Five Queens

I played in the Colorado Springs Open over this past weekend and won my first 5 queens game:

Jacques Delaguerre

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Teaching Kids Through Classic Games

You might have heard almost everywhere that studying classic will improve your chess. Here is one of my favorite games.

Here’s what you can learn though this gem:

– Rapid development
– Building up an attack
– The pin and its usage
– A checkmate pattern with Rook and Bishop

Note that I am presenting this game just to show its value in teaching kids, so you won’t find detailed analysis here!

Paul Morphy Vs. Carl I, 1858 Paris

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Bg4?

The only purpose behind this move is to exchange Bishop against Knight, which is dubious while playing an open game. You should try to keep your Bishop in Open Positions.

4.dxe5 Bxf3

4…dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Nxe5 wins for White.

5.Qxf3 dxe5 6.Bc4 Nf6?

Find out why Nf6 is not good move with the help of double attack. 6…Qf6 was better.

7.Qb3 Qe7

Try to see idea behind Qe7. What is Black’s plan? 7…Qd7 8.Qxb7 Qc6 loses the queen after 9.Bb5.

8.Nc3!

8.Qxb7 was met by 8…Qb4+. Black’s Plan was to exchange Queens at the cost of a pawn so 8. Nc3 avoids exchange of Queens and brining one more piece into action.

8…c6 9.Bg5 b5?

Now compare both sides, White has developed his all minor pieces and his Rooks are ready to join then in just one move by castling long. 9…Qc7 was better.

10.Nxb5! cxb5 11.Bxb5+ Nbd7

11…Kd8 12.0–0–0+ wins for White.

12.0–0–0 Rd8 13.Rxd7!

This is very important concept of getting advantage of pin. Changing Pinned piece! With this move white is bringing his last piece into the action with tempo.

13…Rxd7 14.Rd1 Qe6 15.Bxd7+

15.Qxe6+ fxe6 16.Bxf6 also wins for White.

15…Nxd7

15…Qxd7 was forced after which 16.Qb8+ Ke7 17.Qxe5+ is winning for White.

16.Qb8+!!

Another important concept of Pin. Pin against Square. Knight is pinned against d8 (checkmate) Square.

16…Nxb8 17.Rd8#

1–0

Ashvin Chauhan

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

A major issue with an online chess competition recently came to my attention. A student, and a very decent and honest person I’ve known for years, was banned for alleged ‘cheating’. There was no right of appeal and no opportunity to answer the charges. The only option open to him was to ‘promise he wouldn’t do it again’, thereby admitting guilt. He wouldn’t do that because he hadn’t cheated in the first place.

Prior to being banned he had been working hard on his game and was showing an upswing from a previous plateau. He had been working on his tactics and endgames and assiduously studying my Building an Opening Repertoire course that brings PLANNING to one’s opening and early middle game play. He had booked extra lessons and things were starting to come together. Then suddenly (but not unexpectedly) he hit a good patch in which he disposed of some opponents with aplomb. They played rather horribly but a series of good wins was still a healthy sign with regard to his chess.

So what had set the alarms off? Essentially a computer algorithm had detected unusually good play in a series of games, well above his expected level. It wasn’t a question of him choosing the top computer pick in each position, it just judged his play to be way better than it was previously. So how was it decided that he was cheating rather than improving, or even just having a good run?

After writing in to vouch for his honesty, hard work and an upswing in his chess, I had several approaches from people saying how great and reliable the detection system was and how, by implication, my student had to be cheating. There seemed to be a certain lack of willingness to discuss the exact nature of their procedures but in one conversation I learned that the validity of the computer algorithm that flagged him was partly based on ‘admissions of guilt’. At this point I saw a problem.

When players are flagged and given the option to ‘promise not to cheat again’ to re-enter the competition, denial will mean that they lose any fees they’ve paid to participate in this competition or on the server on which it is hosted. If these ‘promises’ are then taken as ‘admissions of guilt’, the detection software may seem to have amazing results, at least via the ‘admission’ criteria. Of course it doesn’t take a massive understanding of statistics and testing to know that this is not fair. Those accused are being put under pressure and being given a clear incentive to admit they cheated, whether or not they actually did. Smack on the wrist and then back to the tournament with the system being given a slap on the back for its ‘accuracy’.

I have been assured that other methods have been used to verify the algorithm’s accuracy but details have not been supplied. Could it be ‘human judgement’, that most flawed of tests? In any case I would welcome a fuller disclosure of testing procedures, as I’m sure all chess players would.

Why should a chess site be using such a clearly flawed criteria as a coerced admission? A certain amount may be just ignorance about legal and testing procedures. But they also have a problem that many unscrupulous individuals may be using outside help, and possibly in very subtle ways. Meanwhile they need to make it look as if internet chess is being fairly played to attract people to it. So there must be a temptation to smudge the legal and scientific integrity of tests because a ‘greater good’ is at stake.

Meanwhile I reckon that a lot of innocent players are probably being falsely accused and banned, and will leave internet competition because they won’t lie and admit they cheated. Obviously this is a gross injustice, so if you’ve been one of them then I’d like to hear from you via the contact form. Discretion is assured and your stories may help open this can of worms. If I get enough new material I will revisit this issue in a later article but keeping names out of it.

Nigel Davies

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A Trap in the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation

Care and concentration are needed on every move. Always keep your tactical radar switched on.

Here is a possible position in the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation.

Black is hunting White’s dark-squared Bishop. He has played f6, driving the Bishop on g5 back to f4.

Then he played the Knight from f6 to h5 to eliminate that dark-squared Bishop altogether.

But Nh5 is a bad blunder.

Quite a few people have fallen into this trap. Can you work out why it was a blunder?

Steven Carr

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A Question of Time

In last week’s game, with more time and more ability I might have had to assess this king and pawn ending (with White to play) before choosing my move.

So what’s happening here? Let’s start by considering this position.

If Black has to move his king it’s clear he will lose. If it’s his move he will, if White is careful, run out of pawn moves first and White will win. But if it’s White’s move he can only draw because he’ll run out of pawn moves first.

So White’s aim is to reach this position with Black to move.

White needs to get his king in so, from the first diagram, obviously starts with 1. Kf3 Ke8 2. Kf4. After 2… Kd7 3. Ke5 White has achieved his aim, reaching the second diagram with Black to move. Now Black has a choice of pawn moves. We’ll look at each in turn.

After 3… g5 White can choose three pawn moves: one wins, one draws and one loses. The winning pawn move is 4. g4 h6 5. f3 and Black has to give way. If he prefers he can draw by playing 4. f4, for instance 4… gxf4 5. gxf4 h5 6. f5 exf5 7. Kxf5. Or he can choose to lose instead with 4. f3 h5 5. f4 h4 6. gxh4 gxh4 7. Ke4 Kxd6 8. Kf3 Kd5 9. Kg4 Ke4 10. Kxh4 Kxf4. Another way to draw is 4. Kf6 Kxd6 5. Kxg5 e5 6. Kh6 Kd5 7. Kxh7 Ke4 8. Kg6 Kf3 9. Kf5 Kxf2 10. g4 Kf3 11. g5 e4 12. g6 e3 13. g7 e2 14. g8Q e1Q

Returning to the second diagram Black might also play 3… h6. This time White has two winning pawn moves. 4. f4, which drew against g5, now wins. After 4… h5 5. Kf6 is now winning for White, while after 4… g5, 5. fxg5 hxg5 6. g4 forces Black to give way. 4. f3, which lost against 3… g5, also wins, meeting 4… h5 with 5. f4 and 4… g5 with 5. g4. But 4. g4, the only way to win against 3… g5, this time is only a draw after 4… h5. Another way for White to win is 4. Kf6, which was only a draw against 3… g5.

Back to the second diagram for the last time, and now Black plays 3… h5. It’s clear that 4. f4 wins at once. On the other hand, 4. g4 now loses after 4… h4 with a passed pawn (but 4… hxg4 only draws) and 4. f3 also loses after 4… g5 followed by 5… h4. 4. Kf6 this time is a win for White.

So to summarise from this position:

After 3… g5, g4 wins, f4 and Kf6 both draw, f3 loses.
After 3… h6, f3, f4 and Kf6 all win, g4 draws.
After 3… h5, f4 and Kf6 both win, f3 and g4 both lose.

So White can win with optimal play.

Back at the first diagram, then, after 1. Kf3 Ke8 2. Kf4 Black might want to consider alternatives. His best try is 2… g5. Now 3. Ke5 is met by h5, when Black’s passed h-pawn will distract White and enable him to draw. So White needs to play 3. g4 to prevent this.

We now need to consider another position.

If it’s White to move in this position it’s a draw with best play but Black has to get his timing right.

1. Kf6 Kxd6 2. Kxg5 Kd5 (Paradoxically, perhaps, 2… Ke5 loses because White gains an extra tempo: 3. f3 Kd4 4. Kh6 Ke3 5. Kxh7 Kxf3 6. g5 e5 7. g6 e4 8. g7 e3 9. g8=Q e2 10. Qg1 and White wins) 2. Kh6 Ke5 3. Kxh7 Kf4 4. f3 e5 5. Kh6 Kxf3 6. g5 e4 7. g6 e3 8. g7 e2 9. g8=Q e1=Q with a draw.

If it’s Black to move, though, White wins easily after 1… h6 2. f3 with Zugzwang.

Now consider what happens if White starts with 1. f3 h6.

This time it’s White who has to be careful if he wants to draw. Kf6 is now winning for Black so the only move is Ke4, to be able to take the opposition when Black takes on d6, after which he can make no progress.

2. Ke4 (2. Kd4 Kxd6 3. Ke4 Kc5 4. Ke5 Kc4 5. Kxe6 Kd3 6. Kf5 Ke3 7. Kg6 Kxf3 and Black wins) (2. Kf6 Kxd6 3. Kg6 Ke5 4. Kxh6 Kf4 5. Kh5 e5 and Black wins) 2… Kxd6 3. Kd4 e5+ 4. Ke4 Ke6 and Black, despite his extra pawn, only has a draw.

So, returning to our first diagram, after 1. Kf3 Ke8 2. Ke4 g5 3. g4 White’s primary aim is to reach the third diagram with Black to move while Black has to prevent this. So Black avoids 3… Kd7, instead playing Kd8, preparing to meet 4. Ke5 with Kd7. We now know that this is only a draw so White cannot achieve his primary aim but he still has a winning plan. His king has to take a journey to the queen side. He can win by playing Kc5 in reply to Kd7 (just as he can by playing Ke5 in reply to Kd7) or by playing Kc6 at some point. Black cannot prevent both these ideas.

White must continue 4. Kd4 (the only move to win) Kc8 5. Kc4 (again the only move to win: 5. Kc5 Kd7 is a draw) 5… Kb8 (or 5… Kd7 6. Kc5 and wins because it’s Black’s move) 6. Kb5 Kb7 7. Kc5 Kc8 8. Kc6 Kd8 9. d7 and wins.

Finally, we can conclude that the pawn ending is winning for White with best play (and that, returning to last week’s game, I could have won by selecting 38. Bd5). Chess is just too hard!

Richard James

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Kirk Versus Spock

Being a life long Star Trek fan, the passing of Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) hit me hard. My band’s long time drummer posted a video clip of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock playing chess on my Facebook page yesterday. Spock announces he will checkmate Kirk on the next move. Well, it’s Kirk’s move and the Captain checkmates Spock. Spock wasn’t very happy, although he had to keep up his Vulcan appearance and avoid any display of emotion. This scene got me to thinking about two very distinct chess types, the player who employs sound logic (Spock) and the player who takes chances (Kirk). What if Spock went back in time and played Paul Morphy. Would the logical playing style of Mr. Spock beat out the swashbuckling and daring of Morphy? I’ll answer this question later.

On Star Trek, Captain Kirk is the taker of great chances while Mr. Spock is the voice of pure reason and logic. When we learn how to play chess, we’re taught sound logical principles, principles that Mr. Spock would approve of. He’d approve of these principles because they have been tested over time and have proven to be sound in nature. We all learn opening principles such as moving a pawn to a central square on move one, developing minor pieces to active, centralized squares and castling our King to safety. Mr. Spock would approve of these principles because they’re logical and sound.

Then there are the opening principles that guide us regarding what not to do. Don’t make too many pawn moves, don’t bring your Queen out early and don’t move the same piece twice before developing the majority of your other pieces. Here’s where Captain Kirk comes into play. Mr. Spock would logically reason that bringing the Queen out early would allow his opponent to develop pieces to active squares while attacking his exposed Queen, forcing that Queen to keep moving at the cost of proper development. Spock would be correct from a logical standpoint. However, our swashbuckling Captain might be able to create some threats by bringing his Queen out early against a less skilled opponent. In the end, logic wins out because bringing your Queen out early only works against the weakest of opponents.

What about not moving the same piece twice before developing your other forces? Here things get a bit murky. Mr. Spock would calmly follow this principle, carefully and thoughtfully developing a new piece with each move. Captain Kirk, on the other hand, might consider moving a piece twice during the opening if it meant he could launch an attack. After 1. e4…e5, 2. Nf3…Nc6, 3. Bc4…Nf6, our daring Captain (manning the White pieces) might play 4. Ng5, moving his King-side Knight a second time. While this goes against the logic of the principle, it does create a problem for Mr. Spock (manning the Black pieces). The c4 Bishop and g5 Knight are both attacking the f7 pawn who is only protected by the King. Mr. Spock would calmly play 4…d5 and the game would go on with the good Captain having to reevaluate his early attack. Seems simple enough. What would happen if, in another game, Mr. Spock found one of his minor pieces attacked by a pawn in the opening? Remember, Mr. Spock follows the opening principles to the letter. He’d now be faced with having to move a piece twice during the opening. Would he do it? Yes, because he would compare the value of the pawn to that of the minor piece and conclude that it would be better to bend an opening principle as opposed to losing a valuable piece.

Mr. Spock would look at opposition moves, no matter how illogical they seemed, with a watchful eye. However, his adherence to logic might cause him to dismiss an illogical move as a mere human blunder. Of course, the Captain would be likely to make a seemingly illogical move if he could launch an attack with it. It is just this kind of move that throws many beginners off, the seemingly illogical placement of a pawn or piece.

The beginner who is serious about chess follows the game’s principles as if their life depends on it. They become Spock-like in their thinking which is good up to a point. They think that if they’re employing sound game principles so should their opponent. If their opponent makes a seemingly illogical move, the beginner will dismiss it as a blunder rather than looking at the move to determine whether it has real merit. This dismissive thinking is the driving force behind the success of many opening traps. The trap’s victim often sees the moves leading up to a trap as unsound or unprincipled. Mr. Spock might very well dismiss this type of move as illogical and therefore harmless. Captain Kirk would look at a seemingly illogical move with suspicion because he isn’t as driven by pure logic as Mr. Spock. No matter what your opponent’s move, be it logical or illogical, you have to carefully examine that move from your opponent’s perspective to determine it’s merits.

Captain Kirk is an attacking player, going in for the kill as soon as possible, meaning he takes chances. But does he really take chances? Not so much a case of taking chances but playing aggressively. While Spock might be more comfortable building up a strong defensive position, Captain Kirk likes to go into battle with both guns blazing. Beginners should learn to do both. However, the beginner should start by learning the art of attack. Activate your pieces early on and, when you have more attackers than defenders, and attacking won’t weaken your position, be Captain Kirk. Attack! I suspect Spock would also launch an attack with more attackers than defenders with the prospect of weakening his opponent’s position while strengthening his. He’d say it was the logical thing to do!

The point here is that playing good chess requires being able to balance principled play with the ability to think outside of the box, the box being the game’s principles. Kirk did a great job thinking outside of the box when he cracked the Kobayashi Maru, a supposedly unbeatable Starfleet Academy training exercise. Had he only employed principles in his thinking he’d never have succeeded. A good chess player has to be both Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. As for Mr. Spock and Paul Morphy going head to head on the chessboard, I suspect it would close but in the end Morphy would probably get the best of “that pointy eared Vulcan.” Live long and prosper. For any non Star Trek fans reading this, I promise I won’t mention Star Trek again for at least a year. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week.

Hugh Patterson

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Let Me Introduce You To…

I had been travelling the tri-city circuit (Albany, Schenectady, Rochester NY) tournament play, and went with Dr. Erich Marchand to Cazenovia for the NY State Championship in 1963. If it hadn’t been for Erich I probably would not have played chess at all. He was the strongest player in Rochester for many years, until Ken Rogoff, and I believe he had the record for tournaments entered in a lifetime achievement; He was a great chess mentor, and a very sound player. ( He also was a very canny player of the French Defense, I think he liked Botvinnik ) You can see how honored he is by visiting here.

We used to practice together at his home, and i can still smell the tomato soup!  Well he introduced me to another Dr. – Dr. Schmidt, who had a few airoplanes in the hangar. He flew us around in a small twin engine Beechcraft before playing chess, and let me at the controls for a few minutes. It was quite a treat for a young player! Anyway, i was a bit unkind to Dr. Schmidt, as the following game testifies. Thanks to John Donaldson of the Mechanics’ Institute for finding this small prize winning game from that tournament.

The opening play of the game is probably not the approved play currently, but i had been reading some opening magazines and found a system in the Ruy I wanted to try out…

I think at the time Dr. Euwe had published some opening pamphlets, that were subscriptions;
and each month I would put the three holed pamphlets together bookwise.

In a more recent game, again I had been learning another variation of the Ruy that I wanted to try out, 5. d3, and got an opportunity against a redoubtable player. It seems all my favorite variations have to do with the dratted D Pawn!

If you were to take anything away from these two games, I would choose two basic principles:

1. Find a good chess mentor who is a chess mensch and
2. Prepare some openings you want to try out, you never know when they might come in handy.

Ed Rosenthal

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Educated Guesswork

Among first-class masters the capture of the adverse king is the ultimate but not the first object of the game and by best play on both sides a draw ought to be the legitimate result. – W. Steinitz, The Modern Chess Instructor

Thus did Steinitz enunciate his principle theoretical intuition, one still unprovable even using the computer. Chess is intrinsically difficult, it requires search to all terminal positions to validate the utility of any single move.

Computational complexity theory tells you there is no clean answer for games like Chess, Checkers, and Go. If you believe in the perspective of complexity theory, it tells you that all you can do is sit there and do the bookkeeping and exhaust the exponential possibilities. – Erik Demaine, interview

What indeed are we doing between the moment we sit down at the chess board and the moment the game resolves itself to a calculable endgame? We are exercising what are sometimes called heuristic techniques which Wikipedia defines as “any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical methodology not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals.”

Various chess masters (notably Steinitz and Nimzovitch) have believed themselves to be enunciating fundamental scientific principles of the game, but most, if not all of their thought has been directed to expanding and refining our store of heuristics. Bronstein and most problemists delight in the irony of the positions which defy the approved heuristics.

This variation, given by Tchigorin, shows that masters of the last century were capable of accurately calculating deep combinations. – Imre König, Chess from Morphy to Botwinnik

Heuristics in chess are effectively prods to calculate certain variations, the concepts of the struggle for the center, the advantage of two bishops, overprotection, pruning the search tree, but none answer the fundamental question, what’s my next move?

A teenaged expert recently expressed to me in a voice close to tears his frustration with opening study. “There are no openings,” I offered, “calculate from the first move.”

Jacques Delaguerre

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More From The Guardian Chess Book

In last week’s post on the Chigorin Defence I mentioned The Guardian Chess Book by Leonard Barden as the source for my taking up this opening. There was another one too that I first learned from this book, the King’s Indian Attack.

I was 14 at the time and this opening proved to be a very useful addition to my armoury. Thus the Chigorin, together with the Berlin Defence to the Ruy Lopez (I got this from Lasker’s Manual of Chess and played Lasker’s favourite 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Be7 rather than 5…Nd6) were my repertoire with Black. And with White I played the King’s Indian Attack and the King’s Gambit (I got this one from some book with a nice red cover).

An opening repertoire can have simple beginnings like this, you get a few ideas and then start to play something. Here meanwhile is a King’s Indian Attack classic by Bobby Fischer:

Nigel Davies

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Chess is NOT 99% Tactics!

Richard Teichmann once said that ‘chess is 99% tactics’, and this idea seems to have caught on. I can see why because it may seem that way to strong players. And for those who want to improve it implies that there’s an easy to understand way to do it; , practice calculation and vision. But I for one don’t think it’s true.

There are many positions in which there are no tactics, so what do you do then? It also seems that move selection is vital to the calculative process, and this stems from an intuitive sense of danger and knowing the sort of thing you should be doing. Strong players may not be aware of the process by which they select moves, or decide the sort of thing they should be doing. It just happens. But as a teacher, who constantly explains and asks about why a particular move was played, I’ve become very aware that there’s a lot more going on.

This is why an improvement program should be balanced and needs to include the development of softer and more intuitive thinking. This is harder to develop and the concepts need a lot of explanation from someone who knows what they are doing. And then they need to be practiced.

This difficulty in acquiring chess ‘understanding’ explains why so few people develop it. Games collections of great masters will certainly help, but few people bother reading them these days, especially when under increasing pressure to ‘know their openings’. This explains why I adopted the approach that I did at my Tiger Chess site, suggesting simple openings with nice pawn structures and plans whilst at the same time focusing on strategy and endgames.

Nigel Davies

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