Category Archives: Articles

Recognise The Pattern # 32

After castling short we tend to play the king’s rook to another open/half open file, abandoning protection of the f-pawn in front of it. Therefore it is quite useful to set your radar for the f7 (f2) square in order to seize any opportunity to launch an attack on castled king. Usually, we sacrifice the piece on that square in order to bring opponent’s monarch from his comfort zone.

Here are a few instructive examples of this theme:

Petrosian against Balashov in 1974

Q: Is it possible to play Bxf7 here?
Hint: This sacrifice will work only if you’re able to find a very calm follow-up on the next move.


22. Bxf7! Kxf7

Ideally Balashov should resign here because sacrifice was made by Petrosian!!
22…Ne5 won’t work because of 23.Qxe5+ Qxe5 24.Nxe5 Bxg5 25.Bxe8 when Black is the exchange and a pawn down.

23. Bh6!!

Now g7 square has been taken away from Black’s king and there is no way to neutralise an attack from e6 or the a2-g8 diagonal (a very important lesson to remember) without losing decisive material.


If 23…Nd4 then 24.Qxd4 Bf8 25.Rxe8 Rxe8 and now Ng5 is just winning. But it was better than the text move.

24. Qc4+ and White went on win after couple of moves.

Blackburne against Collins in 1897

Q: In a given position Black’s last move was 19…Rd8 which is a grave mistake how would you punish it?


It was to better to play 19…Bxe5 followed by Nb6 and it’s still a game but text move leads to immediate loss with

20.Nxf7 Kxf7??

Though other moves can’t change the outcome but this leads to mate in six. Help yourself please.

It is highly recommended to study below classics to enhance your knowledge of this theme:

Colle against Grunfeld
Gurgenidze against Tal

Ashvin Chauhan

Skara, Part 1

In the run up to the crucial Brexit vote next month I thought I’d show some games by the England team from the European Team Championships in Skara, 1980. England won bronze amidst powerful opposition including the Soviet Union and Hungary, and they did it in remarkable style.

Here is the most famous game from the England – USSR match, Tony Miles’ remarkable win against the then World Champion using 1…a6. Was Karpov insulted by this move? I’m sure he was.

Nigel Davies

King or Queen?

Endings improve your ability to calculate.

In an ending one loose move can mean the difference between a win and a draw, or even between a win and a loss.

In this week’s problem, White can easily lose if he does not find the right moves.

White wants to stop the pawn from promoting. It turns out that he cannot do this, but he can ask Black the question ‘Do you want a King or a Queen on the board?’

How does White to play win?

Steven Carr

Chess and Music Part 1: Philidor

Apart from chess, my other great passion in life is music. While my chess ability is pretty close to zero, though, my musical ability is way below zero, so I ended up becoming a chess player rather than a musician.

There are many connections between chess and music. It’s often remarked (not entirely correctly) that the three disciplines which produce child prodigies are maths, music and chess. Music is seen by some as being the art form which most resembles the logic of maths. It’s not surprising, then, that many musicians have had an interest in chess, and that many chess players are also interested in music.

Readers of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict will be familiar with many chess playing musicians and musical chess players.

The first and greatest example must be François-André Danican Philidor (September 7, 1726 – August 31, 1795), the strongest chess player of the 18th century, and the author of Analyse du jeu des Échecs, a hugely influential volume which was, for a century or more, considered one of the standard text books of the game. Philidor came from a family of musicians. The family was originally Scottish: the name ‘Danican’ was a corruption of ‘Duncan’, and his grandfather Jean was given the nickname Philidor by Louis XIII because his oboe playing reminded the king of an Italian oboist named Filidori. As he was French it’s hardly surprising that his grandfather was called Jean, but he also had a brother, 45 years older than him (Philidor’s father was 75 when he was born), surprisingly named Anne. Perhaps this was the 17th century French equivalent of A Boy Named Sue. (A quick note for those of my readers interested in French Baroque music: Anne is remembered today for having started a series of public concerts called Le Concert Spirituel. In 1988 the flamboyant French conductor Hervé Niquet founded a period instrument group under this name.)

Not so many people outside chess realise that Philidor was also one of the leading composers of his day. Some of his music is still performed today, and is available on CD or online. While he also composed instrumental and sacred music, his most important contribution to music was probably in the development of the comic opera. You’ll find one of his comic operas, Sancho Pança, on YouTube here. If you share my love of 18th century music you’ll certainly want to hear this.

In contrast to the Modenese school of players, who favoured gambits and tactical play, Philidor preferred strategic play and endings. His analysis of the ending of rook and bishop against rook is still, even today, considered important to endgame theory. All competitive players should know the Philidor Position which demonstrates an important defensive method with rook against rook and pawn.

Philidor was also the first player who really understood the importance of pawns:

“My main purpose is to gain recognition for myself by means of a new idea of which no one has conceived, or perhaps has been unable to practice; that is, good play of the pawns; they are the soul of chess: it is they alone that determine the attack and the defence, and the winning or losing of the game depends entirely on their good or bad arrangement.”

The contrast between the two rival (Modenese and Philidorian) schools of thought is reminiscent of the debate today as to whether you should encourage young players to play gambits or to concentrate on positional play, teaching them to play simple openings with fixed pawn formations and follow a logical plan. This is something I’ll write much more about in future.

The French Revolution left Philidor stranded in London: returning to France would not have been safe due to his connections with the monarchy and aristocracy. Most of his surviving games are from this final period of his life.

On 13 March 1790, Philidor played three simultaneous games, against the Hon HS Conway, Mr Sheldon and Captain Smith. The games against Sheldon and Smith were both played without sight of the board. Young players tend to play pieces much better than pawns in the opening so this game might be used as an example of how to use your pawns to gain space. The captain played without a plan and without attempting to open the position to his advantage, so Philidor was able to gain space on both sides of the board, leaving his king in the centre, and choose the right moment to strike. Watch out also for the nice sacrificial finish.

Richard James

Bruce Pandolfini

My last nine articles were about endgame play, specifically positional problems the novice chess player might face and, if they’re properly prepared, easily resolve. Chess is really about logical problem solving, except the problem changes with every move which is why chess is so interesting. Endgame play befuddles the beginner because they tend to have their games end well before an actual endgame starts. When they do reach a proper endgame, their lack of pawn and piece coordination combined with a limited ability to think ahead haunts them like an angry poltergeist!

There are plenty of endgame books and instructional DVDs available for the beginning or improving chess player. Unfortunately, the majority of them go far over the head of the beginner or improver. By this, I mean that they’re written for players who already have a knowledge of basic endgame principles. Since beginners have no real endgame knowledge, the information in such books is of very little use to them until they gain more theoretical (studying) and practical (playing) experience. Luckily for the beginning and improving player, we have Bruce Pandolfini. Let me tell you a little story about how learning chess used to be.

There was time a time, not so long ago (hold on to your seat kids, before the internet), when you learned how to improve at chess by either employing a chess teacher (which none of us could afford) or by getting a hold of chess books. You could try checking chess books out at your local library, but everyone else who couldn’t afford a chess teacher had that same thought, so you’d never find the chess book you were really looking for. This left you having to purchase chess books (books were once printed on actual paper). I would travel to Games of Berkeley ( a two hour bus and train ride from my house) and peruse their huge selection for hours. On a side note, I ended up working in their chess department years later. When looking through the plethora of books, I noticed that most of them were difficult to follow. However, there was one author whose words and descriptions of key ideas were crystal clear. That man’s name was (and still is) Bruce Pandolfini. Everything I learned about chess early on and most of what I teach today comes from Bruce’s books. Anyone who considers me a decent chess teacher has Bruce to thank for that!

Most instructional chess books give you a series of moves followed by a small diagram and more moves. Bruce used a larger diagram and employed a written paragraph containing the moves but with verbalized explanations in between each move which really helped solidify the key concepts being discussed. A series of moves and a diagram, with no explanation as to what’s going on with each move, leaving the beginner to figure it out, simply doesn’t work. Bruce was really the first person to clearly explain positional concepts, move by move, simply using words, something I use in my own teaching and writing! If anything in the last 170 plus articles I’ve written here has made sense to you, you have Bruce to thank for it (not me)!

In my series of endgame articles, I used positions directly from Pandolfini’s Endgame Course because it’s mandatory reading for my older students. Why is it mandatory reading for my students? Because the book clearly explains, using words, a large number of important endgame concepts. Notice, I say “using words?” This is because there’s a lack of verbiage in many chess books. It’s as if everything can be explained to the reader in a handful of moves and a diagram or two. In all fairness, advanced players can gain a great deal of knowledge from such books. However, the poor beginner gets hopelessly lost reading the same books and might just give up on the game, thinking it too complex. I teach chess full time and write this weekly column. I’m not a brilliant chess player. In fact I’m a student of the game and always will be. Thankfully, there’s a writer like Bruce out there. His decades of writing have helped me improve. Of course, there are other authors who use “words” to teach chess, but Bruce was the first to really make things clear, employing analogies from our everyday lives. I guarantee that you’ll not be scratching your head muttering “what the heck is this guy talking about” after reading any of his chess books. More likely, you’ll be crying out “hey I actually understood that!”

Let me say this about teaching chess, brilliant chess players don’t always make for brilliant teachers and brilliant educators don’t always make for brilliant chess teachers. Really good chess teachers need a rare combination of skills. You have to have a fair amount chess knowledge, know how to convey that knowledge (teach) and be a bit of an entertainer. If I had a saving grace it’s that I grew up on a stage in front of an audience. Because of this, I’m very comfortable in front of people but, more importantly, I have learned the art of entertaining an audience. I love chess to the point where I’ll put up with the most droll chess lectures. You know the type, the lectures that are akin to watching paint dry or grass grow! If you’re a teacher and you want people to get into chess, you have to get them excited about the game by being entertaining.

Bruce’s writing has a wit and charm that puts a smile on your face as you read it. He connects with you the reader on a personal level. So, not only do you learn the game by reading his books but are entertained as well. Everything I do as a chess teacher and coach is a direct result of reading his books. He truly is the Dean of American chess teaching. Here’s a little rock and roll tale from my youth:

I had a bunch of musicians over to my loft in the 1980’s for a party. We were all about to embark on tours so we decided to hang out for an evening before going our separate ways. I had a stack of Bruce’s books on my desk and a tournament chess set next to the stack. The musicians hanging out with me were hardcore touring musicians, the type you’d expect to have no interest in chess. As the night progressed into the wee hours of the following morning, I noticed three guys huddled over the chess set with one of Bruce’s books cracked open. I walked up and asked what they were doing. One of them answered that they were having an argument over an aspect of the game. They decided to settle the argument by pawing through one of Bruce’s books. They were so impressed that this man could explain the solution to their problem/argument in such a clear and simple way that they started looking other things up and became engrossed in Bruce’s explanations. While all had learned to play as children, their interest was suddenly renewed. Some thirty years later, all of them play chess while touring and in their spare time, thanks to Bruce. I still play chess with those three as well. Some thirty years ago, Bruce connected with three young men who would go on to become very well know musicians. If you can convert a hardcore rock and roller into a serious chess enthusiast, you know how to connect with your readers.

Bruce also came to my personal aid two years ago. I teach in 10-13 schools a week as well as working with at risk teens in jail by teaching them how to use chess to problem solve and make good decisions in life. Our only form of transportation, the Chessmobile, died and we were stranded. This lack of transportation left us in a dire situation that could have destroyed my chess program. Thanks to a donation from Bruce, we were able to get up and running again. HE saved my program and I am forever in his debt. Bruce is the best of chess people!

If I had to recommend any of Bruce’s books, I’d recommend them all hands down. Like a band that puts out that perfect first album (a CD for you youngsters that have no idea what an album is) in which every single song is brilliant, so is the body of Bruce’s chess writing. Not one bad or mediocre book, period. However, I’ll give you a few titles to consider, starting with Pandolfini’s Endgame Course.

This is the book that served as the inspiration for my last nine articles. It also serves as the instructional program I use for teaching endgame principles to my students. If you’re a beginner, you need to read this book (which contains actual words that make complete sense). If you’re an improving player, read this book!

Pandolfini’s Ultimate Guide to Chess is an excellent text book for the beginner wanting to learn the game from scratch. It uses the Socratic method, employing a dialogue between teacher and student, which is as close as you’ll get to sitting down with a live chess teacher, one that really knows how to teach. It’s like have Bruce at the board with you as you learn.

Chess Opening Traps and Zaps is a must for beginners interested in tricks and traps in the opening phase of the game. While I teach tricks and traps from the viewpoint of the person trying to avoid them, this is a good battlefield manual for beginners wanting to turn the tables on those chess Tricksters and Trapsters you’ll face from time to time (especially in the junior chess arena).

Chess Thinking is an excellent reference book that is really a dictionary of chess terms and concepts. It’s a must for anyone learning the game because it gives you the definition of every term and concept you’ll ever encounter in the world of chess. Again, it has great diagrams and verbal descriptions that clearly explain the ideas discussed. this was the book most heavily pawed through by the musicians mentioned above. Each owns a copy of this book and takes on tour to settle any backstage chess arguments.

Every Move Must Have a Purpose: Strategies from Chess for Business and Life is something I incorporate into my own teaching, life lessons learned on the chessboard. An excellent read, especially for those in the business world. A really fascinating approach to life, business and chess.

Like I said, all of Bruce’s books are brilliant. Read them all and your game will greatly improve. I want to thank you Bruce for all you’ve done for me. I am a chess teacher thanks to you! Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

Supercharge Your Training with Solitaire Chess

“Such exercises, involving analyzing and covering up the pages of the grandmaster’s notes, are very beneficial in perfecting the the technique of analysis. If the reader will try it for himself, he will soon realize how effectively it helps him improve.”

–Alexander Kotov in Think Like a Grandmaster

How would you like to have a master sitting next to you, giving you advice as you train? If you could learn what he thought of a position and what variations he considered, would this be helpful to you?

It would be immensely helpful! One way to do this would be to take lessons from a titled player, but sometimes financial limitations or other restraints may limit our ability to take advantage of this excellent resource. However, we can get similar benefits by playing Solitaire Chess.

What is Solitaire Chess?

Solitaire Chess is a training method where you use an annotated game and playing the side of the winner, you decide which move you would make in the situation – aka “Guess the Move.” You see what move the master made, and move on to the next move. Once you are finished with this game, you can compare your moves to that made of the master and study the differences.

This is not an original training method. Kotov refers to a variation of this in his well-known class – Think Like a Grandmaster. I first learned of it 20 years ago when taking a lesson from GM Greg Serper. He highly recommended it as the proper way to study a chess book.

Although it is a well known training method, I would venture to say it is not an often used one by amateur players. It can be both time consuming and mentally taxing. Similarly, it can be hard on the ego as it can reveal how much more we have to learn about chess.

After reading this article, I hope you will be inspired to include it at least occasionally into your chess training regimen.


Solitaire Chess has a lot of benefits to improving your chess:

  • It will help you understand how a master player thinks about chess.
  • By involving yourself emotionally and intellectually in the game – as opposed to just reading the annotations – you will have a deeper understanding of the positions and ideas.
  • Because you are actively engaging the material, your retention of the concepts will be greater.
  • It will help you correct your errors in thinking or conceptions of the game as the master “consults” with you on how to look at the positions.

How to Play Solitaire Chess

Here are the steps I use and recommend to play and learn from Solitaire Chess:

  1. Choose your source game. I recommend a well annotated game that has a lot of text explanations in addition to move variations. You can choose the source game according to you needs. For example, if you want to learn how to be a better attacker, you can use annotated games by Tal or Shirov (both of whom have written very well annotated collections of their games). Similarly, if you want to learn more about positional or endgame play, you can study the games of Karpov or Capablanca.
  2. Play out the first 10-12 moves. Unless you are studying games from an opening within your repertoire, I recommend playing out the first 10-12 moves to get you into the early middlegame (you can pick a different point if, for example, you are focusing on studying the endgame). What I like to do is find the game in a database on my computer and play it out (programs like Chessbase have functions where you can play out the moves without seeing the game score).
  3. Think about the positions and record what move you would make for the winner. Once you find your starting point, try to play the position as if it is a tournament game – playing the side of the winner. Even if I have the position on the computer, I often set up a physical board. If you often play at a particular time control, you can time yourself as well. To record the move, I like using a composition notebook and I will often write quick notes about what variations I considered or anything else that will help me remember what I was thinking for reviewing later.
  4. Play through the rest of the game. After you decide on your move, look at what was actually played in the game. If you guessed correctly, great! If you didn’t, just note the move and play the next one. You want to get through the entire game and then afterwards analyze it. On database programs like Chessbase or SCID, you can enter the move your move as a variation so you can look at it later.
  5. Review the Game. Once you’ve completed the game, you can then review the annotations made by the author, comparing your thoughts and variations to those of the author. By the way, although it is helpful to use games annotated by the actual winner of the game, any well-annotated game will be helpful. Let’s discuss this step in a little more detail.


Like your own games, you should do a post-mortem analysis of your Solitaire Chess games. here are a few of the key areas you should focus on:

  • Moves where you deviated from the master’s play, but had the right idea. Let’s assume for now that for the most part, the master’s moves will be the correct move to make. In this particular case, try to find out why. Perhaps it is a tactical nuance your move allows that the text avoids. If you had the right idea, then analyzing why the master chose differently will be very beneficial to your calculation and assessment skills.
  • Moves where you deviated from the master’s play, but had the wrong plan. In these cases, try to understand why the master’s plan is more correct than yours. Many well-annotated games will explain both the strategic and tactical reasons behind their moves (at least at major points) and these explanations will help guide the way.
  • Blunders. Of course, sometimes the move you make will lose by tactical means. When this happens, try to understand why. Was it because you overlooked a tactical shot several moves away? Was it because you were inattentive? The answer to why is critical to your improvement. Solitaire Chess as opposed to just solving tactical problems (which is very useful as well) helps train you not just to find tactical shots from your point of view, but also to avoid walking into them.
  • Variations within the annotations that you did not consider. When an annotator notes a particular variation (especially if the author is the player of the game), it is important to note whether or not you considered this particular line of play in your Solitaire Chess game. If you did (and you played the inferior move), try to understand why the author evaluated the particular line the way he did. If you didn’t consider it, you may want to think about why that was. Perhaps you did not consider enough candidate moves, or perhaps you stumbled upon the best move early in your calculations. A good annotator doesn’t include variations of little importance, so understanding the difference between the author’s line of thinking and your own will help guide your future analyses.

I wanted to share a recent Solitaire Chess example with you. This particular game was Capablanca’s first encounter against the Marshall Gambit against none other than Frank Marshall. In my Solitaire Chess game, I got White’s 14th move wrong, but got a good lesson in defense and tactics from Capa.

Final Thoughts

Solitaire Chess is an incredible way to improve your chess. In my opinion, it is the next best thing to having a personal chess coach. You can have the world champions such as Botvinnik, Alekhine, or Tal as your consultant and guide through their greatest games, or you can have a specialist on a specific opening teach you the key lines using illustrative games. As you can see, only your imagination limits how you can use this powerful tool.

Solitaire Chess is time consuming and can be intellectually and emotionally taxing, but it is through this struggle that we grow. This also brings other benefits. Because it is hard to do, not many players will do it – which will give you an advantage if you do. Embrace the struggle and supercharge your chess training.

Bryan Castro

Revenge is Sour

There is an old Russian proverb, “The father hit his son, not because he gambled, but because he tried to win back his losses.” In principle, striving for chess revenge is a good intention, but when it becomes an end in itself, you lose your sense of reality and your objectivity in assessing a position. – Mikhail Tal, Life and Games

Regular readers might remember my five queens game of a year ago. That was a classic chess game against young Rhett Langseth, the opening of which was unorthodox but unsurprising, while the midgame marked by mutual blunders resulted in a final total of five queens having appeared on the board in the course of the game.

Tartakower’s axiom held in that game: my opponent made the last blunder and I won. Since then we have not faced off in his pet opening (1.Nf3 followed by d3 – c3 – Nbd2 – e4 – Be2 – 0-0).

This past weekend saw a quick play tournament (g/12 + 3i) in Denver and in the final round I once again had Black against Rhett. His motivation was clearly to avenge his loss of a year before, and as he himself opined immediately upon resigning, he played “too quickly and without thinking.” In the final recorded position (the game continued for several moves), White’s choices are only between losing various assortments of  material.

Readers might compare the treatment of the opening with that in the previous game: I feel today’s example is more incisive.

Jacques Delaguerre

Sealing the Weakness

Today I am going to talk about the sealing a weakness by physically blocking lines. It is really a nice theme which beginners often fail to see; when your opponent tries to exchange the blockading piece often you get a passed pawn, a better pawn chain or a nice outpost for a piece.

Here are a couple of examples of this:

Seirawan against Yussupov in 2000

Q: Black has a weakness on c6 but which is not accessible to White in the near future. Could you formulate a plan for Black using the theme discussed above?

Hint: You can seal that weakness by placing a piece on c4. This kind of idea often arises in the QGD Exchange pawn structure.

Solution: Black can bring his knight to c4 via f8-d7-b6 and c4 which not only seals the weakness on c6 but gets a nice outpost.

Here is the rest of game:

20…Nf8 21.Nb3 Qa3 22.Qc1 Nd7 23.Rc2 Qa8 24.Ne1 Nb6 25.Nd3 Nc4 26.Re2 Qc8 27.Nbc5 Rce7 28.Rfe1 Qf5 29.Kg2 h5 30.f3 Qf6 31.a4 bxa4 32.Nxa4 h4 33.Nac5 Qg6 34.e4 hxg3 35.h3 Bxc5 36.Nxc5 dxe4 37.Rxe4 Rxe4 38.Nxe4 Nd6 39.Qxc6 f5 40.Nxd6 Rxe1 41.Qc8+ Kh7 42.Qxf5 Re2+ 43.Kg1 Re1+ 44.Kg2 Re2+ 45.Kg1 Qxf5 46.Nxf5 Rf2 47.Nxg3 Rxf3 48.Kg2 Rd3 49.Ne2 Kg8 50.h4 Kf7 51.h5 Kf6 52.h6 gxh6 53.Nf4 Rxd4 54.Kg3 Kf5 55.Ne2 Ra4 56.Ng1 h5 57.Kh3 Kg5 58.Nf3+ Kf4 59.Ne1 Ra2 60.Nd3+ Kg5 61.Ne5 Ra3+ 62.Kh2 Kf5 63.Nf7 Rd3 0-1

The next example is one of my favourites and a really instructive one:
Janowski against Capablanca in 1916

Q: What will you do with your damaged pawn structure on the queenside? Try to formulate the plan.

Hint: Capablanca uses weak pawn to support the c4 square.

Solution: Black first supports the b5 square by playing 10…Bd7! and then slowly gets the pawn push to b5 in order to bring his knight to c4 via a5-c4 route. The whole game is really instructive and has already been annotated by Nigel D here.

Ashvin Chauhan

Playing for a Draw – How NOT to Do It

This and the next column will look at the vexed question of how one should approach a game, when a draw is a sufficient result from a tournament perspective. The temptation is to play directly for a draw, choosing a quiet opening, eschewing all risk, chopping wood at every opportunity, etc. But in practice, this is nearly always wrong and has frequently resulted in disaster. This week’s game is a classic example. In the last round of the 1991 Interzonal, the then-Russian GM, Mikhail Gurevich, needed only a draw against Nigel Short, to reach the Candidates. He adopted the approach described above, beginning with his second move, and was soon suffering. He lost, missed out on the Candidates’ and his meteoric career never fully recovered.

Steve Giddins

Again, Don’t Swap Off Your Good Pieces

I had the following position in a local league game.

I was White against a very strong player, and I had been a pawn down since the opening.

I saw a way to force a draw, and took it. In the process, I swapped off my good pieces for my opponent’s bad pieces.

I played 1. Bxa6 Rxa6 2. Rxa6 bxa6 3. h5 and we agreed a draw . because the position is totally blocked.

Rather than exchanging my good pieces for the poor pieces on a6 and a7, I should have played g5.

This doesn’t win outright, but it gives me a big advantage.

The moral is that if you have good pieces, don’t get rid of them without reason.

Steven Carr