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

ChessEssentials, Level 4

“We raise Champions!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valer Eugen Demian

ChessEssentials, level 3

“We raise Champions!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valer Eugen Demian

ChessEssentials, Level 2

‘We raise Champions!”

A past review can be accessed here ChessEssentials, level 1
App link at the iTunes store ChessEssentials
Level 2 (reference ratings 400-800) costs \$0.99 and it is an important piece of a proper foundation for any chess lover. It contains 22 lessons, 22 puzzle sets and 22 tests. They are listed in a well thought order covering the following aspects of the game:
Opening
Lessons 1-2 focus on the f7-weak spot called “Achille’s heel” and all basic checkmates in the opening connected to this weakness. Please have a look at one sample:

Basic tactics
– Lessons 3-4 cover the importance of attacks and defences: every time there’s an exchange possible, we need to count the attacks and defences, as well as the value of pieces involved in it. Lesson 3 looks at the options you need to consider when pieces in general are under attack, while lesson 4 presents the options available when the king is under attack. Please have a look at one sample:

– Lessons 5-11 go over the most important tactical weapons players should use during their games. Anyone will make big steps forward just by learning and practicing these tactics. There is the pin and here bishops pinning knights happen as early in the game as the first few moves. I remember a retired lady (avid chess enthusiast) from my junior years; she would come regularly at the club and play many games with anyone. She could not stand the opposing knights and was very afraid of them because of the unexpected forks they could deliver. Her strategy was very simple: trade them knights as early as possible! After a while you could have success playing her just by avoiding to trade your knights. Yes, sometimes the strategy you need to win games is as simple as this one!
– Lesson 5 covers forks
– Lesson 6 covers double attacks
– Lesson 7 covers pins
– Lesson 8 covers skewers
– Lesson 9 covers discovered attacks
– Lesson 10 covers discovered checks
– Lesson 11 covers double checks
Please have a look at one sample:

Opening
– Lessons 12-16 return to this important area of the game for any beginner; now armed with all those tactical weapons, it should be easier to navigate the first moves of the game while looking to develop, castle, occupy the center, etc. In case the opponents do not do it, the student can take advantage of it. Here I have proposed 3 basic openings for study with the Four Knights being one of the most played at this level. Learning any opening should start with learning tricks specific in each case. You can win many a game just by knowing tricks. Amateurs you encounter in any park or club in the World are well versed in all sort of opening tricks. The majority of them have learned those from own painful experience (tricks played on them), so it would save you grief to learn them ahead of time.
– Lesson 12 covers how to play the opening
– Lesson 13 covers how not to play the opening
– Lesson 14 covers the Four Knights Opening
– Lesson 15 covers the Bishop’s Opening
– Lesson 16 covers the Philidor Defence
Please have a look at one sample:

Endgame
– Lessons 17-20 jump all the way to the endgame. It is hard to reach your destination when you don’t know where you are going. This is the next step forward from level 1 and it shows how the queen/ rook has to fight against the lone remaining pawn ready to promote. It does happen in beginners games; have seen it often how the player having the queen would check endlessly the opposing king because of not knowing how to stop the pawn. The basic pawn endgames cover the important concept of the opposition in the most basic endgame of king + pawn versus king, followed by how to play in king + pawn versus king + pawn with the pawns blocked. Some might argue they are complicated and it is too early to learn these endgames; in my opinion the students must challenge themselves from early on and having to deal with only 3 to 4 pieces helps. Last but not least grasping the concept of the opposition brings a sentiment of excitement which can drive the student forward to study more. It gives great pleasure and a higher level of self esteem to be able to know when a pawn could promote or not. This moves anyone to a higher level of expertise, clearly above the masses called “woodpushers” who just move pieces around.
– Lesson 17 covers the basic endgame King+Queen versus King+pawn
– Lesson 18 covers the basic endgame King+Rook versus King+pawn
– Lesson 19 covers basic pawn endgames – the opposition
– Lesson 20 covers basic pawn endgames – blocked pawns
Please have a look at one sample:

Mates
– Lessons 21-22 continue what was started in level 1, reminding the student of the real object of the game. It moves gradually from checkmates in 1 to simple checkmates in 2. One can never do enough of these and focusing on the opposing king (as well as protecting yours from similar disasters) it is needed at all times. Later on you will see that an attack against the king will be more efficient than an attack against a piece or position not including the king. The reason is very simple: capturing the king ends the game. I remember the Romanian junior national chess final from 1979 where a completely unknown player at the time (MF Witezslav Lowy) rose through the ranks of the 9 rounds tournament to almost win the title; his greatest asset was his knack to attack the opposing king in all his games. He finished tied for first, surprising everyone and leaving a great impression on me as you can tell.
– Lesson 21 covers mates in 1
– Lesson 22 covers mates in 2
Please have a look at one sample:

Conclusion: level 2 helps the student establish a solid foundation. Using this knowledge could help them get noticed and be considered as promising players. Last but not least I will mention again that it helps the most by providing a plan for studying chess and all has to be tried over and over again in as many games as possible. Hope you find this presentation interesting and the app worth giving it a try!

Valer Eugen Demian

ChessEssentials, Level 1

‘We raise Champions!”

I was one of the lucky ones to have my father Valer Vasile Demian (IM-ICCF, national correspondence chess champion of Romania in 1968) as a mentor. Our chess library is today of a decent size and quality because of his passion. I got to learn chess bit by bit using invaluable books (collectibles today) he bought or magazines he was a regular subscriber for. The Eastern block had access to high quality magazines from former USSR (Shakmatny bulletin, 64) or former DDR (East Germany). They still contain buried chess treasures today (more about that in future articles). This is how I was exposed to the books written by G M Lisitsin. His book on endgames is IMO the best endgame book ever written and we were lucky to have it translated in Romanian (1960 edition). My father told me he read the book one summer when he was sick and by the end of it his chess understanding and strength increased by at least one category level. I did the same and found out I got the same jump. Years later I started to incorporate this into my chess teaching materials and proved this to be the case over and over again. We take pride in our students knowing the endgames from early on and playing them well above average.

These days the internet has radically changed the way we communicate and keep ourselves informed. The younger generations have apps at their fingertips and use them with ease. Of course there’s the danger of forgetting our brains are still the best apps we can use and here is where our mission comes from. Back in 2012 I have decided to create and offer a chess app based on our method, one containing the minimum knowledge a club player would need to be able to play at a solid candidate master level by the end of level 6. Of course there are tens of thousands of apps out there, many of them offering chess content in one form or another. It is not easy to make yourself visible and this is one reason why I am writing a series of articles about it. My hope is more players will see the benefit of checking our app out.

The app is called “ChessEssentials“, it was released in 2013 and it is available at the iTunes store. It has 6 levels out of which 4 are available right now (March 2017). I am quite a bit behind in my original optimistic schedule; in that one all 6 levels should have been available by now. Lately I have concentrated on doing a major app upgrade together with my programmer (released on Mar 17th, 2017), as well as working hard on putting together level 5 (about 60% done). It is not easy to do that in your spare time when the goal is to provide value to those choosing to download it.

Level 1 (reference ratings 0-400) is free and it focuses on the basic rules of the game. It contains 18 lessons, 18 puzzle sets and 18 tests paired as “lesson X + puzzle set X + test X”; the idea is to learn a chess concept presented in a lesson, practice it with the respective puzzle set and verify it with the test. All lessons, puzzles sets and tests are numbered, so it is easy to identify how they are paired together. The lessons have a description of the concept being presented, giving the user the opportunity to choose whichever one they want in any order. This latest update includes an improved monitoring feature showing how much the user has completed percentage wise. Another improvement is to allow the user to go back and redo or solve unsolved puzzles by going directly to the first unsolved one (skipping those already solved) and so on. A completed lesson, puzzle set or test would get a check mark on the respective list, while an unfinished one would get a dark circle for an easier identification. The main idea behind programming the app was to make it as simple and intuitive to navigate as possible.

• Lessons 1-9 deal with the chessboard, how the pieces move and the original position. They include how to write down the chess moves and offer a particular feature for this level only: when you tap on a piece to move it, all its possible moves are displayed on the chessboard. This helps visualise them for the selected piece at a moment when the chessboard might look way too big and a Bh1-a8 move might as well be from one continent to another! We were all in those shoes and see it every day with our new students.
• Lessons 10 covers the basic mates queen + king vs king and rook + king vs king.
• Lesson 11 covers the basic mates 2 bishops + king versus king, bishop + knight vs king, 2 knights + king versus king + pawn (to show it is possible) and one sample king +2 pawns vs king. All are mates in 1, except one mate in 2. These are fundamental endgame positions a player needs to know for an obvious reason: we need to know what the target is. The fact we have the minimum number of pieces on the chess board for the checkmate to be possible, helps learning how to keep track of them.
• Lesson 12 deals with the stalemate concept.
• Lesson 13 with deals with other draw types such as perpetual, 3 fold repetition, lack of mating material, 50 moves rule and draw by agreement. It is important to know them as soon as possible to have a clear idea how any game could end.
• Lessons 14-18 deal with 1 move checkmate from any position, checkmate delivered by a queen (#14), rook (#15), bishop (#16), knight (#17) and pawn (#18). Here the idea is to make you aware any piece (except the king) can checkmate at anytime if the right conditions/ positions are present; in other words any player must pay attention to the board constantly from the first to the last move!

Below I have chosen a few simple puzzles for better understanding. Please select each puzzle from the pull-down menu on top of the diagram.

Conclusion: level 1 teaches the rules and the object of the game. This way a beginner learns what to play for and it is less likely it will wander around aimlessly in their games. Hope you find this presentation interesting and the app worth giving it a try!

Valer Eugen Demian

Endgame play (2)

“Play the opening like a book, the middle game like a magician and the endgame like a machine”
Rudolf Spielmann

GM Susan Polgar is one of the best chess teachers in the World. Every day you can learn something new from her either by following her chess posts on social media or by studying her chess career. Every puzzle posted on her account gives the opportunity to learn something new or practice important concepts. I have already discussed the importance of the endgame a bit in a previous article; you can review it HERE

Today we look at another king and pawns endgame, this one courtesy of Susan. Have a look at it (White to move) and give it a try before reading on. It is important to know and play the endgame like a machine, without letting it play for you, so no engines please! Your brain is still very powerful and you need to use it.

Let’s follow the same pattern: test your instinct and write down what you think is the result of this endgame. Good, now we should identify existing elements in this position giving us clues about what we should do:
1. The extra pawn White has is doubled. This drastically reduces its value and it is not clear yet if its presence helps or not; a first thought might be the f4-pawn could offer an extra tempo? We will get back to it later
2. The opposition is of major importance in these endgames. Here the kings are far away from one another, so the most likely opposition to consider is going to be the distant opposition (3 or 5 squares between the kings). Do you remember why there is no 7 squares distant opposition? Just checking…
3. The pawns are blocked; that means White’s king must capture the f6-pawn to have a shot at winning. Remember that king and pawn versus king has a good chance to win if the strong king gets in front of its pawn
4. Kf3 has 2 ways to try approaching the f6-pawn; going in the center or going on the king side; now:
– going in the center gives Black a chance to use the distant opposition and hold the fort (see line A). It is easy to see and helpful to do a bit of blindfold play: 1. Ke4 Ke8 (distant opposition 3 squares apart) 2. Kd5 Kd7 (opposition). There is no other king maneuver here for white to trick black such as using the corresponding squares
– going to the king side is worth a closer look (see main line). It is obvious White gets deep into Black’s position before Black can counter, so here should be the break we are looking for
5. Doing some blindfold play on the king side we can see: 1. Kg4 Ke8 2. Kh5 Kf7 3. Kh6 Kf8 and here we should be able to win the pawn
6. Before moving on to see the solution, there is one more thing we could look at to get full value: still wondering if the existence of the f4-pawn is relevant or not (see point #1 above)? Do you have an idea by now or simply ignored it? No worries, I have included that in the solution (see line B).

Now we have all we need to figure out the solution. If you are very confident at this point, go over the solution to verify your thoughts; however if you are still unsure, go over it carefully with the purpose to understand it.

Hope you liked 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

100 Chess Tests, Basic Tactics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valer Eugen Demian

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