Category Archives: Strong/County (1700-2000)

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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Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 2

I left you last time after the first round of the 1974 Paignton Challengers A Tournament.

In round 2 I had the black pieces against a friend and clubmate, Geoff Davies, and was content with a short draw in a position in which I might well have played on. If you read my column two weeks ago you’ll realise that I’m still more than happy to take a short draw with black against friends. Perhaps this is one reason why I never made much progress as a serious competitive player.

So onto round 3, where I had white against a lower graded opponent.

In those days I liked to play against big centres with black, choosing the Modern Defence, and with big centres with white, hence my choice of the Four Pawns Attack against my opponent’s King’s Indian Defence. I’d learned this from the Batsford book on the King’s Indian by Barden, Hartston and Keene.

Here’s what happened.

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 g6
3. Nc3 Bg7
4. e4 d6
5. f4 O-O
6. Nf3 c5
7. d5

Main line 4PA theory so far. Now Black usually plays 7… e6 (b5 is an interesting alternative) when after 8. Be2 exd5 White has to choose which way to recapture. At the time I favoured taking with the e-pawn, which, to be honest, is not a very good move. Despite a couple of rather horrible losses I generally scored well with it because my opponents weren’t familiar with the position and chose incorrect plans.

7… Nh5

German writers would remark that this move was “nicht stellungsgemäß” (my favourite word at the time) – not appropriate to the position. In lines where Black plays e5 rather than c5 he’s going to move his knight from f6, often to h5, and play the f5 pawn break. But, confused by White’s opening, he plays an inappropriate move and constantly refuses to avail himself of the e6 break. If you don’t play your pawn breaks in cramped positions you’ll end up getting squashed.

8. Bd3 Na6
9. O-O Bd7
10. Be3 Nc7
11. a4 a6
12. a5 Nf6
13. h3 Qc8
14. e5 Nfe8
15. Ne4

So far so good, but Stockfish prefers the immediate Qe1 here.

15… Rb8
16. Qe1 b5

Finally Black plays a pawn break.

17. axb6 Rxb6
18. Bc1

It’s fairly natural to defend the pawn, but Stockfish again prefers Qh4.

18… Bf5
19. g4 Bxg4

I’ve speculated in a previous article that, at this sort of level, more games are lost by unsound sacrifices than are won by sound sacrifices. It’s understandable that Black, not liking his position very much, lashes out in this way. Stockfish considers 19… Bxe4 20. Qxe4 e6 a much better defence.

20. hxg4 Qxg4+
21. Qg3 Qxg3+
22. Nxg3 f5
23. Ne2 Na8
24. Rb1 Nec7
25. Bd2 Rfb8
26. Bc3 R6b7
27. Bc2 Nb6
28. b3 Nbxd5

Black decides to sacrifice another piece for a couple of pawns. By this time I’d have been wishing I knew how to mate with a bishop and knight.

29. cxd5 Nxd5
30. Kf2 Nb4
31. Bxb4 Rxb4
32. Rfe1 Bh6
33. Kg3 Bf8
34. e6

Good enough, although the pawn might become a target here. Better was exd6 followed by Nc3 and Nd5, playing for an attack on the black king.

34… Bg7
35. Rh1 Bf6
36. Kf2 d5
37. Rhg1 R8b6
38. Bxf5 Kh8

Reaching the time control. (In Round 2 and subsequent rounds we were playing 38 moves in 2¼ hours.) Now it’s easy: I can return one of my extra pieces for a mating attack on the g and h files. He might have tried Rxb3 instead.

39. Bxg6 hxg6
40. Rxg6 Kh7
41. f5

Retreating the rook to g4, g3 or g2 was slightly more efficient.

41… Bh4+
42. Nxh4 Rxh4
43. Kg3 Rh6
44. Rxh6+ Kxh6
45. Nc3

The sealed move. He could have resigned here and saved us both the trouble of resuming.

45… c4
46. Nxd5 Rxb3+
47. Rxb3 cxb3
48. f6 exf6
49. e7 b2
50. Nc3 Black resigned

So, 2½/3 and things were looking good. Tune in again for next week’s exciting episode.

Richard James

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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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Adventures with 1… e5 (5)

Regular readers of my posts might be wondering what had happened to my attempts at playing 1… e5 in reply to 1.e4 this season.

Since my last article in the series I’ve faced 1. f4 followed by four consecutive 1. d4s. My last two games, though, saw me facing 1. e4 again, both times against slightly lower graded opponents.

For many years now it’s been against my principles to play serious chess unless there’s an ‘r’ in the month. The league chess season used to finish at the end of April, but it now drags on until the end of May, with cup matches continuing well into June. I really prefer to have more than a couple of months break between seasons.

The first game was in our last league match of the season, against Kingston, who were finding it difficult to field full teams since the sad loss of their captain, Chris Clegg, a few months ago.

I was sitting opposite their new captain, but three of the Kingston players had failed to appear, so I guessed my opponent was not really in the mood for a serious game, while a solid draw would do our prospects no harm.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nge7

The Cozio Variation. I’d been looking at 3… g6 and 3… Nge7 but it was so long since I’d last faced a Lopez that I’d forgotten which one I was going to play as well as all the analysis. My opponent told me he’d have played the Exchange Variation against 3… a6.

4. d4

Perfectly playable, of course, but not White’s most dangerous option.

4… exd4
5. Nxd4 g6
6. O-O Bg7
7. Be3 O-O
8. c3

8. Nc3 is more to the point but Black still has several playable replies.

8… d5

Leading to complete equality. Now a series of exchanges simplifies the position.

9. exd5 Nxd4
10. Bxd4 Qxd5
11. Bxg7 Kxg7
12. Qxd5 Nxd5
13. Na3 Bf5
14. Rfd1 c6
15. Bd3 Bxd3
16. Rxd3

Offering a draw, which was immediately accepted. I’d intended to offer a draw on my next move anyway.

Not a very exciting adventure, I’m afraid, but I can’t really complain about achieving equality with the black pieces so quickly.

The league programme may have finished but we were still in the cup, with a quarter-final match against Division 2 side Hayes, who currently meet in Uxbridge, by the standards of the Thames Valley League a long journey and one which most of our players were unable or reluctant to make, so I had little choice but to play. Again, I had the black pieces and found myself facing 1. e4. My only previous game against my opponent, back in 2001, had started 1. f4 but since then he’s changed his opening repertoire.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. d4 exd4
4. c3

Not unexpected from what I knew about my opponent.

4… d5

He told me after the game that he has a good record against weaker players who take the pawn, but stronger players prefer this move.

5. exd5 Qxd5
6. cxd4 Bb4+
7. Nc3 Bg4
8. Be2 Bxf3
9. Bxf3 Qc4

9… Qxd4 10. Bxc6+ has netted a few victims. Qc4 is attributed to Capablanca, and indeed the earliest game with it on my database is Marshall-Capablanca Lake Hopatcong 1929. Transposition from the Danish Gambit is also common. Both my opponent and I were familiar with this line. If you play e5 in reply to e4 you really ought to know it.

10. Bxc6+ bxc6
11. Qe2+ Qxe2+
12. Kxe2 O-O-O
13. Be3 Ne7

Still travelling a familiar route.

14. a3

Rad1 is more often played here, but Black scores well. a3 might be slightly more accurate.

14… Bd6

The only game in my database with this move was agreed a draw at this point. The other games all saw Black preferring Ba5.

15. Ne4 Nf5
16. Rac1 Rhe8
17. Nxd6+ Rxd6
18. Kd3 Red8

Played without much thought. Nxd4 was an alternative, giving White fewer options, which didn’t occur to me until the following move.

19. Rc4 c5

Here I spent some time considering the respective merits of Nxd4 and c5. They both seem to lead to equality.

20. Rxc5 Nxd4
21. Bxd4

There was no real need for this exchange. Instead Kc3 was about equal.

21… Rxd4+
22. Ke3 Rd3+
23. Ke4 Rd2

Again played too quickly. I should have preferred 23… R8d4+ 24. Ke5 Rd2 when Black will win a pawn as the white king is exposed a potential f6+. Maybe not so obvious at my level, though.

24. Rhc1 R8d7
25. R1c2 Re7+

Slightly inaccurate again. The safe way to draw was 25… R7d4+ 26. Ke5 Rd5+ when White has nothing better than repetition.

26. Kf3 Rd3+

My draw offer was accepted immediately. White could have tried to avoid the checks by 27. Kf4 Rd4+ 28. Kg3 Rd3+ 29. f3 but there’s really not much there.

Again not very exciting, I’m afraid, but both games demonstrate that a well-timed d5 can give Black easy equality in many open games.

Richard James

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I Had a Swinging Time with Charlie

My opponent in this chess game is named Charlie and he uses the handle DevanteSwing on ICC. Somehow my correspondence chess rating on ICC got reset to zero and then several correspondence chess games were started with me that I did not ask for. This is one of those games. I was declared the winner of four of these games by adjudication after my opponents abandoned these games. However my rating went down after three of these games were adjudicated!! I am baffled by this! My current correspondence chess rating at ICC is 1884 after 11 games, all wins.

This is one of the correspondence chess games that I got to finish with a win.

Black blundered on move number 7 and his game went downhill quickly after that. White’s “sacrifice” on move number 8 sets up the combination that wins material for White and chases the Black King around. After White wins a pawn both sides continue with “normal” development, but the Black pieces are a bit uncoordinated. White wins another pawn on move number 15.

White finally castles on move number 16 ( a bit late) and the win is fairly easy for White from there.

Mike Serovey

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Short Circuit

I guess a Short Circuit might be what happens when Nigel S gives a simul. But it’s also the reason for many of my losses. My brain short circuits: it stops working before it gets to consider the correct move, either for me or for my opponent.

Watch what happened in this recent game against Martin Smith, who blogs elsewhere on chess art, literature and history.

1. e4 c5
2. c3 d6
3. d4 Nf6
4. Bd3 Nc6
5. Nf3 e5
6. dxc5 d5
7. exd5 Qxd5
8. Qe2 e4

Martin has chosen an unusual variation, but one which scores well for Black. Bg4 now is equal but this move loses a pawn.

9. Bc4 Qxc5
10. Ng5 Ne5
11. Bb5+ Nc6
12. Nxe4 Nxe4
13. Qxe4+ Be6
14. Bxc6+

Gaining a tempo and splitting his pawns, but probably not enough reason to trade bishop for knight.

14… bxc6
15. Be3

Nothing very much wrong with this but it would have been simpler to castle. I thought it didn’t matter much whether I played this before or after castling. I got as far as noticing that he had to move his queen to maintain defence of c6. I assumed he wouldn’t want to exchange queens after Qd5 so assumed he’d play Qd6. I failed to be thorough in considering every possibility, though, and the idea of Qb5 didn’t occur to me at all. If I’d seen it I’d have castled without further thought. I guess b5 is an unusual square for a black queen early in the game.

15… Qb5
16. a4

I could have played Nd2 followed by c4 and O-O but again it hadn’t occurred to me that he could play Qa6. I thought Qb7 was his only move.

16… Qa6
17. b4 Rd8
18. f3

A slightly dangerous plan. I mistakenly thought my king would be safe on f2. The right idea was 18. Na3 followed by b5 and eventually O-O, but to play that I had to notice that 18… Qxa4 would have been well met by 19. O-O followed by Nc2.

18… Be7
19. Nd2 O-O
20. Kf2 Rfe8
21. Qc2 f5
22. Rhb1

Continuing to pursue a faulty plan. I was planning to open up the queen side and win his a-pawn but was still unaware that my king would be in danger because his pieces seemed so far away. Moving my rooks into the centre would have led to a position where Black probably has enough for the pawn but no more.

22… Bd6
23. b5 Qc8
24. Kg1 cxb5
25. axb5 f4

This is where things get interesting. We were playing 35 moves in 75 minutes (with a choice of adjournment or adjudication if the game was unfinished when time was called) and at this point we both had round about 10 minutes to reach the time control – a minute a move.

I was very surprised by this move, having expected Bc5 instead. It turns out, though, that neither of those was the best move.

The move Martin should have preferred was 25… Bf7 (not easy to find with the time control approaching) when best play is 26. Bg5 Re2 27. Qd1 (not 27. Bxd8 Qc5+ 28. Kh1 Qe5) 27… Rde8. Black will pick up the c-pawn with advantage but no clear win.

I don’t think I’d decided what to do if he’d played 25… Bc5. 26. Nf1, according to the computer, is equal with best play, but 26. Bxc5 Qxc5+ is winning for Black.

26. Bxa7

I couldn’t see any reason not to take the pawn and indeed Stockfish gives this as its first choice (although in 10 moves time it will change its mind). Instead I could have played Bd4 (which we looked at briefly after the game), or, better still Bf2 when White has an extra pawn in a stable position.

26… Bc5+
27. Bxc5??

A fatal short circuit. For some reason I played this at once, not considering moving my king at all. Perhaps I thought I had to take because otherwise he’d take my bishop but I really can’t explain it.

27. Kf1 loses at once to 27… Rxd2! 28. Qxd2 Bc4+ with mate to follow.

27. Kh1 is an adequate defence, though. The extra tempo compared with the game makes a big difference There’s a long forced variation: 27… Bxa7 28. Rxa7 Qc5 29. Ra4 (Ra2 giving up the exchange might also hold) 29… Qf2 30. Rd4 (the point) 30… Rxd4 31. cxd4 Bf5 threatening mate, the queen and indirectly the rook. So White has to check. 32. Qb3+ loses because White has no back rank checks. 32. Qa2+ draws as the black king has access to f8. The winning try is 32. Qc4+ Kh8 33. Ne4 (meeting all the threats in one go) 33… Bxe4 34. fxe4 f3 35. Qf1 (after 35. Rg1 Black has a perpetual) 35… fxg2+ 36. Qxg2 Qxd4. At this point White has several tries but Black appears to be holding in all variations.

27… Qxc5+
28. Kh1

28. Kf1 again gets mated after 28… Rxd2!

28… Qf2

I’d seen this but thought I had a defence.

29. Rb2

29. Rf1, for instance, avoids the mate at the cost of the knight and, eventually, the game.

29… Bh3!

This was the reason why Martin played f4 on move 25.

30. Rg1 Bxg2+
0-1

On one level I lost because I blundered on move 27, caused by a short circuit. If I’d defended correctly I could have at least drawn the game. But Black could have played better himself at move 25. At a higher level, though, I lost because I failed to realise that my king was in danger once the dark squared bishops had been exchanged. If I’d castled on move 15 instead of short circuiting and overlooking that he could temporarily prevent O-O, this wouldn’t have happened. I could also have avoided the attack by centralising my rooks instead of playing on the queen side.

So (no pun intended) how can I stop myself short circuiting in this way in future? I suppose I could make some motivational notes on my scoresheet, or even on some other piece of paper. But then again, maybe not.

Richard James

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Opening Blunders, Part Two

Here is yet another chess game in which both my opponent and I missed a few things. I missed several chances to win and Perilla missed a few chances to equalize. Then, I blundered and just game him the chess game.

This game was played at the Brandon Chess Club when a Life master and I were running the club and the chess tournaments there. Unfortunately, the club fell apart after the master stopped running things.

In this chess game I played a double fianchetto, which I sometimes do, against an unrated player. On move number 18 we both missed an idea that would have won material for me (White). On move number 19 I once again missed a winning move! On move number 23 I missed an idea that would not only have saved the game for me but I also gave me winning chances. Black’s move number 23 was the game winner and I resigned after I made my 24th move.

Mike Serovey

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A Question of Time

In last week’s game, with more time and more ability I might have had to assess this king and pawn ending (with White to play) before choosing my move.

So what’s happening here? Let’s start by considering this position.

If Black has to move his king it’s clear he will lose. If it’s his move he will, if White is careful, run out of pawn moves first and White will win. But if it’s White’s move he can only draw because he’ll run out of pawn moves first.

So White’s aim is to reach this position with Black to move.

White needs to get his king in so, from the first diagram, obviously starts with 1. Kf3 Ke8 2. Kf4. After 2… Kd7 3. Ke5 White has achieved his aim, reaching the second diagram with Black to move. Now Black has a choice of pawn moves. We’ll look at each in turn.

After 3… g5 White can choose three pawn moves: one wins, one draws and one loses. The winning pawn move is 4. g4 h6 5. f3 and Black has to give way. If he prefers he can draw by playing 4. f4, for instance 4… gxf4 5. gxf4 h5 6. f5 exf5 7. Kxf5. Or he can choose to lose instead with 4. f3 h5 5. f4 h4 6. gxh4 gxh4 7. Ke4 Kxd6 8. Kf3 Kd5 9. Kg4 Ke4 10. Kxh4 Kxf4. Another way to draw is 4. Kf6 Kxd6 5. Kxg5 e5 6. Kh6 Kd5 7. Kxh7 Ke4 8. Kg6 Kf3 9. Kf5 Kxf2 10. g4 Kf3 11. g5 e4 12. g6 e3 13. g7 e2 14. g8Q e1Q

Returning to the second diagram Black might also play 3… h6. This time White has two winning pawn moves. 4. f4, which drew against g5, now wins. After 4… h5 5. Kf6 is now winning for White, while after 4… g5, 5. fxg5 hxg5 6. g4 forces Black to give way. 4. f3, which lost against 3… g5, also wins, meeting 4… h5 with 5. f4 and 4… g5 with 5. g4. But 4. g4, the only way to win against 3… g5, this time is only a draw after 4… h5. Another way for White to win is 4. Kf6, which was only a draw against 3… g5.

Back to the second diagram for the last time, and now Black plays 3… h5. It’s clear that 4. f4 wins at once. On the other hand, 4. g4 now loses after 4… h4 with a passed pawn (but 4… hxg4 only draws) and 4. f3 also loses after 4… g5 followed by 5… h4. 4. Kf6 this time is a win for White.

So to summarise from this position:

After 3… g5, g4 wins, f4 and Kf6 both draw, f3 loses.
After 3… h6, f3, f4 and Kf6 all win, g4 draws.
After 3… h5, f4 and Kf6 both win, f3 and g4 both lose.

So White can win with optimal play.

Back at the first diagram, then, after 1. Kf3 Ke8 2. Kf4 Black might want to consider alternatives. His best try is 2… g5. Now 3. Ke5 is met by h5, when Black’s passed h-pawn will distract White and enable him to draw. So White needs to play 3. g4 to prevent this.

We now need to consider another position.

If it’s White to move in this position it’s a draw with best play but Black has to get his timing right.

1. Kf6 Kxd6 2. Kxg5 Kd5 (Paradoxically, perhaps, 2… Ke5 loses because White gains an extra tempo: 3. f3 Kd4 4. Kh6 Ke3 5. Kxh7 Kxf3 6. g5 e5 7. g6 e4 8. g7 e3 9. g8=Q e2 10. Qg1 and White wins) 2. Kh6 Ke5 3. Kxh7 Kf4 4. f3 e5 5. Kh6 Kxf3 6. g5 e4 7. g6 e3 8. g7 e2 9. g8=Q e1=Q with a draw.

If it’s Black to move, though, White wins easily after 1… h6 2. f3 with Zugzwang.

Now consider what happens if White starts with 1. f3 h6.

This time it’s White who has to be careful if he wants to draw. Kf6 is now winning for Black so the only move is Ke4, to be able to take the opposition when Black takes on d6, after which he can make no progress.

2. Ke4 (2. Kd4 Kxd6 3. Ke4 Kc5 4. Ke5 Kc4 5. Kxe6 Kd3 6. Kf5 Ke3 7. Kg6 Kxf3 and Black wins) (2. Kf6 Kxd6 3. Kg6 Ke5 4. Kxh6 Kf4 5. Kh5 e5 and Black wins) 2… Kxd6 3. Kd4 e5+ 4. Ke4 Ke6 and Black, despite his extra pawn, only has a draw.

So, returning to our first diagram, after 1. Kf3 Ke8 2. Ke4 g5 3. g4 White’s primary aim is to reach the third diagram with Black to move while Black has to prevent this. So Black avoids 3… Kd7, instead playing Kd8, preparing to meet 4. Ke5 with Kd7. We now know that this is only a draw so White cannot achieve his primary aim but he still has a winning plan. His king has to take a journey to the queen side. He can win by playing Kc5 in reply to Kd7 (just as he can by playing Ke5 in reply to Kd7) or by playing Kc6 at some point. Black cannot prevent both these ideas.

White must continue 4. Kd4 (the only move to win) Kc8 5. Kc4 (again the only move to win: 5. Kc5 Kd7 is a draw) 5… Kb8 (or 5… Kd7 6. Kc5 and wins because it’s Black’s move) 6. Kb5 Kb7 7. Kc5 Kc8 8. Kc6 Kd8 9. d7 and wins.

Finally, we can conclude that the pawn ending is winning for White with best play (and that, returning to last week’s game, I could have won by selecting 38. Bd5). Chess is just too hard!

Richard James

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A Sinne of Feare

Last week I quoted with approval the dictum attributed to Amos Burn: “He Who Combinates is Lost”. Well, sometimes, but not always. Sometimes he who is too scared to combinate is lost. Sometimes he who is too scared to accept his opponent’s unsound sacrifices is lost.

Regular readers will have seen the end of this game a couple of months ago. We got there via some fascinating tactical complications.

The game was played in January last year. I had the white pieces in yet another Richmond v Surbiton encounter.

The opening was a King’s Indian Attack. I’d stationed my minor pieces on the king side and advanced my h-pawn to create a weakness while my opponent pushed his pawns on the other side of the board.

Noticing that my bishop on f4 was in line with his rook, I took the opportunity to put my knight on f6, so play continued 20. Nf6+ Bxf6 21. exf6 Qxf6. Black understandably didn’t fancy moving his rook and leaving the pawn on f6. It’s now decision time.

I’m a pawn down but can capture the rook on b8. Alternatively, I can play it as a sacrifice and go 22. Bg5, driving the black queen into the corner. I saw a possible further sacrifice and spent some time considering 22. Bg5 Qh8 23. Rxe6 fxe6 24. Bxe6+ Rf7 without coming to any conclusion as to whether or not it was sound. Meanwhile my clock was ticking away (we had 75 minutes each for the game) and I was getting behind on time.

As it happens, White has several ways to win from that position. The strongest plan involves getting the queen into play with Qd2/Qc1. The moves are easy enough to find if you’re a computer but not so easy for a human with limited tactical ability and a ticking clock. If I didn’t trust the exchange sacrifice, 23. Ne5 was also winning, and indeed any reasonable move was good.

In my heart of hearts I knew that 22. Bg5 had to be correct, and any reasonably experienced player, I’m sure, would reach the same conclusion. Better to be a pawn down with the black queen in the naughty corner than the exchange for a pawn up with no attack and Black’s queen side advancing. But the words of Omar Khayyam were resonating inside my head: “Ah, take the cash and let the promise go, Nor heed the rumble of a distant drum”. As someone who always makes cautious decisions I couldn’t bring myself to play a position a pawn down rather than taking the insurance of an extra exchange. I eventually decided to capture the rook. Now the computer tells me Black has adequate compensation for the exchange.

We continued: 22. Bxb8 Rxb8 23. c3, with a discovered attack on the knight which Black ignored: 23… bxc3 (Bb5 gave equal chances). I now noticed 24. bxc3 Rxb1 25. Qxb1 Qxf3 so rejected the recapture and focused on taking the knight. Being a natural pessimist I tend to assume that any sacrifice I might consider will be unsound while any sacrifice my opponent makes will be sound. I started seeing lines where Black was promoting a pawn and panicked. Something I often do in my games is to reject a move, forget why I rejected it and play it anyway, and this is what happened here. I forgot what I’d analysed a couple of minutes previously and recaptured on c3. But I was fearing ghosts. There was no reason at all not to play Qxa4. Black has several tries but they’re all very easy to meet as long as you keep your head.

Anyway, 24. bxc3 Rxb1 25. Qxb1 Qxf3 was played, with Black now having two knights and a pawn to my rook. I saw a way to muddy the waters, though, and played 26. Bxe6 with the idea of 26… fxe6 27. Rxe6 when I hoped I’d win either the knight on c6 or the bishop on a6. Now it’s Black’s turn to make a critical decision. The right choice is to play 26… fxe6 27. Rxe6 Qf5 (Nxc3 is met by 28. Qb6) 28. Qxf5 gxf5 29. Rxc6 Bb5 followed by Nxc3 when Black’s c-pawn will give him a winning advantage. But it’s not so easy to find this over the board and this time he assumed I knew what I was doing and preferred 26… Nxc3, hitting my queen.

Now I had the chance for a spectacular winning move. I saw the idea but didn’t get the execution right. The winning move is Bg4, keeping the vital e2 square under control. But instead I played 27. Bxd5 Ne2+ 28. Rxe2 Qxe2 29. Bxc6 Qe7 30. Qb8+. It was more accurate to play the immediate 30. Qb6, but to do that I had to see the variation. 30… c3 31. Qxa6 c2 32. Qc8+ Qf8 33. Be8 c1Q 34. Qxc1 Qxe8 when White should win the queen ending.

After 30… Qf8 31. Qb6 Black can play Bc8 when White has some advantage, but, for the second time in the game, he called my bluff, playing 31… c3 and daring me to capture on a6. Again, with not too much time left for the rest of the game, I panicked, believing that he’d seem some way of promoting the c-pawn. Just like on move 24, though, there was no reason at all not to take the bishop: White has several ways of stopping Black getting another queen. Instead I spotted the sequence 32. Be4 Bc4 33. Qxa5 Qxh6 34. Qxc3 Bxa2 when material is level but I hoped to make something of my passed d-pawn.

The game progressed with 35. d5 Qf8 36. Qc6 Qb4, abandoning the back rank and giving me my last chance. 36… Qb8 might have held on but now I have a win after 37. Bd5, although I have to find accurate sequences after both Qe1+ (the resulting pawn ending might be the subject of a future blog post) and Kf8. Instead, with very little time left, I played the ‘safe’ 37. Kg2. Now the position should be drawn: you can read about the tragicomic conclusion here.

John Donne wrote about his ‘sinne of feare’. In this game I was too scared to play a strong sacrifice, spending too much time thinking about it, and too scared to accept my opponent’s unsound sacrifices. Although you might think I was unlucky at the end I deserved to lose.

Richard James

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