Category Archives: Endgames

Blind In One Eye And Can’t See Out The Other One

The game below is from the second round of my most recent event that I played in Colorado Springs. This game was a comedy of errors. I lost the first round and I think that my opponent did too, but I am not sure of that. Roger appears to be about ten years older than I am and I think that fatigue may have played a part in the way that he played this game. I took a lunch break between the first round and the second round and thus I arrived about five minutes late for the start of this game. That lost time may have hurt me in the endgame when we had a time scramble.

I was disappointed with a draw in this game because I thought that I was winning the endgame. We were the last game to finish that round and we got only 15 minutes to recover before the start of the third and final round. I ended up drawing my third round as well due to fatigue from this round. However, when I played over this game with a chess engine I became grateful for the draw because it was then that I realized that Roger let me get away with some horrendous blunders!

The first eight moves was pretty much what I wanted to play as White. Black’s ninth move pretty much started to mess up my plans because I had never seen that kind of setup against the Botvinnik System before. I misplayed the next ten moves or so and I ended up in an inferior position that Roger eventually let me out of.

On move number 16 I had achieved equality only to give Black a slight edge on move number 17. I outright blundered on move number 19, but Roger failed to take advantage of that. Judging by his facial expressions at a couple of points in this game Roger was actually impressed by some of my blunders!

I blundered again on move number 21. At move number 23 Black was clearly winning. Black missed a winning move on move number 24. I blundered again on move number 26 and Black let me get away with it. My moves number 27 and 28 were again blunders. Black finally finds a winning idea on move number 28. Black gives back part of his advantage on move number 31. Once again, I blundered on move number 35. Black blunders on move number 36 and allows me to regain equality. Black plays some inferior moves on numbers 44, 45, and 46 inclusive that allow me the opportunity to win, but I failed to take advantage of that. It seems that from this point on, every time that one of us made a weak move the other one matched it. I gave away my passed d pawn in the time scramble and then agreed to a draw.

Mike Serovey

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Completing My First Tournament: 7th Round And Summary Of What I Learned

Here I conclude my coverage of my first chess tournament, the 1980 Michigan Open (Reserve Section), achieving my first provisional USCF rating of 1546 after scoring 3.5/7.0 points. I also won a trophy for 2nd place Unrated in the Reserve Section (my father, also playing in his first tournament, won the trophy for 1st place Unrated in the Reserve Section). It was a great way to start my chess tournament life!

My goal in analyzing the games of my first tournament has been to begin exploring the development of a new chess tournament competitor (my young self of 1980) and examine common patterns of thoughts and behavior. I will continue further to track the evolution of my skill and style through analysis of further tournaments from 1980 and 1981.

Round 7

In my round 7 game, as Black I faced the Ruy Lopez (against White rated around USCF 1600), and as in round 3, did not know what I was doing and quickly gave up the center. My opponent did not know what he was doing either and we traded quickly into an endgame. As with many other endgames I played in this tournament, positions that are clearly draws at a higher level of play nevertheless contained imbalances and opportunities for going astray, and I played poorly, deliberately trading into what I should have known was a lost King and Pawn ending.

Summary of tournament

Openings

Move numbers after I was out of any theoretical knowledge:

  1. 1 (Bird’s Opening as Black)
  2. 5 (Petroff Defense as White)
  3. 9 (Closed Ruy Lopez as Black)
  4. 5 (Exchange Ruy Lopez as Black)
  5. 4 (Open Sicilian as White)
  6. 6 (Philidor’s Defense as White)
  7. 9 (Closed Ruy Lopez as Black)

Nobody lost a game straight out of the opening (except for the Open Sicilian where I won quickly as White), although poor positions of course arose. We could have used a better understanding and use of principles (such as development and central control) to improve beyond this 1500 level of play.

Middlegames

  1. I did not understand the value of the Bishop pair, or that Knight on the rim is dim, and got destroyed on the King side.
  2. A lot of piece trades. My opponent did not understand the value of the Bishop pair.
  3. Highlighted the importance of using Pawn breaks.
  4. My opponent should have opened the position because of my poor opening development, but instead closed it, allowing me to consolidate and in return attack his King with a Pawn storm.
  5. (I won the game out of the opening because my opponent ignored development and created holes.)
  6. A lot of piece trades. I did not understand the weakness of my isolated Pawn and lost it.
  7. A lot of piece trades. I did not understand the weakness of my opponent’s isolated Pawn and dissolved it instead of attacking it.

Endgames

5 of 7 games went all the way to an endgame. Many errors occurred, so the lesson is that there is much to be gained from studying the endgame. In addition, knowing what endgames are advantageous would have allowed me to make better decisions in the middlegame (regarding Pawn structures and Bishop vs. Knight). I feel that in the absence of clear attacks against the King, middlegame play often tend to be aimless simplification at the 1500 level. At top levels of chess, one plays openings with a goal toward certain kinds of endgames. Club level players who are no longer hanging material all the time and want to improve should also start to think this way.

  1. (I lost in the middlegame.)
  2. I had the Bishop pair advantage but squandered it. Comedy of errors resulted in my winning because my opponent did not realize the King and Pawn ending was lost for him.
  3. Draw: I dawdled and simplified in an endgame I could have won.
  4. Draw: I simplified too much, then my opponent allowed a won King and Pawn ending but I did not know it was won for me.
  5. (I won in the opening.)
  6. Draw: one Pawn down, but Bishop vs. Knight; comedy of errors, but eventually I won a Pawn back and simplified to a draw.
  7. I mistakenly simplified repeatedly, resulting in a lost and King and Pawn ending.

The complete annotated game

Franklin Chen

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World Rapid Chess Championship

The FIDE World Rapid Chess Championship 2014 recently concluded with Magnus Carlsen winning, followed by Fabiano Caruana in 2nd place and Viswanathan Anand in 3rd.

There was an interesting endgame between the FIDE World Champion, Carlsen, and former World Champion, Anand. Carlsen uncharacteristically went wrong in an ending. In taking a pawn with his knight he missed a simple rook move that skewered his bishop and knight. Anyone can make such mistakes, especially in rapid chess, but when the World Champion does it, it’s called a blunder! Despite this loss, it wasn’t enough to stop Carlsen becoming the 2014 World Rapid Champion. You can view the ending play with commentary on the clip below.

Angus James

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My 4th Tournament Game: First Time I Attacked in the Middlegame

In my last three posts here, I analyzed the first three tournament games of my life, as a new unrated player in 1980:

  • I lost the first upon being attacked effectively in the middlegame.
  • I won the second in a very uneven game in which both players simplified quickly and reaching an endgame which I won only because my opponent blundered into an obviously lost King and Pawn endgame.
  • I drew the third after bumbling into an advantageous endgame but not knowing how to win, and allowing simplification to a draw.

Fourth game

My fourth game (my opponent was rated around USCF 1550) is interesting because for the first time in the tournament, I actually had a clear middlegame attacking plan in a blocked position, and correctly followed through on it, castling Queen side and attacking on my opponent’s vulnerable King side with an obvious Pawn break as well as activating my pieces toward that side of the board. For the first time in the tournament, really, I displayed an active search for an initiative in the middlegame.

Unfortunately, a few moves before forced mate, I apparently did not realize the strength of my position and mysteriously simplified repeatedly, into an endgame with a useless Pawn up, and a draw resulted. The irony is that my opponent allowed me at two points the opportunity to trade my Bishop for his Knight, in which case the Pawn-up King and Pawn endgame would have been an easy win for me. Apparently my knowledge of King and Pawn endgames was still very limited, illustrating yet again how important it is to master these basic endgames.

The classic pattern I see in these early games is that of unwarranted simplification in advantageous middlegames and endgames, probably a result of the early emphasis on “counting points” of material, and not realizing that an active piece is worth more than a passive piece.

The complete annotated game

Franklin Chen

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Lessons From My 3rd Tournament Game: The Nature Of Endgames

I have now shown the first two tournament games of my life, from 1980: I lost the first game and won the second game. My third game, discussed here was a draw.

It was an instructive experience for me in my first tournament to experience all three possible results in the first three rounds! I believe it might have been devastating if, for example, I had lost too many games in my very first tournament. Instead, I was involved in some very long and interesting games from the start.

My opponent was rated around USCF 1500, and this shows in his play.

Common errors in 1500-level chess

Opening

In the opening, I had no idea how to play the Black side of a Ruy Lopez. Nobody had taught me the plans for White or Black. I was just winging it. I gave up the center at move 10; my opponent returned the favor by playing apparently mechanical moves that would have applied in a “standard” line, instead of more principled developing moves fitting the situation.

The first thing someone at a 1500 level can do, after mastering basic tactics, is to understand the basic principles of what to try to achieve in the middlegame after the first several opening moves. Many games at this level are decided, unfortunately, by “unorthodox” opening continuations that lead immediately to not knowing how to cope, being outside of one’s memorization. Pointlessly giving up the center for Black should have led to trouble for me, but by accident, actually kept working well for me, against 1500-level opponents, even after this game, because they did not understand what to do any more than I did, and it became almost random who would enter the middlegame with an advantage.

Middlegame

One thing I noticed while looking at my first tournament games, including this third one, was that at the level of play of myself and my opponent, we shuffled a lot of pieces around, either

  • “attacking” without enough backup, or
  • playing passive-looking retreating moves without a clear plan of reactivation.

In particular, I did not understand the importance of looking for Pawn breaks. Here, for example, c5 was crying out to be played, repeatedly. However, I did use a g4 Pawn break to achieve a lasting advantage, so I get some credit for that.

Also, I got into tactical trouble, hanging a piece in an elementary way. Luckily, my opponent got bamboozled and missed an elementary “capture Pawn with check and double attack” that would have left me completely lost, and instead allowed me a recapture with check that led to a Queen trade into an endgame favorable to me!

1500-level chess is still largely decided by big swings in evaluation resulting from missed tactics.

Endgame

The endgame was an unbalanced one, with Black having a Rook and two Pawns for two minor pieces. It favored Black because of the noticeable lead in development. My opponent as White made the elementary mistake of trading pieces in a bad endgame, rather than keeping them to maximize defensive possibilities. Trading the single remaining Rook led to a terrible Rook and two Pawns versus two Knights endgame.

However, again I did not know yet to aggressively use my Pawns, especially here the Queen side Pawn majority. There was a lot of random shuffling around of pieces, then an insidious swindle by my part when I finally realized I should attack on the Queen side. I succeeded in achieving a tactically won position against the pair of Knights, but never saw the win. After too much simplification, the result was a dead draw.

My observation about 1500-level endgame play is that players trade pieces and Pawns too readily, not realizing that there are times when a trade helps and there are times when a trade harms. As a result, many quick draws happen in actually interesting and unbalanced endgames. The 1500-level player who understands endgames can often survive terrible openings and middlegames and win in the endgame. I wish I had learned this lesson earlier in life. I now think that “working backwards”, by knowing what to aim for in the endgame, and then approaching the middlegame with a goal of reaching a good endgame, and approaching the opening with a goal of reaching a good middlegame, should be addressed by students of chess who have reached a 1500-level and are no longer just making extreme tactical blunders constantly.

The complete annotated game

Franklin Chen

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Failing to Win a Won Game, Part 2

This is a game that I played back in 2005. In this case my opponent was the one who failed to win a won game. I had White against a higher rated player and I got surprised by a kingside sacrifice. Then, Nolan got greedy and grabbed the pawn on h4. That gave me time to bring my Rook back to the h file and defend my King. If he had ignored that pawn and continued to check my King he would have checkmated it in the center of the chess board. Because of the pawn grab I was able to trade down into an endgame in which I was up material. After that I simply ran Nolan out of time.

More analysis of this game can be found at http://mikeseroveyonchess.com/chess-games/english-opening-page/english-opening-with-nolan-j-denson-page/

Mike Serovey

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Lessons From My 2nd Tournament Game

Last week, I wrote about deciding to analyze my tournament games from over thirty years ago for my own benefit as well as for valuable teaching material. I started off with my first tournament game, from 1980, as an unrated 10-year-old boy, which I lost without much of a fight.

This week, I bring a much more interesting game, my second tournament game that took place probably an hour or two after my first one. This game, played against someone rated around USCF 1400, I ended up winning, but as is typical in games of this level, both sides made serious errors. The nature of these errors is instructive.

Themes to pay attention to

As is typical in weaker amateurs’ games, we were out of opening “book” theory at move 5 in a Petroff Defense, when my opponent played a poor and strange Queen move. I reacted not terribly, but not best either. If I were coaching my younger self now, I would emphasize that general principles apply when facing strange moves in the opening. Here, just because my opponent moved his Queen doesn’t mean that I should also move my Queen!

Quick piece trades into an ending; interesting imbalance of my having the Bishop pair

Typical of games at this level, a lot of piece trades happened, just because they could. Stronger players would evaluate whether it is advantageous to offer a particular trade or to accept one. The trade in this game at move 16 determined the course of the rest of the game: my opponent gave up a Bishop for my Knight, resulting in a permanent imbalance whose significance was not appreciated by either of us, as our endgame shows.

All the trades resulted in an endgame with two Bishops vs. Bishop and Knight, and symmetrical Petroff Pawn structures. I missed the win of a light-squared Pawn on the Queen side: a stronger player would have immediately spotted the possibility, because of Black missing a light-squared Bishop while the Knight was out of play on the other side of the board. When I finally did see the win, I inexplicably did not take the free Pawn. I don’t remember what I was thinking 34 years ago, but perhaps I missed an elementary recapture with check?

Bishop versus Knight, symmetrical Pawns

At move 30, my opponent forced the trade of his remaining Bishop, leaving us with a Bishop versus Knight endgame. This is when things got strange. Neither of us knew what we were doing. We didn’t have clear plans, clear points of attack or defense. We played somewhat randomly. I made the first terrible moves, pushing a Pawn so far, without any support of my King, that it was doomed. Miraculously, my opponent never figured out how to win that Pawn. Apparently, neither of us had been taught that an active King is the most important piece in a minor piece and Pawn ending.

At move 35, an interesting thing happened: my opponent tried to trick me into trading my Bishop for his Knight, which, because of his more active King and position, would have led to a won King and Pawn ending. Critically, in my chess education I had learned the basics of standard King and Pawn endings, so I did not fall into the trap.

At move 44, I made a horrific “active” Pawn push to attack Black’s Knight, but this should have led easily to losing a Pawn by force, if the Knight simply danced around attacking all the Pawns in sight until one fell. Everyone should know basic examples of the special power of the Knight in an ending, especially against a Bishop that can only protect Pawns of one square color!

It turns out that at move 46, I horrifically gave up a Pawn voluntarily anyway. I can deduce what must have happened. There was a Knight check fork after which I could have taken the Knight with my Bishop, leading to a drawn King and Pawn ending, but I must have still felt (from the earlier trick attempt) that any King and Pawn ending was still lost for me. I didn’t evaluate the position as it was, but only thought about a past “similar” position that was in fact critically different. I will confess that even at my much higher level of chess today, I still sometimes fall into the trap of making assumptions based on past positions.

After winning the Pawn, the ending should have been an easy win for Black, but he did not know what to do with his King and Knight, and actually ended up putting his Knight on the rim where it is dim! This enabled me to regain the lost Pawn.

At move 60, my opponent made a random Knight move that I could have punished by invading the King side with my King and mopping up Pawns and Queening. But I did not realize that the situation had changed and I was winning; I did not use my King. I had been defending for 25 moves, basically, since mistakenly advancing my b-Pawn and making it a target. I started retreating again to “defend” my Queen side, rather than win on the King side.

Winning King and Pawn ending

Just as I started retreating, my opponent made a horrific blunder at move 62, moving his Knight such that I could skewer it with a check and trade into an obviously won King and Pawn ending. Apparently, he fell into the mental trap just mentioned earlier of thinking that because at one point, King and Pawn endings were winning for him, they must always be winning for him.

The rest of the game was easy, but I am proud that I cleaned up efficiently. One important part of it was knowing how to win a Queen versus Pawn ending by forcing the defending King to block the Pawn’s Queening square, gaining time. Finally I activated my King in the game! And I won without resorting to my other passed Pawn, just using my Queen and King.

The complete annotated game

Franklin Chen

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Failing to Win a Won Game, Part 1

This game is from Round 1 of my most recent Over the Board (OTB) chess tournament played in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This game illustrates a number of points that I want to make. First, I am not ready to play chess before noon! Second, this is one of too many games in which I outplayed my opponent in the opening and still lost the endgame! This clearly illustrates that no game is over until it is really over. Third, I don’t play well when I am not properly rested or ill. Fourth, sometimes kids will beat experienced players because the kids are healthy while we older adults often have chronic health problems. And fifth, I really do need to slow down when I am winning so that I don’t blow the win again!

I learned this opening back in 1975 from my younger brother, Steve. He got it from his only chess book, MCO 10. What we both liked about this variation was all of the traps that our young opponents often fell into. Back then it was called the Four Knights variation of the Sicilian Defense. Now, it is called some kind of Taimanov Variation of the Sicilian Defense. I will always call it the Four Knights Variation. Another thing that I like is that most of my OTB opponents do not know the main lines so I usually get an opening advantage.

After falling into an opening trap, I failed to find the best move to play on my tenth turn. Even so, I was still winning. My opponent gave me plenty of chances to either win or draw this game and I missed about half of them. Throughout most of this game I was feeling dizzy and light-headed. This could have been caused by not eating enough breakfast or from my sensitivity to rainy weather. Either way, my USCF standard rating has been at or near its floor of 1500 for about ten years now! These one-day tornados have killed my rating!

When I first started playing rated chess back in November of 1974 the typical first time control was 40 moves in 60 minutes. The second time control was sudden death in 30 minutes with any time that was left over from the first time control being carried over to the second one. That gave me an average of a minute and a half per move and I could pace myself accordingly. Now, I tend to rush my moves if I get more than 10 minutes behind my opponent.

Back around 1976 an expert in Texas named David Wheeler asked for some games in which the Four Knights was played. I sent him some that Steve and I played and he used two of them in his booklet. As a result of using our games David sent me a free copy of his booklet. I am planning to do something similar with my games. Any book on the Taimanov Sicilian or good database will cover the main lines of this opening. My intent is to write a book for the club player and feature lines that will be more likely seen in OTB games against non masters.

All of my notes are included in the game below.

Mike Serovey

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Amateur Versus Master: Game Seven

Ricardo Rain is a Senior International Master (SIM) from Brazil and is the only “titled” player in this section. The loss in this game took me out of temporary first place in this section and gave it to Rain. At the time that I am writing this, Rain is in first place with 3 wins and 2 draws while I have dropped to seventh place with 1 loss and 5 draws. I may end up with 1 more loss and 3 wins before this is over. This is my only loss in this section so far and my second loss overall to a master from Brazil.

This game is another one of my losses with the Benko Gambit that convinced my to stop playing this opening in correspondence chess. White allowed me to capture his Bishop on f1, which forfeits the right to castle his King. White has to “castle by hand” as a result of this and that costs him time. Until recently, I won almost every time that this happened! Lately, this has not been giving me enough of an advantage.

On move number 12 Black started a Knight maneuver that was quite common when I learned this opening back in the 1970′s. Now, I would most likely forgo that maneuver and play 12… Qb6.

On move number 16 White starts to cram that a pawn down my throat. Until I can find a better way to handle this I am not likely to play the Benko Gambit again.

On move number 17 all of the chess engines were telling me to play h4 giving away another pawn. That idea never made any sense to me, so I rejected it and played Nd3 because it made more sense to me.

From move number 18 on White had an advantage that I was unable to dissipate or overcome. On moves number 19 and 20 an exchange of pawns moved White’s passed pawn from the a file to the b file giving Black the same kind of problem all over again.

Through a series of Knight and Rook moves Black was able to temporarily block the passed pawn on the b file, but this blockade could not last forever.

With no play left for Black on the Queenside, Black opened up the Kingside on move number 26. This may have been an error. On moves 29 and 30 more pawns are exchanged. Generally speaking, when one is down material one wants to get as many pawns off the board as is possible. So, trading pawns here helps Black some, but not enough.

I spent quite a bit of time analyzing move number 32 and I did not come up with anything better than 32… Nc3 with the idea of putting that Knight back in front of White’s passed pawn.

Move number 33 started a series of exchanges that did not really favor Black but seemed to be the best that I could find in this position. At move number 36 Black has a Rook for a Bishop and a  Knight and is also still down the gambit pawn. With the queens and all of the pawns off the board Black could have held this endgame to a draw. However, this was not the case here.

From move number 37 on White was clearly winning, but I wanted to play this out anyway. It was about this point in the game that I realized that my opponent and I were both analyzing this game on Playchess.com and that we were both seeing the other person’s analysis. I knew what moves he was expecting me to play and he saw my analysis. Part of the reason that I played this endgame out as long as I did was to get as much analysis into both my personal database and also into  Playchess.com as I could.

Black could have played this out to move number 69 but instead resigned at move number 46 in order to free up his time and energy for other games that he had a more realistic chance of drawing or winning.

Mike Serovey

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Queen Against Pawn

Last time we looked at a pawn ending played between two young players (about 1500-1600 strength) at Richmond Junior Chess Club. After various misadventures, during which Black miscalculated badly in a position where he had a simple win, this position was reached, with White to play.

Before we continue looking at the game, some basic endgame knowledge. Everyone needs to know the ending with queen against pawn on the 7th rank supported by the king. If the pawn’s on a centre file or knight’s file the queen wins. You force the king onto the queening square and advance your king. Against a bishop’s pawn or a rook’s pawn, though, it’s a draw unless your king’s close enough to take a hand in a checkmate. With a bishop’s pawn, the defender can move his king into the corner so that taking the pawn will result in a stalemate. Likewise, with a rook’s pawn, the king in the corner will be stalemated.

Another piece of basic knowledge is that you can stop a pawn on the 7th rank easily if you can put your queen on the promotion square. All you have to do then is approach the pawn with your king.

Bearing that in mind, let’s see what happened in the game, with White to play his 60th move.

Black has the potentially drawing c-pawn, and two others as well, but his king is on d3 rather than d2. White has several ways to bring home the full point. A nice winning move is 60. Qh3+, when Kd2 walks into 61. Qe3+ Kd1 62. Qe1#, while moving back to, say, c4 allows Qe3, controlling the queening square. White can then follow up with Qc1 and just take all the black pawns. A similar idea is 60. Qh6, again followed by Qc1. But instead the game continued:

60. Qd8+ Kc3 61. Qxf6+

In some lines White might want to keep the f-pawn on the board to prevent the stalemate defence, but after this White’s still winning.

61… Kd3 62. Qf3+ Kd2

Allowing an immediate mate, but otherwise the king will be cut off on the fourth rank.

63. Qe2+(?)

Missing the mate in 2: 63. Qe3+ Kd1 64. Qe1#. White’s still winning at the moment, though.

63…Kc1 64. Kxg2?

This is the move that throws away the win. It’s not so easy at this level, but the winning idea was 64. Qb5 (avoiding the stalemate defence) Kd1 65. Qb3 Kc1 66. Kxg2 Kd2 67. Qb2 Kd1 68. Kf2 c1Q 69. Qe2#.

64… Kb1 65. Qd3 Kc1?

Now White’s winning again. Instead, Ka1 was drawing.

66. Kf2?

It looks natural to move the king in but now Black has the chance to revert to the stalemate defence. Again, the win was to be achieved by occupying the b-file. For example: 66. Qb3 Kd2 67. Qb2 Kd1 68. Kf2 Kd2 69. Qd4+ Kc1 70. Qb4 Kd1 71. Qe1#.

66…Kb2 67. Qd2 Kb1 68. Qb4+ Kc1?

The final mistake. Black still had a draw by moving to the a-file.

69. Ke3

White had to be careful: Ke2 and Ke1 were both stalemate. There was another mate in two, though: 69. Kf1 Kd1 70. Qe1#.

69…Kd1 70. Qd2#

Once more, then, a lot to learn from this game. These endings with pawn on the 7th rank against queen are so important and essential for understanding many pawn endings. As I tell all my students, you can’t understand other endings until you understand pawn endings, you can’t understand middle games until you understand endings, and you can’t understand openings until you understand middle games.

For the record, here’s the complete game.

Richard James

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