rating should have done better, but if you’re sitting there with the clock ticking it’s not so easy. Black has just delivered a check and White has to consider how to parry this. With 71. Qf3 he’d have had every chance of exploiting his two extra pawns but instead he played 71. Kg4 Qxg2+ 72. Kxh4 confident that Black didn’t have any dangerous queen moves. Correct, but instead he found a dangerous king move: 72… Kh6 with the deadly threat of g5#. Seeing that 73. Qg3 would be met by 73… g5+ 74. Kg4 Qxe4+ and mate next move he resigned.

In this example Black has a queen and a pawn on the seventh rank against his opponent’s queen. White’s been checking him for the last ten moves so he now decided to head for safety in the south east corner of the board, playing 92… Kg3. Not a good idea: suddenly White mates in two moves with Qf4+. Easily done, but Black, with a rating of 2084, is, by most standards, a pretty strong player.

Even grandmasters are not immune from this sort of thing. Here’s Kazakh GM Anuar Ismagambetov in action. He’s a pawn down but as his queen is securely blockading the extra pawn there should be no way his opponent can make progress.

75. Kc6 is fine for a half point, but 75. Kd6 Qb6# left White looking rather foolish. Ismagambetov? I’m not sure whether or not his gambit is off but in this game his ending certainly was!

So next time you reach a queen ending, don’t forget to look out for snap checkmates. Learning some queen and pawn mating patterns is also going to help you.

Richard James

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Blackmar-Diemer Schemer

This chess game is one that I recently completed. I have not been writing articles lately partly because these correspondence chess games have taken up a great deal of my time and partly because I have not been feeling well. I am feeling a little better now and I am getting caught up on things again.

This chess game is one of three draws in this section. I also have one quick win when my opponent dropped a Bishop on move number 13 in another game. In this chess game I tried a gambit on a lower rated player and all I was able to accomplish was getting my pawn back and equality. The one win and three draws have me temporarily in first place in this section. I will need at least one more win in order to keep clear first place.

My opponent’s third move was something that I had never seen before. I disagreed with what the chess engines were recommending and stayed with my database of games on move number 7. From move number 11 on I was out of my database. I was using my chess engines quite a bit to blunder check the moves that my 40 years of experience told me to look at. However, my opponent was using chess engines too and thus he avoided making any blunders as well! Both sides played aggressively in both tactical and positional chess. We were evenly matched even though I was higher rated by 110 points.

Someone has been using the contact form on this chess site to send me spam! This needs to stop because all you are doing is annoying me!!!!!!!!!!

Mike Serovey

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When to Sacrifice

It’s important to learn about the idea of sacrificing a piece for a pawn or two in front of the castled enemy king. There are many books which will show you examples of this, and all teachers enjoy showing these games to their students.

But if you read these books and follow these lessons you may well get the idea that such sacrifices always work. In real life, of course, they don’t, but it’s much more entertaining to demonstrate a short sacrificial win than a long game where the defender refutes the sacrifice and wins the ending with his extra piece.

Sometimes you can calculate a forced win. Sometimes it will be obvious to an experienced player (but not necessarily to someone less experienced) that the sacrifice won’t work. There’s also a grey area in the middle where you clearly have compensation. It’s partly a question of style, temperament and personality whether or not you will choose to make the sacrifice. You might also like to remember the rule (something I read years ago, I think in a book by Julian Hodgson) that you should play the sacrifice if, after giving up the piece, you have more attackers than your opponent has defenders.

The game below was posted on Facebook by my colleague at CSC, Ferris Lindsay. He asked why he lost this game. Let’s have a look.

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. exd5 exd5

White chooses the Exchange Variation in reply to his opponent’s French Defence. This is often a sign of peaceful intent, but Ferris has an aggressive plan in mind.

4. Nc3 Nf6
5. Bg5 c6
6. Nf3 Be7
7. Qd2 O-O
8. O-O-O

Natural moves, I suppose, but this position has only been seen in a few fairly low level amateur games. Superficially it looks a bit scary for Black, who has to reckon with a possible sacrifice if he ever tries to play h6. So we might want to consider why stronger players don’t start the game in this way.

It’s worth considering what would happen if Black decided to put the question to the bishop at this point. After 8… h6 White can consider two thematic sacrifices. Do either of them work. You might like to go away and analyse this position yourself before reading on, or, if you’re a chess teacher, set it as an exercise for your students.

So: 9. Bxh6 gxh6 10. Qxh6 when Stockfish finds several viable defences for Black, which may not, however, be so easy to find over the board at amateur level. One such defence is 10… Ne4 with the idea of Qd6 as well as a possible fork on f2. Then 11. Nxe4 dxe4 and the knight on f3 can’t move because of the nasty Bg5 pinning and winning the queen. Now Black’s not threatening exf3 because gxf3 will open the g-file for a white rook, but he’ll be able to play Qd6 next move and defend comfortably.

Or White could try 9. h4 hxg5 10. hxg5 hoping for an attack down the h-file. Now Black has only one way to gain an advantage: 10… Ne4 (against other knight moves 11. Bd3 will give White at least a perpetual check) 11. Nxe4 dxe4. Again the knight can’t move because of Bxg5 and this time, because of the pawn on g5, Black will be able to capture on f3 next move. After 12. Bc4 exf3 13. Qd3 Bxg5+ 14. Kb1 Re8 15. Qh7+ Kf8 White is two pieces down but has a strong attack. Not quite strong enough, according to Stockfish.

8… h6 is fine if you have a silicon brain, but a human would have to be pretty brave and pretty good at defending to play it.

Instead Black played…

8… Nbd7
9. h4

A useful move as White might have a rook lift via h3 in some lines.

9… Bb4

Black decides to take action on the queen side.

10. Bh6

This is it. Ferris sacrifices a bishop even though he’s only going to get one pawn in return. My first thought as a more experienced player is that this really isn’t going to work. Before we see what happened in the game, we’ll consider a more measured approach for White.

White’s most natural move seems to be 10. Bd3 when Black could continue with Qa5, a logical follow-up to his previous move. Given the subject of this article, though, we might also consider 10… h6 and decide whether 11. Bxh6 works. Again you might want to step back and decide on the blue pill or the red pill before going any further.

This time the sacrifice seems to work for White because he’s already played h4. One possible variation runs 10. Bd3 h6 11. Bxh6 gxh6 12. Qxh6 Re8 13. Ng5 (threatening mate in 3 starting with 14. Bh7+) 13… Nf8 14. Rh3 Bxh3 15. gxh3 Qd6 16. Rg1 and Black has to play 16… Re1+ to gain time to stave off White’s attack.

But back to the game…

10… gxh6
11. Qxh6 Kh8

A typical panic reaction in the face of White’s sacrifice. This sort of move is often seen in games at this level. Black moves his king because he’s scared of a possible check. He should have preferred 11… Ng4, driving the queen back, when he should be able to defend.

12. Bd3

Developing and attacking, but 12. Ng5, preventing an immediate Rg8, would have given Ferris an extra move for his attack and put him back in the game. 12. Ng5 Qe8 13. Bd3 Rg8 14. Nxh7 Ng4 15. Qd2 when White has won a second pawn for the piece and exposed the black king.

12… Bxc3
13. Ng5

White bravely continues with his attack rather than recapturing the piece. 13. bxc3 would have given Black time to defend with 13… Rg8

13… Bxb2+

Black seems determined to lose his bishop. Instead the natural move 13.. Bxd4 was correct, giving him a vital extra defender. Then 14. Bxh7 Ng4 15. Qh5 Ndf6 rather amusingly traps the white queen, while after 14. Nxh7 Black just has time to defend: 14… Ng8 15. Qh5 Bg7 16. Nxf8+ Bh6+ 17. Kb1 Qxf8.

14. Kd2

Likewise White insists on not capturing the bishop. This move should lose, but after 14. Kxb2 Qb6+ 15. Kc1 Qxd4 16. f3 Qb4 17. Bxh7 Qa3+ is one possible variation, leading to a position where both players have a perpetual check.

14… Qa5+

Moving the queen offside (14… Bxd4 was easier) but should still be good enough.

15. Ke2 Re8+

A tempting check, but it’s dangerous to undefend f7 in this way. 15… Bxd4 was still the simpler option.

16. Kf1 Re4

A very complicated position has arisen. Black tries block the attack on h7 by returning material, but, as it happens, the move is a mistake.

Yet again 16… Bd4 was correct. Then after 17. Nxh7 Black should gain time by returning one of his extra pieces: 17… Ng4 18. Qh5 Nh6 19. Qxh6 Bg7 20. Qh5 Kg8 – but I guess these moves would be very difficult to find over the board.

17. Nxf7+

What could be more natural than capturing an undefended pawn with check? But, unfortunately for Ferris, it loses.

Taking the rook also loses: 17. Bxe4 dxe4 18. Rh3 Qb5+ 19. Kg1 Qe2 20. Rf1 (an amusing position, given that White castled queen-side 12 moves earlier) 20… Qh5 and the black queen has managed to get back to defend her king.

But, amazingly, Stockfish reveals that there is a win here. The improbable winning move is 17. Rh3, with the slow but unanswerable threat of Rg3, forcing mate. The best Black can do is give up his queen: 17… Qc7 18. Rg3 Qxg3 19. fxg3 Kg8 when Black has rook (about to be captured), bishop and knight for queen. Paradoxically, White needs his knight and bishop for the attack, so he should use his rook, not a minor piece, to trade off the intruder on e4. Stockfish continues: 20. Re1 b6 21. Rxe4 dxe4 22. Bc4 when, because of the threats on f7, Black has nothing better than Ba6, shedding a piece.

Of course working all this out with your clock ticking is far too hard for most humans.

17… Kg8
18. Ng5 b6

Black is two pieces up but still needs to defend accurately. This move lets White back into the game. There were preferable defences such as Re7.

19. f3

Ferris misses his last chance. Again he could have considered the rook lift: 19. Rh3 (threatening both 20. Rg3 and 20. Nxe4 dxe4 21. Bc4+) when Black’s only route to an advantage is 19… Re7 when Stockfish analyses two variations: 20. Bxh7+ Nxh7 21. Re3 Ba6+ 22. Kg1 Qb4 23. Rxe7 Qxe7 24. Qg6+ Kh8 25. Nf7+ Qxf7 26. Qxf7 Ndf6 when White has queen and two pawns for four minor pieces in a position which looks totally unclear to me or 20. Nxh7 Bxd4 21. Rg3+ Kf7 22. c3 Ba6 23. Qg6+ Ke6 24. cxd4 Bxd3+ 25. Rgxd3 Rg8 and Black’s king just about survives.

19… Ba6
20. fxe4 dxe4

White has regained most of his material but now it’s Black who has the winning attack. Another insufficient try here is 21. Ne6 Bxd3+ 22. cxd3 Qf5+ 23. Nf4 Rf8.

21. Kg1 Bxd4+ 22. Kh2 Qe5+ 23. g3 exd3 24. Rde1 Qc5 25. cxd3 Qc2+ 26. Kh3 Qxd3 27. Re7 Qg6 28. Qxg6+ hxg6
29. Re6 Re8 30. Rxc6 Re3 31. Rc7 Nc5 32. Rxa7 Bc8+ 33. Kg2 Re2+ 34. Kf1 Rf2+ 35. Ke1 Nd3+ 36. Kd1 Bg4+
37. Nf3 Bxf3#

So was Ferris right to make the sacrifice? In theory, no, because the sacrifice could have been refuted simply by 11… Ng4. In practice, no, because he eventually lost the game. But, you know what? I think he was indeed right to sacrifice. He will have learnt a lot about when sacrifices against the castled king are or aren’t likely to work, and will have learnt also about how to calculate and what sort of moves to look for in that sort of position. The beauty of online games is that the result doesn’t really matter. There’s no prize at stake. There are no teammates to complain if you lose. So you can afford to try things out and treat your games as a learning experience.

Richard James

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A Single File Please … !

It goes without saying that the chess elite are so great to learn from, because they are capable of playing such great chess, and showing the rest of us how it’s done. However, that is really only half the story. The other half, is that when they get things wrong, they can really get things wrong. Not only that, but the consequences tend to be amplified all the greater. This is because they are usually playing another elite player, who is ever poised to grab them by the jugular — figuratively speaking, of course (in most cases).

The following game is a case in point. It was played at the recent London Chess Classic, by Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, both former World Chess Champions. It must first be said, that this was a blitz game, but that rarely makes huge differences at the top levels. Of course, it varies from player to player, but the two involved in this game are both very accomplished blitz players. Therefore, the game should be judged accordingly.

The opening is a Reti. It is not unusual for players to opt for less common openings, steering the game away from theoretical lines. This way, they lessen the risk of being caught out or wasting their preparation. The games often quickly become a straight middlegame fight. The players both play the opening reasonably well. In a position of opposite-side-castling, White obtains an initiative on the Kingside, while Black endeavours to create counter-play on the Queenside. Good, fighting, exciting chess.

The outcome of this game is largely a result of inaccuracies made by White, it has to be said. First, his 20.Qa6? posts his Queen away from his theatre of operation. Not only that, but it offered Black the opportunity (albeit missed) to take the initiative with 20…Bxd4!. White’s fatal error, however, would have to be refusing 24.dxc5 in favour of 24.d5?? A move very much unworthy of a player of Anand’s calibre. This is because the chosen move hands his opponent the b6-square (and thus the b-file) on a platter, whereas the refused move would have guarded the b6-square and actually seems very good for White. The move is a clanger, it must be said.

Vladimir Kramnik is clinical, seizing control of the game via the b-file. He wraps things up powerfully and renders his opponent’s attempts at defence futile.

John Lee Shaw

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Adventures with 1…e5 (4)

My fourth consecutive black saw me facing 1. c4 so it’s not relevant to this series of articles. Another match and yet another outing with the black pieces. This was yet another Richmond v Surbiton encounter: Richmond B v Surbiton A so I was on a high board against an opponent about 200 points stronger than me.

My opponent chose the slow option. We had to complete 35 moves in 75 minutes, with a choice of adjournment or adjudication if the game was unfinished after 2½ hours. You might find the rules strange but that’s the way things work in ThamesValleyLeagueLand.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5

At last I get to face the Ruy Lopez. I’m looking at a few options in answer to this.

3… g6

The Smyslov Variation. I’m hoping to continue with Bg7, Nge7, d6, 0-0 in some order. The Cozio Variation (3… Nge7) is another possible move order to achieve the same aim.

4. O-O

Not White’s scariest line. An immediate d4 will disrupt Black’s plan but his position is still playable.

4… Bg7
5. c3 d6
6. Re1 Nge7
7. d4 O-O

Natural developing moves so far. The three previous games in this series were about opening knowledge, tactics and calculation. Here, at least for the moment, it’s about understanding pawn formations, long-term planning and positional judgement. But of course you still have to calculate everything that moves.

Both players have several choices with regard to the centre pawns. White can close the centre with d5 when the position will resemble a King’s Indian Defence or possibly trade on e5. Black has a range of options. He might be able to play an immediate d5, an immediate f5, or trade on d4 and then play either d5 or f5. He might also want to throw in a6 (with or without a subsequent b5) before doing any of these. There’s a lot to think about.

8. Be3

For the moment White decides to play a simple developing move rather than committing himself in the centre.

8… Bd7

Not a very intelligent move. There was no need to put the bishop on d7 after I’d castled and in some cases it might prefer to be on g4. Now was probably the time to undertake some sort of action in the centre.

9. Bf1

Again White decides to wait.

9… Kh8

Another waiting move based on an irrational fear of checks on the diagonal. I could and probably should have played 9.. exd4 10. cxd4 d5 when I can meet 11. e5 with f6.

10. d5

White decides it’s time to take action in the centre himself, heading for a King’s Indian Defence structure. I’m very big on encouraging children who are serious about the game to learn ALL major openings, partly for this reason. If you never open 1. d4 and never play the King’s Indian with black you’ll be totally at sea when you reach this sort of position via a Ruy Lopez.

Now the game continues with a series of typical KID-type moves.

10… Nb8
11. Nfd2 f5
12. f3 f4
13. Bf2 g5
14. c4 b6
15. b4 a5

16. c5

Ambitious. 16. bxa5 was a simpler and probably stronger alternative.

16… axb4
17. c6 Bc8
18. Qb3 Na6
19. Qa4

Overlooking a cheapo but Black seems to be doing quite well anyway, with various tactical chances on the king-side and the long diagonal.

19… Nxd5

My opponent thought I would have been in trouble here without this move but Stockfish suggests I’m OK. The pin on the a-file isn’t a big problem as, whenever I move the bishop from c8, it can bounce back to c8 again after Bxa6. But he’d completely missed this simple tactic winning the exchange.

20. exd5 e4

The point – the rook is trapped and White has no way of blocking the diagonal. Justification for my third move!

21. Rxe4

The more natural Nxe4 was probably a better try – at least in theory.

21… Bxa1
22. Nb3 Be5
23. Nd4 Bxd4

Well, what can I say? It looks, and is, totally wrong to trade off the bishop on the long diagonal for a knight. If one of my more serious pupils had played this move I’d have been very disappointed in them. At this point I had about 15 minutes left to reach move 35, so didn’t want to spend more than a few minutes on this move. I had visions of this knight coming in on e6 in some lines, but, realistically, that’s never going to happen. I’d also failed to consider that White could double his queen and bishop on the long diagonal. From what I recall, my other candidate move was Bf5, which is absurd for tactical reasons. After a sensible move such as Qf6, though, White has absolutely nothing for his material deficit. It’s Black, if anyone, who has the king-side attacking chances.

So what went wrong? Why did I play such an obviously bad move? Time and again in my games I talk myself out of playing a move I know I should play or talk myself into playing a move I know I shouldn’t play.

Indecisiveness (coupled, in this case, with lack of familiarity of the opening) always leaves me behind on the clock. I’m not a good speed player and not good at dealing with stress so when I don’t have much time left I start to panic. Lack of self-confidence, which also contributes to getting short of time. Irrational fears (in this case, an irrational fear of a knight landing on e6). All this is the story of my life, not just the story of my chess games. In my case, and it’s probably true to a greater or lesser extent for most players, getting better at chess is not just about learning more openings or improving calculation skills. It’s about clearing all the junk (which has been there for more than half a century) out of my head.

Anyway, the game continued.

24. Bxd4+ Kg8
25. Nd2 Bf5

The position’s now very complicated and without much time on the clock I wasn’t able to find a good continuation. Stockfish tells me Black has several ways to draw here but I really don’t understand most of the moves! One of the options was 25… g4, with the following variations: 25… g4 26. fxg4 Bxg4 27. Bxa6 Qg5 28. Qb5 Bh3 29. Qe2 Rxa6 30. Nf3 Qxg2+ (30… Qg4 31. Re7 Rf7 32. Re8+ Rf8 33. Re7) (30… Qg6 31. Nh4 Qg5 32. Nf3) 31. Qxg2+ Bxg2 32. Kxg2 Rxa2+ 33. Kh3 Ra3 34. Kg2)

26. Bxa6 Bc8

Played (without any thought) to regain the bishop, but I should have taken the rook instead and gone for the white king: 26… Bxe4 27. Nxe4 g4 28. Qb5 Qh4 29. Qe2 Rf7 30. Bc4 gxf3 31. gxf3 which Stockfish assesses as equal, though don’t ask me why.

27. Qxb4 Rxa6
28. Bc3 Bf5

This is losing. The only way to stay in the game was to play Rxa2, hitting the knight on d2. Stockfish analyses 28… Rxa2 29. Qd4 Qf6 30. Qxf6 Rxf6 31. Bxf6 Rxd2 with an ending in which, although Black is temporarily a pawn ahead, White has better chances.

29. Re2

He could have ignored the rook, just playing 29. Qd4 Qf6 30. Qxf6 Rxf6 31. Bxf6 Bxe4 32. Nxe4 Rxa2 when White is winning because Black can’t defend c7 (after Bd8, Nc3, Nb5).

29… Rf6

29… Kf7 was an insufficient alternative. Stockfish informs me that White’s best reply is 30. Ne4, threatening 31. Bf6, and also 31. g4 fxg3 Nxg3 when if the bishop moves on the b1-h7 diagonal White has Re6 and if it moves on the h3-c8 diagonal White has Qb1. Alternatively, 29… Rxa2 30. Qd4 and Black has to give up a rook. Notice that 29. Re2 defended the knight on d2.

30. Qd4 Kf7
31. Re6

White gives up a second exchange, this time deliberately.

31… Bxe6 32. dxe6+ Rxe6

Losing horribly but 32… Ke8 drops the rook on f6 and 32… Kxe6 drops the rook on a6 (after 33. Qc4+).

33. Qg7+ Ke8
34. Qg8+ Ke7
35. Qxg5+ Ke8
36. Qg8+ Ke7
37. Qxh7+ Ke8

At this point time was called. My opponent could either propose an adjudication or seal a move and adjourn. We agreed on an adjudication as the computer would confirm whether or not he had any more than a perpetual. Looking at the position, we soon concluded that after Ne4 I had no defence to a future Nf6+. Computer analysis confirmed this so I resigned by email the following day.

1-0

Richard James

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Adventures with 1…e5 (3)

Fate soon offered me another opportunity to defend against 1. e4 in another Richmond v Surbiton encounter, this time a match between our respective B teams. Again I was sitting opposite an opponent rated slightly below me.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4

Someone else who’s going Italian. I decided to try the Two Knights’ Defence again.

3.. Nf6
4. Ng5 d5
5. exd5

Should I stick with the slightly dubious Fritz variation after what happened last time or try something else? I decided to go down the main line, at least for a few moves.

5.. Na5
6. Bb5+ c6
7. dxc6 bxc6
8. Be2

White’s most popular choice here, but is it best? Alternatives are the currently fashionable 8. Bd3 preparing a knight retreat to e4, which leads to fairly obscure positions, and the sharp pinning move 8. Qf3, when one option (there are others) for Black is 8.. Rb8, the Colman Variation, analysed by Eugene Ernest Colman while he was held in the Changi Civilian Internees Camp in Singapore during the Second World War. Colman played his move successfully in club chess for Wimbledon, no doubt on occasion in the Thames Valley League. Olympiu Urcan’s biography of Colman, Surviving Changi, is highly recommended.

8.. h6
9. Nf3

Steinitz and Fischer both tried Nh3 here.

9.. e4
10. Ne5 Bc5

The immediate Bd6 is Black’s most popular choice here but engines and stats both prefer this move.

11. c3

The most popular move here. White wants to prevent a possible Qd4 but takes a square away from his queen’s knight.

11.. Bd6

This move and 11.. Qc7 both score very well for Black.

12. d4

Again the most popular choice, but 12. f4 might be an improvement.

12.. exd3
13. Nxd3 Qc7

76 games in BigBase 2014 reached this position with Black scoring 74%. It looks like White’s backing a loser by going down this line.

14. h3

Now we have 41 games with Black scoring 78%.

14.. O-O
15. O-O Bf5

21 games here and Black now up to 81%.

16. b3

Played twice in BigBase 2014. In both cases Black won after playing Rad8.

16.. Rfe8

White looked like a man about to play Ba3 so I played something that I thought prevented this. I was right, but for the wrong reason.

17. Ba3

This should lose at once, but White’s position is uncomfortable due to Black’s pressure down the centre files.

17… Bxa3

Stockfish informed me after the game that I should have played 17.. Bh2+ (the immediate 17.. Rad8 is also strong) 18. Kh1 Rad8 when there’s surprisingly little White can do to meet the threat of Rxe2 followed by Bxd3.

18. Nxa3 Qe7

This is what I’d seen when I played 16.. Rfe8. I thought it won a piece, but it doesn’t. Instead I could again have played 18… Rad8, but now White has some sort of defence: 19. Nc2 Rxe2 20. Nd4 Bxd3 21. Nxe2 when Black has bishop and knight for rook and pawn.

19. Re1

We both missed that White can save the piece here: 19. b4 Qxe2 20. Qxe2 Rxe2 21. Nc1 (gaining time by hitting the rook) 21.. Re4 22. bxa5 Ra4 23. Nb1 and White is still in the game. But now Black’s just a piece ahead.

19… Qxa3
20. Nb4 Rad8

Forcing a queen exchange.

21. Qc1 Qxc1 22. Raxc1 Kf8 23. Kf1 c5 24. Na6 Ne4 25. g4 Bc8 26. Kg1 c4 27. Nc7 Re7 28. Nb5 cxb3 29. axb3 Nxb3 30. Rb1 Ned2 31. Rbd1 Rde8 0-1

My switch to 1.. e5 was certainly successful in that game. White certainly needs to rethink the opening as 10.. Bc5 seems very comfortable for Black. Still no Spanish, though. Maybe next time.

Richard James

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