Category Archives: Strong/County (1700-2000)

1977 Major Open Part 1

Returning to the consideration of some of my less bad tournaments, we turn to the Major Open in August 1977. The Major Open was then, as it is now, the tournament below the British Championship itself.

My one previous appearance at the British, in 1973 at Eastbourne, where I played in the First Class Tournament, the section below the Major Open, had been a disaster as I collapsed completely due to fatigue in the last few rounds. This time I knew I was a stronger player and hoped I was also mentally strong enough to cope with 11 rounds over 12 days.

In the first round I had white against an ungraded opponent from a prominent local family of chess players and chose the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez. His response was not the best (6… h5 is to be preferred) and left me with a slight advantage. His decision to give up bishop and knight for rook and pawn on move 18 didn’t turn out well and I was eventually able to score the full point in a long game. A more efficient 53rd move (Bg7 rather than Be5+) would have shortened the process.

In the second round I was paired against a German player, who might or might not have been the Josef Böcker who was rated 2200+ in the late 1980s, and was faced with one of my favourite systems, the Botvinnik Blockade.

1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. e4 c5 4. g3 Nc6 5. Bg2 d6 6. Nge2 e6 7. a3 Nge7 8. Rb1
a5 9. Nb5 d5

I should imagine this was a complete oversight, missing the knight fork after the exchanges on d5.

10. cxd5 exd5 11. exd5 Bf5

Already desperation although moving the knight would have kept me in the game. Now there was no reason for White not to take the knight: 12. dxc6 Bxb1 13. cxb7 Rb8 14. d4 is just winning because the bishop is coming to f4.

12. d3 Ne5 13. Be4

Better was d6 with advantage to White. Now it seemed natural to displace the white king, but the engines tell me I should have preferred Qd7, hoping to regain the pawn.

13… Bxe4 14. dxe4 Nf3+ 15. Kf1 Qd7 16. Kg2 Qxb5 17. Kxf3 O-O 18. Bg5 f6 19. Bf4 g5 20. Bd6 Qd7 21. Bxc5 f5 22. Kg2 fxe4 23. Nc3 Rf5 24. Qb3

Instead 24. Bxe7 Qxe7 25. d6 maintains the extra pawn with advantage. Now I regain the missing pawn and have an attack down the f-file.

24… Nxd5 25. Rhd1 Bxc3 26. bxc3 Qf7 27. Bd4 Rf8 28. Rd2 b5 29. Qc2 e3

Choosing to force a draw by perpetual check.

30. Bxe3 Nxe3+ 31. fxe3 Rf1 32. Qb3 Rxb1 33. Qxb1 Qf3+ 34. Kh3 Qh5+ 35. Kg2 Qf3+ 36. Kh3 Qh5+ 1/2-1/2

Richard James


Islington Open 1976 Part 3

1976 was the year Christmas came six days early for me.

Just look at what happened in my games in the last two rounds at Islington.

Going into Round 5 on 2/4 I was paired with the white pieces against Paul Littlewood, who had a grade of 214 at the time of the game. Paul had been British U18 Champion in 1972 and British Under 21 Champion in 1975, and would later become an International Master and win the British itself in 1981.

1. e4 c5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 a6 4. g3 Rb8 5. a4 e6 6. Bg2 Nf6 7. f4 d6 8. Nge2 Qa5 9. O-O b5

We’re only on move 9 but already Paul gives me an early Christmas present, blundering a piece to a simple tactical idea which is very common in this type of position.

10. e5 Nxe5 11. fxe5 dxe5 12. d3 Bd7 13. cxb5 axb5 14. Bg5 b4 15. Bxf6 bxc3 16. Bxe5 cxb2 17. Bxb8 bxa1=Q 18. Qxa1 c4 19. Be5 cxd3 20. Nf4 f6 21. Bc3 Qa6 22. Qb1 Qxa4 23. Nxd3 Bd6 24. Bb4

Chickening out by heading for the ending. In principle, with an extra piece, not many pawns and the enemy king exposed, I should keep the queens on the board, but sitting opposite such a strong opponent clouded my judgement. The right plan was to play for the attack with 24. Qb6 Ke7 25. Qf2.

24… Bxb4 25. Qxb4 Qxb4 26. Nxb4 Ke7 27. Rc1 Rb8 28. Nc6+ Bxc6 29. Rxc6 Rb1+ 30. Bf1 f5 31. Rc7+ 1/2-1/2

Again chickening out by offering a draw in a position where I could still have tried to win. On paper a draw was an excellent result but with a bit more courage I might have won. The story of my life, I guess.

In the final round I had black against another strong young opponent, Glenn Lambert, who was graded 205 at the time of the game. The following year he was beat Eugenio Torre in the Lord John Cup in London. Torre had beaten Karpov in Manila in 1976, and was to do so again in London in 1984. Sadly, Glenn was later diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, dying in 2003.

But in this game he was about to give me another early Christmas present as it seems he wasn’t in the mood for playing chess.

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. g3 Bxf3 6. exf3 Nc6 7. d5 Nd4 8. Bg2 c5 9. dxc6 Nxc6 10. Bd2 h5 11. O-O Nh6 12. Re1 Nf5 13. Rc1 O-O 14. f4 Rc8 15. Bh3 Ncd4 16. b3 a6

Up to this point the engines have a slight preference for White’s bishops, and here prefer 17. Nd5 e6 18. Ne3, to trade off a pair of knights and gain control of the vital d4 square. The way White plays it, though, is fine for Black and over the next few moves I gain the advantage.

17. Bg2 b5 18. cxb5 axb5 19. a4 Qb6 20. Nd5 Qa7 21. axb5 Nxb5 22. Rxc8 Rxc8 23. Qe2

Another indifferent move. Black can either pin the bishop (Rc2 or Qa2) or drive the queen away:

23… Nbd4 24. Nxe7+ Kf8 0-1

White’s 24th move just loses a piece in obvious fashion, but there was still no need to resign, bearing in mind what happened when I was a piece for two pawns ahead in my previous game. I guess he just wasn’t in the mood for playing chess. This sometimes happens, of course, in the last round if the tournament hasn’t gone well for you. The was, remains, and will probably always remain the only time I’ve beaten an opponent graded over 200 in a slowplay game. The following year I was able to tell everyone that I should be world champion: I’d beaten Lambert, who had beaten Torre, who had beaten Karpov.

So I finished on 3½/6, having played four opponents graded over 200 for one of my best tournament results. I was very lucky on the last day, though, as Paul Littlewood uncharacteristically lost a piece in the opening while Glenn Lambert seemingly had little interest in playing chess that day. Something else I just noticed while writing this: my opponents that day had something else in common: they shared the same second name: Edwin.

Richard James


Islington Open 1976 Part 2

My third round opponent was Kevin Wicker, a prominent player and author during the 70s and early 80s. He was joint British U18 Champion in 1970 and very active for some years thereafter before disappearing from the chess scene sometime in the mid 80s. I played Kevin three times in the 70s, being fortunate to draw twice (Bloomsbury 1973 and Charlton 1977) but on this occasion I was out of luck. His grade at the time of this game was 201.

My opening wasn’t very impressive: I usually play too negatively against strong opponents and my opponent launched an attack against my castled king.

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e3 Bb4 4. Nge2 O-O 5. g3 Re8 6. Bg2 c6 7. O-O d5 8. cxd5 cxd5 9. d4 e4 10. Qb3 Nc6 11. Nf4 Bxc3 12. Qxc3 Bg4 13. h3 Bf3 14. Bxf3 exf3 15. Qb3 Qd7 16. Qd1 g5 17. Nd3 Qxh3 18. Qxf3 Ne4 19. b3 Re6 20. Bb2 Nd2 21. Qxd5

I decide to grab a centre pawn, also hitting the g-pawn. The engines now think Black has is doing well if he defends his g-pawn with Qg4 or Ne4 but instead my opponent plays more directly, ignoring the g-pawn and threatening mate.

21… Rh6 22. Qxg5+ Kf8 23. Ba3+ Ke8 24. Qg8+ Kd7

Now I have two plausible checks. Nc5+ leads to a perpetual check in all variations but instead I make the wrong choice and Black soon manages to evade the checks. I guess it looked natural at the time to capture the pawn but surely bringing another piece into play, even without any calculation, is more likely to be correct.

25. Qxf7+ Kd8 26. Qf8+ Kc7 27. Qf7+ Kb6 28. Bc5+ Ka6 29. Nb4+ Nxb4 0-1

In the fourth round I had black against an ungraded opponent who launched a premature king-side attack.

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4 e5 5. d5 Nf6 6. Be2 O-O 7. Bg5 h6 8. Be3 a5 9. g4 Na6 10. g5 hxg5 11. Bxg5 Nc5 12. h4 Qe8 13. f3 Nh5 14. Nb5 Qd7 15. Nh3 Ng3 16. Rh2 f5 17. Qc2 fxe4 18. fxe4 Ngxe4 19. O-O-O c6 20. dxc6 bxc6

I’ve won a pawn and opened up the centre against the white king, but here Qxc6 would have been a simpler and stronger alternative. Now White decides to sacrifice a piece to set up a pin on the d-file.

21. Nxd6 Nxd6 22. Qxg6

White could instead have regained the piece by playing Be3, followed by c5 when the knight moves away, but this is also good for Black.

22… Ne6

This is not good for Black, though. The right move is Nce4. Now White should play 23. Bd3, with dangerous threats against the black king. The engines claim equality for black only by sacrificing his queen after 23… e4 24. Nxe4 Nxe4, and there’s no way I would have found that over the board.

But instead…

23. Bg4 Qf7 24. Qc2

Not wanting to trade queens is understandable but now Black has an attack as well as an extra piece.

24… Nd4 25. Rxd4 exd4 26. Bxc8 Raxc8 27. Bf4 Qxc4

Either a strange decision or an oversight. After Nxc4 Black’s just a rook ahead. For some reason I choose the ending with an extra exchange, but it’s still more than enough to win.

28. Bxd6 Rf1+ 29. Kd2 Bh6+ 30. Ng5 Qxc2+ 31. Kxc2 Bxg5 32. hxg5 Kf7 33. Bc5 Rd8 34. Rd2 Rf4 35. Rd3 Rd5 36. b4 axb4 37. Bxb4 c5 38. Bd2 Rf2 39. Kb3 Re5 40. a4 Ree2 41. Kc2 Ke6 42. Kd1 Ke5 43. Be1 Rg2 44. Rd2 Rxd2+ 45. Bxd2 Kd5 46. a5 c4 47. a6 Kc6 48. Bf4 Kb6 49. Be5 d3 0-1

Richard James


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 # 9

Today’s challenge: Find the typical pattern and react accordingly. Black to move.

David Bronstein against Paul Keres 1950

Q: What is white threatening? Find the best defend for Black.

Hint: All you need to do is, bring your queen into the defence.


The best move for Black is to play 29…Rfd8 as White can’t play 30. Qh6. We will discuss it deeply later on but let’s first check what was happened in the game.

30. axb3 Qb4

31. bxc4

Rf4 works too.


32. Rf4!

Not 32. Qh6 because Rg8 followed by 33…g5 defends. Mate can’t be avoided now.


If 32… Rg8, then Rh4 wins (Yusupov)

33. Qh6 Black resigned

The pawn on f6 and queen are threatening mate on g7 which is known as Lolli’s mate. When the defender tries to save mate (usually by placing Rg8) that opens the door for other beautiful combinations for attacker:
– Sacrifice on h7 followed by mate along h file
– Bringing knight on g5/e5 attack on h7 or f7 or both

So what is the general optimal way to save against Lolli’s mate?

It could be vary case to case but if you can bring queen into defence it saves because of
– You can exchange attacker’s main attacking piece Queen and still can defend f7-g7-h7

Now let’s check, how black was able to defend this game using above general observation.

Here is the improvement.


That brings the queen into the defence in time.
Not 29…Rfc8 because it allows Bd7 with tempo – 30. Bd7 Rfb8 31. Qh6 Rg8 32. Rf4 and now g5 won’t work because of 33. Bf5 and White wins.

Now If 30. Qh6 then Rg8 followed by g5 saves the game. Or if 30. Rf4 then Qd8 joins the defence.
And the game is on!

It is wise to learn how defend against the usual attacking pattern.

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


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


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


Chess Opening Blunders – a Quick Win

My opponent hung his Queen on move number 19 of an ICC rapid chess tournament game and then said that it was not fair when I took his Queen with my Knight. You can take back blunders in a friendly game, but not in a tournament game! He was lost even before he dropped his Queen.

I joined this event late and got a half-point bye in Round One. This win is from Round Two. I drew Round Three and won Round Four. That gave me three points out of four.

Mike Serovey