Category Archives: Endgames

The Milner-Barry Gambit Versus Killer Dan Smith

This is another correspondence chess game from the 1978 Golden Knights Postal Championship and another “What was I thinking?” game. Back then I did not own a computer and I did not have access to chess databases or chess engines. I did not even have a book on the French Defense! I was playing from memories of what stronger players had shown to me and I was winging it.

Prior to this correspondence chess game I played another Dan Smith in an Over the Board (OTB) chess game in Tampa, Florida and lost. My friends called my opponent in that OTB chess game “Killer” Dan Smith so I transferred the nickname over to this new Dan Smith.

One of the drawbacks to playing gambits is that if my attack fails I can end up going into an endgame down material. That is what happened in this correspondence chess game. Because I made a couple of missteps, my attack fizzled out and I went in to the endgame down a pawn. Another miscalculation cost me a second pawn and I resigned.

Mike Serovey

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Another Comedy of Errors from 1978

This is another correspondence chess game from the 1978 Golden Knights Postal Championship, Round 1. It seems that I had three periods in my chess career in which I was experimenting with irregular openings. My first one was in 1978. My second one was during the 1980’s while I was stationed in Germany and the third one was after my discharge from the US Army.

Both side made errors in this correspondence chess game, but mine were more often and more serious. Looking at this correspondence chess game causes me to ask, “What was I thinking back then?”.

This correspondence chess game was played long before I had access to chess databases or engines to help me to play better. I was a private in the US Army and I had no real chess books or equipment at the time that I started this correspondence chess game. Now, I would not be so on my own and I would not misplay a King and pawn endgame the way that I did in this correspondence chess game.

Although I have an ECO code for this chess opening, I have been unable to find a name for it. My notes below explain this disaster well enough.

Mike Serovey

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Sacrifices in The Endgame

When we talk about sacrificing some material the first thought that comes to mind is that it is for a mating or crushing attack (sac sac and mate – Fischer). However sacrifices are also possible in the endgame, but what is the fundamental basis for that? I started studying the endgame seriously when I manage to draw a Rook endgame with three pawns more in 2010. So here I am sharing few fine practical points that I have derived from my own experience, reading & guidance from Nigel.

Whenever I see any endgame the first thing I check for is the availability of a passed pawn or the possibility to create a passed pawn. You can consider sacrificing some material in order to gain a dangerous passed pawn. It has a huge impact in deciding the activity of other material on the board.

Activity could be piece activity, but in order to play the endgame better one should focus more on activity of the king. A recent example of this could be Aronian’s game against Caruana in Norway chess 2015. I have already discussed this game here so I am not going to repeat it. Similarly you can think about giving up some material if it forces your opponent to take a very passive positions. Here are some examples that illustrate my thoughts

Gelfand Boris against Bareev in 1992 at Linares

At first glance it is hard to draw up a plan but the availability of the passed pawn on c4 makes it very simple. Gelfand choose Rxe6. Why? Because the pawn on c4 forces Black’s rook to take very passive position on c8. On the other hand White’s king’s activity can decide the game easily once he reaches b6. Here are the rest of the moves:

1. Rxe6+ fxe6 2. c5 Kf6 3. c6 Rb8 4. c7 Rc8 5. Ka4 Ke5 6. Kxa5 Kd4 7. Rc6 Ke3 8. f4 Kf2 9. Rc3 Rxc7 10. Rxc7 Kxg3 11. Rxg7+ Kxf4 12.Rh7 1-0

Garry Kasparov against Timman in 1992 at Linares


In this position, Kasparov choose to sacrifice his knight for a pawn (and only a pawn!) in order to get a free hand with his king on the queenside as Black’s king has to stay on kingside in order to prevent h7 to h8 with promotion. Here are the rest of the moves:

1. Ne8+ Kf7 2. Nxf6 Kxf6 3. g5+ Kf7 4. h6 Ba4 5. Ke5 Bd1 6. Kd6 Bb3 7. Kc5 Ba4 8. Kb6 Bb5 9. a4 Bxa4 10. Kxa6 Bd7 11. b5 Bc8+ 12. Ka7 1-0

Ashvin Chauhan

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Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 3

So, going into Round 4 I was on 2½/3 with the black pieces against one of the stronger players in my section. My opponent gave me the opportunity to try out a line recommended by Keene and Botterill in their book on the Modern Defence. The game would, like my first round game, eventually reach an ending with rook and 4 pawns against rook and 3 pawns on the same side.

1. e4 g6
2. d4 Bg7
3. Nc3 d6
4. f4 c6

Not so fashionable these days when a6, under the influence of Tiger Hillarp Persson, is often preferred. Keene and Botterill recommended a6 against an early Be3, but a6 in this position was relegated to their final chapter on the Avant Garde.

5. Nf3 Bg4
6. Be3 Qb6
7. Qd2 Bxf3
8. gxf3 Nd7
9. O-O-O Qa5

So far both players are following the book. Keene and Botterill gave three variations here, f5!?, Kb1 (the move almost always played today) and Bc4, my opponent’s choice.

10. Bc4 b5
11. Bb3 Nb6
12. Nb1

Rather craven. Keene and Botterill quoted a 1971 game between Adorjan and Jansa in which f5 was played. Qd3 and Kb1 have also been tried here.

12… Qxd2+
13. Nxd2 d5
14. c3 Nf6
15. Bc2 Nfd7

Not a very impressive choice. 15… Bh6 to pin the f-pawn, possibly followed by a later Nh5 (a sort of left-handed Nimzo-Indian plan) would have been more to the point.

16. b3 e6
17. h4 f5
18. Rdg1 Nf6?

Simply leaving a pawn en prise. I should have played Kf7 instead.

19. exf5 exf5
20. Bxf5 Kf7
21. Bd3 Bh6
22. Nf1 Nh5
23. f5 Bxe3+
24. Nxe3 Nf4
25. Kd2 Nxd3
26. Kxd3 Nd7
27. Rh2 Rhg8
28. Rhg2 Nf6
29. fxg6+ Rxg6
30. Rxg6 hxg6
31. Ng4 Nxg4
32. fxg4

Reaching a rook ending where White has a good extra pawn and every expectation of winning.

32… Rh8
33. Rh1 Re8
34. h5 gxh5
35. gxh5 Kg7
36. h6+ Kh7
37. Rh5 Re6
38. Re5

At this point both players had to calculate the pawn ending after the rook exchange. I guess we both just assumed it was an easy win for White. White is indeed winning quite easily, but he’ll have to negotiate a queen ending to score the full point.

38… Rxe5 39. dxe5 Kxh6 40. Kd4 Kg6 41. Kc5 Kf5 42. Kd6 b4 43. c4 d4 44. e6 d3 45. e7 d2 46. e8=Q d1=Q+ 47. Kxc6 and White should win.

Instead I preferred to keep the rooks on the board, heading for rook and 4 against rook and 3, although, with the black king badly placed, White should still win.

38… Rxh6

Reaching the first time control.

39. Re7+ Kg8
40. Rxa7 Rh3+
41. Kc2 Rh2+
42. Kb1 Kf8
43. a4 bxa4
44. bxa4 Ke8
45. Rc7 Rh6
46. Kb2 Kd8
47. Rg7 c5

Losing another pawn, but there was nothing any better.

48. Rg5 Rh2+
49. Ka3 cxd4
50. Rxd5+ Kc7

At this point time was called at the end of the first session. White had to decide which way to capture on d4. Every Russian schoolboy (or girl) knows that rook, a and c pawns against rook is very often a draw, and the tablebases confirm that is indeed the case here. Taking with the pawn should win, though. The difference becomes clear later on.

51. cxd4 Kc6
52. Rc5+ Kd6
53. Kb3 Rh1
54. a5 Rb1+
55. Kc4 Rc1+

The second time control.

56. Kb5 Rb1+
57. Ka6 Rb4
58. Rb5 Rxd4

White has followed a winning plan, giving up his d-pawn, and now, because Black’s pieces are further away, White can promote his a-pawn.

59. Ka7?

But instead White makes an inexplicable error. He was winning easily with either Kb6 or Kb7, but now the black king can get close enough to draw.

59… Kc6
60. Rb7 Rd8
61. a6 Rh8
62. Rb8 Rh7+

Another sealed move after time was called at the end of the second session (which must have been a short session after dinner). I guess we continued the following morning.

63. Ka8 Rg7
64. Rh8 Kb6
65. Rh6+ Kc7
66. Ka7 Rg8
67. Rf6 Rh8
68. Rf1

At this point the tablebases tell me Black has five moves which draw: Kc6, Rc8, Rh4, Rh3 and Rh2. It’s interesting to see why other moves lose. Fortunately for me I managed to find one of the drawing options.

68… Kc6
69. Rc1+ Kb5
70. Rc7 Rh6

The only move to draw.

1/2-1/2

I’d scored 1½ points from two rook endings in which I could easily have scored only ½. I was starting to agree with Ken Norman that endings were far from boring, and that playing them well reaps its reward.

Richard James

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Good Luck Chuck Leached This Chess Game from Me

My opponent in this chess game is Charlie K. Leach. He signed every card and letter that he sent to me during our two correspondence chess games with “Good Luck! Chuck”, so I started calling him “Good Luck Chuck” after the movie that starred Jessica Alba. He didn’t get joke at first, but he did after I explained it to him.

Charlie has a brother named Jeff who has the same birthday as I do, but he is five years older than I am.

Charlie played an odd variation as White against the Sicilian Defense and he moved one of his bishops three times in the opening. However, I got too fancy for my own good and I blundered on move number 14. The move before was a bad idea for Black. From move number 15 on I was losing.

I was down a Knight and I was hoping for a draw if I could get all of the White pawns off the board without losing any more of my material. I failed to do that and I resigned on move number 50.

This event was a trophy quad that I won and this chess game was my only loss. I finished this section with three wins, one loss, and two draws giving me a final score of 4 – 2. I finished a full point ahead of the second place finisher.

 

Photograph of my correspondence chess trophy

Photograph of my correspondence chess trophy

Mike Serovey

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Passed Pawns Again

One passed pawn in the endgame can be stronger than two passed pawns.

In this week’s problem, White has a very good passed pawn on the 6th rank. The Black King is also trapped in the corner. White can use these two advantages to win the game, despite being material down.

How does White to move win the game?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White plays 1 Qxd6 cxd6 2 b4 Kf8 3 b5 Ke8 4 b6 Kd8 5 a6 and wins.

Steven Carr

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The Great Tazoo

When I was much younger than I am now I used to watch a cartoon called The Flintstones. One of the characters on The Flintstones was a Martian called The Great Gazoo. My opponent’s handle on ICC reminds me of that cartoon character. In reality, my opponent is not from Mars but is from the UK. However, some of his moves may have been Martian! 😉

My correspondence chess record on ICC is now 16 – 0. However, the rating for that record is only 1928.

On move number 11, White got out of my database of chess games and things got a little strange from there. We both played a few second-best moves, but by move number 19 Black (I) was winning.

Mike Serovey

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Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 1

I haven’t considered myself a serious player for many years, but back in the early and mid 70s I was a regular on the British tournament circuit.

This new series takes a look at some of my more successful events.

For several years I’d been playing at about 1800 strength but the latter months of 1974 saw a dramatic improvement. I put this down to reading two books. Think Like a Grandmaster, by Kotov, first got me thinking about how to make decisions in chess. I followed his advice about writing your move down before playing it, and found that this practice cut out a lot of the blunders which had previously been common in my games. Looking at my scoresheets from the period, I was crossing out my moves and changing my mind several times every game. Of course you’re no longer allowed to do this so I eventually had to revert to playing my move before writing it down. I’d also read and enjoyed Keene and Botterill’s book on the Modern Defence, which, for the first time, gave me a viable defence to 1. e4 (no 1. e4 e5 for me in those days).

It’s strange how some things never change. At the end of August 1974 I took part in the Berks & Bucks Congress, which, then, as now, comprised several small Swiss sections of about 16 players each. Not so many sections now, as then, of course. Playing in a section in which I should have scored well, I failed to win a game, scoring three draws and two losses in the five round event.

So I wasn’t feeling confident when I travelled down to the Devon seaside resort of Paignton with my friend Ken Norman a few days later. Paignton is another tournament which hasn’t changed its format much in the last half century or so. There’s a popular Premier section, usually won these days by local resident GM Keith Arkell, and various grading restricted sections below (though again not as many as in the Fischer boom days). So while Ken competed in the Premier, I settled down in the Premier Reserves A.

In those days I didn’t appreciate endings so probably had mixed feelings on reaching a rook ending a pawn up after winning my opponent’s isolated d-pawn.

Of course positions like this are meat and drink to the aforementioned Keith Arkell, but not so easy for me. Let’s see what happened. This was the position after Black’s 32nd move, just before the first time control (for the first round only we were playing 34 moves in two hours followed by 17 moves per hour). I guess I felt at the time that White should be winning because of Black’s doubled pawns, but wasn’t quite sure how to make progress.

33. Rb7 Kh7
34. Rf7 Kg8
35. Rf5 Ra2
36. Kg3 Ra3
37. Rf3 Ra4
38. Rf5 Ra3
39. Rb5 Kf7
40. Rb6 Rc3
41. h4

In principle I want to keep as many pawns as possible on the board and don’t want to undouble his pawns, but I couldn’t find any other way of getting my king up the board. The computer seems to agree with me.

41… gxh4+
42. Kxh4 Ra3
43. Kg3 Rc3
44. Rd6 Ke7
45. Rg6 Kf7
46. Ra6 Rb3
47. Rc6 Ra3
48. Rc4 Rb3
49. Re4 Kf6
50. f4 Rb5
51. f5 Rb7
52. Re6+ Kf7
53. e4 Rb3+
54. Kf4 Rb1
55. Rc6 Rf1+
56. Ke3 Rg1

I’ve made some headway over the last 15 moves, but what do to next? I seemed to think that I could only make progress by giving up my g-pawn, while my opponent apparently believed me and, for several moves neglected to win my g-pawn. Here I should have played Rg6 when I can eventually advance my e-pawn while retaining my g-pawn. A sample variation: 57. Rg6 Re1+ 58.
Kf3 Rf1+ 59. Ke2 Rb1 60. Kf2 Rb3 61. Ra6 Rc3 62. e5 Rc2+ 63. Ke3 Rc3+ 64. Kd4
Rg3 65. e6+ Kf6 66. Ra7.

57. Kf3 Rf1+
58. Ke2 Rg1

Missing his chance for Rf4

59. Kf3 Rf1+
60. Kg2 Rf4

Taking his second chance. Now the game should be drawn.

61. Rc7+ Kg8
62. e5 Rxg4+
63. Kf3 Rg1
64. Ke4 Ra1
65. Rc8+

This was the sealed move so we must both have been playing very quickly. I suspect (but don’t now remember) that we adjourned for a couple of hours and resumed later in the evening. During the interval I complained to Ken about having reached ‘another boring ending’. Ken, then as now an endgame aficionado, told me that unless I agreed with him that endings were interesting he wouldn’t give me a lift back home to London. So I had to play the game out.

65… Kf7
66. Rc7+ Kf8
67. Kd5 Rd1+

Just after the adjournment Black makes a fatal error. Most moves draw here: even Ke8, because White can’t avoid the checks without losing a pawn. (67… Ke8 68. Rxg7 Ra5+ 69. Kd6 Ra6+ 70. Kd5 Ra5+ 71. Ke4 Ra4+ 72. Kf3 Ra5 73. Kf4 Ra4+) But this moves lets me get my king to e6 safely, after which the win is simple.

68. Ke6 Rd8
69. f6 Re8+
70. Kf5 gxf6
71. Kxf6 Kg8
72. e6 h5
73. Rg7+ Kh8
74. e7 h4
75. Rf7 Kg8
76. Rg7+ Kh8
77. Rg4 Kh7
78. Kf7 1-0

So a lucky win for me after some not very impressive endgame play by both sides.

Find out how the tournament continued for me next time.

Richard James

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Amateur Versus Master: Game Fourteen

They’re creepy and they’re kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They’re all together ooky,
The Addams Family.

Their house is a museum
Where people come to see ’em
They really are a scream
The Addams Family.

So get a witches shawl on
A broomstick you can crawl on
We’re gonna pay a call on
The Addams Family.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They’re all together ooky,
The Addams Family!

This song kept running through my head every time that I got a card from Gary Adams or looked at this chess game. Once, I asked him on a card that I sent to him, “How is the “Adams family doing?”. I got no reply. I do not know if he failed to get the joke or just did not think that it was funny.

This game is one of the four that I drew in the 2011 Golden Knights Postal Championship, Final Round. I ended this section with 1 win, 1 loss and 4 draws. This even score is what I wanted, but it failed to put me over 2200 points because of losses in other sections of correspondence chess. I am still waiting to see how I place in this section.

Mike Serovey

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Experimenting with the Smith-Morra Gambit

I rarely try to play the White side of the Smith-Morra Gambit, but in this chess game I did try to play it. Black declined the gambit pawn by playing 3… d5. If I was going to decline this gambit that is the way that I would play it,

By move number 5, I (White)  ended up with an isolated Queen’s pawn and for a few moves afterward play revolved around Black attacking that isolated pawn and White defending it. A series of exchanges in the Center allowed me to get that isolated d pawn onto e5, where I could better protect it.

On move number 16, I offered the exchange of queens, which Black wisely declined. Black’s reply to my 16th move took me out of my database of games, but it may not have been his best response.

On move number 17, I offered some exchanges that favored White. By move number 20, both queens are off the board and Black has doubled pawns on then e file. So, I decided to leave my King in the Center and played 20. Ke2.

For several moves Black concentrated his pieces in the Center in an attempt to win my pawn on e5 and White doubled his rooks on the c file and then went after the Black King.

After forcing the exchange of all rooks, White had his King in the Center and we had bishops of the opposite color. Theory says that in a King and pawn endgame with bishops of the opposite colors, the game is most likely to end in a draw. I knew this but I was counting on my opponent making an endgame error and he did.

After placing all of my remaining pawns on dark squares where my Bishop could protect them, I began maneuvering my Bishop so it could protect my pawn on f2 and then my King could go after Black’s pawns on the a and b files.

Black allowed me to get my Bishop on e3, defending my pawn on f2. Then, he abandoned his own kingside pawns in an attempt to win my pawns on the Queenside. This backfired and he got outmaneuvered in the endgame.

Mike Serovey

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