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



You’ll find a lot of chess playing royalty in The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict, but this isn’t about that sort of royalty.

A few weeks ago I received my six-monthly royalty statement covering sales of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids between January and June 2015.

Chess for Kids had 1930 home sales, 22 export sales and 146 electronic sales, giving me earnings over the six month period of £600.08. It’s the only book I’ve written that has covered its advance and made a profit.

The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, on the other hand, had only 55 home sales and 61 electronic sales, minus 4 export sales returns. Many of those would have been bought by parents on the recommendation of myself or my friends and colleagues. It’s nowhere near paying off its advance, and, barring a miracle (such as the ECF setting up a formal junior chess structure and recommending the book to parents), never will.

Now it strikes me that, in a sensible world, the sales ratio between the two books would be very much the other way round. The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids is the only UK-centric book on the market for parents and teachers who want to introduce chess to young children. Now, whether you’re a parent or a teacher, if you want to teach your kids something new you’d find out about it first, wouldn’t you, to make sure it was really going to be suitable? And if you knew about it already you’d want some advice on the best way to teach it. In which case you’d have no choice but to consult my book. Once you’ve read my book you might decide that chess is not going to be suitable for your children, or that they are too young and it would be best to wait a year or so. Or you might decide that you should start teaching your children chess and that it might be a good idea to buy them a chess book. Now there are quite a lot of chess books for young children on the market, all of which teach essentially the same material (how the pieces move plus some elementary advice on tactics and strategy) but in different ways. You might like my approach, a story using subversive humour and illustrated with cartoons, or you might prefer a different method: it doesn’t really matter too much which you choose.

I sometimes hand round flyers in local primary schools offering parents a free session for them and their children. I will visit their house at any convenient time, bring a proper chess set with me, and spend between half an hour and an hour with them, talking through a game with the child and explaining to the parents how they can best help and support their children’s interest in chess. Or if they prefer they can visit me and see a wide range of coaching materials. Whichever they want: either way there’s no charge. Because of all the enjoyment chess has given me over the years I’m more than happy to give up my time for free to ensure that kids get a good start in chess. But how many takers do I get? None. A big fat zero. And every school I visit it’s exactly the same. Many parents want their children to learn chess because they see it as beneficial. But most parents, at least in my part of the world, are not prepared to help their children learn. Why? Because they wouldn’t want their children to have Top Trumps lessons, and they see chess as a trivial kids’ game like Top Trumps rather than what it really is: an exceptionally difficult game, more suitable for older children and adults, which younger children will probably need a lot of help to understand.

Yes, chess can be a very powerful learning tool, but only if it is broken down into its component parts. In my opinion playing more or less random moves is not chess and children who are just doing this will derive little benefit and no lasting interest in the game, but unless they’re getting more adult help than they’ll get from a school chess club once a week, that’s all they will do. I know that children will learn more in an hour’s one to one session with a good teacher than they’ll learn in a term at a school chess club. How can we get the message across to parents that teaching your children the moves in half an hour and signing them up for their primary school chess club is really not the best way to go about introducing your children to one of the world’s most complex and profound games?

Richard James


Dear Chess Federation…

Sadly, it doesn’t matter which major chess federation this open letter is addressed to because they’ve all committed the same heinous crime; sending the game of chess back into the dark ages. They’re slowing killing the game we love so much and their destructive weapon of choice is the most dangerous weapon of all, politics. Yes politics, that greasy (at best) business in which the only thing that matters is the feeding of one’s ego. I apologize if I sound a bit bitter but year after year, I’ve watched public interest in chess dwindle away with the very people we’ve elected into chess federation offices doing nothing to change that. At least when you vote for a politician in a democracy you know you’re voting for the lessor of a few evils and you know all promises made during the campaign will not be fulfilled. You know you’re getting the short end of the stick from the get go!

Here’s a little story about the misplaced efforts of one organization I belong to. A while back, I received an email from this organization. Because I am a voting member, I am privy to things the average non voting member never hears about. This email asked me to contact the Chamber of Commerce of a very high profile city to have them pick a local chess club to be its business of the year (or some such nonsense). I would have considered doing this if it were an inner city chess club in need of support. However, this was a wealthy chess club where business power brokers played chess (and made business deals). I smelled a political rat and decided to ignore the email. Unfortunately, the emails kept coming, including some personal emails trying to convince me it would be to my benefit to lend my support. Due to the litigious nature of this organization, I’ll leave the details vague. The point I’m getting at is that it would have been better to use the time, effort and money expended by this chess organization to, dare I say it, promote chess in inner city schools or help out a struggling local chess club. I guess trying to better the lives of children isn’t as important as promoting the chess clubs of the wealthy and famous.

Then there’s all those lawsuits within the federation. Really? You would think the last place you’d find people suing each other would be in a chess federation. Wrong! Without naming names to keep the legal eagles away from The Chess Improver, I watched in horror as a lawsuit a while back financially ate away potential funds that could be used to promote the game. The worst part about the majority of federation related lawsuits is that they’re in house, involving the politicians within the governing body of the federation. Why not have an arbitration system within the federation that prevents such a waste of money? I don’t mind paying yearly dues but what I do mind is discovering that my money, as well as other member’s money, is not being used properly.

In fairness, there are ranking members of the various chess organizations that truly care about the game and promoting it. They’re the members you seldom hear about because they’re too busy trying to bring chess into inner city schools as well as positively promoting the game. It’s no coincidence that these same good people tend to teach chess as well. However, when you have people on the federation’s top who seem to have very little in the way of chess related qualifications for holding office, those doing the good work get know where.

When it’s time to vote for a new Grand Poobah of the federation or board members, I always have to read the candidate information two or three times because I never seem to discover exactly what chess experience these people have. I mean, if you need open heart surgery, you’d seek out the most qualified heart surgeon rather than the mechanic at your local gas station (who could probably do a better job running a chess federation), right? I’m not a picky man (in most matters) but I do want my federation officials to at least have some experience regarding chess. Owning as chess set doesn’t qualify you to run the business. Of course, business experience is necessary if you’re going to run a large organization but you can’t tell me there isn’t at least one person who can run a business and has played a lot of chess. I keep expecting Donald Trump to run for Grand Poobah of my federation. At least with Trump, I’d know we were doomed from the start.

Then there’s the campaign mud slinging that comes in the form of postcards and emails. I’ve received both in which one candidate makes a point of dragging out the other candidate’s dirty laundry. I really don’t need to know that candidate “A” likes to wear his wife’s clothing from six to nine o’clock in the evening. I don’t care as long as he can do a good job. While never really receiving such information I will say that what I have received has been close enough to qualify as political mud slinging. I always assumed that those running for federation offices are adults. Judging from some of those postcards and emails, I’m wrong.

There was a time in the past when chess federations were run by chess players. Because they were chess players, they worked to make things better for those who were new to the game and those who played the game. They may not have been the best at running a day to day business but they took care of their federation’s members. Now, most chess players wouldn’t consider running for office because there’s too much monkey business involved, namely politics, that crusty old wheel of depravity that requires constant tawdry greasing. I hope you’re all seeing a theme here; chess good, politics bad. Of course, politics is everywhere. My local dog park, that place you’re supposed to be able to bring your dog for a fun run, is politically controlled. If you don’t grease the right palms as they say, you and your dog might get black listed. No fun time for your four legged friend. So I expect a bit of politics to go on within a federation. However, it’s gotten out of hand.

The people that run a chess organization should do so with a single goal in mind, the advancement of the game. This means bringing chess to the people, especially children, and this should be the number one priority. That means that any expenditure of money for things other than either chess education or tournament organization must be kept to a minimum, period. Of course, those in power talk about various future programs that will further the game’s reach, especially when they’re running for office. However, like most campaign promises, they’re never kept. I’d offer to provide a swift boot to the back of the pants for each federation official that reneged on a campaign promise but I’d either wear out the bottom of my boot or suffer a grievous leg injury due to a long repetitive action.

Federation forums anyone? Now there’s a place where the insects crawl out of the woodwork! Of course, I’m on forums from time to time but some folks seem to not only live on the forums but make sport out of stirring up trouble. To those folks I say get a life, go out and enjoy the real word and please please please, learn how to communicate using correct spelling and grammar! Rather than jumping on the express train of people bashing, try doing something positive for the game you love. Forums should be a place to exchange ideas, not a place to complain about someone you’ve never met who might of done something you’re not quite sure about. If it has nothing to do with the actual game of chess or a truly important chess related issue, find another hobby. There are already enough trolls on the internet.

Lastly, there’s our fearless leader, Nigel, and his “defection.” I loved seeing the word defection because it made me think Nigel was secretly smuggled across the East/West border of Germany during the height of the cold war. I applaud you Nigel for doing what you did! If I had any credibility in the chess world, I too would defect. I heard the Penguin team down at the South Pole is in need of a few chess players. If my chess federation doesn’t start delivering my monthly chess magazine on time (it’s always two weeks late), I might switch sides. Seriously though, I thought what Nigel did was brilliant. All you federations might change your tune if your best players said enough is enough and found another group to represent. Well, now that this grumpy middle aged punk rock guitar playing chess teacher has complained for 1,505 words, I’ll leave you with a game to enjoy and a promise that I won’t complain like this again. I’m not running for a federation office so it’s a promise that will be kept. Go Wales!

Hugh Patterson


My Best Game in the British Rapidplay Championships

This was my best game in the British Rapidplay Championships, U146 section. My opponent played the weird 1.b4 and I countered with a solid London System set up. I got the better endgame, won a pawn, won more pawns and then avoided any tricks at the end:

Sam Davies


Nearly Infinite Defensive Resources

Chess is possessed of nearly infinite defensive resources. – (I have forgotten which master it was who said this around 1940. Richter? Steiner? Rauzer? Teichman? Google can’t find it.)

Bobby Fischer certainly believed that Chess is possessed of nearly infinite defensive resources, and would take amazing risks (such as the Black side of the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf) on the assumption that if the chosen tabiya was not mathematically unsound, he would merely be required to out-combine his opponent.

Computer chess has lent support to this intuitive utterance: lines which were once discarded as highly inferior have been promoted in stature in modern times as defensive technique has grown by leaps and bounds. That defensive technique should flourish as the game matures is natural: if we had not seen it in the previous century in English Draughts (Checkers), we would recognize the pattern from the game of Baseball, once predominately batting but nowadays predominately pitching.

In my Denver Chess Club game this week, my opponent was an autodidact with some fanciful notions about a favored defense that he and his brother have worked out on their own. Without guidance, they have nearly discovered the Hippopotamus independently. In last month’s tournament, my opponent won an upset prize against a Category 2 player with this defense. His handling of the position fared less well against me, but it shows how natural and universal the principles of this sort of defense are.

Side note: There’s an interesting blog posting from a few years back that attempts to determine how many logical games of chess exist. By logical, the author apparently means something like reasonable or likely. The presentation is not at all rigorous, but the intuition expressed therein is attractive.

Jacques Delaguerre


Recognising The Patterns : Challenge # 12

Today’s Challenge: Find the typical pattern and react accordingly, Black to Move:

Aron Nimzowitsch against Bjorn Nielsen in 1930

Q – Can black play 20…Bd6 with an idea of meeting Rd7 with Rad8?
A: Not at all, in the game Black played 20…Bd6 and lost very quickly. Instead the fight can be prolonged with 20…Bd8.

21. Rd7 Rad8

Now what? If you open up g-file a mating net can be created with rook and bishop.

22. Rxd6!

Q: Is this necessary?
A: Yes, as the immediate 22. Qf6 can be met by Bxe5!.

22…Rxd6 23. Qf6!!

Black resigned in view of 23…gxf6 24. Rg4 Kh8 25. Bxf6#

The mating net with a rook on g file and bishop on the a1-h8 diagonal like this is called Morphy’s mate.

Reshevsky against shainswit in 1951

Q: Can black win the rook with 27…e4?
A: No, but instead black can achieve a good game with 27…Rfd8.In the game Black played 27…e4, falling into the trap set by White.

28. Rxg3! exd3

Completely unaware of White’s intentions.

29. Rxg7 Kh8 30. Rxf7+!

Removing the key defender here. This is a very important move as rook anywhere on g-file can be met by …f6.

30…Kg8 31. Rg7+

And mate in few moves.

Here is the complicated form of the same pattern:

Paulsen against Morphy in 1857 with Morphy (Black) to move

Try to work this one out on your own. I have already annotated the full game here.

Ashvin Chauhan


More Than 400 Students In Indian State Level Competition

There are of course a lot of kids participating in junior tournaments in the UK. But the difference in India is that chess is a highly respected and well paid profession there, as a chess GM you’re a big star and national hero, rolled into one. And this in turn provides a strong incentive for ongoing study and play throughout the teenage years:

Nigel Davies


Strategy in the Stonewall

The solution to last Monday’s difficult problem is that Black plays 1… Bc8. This aims to get the Bishop on the long diagonal. After 2. Rcd1 f5! 3. Rhe1 Bd7! , White’s pawns start to fall.

In this week’s problem, you are White against the Stonewall Dutch. Your task is to get a small, but lasting edge. What do you play?

There are no flashy moves here. Instead, we have an example of trying to relieve our opponent of his best pieces.

Steven Carr