Category Archives: Children’s Chess

The Importance Of The Endgame Five

In this week’s article, we’re going to look at the most difficult checkmate for the beginner to master, mate involving Knight, Bishop and King versus lone King. This mate proves to be difficult even for “improvers” because it requires forcing the opposition King to a specific corner square using two minor pieces that move in very different ways. In last week’s article, we learned how to use a pair of Bishops with our King supporting them to deliver checkmate. Because each Bishop can only control one color square (either light or dark), as opposed to Rooks who can control both colored squares simultaneously, they have to work in closer coordination with one another and their King. On the plus side, the two Bishops move identically (diagonally) so pushing the opposition King towards the mating square is easier than in the case of the Knight and Bishop.

With the Knight and Bishop duo, it’s all about herding the opposition King to a corner square that the Bishop can control. Yes, I said herding! I’ve watch a large number of videos and read through numerous books that explain this idea of forcing the King being mated to the mating square using a triangulation system. As a chess instructor and coach, I’m well versed in this checkmate and even I was left a bit confused trying to determine just how the triangulation system worked. In reality, it makes perfect sense to more experienced players but the beginner might get confused so I decided to simplify the idea.

Think of the opposition King as a sheep. Your Knight, Bishop and King are the sheep herders. Their goal is to herd the stray sheep back into it’s pen, in this case the mating square. Your job is to herd the stray sheep, I mean King, back to the pen with as little fuss and muss as possible. Take a look at the example below:

This is a simplified position compared to example two but I present it first because it helps to clarify the key points you need to understand in order to checkmate in this way.

The first point to consider is that the opposition King must be driven into a corner because the checkmate can only occur if the King is literally cornered! Since there are four corners on a chessboard you have to determine which one is the correct corner. The good news is that you have a choice of two. Which two? It depends on the color of the squares your Bishop controls. In the above example, we have a Bishop that controls the dark squares. Therefore, the King has to be driven onto a dark colored corner square. Since you have two, the a1 and h8 squares, how do you decide? The answer is simple if the opposition King is closer to one of the two. You drive the King to the color square controlled by the Bishop that is closest to your Knight and Bishop duo. If equidistant, the choice is yours!

In our first example, the King has been driven towards the h8 square so that’s our target mating square. We start with 1. Nf5. Of course, the black King would like to run in the opposite direction of the h8 square but can’t because of the Bishop on b4, which controls the f8 square, so black is forced to play 1…Kh8. This kind of endgame position requires precise coordination between the Knight, Bishop and King. Failure to do so will allow the enemy King to escape and you’ll have to herd the King back to its pen all over again. You’ll see how hard herding is in our longer example.

White plays 2. Be7 which maintains control of the f8 square while lining it up with the f6 square. Black responds with his only legal move, 2…Kg8. White’s pieces are slowly moving in and surrounding the black King. White checks with 3. Nh6+ which forces the black King back to h8 with 3…Kh8. You should always examine potential escape squares for black before making a move in this type of position because giving the opposition King a chance to run away will force you to start all over again. You’ll see how horrible this can be shortly.

Looking at the position, we can see the the white King creates a barrier on g7 and h7. Our trusty Knight keeps the black King off of the g8 square. Now all we have to do is deliver the final blow with 4. Bf6# and it’s game over!

This example is the end result of a series of moves that drive the opposition King into the corner. However, as we’re about to see, the real challenge is simply getting that King into the corner. Let’s introduce a new key point, the idea of where you don’t want the enemy King to go. As a herder, you don’t want your sheep running behind you because you’ll have to turn around and start herding them back towards the pen. The same holds true in this type of position. You have to carefully and methodically herd the King to the target square.

In the above example, we have a dark squared Bishop which means we have to get the opposition King into a dark corner square, either a1 or h8. This means herding the King into the correct corner. Again, you can think of the black King as a sheep and the three white pieces as the sheep herders. As the commander of the white army, your job is to carefully control key squares the black King can use for his escape. You have to think in terms of where you don’t want the opposition King to go!

The Bishop on e3 controls the a7 square and the white King controls the b7 square so we start with 1. Nc7+. Note that the Knight on c7 is protected by the white King. You have to make sure that your pieces are protected at all times since losing one of your two minor pieces will lead to a draw! Black is forced to play 1…Kb8. The dark squared Bishop must maintain control of the a7 square, so as the black King doesn’t make a run towards freedom via that square, which is why white plays 2. Bb6, tightening white’s control of important territory. Black plays 2…Kc8, being pushed towards the mating square, h8. With 3. Ba7, white keeps the black King from going to b8, so the black King moves to d8 (3…Kd8). With 4. Nd5, white controls the e7 square and black moves the King to e8 with 4…Ke8. Now, white’s King enters the battle with 5. Kd6. This is where things get a bit difficult because the black King makes a run for freedom with 5…Kf7. In this type of checkmate, white will have to deal with the opposition King heading away from the corner towards the center where it will be difficult to corral him back towards the mating square. Therefore, you have to carefully consider your minor piece placement!

To the beginner, the move 6. Ne7 may seem to give the opposition King more freedom to escape. However, the Knight covers the squares f5 and g6 which could be used as flight squares by black. The black King moves to f6 with 6…Kf6 and rather than check the King with 7. Bd4, white instead plays 7. Be3, again looking to cut off the black King rather than make a useless check. From e3, the Bishop covers the g5 square and black is pushed back with 7…Kf7. White now brings his Bishop to g5 with 8. Bg5, tightening the noose around the black King. Black plays 8…Ke8. Here white must move the Knight so the Bishop has unblocked control of the d8 square, so 9. Ng6 is played. Now black must move towards the mating square with 9…Kf7. While it seems that white’s Knight is now under attack, the simple 10. Ne5+ puts an end to that.

Of course, black is going to do everything humanly possible to avoid h8 so he plays 10…Ke8. Again, the white King steps in with 11. Kc7, keeping the black King off of the d8 square. It’s important to use the King’s ability to control key squares at the right time and this is the right time!

With 11…Kf8, white uses his King to once more push the black King towards it’s sticky end with 12. Kd7. Use of the King is critical in endgame play! Black makes another feeble attempt to break free with 12…Kg7 and white meets this with 13. Ke7. The King is a powerful weapon in the endgame! The black King moves to g8 with 13…Kg8 and white moves his Bishop, 14. Bh6. This last move helps control squares the black King wants use as an escape route. With 14…Kh7, black tries to attack the Bishop but the Bishop moves to f8, 15. Bf8, and maintains control of two key squares, g7 and h6. After 15…Kg8, the white Knight makes a move most beginners don’t understand because the Knight appears to be moving away from the action, 16. Ng4. Unlike the Bishop, the Knight often has to make extra moves in order to get to a key square, as we will see in a few moves.

Black plays 16…Kh7, again trying to escape. On move 17, rather than deliver check with the Knight (Nf6 which would allow the black King to move to g6), white moves his King to f7 with 17. Kf7, using the power of King opposition. Black plays 17…Kh8 and white follows with 18. Bg7+. This is a well thought out move because the black King is forced to play 18…Kh7. Now we see why the white Knight moved to g4, so it could eventually move to f6 which delivers mate with 19. Nf6#!

The key ideas to keep in mind with this type of checkmate are pushing the opposition King to a corner square that your Bishop can control, moving your pieces in a coordinated fashion that keeps the opposition King off of specific squares and using your King actively. I have my students play through this mate until they can do it without too much effort. This means they may play through the position twenty plus times. I highly suggest you play through this position every chance you get until you know it. It may not come up much in your games but when it does and you’re not prepared, you’ll lose the game. Even though it doesn’t come up a great deal, it will teach you volumes about piece coordination. Break out a chess board and get cracking. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

The Importance Of The Endgame Four

One of the first checkmate beginners learn is the Rook Roller, in which a pair of Rooks systematically push the opposition King to the edge of the board and deliver checkmate. This is followed by Queen and King versus lone King and King and Rook versus lone King mates. While these checkmates are easy to master, the beginner becomes very dependent on the pieces used to deliver mate and falls short in the victory department when they lose one of these key pieces before they can deliver checkmate. We’re going to look at using a pair of Bishops to deliver checkmate in today’s article. However, before we start, lets take a look the Rook Roller. I want to go over this simple mating attack because it will serve as a comparison point when discussing checkmate with a pair of Bishops.

It should first be noted that while the Rook and Bishop are both long distance pieces, there’s a huge difference between them when it comes to spacial control. Rooks can control both light and dark squares simultaneously while Bishops can only control squares of one color due to their diagonal movement. In the above example, white plays 1. Ra4 which sets up a barrier across the the 4th rank that the black King cannot cross. After 1…Kc5, white creates a second barrier with 2. Rh5+ forcing the black King back a rank with 2…Kb6. Both white Rooks work together to easily push the black King to the board’s edge. Of course, black tries to slow white down by covering the the a6 square so the the Rook on a4 can’t safe check. Beginners often lose this Rook with a hasty check ,but in our example, the a4 Rook simply glides across the board and prepares for mate with 3. Rg4. Black tries in vain to stay in the game, but after 3…Kc6, white checks again with 4. Rg6+. Note that the Rooks always maintain a pair of walls in front of the black King. With 4…Kd7, white checks again with 5. Rh7+ and mate occurs with white’s next move no matter what black does.

Notice that the white King didn’t have to involve himself in this endgame fracas. However, when we use a pair of Bishops to deliver mate, the white King will have to roll up his sleeves and fight for the mate along with the Bishops! Look at the example below:

I’ve taken the liberty of placing the white King on the square he needs to be on to assist in this checkmate. It’s important to move your King to a square that allows him to control squares the opposition King needs to use for escape. This means you have to get your King close to the opposition King rather than chasing that King around with your Bishops which gets you nowhere. Keeping the opposition King off of escape squares is a key concept in minor piece checkmates. Unlike the Rook who can control entire ranks and files, minor pieces have a limited ability to control space around the enemy King.

In our example, the dark squared Bishop on b4 keeps the black King from occupying a5. The white King controls b6 and b7. Our goal is to drive the black King to the a8 square. With 1. Bc4+ we force the black King to a7 (1…Ka7). Note the opposition of the two Kings. With the light squared Bishop covering a6, it’s time to push the black King once more with 2. Bc5+, forcing the black King to a8 (2…Ka8). We finally deliver mate with 3. Bd5#. The idea here was to drive the black King to the mating square while covering possible escape squares with our King and one of the Bishops.

In the above example, things are a little different. Here, King opposition is crucial in delivering mate, specifically the control of the a7 square. Less work chasing the opposition King around the board helps to avoid costly mistakes. When white plays 1. Kb6, creating King opposition, he keeps the black King from using the a7 square to avoid the mating attack. The black King is forced into the corner with 1…Ka8. It’s at this juncture that beginners playing the white pieces often end up with a stalemate because they play 2. Be5, which leads to stalemate, instead of the correct move, 2. Be7. This (2. Be7) is one of those great quiet moves that gives the black King a square to move to while still keeping an eye on the position. Black plays 2…Kb8 and now we can play for mate with 3. Bd6+. The Bishop on e6 covers the c8 square so the black King is forced back to the corner with 3…Ka8 and white mates with 4. Bd5#. Always be weary of stalemate when you have these types of positions. Before even considering the delivery of the first check, note which escape squares your King and Bishops cover and make sure the opposition King has a square to move to in order to avoid stalemate. As you can see, it’s all about piece coordination with minor piece mates!

Our last example is a slight variation of the previous example. I cannot stress enough the importance of practicing Bishop and King endgames, especially since it will teach you a great deal about how to force the opposition King to move where you want him to move.

In this example, white plays 1. Bd4 to use the Bishop rather than the King to control the a7 square. The opposition King moves to c8 (1…Kc8). With 2. Bf6, the Bishop reminds the black King that minor pieces are in charge in this position. Black makes a run for the a7 square with 2…Kb8. Now white moves his King into opposition with 3. Kb6 which cuts off the a7 square. Note that white had two options for controlling the a7 square, the King and dark squared Bishop. The black King tries to avoid the corner with 3…Kc8 and white checks with 4. Be6+. Notice that the dark squared Bishop on f6 keeps the black King from running away towards the h file. Always control potential opposition escape squares. The poor black King shuffles back over to b8 (4…Kb8) and gets hit with 5. Be5+ and the end is near! The black King if forced to a8 (5…Ka8) and white mates with 6. Bd5#.

With the Bishop pair you have to use your own King to help cut off the opposition King. Your Bishops will then corral the enemy King to the mating square but you need to be very careful when doing so because stalemate can be just a move away if you’re not observant. I recommend that you practice this type of mate, placing your King and two Bishops on their starting ranks and the opposition King towards the middle of the board. In the above examples, the pieces were placed in positions that allowed for a quick demonstration of the checkmate. In over the board play (real life), you won’t be as fortunate. Play through them because next week, we’re studying the Knight, Bishop and King against lone King. That’s a tough one. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

The Importance Of The Endgame Two

Last week, we looked at how to promote a pawn in an endgame where King and pawn were up against a lone opposition King. With a little practice, the beginner will easily master this concept and win by carefully coordinating their King and pawn. However, in the real world, our opponent may also have a pawn on the board. They’re planning on promoting as well so things get a bit more complicated. Remember, there are always two plans involved in a game of chess, your plan and your opponent’s plan. Both plans will clash with one another which is what makes chess so fascinating. Only considering your plan will lead to disaster! Always consider your opponent’s plan when creating your own!

With an opposition pawn trying to reach its promotion square, you have to work twice as hard in the endgame. Why? Because you have to get your pawn to the other side of the board safely while preventing your opponent from promoting their own pawn. It’s a delicate balancing act that beginners have great trouble with. How do you protect your own pawn and stop the opposition pawn? King activity and King opposition are the watch words of the day! It’s the King that must do the crucial work!

To quickly review two key points from last week’s article, you must activate your King to protect your pawn and use King opposition to keep the enemy King away from key squares. Activating your King means getting him into the game. When you’re down to pawns and Kings, the King must become both defender and attacker or you lose the game! Too often, beginners leave their Kings on their starting rank during the endgame because they want a safe King. However, once there’s been a large reduction of material, the King can join the battle. As soon as the board is void of the majority of pawns and pieces, bring the King out! Of course, anytime you bring your King into the game, you have to be aware of the opposition’s nearby material. To win the endgame, your King must be an active participant.

King opposition means just that, having the King’s facing one another. Of course, they cannot be on immediately adjacent squares, but they can hold each other at bay as long as there’s a full square between them. The point to King opposition is simple: Since King’s cannot occupy squares immediately next to one another other, an invisible barrier is created that neither King cannot cross. This barrier can be used to stop the opposition King from controlling a square your pawn needs to occupy in order to promote. Set up a board and practice King opposition with just the two Kings. You’ll start to see how powerful a tool opposition can be in the endgame!

There are many positions that occur but one in particular tends to cause the beginner problems, pawns that are stuck facing one another (locked) with only their Kings to clear the way.

It goes without saying that this is an example of whoever has the first move has the advantage and the game! In endgame play, whose turn it is becomes a decisive factor. In the above example, it’s white to move. You’ll often see endgame positions in which the only two pawns in the game are locked up and it’s up to one of the Kings to free up the position. Unfortunately, beginners tend to move the two Kings in an endless circle around the locked pawns until one player blunders the position (as opposed to a carefully calculated move). King opposition is the key here! Both Kings are one square away from their own pawn and the opposition pawn they want to capture. Now you can see why whose move it is really matters. However, having it be your move can also work against you, as we’ll discuss shortly.

On move one, 1. Kd7, white moves right next to the pawn he’s got to eliminate. Of course, black isn’t going to sit back and let this happens and plays 1…Kf5. Both players have their target within their sights. This is where beginners start their endless King circling of the two pawns because they don’t fully understand basic endgame principles. However, white plays 2. Kd6, which still maintains an attack on the black e6 pawn while protecting his own pawn in e5. This is an example of the King as an attacker and a defender. Black will now lose his pawn no matter where he goes. Beginners must always consider the squares the pawn they’re trying to promote is attacking when determining where to move their King because that pawn can greatly aid its King.

A term you should become familiar with is Zugzwang. Zugzwang occurs when one player is forced to make a move when they’d rather pass on making that move. Because you have to move when it’s your turn, this concept can be extremely powerful, especially in the endgame. In our example, black is forced to move because it’s his turn. To make matters worse, black’s choices all force him to lose his pawn, allowing white to win the game. Black plays 2…Kg6 and white grabs the black pawn with 3. Kxe6. Had black been able to pass on his turn, leaving the King where it is, things would be different. However, rules are rules and the funeral bells are ringing for black! Note that white’s capture of the black pawn allows white to gain the opposition against the black King.

It should be duly noted that a beginner fortunate enough to be in this position as white can still throw the game away. Why? Because all they see is the promotion square and a new Queen! Tunnel vision sets in which always lead to positional misery! The person playing black in the position is going to try and get his King to the promotion square which is why black plays 3…Kg7, heading for e8. It’s at this point, that you must slow down and think very carefully about your response. Of course, the experienced player knows exactly what to do but the beginner sees only his pawn on the promotion square. The key here is to remember that invisible barrier that keeps the Kings from occupying immediately adjacent squares.

This is why white plays 4. Kd7. This allows white to control the e8 square and keep the King close enough to its pawn in case black makes a run at that pawn. Now, there is nothing black can do to stop the pawn promotion. Again, this last move by white is the key, controlling the promotion square with the King. Set up this position and play it through a few times.

Of course, it comes down to whose move it is in these types of positions so had it been black to move, things might have turned out differently (I say “might” because you never know with beginners). Keep the concept of Zugzwang in mind when considering a move. When playing an endgame position, having less material on the board might make you think it’s easier to win. However, less material makes losing what you do have that more devastating. This means you have to calculate carefully and take your time. Always look at the position from your opponent’s point of view. What would you do if you were on the other side of the board? Next week we’ll look at one last pawn and King example before moving on to the introduction of minor pieces to endgame play. Until then, here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

Kids and Chess, Part Six

This Was a Blunder-fully Short Chess Game!

This is my final win against Benson Walent, so this will be the last time that I pick on him. This seems to be my second shortest chess game against a beginner and my sloppiest one that I have examined so far! I blundered on move number five and Benson started to punish my error. Then, I continued to make more bad moves! However, Benson let me off the hook by making a few bad moves himself and a couple of outright blunders that were worse than mine! In a matter of just seven moves I went from losing to winning.

One thing that has plagued me, as well as inexperienced players, is failing to win a won game. In this chess game, it was my opponent who failed to win a won chess game.

Mike Serovey

Recognising the pattern # 27

In my last article we saw the demolition of the pawn structure in front of a castled king when the pawn is h6 (h3) with the help of sacrificing a piece on h6 (h3). Today we will see how to to break the king position open with a pawn lever of g4-g5.

Peter against Prasatzis in 2010

In this position Black was completely oblivious to White’s threat and played 14…c5?, losing on the spot. Instead Black should play Nd7 though White can keep pressing with Nf3 and Rg1 due to the characteristics of pawn structure in the center.

Q: How would you proceed with white pieces?
A: In the game, White played g5 which opens up some lines by force and wins material.

15. g5 hxg5??

Now, Black can’t avoid checkmate.

Other alternatives can prolong the fight but can’t change the outcome:

If 15…Nh7 then 16. Bxg7!! Wins material.

If 15…Ne4 then 16. Nxe4 dxe4, 17.Bxe4 f6 & 18 gxf6 is winning.

16. Bxf6

Removing the key defender after which Black can’t prevent checkmate on h7 or h8.

The chances of getting success with similar attacks are very high when the position in center is stable.

Ashvin Chauhan

The Importance of the Endgame One

Most novice games conclude well before the endgame. Teaching chess in the schools, I’m faced with the difficult task of teaching the rules of the game, basic tactics as well as simple opening, middle and endgame principles in an eight month period. Anyone who has studied this fantastic game knows all too well that it can take many years just to become proficient in only one of these areas. In a perfect chess teaching world, I’d start my students off with endgame instruction after they’ve learned the rules. However, both the parents and the schools I teach in want results and results means seeing the students I teach playing chess immediately. Because of this and the fact that many of my students are learning the game for the first time, endgame skills are not as large a part of the curriculum as I’d like. Because my beginning students don’t usually reach a proper endgame, they don’t realize just how important the endgame is, even with the limited training I give them. Thus the reason for this and upcoming articles.

The endgame is reached when most of the material has been exchanged off of the board and both players are left with a few pawns, a minor piece or two, sometimes a major piece, and their Kings. While it might seem that, with less material on the board, that this phase of the game is easier to deal with, the opposite is true. In the endgame, real positional calculation is required and the loss of the smallest amount of material can be the difference between winning and losing. Patience and deep thinking is required, something young minds often lack since both require a certain level of maturity that is garnered with time (growing up). Therefore, I’m presenting, in a series of articles, some endgame ideas that all beginners should learn, starting with pawn promotion.

In previous articles, I’ve mentioned that beginners tend to think of pawns as expendable. The novice player gives them away during the opening and middle-game because he or she has eight of them and they’re the least valued material in their army. However, pawns have two unique qualities that make them vital throughout the game (not to be given away so freely). First off, because they’re on the lowest end of the relative value scale, they can push back material of greater value. More importantly and critical to winning in the endgame, they can promote into a Queen, Rook, Bishop or Knight. That means that every pawn that reaches its promotion square can transform itself into a dangerous piece! All it takes is a single pawn reaching it’s promotion square and the game will be won, if you know how to do it!

To promote a pawn, you need to get that pawn safely across the board. This means that a white pawn starting on the second rank must reach the eighth rank to promote and a black pawn starting on the seventh rank must get to the first rank to promote. A pawn doesn’t even have to reach its promotion square to pose a threat to your opponent. If you’re playing white and manage to get a pawn to the seventh rank, keeping in mind that you must have a pawn or piece protecting that pawn on the seventh rank, your opponent will be forced to use a piece to stop that pawn from promoting. The piece stopping the promotion by blocking the promotion square, for example, is no longer able to participate in the game. That piece is stuck as a baby sitter for your pawn. In an endgame, since both players have less material on the board, this can be devastating. We’ll look at this later on in this series of articles because first, the beginner needs to learn the simplest of pawn promotions, pawn and King against lone King.

I show this example to my beginning students and ask one simple question: “It’s white to move. Who moves first, the pawn or the King?” Beginners are taught King safety from day one of their chess careers, so they tend to think that Kings must always be protected which leads them to believe that the King doesn’t participate in the game. They also know that the pawn is worth less than the King in terms of relative value. Therefore, they more often than not say, “move the pawn.” They recoil in horror, well not really, but I like the image of 25 students gasping and recoiling in horror when I sternly say “WRONG!” It’s the white King who must make the first move if white is to win. When you’ve reduced a position to pawns and Kings only, the King now has the opportunity to become a very powerful attacker and defender.

This is where the extremely powerful idea of King opposition comes into play. Simply put, King opposition is a position in which two Kings face one another with a square between them (remember my friends who are new to the game, King’s can never be on squares immediately next to one another). King opposition is crucial to white promoting its pawn. Why? Well, since King’s cannot be on adjacent squares, an imaginary line is created that cannot be crossed by either King when in opposition.

For white to win, in the above example, the King must get in front of the pawn. Therefore, the first move white makes is 1. Kd2, aiming for getting in front of the pawn and King opposition. Black makes a point of moving towards the white pawn with 1…Ke7. The experienced player manning the white pieces will easily win. However, the beginner, employing the idea that material of lesser value should go out on the board first and King’s should always stay out of danger, will move the pawn out first and end up with a draw rather than victory. In this type of endgame position, the King moves first.

Move two, 2. Ke3, puts our King in front of the pawn which is just where we want his majesty. The black King is going to do everything in his power to stop the pawn from promoting, so he tries to stand in it’s path with 2…Ke6. When do we move our pawn? Not yet because we need to have both Kings in opposition which white does with 3. Ke4. Now black stands at a crossroad. Since neither King can occupy an immediately adjacent square, black has to yield to the white King by 3…Kd6. This is the first of two important moves. Remember the key to this problem is keeping the black King off of the white pawn’s promotion square. Next, white plays 4. Kf5. Black plays 4…Kd5. Many beginners will think, “ah, Black is going after the white pawn.” However, since pawns can move one or two squares forward on their first move (and the e2 pawn hasn’t moved yet), white can now make the first pawn move, 5. e4+, driving the black King back. Black plays 5…Kd6 with the idea of trying to get to white’s promotion square first. Move six, 6. Kf6 sees the two Kings in opposition once again, a crucial concept in this type of position. Black plays 6…Kd7 and it looks as if black can occupy the promotion square, thwarting white’s plans.

With move seven 7. e5, white pushes the pawn up while still allowing room for his King to stand in front of that pawn. Black wins the race to white’s promotion square after 7…Ke8 but things are not always as they seem! Remember, white needs to have his King if front of the pawn which he does with 8. Ke6. This is the second crucial move because now, black’s King will have to yield to the white King. Black plays 8…Kf8 and white can use his King to control the promotion square with 9. Kd7 which shuts out the black King’s control over e8. Black plays 9…Kf7 and gets hit with 10. e6+ and no way to stop the pawn from promoting.

The key factors here are getting your King in front of the pawn and using King opposition to control your opponent’s King. The white King was able to force the black King away from squares the white pawn needed to occupy. The King is a valuable attacker in the endgame and should be used. A point well worth mentioning is patience. Beginners tend to think that they can simply steamroll their pawn up the board quickly and win the game with a fast promotion. However, if you don’t carefully and slowly consider your moves you might end up with a stalemate or worse yet, losing your only pawn. I’ve seen this countless times in the games of beginners. Take your time and think things through.

Lastly, things greatly change in endgame positions depending on whose move it is. Had it been black’s move at the start of this example, things would turn out differently. I’ll reflect on this later in this series of articles. Until next week’s second part of this series, here’s a game to enjoy by a couple of fellows who know a thing or two about endgame play!

Hugh Patterson

Kids and Chess, Part Five

For this week’s article I decided to pick on Benson Walent again. In this OTB chess game Benson played fairly well but he still lost in under 30 moves. The time control for this event was Game in 40 minutes with a 5 second delay. When Benson resigned he was down to about three and a half minutes while I still had 25 minutes. I moved too quickly at certain points in this chess game and thus I missed a couple of chances to win more quickly than I did. Benson took too long to move and ended up in time trouble.

When playing against beginners I can get overly confident and thus a little sloppy. My play was a little sloppy in this chess game because I was playing the Botvinnik system and did not check to see if I had better moves. Also, I will often trade down into an endgame and outplay my opponents there.

In recent events I discovered that I no longer have the endurance to grind out endgames and that strategy does not work well for me when I have no time to rest between rounds. In future rapid events, I will be slowing down in the openings and looking to crush my opponents there and try to win before we get to an endgame.

Mike Serovey

Calculation For Beginners

Calculation is one of the most difficult concepts the beginner must learn in order to play winning chess. Calculation in chess means thinking ahead in terms of moves, not just yours but those of your opponent. I’ve had a student say, after studying with me for only a few months, that he can calculate three or four moves in advance in any given position. While you might say “hey, this Patterson fellow must be a great chess teacher if his students can do that in such a short period of time,” but sadly you’d be wrong. What the student was actually saying is that they are calculating their three or four next moves but not those of their opponent! That’s a big problem since their opponent will most likely make a single move that derails the student’s plans. Real chess calculation requires anticipating the best possible move your opponent can make and going forward from there. Calculation only works if you think about both sides of the board.

Beginners don’t think about their opponent’s potential moves when calculating their own. They look at the position and see a possible attack that garners them material or checkmate. They think “all I have to do is move this piece here, that piece there, followed by another piece to another square” and they win material or the game. They become blind to their opponent’s position, only seeing their own pawns and pieces. While experienced players consider this absurd, we have to keep in mind that you make a lot of mistakes when you first start out (I certainly have done this). The more experienced player calculates by considering the opposition’s placement of pawns and pieces and the best response their opponent can make in response to the experienced players move.

So the beginner should start their journey towards making sound calculations by looking at their opponent’s position. I have my students look at every opposition pawn and piece before considering any move. The question they must ask themselves is what is the best move each opposition pawn and piece can make? While this takes time, it serves to force the beginner to look at their opponent’s material and not just their own. This is when the beginner will suddenly notice that, for example, one of their pieces could be captured because it is unguarded. They’ll also might discover that the square they’re planning on attacking as part of their plan, has more defenders than the beginner has attackers. Just looking at a position in this manner can soundly point out any flaw in our beginner’s plan or prevent the loss of hanging pieces.

I have an exercise in which, after each student makes their move, they switch sides, make their moves and switch sides again. So the student playing the white pieces makes a move, as does the student playing black, and then they switch sides with the person previously playing white, now playing the black pieces for a single move. They students go back and forth, switching sides with each move. This really forces students to see both sides of the board and helps develop the idea of finding their opponent’s best move.

Finding your opponent’s best move before making a move of your own goes a long way towards developing good calculation techniques. After all, your move is only good if it factors in your opponent’s best repsonse. In fact, you shouldn’t consider any move until you consider what you would do, your opponent’s best move, if you were on the other side of the board.

So what should you consider as a good or great opposition move? First off, it goes without saying that any move that derails your immediate plans counts! However, as I pointed out in my last article, great moves are those that simply do their job, so there are many choices. For now we’ll concentrate on two types of opposition moves the beginner should look for, the move that derails their immediate plan and the move that leaves the attacker suddenly as the defender. Let’s start with the derailing move.

Beginners tend to think that their opponent doesn’t see their great attack, leading them to think that their plan will go unchallenged. When you have two beginners with the same skill set playing one another, you’ll actually have a case in which the player being attacked often doesn’t see it coming. However, if the beginner is playing a stronger opponent, the attack is seen and the great winning plan falls apart quickly. Many great attacks can be derailed with the simplest of moves which is why you have to consider each and every pawn and piece belonging to the opposition. This is the basis of sound chess calculations. Obviously, if you’re planning an attack on a specific square, you count attacker versus defenders. Let’s say you have three attackers to the opposition’s two defenders. Since you always want to have more attackers than defenders, or the reverse if you’re the defender, you then want to play through the exchange in your head. After the exchange, have you gained more material or lost more material? Just doing this simple calculation has forced you to think ahead, another basis for sound chess calculations. If you come out down the exchange (losing material), you’re attack should be reconsidered unless it delivers checkmate.

Let’s say you do the calculation and you’ll come out ahead. Before starting your attack, and this is really important and goes back to the idea of examining you opponent’s position, look for that one move that derailed your plans. You might have created a plan to win your opponent’s Queen and you start the attack. All goes well and then your opponent makes a move that skewers one of your major attacking pieces to your King and guess what? You lose that piece and your attack falls apart. Why did this happen? It happened because you didn’t look closely enough at your opponent’s pawns and pieces. Your opponent, on the other hand, looked closely at your position and found a way out, a weakness. You cannot create sound calculations unless you factor in the opposition’s possible responses.

My next example happens all the time, especially in the case of back rank mates. With a back rank mate, a King is typically castled on the King-side with three pawns on front of it on either the second rank for white or the seventh rank for black. There may be one Rook left to guard the King’s rank. An opposition Rook or Queen will be looming on an open file. Our beginner will see what they think is an opportunity for a big attack and move their defending Rook off of the King’s rank. Our intrepid beginner launches his or her attack and thinks that things are going smoothly until that looming opposition Rook or Queen swoops down to the King’s rank and checkmates our beginner. Many great beginner’s attacks are also snuffed out with a well timed delivery of a check to the attacker’s King that seemed to come out of nowhere. In reality, the check or back rank mate was always there. Unfortunately, the beginner missed it because they were suffering from tunnel vision, seeing only their pawns and pieces, not those of their opponent.

The foundation of successful calculations always starts with taking the time to determine what you would do if you were playing the other side of the board.

You won’t be able to calculate a large number of moves into the future when your first start playing, so you should start off by trying to calculate two moves at a time, your move and your opponent’s best response. Don’t try to calculate any further until you’ve learned to determine your opponent’s best response to your single move. You won’t always get it right but this will improve with time. Doing just this will teach you how to see the entire board and create a foundation for the next step in your journey towards good calculations, thinking one and a half moves ahead.

Thinking one and a half moves ahead means considering your next move, your opponent’s best response to that move and finally, your response to the initial opposition’s response. Here, we again follow the guidelines of looking at the opposition pawns and pieces, assessing any potential threats and, if the position warrants it, making that move. However, once you’ve determined your opponent’s best response you have to have a follow up move. If you don’t, the move you’ve carefully considered won’t have the desired effect. If you make move “a” and your opponent makes move “b” then you should have a move “c” that deals with move “b.” With my students, I spend a great deal of time working on our one and a half move technique. Once this is somewhat mastered, remember we’re talking about beginners here so complete mastery comes much later in their chess careers, we move onto four move calculations and so forth.

The idea here is to build up your calculation techniques one move at a time. If you carefully examine your opponent’s position and try to determine their best response, you’ll be well on your way towards developing real calculation skills. If you have trouble at first, don’t become stressed because, like all skills in chess (and in life), it takes time and practice. Take your time! Here’s a game by a couple of gentlemen who know quite a bit about calculation. Enjoy!

Hugh Patterson

Kids and Chess, Part Four

In my previous articles about kids and chess I posted my losses to kids that were pretty strong. In this article I have posted one of my three wins against a little boy who was a beginner at the time that I played him. Benson Walent was a student of “Coach Mike” at the time that I played him. “Coach Mike” taught his students to play the Kings Indian Defense against anything other than 1.e4 by White. I played the English Opening and Benson went into the Kings Indian Defense as he was taught to.

One advantage of playing system openings is that you do not have to memorize as much. The drawback is that you become predictable. The Kings Indian Defense against the English Opening has never given me any real problems and in this chess game Black started having problems on move number 10. By move number 12 Black was losing.
Benson Walent between adults playing chess

In the photograph above, Benson Walent is the little boy who is between the adults on the right. At the time that this chess game was played, my rating was twice his, I was about three times his physical size and four times his age. I also had White. This gave me a huge psychological advantage! Behind Benson are two masters who are playing against each other on Board One.

The Tampa Bay area has many traditions that I never really understood. One of them is Guavaween. This chess tournament was played on or around the day of Guavaween and thus it was named after that event. You can find some information on the supposed origins of Guavaween at

Mike Serovey

Recognising the Pattern # 25

Today we are going to see another common attacking formation with your knight on e5 (or e4 as Black) and bishop on b5 (b4 as Black). It is usually more effective when the bishop’s counterpart is not able to defend the d7 (d2) or c6 (c3) square. Again you must consider surrounding pawn structure before launching the attack as pawns are the natural blockader of lines. Here is the trap in the Chigorin defence that involves this attacking formation:

Martial Larochelle (2230) against Olivier Tessier (2215) in 2007

1. Nf3 Nc6
2. d4 d5
3. c4 Bg4
4. Nc3 Nf6
5. cxd5 Nxd5
6. e4 Nb6
7. d5 Ne5

Black thought that the knight on e5 can’t be touched because of pin on f3. In fact this is blunder that loses at least a piece.

8. Nxe5!!

With the idea of exploiting the weakness on d7/c6 with the coordination of the bishop on b5, knight on e5 and pawn on d5.

8… Bxd1

9. Bb5+ c6

If 9…Nd7 then Bxd7 wins material and 9… Qd7 loses the queen.

10. dxc6

Threatening to win queen with c6-c7 discovered check.


Hoping for 11. c7 Qd7 12.Bxd7?

Other options are also not viable, for example:

A) 10…Qc7 11. cxb7 Kd8 (if 11…Nd7 then bxa8=Q wins) 12. Nxf7#

B) 10…Qb8 11. c7+ Nd7 12 Bxd7#

c) 10…bxc6 11. Bxc6 Nd7 12. Bxd7 Qxd7 13. Nxd7 wins the material (Berliner against Rott in 1956)

11. c7+ Qd7

12. Nxg4!

White is not in a hurry to recapture the queen. Black resigned here.

Ashvin Chauhan