Recognising the Patterns : Challenge # 14

Today’s Challenge: Find the typical pattern and react accordingly

David Janowski against Carl Schlechter in 1899: White to move

Q: Black’s last move was …Rf8-f7, was it a wise decision?
A: It was a blunder which loses very quickly. Janowski continued as follows:

34. Qxh7!! Kxh7 35. Rh5 Kg8

Now what?

36. Ng6! 1-0

Black resigned as Rh8 and Rf8 mate can’t be avoided.

This method of checkmate in known as the Hook mate where the rook, supported by a protected knight, delivers checkmate on last rank.

Fischer against Jose Luis Garcia Bachiller in 1970: White to move

Q: White is winning anyway but find the quickest way to finish things off.
A: Fischer won as follows:

25. Nf6+ Kh8

If 25…Kf8 then 26. Qd7 leads to checkmate. The text allows a nice finish.

26. Qxg7!! 1-0

Black resigned in view of 26…Kxg7 27. Rg4+ Kf8 28. Rg8+ Ke7 29. Re8#.

Sometimes your opponent can prevent the checkmate at the cost of some material, as in the following example:

David Navara against Martyn Goodger in 2012: White to move

Q: White has 2 extra pawns and strong knight on e6; how can he convert his advantage into win quickly?
A: Navara continued as follows:

35. Bf6! Nxf6

If 35…exf6 then 36. Qe4 wins a rook and if 35..Kxf6 then 36. Qd4+ is winning.

36. Rf8+ 1-0

This wins the queen.

Bas, Van de Plassche against Johan De wolf in 1997: White to move

Q: How can White pocket the game using the very strong knight on g6?
A: White can win a piece by force as follows:

27. Re7+ Kg8

If 27…Rxe7 then 28. Rxe7+ wins the piece on c7 on next move

28. Nxc7

Removing the defender of e8 and Black can’t take that knight with either of his pieces.


If 28…Rxc7 then 29.Re8+ Kh8 (or 29…Rxe8 30. Rxe8+ and mate next move) 30. Rxd8 is winning.

29. Re8+

Q: Can you any better continuation than text move?
A: White can force checkmate with 29. Rxd7.


This leads to mate in two though 29…Kh7 is also losing due to 30. Nf8+ followed by winning the rook on d7 with a discovered check.

30. Rxe8+ Kf7 31.Rf8# 1-0

Ashvin Chauhan


A New Recipe Against Alzheimer’s: Chess & Champagne at Simpson’s

Given the amount of interest this area has attracted in the chess scene, I thought it worth mentioning the potential that playing chess at Simpson’s, accompanied by a glass of champagne or three, has in combating this disease.

In the following video Anatoly Karpov confirms the value of chess for the mind: “If you train, if you keep your brain working all the time, you maintain your thinking abilities and your memory.” And whilst there are those who have questioned the growing evidence I think it makes sense to go with this rather than wait for the researchers to provide absolute confirmation.

Nigel Davies


Passed Pawns in the Endgame.

Sometimes a strong enemy passed pawn can be a hindrance to that side, if it block his own pieces.

In this week’s problem, Black has to cope with the task of neutralising White’s strong centre and strong bishop.

How does Black to play bring about a situation where his knight is stronger than the enemy bishop?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White plays 1. Nb3! b6 2. Rfc1 Rac8 3. Ba6 Rce8 4. Bb7 and White controls the c-file.

Steven Carr


Deserving Irving

I wrote a few months ago about Fred Reinfeld. I really ought to consider his contemporary and occasional collaborator Irving Chernev (1900-1981).

History has been much kinder to Chernev, than to Reinfeld. There’s something of a feeling, isn’t there, that Chernev=Good while Reinfeld=Bad? By all accounts Chernev was a nice guy and a real enthusiast for chess, while Reinfeld, although the stronger player, was a rather unpleasant man writing his books for money rather than for love. Although Chernev’s books are outdated, some of them still have value and his passion for the game shines through all his writing.

It’s time to look at the Chernev books in my chess library.

I have two books of chess trivia, inspirations for The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict.

The Chess Companion (1968) is described as “A merry collection of tales of chess and its players, together with a cornucopia of games, problems, epigrams and advice, topped off with the greatest game of chess ever played”. The first half comprises (mostly) chess fiction, by the likes of EB White, JM Synge and Stephen Leacock. Then we have a collection of interesting games and puzzles, some trivia and epigrams, and finally, the Greatest Game (Bogolyubov-Alekhine Hastings 1922, since you asked). All very enjoyable and entertaining, but I’m not sure how much of it would meet with Edward Winter’s approval. Wonders and Curiosities of Chess (1974) is very much the same recipe as the second half of The Chess Companion.

Winning Chess (1949) is a collaboration between Chernev and Reinfeld, a guide to basic tactical ideas illustrated with simple examples. Still, I think, a very useful book for novices.

My other Chernev books are all games collections. The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess (1957) does what it says on the tin. The games range in length from 4 to 24 moves and come with light annotations. The provenance of the games doesn’t always stand up to historical scrutiny (the first game, predictably, is ‘Gibaud-Lazard’ which wasn’t as Chernev claimed, a tournament game, and, as we now know, lasted longer than four moves), but if you want a collection of miniatures, perhaps for coaching purposes, or just for an enjoyable read, you won’t go far wrong.

Logical Chess: Move by Move (1958) is perhaps Chernev’s best known, and also most controversial, book. He presents 33 games, all annotated in depth, literally move by move. He even manages to find something different to say every time 1. e4 or 1. d4 is played. The other day a novice player at Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club had a copy with him and assured me he’d be a very strong player by the time he’d finished the book. However, Logical Chess was slated by John Nunn a few years ago, and it has to be said that not all of the notes stand up to modern computer analysis.

The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played (1966) is a collection of ’62 Masterpieces of Modern Chess Strategy’. Well, relatively modern, given that the games range from Steinitz in 1873 to Petrosian in 1961.

The Golden Dozen
(1976) gives us ‘the twelve greatest players of all time’, along with 9 games by each of numbers 3-12, 10 games by number 2 (Alekhine) and 15 games by number 1 (Capablanca), all annotated in depth. The first edition, which I have, is a handsome hardback published by Oxford University Press.

Chernev returned to his beloved Capablanca for Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings (1978), with 60 complete games, all of which Capa won in the endgame. Again, much useful material for study and tuition as long as you can accept the reservations over Chernev’s style of annotation.

Chernev had a personal preference for strategy over tactics and enjoyed games where the winner followed a simple strategical plan from beginning to end. This type of game is very instructive for intermediate players, perhaps more so than tactical games, but if you’re annotating games of this type there is often a tendency towards annotation by results and over-simplification. But, if you’re writing for weaker players you have to generalise and over-simplify. Novices have to learn the basic principles of chess before learning when and how to break them. Inevitably there are also analytical errors which can be discovered easily by switching on an engine.

The first game in Logical Chess is a case in point. Chernev is very critical of White’s 9th move, but the engines are still happy with the first player’s position. The real mistake is 10. dxe5, a horrible move allowing a black piece to approach the white king. In the final position White could have played on with the computer defence 18. Bxf7+. Now 18… Kxf7 19. Qd5+ is a perpetual check, while after, say, 18… Kf8, White sacrifices his other bishop: 19. Bf4 Qxf4 20. Bh5 Nf6 21. Rxf2 Nxh5 22. Qd5 when he’s two pawns down but has some practical chances. Earlier, the computer is not impressed with Black’s 16th move, instead preferring to complete its development calmly with O-O-O.

Chernev, although not the strongest of players, had an unerring eye for a good game and was meticulous in consulting as many sources as possible before writing his annotations. Many of his books still have value today. Both Logical Chess and The Most Instructive Games have a lot of invaluable material for chess coaches, although you might like to check the analysis and the current state of opening theory first. The Golden Dozen seems to have been underestimated: that and Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings, Chernev’s last two chess books, are worthy of consideration because of the excellent choice of games and the clarity of the annotations. John Nunn might advise swerving Irving, but for intermediate players and those who are teaching them, some of Irving’s books are still deserving of your attention.

Richard James


Too Young for Chess

When I was a small child, when technology such as the cordless phone was still considered science fiction, children were allowed to grow intellectually at a natural pace. We grew through our own trial and error way of discovering the world around us, with our parents patiently watching from the sidelines. Now, parents seem to be goaded (often by other parents) into developing their child’s mind literally while that child is still in the womb. When the child is finally born, the race for intellectual superiority is in full swing. Every parent is convinced that their child is brilliant, capable of changing the world (and a few do go on to do just that). Of course, there’s nothing wrong with thinking your child is absolutely brilliant but when you push a child at too young an age, more damage can be done than good. In my work teaching chess to children, I find an overwhelming number of parents enrolling their children in my classes at too young an age. They also expect their young children to excel at chess because, after all, their children are brilliant (according to the parents). Einstein’s childhood exemplifies the falsehood of developing a child’s mind at an early age in order to increase their chances of becoming the next great intellectual thinker of our times!

While it’s generally a good idea to learn chess at a young age, there is a minimum age at which the game should be introduced. Expose a child younger than that age to the game and the results will be mixed at best. For example, I have an entire class of kindergarten students who are roughly five years of age. Five years of age is far to young to get any real benefit out of chess. Why? Because chess requires abstract thinking that five year old children just haven’t developed. While I have had a few exceptions to this rule, the majority of kindergarten students shouldn’t be taking a chess class. They should be playing with Lego building blocks instead which actually would help them develop the mindset needed for chess. Building things, using the trial and error method, teaches young children how to problem solve, a requisite for playing chess. It also introduces them to abstract thinking. However, many (but not all) parents love to tell other parents that their children are studying chess “and they’re only in kindergarten!”

It’s as if there is this race to see who can produce the youngest genius but what it comes down to is childish bragging rights on the part of the parents. I recently had a parent of one of my kindergarten students say that her son wasn’t playing chess very well after two months in my class. I replied that, at the age of five, just moving the pieces correctly should be considered a milestone within this time frame. I asked her what she considered to be “playing chess well.” She said that her son was unable to deliver checkmate when playing her husband. By the way, her husband is a chess know-it-all, who makes weekly suggestions regarding my teaching program (beating him at chess on a regular basis seems to be a poor deterrent and pointing to my student’s tournament victories has little effect as well). Honestly, I had to keep my thoughts to myself because, after all, teaching chess is my job (although I consider it a privilege). Negative commentary on my part would create problems for our chess organization ( my sudden unemployment) leading me to a career in customer service which would leave the city of San Francisco with even more angry people. If I could speak freely, I’d tell her she was an idiot with no idea of how to develop her child’s mind (as well as a total disregard for anything resembling fashion sense). I’d also tell her that her husband was a Patzer. However, I patiently explained that children of a certain age don’t have the capacity, brilliant or not, to understand ideas that require a specific level of intellectual maturity that is developed over time (age)! There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for your child, you just have to make sure you’re not pushing your child to satisfy your own needs. There might be someone that reads this and thinks “well my kid started chess classes at age five and learned the game quickly.” This does happen. Case in point, one of my five year old students: His father played club level chess and spent the better part of eighteen months working with his son, just concentrating on how the pawns and pieces moved. He also consulted the appropriate books and did the appropriate leg work. When his son arrived in my class, at the age of five, he actually knew quite a bit about the game (especially for a five year old). What made the difference, between the mom with no fashion sense and the well prepared chess playing dad? Dad took his time and didn’t set his expectations in the clouds! Patience is a word many parents think they know but often need to reacquaint themselves with it when it comes to chess and expectations.

I truly believe that everyone can benefit from chess, especially when it comes to life lessons. Chess can give children the ability to problem solve with relative ease. However, timing is everything! Putting a small child into a structured chess class can be extremely boring for that child because they don’t understand the concepts. It doesn’t mean they suffer from sub-intelligence. It just means they’re too young for abstract thinking and extended periods of focusing on something. Yet, many parents think their child has an intellectual problem if they’re not doing well in my chess class. Of course, I try to explain to them that this simply isn’t the case but we live in a world in which parents push their children to the breaking point, thinking they’re helping that child develop an advantage. Dear parents, there is no real intellectual race and parents who allow their children to develop their minds on their own often end up with children who go on to do amazing things.

Parents should also consider whether or not their children actually want to play chess at all. I’ve had students enrolled in my classes who have no interest in the game but their parents force them to attend. Fortunately, I can usually make the game interesting to them but it seems counterproductive to the child’s intellectual growth. What’s wrong with having a child not interested in chess take music lessons instead? Better yet, why not ask the child what they might be interested in? Parents never seem to consider asking their child what they want to do.

I know this all may seem a bit negative but I’m in the trenches so to speak and and watch the great intellectual race run every single day. So, what age is the right age to introduce children to chess? It depends on a number of variables so there is no concrete answer. However, I’ll pose a simple question to determine whether your child is ready for a chess class. Does your child have a problem with sitting still and focusing for 10 to 15 minutes at a time? If the answer is yes, then your child isn’t ready. When I say “focusing,” I don’t expect your child to be able to concentrate on something with the metal dexterity of a Jedi Knight. However, could you ask your child to look at a slightly abstract drawing for a few minutes and then have them answer some simple questions about that drawing, such as what they think it depicts and why they think it depicts what they think it depicts. Can they create a story around the picture? How long can they study the drawing before they start fidgeting? This simple test will tell you a bit about the concentration, depth and abstract thinking your child employs when looking at the drawing. While not an exact science, it tends to shed some light on the issue of being able to sit still, concentrate and interpret an abstract form. There are a number of ways to garner this information, such as having your child build something with Lego building blocks and then explain what they’ve built. Note how long your child spends working on the project.

The point is this: Test your child’s ability to sit relatively still (after all, even the most well behaved children will always fidget a bit), concentrate on something and provide an explanation before enrolling them in a chess class where they’ll have to sit still, concentrate and tackle abstract thinking. Don’t force your child into taking a chess class if they don’t want to. Let them become interested in the game on their own. Forcing them into taking on such a complex game will only produce negative results. The older they are, the better the chances that they’ll enjoy the game and learn how to play it correctly. Third grade is a good age to start taking a chess class.

If your five year old child doesn’t take to chess like a duck to water, don’t worry about it. You can always try again when they’re older. Don’t force the game on them because children don’t want to do what they don’t want to do. Be gentle, nurture your children and allow them to grow at their own pace. It worked wonders for Einstein. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson


An American Defeats Henry the Eighth

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is not really Henry VIII of England. However, his name is Henry and he is from Finland. Also, while playing chess with this Henry I kept thinking of an old song from 1965 by Herman’s Hermits called “I’m Henry Vlll I Am”. You can watch and listen to a YouTube video featuring this song here:

I started this correspondence chess game with the Réti Opening and the game transposed into the English Opening, and then something that resembled the Botvinnik System. This Henry decided to play an unusual line against me. Although he was using a combination of chess engines during this chess game, he went against what the engines recommended and played an unsound sacrifice. That was the main reason that he lost this cc game.

This is my second win in this section. After one win and one draw I moved into fourth place out of thirteen in this section. With two wins, three draws and three losses I am still in fourth place at the time that I am writing this.

Mike Serovey


Chess Creativity

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. – Albert Einstein

An interesting actualité of the world of mathematics impinges upon the game theory of Chess.  László Babai, a mathematician and computer scientist at the University of Chicago in Illinois, claims a breakthrough in complexity theory. He is presenting today (2015-11-11) his algorithm for comparing two networks for identity, a P/NP problem traditionally way to the NP end of the spectrum. If his work is validated by his peers, it could have profound impact upon the game theory assessment of intrinsic difficulty of chess.

That from the cloudy upper reaches of game theory. Down here in the trenches I was pleased to discover new two youth members, about high school senior or college freshman age, of the Denver Chess Club last night perusing a certain class of openings. They were looking at the d3 line of the Spanish, and the King’s Indian attack, and other restrained employments of the legendary White initiative.

Together we compared the strategies of 20th century White openings, which seek to demonstrate that White has an attack. Karpov is the 20th century world champion of whom it was said that he “does not believe White has an attack”. Flash forward to the 21st century where the 20th century “main lines” of 1. e4 appear to be (when properly defended by Black) a White pawn sacrifice in order to achieve enough initiative to draw the resultant pawn-down ending.

The 21st century player views the problem of the opening as that of making the opponent commit first. S/he strives to develop in such a way that the danger to the opponent does not come from a scintillating attack on the king’s bishop’s square so much as from a falling into a enter-the-midgame zugzwang, overreaching against a restrained position and finding one’s self unable to make a move that doesn’t spoil the balance.

If we could but see it, the whole game of Chess from the starting position is a corresponding squares problem, i.e., computationally it’s a network. Hence the impact of the discovery announced by Babai upon the possibilities of computer solution of chess.

Jacques Delaguerre


Recognising the patterns : Challenge # 13

Today’s challenge: Find the typical pattern and react accordingly.

Juan Carlos Klein against Bartolome Jorge Marcussi in 1963; White to Move

Q: White has a winning position but how can he finish things off?

A: All you need to do is to open lines to let your rooks joins the main battle as follows:

22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. Nf5! +

Opening the g-file.


What else as 23…Kg8 then Qxh6 is winning.

24. gxf5+ Kh7

Now what?

25. Qxh6+!!

That helps White’s other rook to deliver final blow along the h file.

25… Kxh6
26. Rd3 and there is no defence against Rh3 so Black resigned.

This method of checkmating called the lawnmower or staircase checkmate. It is easy to remember but often hard to recognise in practise as it mainly works when there are open lines. It would be very helpful if you look for levers, sacrifices on g & h files and rook lifts very closely to see if this pattern exists.

Viktor Bologan against EdWin Van Haastert in 2005 – White to move

Q: Can you see any relevance between Rxb5 and the lawnmower pattern?

A: The rook is not only attacking the queen but also shadowing the black king along the 5th rank:

38. Rxb5 Qa7 39 fxg6

Clearing the 5th rank for the rook.

39…fxg6 40. Qxh5!!



If 40…Kg8 then 41. Qxg6 is winning, but the text move leads to mate in four.

41. Nf6+ Bxf6

If 41…Kh8 then 42.Rxh5+ followed by mate in few moves.

42. Rh5#

Emil Schallopp against George Hatfeild Gossip in 1890 – Black to move

Q: On which diagonal will you move your bishop, d1-h5 (Bh5) or h3-c8 (Be6)? Note that taking the knight is no good because 11…Bxf3 12. Qf3 Nc6 13. Bh6 is just winning for White.

A: Black should play 11…Be6 when both sides have chances.

The game went as follows:


Q: This is a natural move but not the good one. What should White play now?

A: He has a winning sacrifice as follows:

12. Bxh7! Kxh7

It was better not to take on h7.

13. Ng5! Bxg5

Usually when g5 is completely protected and the h-file isn’t open, we don’t play this classic bishop sacrifice. Here it is possible because of vulnerability of Black’s bishop on h5.

14. Qxh5+ Bh6

If 14…Kg8 then 15.Bxg5 is winning.

15. Bxh6

Q: Was there anything better than text move?

A: 15. Rf6!! was much better.


It was better to play g6.

16. Rf6!

Now the win is straightforward.

16…Kg7 17. Qxh6 Kg8 18. Qg5+ Kh7 19. Rh6#

Ashvin Chauhan


Chess In The Media

Here’s some further evidence about the popularity of chess in the media, its symbolism never failing to capture attention. I don’t like seeing chess pieces kicked over as this is a kind of sacrilege, and I don’t like the song much either. But isn’t it a shame that organized chess events rarely seem to capture much of the game’s magical appeal?

Nigel Davies


Finding Outposts

In this week’s problem, White clearly has the better position, as there are weak squares in Black’s camp, and the White pieces are better posted than the Black pieces.

How does White to move find a way of getting control of the c-file? White has several good moves, but the best idea here is to try to activate your worst pieces.

The solution to last Monday’s problem is 1. Qc1. White wants to play Ba3 and exchange the Black Bishop on d6. This leaves the black squares in Black’s position without their natural defender.

Steven Carr