Only Fool’s Rush In

Wise men say, only fool’s rush in. While Elvis Presley was singing about love rather than chess, I think chess players of all levels can take these words to heart. After all, we’ve all launched a premature attack only to have it repelled, with the big pay off being the weakening of our position. Wise chess players never rush into an attack. However, there are times when an early attack can be beneficial. The trick is to know how to identify such an opportunity.

Beginner’s have the habit of throwing individual pieces at the opposition King with no real rhyme or reason. They end up losing material while making no real threat to the opposition. With a little experience they then move on to attacking the King with pairs of pieces with similar results. Often, this idea of a two piece assault becomes popular with the novice player because they’ve had some luck with the Scholar’s Mate. The Queen and Bishop combination then become the staple of the beginner’s early attacks.

As our beginner gains further experience, they move onto attacks against the weak f7 (for black) and f2 (for white) squares, trying to disrupt the King-side of the board. While these two squares are weak during the opening, attacking them comes at a cost that the beginner fails to see. What the beginner sees is a chance at a fast attack that may weaken the opposition’s position. However, if the word’s “chance” and “may” are used when considering an attack you may not want to take a chance because good chess is not a game of chance and the word may (as in “it may work”) should not be in a chess player’s vocabulary! The validity of an attack can be judged by what it costs you to embark on such an endeavor.

Of course, attacking is key if you hope to win a game of chess but you have to consider the cost of launching the attack. For example, many beginner’s think the idea of trading two minors, a Knight and a Bishop, for a Rook and a Pawn during the opening is an equal exchange. This might occur after 1. e4…e5, 2. Nf3…Nc6, 3. Bc4…Nf6, 4. 0-0…Be7 5. Ng5…0-0, 6. Nxf7 Rxf7, Bxf7…Kxf7. The player of the white pieces says, “ah ha, I’ve taken one of the black pawns that shields the castled black King and I’ve got the black King-side Rook as well. This means I’ll go into the end game with an extra Rook!”

However, what the player of the white pieces missed was the price paid for winning the pawn and Rook. What’s the price? Well, going into the endgame with two Rooks and a Queen against one Rook and Queen might have some value if both players were in the actual endgame but, they’re still in the opening. The two minor pieces white traded for the black Rook and pawn were active pieces in the opening. Minor pieces are critical in the opening and tactically important in the middle-game. Black’s Rook and pawn were inactive so white traded two active pieces for an inactive Rook and pawn. Then there’s the tempo factor! White moved the Knight three times to launch the attack. This allowed black to get ahead in development. In the end, the price paid by white was much higher than the results garnered! If you look at the final position, black has a firm grasp of the board’s center while white has nothing.

The beginner should learn to evaluate the cost of any attack in terms of game principles, only considering an attack early on if the outcome of the attack is far greater than the price paid. Trading those two minor pieces for a Rook and a pawn means that black has all four minor pieces to white’s two minor pieces. With the middle-game soon to start, black has a two to one potential tactical majority which means that black will have an advantage when it comes to developing any tactical plays. Minor pieces play a much more important role in the early phases of the game than the major pieces.

One thing I do with my beginning students is to have them keep a pencil and paper handy while playing practice games so they can create a list of pros and cons for any attack they’re planning. They write down their attacking goals and benefits in one column and the negative aspects in another. For an attack to warrant any merit, the benefits must greatly outnumber the costs incurred by launching such an attack. To be considered on their list are piece activity, central board control, King safety, tempo, potential tactics, etc.

One point, that is important for the chess teacher to keep in mind, is the thinking that leads the beginner to rush into early attacks. We become good at teaching only when we understand the point of view of our students. To simply think that a student doesn’t know any better doesn’t help the teacher to fully understand why a problem is occurring. Therefore, I ask my students a lot of questions to determine why they, in this case, launch an attack like the one shown above. As I mentioned earlier, students think that the removal of a major piece, the Rook, and one of the three pawns protecting the King gives them an advantage. It could be considered an advantage, again, if this took place towards the endgame. They also consider the idea of relative material value being absolute. To the beginner, six points of material for six points of material is an equal trade. Younger beginners don’t always understand the word ‘relative.’ To them, a Knight and Bishop are equal in value to a Rook and a pawn, period. Therefore, I explain to them that the term relative means that the value can change depending on positional aspects, such as open versus closed game, or depending on the actual phase of the game. Always ask students to explain the reasoning behind their actions on the chessboard. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to explain your reasoning in a way that makes sense to them.

Anyone who has taught junior level chess has seen the Fried Liver Attack, which is the next attacking phase most youngsters employ as they mature as players. The Fried Liver Attack, which occurs after 1. e4…e5, 2. Nf3…Nc6, 3. Bc4…Nf6, 4. Ng5…d5, 6. exd5…Nxd5, 7. Nxf7…Kxf7, 8. Qf3+, can prove disastrous for black if he or she doesn’t know what they’re doing. The person playing the black pieces is often a less experienced player (at junior level) which means the person playing white can deliver a crushing blow. Of course, the person employing this attack will eventually face an opponent who knows what he or she is doing!

Now, if we look at this series of moves, remembering that this is a junior level attack, we might consider this assault to be a bit more sound because the price paid in terms of game principles isn’t as steep as the previous example. White did moved the Knight three times to take down the f7 pawn and did stop the black King from castling. Of course, white should have developed a new piece with each move. However, white does have the black King in a bit of a positional pickle. Moreover, white has options to continue building up the attack. While I wouldn’t embark on this attack, it provides junior players with an opportunity to hone their attacking skills. There are numerous ways to continue the Fried Liver from this position and you can look them up. The point I want to make is that this attack has a bit more bite to it because the cost of employing it is less than the price paid in our first example.

If you wish to launch an early attack, add up the cost in terms of principled play and see if that cost outweighs the benefits. Losing the game is a price you don’t want to have to pay. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

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The Unbearable Heaviness of Computer Analysis

Having a solid opening repertoire and knowledge of typical plans is very important. But that doesn’t mean you need to memorize lots of computer analysis. – Nigel Davies

The subject of chess students lending undue weight to computer analysis of the openings recently came up in discussion with GM Davies and friends on Facebook.

Folks tend to forget that the computers are guessing just like we are. It’s axiomatic in the mathematical discipline of Game Theory that it’s not possible to find provably the best chess move without calculation to all terminal positions. Unless a computer’s brute force calculation is either exhaustive (not mathematically possible on current computing platforms in the opening) or intersects its Nalimov tablebase, the computer is operating strategically/heuristically (i.e., “guessing”) just as we do, though with a greater speed than we can muster and a flawless memory for the variations it has already calculated.

The other fact many learners don’t forget, but rather, can’t quite grasp, is that there are many paths through the forest to the inevitable draw. All that chess requires is that one stay on one of the paths to the draw and make sure one’s opponent steps off the path and onto the path to perdition instead of doing so one’s self.

Incidentally, some time ago WGM Natalia Pogonina remarked on Facebook that the Russian Chess Federation has access to supercomputer time for openings analysis, and that the more processing time given to any sound opening, the closer the computer heuristic evaluation of advantage approaches 0.0 (complete equality). Which seems obvious, but it’s worth noting.

The following game is presented without computer analysis of any kind. My opponent, a nice fellow and one of my “regular customers”, groused to the Tournament Director as he walked out the door, “That was no fun, he just rolled over me, I never had a chance!”

Jacques Delaguerre

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Some Excellent Stuff Over YouTube To Improve At Chess

Thechesswebsite
Thechesswebsite is publishing material mainly in video format over YouTube and has more than 130,000 subscribers. Currently he mainly focuses on annotated chess games from recent tournaments and some ‘masala’ chess videos. Some of his videos are for members only but you can find lots of instructive free stuff. With English not being my first language, I found it is difficult to understand him because of his accent. But I really appreciate his continuous works over 6 years.

King Crusher
This channel is run by Tryfon Gavriel, a FIDE Candidate Master, British Regional Master and also the webmaster of Chess World. He reached a peak ECF rating of 212 (equivalent to about 2350 USCF) in July 2014, and a 216 rapid grade. He runs his YouTube channel as King Crusher and has been active for the last 8 years with around 60,000 subscriber and more than 5,000 videos. You can find lots of classical and modern annotated games on his channel.

Power Play Chess by Daniel King
This doesn’t require any introduction. King mainly produces the videos on current chess tournaments. He started this channel three years back and currently there are more than 500 videos that you can go through.

Chess Network
Introducing himself as Jerry, the creator of this channel is a self taught National Master with over 100,000 subscribers. Beginners to intermediate players can get much from his videos.

I have also found some other chess channels useful which focus on commentating during their/other blitz games. I believe this is entertaining but less instructive, so they are not included here.

And yes if you don’t like to go over YouTube and search for good videos here is an option. www.lichess.org has selected more than 1000 videos from different channels.

Ashvin Chauhan

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6 Naka Dragon Yugoslavs

Some wicked complicated positions from the Yugoslav Dragon Sicilian, with Nakamura playing both sides of the position. Analysis for the Robson game from Hiarcs Chess, whilst the other games have notations of other games included from Chess King 2. Fierce fighting and victories on both sides of the position lend me to believe the position ( hence the opening) is only for the most aggressive player personality.
It is not the case that once the position is “stabilized” Black has nothing to fear, nor White similarly. Not sure actually if in any of these positions you can state there is a “stablized” position, it is so dynamic for both sides.
If you plan on playing the Dragon be prepared for a short or a long struggle, and have gotten plenty of rest beforehand.

Ed Rosenthal

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Sacrificing Two Queens

This week’s puzzle is not very hard, but it is unusual because to win White has to sacrifice two Queens.

This doesn’t happen very often, and it is even rarer to sacrifice two Queens on the same move. This is the only position I know where it happened.

How does White to play win?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White wins by sacrificing his extra material. 1 Kc4! Kd7 2 Kd5 Kxd8 3 Kc6 and wins.

Steven Carr

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Paignton Challengers A 1974 Part 5

Going into the last round I was on 4½/6, with a chance of first place if I won my final game. I found myself playing White against one of the highest graded players in my section and a QGD Exchange Variation soon appeared on the board.

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Nf3 Nbd7
5. cxd5 exd5
6. Bg5 Be7
7. e3 c6
8. Bd3 Ne4

You can do this if you like but, as you might expect, Black usually castles in this position.

9. Bf4 Ndf6
10. Qc2 Nxc3

Rather obliging. Bf5 was another option, but Black could also castle here, offering a pawn. Stockfish analyses 10…0–0 11.Nxe4 dxe4 12.Bxe4 Nxe4 13.Qxe4 g5 14.Bg3 f5 15.Qe5 f4 16.exf4 g4 17.Nd2 Bf6 when Black has a lot of play.

11. bxc3 Bg4

This is just bad. He could still have castled.

12. Ne5 Bh5

And this is a blunder.

13. O-O

Missing the chance to play Rb1 which just wins a pawn. Qc8 or Qd7 would be met by Bf5.

13… Bg6
14. Rab1 Bxd3
15. Qxd3 Qc8
16. Bg5

Another inaccurate move. I should have taken the opportunity to play c4, which Black could now have prevented by playing b5.

16… Ne4

This is just crazy. I really can’t imagine what prompted him to play this move. Last round nerves, perhaps? All I have to do is open the centre and Black will have no defence.

17. Bxe7 Kxe7
18. c4 f6
19. cxd5 Nd6
20. Nc4

Stockfish recommends the piece sacrifice Rfc1 here. Black’s best bet now is to trade knights but instead he loses quickly.

20… cxd5
21. Nxd6 Kxd6
22. Rfc1 Qd7
23. e4 b6
24. Qg3+ Ke6
25. Rc7 1-0

So I finished on 5½/7, enough for a share of first place. Four wins with white and three draws with black. In the immortal words of Mr Punch, that’s the way to do it.

Looking back at the games I was lucky that all my black opponents played rather feebly in the opening and in each case I was able to gain a significant advantage early in the game. Two of my white opponents played unambitiously and allowed me easy equality. Only in round 4 was I in any trouble, where I blundered a pawn and should have lost the subsequent ending.

For the first time I was feeling confident about my chess. A few weeks later the new season was under way. My first seven matches resulted in seven wins, several against fairly strong opponents. My next tournament, one of the large open Swisses which were popular in London at the time, saw me extend my winning sequence to nine before losing to a strong opponent in the second round. Although I’d cut out most of my blunders and was happy with my defence to 1. e4, I’d still lose the occasional horrible game to opponents who knew the opening better than me.

The question that interests me is whether or not I was a stronger player 40 years ago in my mid 20s than I am now in my mid 60s. I think players of, say, 1800-2000 strength are stronger now than then, which, given the increased knowledge of chess, is what you’d expect. If I’d continued to play regularly and take chess seriously I’d be stronger now than I was back in the mid 70s. But I chose not to, so, perhaps I’m about the same strength.

In a few weeks time I’ll revisit another tournament from my past.

Richard James

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Walter Browne

As a musician, I’m sadly aware of the short lives many of us lead due to the rather precarious lifestyle many of us have led. When I traded in my guitar for the chessboard, I somehow felt as if my chess playing and teaching cohorts would have a longer shelf life. Sadly, I was reminded last week that this isn’t always true. The passing of Grandmaster Walter Browne on June 24th hit me hard. The six time U.S. Chess Champion served as an inspiration to both myself and my students. Fortunately, his games live on and provide insightful lessons in improvement for chess players of all levels.

I knew his name from books and chess magazines but didn’t start using his games in my chess classes until I watched an Andrew Martin DVD that featured a game between Browne and Miguel Quinteros. The game, shown below, has Browne playing the white pieces. What stands out about this game is the elegant simplicity that Browne employs against Quinteros. While Quinteros breaks some key opening principles, Browne correctly applies those opening principles to develop a superior position early on.

What makes this game such a valuable teaching tool is its clarity regarding the use of game principles. One of the challenges of teaching chess is presenting your students with games that clearly demonstrate the concepts you’re trying to teach. A game in which principles are applied in too subtle or abstract a way can go over the heads of beginners. However, this game clearly shows correct use of the opening principles.

Browne starts with the simple 1. e4, gaining a foothold in the center while allowing his King-side Bishop and Queen access to the board. Quinteros plays 1…c5, the Sicilian Defense. Browne plays 2. Nf3, a move that develops an important minor piece towards the center of the board. Nothing fancy, just the application of the opening principles. Quinteros bolsters his c pawn with 2…d6.

Move three, 3. Bb5+ brings up a few important ideas for the beginner. This first of which is the quality of this check. If the black c pawn had still been on its starting square (c7), this check would have been silly since the black c pawn could simply block the check, forcing the Bishop to retreat at a cost of tempo. However, the c pawn cannot do this so black is forced to use either the Queen-side Knight or Bishop to block this check. Quinteros uses his Bishop, 3…Bd7, to block and the Bishops are traded off with 4. Bxd7…Qxd7. It’s important for the beginner to understand that this is a fairly even trade because both players are trading Bishops that control the same color squares so neither player will have a Bishop advantage (such as trading a Knight for a Bishop, leaving one player with the Bishop pair). Browne plays 5.c4 next and this can be difficult for the beginner to understand. I believe the idea here is to gain control of the d5 square as a possible outpost for the Queen-side Knight later on. This move follows the basic principle of controlling the center.

Quinteros now makes a fundamental mistake by bringing his Queen out early with 5…Qg4. However, this kind of move strikes fear into the heart of the beginning player! The beginner sees that the black Queen is forking both the pawn at e4 and the pawn at g2. If the pawn on e4 is captured, the white King is in check which could lead to an early trade of Queens. On the other hand, if the pawn on g2 is captured, then the h1 Rook will have to move and white will not be able to castle. No problem for Browne, he simply castles and allows the black Queen to pick off the e4 pawn. This brings up a critical point for beginners, don’t capture material unless it helps your position. Beginners love to capture material and don’t realize that doing so for the sole sake of capturing often does more harm than good. After white plays 6. 0-0, black grabs the pawn with 6…Qxe4. At this point, I ask my students to come up with a few possible moves for white before we continue the game. 7. Re1 and 7. d3 are often suggested.

It’s a good idea to ask students for move suggestions to get an idea of their understanding of the opening principles. Both the suggested moves show that students are understanding the folly of early Queen deployment in that they push the black Queen back. When then see the actual game move, 7. d4, they’re not sure what to make of it. This move opens things up for the white pieces. Browne isn’t afraid of giving up another pawn in exchange for attacking possibilities!

Quinteros plays 7…cxd4 and my beginning students expect the Knight on f3 to capture back. However, Browne now plays 8. Re1 gaining time on the black Queen while putting the Rook on an active square. Of course the Queen has to move, 8…Qc6 and only now does Browne take the pawn on d4 with 9. Nxd4. Why capture now? Because doing so allows the Knight to attack the black Queen while positioning itself on a strong square! Guess who is on the move again? Quinteros plays 9…Qxc4 grabbing another pawn while ignoring sound opening development. This game exemplifies the power of development! White’s pieces are coming out in force while black is forced to shuffle the Queen around sadly. Again, grabbing material isn’t a good idea. Browne plays 10. Na3, attacking the Queen yet again.

This last move brings up a point regarding opening principles. We first learn that pieces should be developed towards the center of the board during the opening. However, there are times when moving a piece to the edge of the board can override the principle of central development. This is an example of that. The Knight on a3 attacks the Queen, forcing it to move once again. The black Queen grovels up to c8 (10…Qc8) and now the party really starts for white!

Browne plays 11. Bf4, centralizing his remaining Bishop. I tell my students to keep an eye on the e7 pawn because it is pinning to the King due to the Rook on e1. Black plays 11…Qd7. I hope the poor black Queen has been wearing comfortable running shoes during her jog around the board! Move twelve, 12. Nab5, puts a second attacker on the d6 pawn. Black plays 12…e5. My beginning students think, wow black is forking the white Knight and Bishop. I remind them that the e pawn is still pinned to the black King so the fork’s a bust. Next, Browne makes a move that beginner’s find curious.

Beginners are taught to make fair trades, a minor piece for a minor piece, or trades that garner them material such as a pawn for a minor piece. However, the game’s next move, 13. Bxe5 surprises the novice player. The point here, is that when you’re ahead in development, you can trade down to build up an attack (and set a nasty trap). Quinteros captures back with 13…dxe5 and POW, Browne plays 14. Rxe5+! I suspect Quinteros was really feeling the heat at this point. Rather than being able to actively develop his minor pieces, Quinteros has to use one of them to block the check, 14…Be7. Now comes the trap!

Browne plays 15. Rd5. I stop the game and ask my students if this is a free piece for black. They quickly look at the position and concur that it is. Wrong answer! If black takes the Rook with the Queen, white has the crushing Nc7+, forking King, Queen and Rook (on a8). You have to think ahead in chess! Fortunately, Quinteros saw this and played, 15…Qc8. However, even avoiding the trap, black’s game is utterly lost in this position.

Browne, who was know to get into time trouble on occasion might have done so here only because he had so many great moves to choose from at this point. This is what comes from good development and applying the principles. He chose, 16. Nf5, threatening the e7 Bishop. Quinteros decided to tuck his King away with 16…Kf8. Browne takes the Bishop with 17. Ne7 and black captures back with the King, 17…Kxe7. After 18. Re5+, Quinteros throws in the towel as they say! Please note that Quinteros was a wonderful Grandmaster and I mean no offense in my commentary here, but not employing sound game principles can leave you in a bad way.

A very instructive game for beginners as well as an entertaining one. I can only imagine Walter Browne, with that trademark look on his face, glaring at the black pieces during this game. Browne is probably my favorite American player and will always be a staple of my teaching program. Wherever you are Walter, I hope all your poker hands are Royal Flushes! Thank you for all you’ve given us!

Hugh Patterson

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If It’s a Car You Lack, I’d Surely Buy You a Hadiak

My opponent is this correspondence chess game is from United Arab Emirates. I do not know his real name, but he uses the handle “hadiak” on  ICC. The handle, “hadiak” rhymes with Cadillac and thus it reminded me of a line in the song, Thank You for Being a Friend.

I won both of my correspondence chess games as White against him and I have yet to play Black against him. Right now, I am declining correspondence chess games on ICC while I get caught up on the 100,000 other things that I need to do.

A detailed analysis of my other correspondence chess game against hadiak can be found here

Mike Serovey

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Hall of Mirrors

Chess has this in common with the study of quantum phenomena, that the difficulty in grasping the whole is caused by the intricacy and complexity of the subconstituent parts.

We know that chess is determinate. Among the myriad pathways the game can follow there are those paths which lead to a draw, and the lost game first arises when a player strays off those paths.

Described thusly, chess seems cut and dried, devoid of interest. But the reality in this world of struggle is that the very number of pathways takes us to that quantum point where quantity is quality. The pursuit of ultimate truth, of the “best move” in the opening that characterized much of 20th century chess turns out to be sterile. Classical practitioners like Em. Lasker and modern practitioners like Magnus Carlsen know that there are many paths through the Hall of Mirrors, and that it matters not that one found the “best” path, but merely that one made one’s opponent lose the way.

The beginner should never be afraid to calculate in the opening and come to his or her own conclusions. Here’s an old game where relying on calculation I found the adequate if not “best” variation staring with 9. Nd2 after which my opponent found himself befuddled and eventually losing a pawn, which turned somehow into a lost knight.

Side note: I’ve been told there are two pages on the “Fishing Pole” (common name of Black’s … Ng4 in various double-king-pawn games where the Black knight is supported by … h5 and attacked by … h3 and maintained by the mate threat after h3xg4 h5xg4 if the Nf3 were to move)  in a new John Watson book and that he names Brian Douglas Wall of Denver as the number one practitioner.

Jacques Delaguerre

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