Category Archives: Great Chess Miniatures

Playing Chess in a Modern Age

Here is a game from the first international event that I played on the ICCF server. Both of us had provisional ratings of 1800 points at the start of this. Now, my established rating on ICCF is 2027. My opponent’s established rating is now 2192. 

The opening that I played is known as both the Modern Defense and the Robatsch Defense. I usually call it the Modern Defense , even if I start off with a different move order. In chess openings there are two schools of thought. The first one is called the Classical School and it teaches players to occupy the Center with pieces and pawns. The second one was developed by Aron Nimzowitsch and Richard Réti and is called the Hypermodern School of thought. This school of thought teaches players to not occupy the Center but to attack it from the wings instead. I have played both styles and which one I will use in a particular game depends on my mood and what my opponent is rated. Also, if I know or suspect that my opponent is going to play some kind of anti Sicilian opening I will play the Pirc or Modern Defense.

Although we both played a couple of second-best moves there were no outright blunders until I decided to trade queens on move number 20. That lead to the loss of a Bishop for a pawn and then I resigned. I can’t explain that kind of a blunder in a correspondence chess game! At the time that I played this game I did not know that ICCF rules allowed me to use chess engines. If I had used an engine in this game I would not have made that blunder.

Mike Serovey

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Why I Like Being Part of a Chess Team

Here is a recent win in Team League Chess. I played on Board 4 in all five of the games in which I was paired by the team captain of HappyFun. I won all five of those games and I had White in four of them. Most of my opponents blundered in the openings or early middle games and I didn’t really get into any endgames. HappyFun won the Kasparov Section of league play and I took second place individual in that section.

I first started playing for chess teams back in my Junior year of high school. Because I was new to serious chess and thus I was relatively weak at chess, I started off on Board Nine out of ten. By the time that I was a Senior in high school I had worked  my way up to Board One on the H. B. Plant High School Chess Team. Even so, my USCF standard rating was under 1400 points the entire time that I was at Plant. During my Junior year most of the strong players at Plant were seniors. One of the seniors was still in the 1300 range and he was the most arrogant of them all! However, he had a good sense of humor and thus I liked him anyway. His nickname was “Ace”. His brother’s nickname was “Speed”.

During the Southeastern (Region IV) High School chess championships “Ace” played in both the Open and the Under 1400 sections. Every round “Ace” had two games to play! He had the TD have his opponents sit next to each other during each round so that he could play both games simultaneously without having to move around much. The players in the Open section were saying, “What a fool!” while the players in the Under 1400 section were saying, “What a stud!”. I think that “Ace” was a little of both! I don’t remember how well “Ace” scored in either section, but the team won the Open section.

After I got out of the US Army I was the lowest board on a team that included two masters. I can remember there being only three members on my team but most chess teams have at least four members. One of the masters, Ron, was known to smoke Marijuana before playing chess and the other one, Tom, chewed him out if Ron lost a team game due to being high. What irritated me is that Tom and Ron played better chess drunk or stoned than I did completely sober! One good thing about having two masters on my team is the my team could win even if I lost my individual match. This was a team that played in Central Florida and I don’t remember it or the league having a name.

With HappyFun I helped the team out when the captain lost his individual matches. Sometimes it is nice to be the hero!

Mike Serovey

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Chess Blindness: Part Three

There have been a few articles on this blog about the causes and effects of chess blindness. This is my third article on chess blindness that was not caused by time pressure. The game was the second time that I played Daniel Herman and it was also my second loss to Daniel. This time, there were no distractions of any kind. I just spaced out and blundered away a Rook!

Because this was the very first time that I played Black against Daniel I played the Modern Defense and then transposed into the Benko Gambit. Originally, I was going to play the Dutch Defense and then I changed my mind for some unknown reason.

Because of the unusual move order I was unsure of the best moves to play during the opening. It seemed to me that Daniel was too. I made some minor opening errors, but no outright blunders until move number 21 when I made a totally unsound sacrifice of my Rook. I did not even consider that White could just play 22. Rxa4!! winning my Rook for a pawn!

I usually try to castle by move number 10, but in this game I could not castle until move number 13. At that point I had equality. After that I played the typical maneuvers that start Black’s queenside attack. On move number 20 I missed a move that would have given me a clear advantage. On the next move I flat out blundered and then resigned. This game is another example of what happens when I fail to consider all of my opponent’s possible replies before I play a move!

Mike Serovey

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Amateur Versus Master: Game Ten

This game is another recently completed draw against a chess master. This game is from the final round of the 2011 Golden Knights Correspondence Chess Championship. The first 18 moves were in my database. I was on my own from move number 19 on. So far, I have no wins, one loss and one draw in this section. However, I do have an advantage against a 2300 rated player that I drew in the previous round. We will have to wait and see how that game works out.

Because both sides played aggressively and made solid developing moves neither one of us got an advantage at any point in this game. My strategy against this higher rated player was to trade down into an even endgame. The point where we agreed to a draw was during the transition from the middle game to the endgame. White had more space in the center and the Bishop versus my Knight, but he couldn’t do anything with these slight advantages.

Mike Serovey

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Failing to Win a Won Game, Part 3

The following game is one of the first correspondence chess games that I played at the Internet Chess Club (ICC). I don’t know when this game was played nor do I know the ratings of both players at the time that this game was started. According to my notes on this game I lost most of those early games on ICC. Eventually, I won enough games to get my ICC correspondence chess rating over 1700 points. I quit playing correspondence chess there because I was having trouble getting paired into games and because of the repeated time control violations. Some of my opponents were repeat offenders and yet they still got off with warnings! Why have time controls if you are not going to enforce them?

I think that I made a notation error on White’s final move and that the White Queen went to g5 and not g6 on move number 24. Otherwise, my resignation makes no sense at all! Did I really miss the win of the White Queen and resign in a correspondence chess game? In an over the board (OTB) game I could blame such an error on fatigue or a distraction. I have no such excuse in correspondence chess! I prefer to believe that I made a notation error!

I think that I was playing this game without the use of a game database and that was why I didn’t play this opening very well. The first eight moves are typical of what I would play against a Closed Sicilian Defense and I have usually done well with this. My queenside expansion may not have been the best idea and I missed playing f5 at a key point in this game. Playing my Queen to a5 on move number 12 was probably the beginning of a series of small mistakes that lead to my demise. I was also guilty of not developing my Bishop on c8 and thus not connecting my rooks on my back rank. This also caused problems for me. I compounded my errors with pawn grabbing and leaving my King under protected.

Someone stated that the ultimate chess blunder is resigning in a won position. I have done that at least once before this game. Did I make the same blunder here too? At the point where I resigned, I was up a Queen, Rook, Knight and pawn! However, my King was totally naked and had nowhere to run or hide.

Mike Serovey

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Amateur Versus Master: Game Nine

This is a recently completed game that was played on the ICCF server. My opponent is from England and is one of two 2300 rated players that I drew in this section. He is also the highest rated player in this section. This draw has temporarily moved me back into second place out of 13. I doubt that I can remain in  second place because I am losing one of my three remaining games in this section.

This game went only 26 moves and thus it would qualify as a miniature, but it was not a “Grandmaster draw”. I had two pawns for a Knight, but a passed pawn on the Queenside was compensation for the Knight. I also had a fianchettoed Bishop that covered a potential queening square.

I play the English Opening as White and thus I dislike having to play against it as Black. However, in this game I did OK with it. I tried to transpose into a Modern Defense and then from there we got some kind of Benoni Defense. Having an up-to-date database of games helped me get through the opening without any errors. My analysis in the game below includes notes from other commentators.

By move number ten Black is lagging a little behind in development but is advancing his pawns on the Queenside. The trick here is for Black to avoid over extending those pawns. By move number 14 Black has completed his development and the game is even. On move number 16 Black starts a combination of moves that gives Black connected passed pawns for a Knight, but is still fairly even. I calculated at least a draw for Black with this in spite of the slight material deficit. The reader can decide for himself or herself how this game would have gone if we had played it out beyond 26 moves.

Mike Serovey

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Milner-Barry Gambit Versus The French Defense: Game 3

This game is one of my recently completed games at ICCF. My opponent in this game was rated about 50 points above me at the start of this game. I found plenty of his games in my database and thus I knew that he liked to play the French Defense. I don’t remember finding any games in which he faced the Milner-Barry Gambit, so I decided to try that opening. This time it paid off with an exciting win.

The first 11 moves of this game went exactly as I wanted them to. I was surprised by Black’s move number 12. From move 13 on I was into my own original analysis. I doubt that I would have found all of White’s good moves in an Over the Board (OTB) game. However, my familiarity with this opening would have helped me if I had enough time to look at key ideas and positions.

White gets a lead in development and attacks against Black’s King and Queen as compensation for the pawns that are sacrificed. However, I will also recapture some of my lost pawns when I get the chance to.

Black’s fifteenth move was a mistake because it forced the White Rook to a better square. Putting the Bishop on c5 would have been slightly better because it would temporarily keep the White Rook off e3. White was winning from move number 16 on, but I still needed to find the correct follow-up ideas to my previous moves. Again, Black surprised me a few times but never found any moves that threw me off.

White is putting pressure on f7 as well as chasing some of Black’s pieces around. The double check on move number 19 is, again, intended to remove some of the defenders from the Black King. Doubling the pawns on the f file gives White more targets to attack.

On move number 22 White has several options. I decided to play the pawn to h4 in order to give the White King an escape square if needed and to break up the pawn structure around the Black King. Continuing to advance the h pawn is just following through on my idea to shatter the pawn structure around the Black King. Although Black was losing at the point where he resigned, I still think that the resignation was a little premature. Still, I’m not complaining!

This game gives me my second win in this section. At the time that I am writing this I am in fourth place out of thirteen with two wins, one loss and five draws. The one person that I lost to is now in fifth place. I still have four games remaining in this section and at least one of them is a win.

Mike Serovey

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Amateur Versus Master: Game Eight

This game is an oddity for me because it is one of my rare wins against a chess master.

However, this win was on time forfeit in a dead-even position. My opponent had six other losses in this section before this one. I am guessing that all seven losses were on time. These seven losses have Nicotera in dead last place in this section. At the time that I am writing this I am in fifth place out of thirteen with an even score.

This is a variation of the English Opening that I rarely play and I got no particular advantage out of the opening. On move number 19, I was preparing to open up the Center and take advantage of my two fianchettoed bishops. I never got the chance.

Because of how short this game is, there really isn’t much that I can say about it.

Mike Serovey

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Dutch Disaster

English GM Keith Arkell won the recent European Individual Seniors for those age 50+. But he is a relatively young veteran compared with some of those playing! Following the individual event was the European Senior Team Championship where the following miniature was played between a 69 year old and an 81 year old. Congratulations to these two old masters who create a wonderful spectacle. Who says chess is just a young persons game? With people living longer perhaps in the future we will see more adult age categories. Besides 50+ and 65+ perhaps an age 80+ category? Viktor Korchnoi, for example, is 83 and still playing. Anyway, this game is the kind of sparkling game that inspires people to play chess, so I can’t help repeating it here.

Angus James

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The Chicken Bone Revisited

In some previous posts I mentioned a tactic that Michael Hoffer and his students call “the chicken bone” because Black chokes on White’s king pawn like a chicken bone. Hoffer and company think that this tactic gives White quite an advantage, but I believe that White’s advantage is more psychological than it is tactical. White’s 60% win rate has more to do with Black panicking and playing poorly than it does with the actual position. Here, the threat of the threat is greater than the execution.

Michael Hoffer posted the following game in a Facebook thread and I copied it from there. I do not know who Muir is nor do I know his rating. This game was played back in 1988 in Lugano, Switzerland, but that is all I know about this game. I was not given the rest of the information.

I do not know what rating Miles Ardaman had at the time that this game was played, but his current USCF rating is 2265. Although I can’t prove it, I remember playing Miles back in 1975 when he was barely in his teens and rated 1400 USCF. I played the Black side of a closed Sicilian Defense and won. The last that I heard Miles was a psychiatrist in private practice somewhere in Texas. He, like many other strong players, was fond of playing the tournaments that used to be held in Plant City, Florida before they closed that hotel.

Playing 5.Qe2 is the beginning of the chicken bone setup. I believe that the Queen is played there in order to support the advance of the e pawn. Playing 7.e6 starts the choking process. Although Hoffer and company disagree on this, Houdini 4 gives 9… Nc6 as being Black’s best move here and it also gives Black a slight advantage. Black’s only move on number 10 is g5!. Everything else loses. Black resigned on move number 12 because the only way to avoid immediate checkmate is to give away plenty of material.

GM Ronald Henley also gave the following line in his Facebook post.

According to Henley, White has a clear advantage after move number 12. However, the game Basso,P (2208)-Solomon,K (2372) Trieste 2013 shows how Black can avoid many of these problems.

My final conclusion is that Black can survive the chicken bone as long as he or she remains calm and plays logical moves. Of course, it helps if Black has some prepared moves to play as well!

Mike Serovey

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