The Great Tazoo

When I was much younger than I am now I used to watch a cartoon called The Flintstones. One of the characters on The Flintstones was a Martian called The Great Gazoo. My opponent’s handle on ICC reminds me of that cartoon character. In reality, my opponent is not from Mars but is from the UK. However, some of his moves may have been Martian! 😉

My correspondence chess record on ICC is now 16 – 0. However, the rating for that record is only 1928.

On move number 11, White got out of my database of chess games and things got a little strange from there. We both played a few second-best moves, but by move number 19 Black (I) was winning.

Mike Serovey


Almost Masterpiece

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it. – Omar Khayyam

Is there anything sadder in chess than the “almost masterpiece”?

This game was on its way to being a masterpiece until White’s 27th move. White spent much of the game preparing the move f4. All White’s pieces are coordinated and in the game. Black’s pieces are ill-coordinated and one knight is definitely on leave on a6.

Still, White managed to convince himself that 27. f4 !! was unplayable due to 27 … Ng4. In reality, 27. f4 Ng4 28. fxg5 Nxf2 29. Rxf2 looks winning for White: 29 … hxg5 is impossible due to 30. Qh5#. Instead, White came up with the utterly unbelievable (considering the beauty and accuracy of the rest of the game) 27. h3 ?? , 30. fxe5 ?? and 32. Nxe5 ??

How? Why? My soul is dark this morning …

Jacques Delaguerre


Teaching Kids Through Classical Games (14)

Zukertort, Johannes Hermann – Steinitz, William
1st World Championship

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.e3 Bf5?! 4.Nc3

A slight inaccuracy. Analysts suggest that 4.cxd5! cxd5 5.Qb3, hitting d5 and b7, 5…Bc8 favours White.

4…e6 5.Nf3 Nd7 6.a3?!

With the idea of c5 and b4, thereby keeping Black’s dark square bishop away from h2-b8 diagonal.


Euwe gives 6…Ngf6 7.Bd3 Bxd3 8.Qxd3 Qb6!.


A somewhat dubious move as it allows Black to play very energetically with the e5 lever. This is otherwise not possible because of cxd5 which wins pawn for white.It is good to play 7.Bd3 Bxd3 8.Qxd3 Ngf6 9.e4 which seems equal to me.

7…Bc7 8.b4

Trying expand on the queenside, but now the development of White’s dark square bishop is an issue.

8…e5 9.Be2

9. dxe5 Nxe5 10.Nd4 has been recommended by analysts.

9…Ngf6 10.Bb2 e4!

In my opinion a very strong move. Although it is not directly winning it does shut White’s bishop out almost permanently.

11.Nd2 h5! 12.h3

12.b5?! would be an interesting idea.


Regrouping his pieces. This kind of move is affordable when the center is closed and you have a space advantage.


Trying to expand on the queenside.


All Black pieces are eyeing the kingside.

14.b5?! Nh4 15.g3

Zukertort might have thought that the knight must retreat, but here steinitz came with creative idea of sacrificing knight for two pawns and an attack.

15…Ng2+! 16.Kf1 Nxe3+ 17.fxe3 Bxg3 18.Kg2 Bc7 19.Qg1?

A much better continuation would be to play 19.a5 Rh6 20.Nf1 a6 21.bxc6 bxc6 22.Kf2 when the position is very unclear. Now it’s time to bring another piece into the attack with a threat of Rg6.

19…Rh6 20.Kf1 Rg6

Black has a very powerful attack now.


The only safe square left for the queen.


Now there is no way that White can protect the h3 pawn.


If white tries to defend with 22.h4 then 22…Bh3+ 23.Ke1 Bg3 pins and wins the queen.

22…bxc6 23.Rg1

Forced in order to protect the g3 square.

23…Bxh3+ 24.Ke1 Ng4 25.Bxg4

25.Qh4 would lost on the spot because of 25…Nxe3 26.Rxg6 fxg6 27.Qg5 Ng2+ 28.Kd1 Qf7.

25…Bxg4 26.Ne2 Qe7 27.Nf4 Rh6

27…Rf6 was a much better alternative when 28.Qg2 Bxf4 29.exf4 e3 is winning for Black.

28.Bc3 g5 29.Ne2 Rf6 30.Qg2 Rf3 31.Nf1

31.Nxf3 just loses a piece.


Black’s last piece joins the attack via the b file.


Trying to find some shelter.


A mistake that gives White chance to eliminate the Bishop on g4 with 33.Nh2 Rh3 34.Nxg4 hxg4. But White misses his chance…


A gross Blunder

33…f4 34.Rh1 Qf7 35.Re1 fxe3+ 36.Nxe3 Rf2 37.Qxf2

There is nothing much that white can do, eg 37.Rhf1 Rxg2 38.Rxf7 Rxe2+ 39.Rxe2 Kxf7 is winning too for Black.

37…Qxf2 38.Nxg4

38.Rhf1 Rb2+ 39.Bxb2 Bxa5+ 40.Bc3 Bxc3+ 41.Kxc3 Qxe3+ is also winning.

38…Bf4+ 39.Kc2 hxg4 40.Bd2 e3

40…Bxd2 41.Ref1 Qxe2 is a draw now as white has perpetual checks, tThough 41…Qxf1 42.Rxf1 Bxa5 is winning.

41.Bc1 Qg2 42.Kc3 Kd7 43.Rh7+ Ke6 44.Rh6+ Kf5 45.Bxe3 Bxe3 46.Rf1+ Bf4

Ashvin Chauhan


My Final Game in Adrian Hollis Memorial Tournament

My final game in the Adrian Hollis Memorial Tournament on the ICCF Webserver finished as a draw with Black against ICCF GM Richard Hall, the World Silver Medalist in the 25th ICCF World Championship Final. My final score being 4 / 10 (+1, =6, -3), which included loss of a level game due to my ‘clerical error’ which should never have happened! I did manage a win and, considering that I was the lowest rated player, I hope not to finish in last place! This was reputed to be one of the strongest ever UK correspondence chess tournaments with all UK players. This was also one of the first tournaments to include the six piece endgame tablebase rule in which you are able to claim a win or draw when only six pieces remain on the board. I managed at the end of my game to ensure a draw with 77…Ra5+. The current state of play can be viewed here .

There are only 8 remaining games in play, but it looks increasingly likely that GM Nigel Robson, who is currently leading with 6 / 8 (+4, =4, -0) will not be caught, even by GM Richard Hall with 3 / 5 (+1, =4, -0), unless Richard can win all of his 5 remaining games. In theory, SIM Russell Pegg and SIM Nigel Burne also have a chance of a shared or unshared first place. Unfortunately, it is not possible to view games in progress.

GM Nigel Robson has just started play in the ICCF 29th World Championship Final. His opponents include two former World Champions, GM Fabio Finnocchario of Italy and GM Aleksadr Dronov of Russia. Nigel is already the IECG World Champion, can he do the double? We wish him the very best of luck!

John Rhodes


Crash Them Through, Again

The most common aim in an endgame is to queen a pawn. This is why it is often a good idea to advance your pawns if you can do so safely. If you move them nearer the promotion square, you can often threaten to promote them.

In this week’s problem, White can queen one of his pawns. He can crash a pawn through.

How does White to play win?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White plays 1 Bd5. Black takes the Bishop and White then plays Kb7 and then Kc6 and Kc5 and wins the endgame.

Steven Carr


Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 1

I haven’t considered myself a serious player for many years, but back in the early and mid 70s I was a regular on the British tournament circuit.

This new series takes a look at some of my more successful events.

For several years I’d been playing at about 1800 strength but the latter months of 1974 saw a dramatic improvement. I put this down to reading two books. Think Like a Grandmaster, by Kotov, first got me thinking about how to make decisions in chess. I followed his advice about writing your move down before playing it, and found that this practice cut out a lot of the blunders which had previously been common in my games. Looking at my scoresheets from the period, I was crossing out my moves and changing my mind several times every game. Of course you’re no longer allowed to do this so I eventually had to revert to playing my move before writing it down. I’d also read and enjoyed Keene and Botterill’s book on the Modern Defence, which, for the first time, gave me a viable defence to 1. e4 (no 1. e4 e5 for me in those days).

It’s strange how some things never change. At the end of August 1974 I took part in the Berks & Bucks Congress, which, then, as now, comprised several small Swiss sections of about 16 players each. Not so many sections now, as then, of course. Playing in a section in which I should have scored well, I failed to win a game, scoring three draws and two losses in the five round event.

So I wasn’t feeling confident when I travelled down to the Devon seaside resort of Paignton with my friend Ken Norman a few days later. Paignton is another tournament which hasn’t changed its format much in the last half century or so. There’s a popular Premier section, usually won these days by local resident GM Keith Arkell, and various grading restricted sections below (though again not as many as in the Fischer boom days). So while Ken competed in the Premier, I settled down in the Premier Reserves A.

In those days I didn’t appreciate endings so probably had mixed feelings on reaching a rook ending a pawn up after winning my opponent’s isolated d-pawn.

Of course positions like this are meat and drink to the aforementioned Keith Arkell, but not so easy for me. Let’s see what happened. This was the position after Black’s 32nd move, just before the first time control (for the first round only we were playing 34 moves in two hours followed by 17 moves per hour). I guess I felt at the time that White should be winning because of Black’s doubled pawns, but wasn’t quite sure how to make progress.

33. Rb7 Kh7
34. Rf7 Kg8
35. Rf5 Ra2
36. Kg3 Ra3
37. Rf3 Ra4
38. Rf5 Ra3
39. Rb5 Kf7
40. Rb6 Rc3
41. h4

In principle I want to keep as many pawns as possible on the board and don’t want to undouble his pawns, but I couldn’t find any other way of getting my king up the board. The computer seems to agree with me.

41… gxh4+
42. Kxh4 Ra3
43. Kg3 Rc3
44. Rd6 Ke7
45. Rg6 Kf7
46. Ra6 Rb3
47. Rc6 Ra3
48. Rc4 Rb3
49. Re4 Kf6
50. f4 Rb5
51. f5 Rb7
52. Re6+ Kf7
53. e4 Rb3+
54. Kf4 Rb1
55. Rc6 Rf1+
56. Ke3 Rg1

I’ve made some headway over the last 15 moves, but what do to next? I seemed to think that I could only make progress by giving up my g-pawn, while my opponent apparently believed me and, for several moves neglected to win my g-pawn. Here I should have played Rg6 when I can eventually advance my e-pawn while retaining my g-pawn. A sample variation: 57. Rg6 Re1+ 58.
Kf3 Rf1+ 59. Ke2 Rb1 60. Kf2 Rb3 61. Ra6 Rc3 62. e5 Rc2+ 63. Ke3 Rc3+ 64. Kd4
Rg3 65. e6+ Kf6 66. Ra7.

57. Kf3 Rf1+
58. Ke2 Rg1

Missing his chance for Rf4

59. Kf3 Rf1+
60. Kg2 Rf4

Taking his second chance. Now the game should be drawn.

61. Rc7+ Kg8
62. e5 Rxg4+
63. Kf3 Rg1
64. Ke4 Ra1
65. Rc8+

This was the sealed move so we must both have been playing very quickly. I suspect (but don’t now remember) that we adjourned for a couple of hours and resumed later in the evening. During the interval I complained to Ken about having reached ‘another boring ending’. Ken, then as now an endgame aficionado, told me that unless I agreed with him that endings were interesting he wouldn’t give me a lift back home to London. So I had to play the game out.

65… Kf7
66. Rc7+ Kf8
67. Kd5 Rd1+

Just after the adjournment Black makes a fatal error. Most moves draw here: even Ke8, because White can’t avoid the checks without losing a pawn. (67… Ke8 68. Rxg7 Ra5+ 69. Kd6 Ra6+ 70. Kd5 Ra5+ 71. Ke4 Ra4+ 72. Kf3 Ra5 73. Kf4 Ra4+) But this moves lets me get my king to e6 safely, after which the win is simple.

68. Ke6 Rd8
69. f6 Re8+
70. Kf5 gxf6
71. Kxf6 Kg8
72. e6 h5
73. Rg7+ Kh8
74. e7 h4
75. Rf7 Kg8
76. Rg7+ Kh8
77. Rg4 Kh7
78. Kf7 1-0

So a lucky win for me after some not very impressive endgame play by both sides.

Find out how the tournament continued for me next time.

Richard James


The Draw

I started our yearly summer program last week that runs until August. Every year, we do eight one week training camps for junior chess players. We divide the students into two groups, beginners and more advanced players. At the end of each week we have a non rated, informal tournament for each group to test their knowledge and our teaching program. I’ve kept records for the last four years of these weekly tournaments, including detailed information on the games themselves in an effort to see where I need to provide more educational information. For example, in the beginner’s section, there are a large number of games won employing the scholar’s mate. Thus, I know that our teaching staff needs to further reinforce defending against scholar’s mate. This last week, we had a large number of draws in our beginner’s section. While I expect a few draws here and there, the number we had was large enough to sound an alarm bell! Something was wrong!

From years of playing, teaching, coaching and working as a tournament arbiter, I’m pretty good at determining whether a position is drawn or not. With my advanced students, real drawn positions are reached. With my beginning students, what they consider a draw is often far from an actual draw. Let’s look at ways in which games can be drawn.

Perpetual check occurs when one player checks their opponent’s King repeatedly which can lead to a draw. You see this a great deal in the games of beginners who haven’t learned that pieces must work together, such as a King and Rook or King and Queen against a lone King. Beginners have a bad habit of checking the opposition King with their lone Queen as opposed to using their Queen with another piece (such as their King). The King gets checked and moves out of check. The King gets checked again and moves out of check and so on. Dozens of moves later and checkmate is no closer. Perpetual check actually leads to either a draw by threefold repetition or a draw under the fifty move rule (both discussed later on).

Stalemate is another way to draw the game. It occurs when one player’s King is the only piece that can move (the player in question can’t move any of their pawns because they’re stuck or immobile) but any square it moves to would place it in check. This is an extremely frustrating position for the beginner to be in because they often have the material necessary to win the game but don’t use that material correctly.

Then there’s having insufficient material to deliver checkmate. This problems arises when both players either trade all their material off the board, leaving just the opposing Kings or they only have their Kings and a Bishop each or a Knight each. This occurs in many young beginner’s games because they’re concentrating on capturing material. You can often hear young beginner’s say “I’m winning because I have more material!” This thinking leads to this kind of drawn game.

A draw by repetition means that both players make identical moves that produce the same position over the course of three complete game turns for both players. So one player makes a move followed by his opponent’s move and these exact moves are repeated two move times. Thus the term Draw by three fold repetition. Beginner’s who are not accustom to this rule often fall victim to it because, due to a lack of experience, they cannot find another way out of the position.

The fifty move rule is one that, surprisingly, I hear many of my young beginner’s claim as the reason for a draw. The rule states that if fifty consecutive moves have been made without a capture or pawn move then the game can be claimed drawn. Young beginners often translate this incorrectly, thinking that if no checkmate has been made in fifty moves the game is drawn. However, they often capture pieces and move pawns so the rule cannot apply.

Drawing the game by agreement is the young beginner’s way of saying “I can’t figure out how to checkmate my opponent and he or she is no closer to mate as well.”

With a few basic definitions provided we’ll now look at what happened with my beginning students and see how these rules actually applied. It should be noted that when many of these players started their summer session with me they only knew how to move the pawns and pieces, the most basic rules of the game.

In one game, one player had a Queen and King against an opposition Rook and Queen. Because I had two instructors watching the two sections for me, beginner and advanced, I caught the position when a draw was requested. The first question I asked was “why do you think this game is a draw?” Both of my young (1st grade) students replied that they didn’t think they could deliver checkmate because every time one of them checked, the other would simply move the checked King. Because our tournament was not rated, I offered a suggestion to both, you cannot checkmate with a lone Queen or lone Rook. Teamwork, pieces working together, is the only way to deliver a checkmate. While both players took this idea to heart, making an effort to coordinate their pieces rather than attempting further solo piece checks, they eventually requested a draw which I gave them. The fact that they tried counted for a lot!

In another game, when the request for a draw came up, one player had a Queen and a King against a lone King. Of course, this is an easily winnable endgame for the average player but remember, I’m working with very young children new to the game. I had given a lesson in basic endgame checkmates earlier in the week and suggested to the student with the Queen and King to think back to the lesson before considering a draw. “A lone piece cannot deliver checkmate. It has to work with another piece.” Both students went back to their game. When I walked by the board a bit later, I noticed some solid progress as King and Queen worked their way towards the lone opposition King. Sadly, the game ended in a stalemate. However, this was a legitimate draw.

There was a claim of the fifty move rule early on. I told my students that I wanted to see them play for a while longer so I could make sure they understood the true meaning of this rule. Not surprisingly, both players captured pieces and moved pawns only to then claim they’d adhered to this rule. When I asked them for their definition of the rule, they said “if you don’t deliver checkmate in fifty moves it’s a draw.” When I explained that they got the rule wrong, one student said his father told him the above so it’s true! Diplomatically, I explained the correct definition. Eventually, after they played for a while longer, I declared the game a draw because they would have ended up with a three hundred move game that got no where.

The overall reminder I got from this experience was that children new to chess don’t have the playing experience and knowledge required to know if a game really is drawn. They often reach a position beyond their scope of knowledge and don’t know what to do, which leads them to think the game cannot go on and is thus a draw. While this is the first time I’ve had a large number of draw requests in the beginner’s section it serves as a strong reminder that teaching programs must be flexible. These same students who I’ll work with during the coming week will start that week with a full two days of basic endgame situations and a thorough examination of what leads to a drawn game. While we did cover this during the previous week, obviously we have to provide further training. Teaching is an evolving process, one that can always be improved upon. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson


Chess Opening Blunders – Another Comedy of Errors

This is another correspondence chess game from the 1978 Golden Knights Postal Section 93. Although I won this game in 18 moves, it was not one of my best chess games.  We both made all kinds of blunders that could have lost the game for us, or we missed opportunities for quick wins. My opponent made a blunder on move number 15 that I did catch and punish. He resigned on what was to be hi 19th move.

I rarely answer 1.e5 with 1…e5. I did so here because I was wanting to play the Schliemann Defense in the Ruy Lopez. That did not happen here. We ended up with the Two Knights Defense. I think that this is the only time that I have ever played this line.

Most of the analysis below is on what was missed by each of us.

Mike Serovey


The First Victory They Won Was Over Themselves …

In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first. – Harry S Truman

He that ruleth his spirit [is greater] than he that taketh a city. – Proverbs 16:32

U.S. President Harry S Truman (1945-1953) played chess on a bigger stage than most of us, but his advice has applicability to our art. While the technical craft of chess is a never-ending learning experience, the one ability precious above all others in chessplay is self-control.

Tying for first this past weekend in the Colorado Senior Championship (50 and over) was, for me, a triumph of self-control, a lesson learned late in life, at least as it pertains to chess. If there is one personal improvement tip I can offer up on Chess Improver out of my meager trove , it is that a certain conquest of one’s somatic being is essential in order to remain on point, to examine the variations fully, dispassionately, and without regard to any factor external to the chess struggle.

Here is my best game from that contest. My opponent makes one “funny” move, 4. h3, followed by a weak move, 12. Rc1. As Black equalizes, White loses his self-control and enters into an unsound sacrificial continuation 18. Bxb5, which might have succeeded had Black played 19 … Qb6 instead of 19 … Qb8.

Jacques Delaguerre


The Tiger Chess Endgame Course

Further to my post yesterday on the Tiger Chess Strategy Course, here’s how the Tiger Chess Endgame Course works. Once again it is included with the £4.95 Full Membership fee and provides an easy and very thorough way to learn the endgame:

Nigel Davies