Category Archives: Articles

I Had a Tiger by the Tail

In this article I am posting two correspondence chess games against the same opponent. He uses the handle TIGER68 on Stan’s Net Chess. His first name is Angelo and he is from Richmond, Virginia.

My record at Stan’s Net Chess is 68-12-6.

In the first correspondence chess game, I won quickly because my opponent blundered in the opening.

In this second game, I missed some strong moves early in this correspondence chess game and lost my opening advantage. I eventually was able to capitalize on an endgame error by my opponent and thus regain my advantage and win.

I am still playing the third round of this match and that game may end in a draw. I need to outscore my opponent by four wins in order to win this match and move onto the next round of this tournament. In the previous rounds, I won every match in four games save one. That one match took five games to win because I lost a game in it.

Mike Serovey

Share

On Their English

Periodically, an opening line experiences a spate of popularity in grandmaster practice. Something like that is currently happening with the Four Knights English line in which Black opens the center with an early … d7-d5.

Starting popularly with Rubinstein, over the years the second player has often aimed for a reversed Maroczy Bind, commencing with move orders like 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. g3 d5 4. cxd4 Nxd4 5. Bg2 Nc7, planning … Nc6 and … f6/e5. White can short-circuit this classic plan in a number of ways, e.g., 3. Nf3 d5 4. cxd4 Nxd4 5. e4 or 3. e4 or even 2. Nf3 c5 3. d4, all of which lead to interesting lines playable for both sides.

The original Rubinstein plan is not frequently seen nowadays. The latest trend when Black opens the center early is towards a dynamic Black fianchetto position which can be reached most directly via 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 g6. This position occurred three times in the recent Leko-Li Chao match in Hungary, and a few days later popped up in a more roundabout move order in the 2015 Sinquefield Cup going on right now in St. Louis, Missouri. It is well-known, but hardly mined out, as the games in question illustrate.




Jacques Delaguerre

Share

Recognising the Patterns: Challenge # 4

Today’s challenge is to find the typical pattern from the position below with Steinitz to move:

Reiner against Steinitz in 1860

Q: White’s Queenside pieces are still taking a rest, so therefore Black has an advantage. Can you prove it?

(Hint – You just need to empower your rooks on the g-file.)

A: The pattern is Arabian mate and Black can win the game with 15…Nf3!!.

The Arabian mate is an example of the coordination between rook and knight. Typical features:
– A knight usually lands on f6 (of white) and f3 (of black)
– A rook delivers checkmate using g file or 7th rank with the support of knight.

In the game Steinitz played as follows:

15…Nf3!!

Offers a pawn, but the pawn can’t be taken but then Qh4 is in the air.

16. Rxg4??

This is blunder as now White can’t avoid checkmate.

16… Qh4

The point behind sacrifice. The queen can’t be taken because of mate on g1.

17. Rg2

If 17. Rxh4 then 17…Rg1# or if 17. Kg2 then 17…Rxg4+ 18. Kxf3 and mate in 13 from here. You can check it out on your own or with the help of computer.

Now one more shot and game is in the pocket. In fact its mate in two now.

17… Qxh2+

The final blow.

18.Rxh2 Rg1# 0-1

Nimzowitsch against Giese in 1913

With 35.Rg3 White has generated a very serious threat with 36. Nf6+, 37. Qxg6+ and mate. Even so the position is defensible at this stage.

Q: Is it wise idea to maintain knight on g6 by playing Qc2 or should Black move the knight in order to protect g6 square?

A: It was wise to protect that knight by playing Qc2 when the game is still on. The text move makes Nimzowitsch’s task very easy.

35…Nf4??

Now Black can’t avoid checkmate.

36. Qxh6+ gxh6

If 36… Kg8 then 37. Nf6+ Kf8 38. Qh8+ Kf7 39.Qg8#.

37. Nf6+ Kh8

38. Rg8# 1-0

Gelfand against Kramnik in 1996

Black’s Rooks are doubled on b file, but how could you use them?

26… Nc3

The knight comes to a very dangerous square from it can generate a deadly combo with the cooperation of Black’s rooks.

27. Nxd4

27. bxc3 is not possible because of checkmate on b1. Or 27. Bxc3 dxc3 28. Nd4 cxb2+ 29.Rxb2 Rxb2 30. Nxe6 Rb1+ 31. Ka2 R8b2#.

27… Rxb2

28. Rxb2

The queen can’t be taken because of mate on b1

28… Qa2+ 0-1

It’s mate next move.

Ashvin Chauhan

Share

Marathon Chess Rd 3

Age 72, still plays chess. Recently I was diagnosed with HepC, or should I say after 50 years of the thing I was re-diagnosed and began a new form of treatment – the side effects of this wonder drug ( cocktail) are mild compared to the previous treatment for it – but still has its effects: fatigue during the day, and insomnia at night. For sleeping I’ve been taking another drug but for fatigue there is nothing but living through it. In the meantime, to fight off the treatments’ side effects , as well as try to fight off possible effects of again, I’ve enrolled in two tournaments that are one game a week affairs. One is a club level and the other is for more serious players, and that is called Marathon Chess at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. That tournament is run by the redoubtable IM John Donaldson, a wonderful man and player. Read more about it at http://chessclub.org, the website for the Mechanics Institute. When I was living in Berkeley i used to go there more often. John hooked me up with a collegial player who also lives in the North Bay, making the drive in more companionable and possible.

My score after three rounds is 2.5, and here is my latest game from it. Lazar is a friend who is aging like me, and is a strong Russian player.

I haven’t played the Kings Indian Lately and only decided on it at the last moment. I was pretty sure i would be facing 1.d4 though, and had been thinking more along the Nimzo Lines. But it used to be my favorite from years ago.

Ed Rosenthal

Share

Smothered Mate

This checkmate occurs when the King is surrounded by his own pieces and so cannot move. If it can then be checked, the blocked in King is liable to be checkmated.

Here is an interesting example of smothered mate. But there is a twist. First of all, you have to get the White King out into the open. Then you can block it in again and deliver mate. How does White do that?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White plays 1. Qg5+ Kf8 2. Qd8+ Qe8 and now comes the winning move 3. Ng6+. This is only made possible by having an advanced pawn, which can become a Queen if we can move the Black h-pawn out of the way.

Black has to play 3… Kf7 and White then plays 4. Nh8+ Kf8 5. Qf6+ Bf7 6. Ng6+ hxg6 7. h7 and wins.

Here is this weeks problem.

Steven Carr

Share

London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R2

In the second round of the London Chess Fortnight 5-day open I had black against a promising young player called Colin Crouch. Colin, of course, later became an International Master, and was sadly lost to us a few months ago.

I’ll skim through most of the game quickly. There’s one interesting position coming up which I’ll consider more closely.

1. d4 g6
2. c4 Bg7
3. Nc3 d6
4. e4 Nd7
5. Be3 e5
6. d5

This is very much what Black’s hoping to see in this line.

6… Ne7
7. Bd3 O-O
8. Qd2 f5

Black has a King’s Indian type position which a couple of extra tempi. In the King’s Indian Black’s queen’s knight often goes to c6 and then to e7, while the king’s knight often goes to d7 from f6, to prepare f5. In this game the knights have reached d7 and e7 in two moves rather than four so Black can get in f5 very quickly.

9. Bh6 Nf6
10. Bxg7 Kxg7
11. exf5 Bxf5
12. f3 c6
13. Bxf5 Nxf5
14. dxc6 bxc6

The engines like Black here but the central pawns might become loose later on.

15. Nge2 Qb6
16. Na4 Qe3
17. Rc1 Qxd2+
18. Kxd2 e4
19. f4 e3+
20. Kc2 Rfe8
21. h3 h5
22. Nac3 a6
23. Rhd1 Rad8
24. Nd4 d5
25. Nxf5+ gxf5
26. cxd5 cxd5

The engines prefer Nxd5 here. Trading knights on c3 is probably not a good plan as White is able to surround and win the e-pawn.

27. Rd4 Ne4
28. Re1 Nxc3
29. bxc3 Re7

Again not best. Kf6, preparing counterplay on the g-file, looks like an improvement.

30. Kd3 Kf6
31. Rxe3 Rxe3+
32. Kxe3

Reaching a rook ending where White has an extra pawn. Is it enough to win?

32… Ke6
33. Kf3 Rc8
34. Rd3 Rc4
35. Kg3 Ra4
36. Rd2 Rc4
37. Kh4 Rxf4+
38. Kxh5 Rc4
39. Kg5 Rxc3
40. Re2+ Kd6
41. Kxf5 d4

Now it’s a race. Black has a central passed pawn advancing down the board while White has two connected passed pawns on the g and h-files.

42. h4 d3
43. Rd2 Kd5
44. g4 Kd4
45. g5 Ke3
46. Rh2

This leads to a draw. The question, which I’ll return to after the game, is whether White can improve by playing Rd1 instead. The engines will tell you White’s winning, but are they right?

46… d2
47. Rxd2 Kxd2
48. g6 Ke3
49. g7 Rc5+
50. Kg6 Rc6+
51. Kh7 Rc7
52. Kh8 Rc4

Black just manages to draw by eliminating the h-pawn on his way to skewering the white king and queen.

53. g8=Q Rxh4+
54. Kg7 Rg4+
55. Kf7 Rxg8
56. Kxg8

Now the result is clear.

56… Kd3
57. Kf7 Kc3
58. Ke6 a5
59. Kd5 a4
60. a3 Kb3
61. Kd4 Kxa3
62. Kc3

And the draw was agreed.

Let’s return to the position after White’s 46th move alternative: Rd1. White’s hoping to gain a vital tempo in comparison with what happened in the game.

Here’s a sample variation as analysed by Stockfish and Houdini:

46. Rd1 Ke2
47. Rb1 Rc5+
48. Kg4 d2
49. g6

Now if Black promotes White has gained the necessary tempo to win, so instead he tries…

49… Rc4+
50. Kh5 Rc5+
51. Kh6 Rc6

51… Rc1 52. Rb2 Ke1 53. Rxd2 Kxd2 54. g7 Rc8 55. h5 and White wins.

52. h5

The pawns must advance together. Not 52. Kh7 Rc1 53. Rb2 Rh1 54. g7 Rxh4+ 55. Kg6 Rg4+ 56. Kf7 Ke1 57. Rxd2 Kxd2 58. g8+ Rxg8 59. Kxg8 and Black wins.

52… Rb6
53. Rxb6

(53. Rg1 Rf6 54. Rg2+ Rf2 55. Rxf2+ Kxf2 56. g7 d1=Q 57. g8=Q and according to the 7-man tablebases 57… Qd7 is the only move to give Black a draw.)

53… d1=Q
54. g7 Qd2+
55. Kh7 Qd7
56. h6 a5

The engines give White a winning plus here but are unable to find a way to make progress so it looks to me like it might be some weird sort of positional draw unless someone out there can prove otherwise. A sample computer generated variation:

57. Rf6 Qc7
58. Kh8 Qc3
59. Rf8 Ke3
60. Ra8 Qf6
61. Re8+ Kd3
62. h7 Qd4

If you know how White can win this please feel free to let me know.

Next time, onwards and upwards into round 3.

Richard James

Share

Dear Professor Verghese…

Due to some recent controversy on the matter I have been considering writing to Professor Verghese about his Alzheimer’s study. Although ‘board games’ were cited as being associated with a lower risk of dementia, would this happen to include chess?

There was a certain lack of clarity on the matter, so I guess he might have meant that Monopoly and Cluedo were the ones that were really good for the brain. But after mulling it over for a while I decided that this would be a really stupid question. The best that would have happened is that the prof would have had good chuckle. There again I might spark a new line of research on chess players and pedantry.

Chess is good for the mind, and there’s an overwhelming mass of data and anecdotal evidence to support this view. If anyone doubts this they should research the popular practice of giving homework, which is doled out to kids with far less evidence than we have for the benefits of chess. Meanwhile it’s clear that pedants are annoying, so much so that the best you can hope for is escape from their presence without them hating you and wanting to show your ‘errors’ to the World. Of course I’m sure that many chess players have valid conditions that cause their pedantry, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and/or Asperger’s. But whatever the excuse (and there are chess people with Asperger’s and/or OCD who make brilliant positive contributions), pedantry shouldn’t be the main face that chess shows to the World. It puts people off, from potential chess club members to sponsors.

Unfortunately pedants often seem to be those who are most active on blogs, forums and in chess politics, they just have to put the world to rights if only in a hypothetical way. Everything is criticism, negativity and pet whinges, nowhere will you find evidence of creation. So they don’t organize tournaments, don’t improve and don’t get others involved or on the road to success. They seek only to belittle the achievements of others and glory in the magnificence of their critique.

I would like to be innocent of these crimes myself but unfortunately I am not. I have moaned and whinged and criticized to the applause of my peers and felt good about doing so. But I came to realize that this was all about me, my own failings, fear of success and resentment of those who actually did succeed. And it’s interesting to note that around the time I changed things around and got the GM title I was also into inspirational books such as Scott-Peck’s A Road Less Traveled and People of the Lie.

I think that if I’ve managed to change then so can others, or at least they can try. And if anyone would like specifics on how to move their minds then please contact me and I’ll publish specific methods in subsequent articles.

Nigel Davies

Share

Getting the Most out of DVDs

As self improving chess players, we seek out educational tools to help us improve our game. Back when I first started playing, you had one choice if you wanted to get better at chess on your own, books. You’d go to the library or purchase a copy of the book you wanted, study it and apply your new found knowledge on the chess board. Back then, there were nowhere near as many chess books available as there are now and it was much easier to figure out which book would apply to your skill level. Now, we have an overwhelming number of chess books, most of which go over the heads of the average player. Then there are instructional DVDs.

DVDs are a great way to learn for those who don’t want to plod through often dryly written chess books. DVDs are visual and animated which helps with comprehension and pattern recognition. However, the DVD market is flooded with titles and it’s often difficult to determine which DVD is right for you. So, before we discuss how to get the most out of a chess DVD, we should briefly learn how to choose the correct DVD.

If you’re a beginner or improver, you’ll want to look for titles that include key words such as beginner, basic and introductory. Stay away from titles that use words such advanced or the term club player. Also avoid DVDs that concentrate on the games of a particular master because they’re often geared towards players with a solid grasp of more advanced principles. You’ll also want to consider the source. Remember, anyone can put out a chess DVD and these days it seems like everyone is. Plenty of titled players put out their own instructional DVDs but it takes a special talent to teach chess. This means that not all titled players are great or even just good teachers! Two DVD series I would recommend are the Chessbase series and the Foxy series. Both, use top notch teachers such an Andrew Martin, Nigel Davies and Daniel King, to name just a few! These titled players also teach so they know how to explain the subject matter in a manner that the viewer will understand. Now let’s look at how to get the most from your new DVD.

Let’s say you’ve decided to learn the Caro Kann opening and have purchased Andrew Martin’s Chessbase DVD, The ABCs of the Caro Kann. Before viewing the DVD, you should study the opening a bit. While Andrew’s DVD explains the opening in detail from move one, it’s to your advantage to do some preparation before actually viewing the DVD. Why should you do this? The answer is very simple. You’ll want to do some preparatory studying so you understand the underlying mechanics of this specific opening because the more basic knowledge you have of this opening prior to watching the DVD, the more you’ll get out of viewing it. Too often, players who use DVDs for their training don’t bother to prepare themselves prior to viewing. While they can learn from the DVD, they won’t learn as much as if they did some simple preparation. Here’s what I mean.

Get a general book on openings for your chess library if you don’t already have one. If you’re a beginner, get a book like The Dummies Guide to Chess Openings because its easy to understand. Read through the section on the Caro Kann. When reading that section, look at each move playing in this opening and examine the mechanics or principles behind that move. Does each move adhere to the opening principles? Play through the example games. The author presents a game in which black wins and one in which white wins. Take notes. Yes, take notes. Have a notebook dedicated to the Caro Kann. You should write the game you’re playing through down in your notebook and comment on every move. Your commentary should explain, in your own words, why a move works, why it doesn’t, etc.

Then go online and look up the Caro Kann. Read a few beginner’s articles and watch a few videos. This sounds like a lot of work just to watch a DVD but you’ll be rewarded in the end. Take notes on the articles you read and any videos you watch. Now it’s time to watch The ABCs of the Caro Kaan!

Common sense tells us to start at the beginning of an instructional video and work our way through sequentially. You’d be surprised how many chess players will skip around in no real order when watching such a DVD, cheating themselves out of a series of strong, well thought out lessons. In the case of Andrew’s DVD, the presentation is designed to be watched sequentially and that’s how you get the most out of it. Take notes as well. The great thing about these DVDs is that you can rewind them and watch parts again, parts that you may find confusing the first time around. If you can rewind a section that you don’t understand and re-watch it, why take notes? Because when you take notes, you’re writing the concepts down in your own words which helps you retain those ideas in your head. Its also much easier to carry a notebook around (and safer) than a laptop.

Go through each individual video a few times before moving to the next video. In other words, don’t simply go from one game to the next (one video to the next). Watch Andrew’s presentation of a game two or three times, then move on to the next video. Often, ideas demonstrated in one section will form the backbone of the next section (video). After you’ve gone through the entire DVD, practice what you’ve learned in some casual games. After playing the opening yourself, go back and watch the DVD again. You’ll learn more from the DVD, having played the opening yourself.

Take your time when watching chess DVDs. You will not retain everything offered through this instructional tool in one sitting. Watch it over and over. Take your time. If you really want to get the most out of self learning using DVDs, try this approach. I use this method (I wouldn’t ask you to try something unless I did so myself) and it works. Here’s game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

Share

Chess Opening Blunders – a Quick Win

My opponent hung his Queen on move number 19 of an ICC rapid chess tournament game and then said that it was not fair when I took his Queen with my Knight. You can take back blunders in a friendly game, but not in a tournament game! He was lost even before he dropped his Queen.

I joined this event late and got a half-point bye in Round One. This win is from Round Two. I drew Round Three and won Round Four. That gave me three points out of four.

Mike Serovey

Share

The Rubinstein Variation of the French Defense

  • Jacques Delaguerre (I’ve always thought the Rub French proves that the main line of the French is the Advance Variation)
  • Nigel Davies Well then, your assignment for this week is to find a hole in Parimarjan Negi’s analysis and then post it here on Facebook!

Akiva Rubinstein helped usher in the 20th century’s approach to opening theory. The salient characteristic of his opening analysis relative to that of his contemporaries was a sophisticated insight into the relationship between time and space on the chessboard. The variations that bear his name each exhibit some apparent temporal paradox.

The Queen’s Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense, Rubinstein Attack (D61-65) revolves around the struggle for the tempo which will be traded when Black eventually plays d5xc4 and White king bishop recaptures. The Rubinstein Variation of the Symmetrical English (popping up as anything from A04-A34 in the clumsy move-order-oriented ECO numbering system) is a temporal joke in which Black preempts White’s right to open the center by moving the d-pawn two squares. The Rubinstein Four Knights Game (C48) likewise features Black’s queen knight jumping the fence to d4 in a manner classical theory would have supposed reserved to the first player. The Rubinstein Sicilian (B29) and Rubinstein Nimzo-Indian (E42) both exhibit similar taxonomies.

The Rubinstein French is one of Akiva’s greatest jokes on the attacking players of his generation and their love for the asymmetrical topography and material imbalances that characterize other French lines. Rubinstein’s variation apparently yields a tempo and brings White’s QN to the center, only to tease White to give the tempo back by Ne4xNf6. Black remains backwards in space and apparently backwards in development but structurally sound and catching up inexorably move-by-move.  White gropes for a target while Black paddles smoothly and positionally into the calm waters of the draw.

I played the Rubinstein French  tonight at Denver Chess Club. This was not good wall chart strategy for a competitive four-round Swiss section, but it was artistically satisfying. 15 … Ne4-d2! left the gawkers gawking and led to compliments after the game.

I’m not very good at following instructions. For one thing, I’m turning in my homework to Grandmaster Davies here on Chess Improver, rather than Facebook. Also, I had an improvement on Negi, honest, but my opponent didn’t play into it. Maybe next time!

Jacques Delaguerre

Share