Category Archives: Improver (950-1400)

Islington Open 1976 Part 1

Continuing my series featuring some of my less bad tournaments from the 1970s, we reach the 1976 edition of the famous Islington congress, which, in the 1970s, used to attract a very large entry every December.

In 1976 I played in the Open section and in my first game had White against a promising junior with a grade of 148.

We’ll whizz through the first part of the game:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. c3 e5 6. d4 cxd4 7. cxd4 exd4 8. Nbd2 Nge7 9. Nb3 O-O 10. Nbxd4 Qb6 11. Be3 Nxd4 12. Nxd4 Qa5 13. Qb3 a6 14. Bc4 Nc6 15. Nf3 Ne5 16. Nxe5 Qxe5 17. Rab1 Rb8 18. Rfd1 b5 19. Bd5 Bb7 20. Bc5 Bxd5

21. Rxd5

No idea why I gave up a pawn like this. Looks like some sort of miscalculation. Instead Qxd5 was equal.

21… Qxe4
22. Rbd1 Rfe8
23. f3 Qe6
24. Qa3 Rbc8
25. Rd6

Making matters worse. Now my computer tells me that Qc4 gives Black a winning advantage.

25… Qe2
26. R6d2 Qe6
27. Bf2 Qc6
28. b3 Bc3

Black’s last few moves have not been the most accurate and now I win the pawn back.

29. Rxd7 Bg7
30. R7d6 Qc2
31. Qxa6 Ra8

I’m now a pawn ahead (perhaps I shouldn’t have taken on a6) but Black can gain compensation by playing 31… Bf8 32. R6f5 Re2. Instead he obligingly heads for an ending which I manage to win.

32. Qxb5 Qxa2 33. R6d2 Qa6 34. Qxa6 Rxa6 35. Rd8 Ra8 36. Rxe8+ Rxe8 37. Kf1 Bf8 38. Re1 Ra8 39. Rb1 Bd6 40. h3 Kf8 41. b4 Ke8 42. b5 Kd7 43. b6 Rb8 44. Ke2 Kc6 45. Kd3 Rd8 46. Kc4 Kb7 47. Rd1 Rc8+ 48. Kb5 Rc6 49. Ra1 Rc2 50. Ra7+ Kb8 51. Bd4 f5 52. Rxh7 Bf4 53. Bc5 Be5 54. Re7 Bf6 55. Rf7 Bd8 56. Bd6+ 1-0

My second round opponent was the US master Ed Formanek, who would become an international master the following year. He often played in England and had a BCF grade of 228 at the time. I had the opportunity to use my pet line against the French Advance, with which I scored very heavily for several years.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. c3 Nge7 6. Bd3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Nf5 8.
Bxf5 exf5 9. O-O Be7 10. Nc3 Be6 11. Qb3 Qb6

Qd7 and Rab8 are the usual choices in this position. Heading for an ending with two sets of doubled pawns might not be wise against a Heffalump.

12. Qxb6 axb6 13. b3 h6 14. h4 Kd7 15. Bd2 Rhc8

It’s natural to double rooks but I should have preferred f4, freeing my bad bishop.

16. Rfc1 Ba3 17. Rcb1 Nb4 18. Ne1 Rc6 19. Kf1 Rac8 20. Nb5 Nc2 21. Nxa3 Nxa3 22. Rc1 Nc2 23. Nxc2 Rxc2 24. Rxc2 Rxc2 25. Ke1 h5 26. Kd1 Rc8 27. a4 Ra8 28. Bb4 b5 29. a5 b6

Giving White a passed a-pawn doesn’t turn out well.

30. a6 Kd8

Incomprehensible. Ra7 or Kc8 would keep me in the game. Now it’s just lost.

31. Bd6 Kc8 32. a7 Kb7 33. Bb8 Rxb8 34. axb8=Q+ Kxb8 35. Ke2 Kb7 36. Kf3 Kb8 37. Kf4 Kb7 38. Kg5 g6 39. Kf6 Kb8 40. Ke7

Richard James


Recognising the Patterns: Challenge # 7

Today’s Challenge:
Find the typical pattern and react accordingly. It is White to Move

NN Against Greco in 1620

Q: How can White hang on here?

A: White should play 11. Be3. Black has the initiative after Qxh2 but this is far from winning the game completely.

In the game White played as follows:

11. Nf3

Completely unaware about the mating pattern called smothered mate. The game ended very shortly as follows:

12. Kh1 Qg1+!
13. Rxg1

The only move.

13…Nf2# 0-1

It occurs when a knight checkmates a king that is smothered (surrounded) by his friendly pieces and he has nowhere to move nor is there any way to capture the knight.It is also known as Philidor’s Legacy after François-André Danican Philidor, though its documentation predates Philidor by several hundred years. – Wikipedia

James McConnell Against Morphy in 1849

Q: How can Black win decisive material, using the same mating theme?

In the game Morphy played as follows:

18… Qb6

Generating a very powerful checkmate threat; the idea is to play 19…Ne2+ followed by 20…Qg1+ and 21…Nf2#. You can also play 18…dxc4 with the same ideas.

19. Kh1

This seems to be only move.


Opening up the g1-a7 diagonal.

20. Qxc2 Nf2+

Gaining the exchange, but white next move leads to quick finish.

21. Kg1?? Nh3+

A typical manoeuvre that leads to Black delivering smothered mate.

22. Kh1 Qg1+

23. Rxg1 Nf2#

Timann against Short in 1990

Q: White is winning anyway but can you see the familiar pattern?

24. Bxc6

Removing the one of the defender of e7. The idea is to play e7 on the next move then check from a2-g8 diagonal.


It was essential to create some room for his king.

25. e7

Distracting the rook.


26. Qc4+

And now everything is clear.

27. Nf7+ Kg8
28. Nh6+ Kh8
29. Qg8+ Rxg8
30. Nf7#

Ashvin Chauhan


Recognising the Patterns: Challenge # 6

Today’s challenge is to find the typical pattern and react accordingly; White to move.

Grunfeld against Torre in 1925

Q:Black now played 11…Nxe5. Should White recapture on e5 directly or does he have a better option?

A: Capturing on e5 leads to resignation, which is what happened in the game.

12. dxe5?? Bc5+

13. Kh1 Nxg3+!!

Opening up the h-file followed by mate in two.

This typical pattern is similar to Anastasia’s checkmate where the knight covers the escape squares and rook or queen delivers checkmate via h or a file. Sometimes the knight’s role has been played by the bishop, and this is known as Greco’s mate.

Instead White should play 12.c5 first in order to cover the c5 square with his queen. For example:

12. c5 Nf7

The game is on, and note that Black can’t play a similar idea with 12…Be7 because of 13 dxe5 Bc5 14. Qxc5.

Nimzowitsch against Capablanca 1911, Black to move

Black’s position is clearly better but White’s next move, 32 b5, leads to quick finish. Use your knowledge of this and checkmate Nimzowitsch!


Checkmate is now unavoidable.

33. Bxe4 Bf2!!

Nimzowitsch resigned here.

Janowski against Steinitz in 1898: Black to move

Black’s position is clearly better. The bishop on e3 covers g1 and if black manages to open up the h-file the game is over.

In the game Steinitz played:

32… Bg4

33. Qxg4 Qxg4

34. hxg4 Rh8+

35. Rh5 gxh5

White resigned.

Here knowing the pattern didn’t lead to checkmate but helped Black in gaining decisive material.

Ashvin Chauhan


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R5

In the last round I didn’t get my expected pairing of Black against Robert Bellin. Instead I had my third consecutive white (and my fourth in the tournament) against Belgian international Richard Meulders.

The game was an English Opening, with my opponent choosing the Botvinnik Blockade, a plan which I had often used myself, and still use now on occasion, having learnt it from Ray Keene’s book on Flank Openings.

1. Nf3 c5
2. c4 Nc6
3. g3 g6
4. Bg2 Bg7
5. Nc3 d6
6. O-O e5
7. d3 Nge7
8. Rb1 O-O
9. Ne1

The recommended plan. The knight’s going to c2 and e3 to enable me to establish a knight on d5.

9… Be6
10. a3 a5
11. Nc2 Qd7
12. Ne3 Bh3
13. Ned5 Bxg2
14. Kxg2 Rab8
15. Bh6 f5
16. Bxg7 Kxg7
17. e3

Forty years ago I was aware of the idea of meeting f5 with f4 to blunt the attack in this sort of position, and that was certainly an option either here or next move. I must have thought f4 was not possible for Black here.

17… h5
18. h4 f4

Black is happy to sacrifice material for a speculative attack.

19. exf4 exf4
20. Nxf4 Rxf4

Of course. The engines prefer White but it’s not so easy to defend this sort of position over the board, especially against a strong player like my opponent.

21. gxf4 Rf8
22. Nd5

This is already a mistake leaving White in a lot of trouble. It looks natural, I suppose, to trade off an enemy piece but I really shouldn’t have allowed the black knight into d4. The correct plan, which is what I played two moves later, was Re1, meeting Rxf4 with Re4, when White has good chances of defending successfully.

22… Nxd5
23. cxd5 Nd4
24. Re1 Rxf4
25. Re4 Qf5
26. Rxf4 Qxf4
27. f3 Nf5
28. Qe2 Nxh4+

It’s not so easy to decide which of five possible king moves is best. The engines prefer Kh1 although it doesn’t look obvious to me that the corner is going to be the white king’s safest option. Black’s still a lot better though. He’ll have two connected passed pawns for the exchange while the doubled d-pawns are both weak. Kf2, holding onto the f-pawn for the time being, is the engines’ second choice but they still think Black has a winning advantage. This position is an excellent example of how well the queen and knight work together as an attacking force.

29. Kh3 Nxf3

The only defence now is Kg2 when Black’s a lot better but has nothing immediate. Instead the game and the tournament end on a note of anticlimax when I fail to notice the mate threat.

30. Rf1 Qg4#

A disappointing end to the tournament but still, overall, an excellent result for me. A few months previously at Ilford I’d demonstrated that I could lose games regularly by making horrendous blunders, but here I proved that, on a good day and with a following wind, I could more than hold my own against anyone below master standard.

Richard James


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R4

Going into Round 4 I was on 2½ points and expecting Black against a strong player. Instead I received my third white, being paired against another promising teenager, Peter Sowray.

I already knew Peter, who was to join Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club for the new season the following month. Peter, of course, is still very active today both as a player and a teacher, and still very well known to me as a good friend and colleague, who ran Richmond Junior Club for a few years after the first time I left.

This was another long game but there’s really not a lot to say about it. Peter handled the opening in experimental fashion, choosing a type of hippopotamus formation.

1. Nf3 g6
2. e4 Bg7
3. d4 d6
4. Nc3 Nf6
5. Be2 a6
6. a4 b6
7. O-O e6
8. e5 Nfd7
9. Bg5 f6
10. exf6 Nxf6
11. Re1 O-O
12. Bd3 Qe8
13. Qe2 Bb7

Not liking his position, Peter decides to give up a pawn to free his game.

14. Qxe6+ Qxe6
15. Rxe6 Bxf3
16. gxf3 Nh5
17. Be4 Ra7
18. Rd1 Nf6
19. Bxf6 Bxf6
20. Bd5 Kg7
21. Ne4 Bh4
22. Ng3 c6
23. Bb3 d5
24. Kg2 Raf7
25. Rd3 Bg5
26. c3 Bc1
27. Re2 h5
28. Nf1 g5
29. Rd1 Bf4
30. Rde1 Nd7
31. Re7 Nf6
32. R1e6 g4

There was no need for desperate measures. 32… Rxe7 would have given drawing chances. Now I should have played the immediate Rxf7+ followed by Rxc6.

33. Bd1 Bc1

Missing another chance to take on e7. This time I find the correct response.

34. Rxf7+ Rxf7
35. Rxc6 Bxb2
36. Ne3 b5
37. axb5 axb5
38. fxg4 hxg4
39. Bxg4 Nxg4
40. Nxg4

After a sequence of exchanges I’ve won a second pawn.

40… b4
41. cxb4 Rf4
42. Rc7+ Kf8
43. Kg3 Rxd4
44. b5 Rd3+
45. f3 Rb3
46. Rc5 d4
47. Rd5 Ke7
48. Kf4 Ke6
49. Ke4 d3
50. Rxd3 Rxb5

My two extra pawns are enough to win. I have to keep the minor pieces on the board to avoid a drawn rook, f and h pawns against rook ending.

51. f4 Rb4+
52. Kf3 Bc1
53. Ne3 Rb5
54. h4 Bb2
55. Kg4 Bg7
56. Ra3 Rb1
57. Ra6+ Kf7
58. Ra7+ Kg8
59. h5 Rg1+
60. Kf5 Rh1
61. Kg5 Bd4
62. Ra8+ Kh7
63. Ng4 Rg1
64. Kf5 Rb1
65. Nf6+ Kg7
66. Ne4 Rb5+
67. Kg4 Rb1
68. Ra6 Rg1+
69. Kf5 Rh1
70. Rg6+ Kh7
71. Ng5+ Kh8
72. h6 Bc3
73. h7 Bg7
74. Re6 Bc3
75. Re8+ Kg7
76. Rg8+

Black resigned.

Four long games against fairly strong opposition. Four endings, Three wins and one draw, leaving me up with the leaders. As I’d had the white pieces three times I was bound to be black in the last round and my likely opponent was, if my memory serves me correctly, Robert Bellin.

Find out what happened in the last round next week.

Richard James


Recognising the Patterns: Challenge # 5

Today’s challenge: Find the typical pattern, Morphy to move:

Morphy against Duke Karl/ Count Isouard in 1858

Q: Should White win a piece with Qxe6 or is there something more?

Hint: The powerful coordination of White’s rook and bishop will help you to find the move.

A: The move is 15.Bxd7+, setting up a checkmate trap therefore forcing his opponent to surrender his queen.


But Black straight away falls into the checkmate trap set by the great Paul Morphy:


Hoping everything is fine.

Black had to surrender the Queen with 15…Qxd7 as the text move leads to mate in two:

16. Qb8+!! Nxb8

17. Rd8#

This checkmate pattern is known as the Opera Mate. The full game is very instructive, which I have already annotated here.

“The Opera mate is a common method of checkmating. It works by attacking the king on the back rank with a rook using a bishop to protect it. A pawn or other piece other than a knight of the enemy king’s is used to restrict its movement. The checkmate was named after its implementation by Paul Morphy in 1858 at a game at the Paris opera.” – Wikipedia

Steinitz against Vines in 1874

Q: Why is 34…Ka8 is better than 34…Kc8?

A: It was better to play Ka8, though White is also wining with 35.dxc7. After 34…Kc8 checkmate can’t be avoided.


35. Rfb2

Threatening checkmate on b8.


Covering b8. Now use your knowledge of the typical pattern and find the winning move.

36. d7

This opens the bishop and helps the rook to deliver checkmate on b8.

37. Rb8+ Nxb8
38. Rxb8#

Schulten against Horwitz in 1846

Black’s position is better but it’s far from winning. But White’s next move leads quick finish and it was better to play b3 or Qe2 here when it’s game on!

15. Qb3??

White is hoping to exchange queens. But Black finds a spectacular queen sac which leads to powerful double check and ends with an opera mate.
15…Qf1+ !!
16. Kxf1 Bd3+

Double check.

17. Ke1 Rf1#

Ashvin Chauhan


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R3

I’d started the tournament with 1½ out of 2, and, as expected, I was paired against another higher graded opponent in Round 3. This time I had White and found myself sitting opposite a strong Manchester player, Dr Graham Burton, who is still active today.

Here’s what happened.

1. Nf3 c5
2. g3 Nc6
3. Bg2 g6
4. d3 Bg7
5. e4 d6
6. O-O e5
7. Nc3 Nge7
8. Nh4 Nd4
9. f4 exf4
10. Bxf4 O-O
11. Nf3 Bg4
12. h3

A careless mistake, losing a pawn. Now Black plans to trade everything off and win the ending.

12… Nxf3+
13. Bxf3 Bxh3
14. Bg2 Qd7
15. Qd2 Be6
16. Bh6 f5

This looks a bit loosening.

17. Bxg7 Kxg7
18. exf5

Stockfish prefers d4 here, when it thinks White is close to equality.

18… Nxf5
19. Ne4 Nd4
20. Ng5 Bf5
21. Rae1 Rae8
22. c3 Rxe1
23. Rxe1 Ne6

A mistake, allowing me to win the pawn back. Nc6 was correct. But I missed my chance to play the tactic 24. Bxb7 when 24… Nxg5 25. Qxg5 Qxb7 is not possible because of 26. Re7+

24. Nxe6+ Bxe6
25. Qe3 Re8

Another poor move, walking into a pin. Rf6 maintains the extra pawn.

26. Bh3 Kf7
27. Qf3+ Bf5
28. Rxe8

Rather inaccurate. 28. Qd5+ leads to an immediate draw.

28… Kxe8
29. Bxf5 gxf5

Black still has his extra pawn, but with his king side pawns split and White’s active queen a win looks unlikely.

30. Qd5 Kd8
31. Kf2 Kc7
32. Kf3 Qa4
33. Qxf5 Qxa2
34. Qxh7+ Kb6

White regains his lost pawn and the game seems to be heading towards a draw.

35. Qh2 Qd5+
36. Ke3 Qg5+
37. Kf3 a5
38. g4 Qd5+
39. Ke3 a4
40. Qf4 Ka5
41. g5

White’s g-pawn is beginning to look dangerous. Black now has to be careful.

41… b5

This is too slow. Qg2 was the way to draw. Black has to activate his queen and play for a perpetual check.

42. g6 b4
43. cxb4+

The pawn on c3 was required to restrict the black king’s options. The winning move was Qf6, preparing Qd8+ in some lines, hitting d6 and potentially controlling Black’s promotion square.

43… cxb4
44. g7

But here Qf6 would only draw as Black now has the safe b5 square for his king.

44… a3
45. bxa3 bxa3
46. Qf8 a2

Black had a perpetual check here with either Qg5+ or Qe5+ but instead he mistakenly goes for the four queens ending.

47. g8=Q

Of course Black can’t trade before promoting because of the impending skewer.

47… Qe5+
48. Kf3 a1=Q

In four queens endings the player with the first check usually wins.

49. Qa8+ Kb5
50. Qgb8+

There was a mate in two: 50. Qc4+ Kb6 51. Qcc6#

50… Kc5
51. Qc7+ Kd4
52. Qc4#

So a lucky win for me against a significantly stronger opponent, but, in all honesty, not a very good game. Black’s endgame play was surprisingly poor considering his grade.

With 2½/3, due for Black, and sure to be paired against another strong player, would my luck run out in round 4? You’ll find out next week.

Richard James


Recognising the Patterns: Challenge # 4

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

Reiner against Steinitz in 1860

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

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

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

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

In the game Steinitz played as follows:


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

16. Rxg4??

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

16… Qh4

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

17. Rg2

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

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

17… Qxh2+

The final blow.

18.Rxh2 Rg1# 0-1

Nimzowitsch against Giese in 1913

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

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

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


Now Black can’t avoid checkmate.

36. Qxh6+ gxh6

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

37. Nf6+ Kh8

38. Rg8# 1-0

Gelfand against Kramnik in 1996

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

26… Nc3

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

27. Nxd4

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

27… Rxb2

28. Rxb2

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

28… Qa2+ 0-1

It’s mate next move.

Ashvin Chauhan


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R2

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

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

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

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

6… Ne7
7. Bd3 O-O
8. Qd2 f5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the result is clear.

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

And the draw was agreed.

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

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

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

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

49… Rc4+
50. Kh5 Rc5+
51. Kh6 Rc6

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

52. h5

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

52… Rb6
53. Rxb6

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

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

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

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

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

Next time, onwards and upwards into round 3.

Richard James


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R1

The Evening Standard London Chess Fortnight, organised by Stewart Reuben, took place in August 1975 at a hotel in Earls Court, West London. The main event was an 11 player all play all tournament which was memorable for providing Tony Miles with his first GM norm. (Miles 7½/10, Timman and Adorjan 7, Sax 6, Nunn 5½ etc).

Among the subsidiary events was a 5-day open Swiss in which I took part. My first round opponent, AA Aaron, seemed, from his name, determined to make the top of the grading list (he clearly hadn’t taken Jacob Aagaard into account). I had the white pieces and opened quietly with a double fianchetto. We’ll skip quickly to the interesting bit.

1. Nf3 d5
2. b3 Nf6
3. Bb2 g6
4. g3 Bg7
5. Bg2 O-O
6. d3 Nbd7
7. c4 dxc4

Rather obliging, trading a centre pawn for a wing pawn.

8. bxc4 Nh5
9. Bxg7 Kxg7
10. d4 c5
11. d5 f5

Again rather obliging. Black now has a backward e-pawn.

12. Nbd2 Ndf6
13. Qb3 Qc7
14. Qe3

The engines prefer Qc3 here.

14… f4

The engines tell me 14… e6 is possible here as after 15. dxe6 Bxe6 16. Qxe6 Rae8 White’s queen is trapped. He can try 17. Ng5 to set up a potential fork but Black can just move his king, leaving the white queen stranded.

15. Qe5 Qxe5
16. Nxe5 Nd7
17. Nd3 fxg3
18. hxg3 Rb8
19. a4 b6
20. e4

With a nice position for White, which, over the next few moves, gets to look even better.

20… Nhf6
21. Ke2 Re8
22. Bh3 Nf8
23. Bxc8 Rexc8
24. e5 Ne8
25. f4 a6
26. Rab1 Nc7
27. Ne4 b5
28. axb5

The other capture was also possible: 28. cxb5 axb5 29. d6 exd6 30. Nxd6 Rd8 31. axb5 Nfe6

28… axb5
29. Ndxc5 bxc4
30. d6 exd6
31. Nxd6 Nd5

Black chooses a tactical defence based on the knight fork on c3. The alternative was to give up his c-pawn: 31… Rd8 32. Nxc4 Nfe6 33. Ne4

32. Rxb8

Now I had to decide which rook to capture. As it happens, the other one was better, although at my level it was too hard to calculate:

32. Nxc8 Nc3+ (32… Rxb1 33. Rxb1 Nc3+ 34. Ke3 Nxb1 35. e6 and Black will have to give up one of his knights for the e-pawn.) 33. Ke3 Nxb1 and Black will be unable to keep his c-pawn while stopping White’s e-pawn.)

32… Rxb8
33. Ra1

The wrong plan. Charlie the c-pawn is Public Enemy No 1 and needs to be stopped. I should have played 33. Rc1, hoping to be able to round him up.

33… Rb2+
34. Kf3 Rb8

Missing an opportunity, according to the engines. Passed pawns should be pushed, even at the cost of a knight. A sample variation:

34… c3 35. Ke4 c2 36. Kxd5 Rb1 37. Ra7+ Kh6 38. Nd3 Rd1 39. Rc7 Rxd3+ 40. Ke4 Rd2 41. Ke3 Rg2 42. Ne4 Ne6 43. Rc3 Kg7 44. Kd3 h5 45. Rxc2 Rxc2 46. Kxc2 h4 47. gxh4 Nxf4 with a draw.

35. Ra7+ Kg8
36. e6

I have no idea why I didn’t just take the pawn here, when White should be winning.

36… g5

Again I don’t understand why he didn’t push his pawn:

36… c3 37. e7 Nxe7 38. Rxe7 c2 and now the only way to draw is to let Black queen while setting up a perpetual at the other end of the board: 39. Nce4 (If White wants to stop the promotion it will cost him both his knights: 39. Nd3 Rb3 40. Ke4 Rxd3 41. Rc7 Rxd6 42. Rxc2 and Black is winning) 39… c1=Q 40. Nf6+ Kh8 41. Nf7+ Kg7.

Now the cutest way to draw is 42. Nh6+ Kh8 (Black will be mated if he takes either knight: 42… Kxh6 43. Ng8+ Kh5 44. Re5+ g5 45. Rxg5# or 42… Kxf6 43. Ng8+ Kf5 when White can choose between 44. g4# and Re5#) 43. Nf7+ Kg8 44. Nh6+, repeating moves.

The second cutest way to draw is 42. Ng5+ Kh6 (Kh8 is also a draw) 43. Kg4 and this time Black has to give a perpetual check to avoid getting mated.

37. e7 g4+

37… Nxe7 38. Rxe7 gxf4 39. gxf4 and White retains a vital pawn along with his extra piece.

38. Kxg4 h5+

38… c3 might lead to an amusing finish. Taking on f8 is good enough but the nicest way to win is to underpromote to a knight on e8. 39. e8=Q is no good because of Nf6+ 39. e8=N Rxe8 (39… c2 40. Rg7+ Kh8 41. Nf7#) (39… Kh8 40. Nf7+ Kg8 41. Nh6+ Kh8 42. Rg7 leads to mate) 40. Nxe8 and White wins.

It would have been good to win the immortal five knights game in this way. Perhaps I should emulate Alekhine and publish this variation as if it actually happened.

39. Kf3

Good enough, although there was no reason not to take the h-pawn. Now White can win the c-pawn and his extra piece decides. No further comment is required.

39… Nxe7
40. Rxe7 c3
41. Nce4 Nh7
42. Nxc3 Nf6
43. Nce4 Rb3+
44. Kg2 Ng4
45. Re8+ Kg7
46. Kh3 Rb2
47. Kh4 Nf6
48. Nxf6 Kxf6
49. Kxh5 Rb3
50. Kg4 Rd3
51. Ne4+ Kg7
52. f5 Kf7
53. Re6 Rd1
54. Nd6+ Kg8
55. f6 Rf1
56. Re8+ Kh7
57. f7
and Black finally resigned.

So I won my first game after an interesting but flawed struggle. Tune in again next week to find out what happened next.

Richard James