Category Archives: Valer Eugen Demian

The Chess Connection

“Pay attention, we’re gonna ask questions later!”
Buddy “Cloudy” Russo, The French Connection

How many of you have seen The French Connection movie? Gene Hackman is front and center in it as detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle; together with his partner Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Schneider) they are trying to get to the main source of a drug smuggling connection. It received at the time 5 Academy Awards, including the one for Best Picture while being the first R-rated movie to win it. I highly recommend it in case you have not seen it or if you wish to see it one more time. I was too young to really enjoy the 70s, so I love watching movies and/ or videos from that time.

This past weekend (Feb 18-19) I got together with a chessfriend I have not seen in years. Dan Scoones is a strong local master, 2 times provincial champion, who’s love for chess has not diminished over the years despite a very busy professional life keeping him away from OTB. His life is a bit less hectic these days and he spends a lot of time reading top quality books. He had a spare copy of Aagaard’s “Grandmaster Preparation – Calculation” and I had to have it. We met at the local Starbucks and in no time Dan pulled a chess set and we began talking our common language: famous Soviet chess players and trainers, hedgehog system, GM Suba, Maroczy structure, Fischer learning Russian to read Lipnitsky’s book (how many know this one, eh?…), etc as well as our love for endgames. Dan is an incredible endgame player, writing a nice column “Browsing for endgames” in our provincial newsletter BCCF Bulletin available for free in pdf format. He shared with me the following endgame study, courtesy of GM Maurice Ashley a common Facebook friend of ours. Try to solve it on your own, without engine help!

It is really cool to know you are looking at the same position Maurice, Hikaru (Nakamura) and alikes took the time to enjoy. It is a chess connection we are all blessed to have as a community, a connection dating back to the first chess manuscripts. Of course the experience is more exciting when the players involved are your contemporaries. Let’s proceed looking at the position to identify helpful clues in figuring out the solution. Do remember a simple rule I learned many years ago from a dear chess composer (Leo Mozes) in my home city:
“Every piece on the chess board has a purpose”
The list of clues could include but are not limited to:

  • Ne6 defensive purpose – to limit the action of Qf5
  • Ne6 attacking purpose – must be there for a deadly fork on the f8-, g7- or f5-squares
  • the f6-pawn – an unfortunate blocker also limiting the action of Qf5
  • Qf5 – another unfortunate blocker of Kg6 from running toward the center
  • Kf8 – helping Qe7 along the 7th rank; covering all squares around Kg6 should be a goal

If you found extra ones, you did a very good job!

Did you find the solution yet? I am happy I saw the first move, but did not see Hikaru’s move 2. I went for the popular choice and there is no shame in that. Here is the complete solution:


Be mindful you are part of the chess connection and get involved. It is the only way to keep it alive. 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

Space Advantage

“A space advantage means little if there is no way to penetrate into the enemy position.”
Jeremy Silman, The Amateur’s Mind

It is very easy to throw around words like “space advantage”. One side can get that really quickly by playing aggressive or when the opponent is really shy and defensive. So you get it one way or the other; what now? It is very possible you get a bit tentative, expecting the “space advantage’ to perform some sort of miraculous voodoo and bring you closer to a win. That signals a new direction the game goes into and you should not go there. Another possibility is you get overconfident and keep on attacking, hyper extending yourself. This has been proven disastruous since the days of Alekhine and his famous defence. Have you ever played on either side of the following line? It was for a while my main weapon against the overzealous opponents, happy to have a d6-pawn and my queen trapped after only 11 moves. They never saw it coming…

Today’s game is meant to help you be confident when you get “space advantage’. Do what White did (penetrate into the enemy position) as much as possible and you will have a new weapon to use in your games.

Here is the link to the article “Bad ideas” if you wish to revisit it. What do we learn out of this game? First of all we learn that we must attack if we have the space advantage. Steinitz said:
“When a sufficient advantage has been obtained, a player must attack or the advantage will be dissipated.”
A space advantage is in most cases sufficient advantage to make you start the attack. The second thing we can learn is even if our style is a bit shy and defensive, we must find a way to give the opponent something to worry about or we stand no chance. Hope you find it useful. 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

Activity Versus Material

“Help your pieces so they can help you”
Paul Morphy

This past week one of my level 2 students played the following game over the internet as part of his weekly assignment. He was supposed to practice the Bishop’s Opening if facing 1… e5 and he did do his best. The game does not look like much; still I believe its value can be found a bit deeper under the surface. My student, like many other players out there, has a tough time resisting material grabbing. We all have to fight this urge to grab free stuff, so let’s not be too hard on him or them. The difference is once you go through a few disasters because of that, you learn to stay away from it.

Chess today is focused on active play and initiative. This can be worth as much as a pawn or two, depending on circumstances. Everyone can read about a piece in the center, a Rook on an open file and even more advanced concepts like under promotion or such; however it is very hard to keep in mind something as hard to grasp as those 2 concepts. I grab a piece, I can see it and feel it. What does the active play give me to help me win the game? You don’t really see those pawn(s) it is worth. It takes time and practice to seek playing like this and become confident doing it. Please go over the game and annotations:

I hope this example will count as practice instead of a few of your own games. I know people say we learn from own experiences and have also done it as well, regardless of what my parents and teachers told me; however I am happy to say age makes us wiser and I have improved the percentage of times when I actually learned from others’ mistakes. It saves a ton of time and pain, believe me. 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

Mednis Principles

“With major pieces (queen or rook) on the board, having bishops on opposite colors favors the side with an attack.”
Edmar Mednis

Not long ago I mentioned Mednis and his principles while annotating a voting game. You can review that article here. This time I have another nice example on how true these principles are and how they can help you decide and implement your strategy during your games. The following game has been played online with 3 days per move. It was a positional game from end to end and with my annotations I am trying to show that such games do not have to be complicated nor confusing to play.

Hope you liked it. The match was declared as won by Canada 1-0 by a shoddy team forfeit rule very early on. Both teams continued playing to the end. My other game ended in an interesting draw I might present later on. Match wise team Iran won it 281.5 – 260.5 (271 boards) even if it did not mean anything. It was and is ridiculous all players efforts on the chessboard were nullified like this. That is all I have to say about it. 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

Volga-Benko Gambit Line Busted (2)

One of my friends from Eastern Canada, Bob Taylor, has given me some very interesting insight after reading my previous article Volga-Benko Gambit Line Busted. He was enthusiastic about my call to help improve Black’s play for a better outcome. In this article we offer together a few ideas to get things rolling for those willing to take on this task more seriously.

Idea #1
It is probably not a good idea to play such gambit at long time controls. It works well in over the board games, especially in quick ones such as blitz or less than 1 hour per player because Black’s quick development pressures White’s position. The quicker White needs to figure out a way to deal with that pressure, the more likely it is to play less correct. In correspondence chess (or turn based chess) with 3 days or more per move, where both players can consult literature and/ or have engine support, the gambit looks very desperate and probably is.

Idea #2
The following line is interesting. Studying it might not lead to the discovery of many sample games at the beginning, but one should look further down the road after a few more moves are played:


Only after going this deep you can truly start the study of it. In the first article I mentioned briefly two sample games and now I have added them here to help your research. Please select each game from the pull-down menu on top of the diagram:

Idea #3:
The following move order looks more precise:


One thing to notice is the elimination of the 7.a7 … option for white. IMO that is a good thing for Black because being forced to take on a7 puts the a8-rook on a less desired square. A rook there is of no use later on, so moving it back or away when forced, it is going to waste a tempo. It is also important to compare middle game positions from different lines. Here is one comparison found by Bob where Black looks better in position 1. Please select each game from the pull-down menu on top of the diagram:

Hope you all find this information of interest. Thank you Bob for your contribution! 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

Tactics Sample

“Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation”
Max Euwe

This is an interesting puzzle because it requires astute observation to bring black the full point. It is easy to see the available 1… Qh1+ 2.Kg3 Qg2+ 3.Kh4 … How do you follow it up though? Please give it a try before reading on.

Having the move is an important advantage. It is similar with having the ball and the attack in basketball or American football. You get the opportunity to finish it with a few possible results (no score or score more or less points), depending on how you execute it. In chess the execution relies heavily on tactics and tactics are dependent on observation. We have observed right off the bat how black takes control over the light squares; White however plans to escape using the dark squares. The g6- and h6-pawns could help with that, but we must be careful how we plan this. The e7-bishop could be sacrificed for both of them, exposing Kg8 and muddying the water. This brings us to Bg7; how can we use it properly? First and foremost we must ensure offering it for free with 1… Be5+ is a Greek gift; once we do that, we are ready to piece together the right move order.

Have you solved it yet? Please read on my take on it and compare it with yours:

Did you get it right? Do you prefer the 2… Bxf4+ or 2… g5 line? Hope you will remember the weakness and strength of the bishop and the battery bishop + queen: both control only one colour. 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

Volga-Benko Gambit Line Busted

Wikipedia mentions about this opening:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benko_Gambit
“… Many of the world’s strongest players have used it at one time or another, including former World Champions Viswanathan Anand, Garry Kasparov, Veselin Topalov and Mikhail Tal, and Grandmasters Vassily Ivanchuk, Michael Adams, Alexei Shirov, Boris Gelfand, and Evgeny Bareev.”

Admit it, every now and then we have our urges to play like savages in the jungle. There are several gambit choices available, mostly busted and not suitable for correspondence chess play; still it is hard to resist the urge, right? I look at the above list of top and over the top players choosing Volga-Benko and it soothes the pain of losing this game. I rubbed shoulders with giants in a funny way. It is my belief this could be a good reference game for many a player from this point on.

I chose to play this game because of an urge. It is as simple as that. My partner was unknown to me before the game and got the winning lottery ticket of facing it. His play was extremely inspiring! The value of this game is enhanced by the fact both of us could and did use engine assistance. Right now white has a solid idea and plan to work with, while black will have to go back to the drawing board and find a better play than I did. Hope you will enjoy the game and annotations:

The attack beginning with 21.Nxg5!! … could be featured in any tactics book. Replay it whenever you feel the need to refresh your tactics skills. I look forward to see more games branching out from ours. 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

“To improve at chess you should in the first instance study the endgame.”
Jose Raul Capablanca
“In the ending the king is a powerful piece for assisting his own pawns, or stopping the adverse pawns.”
Wilhelm Steinitz

Happy New Year! This is the time of new beginnings, New Year resolutions and hope. We are going to be better, do more and achieve more. I wish to give you a helping hand in starting on the right foot chess-wise and remind you of the quotes by Capablanca and Steinitz (see above). Yes, it sounds a bit funny to talk about the endgame at the beginning of the year; however studying the endgame has maintained its importance and contributes mightily in improving one’s play. This time I have chosen a puzzle by GM Ray Robson. Have a look at it (White to move) and give it a try before reading on. No engines please! Your brain is still very powerful and you need to use it.

Test your instinct and write down what you think is the result of this endgame. Probably your mind is already running back and forth, adding moves along possible lines to back up your instinct. How is it working? Do you need help? Let’s do this together and see where it is going to take us!
1. Material: White is up 3 pawns in a King and pawns endgame. This is pretty overwhelming.
2. Black has only the lone King, so we do not have to worry about Black playing for a win.
3. All pawns are passed; right away we need to activate the square rule trigger. The lone king should be in the square to be able to catch any of the pawns. We see Kg7 is in all 3 pawns squares, meaning the pawns would not be able to promote by themselves and will need help from Kh1.
4. The h3-pawn is a side pawn, meaning all black has to do is capture the e5- and g6-pawns, followed by going straight to the h8-corner in order to get a draw.
5. Now if you are more advanced, you might have learned of instances when 2 isolated, passed pawns (such as e5- and g6-) can defend themselves until their king comes to help. Do you remember where the lone king should be in those instances? It must be in front of the less advance pawn or on the e6-square in this case; if that would be true, the lone king could not capture the e5-pawn because the g6-pawn would promote with ease. Unfortunately the lone king is in front of the more advanced pawn and could capture it right away, followed by the capture of the e5-pawn.
6. The h3-pawn is one tiny step too far back and could not help the g6-pawn.
I believe by now you have realized Kh1 must move. It is the only logical conclusion, as well as the only way to fight for a desired win. If you got so far, I think you have a pretty good handle on the king and pawns endgames; also this might have been a good review of how to piece all above details together.

This is the moment of truth when we put meat to the bones. Move choices and order matter; any plan is worth much less if we cannot piece together the right moves. Please verify your solution:

Did you get it right? If the answer is “Yes” you should be proud; probably you are collecting a lot of half points winning or drawing such endgames. If the answer is “No”, you should look objectively where your instinct and knowledge was different. Those are for sure areas where you can improve your game and get better in the process. 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

How We Almost Drew It

Merry Christmas everyone! The Sicilian Najdorf, poisoned pawn variation stung another victim in 2016. This is a bit surprising since it is analysed to death. There are several lines leading to a draw and 2 years ago I played one of those as Black in correspondence chess, ending in a 25 moves perpetual without breaking a sweat and just following theory.

This one was a team vote game between us (95 players) facing team Ireland (21 players) and the last part of it is very instructive. The opening was pretty straight forward and by move 17 we diverged from the only available game played during the 39th Olympiad. We continued doing a lot of maneuvering in the middle game (moves 17 to 38), without being able to achieve much. This was a clear failure for us and the poisoned pawn looked more and more like a self inflicting wound.

What can we learn out of it? I think everyone should remember Edmar Mednis principles:
1.If a player is down material he should look for drawing chances in an endgame with only the bishops and pawns
2. With major pieces (queen or rook) on the board, having bishops on opposite colors favors the side with an attack
Both are easy to remember and can become useful guides in over the board. Attacking requires first a desire to play like that and then to obtain initiative. Long term initiative comes from a good position, so always look to setup good positions and you will be rewarded. 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

Simple Play Is Strong Play!

Our second to last class for 2016 at the chess club was very exciting. The level 5 group I am coaching this school year explored with enthusiasm more tricks from the QGD Cambridge Springs and followed it with a number of combative games from our club tournament. We play a loose 30+ minutes time control per player with adjournment (like in the good old days) in an effort to slow them down. Way too often games are already heavily one sided after 5 minutes of play and this is quite unpleasant for any coach. It shows a lack of focus and concentration, two major areas of improvement one needs to focus on. Based on personal experience about 10-15% of students in class can focus on the task at hand and increasing their attention span requires a lot of repetitive, hard work and patience!…

Out of the 6 games played, one was adjourned from a previous week and the rest were new games. All finished by the end of the class and outside a couple, the rest were heavily contested. These are students who can play on a level anywhere between 1000 to 1500 rating, depending how they feel in the moment. Very few are truly competitive and that means they enjoy playing at the club, but not an local or provincial tournaments. This is unfortunate because it is not enough to train and practice in familiar surroundings; one needs to go out there and play as many games as possible while facing various opponents. One of the games caught my attention and ended last. It was between a talented girl (as White) and a bright boy (as Black) capable of playing both blunders and surprisingly strong moves one after another.

There are a few important lessons to get out of this one:
1. It is a good idea to castle, especially if you are under 2000 rated
2. Piece coordination is far more important than material advantage. This is used quite a lot in today’s chess by many a player
3. Play simple when facing an aggressive player. It will take them out of their comfort zone and put you in a favorable position
4. Never give up as long as there’s hope and do that with a purpose. Playing pointless moves does not count. Create threats and mount an attack on the opponent; if you cannot do that, it is better to resign!
5. Learn and practice to refrain from giving checks just because you can. It is not easy to resist the temptation; however the effort you put into it will get you rewarded
Hope you liked our game. 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