Category Archives: Improver (950-1400)

ChessEssentials, Level 4

“We raise Champions!”

Past reviews can be accessed here
ChessEssentials, level 1
ChessEssentials, level 2
ChessEssentials, level 3
App link at the iTunes store ChessEssentials
Level 4 (reference ratings 1100-1400) costs $2.99 and it also has 30 lessons, 30 puzzle sets and 30 tests still arranged in a well thought order. A junior at this level could become a regular at the national finals, while a club player could start giving top and titled players some headaches. In order to be successful with that, he needs to cover the following:
Mates
Lesson 1 starts the level with mate in 2 puzzles, same with how level 3 ended. We should consider this by now as a warm up, the same athletes do at the beginning of any training session. Please have a look at one sample:


Opening
Lessons 2 to 7 explore the French defence. This is a solid choice any player should consider using at one moment or the other of their chess career. The most obvious advantage is defending the f7-weak spot, as well as being involved in the fight for the center. The downside is having difficulty in activating Bc8, but we view this as a small price to pay for getting the benefits coming with using it. Learning the English opening is something I have done as a junior and I have won many a game for playing it against mostly surprised opponents. I have used a particular line which brought myself as well as my students lots of wins, including at World Youth Chess Championship (WYCC) level. It has positives and negatives as any other opening line, still its success rate speaks volumes.
– Lesson 2 covers the introduction to French Defence
– Lesson 3 covers the Exchange Variation
– Lesson 4 covers the Advance Variation
– Lesson 5 covers the Classical Variation
– Lesson 6 covers the Winaver Variation
– Lesson 7 covers the 3… a6 Variation
Lessons 8 and 9 cover the English Opening
– Lesson 8 covers a fiamchetto line of the English Opening
– Lesson 9 covers other ways to play it
Lesson 10 covers the Budapest Gambit giving any player a nice weapon to use against 1. d4
Please have a look at one sample:

Tactics
Disrupting the opposing defence and successfully running the attacks is the theme here, followed by a more advanced coverage of the pin. Attacking the King can be done on any side of the board and pretty much at any moment of the game if the right conditions are there and the player observes them.
Lessons 11 to 16
– Lesson 11 covers eliminating the defender
– Lesson 12 covers distracting the defender
– Lesson 13 covers atracting the defender
– Lesson 14 covers the interference
– Lesson 15 covers absolute pins
– Lesson 16 covers relative pins
Lessons 17 to 19
– Lesson 17 covers king in the middle
– Lesson 18 covers king on the king side
– Lesson 19 covers king on the queen side
Lesson 20 looks at how to use promoting a pawn into a queen at the right time to your advantage.
Please have a look at one sample:

Strategy
Lessons 21 to 25 focus on the rooks and how to use them efficiently.
– Lesson 21 covers how to open a line
– Lesson 22 covers how to use open lines
– Lesson 23 covers how to close open lines
– Lesson 24 covers the 7th rank domination
– Lesson 25 covers the back rank weakness
Please have a look at one sample:

Endgame
Lessons 26 to 29 look at some very important endgame positions
– Lesson 26 covers the separate 2 passed pawns
– Lesson 27 covers general king and pawns endgames
– Lesson 28 covers the Lucena position
– Lesson 29 covers the Philidor position
Please have a look at one sample:

Mates
Lesson 30 ends this level with mate in 3 puzzles. The training session takes it up a notch!

Conclusion: once a player reaches this point, his chess knowledge and preparation begins to take shape nicely. The tactical aspect of its game is getting sharper and the endgame should be a definite strength. Important strategical elements are added for a more rounded preparation. Hope you find this presentation interesting and the app worth giving it a try!

Valer Eugen Demian

ChessEssentials, level 3

“We raise Champions!”

Past reviews can be accessed here
ChessEssentials, level 1
ChessEssentials, level 2
App link at the iTunes store ChessEssentials
Level 3 (reference ratings 800-1100) costs $1.99 and it is useful to any club player wishing to move up through the ranks. It is the first level with 30 lessons, 30 puzzle sets and 30 tests also arranged in a well thought order. They cover the following aspects of the game:
Mates
Lesson 1 starts with more mate in 2 puzzles, similar with the last lesson 22 from level 2. The idea is to remind the student of the real object of the game regardless if they’ve done the previous levels or not. Please have a look at one sample:


Opening
– Lessons 2 to 5 add three more openings and cover opening principles all students must know and apply: developing, castling, occupying the center and beginning the attack. One of Steinitz
principles says:
“The side who possesses an advantage must attack, otherwise he risks losing that advantage. The best way to come up with a plan for an effective attack is to identify a weakness in opponent’s position and to exploit it.”
It is possible a lot of players believe it is a no brainer to attack in their games; however for beginner to intermediate students this is not the case. On top of the fact they need to watch all the pieces, attacking can be confusing. I heard many a student saying “but I have attacked the opposing pieces time and time again” and that is true from as early as 1. e4 d5 or 1. e4 Nf6. Here we point to the fact pieces attacking each other are just the first step toward attacking as a concept. It also gives a few simple reference points when to look for attacks on both sides.
– Lesson 2 covers the opening principles
– Lesson 3 covers the Evans Gambit
– Lesson 4 covers the Two Knights Defence
– Lesson 5 covers the Danish Gambit
Please have a look at one sample:

Tactics
– Lessons 6-14 increase the complexity of the basic tactics covered in level 2. Lessons 6 to 8 in particular highlight how deceiving the pins can be and what opportunities appear during tactical battles. The player with a knack for tactics would have an advantage over a more positional player; however all need to know and practice their tactics by solving as many puzzles as possible and use them in their games. Lessons 12 to 14 introduce three typical checkmate combinations (smothered mate, suffocation mate and the well known back rank mate). They require continuous observation of the position in general and more importantly the position of both kings in particular. A good attacker would look at the defensive weaknesses of the opposition, while a good defender would make sure their defence does not allow any such devastating tactics against them. A good player must do both at all times.
– Lesson 6 covers the absolute pins
– Lesson 7 covers the relative pins
– Lesson 8 covers breaking the pins
– Lesson 9 covers forks
– Lesson 10 covers double attacks
– Lesson 11 covers the windmill
– Lesson 12 covers the smothered mate
– Lesson 13 covers the suffocation mate
– Lesson 14 covers the back rank mate
Please have a look at one sample:

Strategy
– Lessons 15-24 are introductory to strategy. According to Wikipedia strategy is:
“… the aspect of chess playing concerned with evaluation of chess positions and setting of goals and long-term plans for future play…”
The idea is to guide the students forward from the first basic concepts of value of pieces (pawn = 1 point, knight = bishop = 3 points, rook = 5 points, queen = 9 points, king = priceless) and it looks at how to increase or decrease their values during the game. Lessons 22 to 24 are a reminder sometimes obtaining a draw could be as valuable as a win. The stalemate, perpetual check and the wrong corner could save the student important half points when anything else would lead to defeat. The game is over and all hope is lost when we stop believing, so these lessons should become allies in fighting on to the end in all your games!
– Lesson 15 covers the relative value of pieces
– Lesson 16 covers freeing up space
– Lesson 17 covers opening lines
– Lesson 18 covers trapping pieces
– Lesson 19 covers the tempo concept
– Lesson 20 covers the zugzwang
– Lesson 21 covers the game of the 20th century
– Lesson 22 covers the stalemate
– Lesson 23 covers the perpetual check
– Lesson 24 covers thw wrong corner
Please have a look at one sample:

Endgame
– Lessons 25-29 continue the study of the endgame, focusing on the major importance of the passed pawns. Obtaining one or more passed pawns changes the balance of any position immediately and this is very important in the endgame. The students need to know how to play with and without passed pawns on their side. Moving one step forward when there are no passed pawns on the board, it is worth looking at opportunities to create such passed pawns; doing this at the right time could help the student achieve winning advantage and high satisfaction.
– Lesson 25 covers the opposition
– Lesson 26 covers the square rule
– Lesson 27 covers passed pawns
– Lesson 28 covers pawn breakthrough
– Lesson 29 covers how to play the endgame
Please have a look at one sample:

Mates
Lesson 30 ends this level with more mate in 2 puzzles, similar with the last lesson 22 from level 2. Reminder: the real object of the game is to checkmate the opposing king!

Conclusion: by the end of level 3 the student should become a good club player with a solid chess foundation. The knowledge of tactics and endgame play would begin to tip many a game in their favour on a regular basis. Players of this level would be solid additions to their club team for matches against other clubs; in team tournaments such solid players make the difference and help their teams win matches most of the times. The top players usually cancel each other out. Hope you find this presentation interesting and the app worth giving it a try!

Valer Eugen Demian

100 Chess Tests, Basic Tactics

“100 Teste de sah, Procedee tactice elementare”/ “100 Chess tests, Basic tactics”, ISBN 978-606-8298-58-0, Editura Unirea – Alba Iulia is the third book in Romanian by MF Marius Ceteras (ROU), a follow up on the previous two very popular ones for beginner and intermediate players. His books are recognized by Romanian Ministry of Education and are officially used for teaching chess in schools across Romania and Republic of Moldova. The success of those books can be measured by the public positive response and desire for more of the same: they asked Marius to help them get more puzzles for practicing all the concepts presented. This third book is in response to that request.

The book is divided by 3 levels of difficulty plus one final review chapter and it is suitable for players rated around 1200 to 1600. Although it is written in Romanian, this book can be used by anyone rather easily. In today’s day and age the online free translation services solve decently any language barrier, including here for the rather minimal use of Romanian language in the description of each test. The puzzles are simply illustrated with their item number and either letter A (if White moves first) or N (if Black moves first). The solutions for all puzzles are located at the end of the book and checking them requires minimum effort even if you don’t know Romanian. The Romanian chess symbols for the pieces are (you can also Google them):
C = Cal (Rou) = Knight (Eng)
N = Nebun (Rou) = Bishop (Eng)
T = Turn (Rou) = Rook (Eng)
D = Dama (Rou) = Queen (Eng)
R = Rege (Rou) = King (Eng)
An English speaking reader might get mixed up at the beginning by the use of “N” or “R” (symbols for different pieces in English), but with a bit of practice things will work out well. I still get mixed up occasionally when translating between Romanian and English; this comes even after using both languages for many years!…

There are 100 tests of 6 puzzles each for a total of 600 puzzles. IMO this is a minimum number of puzzles any club player should solve on their own in order to get better. The puzzles are grouped by the tactical procedure required to solve them, as well as by level of difficulty. This aspect of the level of difficulty cannot be stressed enough! The internet is full with countless puzzles and sites offering puzzle solving; where the majority of them fall short is having those puzzles logically arranged in a meaningful and helpful progression. It is of very little use (sometimes no use at all) to try to solve a puzzle suitable for a 1600 level when you are under 1000. If you don’t even realize the puzzle is not suitable for you, there is a danger of turning an engine on to solve it for you; in that case you would learn nothing.

Levels 1, 2 and 3 have 30 tests for a total of 180 puzzles each, while the final review chapter has 10 final tests for a total of 60 puzzles. Marius personalizes all tests with a couple of nice local touches: all of them are from games played by Romanian players from Romania and Republic of Moldova; also their skill level varies from promising juniors to Grand Masters. There are tests where a tactical procedure is revisited as part of the same or a different level; the distinction between them is made by labeling them with letters such as: (A) for the first test and (B) for the second test.
Example I: level 1, test 6 deals with the “discovered attack” and it is marked (A), while test 7 also deals with the same subject and it is marked (B).
Example II: along the same idea level 2 has test 34 about “Attraction” (A), test 44 “Attraction” (B), while level 3 has test 66 “Attraction” (C) and test 76 “Attraction” (D).
This is a bit confusing and I am sure it could be improved in future. The number of tests per each tactical procedure has been chosen based on a statistical analysis of the frequency each might appear in a game, as well as how complex the procedure is. I believe this also is an important qualitative aspect of the book.

The solution of each puzzle could lead to the following possible outcomes for the side moving first:
– forced checkmate
– winning material advantage
– winning attack on the oppposing King
– won endgame
– winnning position
– draw if that is the best possible outcome
This book also covers the following tactical procedures not included in the previous two books; for each one I have added a sample puzzle to better illustrate what to expect:
1. The X-Ray attack (level 1, test 18)


2. Taking control of a square (level 2, tests 68 and 78)

3. The intermediate move (level 2, tests 69 and 79)

4. The counterattack (level 2, tests 70 and 80)

Other suggestions for improvements could be related to the layout: for each diagram it might be sufficient to have the lines and rows marked only on one side of the board (instead of both) to save space; also instead of using the letters A (if White moves first) or N (if Black moves first), it could be simpler to use an empty circle (if White moves first) or a dark circle (if Black moves first). It would go along the Informator type of layout and make it more appealing to a wider audience. The book can be purchased in local bookstores if you happen to visit Romania or online HERE. Hope you found this short review useful plus the offer interesting chess-wise (quality of material) and price-wise (18 Lei is approx 4.21 USD or 3.98 euro). An interesting interview with Marius will follow up in another article.

Valer Eugen Demian

Raymond Smullyan – and a Postscript

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Raymond Smullyan at the impressive age of 97. Smullyan was a mathematician, stage magician and concert pianist as well as a philosopher, but was best known as the author of many books on logic.

He was also interested in chess and published two books of ‘chess logic’ puzzles based on retro-analysis: The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes (1979) and The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights (1981). My bookshelf includes the latter, but not, as far as I can recall, the former. In Smullyan’s puzzles the solver has to use logic to work out how the position was reached, rather than, as in most chess puzzles, what should happen next.

Here’s his best known puzzle.

Set up this position on your board: a white bishop on a4, a black bishop on d5, black rook on b5 and black king on d1.

In the Arabian Knights book Smullyan explains that Haroun Al Rashid, the White King, has made himself invisible, a trick he learnt from a Chinese sorcerer. He is on one of the 64 squares of the enchanted chess kingdom, but no one can see him. Your task is to discover his location.

You might like to work it out for yourself before reading on.

You’ll spot that the black king is in check from the white bishop, but that there is no possible last move for that piece. But if Haroun Al Rashid is on b3 he will be in what appears to be an illegal double check from the black rook and bishop.

You’ll need a bit of lateral thinking to realise that this double check is not quite impossible: it could come about from an en passant capture.

This is how the position might have arisen (the black bishop could be somewhere else on the long diagonal). Black plays 1… Bd5+ and the game continues 2. c4 bxc3 (en passant), giving double check from the rook and the bishop by opening two lines, and then 3. Kxc3, giving you the required position. So the answer is that Haroun Al Rashid is on the c3 square.

This was first published by Leonard Barden in what was then the Manchester Guardian in 1957, but, as Barden had been sent the puzzle without any further information, the composer was not named. A few weeks later, Smullyan made contact with Barden, who later published several more of his chess logic puzzles.

By way of a postscript to last week’s article, I have a more conventional puzzle for you to solve.

Black to play: choose your next move.

You might recall that last week I demonstrated how my two most recent games featured missed opportunities for very similar tactics: sacrificing a rook for a pawn to set up a fork regaining the rook.

Since then I’ve played another league game, and again I was awarded the white pieces. In this position my opponent has an extra pawn on c3 which might not be very safe, while I might also be thinking about taking advantage of the slightly insecure black king by playing Nxg5.

They say things come in threes, and, for the third consecutive game both players failed to notice the possibility of a very similar combination.

Black can play 1… Rd1+! 2. Rxd1 c2 winning material by forcing the white queen away from her protection of the rook on b5. White’s only hope now is to give up the exchange: 3. Rxb6 axb6 4. Qb3 cxd1Q 5. Qxd1. Instead, Black, who was starting to run short of time, played Rd6, and, a few moves later, panicked and gave up material unnecessarily. I eventually won the game.

This is slightly harder from last week’s positions. Firstly, it involves a sacrifice on a vacant square. Secondly, there’s the additional motif of deflecting the white queen so you have to see one move further ahead. The basic concept is quite similar, though, and again, if you look for checks, captures and threats, you should be able to find it.

Richard James

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

It’s been a long time since I showed you any actual chess on a Sunday, so here, for a change, are two puzzles for you to solve. In each case I just want you to select your next move, and, if you want, consider what the two positions have in common.

In this position it’s White’s move.

And in this position it’s Black’s move.

Go away and solve them now before reading on.

It seems like I’ve spent most of my life telling children to use a CCTV when they’re playing chess. Look at every Check, Capture, Threat and Violent move both for you and for your opponent. Continue with all sequences of checks, captures and threats until you reach a quiescent position. As Cecil Purdy wrote, examine moves that smite.

If I’d been brought up on Purdy perhaps this would have become second nature to me. But instead I was brought up on Golombek’s The Game of Chess, which explained what to do but not how to do it. Golombek was an excellent writer and, it goes without saying, extremely knowledgeable about chess. But, unlike Purdy, he wasn’t really a teacher.

So, although I try to explain to my pupils how to think about chess positions, I’m totally unable to do the same thing myself in my own games.

These positions came from my two (at the time of writing) most recent games. I was White in both positions. You’ve probably found the best move in both positions by now: they’re not so hard if you know there’s something there, but easy to miss over the board, at least at my level.

In the first position I could have won a pawn with the simple tactic 1. Rxb7 Rxb7 2. Qc8+, but neither player noticed, either at the time or during the post mortem. The game was eventually drawn: you might possibly see all the moves in a future post.

In the second position, Black looks in trouble. His h-pawn is en prise, his f-pawn will be under pressure after a future Rcf1, and White’s centre pawns are ready to roll. But the great god Tactics comes to his rescue: he has 1… Rxd4+ 2. Kxd4 Ne2+, when Black is a bit better but White might just be holding. Again, fortunately for me and my team (we won the match by the minimum margin) neither player noticed the opportunity and I eventually brought home the full point.

Both tactics are essentially the same thing, aren’t they? You sacrifice a rook for a pawn, setting up a fork to win back the rook. If I were writing a tactics book (which, as it happens, I am), and included a chapter on sacrificing to set up a fork (which I probably won’t as it’s a very basic tactics book) you could well include both positions. In both games I didn’t consider the possibility at all, just seeing that the pawn was defended and not taking it any further.

Although I teach my pupils to look for this sort of thing in their games, it just doesn’t occur to me to do so myself. It ought to be second nature, but it isn’t, which is one reason why I’ve never been a very good player. I guess that, as I’m coming towards the end of my chess career, it’s too late to do anything about it now.

Richard James

Mr. Coach, I Don’t Know What To Do Next?

A common question, asked by post beginners after learning how to open the game, is what they should do next. Here I believe there are four most basic factors which can help you to find reasonable way to deal with the situation.

1) Look for tactics by eyeing for checks, captures and threats. Most of the beginners’ chess games feature missed tactical opportunities, and mainly due to double attacks and pins.

2) Mobility is perhaps the most basic and important concept ignored by beginners. If your pieces cover more squares in general they are more mobile. You can do it by centralizing them. Try to trade your passive pieces (less mobile ones) for your opponent’s active ones. I think that difficult concepts like space, open lines, outposts, piece improvement or even the pawn structure are based around mobility.

3) Find the target and attack. Finding a target is the most difficult thing for them and us as it has direct relation to our overall chess knowledge. It is also at the core of formulating a plan.

4) King safety is an area where there’s nothing new that I can add. The game ends with checkmate so do not try getting any kind of advantage by putting your king into danger.

Did I miss something? Please do comment here.

Ashvin Chauhan

The Chess-Player’s Brainfade

One of the most important qualities that a chess player must have on his C. V. is the ability to analyse accurately. One can possess all the theoretical knowledge and experience in the world, but when it comes to it, it is our moves over-the-board, that will decide the game. And if we are blase or complacent in our contemplations, we will (or should) pay the price.

What makes human chess so exciting, is that even with the best of intentions, games are filled with oversights, inaccuracies and darn right blunders. These are made at all levels, and even the greats fail. Perhaps you watched the recent online blitz showdown between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura? As well as being a real treat to see just what these players are capable of seeing given such short time, there was also some comfort to the mere mortals among us, when Nakamura hung his Queen by allowing his King to be skewered.

This makes me feel slightly more at ease, in sharing with you the following example that I recently played online. It is a correspondence game with a 7-day time control and I feel that it perfectly demonstrates the difficulties we face in maintaining a clear head, capable of consistent accurate analysis. Both myself and my opponent certainly failed at this in the most critical moments of the game, which was decided by who made the last error rather than any brilliance. This was, luckily for me, my opponent, who also committed the great faux pas of assuming that his opponent knew better than he did, as you will see.

So what do we learn from this game? Well, a few things:

  • We have to base our analysis upon the nature of the position. This goes without saying, but it is sometimes startlingly easy to forget. My positional and psychological decisions had served me very well up to a point in the above game. When the pieces are not in contact, when there is no tension, limiting one’s thought process to this is fine. The analysis of lines can often be limited to a few moves in these positions — infact, deep analysis of lines would be an inefficient use of time. However, when creating tension, when the pieces are in close contact, this changes. Even more so if one is intending to take a risk, such as a sacrifice. Deep, thorough and accurate analysis becomes essential and general positional and psychological thought simply will not suffice. We must endeavour to confirm that we will get the return we want, we can’t just wish our opponent to do something or trick or bully them into it.
  • Our opponent does not have to cooperate with our aspirations. Actually, the chess player’s goal is to not cooperate with the opponent. My decision to play 17…Bxh3 was based on the fact that I felt that White would be compelled to move his knight (therefore allowing me the strong …Qh4) after 18.gxh3 Rg6+ 19.Kf1 Bh2 in order to stop mate. This was completely inaccurate, but I saw what I wanted to see and didn’t see the reality on the board.
  • Our opponent is never infallible. My opponent’s decision to not play 18.gxh3 ultimately cost him the game. Had he analysed accurately, he would have seen that the bishop was a safe capture and that he would be fine to all that I had to throw at him. Instead, he relied on the accuracy of my analysis and in effect allowed himself to be bluffed, thinking that I had all my i’s dotted and t’s crossed. This resulted in him losing a game that he should have won.

John Lee Shaw

King Up For The Ending

Like all chess teachers, I explain to all my pupils that the first rule of endings is to use your king actively. In the very early days of Richmond Junior Club, Mike Fox would use the acronym KUFTE (King Up For The Ending).

Here’s an example. I have the white pieces and am a pawn behind but as long as I remember the Philidor position I should draw with a bit of care. What could be more natural than moving my king up the board to g4? Let’s just shake hands and grab a swift pint in the bar before closing time. But I’m soon awakened from my reverie. The black pawn moves to h5. My opponent offers his hand, but not because he’s happy to share the point.

King Up For The Ending wasn’t such a good idea in that position, then. Perhaps I’ll do better next time.

I’m white again, and have a pawn on the seventh rank. I reach out for a queen, eager to promote my pawn and force resignation. “Check”, my opponent says. “Oh no, I missed that one. Never mind, I can move out of check and then promote. I must remember to bring my king up for the ending, and attacking an enemy pawn seems like a good idea, so I play Kf3. Now if Rg3+ I’m playing Kxf4, if Rg8 I can probably play Rd7 followed by Rd8, and if the rook moves horizontally I promote at once with mate. What could go wrong?

But instead, my opponent plays Rf2. “Checkmate”, he announces, apologetically, and stops the clock.

Perhaps it will be third time lucky.

This time my opponent has a knight rather than a rook, so I shouldn’t have to worry about checkmate. I must remember to watch out for knight forks: Kc4, for example, wouldn’t be too clever. So I’ll move my king forward again, both advancing and centralising: surely it must be safe this time. My opponent moves his knight to b6. From out of the blue it’s another checkmate.

It’s very easy, isn’t it, to make this sort of mistake. Many games are decided by opening tactics. At the start of the game we wear our Opening Hat. We think about quick development, central control and king safety, but if we forget our Tactics Hat we could easily overlook a fork, for example. While we wear our Tactics Hat in the middle game it’s all to easy to forget it when we have our Ending Hat on. We’re thinking about winning pawns, creating passed pawns, promoting them and mating our opponent with the resulting queens. We learn at an early age that in the ending the king is a fighting piece. We’re not likely to get mated with many pieces on the board so we can advance him fearlessly into enemy territory.

But as you’ve seen it doesn’t always work out like that. The Magic Question always has to take precedence. Just in case you didn’t know, the Magic Question is “If I play that move, what could my opponent do next? What checks, captures and threats will be at my opponent’s disposal?” With not many pieces on the board, it’s fatally easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. The clock is ticking away: perhaps you’re playing on increment. I guess we’ve all been there.

Here’s another example:

Of course you can guess what happened next: White played Kd4, advancing and centralising, but allowing Rd3#.

This one’s a bit different:

White is up by the exchange for a pawn. The king is already centralised so it’s time to think of another endgame precept: Passed Pawns Must Be Pushed. Another sad story: d6 was met by Bc6#.

So how did I find these examples? I’m currently in the final stages of research for Checkmates for Heroes, part of the Chess for Heroes project (about which much more later) and looking for examples of interesting black checkmates to be used as test positions. I also came across positions such as these which were interesting for other reasons.

One final, and rather different, tragedy, this time not an ending.

Anything reasonable will win for White. Nf3 is, according to the engines, mate in 9, while Qxg7+ is obvious and strong. Instead, White, not noticing there was a big difference, captured on g7 with the rook. As Tartakower said, the mistakes are all there waiting to be made. We’ll all do well to remember Tartakower, as well as the Magic Question, next time we play chess.

Richard James

The Passed Pawn

This article is aimed at beginners and pre-intermediate players only. Though, intermediate players may find it interesting.

The pawn, the smallest chess unit, increases its value if it advances to the other side of the board with proper support. This is because of its unique power to promote itself to any other piece except the king.

A pawn is a ‘passed pawn’ or ‘passer’ if it doesn’t having any obstruction from an enemy pawn on the same file or neighboring file. Various endgame and middle game themes are based around the passed pawn only. We will deal with those concepts later on.

Let’s consider the following position:

Here:
1) White’s ‘c’ and Black’s ‘c’ pawns are not passed pawns as they have frontal obstruction.
2) White’s ‘g’ and Black’s ‘h’ pawns are not passed pawns as they face obstruction from the neighboring file’s enemy pawns.
3) White’s ‘e’ and Black’s ‘a’ pawns are passed pawns.

The level of difficulty in producing and promoting a passer varies with the level playing strength. Sometimes it is easier whilst at other times it is harder and requires the use of various tactical motifs and combinations to achieve the objective. Here are some instructive examples:


Carl Schlechter against Julius Perlis in 1911


In the given position Black’s last move was 7…Bxb1.
Q: How would you evaluate Black’s last move? And how should White proceed here?
A: Black’s last move was a mistake. Now White can win a good pawn.

8. dxc6!!

Surprise!

8…Be4??

Black is completely oblivious. He should have played 8…Nxc6 when White is pawn up yet far from winning. But now White can launch a splendid combination which wins on the spot.

9. Rxa7!!

This forces Black to give up his due to White’s powerful candidate on c6 and Black’s awkward knight on b8. But his next move forces him to resign after White’s reply.

9…Rxa7 10. c7

Black resigned as he can’t stop White’s pawn from being promoted.

Karjakin against Navara in 2009

In this position White already had passed pawns on the a- and b- files but they are not dangerous yet because of Black’s active rooks on the 7th rank.

Q: How can White win this position by force?

A: Karjakin played R5c2 which wins by force.

36. R5c2!!

White sacrificed his whole rook in order to make use of his pawn on b6.

36…Rdxc2 37. Rxc2 Rxc2

37…Rxa5 fails to b7 followed by Nd7+.

38. b7 Rb2 39. Nd7+ Ke8 40. Nb6

The point behind the combination. Black resigned.

Ashvin Chauhan

Sealing the Weakness

Today I am going to talk about the sealing a weakness by physically blocking lines. It is really a nice theme which beginners often fail to see; when your opponent tries to exchange the blockading piece often you get a passed pawn, a better pawn chain or a nice outpost for a piece.

Here are a couple of examples of this:

Seirawan against Yussupov in 2000

Q: Black has a weakness on c6 but which is not accessible to White in the near future. Could you formulate a plan for Black using the theme discussed above?

Hint: You can seal that weakness by placing a piece on c4. This kind of idea often arises in the QGD Exchange pawn structure.

Solution: Black can bring his knight to c4 via f8-d7-b6 and c4 which not only seals the weakness on c6 but gets a nice outpost.

Here is the rest of game:

20…Nf8 21.Nb3 Qa3 22.Qc1 Nd7 23.Rc2 Qa8 24.Ne1 Nb6 25.Nd3 Nc4 26.Re2 Qc8 27.Nbc5 Rce7 28.Rfe1 Qf5 29.Kg2 h5 30.f3 Qf6 31.a4 bxa4 32.Nxa4 h4 33.Nac5 Qg6 34.e4 hxg3 35.h3 Bxc5 36.Nxc5 dxe4 37.Rxe4 Rxe4 38.Nxe4 Nd6 39.Qxc6 f5 40.Nxd6 Rxe1 41.Qc8+ Kh7 42.Qxf5 Re2+ 43.Kg1 Re1+ 44.Kg2 Re2+ 45.Kg1 Qxf5 46.Nxf5 Rf2 47.Nxg3 Rxf3 48.Kg2 Rd3 49.Ne2 Kg8 50.h4 Kf7 51.h5 Kf6 52.h6 gxh6 53.Nf4 Rxd4 54.Kg3 Kf5 55.Ne2 Ra4 56.Ng1 h5 57.Kh3 Kg5 58.Nf3+ Kf4 59.Ne1 Ra2 60.Nd3+ Kg5 61.Ne5 Ra3+ 62.Kh2 Kf5 63.Nf7 Rd3 0-1

The next example is one of my favourites and a really instructive one:
Janowski against Capablanca in 1916


Q: What will you do with your damaged pawn structure on the queenside? Try to formulate the plan.

Hint: Capablanca uses weak pawn to support the c4 square.

Solution: Black first supports the b5 square by playing 10…Bd7! and then slowly gets the pawn push to b5 in order to bring his knight to c4 via a5-c4 route. The whole game is really instructive and has already been annotated by Nigel D here.

Ashvin Chauhan