Recognise The Pattern # 31

It’s best to think twice before moving pawns that form the king’s shelter, but often people play f2-f4 (f7-f5) in order to gear up their rooks and f pawns against the opponent’s king. Unfortunately that weakens the a2-g8 (a7-g1) diagonal. So whenever your opponent plays such moves you should think about possibilities of smothered mate, a Greco mate or the mate along the h file, as usually the king hides on h8 (h1) after a check along that diagonal.

Sidney Paine Johnston against Frank James Marshall in 1899

Q: In this position Marshall has weakened the a2-g8 diagonal but on the other hand it is closed by the e6 & d5 pawns. So White played 11.cxd5 and black replied with 11…exd5 as Marshall was relying on the discovered attack after White’s Nxd5.
Was it a good idea?

It turns out to be a bad one because White’s light square bishop can use it with devastating effect. Please try to calculate this position yourself first then check what happened in the game:

12. Nxd5!

Opening up the diagonal.

12…Nxd4?

13. Bc4!!

I think black missed this intermediate move now white is ready to use this diagonal. If 13.Nxd4 then Black gets satisfactory game after 13…Bxd5

13…Nxf3+

14.gxf3!

Here Black has to surrender the piece in order to prevent himself from immediate loss.

14…Nxg3??

Now what? Can you checkmate Marshall in few moves?

15.Ne7+!!

This double check leads to checkmate

15…Kh8
16. Ng6+ hxf6
17.hxg3+

Opening up h file leads to mate on next move

17…Qh4 18.Rxh4#

Here White has sacrificed the knight in order to open up h file which is very common with this theme.

Ashvin Chauhan

An Unusual Tactic

Just as in cricket, “catches win matches”, so in chess, it is tactics which decide 90% of games, especially below super-GM level. Consequently, it is always useful to add to your stock of familiar tactical ideas. Today’s round of the Russian Team Championship threw up a highly unusual one, which I had not seen before.

Steve Giddins

Don’t Swap Off Your Good Pieces!

In a recent game, I saw a weaker player than me get a really good position. But then he decided to simplify to an endgame.

He made a positionally bad move and exchanged his good pieces for his opponents passive pieces.

In the diagram position, he could have played Ne4 , after which it is hard for his opponent to find a good move.

For example, Rad1 loses to Qxd1!

Instead, Black played Qd3 and White of course snapped up the opportunity to exchange the queens. His King position was very weak, but with no Queens on the board, Black has far fewer opportunities to attack.

The solution to last weeks’ problem is that White can draw with 1. Kd4 when Black cannot play a2 because of Bd4.

Steven Carr

Nine Eventful Moves

Here’s a question for all teachers.

When teaching, do you prefer to present your pupils with high level material, expecting them to fill in the gaps for themselves and make rapid improvement? Or do you prefer to present them with material which is at or slightly above their level, to reinforce what they already know and perhaps teach them one new skill.

Most chess teachers seem to prefer the first method, but, especially when working with younger and less experienced players, I prefer the second method. Showing lower level players a master game will, as often as not, leave them confused, giving them information which they are unable to contextualise.

Which is why I spent 30 years collecting games played at Richmond Junior Club, with the intention of producing coaching materials based on what actually happens in kids’ games.

One thing I noticed was how many games are decided by opening tactics, with the same patterns repeated over and over again. This is why I included a lot of opening tactics in my book Move Two!.

Consider this game, played the other day at Richmond Junior Club between two players of about 1000 (Elo) strength.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

Black decided to try out a new opening, the Petroff Defence, but it transpired that he only knew the first two moves. In another game the same afternoon, played between two stronger (about 1500-1600 Elo) players, White tried 1. e4 c5 2. c3 but again only seemed to know the first two moves, being surprised that Black, who had seen the move before and knew what to do, replied 2… d5. He replied with the not very impressive 3. e5, when Black, instead of playing Bf5, leading to what you might consider either an advance French with the queen’s bishop outside the box or an advance Caro-Kann with an extra tempo, chose 3… e6, leading to an advance French which neither player seemed to know very much about. White seemed even more surprised when I explained that 2… d5 should be met by 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4.

As an aside, I consider the Petroff to be a reasonable choice for Black at this level as long as you know how to meet the tactics on the e-file. It requires a lot less knowledge of theory than 2… Nc6. The disadvantage is that it can easily lead to rather dull positions.

3. Nxe5 Nxe4

Now it’s clear that Black hadn’t made any attempt to study the Petroff. White, on the other hand, had learnt the Copycat Trap so knew what to do next. In future, Black will prefer the main line: 3… d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4.

4. Qe2

Most kids at this level know this, and when I demonstrated the game to a relatively small group (most of the club were at the UK Chess Challenge Megafinals) the following week, there were only a few who were unaware of what to do.

4… Ng5

Rather surprisingly, Black, a fairly experienced player, was still blind to what was going to happen next. One or two strong players have chosen this line, with 4… Qe7, as a surprise weapon, but as far as I can see Black’s going to be a pawn down with not a lot to show for it.

5. Nc6+

White was very well aware of what she should do next and gleefully pocketed the black queen.

5… Be7
6. Nxd8 Kxd8

White was ahead by a queen for a knight and just had to be careful. Her next move was absolutely fine.

7. d4 Re8

A black rook has appeared menacingly on the e-file, glaring at White’s royal couple. Alarm bells are ringing. Red lights are flashing. What should White do? Most of the audience the following week suggested 8. Be3, which looks extremely sensible to me, blocking the e-file and giving White time to get her king into safety by castling. 8. Nc3, intending to meet a discovered check with Be3, is also excellent. White saw that her queen was in danger and moved it out of the way, oblivious to the fact that the king was now exposed to a fatal double check.

8. Qd3 Bb4+

This time it was Black who knew exactly what to do, recognising the pattern of the familiar ‘Morphy’ rook and bishop mate.

9. Kd1 Re1#

And sadly, White was still a queen up, but a king down. All that in just nine moves.

Here’s what you might learn from this game:

  • If you want to try out a new opening you need to do more than learn the first two moves.
  • If your opponent plays the Petroff, play 3. Nxe5 and hope they fall for the Copycat Trap.
  • If you want to play the Petroff with Black remember to play 3. Nxe5 d6 followed by Nxe4 if the knight retreats (and be ready to play Qe7 in reply to Qe2).
  • Learn about how to place your line pieces (queen, rooks, bishops) in line with more valuable enemy pieces, understanding that if your piece is in the way you can play a discovered attack/check, while if your opponent’s piece is in the way it will be pinned.
  • Learn to understand and recognise (and see coming a long way off) discovered checks.
  • Learn about the idea of using discovered checks to win material (and being aware that the piece making the discovery will be, as long as it’s not next door to the enemy king, be immune from capture).
  • Learn about double checks – “the atom bomb of the chessboard” – and understand that a double check has to be met by a king move.
  • Learn the rook and bishop mating pattern – look at it in different contexts, for example Morphy v Aristocratic Allies.
  • Look at every check you could play – and look at every check your opponent could play in reply to your intended move.

Nine important lessons in just nine eventful moves. Cheap at half the price. And also just the sort of game I’d use for a very low level ‘How Good is Your Chess’ lesson.

Richard James

The Importance Of The Endgame Eight

Do you know when we start our preparation for the endgame? It’s a question I asked my students, both beginners and advanced alike last week. I received a plethora of answers but not one student gave me the answer I was looking for. To their shock, I told them that endgame preparation starts with move one! It may sound absurd, but think about it this way: What we have left on the board going into the endgame is a direct result of our actions during the opening and middle-game.

The opening is truly the foundation for the rest of your game. We position our pawns and pieces on squares that maximize our control of the board, specifically the center. We increase the activity of our material so we can start employing tactics and sound exchanges during the middle-game. Our goal is to enter the endgame with either more material or better placed material than our opponent. Having more material means just that, having a Queen, Rook and King versus a Rook and King. Better placed material means having a well positioned pawn majority and active King versus an equal number of poorly placed pawns and an inactive King.

Beginners have a tendency to not think about the endgame early on, rather playing for fast checkmates via big all or nothing attacks. If they can’t win employing the all or nothing brute force method, they end up with randomly placed pawns and pieces scattered about the board when the endgame arrives. If they’re playing an opponent with greater experience, that opponent will be able to use coordinated material to deliver mate or promote a pawn which will lead to mate. Therefore, we should consider the endgame from the start of the opening! Often in the endgames of the improving player, it’s all about the pawn.

Pawns really are the soul of chess! In the opening they initially control the board’s center. During the middle-game they can defend against opposition attacks. Because they are worth far less than the pieces in terms of relative value, pawns are a great deterrent when it comes to the opposition moving pieces to your side of the board. However, thinking solely in these terms can leave you in a terrible position going into the endgame. You always have to think about pawn structure, which I’ve discussed in earlier articles, every time you move a pawn. More specifically, you have to think about maintaining some pawns for use in the endgame, namely pawns that can work with one another by employing a sound pawn structure. By this (in the most basic of terms), I mean pawns that have fellow pawns on adjacent files to support them. In my chess classes, we start every game with the endgame in mind.

What I have my beginners do it to keep pawn moves to a minimum during the opening. The pawns that should be moved are only those that can control central squares. A beginner might think this means he or she could move the c, d, e and f pawns since each controls a central square. However, before taking on such a position with four pawns remember this, the more pawns you have lined up on the fourth (for white) or fifth (for black) ranks, the harder they’ll be to defend. You’ll have to use pieces to defend them and that limits the piece’s activity or scope. Two pawns should be your maximum in most opening positions. Always think about the endgame with each and every move you make. I teach my students to always connect their pawns which creates pawn chains. Pawn chains help keep your pawns protected and intact for the endgame. Lastly, I have my students always compare pawn majorities on the King-side and Queen-side.

Going into the middle-game, if you have a three to two pawn majority, you having three pawns and your opponent having two, on the Queen-side for example, try to maintain this majority. This can be a huge advantage in the endgame. If you have a passed pawn, one with no opposition pawns on adjacent files, and a Rook doing nothing to contribute to the game, put that rook behind the passed pawn. Always think about a potential endgame situation!

During the middle-game, beginners look for quick tactical strikes that involve pieces. Try punching holes in the opposition’s pawn structure instead, playing with the endgame in mind. If you cripple your opponent’s pawn structure, they’ll have a harder time in the endgame due to scattered and unsupported pawns.

When we castle, we generally have a neat row of pawns in front of our King. Beginners tend not to think of these pawns as valuable targets because they’re protected by the King (in the case of King-side castling). Removing one of those pawns (especially the g and h pawns) leaves the King exposed. Look for ways to break through that wall of pawns exposing the opposition King to attack!

Speaking of the King. Get your King into the endgame and waste no time doing it! Leaving your King dormant for just a move or two during the start of the endgame while your opponent activates his King immediately can lead to disaster. The King is often the best Sheppard for herding pawns to their promotion square. During the opening and middle-game, your King needs to be guarded, but this shouldn’t stop you from looking at your pawn structure as well as your opponent’s pawn structure and envisioning where you’d want your King to be. Always think towards the endgame.

During the middle-game, I have my students look at the board and ask themselves what remaining material will work best in the endgame. If they have a Rook, two Bishops and a Knight, they’ll consider which pieces would deliver mate with the least complications. In this case, the Rook and two Bishops would be the easiest for my students to use so they need to keep those pieces safe. Of course, you always want to try to hang on to most of your material but you have to engage in exchanges when playing chess if you hope to get anywhere. Therefore, use the piece least valuable to your endgame plans for the exchange. On the flip-side, I have students look at the opposition’s material and ask, which of opposition’s material would work best for their opponents to deliver mate. Those pieces then become their targets. Remember, in chess there are always two plans, yours and those of your opponent!

I highly recommend Bruce Pandolfini’s Endgame Course as critical reading for the endgame beginner. I use it as the core of my endgame training for beginners. The examples are clear and concise and the book covers all those “problem” endgame positions that crop up. Too often, the beginner with a bit of endgame knowledge will be derailed because he or she faces one of those “problem” positions. Bruce’s excellent text will keep you from getting caught in an awkward positional situation. I’ll be covering s few seemingly complicated Rook and pawn endgame positions in my next and last series of endgame articles. Until then, here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

Amateur Versus Master: Game Eighteen

Although I have been able to draw masters in both Over the Board (OTB) chess and correspondence chess (CC), this correspondence chess game is the very first time that I have been able to draw an International Master (IM) in any variation of chess! I chose a rather boring (solid) chess opening and used both my databases and my chess engines to avoid any outright blunders. That combination worked in this correspondence chess game.

Although I was not sure of where the opening was going when this correspondence chess game started, we ended up transposing into the Vienna Game. This is the very first time that I have played either side of that chess opening.

After 15 moves I, Black, had the better pawn structure against someone who was rated 310 points above me. I was willing to accept the draw, but I was playing for a win because of that better pawn structure. However, I failed to find a way to capitalize on that slight positional advantage. When White offered the draw I accepted.

Mike Serovey

Known Knowns

There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. – Donald Rumsfeld

I quoted this quote before in my article Unknown Unknowns. Here we’re dealing with known knowns, some of which can appear unknown when one sits down at the board.

For instance, I knew better than 5. Bd3. When Black plays a peremptory 4… d5 in the 4. e3 line of the Nimzo Indian, Black has forfeited the opportunity to take on c3 and set up the attack on the d-pawn with c5 & e5 to neutralize White’s center or force it to advance to d5 and become immobile and vulnerable to lateral attacks, or even a kingside attack. The correct response is 5. a3!

Later, I saw 18. Rxc6!! but played the fishy 18. Bf4!? instead. It’s hard to explain. I think I may have been hoping my opponent would just drop his queen.

Finally, an unknown unknown: Stockfish finds the interesting 25. Rc5! which I certainly did not consider. It’s a waiting move which puts Black in near zugzwang: the White rook and bishop restrain Black’s two rooks and doubled f-pawn. Once either Black rook leaves the file of its partner, White’s invasion of the seventh rank has no answer.

Jacques Delaguerre

Finish of Adrian Hollis Memorial CC Tournament

As I predicted in June 2015 and confirmed in September the clear winner of the Adrian Hollis Memorial CC Tournament was ICCF GM Nigel Robson (ENG) with a remarkable score of 8/10 (+6, =4, -0). The final game of the tournament finished in a draw at the end of April 2016 between GM John G. Brookes (ENG) and SIM Nigel Burne (ENG). GM Richard Hall (ENG) and SIM Richard Beecham (SCO) were joint second both with 5.5/10 (+2, =7, -1). Fourth, with the same score but lower Baumbach tie break was SIM Nigel Burne who, of course, would have been second if he had won this last game.

The late Adrian Hollis was a very distinguished classical scholar, with a career mainly focused on Hellenistic and Roman poetry. He was also a strong over the board player who played in several British Championships finishing seventh equal in 1961.

We were given a small incentive to win games and it is interesting to note that nearly 31% of the games were decisive. Despite my disastrous start in 2014 by throwing away a game with a clerical error and an early loss to SIM Harvey Williamson (ENG), who was fifth with 5/10 (+2, =6, -2), I was content with my 4/10 (+1, =6, -3) and ninth place being the lowest rated player. My main ambition was not to be last and this I managed to avoid! This was possibly the strongest ever British CC tournament excluding overseas players, with an average rating of 2504 which included a World Championship silver medalist and candidate.

A cross table of the tournament can be found here: – https://www.iccf.com/event?id=41391

Here is the final game. Note that the six piece Tablebase rules apply: –

John Rhodes

Manufacturing Passed pawns (3)

Seeing the two previous examples in “Chess for Life” called to mind another similar case, which has always been a favourite of mine.
In the diagram, it is far from obvious how Black can create a passed pawn. Unlike the Arkell examples, he is not a pawn up and has no pawn majority. But despite this, Salov conjures up a decisive passed pawn on the h-file, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. He starts with


A lovely example of producing a passed pawn when there appeared at first sight to be no hope of doing so.

Steve Giddins

Stop The Passed Pawn

In this week’s problem, White is faced with the task of stopping Black’s pawn from winning the game by being promoted into a Queen.

This is not an easy task. How does White move and save the game?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that Black can draw with 1… Rxh7! 2. Kxh7 Kxc3 3. g5 a2 4. Ra5 Kb2 5.g6 a1=Q 6. Rxa1 Kxa1 7. g7 c3 8. g8=Q c2 with a theoretical draw, as White can never take the pawn on c2, as he will stalemate the Black King on a1.

Steven Carr