Silly Ceding of c5

Here is a game that highlights my lack of structural understanding! It was helpful to go through it with Nigel. Below is the game with Nigel’s notes. Nigel explained the big problem of my 10.dxe5 was that it gave Black the c5 square. 10. b5 would have been better.

He showed me two games of Korchnoi’s games (including one against Nigel!) with similar structural themes.

Dan Staples

A Lesson from the Game Carlsen vs Naiditsch

This is really an instructive position. Play was focused on restricting the activity of one of Black’s minor pieces, a key middle game strategy that is often seen at grandmaster level. We have following position after Black’s last move 19…Rd8:

Q: How would you continue from here with white pieces?

20. b5! Ne5?!

Other options are also just good for White, for example:
a) 20…Ne7 21.c6
a1)21…Bc8 22.Bc4 Nd5 23.cxd7 23.Rxd7 24.Qa2 Rd8 25.Nd4 and white enjoys pressing position.
a2)21…Ba8 22.Bc4 Nc8 23.Qa2 Nb6 24.Rd1 with fantastic position.;

b) 20…Nb8 is just bad because of 21.Qa5 Bxf3 22.Bxf3 Qe5 23.Rc1 and Black has a very poor knight.

21.Nxe5 Qxe5 22.c6 Bc8

22…Ba8 23.Rd1 d5 24.Qd4 Qxd4 25.exd4 produces a position where Black’s bishop is even worse than on c8 which was what happened in the actual game.

23.Rd1 d5

23…d6 24.Qa5 d5 25.Qa1 Qxa1 26.Rxa1 gives White a winning position.

24.Qd4! Qxd4 25.exd4 Kf8 26.f4!

Now Black can’t achieve e5 without a significant loss of material which means his light square bishop is very bad. Carlsen went on win after few more moves.

Ashvin Chauhan

Need Sure Points? Volga-Benko Gambit Edition

“A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward its achievement”
Bo Bennett (businessman)

A while ago I wrote two articles about Volga-Benko gambit. The first one was based on a game I played and the second one was a follow up with ideas of improvement for Black’s play. You can review the second one HERE
This article is a follow up of idea #3 from it. The main point of both games below is once Black achieves an active setup, that balances out the sacrificed pawn. A balanced position poses interesting questions:
White: I am up a pawn and under pressure. How much risk should I take to continue? If I give back the pawn, my position could be worst and then I have to fight for a draw. If I do nothing, why would I play ahead?
Black: My active position compensates being down in material. If White decides to risk it, I have to make sure I will get my pawn back. If White sits tight and does nothing aggressive, I can also wait and maintain my active position
Hope the games below will be a good starting point in your preparation if you wish to introduce/ maintain Volga-Benko as part of your repertoire.

Game 1: a game played years ago with white looking to surprise black with a lesser known variation. Black managed to setup an active position with ease and both players agreed to a draw.

Game 2: a newer game where both sides made sure they reached a desired setup; once that happened, it felt like a standoff with neither side willing to blink first.

Valer Eugen Demian

Winning Uglier

Following up my Czech Benoni debut from last week, here’s an even uglier win with it by the Romanian Grandmaster Victor Ciocaltea. Black did absolutely nothing for most of the game while his opponent tried to figure out how to break though. Finally he got going with 44.f4 but had to resign a few moves later!

Sam Davies

Tennison Gambit

One of my private pupils rushed in excitedly to tell me he’d discovered an amazing new opening: he always wins whenever he plays it.

I asked him the name of the opening. “The Tennison Gambit”, he replied.

The what? Unless you’re an expert in obscure gambits you could be forgiven for not knowing what he was talking about.

First of all, it’s nothing at all to do with Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tennyson the poet was appointed President of the revived British Chess Association in 1883: I guess they were looking for a big name, and in 1883 celebrities didn’t come much bigger than Tennyson. His actual interest in chess, though, seems to have been fairly peripheral, although back in 1862 his 8-year-old son Lionel played chess against Lewis Carroll. I imagine his dad taught him the moves. History doesn’t record whether or not young Lionel played the Tennison Gambit.

So what is the Tennison Gambit? It’s named after the Danish born American amateur Otto Mandrup Tennison (1834–1909) and starts 1. Nf3 d5 2. e4 (or, if you prefer, 1. e4 d5 2. Nf3).

Here’s a game he played in 1891:

1. Nf3 d5 2. e4 dxe4 3. Ng5 f5 4. Bc4 Nh6 5. Nxh7 Rxh7 6. Qh5+ Kd7 7. Qg6 Rh8 8. Be6+ Kc6 9. Bxc8+ Qd6 10. Qe8+ Kb6 11. Qa4 when Black, rather prematurely, resigned instead of trying to struggle on with 11.. Nc6.

How did my pupil discover this opening? It seems like he read somewhere that 1. Nf3 was the Réti Opening, and, under the misapprehension that the idea of the move was to transpose into a king’s pawn opening, decided to try it out. He played a game online starting 1. Nf3 d5 2. e4, which he won. The computer informed him he was playing the Tennison Gambit, and, because he won the game and he knew 1. Nf3 was popular, he assumed this gambit was both popular and strong. He also told me that after 1. Nf3 e5 he’d play 2. e4, transposing into what he knows. “What about playing 2. Nxe5 instead?”, I asked, but he didn’t seem interested. So his idea was that 1. Nf3 is a great move because after 1.. e5 you transpose, but if Black errs with 1.. d5 you play the brilliant Tennison Gambit.

Is the Tennison Gambit any good? It looks like you’re playing a reverse Budapest with an extra move, and the Budapest is certainly playable for Black, at least at club level. But if you stop and think about it you’ll realise that, if you play the Budapest with Black you’re doing to because you think you can take advantage of White’s c4 by playing Bb4+ at some point. The Tennison Gambit doesn’t give you this option.

So, in a word, no, it’s not any good. You’re just giving up a pawn for next to nothing. But if you google ‘Tennison Gambit’ you’ll come across a few videos like this. To save you the trouble of watching, you’re advised to play these moves:

1. e4 d5 2. Nf3 (if you really want to play the Tennison Gambit you’re more likely to get it after 1. Nf3 than 1. e4) 2.. dxe4 3. Ng5 Nf6 (3.. Bf5, which, according to the video, ‘doesn’t look right’, is more accurate while 3.. e5 is another option) 4. d3 (4. Bc4 is probably a better move, when White has some initiative) 4.. exd3 5. Bxd3 h6 (White isn’t actually threatening anything so something like 5.. Nc6 leaves White with little to show for the missing pawn) 6. Nxf7 Kxf7 7. Bg6+ winning the black queen. You may well recognise this, with colours reversed, as a familiar trap in the Budapest. How many times have the moves in this game occurred in my 7 million game database? A big fat zero.

You see why so many kids tell me about the ‘secret opening tricks’ they’ve learnt: this is one of a whole series of videos by the same presenter. Even some otherwise reputable sources have their fair share of videos recommending dodgy opening traps (don’t get me started on the Fishing Pole Trap). If you look at the comments you’ll soon discover that there must be millions of players worldwide who have been taken in by this sort of thing and think the idea of the opening is to memorise traps and spring them on unwary opponents. Facebook groups concerning chess books and chess teachers are bombarded with requests for recommended books and lessons about opening traps.

In this case, no harm was done and some important lessons were learnt. Misunderstandings are an important learning tool, as long as you have a teacher who can put you right. I wonder how many novices, misled by the seductive idea of opening traps, fail to make progress and eventually give up because they have the wrong idea about what you’re supposed to do at the start of the game.

Richard James

Correspondence Chess

Correspondence chess is looked down upon by many over the board players. Their biggest complaint? The use of chess engines for analysis. Of course, the very people that claim this form of chess to be rubbish spend their waking hours using chess engines to help them find moves and then commit those moves to memory for future use. The ICCF or International Correspondence Chess Federation (recognized by FIDE), decided to allow engine use due to problems inherent with online cheating. Some websites have claimed to have developed anti cheating algorithms that have eliminated a larger percentage of cheating. However, someone always comes up with a new way to cheat and those websites are back to square one. The ICCF solved this problem by simply allowing engines to be consulted. Can you quickly become a Correspondence Grandmaster by letting your chess engine to think for you? Absolutely not. In fact, you’ll get absolutely nowhere by doing so!

It’s a combination of human play and computer generated research, starting with the opening. You have to be very creative during the opening phase of the game. Your computer program will ruin your game if you let it decide your opening moves. The majority of ICCF games are won because of good human opening preparation. While I teach a variety of openings to my students, I would have never increased my knowledge to the point it’s at today had I not taken up correspondence chess. An advantage gained during the opening can make a huge difference during the middle game, even with computer assistance guiding players. A quick tip: Never consider a computer move suggestion unless you completely understand why it was made! This means you have to research the lines suggested relentlessly. It’s the opening research that lays the crucial foundation for the game. Here’s how you do it.

You need a good database and chess engine. I use ChessBase and Komodo. You have to have a large database of games from which to craft your opening. Fortunately, correspondence chess is played slowly so you have plenty of time for research during the game. You start by choosing an opening you want to play. I suggest sticking with openings you already know. The preparation is hard enough without adding the additional task learning something new to the mix. The key here is to create a custom opening book. You do this by pouring through your database, looking for games that use your opening. Create a separate database for these games. The next step is to create an opening book. Don’t rely on a commercial opening book. Creating an opening book from scratch forces you to become intimately acquainted with your opening and it’s variations. While some players will create an opening book that covers sixty moves, thirty should be plenty. Wait, isn’t that a bit large? Yes it is, but correspondence chess requires it. Once you have the opening book set up, play through it and look for possible weaknesses that might create problems for your opponent. Chess engines may be excellent at certain aspects of the game but they can still tripped up, at least for a brief second or two. Weaknesses can be moves or entire lines that force your opponent to resort to second and third choice engine generated moves. Remember, engines are great at tactics so consider moves that restrict tactical play. You’re not going to beat an engine by gaining a material advantage because the engine will always gain the material back. Play for even trades and better pawn structure going into the endgame.

The middle game requires a great deal of research, starting with the detailed analysis of lines. The idea is to explore your own ideas and alternative ideas the engine creates. This can be difficult because the engine is going to give you it’s best or top choice. Therefore, you have to enter your choices and see where the engine goes with them. To find the computer’s alternative choices, watch the engine’s thought line in the lower left hand corner of the screen and write down the first move of each line the engine is working through. That’s your reference point. When you have a number of candidate moves, start exploring each one in detail. Don’t rely on the computer’s top choice until you do some exploration of alternative moves. Often, an alternative move can create problems for your opponent later on, many moves into the game’s future. You have to be creative.

Thankfully, the endgame is a bit simpler to play through because the principles are well defined. I highly suggest knowing the pawn positions that lead to a draw and those that lead to promotion. While a Knight, Bishop and King versus King mate can be bungled by the average club player, don’t expect the engine to screw it up. If you see yourself heading into an endgame where you’ll face this specific situation, capture one of those minor pieces. It’s better to draw than lose.

Correspondence chess really helps improve your over the board play because you’re forced to really study while playing the game. However, you have to be creative and not let the chess engine make all your moves. Don’t accept the first suggestion your engine makes. Do the research. You need to have roughly a 1700 rating to not lose your mind. I say this because there’s a lot of subtle positional ideas to consider and you have to have a good foundation in order to comprehend those ideas. If you’re new to chess, find a friend you can play correspondence chess with via email. Set a time limit of three days for each move. During your allotted move time, play though the moves you come up and see where they go. Rather than use a chess engine, play both sides of the board before emailing your friend the move you’re going to make. See if you can come up with the best opposition response to your candidate move. You’ll learn a lot about the game and prepare yourself for playing correspondence chess at the ICCF in the future. Here’s a correspondence game to enjoy!

Hugh Patterson

1st English Correspondence Championship Final Update

The 2017 1st English Correspondence Championship Final is nearing completion with just 9 games still ongoing and 96 games completed since it started about a year ago on 31/03/2017. I (current ICCF rating 2387) have recently lost the lead to CCM Mark Eldridge (current rating 2401) who has beaten GM John Brookes (current rating 2427). Mark has a final score of 8.5 / 14 (+3, =11, -0), I have a final score of 8 / 14 (+2, =12, -0) with SIM Alan Rawlings (current rating 2367) also on 8 /14 (+2, =12, -0) but I have a slightly higher Sonneborn-Berger-System score than Alan at the moment.

In theory the highest rated player at the start, GM John Brookes, could still win the tournament with 9 / 14 if he wins all his remaining games. CCM David Evans (current rating 2359) could reach 8.5 points if he wins his final game. CCM John Brasier (current rating 2435) could also reach 8.5 if he wins his final two games. LGM Dawn Williamson (current rating 2365) could reach 8 if she wins her final two games.

So there are still various possible scenarios for the final results, which does bring a bit of excitement to the otherwise 83% draw rate! Here is the very hard fought Berlin Defence game that gave CCM Mark Eldridge the lead: –

John Rhodes

Capablanca – Hanging Pawns

Here is a great game by Capablanca. The game is below along with a link to a video analysis.

Capablanca plays Black in a Queens Gambit Declined.

Useful advice – when playing against hanging pawns it’s generally a good idea to go for piece exchanges.

15…c4 is an instructive move. The video provides Capablanca’s own thinking behind this move.

Dan Staples

Tricky Knights

When it comes to learning the piece movements, the knight is the hardest piece to get to grips with. I personally struggled with this early on but gradually fell in love with knights. And when I visit the chess club in my area, people prefer the knight over the bishop because of its tricky move and that it can help generate some great combinations.

Here’s an example with Capablanca winning a pawn with a knight wheel.

The important part of handling knights is that a knight needs a secure outpost in the opponent’s camp. f you manage to bring a knight to the 6th rank then it can give you winning advantage. In the following game, we will see the famous German Grandmaster Wolfgang Uhlmann sacrifice the exchange to bring his knight to the 6th rank:

Wolfgang Uhlmann against Johan Teunis Barendregt 1961

1. Ng5!

Heading to e6.


1… Nxg5 was a better chance to resist though after 2.Bxg5 Qa5 3. Rc1 White’s position is better if not winning.

2. Ne6 Qf6 3. Qxb1 Bh6 4. Ne4 Qe7 5.Bg5

Aiming to bring another knight to the sixth rank.

5…Bxg5 6. hxg5 Nd8

If 6…Kd7 then 7. Nf6+ Kc8 8. Rxh7 wins.

7. Nf6+ Kf7 8. Qe4 Nc7 9. Bd3

With a decisive threat of Rxh7 followed by Qg6 so Black resigned. Sample variations include 9…Ncxe6 10. Rxh7+ Rxh7 11. Qxg6+ Kf8 12. Qg8# and 9… Qe8 10.Rxh7+ Rxh7 11. Qxg6+ Ke7 12. Qxh7+ Qf7 13. Ng7 when there is no defense to Nf5.

Ashvin Chauhan

Need Sure Points? London System Edition

“A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward its achievement”
Bo Bennett (businessman)

If a draw is what you need with White, the London System is a solid choice. First and foremost you can play its standard setup against the majority of defences Black might want to use. That is incredible flexibility if you really think about it. Secondly it is not hard to learn and the resulting position is very solid. Thirdly the main idea is to attack on the king side; however White can engage in battle anywhere else on the board.

Personally I have tried Colle and Colle-Zukertort where the main difference is white’s dark squares bishop being left on c1 for later deployment as needed. A lot of people though stand by the London System as one of their favorite. The simple fact that bishop gets developed on the f4-square before white plays e2-e3, is used as one of the main reasons. Do you play/ have played or are interested to play the London System? It could be an unexpected surprise for opponents you know are well versed in opening theory.

I have chosen sample 2 games, one from the past and one more recent, where the opening of the d-file allowed quick exchanges of the heavy pieces. The positions left afterwards were pretty even so the draw was a natural result.

Valer Eugen Demian