Category Archives: V.Strong/Master (1950 plus)

A Poisoned Pawn

“… The notorious Poisoned Pawn arises after 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6, with current theory suggests that the b2 pawn is not too heavily laced with arsenic, but it would be suicidal to enter the line without specialist knowledge.”
Graham Burgess, The Mammoth Book of Chess, 2000 edition, pg. 176

Fischer’s love for this controversial Sicilian Najdorf line is legendary. He was not just a “specialist” but the “guru” of it. People understood that fast and followed their newly discovered guru by playing it often; that is how an opening line becomes popular and players of all levels try to become immortals by finding the next refutation or proof of its validity. The engines have changed the game a lot and one critical aspect is proving a lot of gambits wrong; however a handful of them are still tough to crack and Najdorf, the poisoned pawn is one of them.

Back in 2014 I tried my first Najdorf, poisoned pawn as Black in a correspondence game and we drew it in 25 moves by perpetual and without any novelties or deviations. The chosen line was so well analysed, it made no sense for either of us to deviate and hope to get anything out of it. Today’s game followed a well analysed line as well; what is impressive about it is the surgical positional precision white used to win the game. It is a game played in the ICCF teams Olympiad Final 19th edition, the last edition played by post; a number of games are played by email, but each board (teams consist of 4 players each) has 3-4 players insisting to stick with playing by post as intended. The current standings for the final from where you can also see the situation on each board, can be seen HERE

Have you also been impressed with the positional play by ICCF GM Rufenacht? I think it puts this line under a strong question mark and it does not stop just there; the computer won’t be able to help you a lot if you need assistance. Black did extensive research to get out of the maze and it did not find the Ariadne’s thread; maybe you will but be prepared for a long road ahead. Of course if you find it, it will be published in the following Informator. Please don’t forget to mention who launched you down this quest though; good luck!… If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian

Endgame Play (3)

“To improve at chess you should in the first instance study the endgame”
Jose Raul Capablanca

This week’s endgame is a beauty! At first glance it looks deceivingly simple. It is white to move; please have a look and guess what the result would be:


Does the position look familiar to you? Do you happen to know more about it? I found it online as is and would love to hear who is the author, plus the time and place when/ where it was published. Moving on, the first thing I noticed were the 4 passed pawns, 2 for each side and on the same side of the board. Both pawns on each side are separated by one file; this means each king has a fighting chance against them. Let’s have a look at how each king has to fight those pesky pawns.

The White king: both pawns are on the 3rd rank and the king is not in their imaginary square (the corners of it are “a1-a3-c3-c1”) to stop their promotion. This means White must use the first move to enter in that imaginary square by playing either Ka4xa3 or Ka4-b3; both moves stop both pawns from promoting. The pawns can’t really do much against any move choice. OK, that sounds reassuring and we can move our attention to the other side.

The Black king: he is in the imaginary square created by the White pawns (the corners of it are “h2-c2-c8-h8). Do you remember why we should consider the c2-c8 as corners instead of b2-b8? Think about it and make sure you find the right answer before moving on. The answer will also be available below for verification. So, should the Black king be worried about those White pawns since it sits comfortably in their imaginary square. Will it just cherry pick them with ease like the White king will do? Apparently it will. Have a look at the White pawns now; could they do anything about it? Well, one strong strategy the pawns separated by a column have in fighting the opposing king is to maintain an L-shape (knight move) formation. They sit on f3 and h2 identical with a knight move and maintaining that makes them intangible. When the Black king attacks the front one (the f3-pawn here), the backwards one (the h2-pawn) moves forward “h2-h4” in the same L-shape (knight move) formation. The Black king would not be able to capture the f3-pawn and also stop the h4-pawn from promoting, so this could pin down the Black King.

Do we have enough to solve the puzzle? Let’s see if we do and will start by taking one of the Nlack pawns (less to worry about, right?):

Hmm, that did not turn out as expected, right? What is the reason for it? Well, the Black king came all the way to the queen side and helped the c3-pawn promote. Fortunately we have the luxury of choosing which Black pawn to take, so let’s try to capture the c3-pawn first. There is no way the Black king can come to the rescue of the a3-pawn:

The answer to the question above regarding the imaginary square of the white pawns: the left hand side corners of it should be c2-c8 because the h2-pawn would move h2-h4 in one move, meaning it could promote in 5 moves instead of 6. You must be aware of this detail with passed pawns still on their original square. Hope you liked it and used this opportunity to refresh your endgame knowledge. If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian

This Is For You Mom!

WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor is the 2017 US Women’s Champion and GM Alex Yermolinsky has written a very nice piece about it HERE.  Her result is remarkable, a true tribute in the memory of her mom IM Cristina Adela Foisor who passed away in January, right before the Women’s World Championship 2017 in Tehran she qualified for. I remember playing in tournaments where Cristina and her husband IM Ovidiu Foisor were also playing while we were juniors. Ovidiu was a rising talent at the time, a regular member of the junior national team. Later on he moved into coaching and he is a well respected and successful chess coach. Cristina was even more successful, winning the Romanian Chess Championship five times (1989, 1998, 2011, 2012 and 2013), plus the title of EU women’s champion in 2007. It is no wonder their family also includes two strong players in Sabina and her sister WIM Mihaela-Veronica Foisor.

I have been following Sabina’s participation in US tournaments and as a member of the USA Olympic team for a few years now. Knowing her parents ties her to a time when we had no other worries than school, chess and fun. Her play this time around was very exciting. I followed closely the first 3 rounds and was impressed by the high quality of the games played and combativeness shown in general. Sabina did not back down and took no prisoners. The game I liked the most was from the third round and it gave me an opportunity to reflect again upon differences between human and engine play. Here is the game:

What do you think about this game? In my opinion this is high level, showing how far chess has advanced at the top in North America! What would your choice be as white at move 25 if you could be faced with this decision over the board and with no help but your knowledge? My choice would probably be for 24. h4 … first. I think you should not put much weight into not seeing the sacrifice 25. Ne7+ …; very few would see it if any. Noticing the fact Black’s castle is not protected and should be attacked is a definite plus; if you did see that, give yourself a pat on the back. How you take advantage of it is what makes each one of us different. Sabina’s choice was the best since it brought her the win; my sincere congratulations!

Valer Eugen Demian

MF Marius Ceteras

I met Marius for the first time back in 1990. It was my first selection into the lineup of “Portelanul Alba-Iulia”, the team I just joined after University and he was playing for at the time. We were playing in the second division of the Romanian National Team Chess Championship. He was the top junior at the time and had the fun assignment of scoring as many points as possible to help us win our matches; together with FM Dorin Serdean (another promising young local player at the time) the three of us became the excitement of the team. We got the nickname of “basketball players” firstly because of being tall and secondly for our quickly developed chemistry and knack to score 3-0 (three pointers) for our team most often than not. We employed most of the times the latest tricks Marius learned during his junior national team training camps; thank you again for those Marius! Our greatest accomplishment was promoting with our team to the first division for the first time ever in its history. We had a great in person relationship until my move to Vancouver, BC, Canada, a relationship we kept strong over the years despite the geographical distance between us. He was kind to send me a copy of his latest book, as well as to agree to this interview. Hope you will enjoy it!

Marius would like to start with a clarification of one of my points made in the previous article presenting his third book:
“My initiation book is used in about (20-30)% of schools and chess clubs, while the one on tactics is used in over 90% of them. There definitely are situations when the local teachers use their own materials.”

Please tell us a few things about yourself
I fell in love with chess when I was 10 years old. Apart from a few games played against my father and sister, I never played chess before attending the chess courses of Mihail Breaz, a national master who was the soul of chess activities in Alba Iulia, a beautiful city in the hearth of Transylvania. It was in Alba Iulia where the delegates of the National Assembly of the Romanians from Transylvania signed the Union of Transylvania with the Romanian Kingdom on December 1st, 1918. From the very first chess lesson, which I joined accidentally, I felt a special attraction for this wonderful game, most likely influenced by the very enjoyable atmosphere created by my first chess teacher. As a junior, my best results were national U20 champion titles in 1992 ahead of Andrei Istratescu and 1993 ahead of Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, the best Romanian chess players after the golden age of GM Florin Gheorghiu and GM Mihai Suba. In 1992 I finished 8th in the European Junior Championship in Sas van Gent (Netherlands).
My passion for chess continued over decades, even though, at a certain moment, I decided to put my favourite game behind and build a professional career as an electrical engineer. Since 1999 I work as an engineer in the national company of electricity and chess has become a secondary activity for me. Instead of playing regularly in chess tournaments, I teach young players from my city and surroundings, write chess materials and organize chess events. For a couple of years, I also played correspondence chess. Over the board I continue to play rapid chess tournaments whenever I get an opportunity and do so with quite good results. In 2014 I won Romanian Rapid Chess Championship and finished 4th in 2015. Last year I didn’t play because I got involved in politics as well and the tournament was organized during the electoral campaign.

What made you choose the path of teaching chess to the younger generations?
When I was around 16 year old, I started to teach chess because I got a desire to share the beauty of the game with other people. At the beginning I taught my fellow friends who loved the game, then I had a group of young students followed by more and more students. They were mainly juniors who already knew how to play chess and wished to improve their skills. In time I developed my method of training, therefore I decided to write my own manuals. This step was very important in my development as trainer, because writing a book helps you find the best ways to communicate with the students. I organized my courses better and the results improved. In 2015 could I no longer resist to the pressure of many friends from Alba Iulia, parents of young children, and I accepted to start teaching a few groups for young children. Now I have around 100 chess students between 4 and 10 years, additionally to the more experienced students whom I offer guidance to.

Who are your most successful students?
My most successful student is IM Mihnea Costachi, bronze medallist at the World Youth Chess Championship U14 in 2014 and multiple European champion in rapid chess, blitz and solving problems. At 17 years old, he is an IM rated 2430 and is permanently improving. Last week he played very well in Graz Open, drawing against GM Markus Ragger (rated 2703, #41 rank in the World) and defeating GM Mustafa Ilmaz (rated 2621). In 2015 following my recommendation Mihnea started to work with GM Szabo Gergely (who also coached the Canadian youth team in 2016). I became his second coach and support him in improving his play mainly in the endgames.
Another student of mine, Tudor-Vlad Sfarlog, was multiple national champion and silver medallist in European Youth Rapid Chess Championship. I am also very proud of many students who reached a National Master or FIDE Master level and later focused on other activities and performed excelently. One of them, the chess historian CM Olimpiu Urcan, is certainly well known to the chess public.

Your third book is now available for the public. Is there a connection between them? What drove you into this labor of love?
All my books are for beginners. “A Guide to Learn Chess” covers the rules of the games, the elementary mates and a few other basic aspects: the value of the pieces, identifying the opponent’s threats and logical thinking in chess. My second book, “A Guide of Chess for Students” is mainly focused on basic of tactics, 26 lessons out of 36 covering this subject. There are also 5 lessons on basic chess principles in opening, middlegame and endgame and 5 lessons on elementary pawn and rook endings. This second book is likely the most popular Romanian book of this century, being used probably in all Romanian chess clubs, in many clubs from Moldavia and some other chess clubs from Canada, Portugal and Brazil. There is no English edition of this book yet, as publishers prefer marketable books written by famous GMs, often for commercial purposes only. But this is not a problem for me, as long as I have thousands of Romanian chess players and coaches who enjoy my books.
My 3rd book, “100 Tests of Chess. Basic Tactics” has been written at the request of dozens of Romanian chess coaches, because they needed more tactical puzzles as support for their lessons on basic tactics. Actually this is the first book from a series of three books on tactics. This one is focused on tactical procedures used to gain material advantages. My next book on tactics will be dedicated to various types of mating patterns and attacks against the King. The final book of this series will pass to the next level, including more complicated combinations and techniques of calculating variations.
What players is this book receommended for? In my opinion it is optimal for players rated 1200-1600, but players 1600+ may also use it and find it helpful. They can try to solve the puzzles faster than normally, something that is usually called a blitz-solving contest. This type of training is useful at any level, even GMs sometimes use this method of preparation! For players rated under 1200 some puzzles may be rather difficult, so I suggest they use this book with tests only after they assimilated the basic tacticals first. The Romanian players could easily use this book together with my second book “A Guide of Chess for Students”.

Do you have any advices for the aspiring chess enthusiast and/ or club player?
I have no magical advice for them. In my humble opinion there is no path to success in chess except the continuous, hard work. My best student Mihnea Costachi studies chess around 2 hours daily ever since he was 5 years old. During the holidays he studies 4-5 hours daily. It is very important to study useful books for their level. Working with a good chess coach who may recommend the best books to study is certainly an advantage; however a chess player who aspires to improve his knowledge must understand from the beginning that his role is most important. The coach’s role must be to offer him guidance and good advices, but the hard work must always be done by the player. Don’t expect a coach to fill you up with all chess knowledge and never pay for 1 hour of chess training if you are not prepared to study alone about 9 hours for each hour of paid chess training.

What is your favourite puzzle or chess combination
It is of course one of mine! I met GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu many times in junior competitions and all our games ended in draws after big complications, even though we are close friends. The scenario was almost the same: Nisipeanu launched all-in attacks, while I defended very well and survived, sometimes with a little help from goddess Fortuna. Our last game was played in different conditions. We met in Romanian Team Championship in 2005, when Nisipeanu was already a top player in the World, rated 2670, while my rating was 2426 and I was rarely playing chess tournaments, being focused on my professional career as electrical engineer. Nisipeanu was in great form in 2005, winning the European title in Warsaw a month after our game. It was rather clear for me that I needed a miracle to survive one more time against my old friend. Hope you enjoy the game!

Valer Eugen Demian

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty Four

NOT the Latvian Gambit

My opponent in this ICCF correspondence chess game lives in Latvia. This was pretty much a standard Sicilian Defense with no gambits involved.

During the course of this correspondence chess game, I offered a draw twice. White took 15 days to decline the first draw offer and 21 days to accept the second draw offer. He was looking for a win that he was hoping that I missed. He failed to find one. I believe that there was no win for him to find in this correspondence chess game.

I drew my previous game with Guntis, but that game is not yet published anywhere. This draw put me into a tie for first place in this section and I now have second place on tie breakers. I expect to win my remaining games In this section, but that still does not guarantee that I will finish in first place.

Mike Serovey

How NOT to Play Against Stronger Opponents

This win against a much lower-rated opponent put me into temporary first place in this section. However, games that finished after this one did dropped me back into a tie for fourth place.

Going through the crosstable for this section I played over my opponents games that he has finished. So far, he has one forfeit win and about five losses. He will most likely finish in the second to last position. In every game that I looked at, he played the same Carro-Kahn like set up as both White and Black. I sent a message to him telling him that passive play against strong opponents will get him clobbered every time!

On move number 7 White played a novelty that may not have been that good. Move number 12 was also weak because is was played to support move number 14, which was an outright blunder. After Black’s 14th move, White was dead lost. White resigned when Black had checkmate in 5 moves.

I now have enough content in the membership area of my chess site to start taking a few new members to help me beta test this site. I gave Tai one free membership to this site and he has yet to do anything with it. I will take up to a total of 10 free members to beta test this membership area. After that, I will be charging for access to this site. If the beta testers do not give me any useful feedback, then I will cancel their memberships and they will have to pay to rejoin this site! If you are interested in joining then contact me.

Mike Serovey

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty Three

I Had Some Klewe How to Draw This Correspondence Chess Game!

My opponent in the correspondence chess game is an ICCF master who lives in Germany.

White has a tendency to play unorthodox openings. In this correspondence chess game, White chose Benko’s Opening and I responded with the Modern Defense. We then transposed into the Kings Indian Defense, Panno Variation. Although I ended up playing some lines that I had never seen before, thanks to my databases of games, I was able to play a solid variation.

As Black, I ended up with a slight positional advantage and I kept that slight positional advantage after some middle game exchanges that traded down into an endgame. Part of that advantage included tandem (They are also called Horwitz Bishops after Bernhard Horwitz and mistakenly called Harrwitz Bishops after Daniel Harrwitz.) bishops that were aimed at the White Queenside. I still had those tandem bishops on move number 40 when White offered a draw, but there were no targets left on the Queenside for those bishops to attack. Because I was unable to find a way to capitalize on the very slight positional advantage, I accepted the draw offer.

This draw puts me into a temporary tie for third place in this section and fourth on tie breaks.

Mike Serovey

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty Two

My opponent in this very short correspondence chess game is an ICCF master from Sweden. When White offered a draw on move number 11, I was surprised and then checked my database of games that had that position in them. I found that White won one game and the other three ended in draws. So, I accepted the draw.

This correspondence chess game started off as the Ruy Lopez and transposed into the Four Knights. I was trying to get the Berlin Defense because it is solid and drawish. This Four Knights gave me the draw that I wanted, only sooner than I expected it!

I had third place in this section before this draw and I remained in third place after accepting the draw. My annotations show the games in my database without any real comments.

Mike Serovey

I Had a Five-Way…

tie for first place in this section

My opponent is lower rated than I am and he is from Turkey. He had White and he was playing for a win in positions that were rather even. I offered a draw after making my 37th move. He declined my offer and then offered a draw of his own 27 moves later.

While analyzing the endgame I discovered that one line of play would often transpose into another one. While trying to win the endgame, my opponent went into and out of nearly evey line of play that I analyzed! When he finally realized that there was no win for him, then he agreed to a draw! Although I do admire persistance, I found his annoying!

I castled on the Kingside and White castled on the Queenside. Some chess coaches have commented that when players castle on opposite wings, then it is a race to see who can checkmate the opposing King first. I have found that I stand a better chance of winning that race if I also take care to protect my own King first!

All of the pawns stayed on the chess board until I played my 27th move. I call that a closed position and chess engines are weak in closed positions. I used my chess engines mainly to blunder check my analysis and to explore various ideas. White was basically following my analysis that was posted in the engine room on playchess.com and then looking to see if he could find a win that I missed.

When White offered me a chance to open up the b file I took it because that gave me an open file to use to attack the White King. White never left that file unprotected long enough for any of my remaining pieces to penetrate his pawn structure using that file. So, nothing came of that file being open.

Both sides took turns attacking and defending various pieces, pawns and squares. In the end, nothing came from all of that attacking, defending and counter attacking. This was a hard-fought draw!

This draw put the both of us into a five-way tie for first place in this section. All five of us drew the other four players in the tie and we beat the same patzer who now is in last place. There is no way to break that kind of tie.

Mike Serovey

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty One

This is my third a final loss to Corey Acor that will be published here. However, in chronological order, this is my first loss to Corey. I had won the previous round against Benson Walent and then lost this one to Corey Acor. Unless I move back to Florida, Corey moves to Colorado or Corey plays correspondence chess, I will not play Corey again.

I tried the Sniper move order in this OTB chess game and then I went for the Botvinnik System against a closed Sicilian. I made several errors in this chess game and resigned when I realized that I had dropped my Queen. From my move number 12 on, I was struggling and I was dead lost when I dropped my Queen. However, the loss of my Queen convinced me that it was time for me to quit that game.

Mike Serovey