Chess Opening Blunders – Another Comedy of Errors

This is another correspondence chess game from the 1978 Golden Knights Postal Section 93. Although I won this game in 18 moves, it was not one of my best chess games.  We both made all kinds of blunders that could have lost the game for us, or we missed opportunities for quick wins. My opponent made a blunder on move number 15 that I did catch and punish. He resigned on what was to be hi 19th move.

I rarely answer 1.e5 with 1…e5. I did so here because I was wanting to play the Schliemann Defense in the Ruy Lopez. That did not happen here. We ended up with the Two Knights Defense. I think that this is the only time that I have ever played this line.

Most of the analysis below is on what was missed by each of us.

Mike Serovey

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The First Victory They Won Was Over Themselves …

In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first. – Harry S Truman

He that ruleth his spirit [is greater] than he that taketh a city. – Proverbs 16:32

U.S. President Harry S Truman (1945-1953) played chess on a bigger stage than most of us, but his advice has applicability to our art. While the technical craft of chess is a never-ending learning experience, the one ability precious above all others in chessplay is self-control.

Tying for first this past weekend in the Colorado Senior Championship (50 and over) was, for me, a triumph of self-control, a lesson learned late in life, at least as it pertains to chess. If there is one personal improvement tip I can offer up on Chess Improver out of my meager trove , it is that a certain conquest of one’s somatic being is essential in order to remain on point, to examine the variations fully, dispassionately, and without regard to any factor external to the chess struggle.

Here is my best game from that contest. My opponent makes one “funny” move, 4. h3, followed by a weak move, 12. Rc1. As Black equalizes, White loses his self-control and enters into an unsound sacrificial continuation 18. Bxb5, which might have succeeded had Black played 19 … Qb6 instead of 19 … Qb8.

Jacques Delaguerre

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The Tiger Chess Endgame Course

Further to my post yesterday on the Tiger Chess Strategy Course, here’s how the Tiger Chess Endgame Course works. Once again it is included with the £4.95 Full Membership fee and provides an easy and very thorough way to learn the endgame:

Nigel Davies

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The Tiger Chess Strategy Course

I’ve been introducing a lot of new features at my Tiger Chess site with the aim of making it a one stop improvement venue for those who’ve had enough of gimmicks. Amongst these is a 160 week strategy course which aims to provide an in depth education in chess strategy.

Each lesson addresses a particular subject which is then illustrated by two videos of relevant and interesting games. At the end of the lesson members are asked to consider when and how this theme featured in their own games, a process which helps digestion of the material.

Here’s a Youtube video which explains more, this and many other features are included in the modest £4.95 monthly membership fee.

Nigel Davies

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A Piece Up

Being a piece up in and endgame does not guarantee a win. You cannot checkmate with just a Bishop and King against a King. Sometimes you can’t even win with King, Bishop and Pawn against a bare King.

In this week’s problem, White is a piece up. But he still has some work to do to win the endgame, because Black can make a draw if he can swap off the last remaining set of pawns.

How does White to play win?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White plays 1 f5 and Black’s position collapses. We open up the position before Black can castle, and his position falls apart.

Steven Carr

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Adventures with 1… e5 (5)

Regular readers of my posts might be wondering what had happened to my attempts at playing 1… e5 in reply to 1.e4 this season.

Since my last article in the series I’ve faced 1. f4 followed by four consecutive 1. d4s. My last two games, though, saw me facing 1. e4 again, both times against slightly lower graded opponents.

For many years now it’s been against my principles to play serious chess unless there’s an ‘r’ in the month. The league chess season used to finish at the end of April, but it now drags on until the end of May, with cup matches continuing well into June. I really prefer to have more than a couple of months break between seasons.

The first game was in our last league match of the season, against Kingston, who were finding it difficult to field full teams since the sad loss of their captain, Chris Clegg, a few months ago.

I was sitting opposite their new captain, but three of the Kingston players had failed to appear, so I guessed my opponent was not really in the mood for a serious game, while a solid draw would do our prospects no harm.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nge7

The Cozio Variation. I’d been looking at 3… g6 and 3… Nge7 but it was so long since I’d last faced a Lopez that I’d forgotten which one I was going to play as well as all the analysis. My opponent told me he’d have played the Exchange Variation against 3… a6.

4. d4

Perfectly playable, of course, but not White’s most dangerous option.

4… exd4
5. Nxd4 g6
6. O-O Bg7
7. Be3 O-O
8. c3

8. Nc3 is more to the point but Black still has several playable replies.

8… d5

Leading to complete equality. Now a series of exchanges simplifies the position.

9. exd5 Nxd4
10. Bxd4 Qxd5
11. Bxg7 Kxg7
12. Qxd5 Nxd5
13. Na3 Bf5
14. Rfd1 c6
15. Bd3 Bxd3
16. Rxd3

Offering a draw, which was immediately accepted. I’d intended to offer a draw on my next move anyway.

Not a very exciting adventure, I’m afraid, but I can’t really complain about achieving equality with the black pieces so quickly.

The league programme may have finished but we were still in the cup, with a quarter-final match against Division 2 side Hayes, who currently meet in Uxbridge, by the standards of the Thames Valley League a long journey and one which most of our players were unable or reluctant to make, so I had little choice but to play. Again, I had the black pieces and found myself facing 1. e4. My only previous game against my opponent, back in 2001, had started 1. f4 but since then he’s changed his opening repertoire.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. d4 exd4
4. c3

Not unexpected from what I knew about my opponent.

4… d5

He told me after the game that he has a good record against weaker players who take the pawn, but stronger players prefer this move.

5. exd5 Qxd5
6. cxd4 Bb4+
7. Nc3 Bg4
8. Be2 Bxf3
9. Bxf3 Qc4

9… Qxd4 10. Bxc6+ has netted a few victims. Qc4 is attributed to Capablanca, and indeed the earliest game with it on my database is Marshall-Capablanca Lake Hopatcong 1929. Transposition from the Danish Gambit is also common. Both my opponent and I were familiar with this line. If you play e5 in reply to e4 you really ought to know it.

10. Bxc6+ bxc6
11. Qe2+ Qxe2+
12. Kxe2 O-O-O
13. Be3 Ne7

Still travelling a familiar route.

14. a3

Rad1 is more often played here, but Black scores well. a3 might be slightly more accurate.

14… Bd6

The only game in my database with this move was agreed a draw at this point. The other games all saw Black preferring Ba5.

15. Ne4 Nf5
16. Rac1 Rhe8
17. Nxd6+ Rxd6
18. Kd3 Red8

Played without much thought. Nxd4 was an alternative, giving White fewer options, which didn’t occur to me until the following move.

19. Rc4 c5

Here I spent some time considering the respective merits of Nxd4 and c5. They both seem to lead to equality.

20. Rxc5 Nxd4
21. Bxd4

There was no real need for this exchange. Instead Kc3 was about equal.

21… Rxd4+
22. Ke3 Rd3+
23. Ke4 Rd2

Again played too quickly. I should have preferred 23… R8d4+ 24. Ke5 Rd2 when Black will win a pawn as the white king is exposed a potential f6+. Maybe not so obvious at my level, though.

24. Rhc1 R8d7
25. R1c2 Re7+

Slightly inaccurate again. The safe way to draw was 25… R7d4+ 26. Ke5 Rd5+ when White has nothing better than repetition.

26. Kf3 Rd3+

My draw offer was accepted immediately. White could have tried to avoid the checks by 27. Kf4 Rd4+ 28. Kg3 Rd3+ 29. f3 but there’s really not much there.

Again not very exciting, I’m afraid, but both games demonstrate that a well-timed d5 can give Black easy equality in many open games.

Richard James

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For The Love of The Game

When we start playing chess as beginners, we play because we are intrigued with the game. We play purely for the pleasure of an intellectual challenge! I say this because when I started playing I did so because I was fascinated by the game. I was fascinated by the endless positional possibilities within a single game, the number of which is literally astronomical. Unlike other board games that relied almost purely on chance, the role of the dice, chess requires strategic and tactical abilities which translates to using your brain. It’s an intimate battle between two minds. The game’s two players face off against one another employing what I call Kung Fu of the intellect.

I teach in thirteen different schools as of now and have many students who have been with me for years. These long time students have given me the chance to watch some of them lose sight of their initial love of the game, replacing it with a lust for ratings points. Of course, rating points are basically a measure of one’s level of play or improvement, yet they become a symbol of status for some players. While there is nothing specifically wrong with this (it can drive some players to a higher skill level), one should always play for the love of the game.

In my own teaching career, I find that every student is gunning for me, wanting to beat me at the game I teach. To a certain point, I encourage this. After all, if I take a youngster and work with them, and this leads to them becoming a stronger player than I, then I’ve done my job! However, there is a fine line to competitiveness, one that should be respected. I know one particular student who has an extremely competitive father. The father, after his son had studied with me for a year, pushed him into going after me on the chessboard. The father was a bit of a chess hustler who won his games employing all or nothing tactics. Of course, he imparted this knowledge to his son who used it to win quite a bit. When I finally sat down at the chessboard to take on the student’s challenge, I closed the game down, making it about positional play and not tactics. Needless to say, I won. The father, upset that his son didn’t “clean my clock,” an attitude no child should employ in chess or life, challenged me to a game. He invited the class to watch.

This is a position I don’t like to be in because if I won, I’d feel as if I was making matters worse for my student. While I tried to diplomatically get out of playing, the father insisted we play. To be honest, I was a bit fed up with the situation and started thinking to myself “I’m going to destroy this man consequences be damned!” Sorry friends, I’m human and certainly not a saint, so the bloody battle went on. His biggest mistake was allowing me to play the white pieces because I played for a closed position, simply and carefully activating my pieces until I had a stranglehold on things. I won and it was the worst feeling ever. The father grabbed his son, stormed out and that was the last I saw of either of them.

Of course, I’ve played other parents who were absolutely wonderful opponents. In fact, I’ve been playing regularly with two of them for the last three years. However, my previous example brings up the question, where does one draw the line at competitiveness? There seem to be two predominant factions when it comes to competitiveness, those who push it beyond sanity and those who are drastically are against it. The father, in my former example, is the alpha male who wants to win at all costs. The latter are those that think every child should be rewarded whether they win or lose. While I believe in making my students happy, I honestly think that simply rewarding everyone regardless of results undermines the idea of healthy competition.

Competition, when employed with some sanity, is a good thing. It creates an environment in which one strives to be better at whatever it is they’re doing. Healthy competition drives civilization forward to a certain point. However, there’s that thin line that must not be crossed, the one that leads to a win at all costs mentality. Therefore, I teach my students to play for the love of the game.

To do this, I bring in other elements when I teach them chess. We learn the game through science, art and history. Using science, we explore the mathematics of the game, how the staggering large number of possible positions comes about (numerically speaking). With art, we look at the positional beauty that arises in certain games. Using history, we look at historical events that took place during the game’s evolution. I do this so my students have different connections to the game rather than simply a win or lose mentality. Homework, (yes, I manage to get my students to do homework and their parents to accept it – I suspect because of my punk rock past that I scare them) includes short essays on science, art and history, and how it relates to chess.

Of course, there comes a point when my students start playing in tournaments and the concept of rating points enters their minds. I explain to them that one’s rating is simply a measure of where they’re at on the road to improvement. I go on to say that, like the stock market, ratings go up and ratings go down. More importantly, I carefully explain that one’s rating increases the more one studies and then plays the game, adding that there are no shortcuts to a higher rating. We spend a great deal of time discussing the concept of chess ratings and I reinforce our discussion by pointing out that in the end it’s simply a tool that measures one’s level of play. We humanize the concept of ratings rather than put it on a pedestal which in turn can create unhealthy competitiveness.

Chess is a very philosophically three dimensional game in that it incorporates science and art. It’s also a very personal game for those who play it because your only weapon is your mind. When we win we feel good because we feel that our mind has triumphed over another mind. It’s this same idea that also makes losing painful. When I see my students lose a game, I can clearly see the pain in their eyes. I remind them that those who play purely for the love of the game will take a loss and use it as tool for improvement, examining that loss and discovering where they went wrong. When you play for the love of the game you can appreciate a beautifully played game, even if you’re on the losing end of it. While we all aim to improve our rating, don’t let it be the sole focus of your playing because doing so robs you of all the game has to offer. Play because you simply love to challenge your mind. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week.

Hugh Patterson

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Another Golden Oldie Chess Game

Here is another correspondence chess game that I played back in 1978. This is also from the first round of the Golden Knights Postal Championship. We both missed a few things in this chess game, but I found enough good ideas and moves to eventually win.

Back then, the US Chess Federation (USCF) had  different rating scale for correspondence chess than the Elo system that was used for Over the Board chess. Back then, a 1300 cc rating was Class A. I don’t remember exactly when they made the switch, but when the did my cc rating jumped from somewhere in the 900 range to about 1800 points.

My opponent got out of the main lines early and allowed me to play a sideline that often favors Black, especially of White does not know this variation. I believe that my notes below explain what happened in this chess game well enough.

Mike Serovey

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Shogi, the Japanese Variant of Chess

“A Pawn is Worth a Thousand Gold Generals.” – Shogi proverb

Sailors and merchants brought Shatranj to southeast Asia sometime between the 9th and 11th centuries, whence it spread to China and Japan.  Shogi is the Japanese national variant of the game we call Chess, and it’s a fine game in its own right.

Shogi board and pieces.

Shogi board and pieces. The pieces at the far side of the board are showing their obverse sides denoting promotion values. (Wikimedia)

The goal in Shogi is checkmate. It’s recognizably Chess, but with some important differences, the most notable of which are:

  • The board is a 9×9 matrix of rectangles.
  • The 20 pieces per side (arranged 9-2-9 on the first three rows) are wedges denoted by Kanji, all of the same natural wood color.
  • The two sides Black and White are distinguished by which way the wedges (and Kanji) are facing.
  • The King, Rook and Bishop move the same as in Western Chess (except there is no single “castling” move: the King castles ‘by hand”).
  • The other pieces (Lance, Knight, Silver General, Gold General) move differently from Western Chess pieces.
  • Pawns capture as they move, one square straight ahead.
  • All pieces except the King and Gold General promote! Promotion occurs in the last three ranks and promotion values are fixed and printed on the obverse of the pieces.
  • A captured piece is kept by the player and can be reintroduced (unpromoted) on a subsequent move within certain limits, such as that no pawn can be reintroduced on a file still containing one of that player’s unpromoted pawns, and that checkmate may not be given by reintroducing a pawn.

Bughouse Chess is a bizzaro-world version of Shogi, amusing but clumsy and ugly where Shogi is graceful and beautiful. I wonder why the bored Chess960 crowd doesn’t try Shogi.

I find Shogi more natural than Chess. The board aesthetics and ergonomics are superior, since you don’t gaze through a forest: the pieces lie down before you. Of course, the larger number of pieces along with reintroduction render the combinatorial complexity of Shogi greater than that of Chess. If an average Chess game is 40 moves, an average Shogi game is 60 moves.

Pawns capturing forward as they do, the lack of a permanent pawn structure is a major  difference for Chess players. Shogi has been called “boneless”.  But pawns are still the soul of the game! The odd number of rows on the board renders the fifth rank a no man’s land in the center. Opening action takes place on the wings, with the openings categorized by the file to which the Rook mobilizes and activates itself by a pawn advance. One Shogi axiom is that “the middlegame begins with a pawn sacrifice”.

Shogi helped my chess. Boris Spassky once expressed the wish that he could forget chess so he could relearn the game correctly. Shogi can have that “born again” effect on the experienced Chess player. It freshens the mind.

You have to learn to read Japanese Shogi notation to get on well with the game, to read the best books, and to stumble around Japanese websites like http://goshogi.net/ . That takes some practice, but it’s simple Kanji and Hiragana, algebraic and sensible.

In the meantime, you can visit English webbage such as the English edition of Asahi Shimbum’s Shogi coverage and Shogi.net .

Also, check out Garry Kasparov playing Chess in a two-game match against the winningest Shogi player of all times, FIDE FM Yoshiharu Habu:  Kasparov vs Habu and Habu vs Kasparov.

Jacques Delaguerre

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Teaching Kids Through Classical Games (13)

Morphy,Paul – Meek,A
USA, 1857

This is really good game to show students the importance of a space advantage and how to use it.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 g6 3.Bd3 Bg7 4.Be3 Ne7 5.Ne2 b6 6.Nd2 Bb7 7.0–0

This seems to be an unorthodox way of developing pieces but it has the advantage of leaving White’s f-pawn free to advance.

7…d5 8.e5

Gaining space on Kingside

8…0–0 9.f4

In chess a space advantage gives you more room for manoeuvre your pieces. And in general you should attack on the side where you have a space advantage.

9…f5 10.h3

Preparing the g4 lever. 10.exf6, taking on en passant, wouldn’t give much after 10…Rxf6.

10…Nd7 11.Kh2

The idea is to use the g-file for his rooks later on.

11…c5 12.c3 c4

It is not a good idea to shut the side of the board where you have space. Here it gives White a free hand to expand on the kingside.

13.Bc2 a6 14.Nf3

Improving the knight’s position and aiming to join the kingside attack.

14…h6 15.g4 Kh7 16.Rg1 Rg8 17.Qe1 Nc6

It would be better to play 17…Qe8 as moving the knight from e7 invites White to sacrifice on g6.

18.Nh4 Qf8??

Let’s check some other alternatives too:

(1) 18…Nf8 19.gxf5 gxf5 20.Ng3 is a stunning knight sac which if taken leads to an immediate win: 20…Qxh4 (20…Ne7 21.Nhxf5 exf5 22.Nxf5 Nxf5 23.Bxf5+ Kh8 24.Bc2 with the idea of f5 is horrible for Black but it is still comparatively better than the text move) 21.Nxf5 Qxe1 22.Nd6+ Kh8 23.Nf7#.

(2) 18…Qe8 19.Nxg6 Qxg6 20.gxf5 Qe8 21.f6+ is just winning for White.

19.Nxg6 Kxg6 20.gxf5+ Kf7

If 20…Kh7 21.f6+ Kh8 22.fxg7+ Rxg7 23.Qh4 and White is winning

21.fxe6+ Kxe6 22.f5+ Ke7 23.Qh4+

White is also winning with f6.

23…Ke8 24.f6 Bxf6

If black tries to save the piece with 24…Bh8 then 25.Qh5+ Kd8 26.Bxh6 is winning.

25.exf6 Rxg1 26.Rxg1 Nxf6 27.Bg6+ Kd7 28.Bf5+ Ke8 29.Bxh6

29.Rg6 is better than the text move and after 29…Ng8 30.Bd7+! Kxd7 31.Qg4+ Ke7 32.Qe6+ etc.

29…Qh8 30.Rg7

Attacking both the knight and bishop.

After 30…Ng8 there follows mate with 31. Bd7+ Kf8 32. Qf4 Nf6 33. Qxf6#, so Black resigned.

1–0

Ashvin Chauhan

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