Recognise the Pattern # 34

Today we will see another typical way to destroy a king’s shelter, this time by sacrificing material on g7/g2. This sacrifice often opens the h1-a8 (a1-h8) diagonal and the g-file and the success of such an attack usually depends upon available whether these can be used. You may need to check the possibilities of further sacrifices to drag out the opponent’s monarch into the danger zone which is very typical with this theme.

Ralf Lau (2460) against Sergey Smagin (2520) in 1990

Q: White’s last move was Nf3-e5. How would you evaluate this move?

Solution: White’s last move was a big mistake as it allows Black to gain a very valuable tempo on the knight by playing d7-d6, which opens up the light square bishop and prepares the typical sacrifice.

19…d6! 20. Nd3 Nxg2!!

Nxc6 leads to the same continuation as the game.

21. Kxg2??
This leads to mate in 5 although 21.f3/f4 doesn’t change the outcome because after Nxe1, black is pawn and exchange up in addition to this Safety of white’s Monarch has been already compromised.

21….Bh3!!

The only way to win.

22. Kxh3 Qf3
23. g5
and White resigned here.

Work for readers!!

Here are some instructive games on the same theme to study:

Bogoljubov against Mieses
Spielmann against Tartakower

Ashvin Chauhan

My Game With Viktor

Viktor Korchnoi, who died yesterday, was one of my chess heroes. Meeting him over the board was one of my most memorable chess experiences, and Viktor was very nice to me in the post mortem telling me how I did better than Leonid Stein with whom he played a similar game in 1962. He was of course critical of 19.a3?, I should have played 19.Qd2.

There will be better eulogies than anything I can provide. So all I’ll say is that it was a privilege to meet him.

Nigel Davies

Not Always A Win With An Extra Bishop

It is well known that a game can be saved if you leave your opponent with only a Bishop and a rook’s pawn of the wrong colour. If you can do that, you can save the game by getting your King to the corner, so that your opponent can not promote the pawn, and will stalemate you if he attempts to do so.

Did you know that you can also save the game if your opponent only has a Bishop and a Knight’s pawn of the same colour?

In this week’s problem, Black has to save the game. How does he do that?

In last Monday’s problem, Black mates in 4 with 1… Qxe1+ 2. Kf3 Rd3+ 3. Be3 Rxe3+ 4. fxe3 Qf1 mate. I missed that.

Steven Carr

Chess and Music Part 3: Parratt and Goldenweiser

This time you’ll get the chance to meet two keyboard players who also excelled at chess.

Sir Walter Parratt (10 February 1841 – 27 March 1924) was an English organist who was to become Master of the Queen’s (later King’s) Musick. The son of an organist, he was a child prodigy pianist before becoming organist at Magdalen College Oxford in 1872, and, ten years later, organist of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, where Queen Victoria and her family worshipped regularly. He was also in great demand as an organ teacher, becoming Heather Professor of Music at Oxford University in 1908. In 1893 he received the ultimate accolade of being appointed Master of the Queen’s Musick. On his death he would be succeeded in that post (by then King’s, not Queen’s) by his friend Sir Edward Elgar, who, as you saw last week, was also a friend of Adolph Brodsky. He also wrote a small amount of church music: you can hear a psalm setting here and a hymn tune here. (A brief note: the post of Master of the King’s/Queen’s Musick originally involved composing music for royal occasions, and since Elgar’s day this has also been true, but for most of the 19th century it was more to do with organising music within the royal household rather than composing.)

Sir Walter inherited both his passions from his father, Thomas, who, apart from being the organist at Huddersfield Parish Church, was involved in the foundation of the Yorkshire Chess Association in 1841. Young Walter was active in competitive chess in the late 1850s and throughout the 1860s. He doesn’t appear on Chessmetrics but Rod Edwards gives him a highest EDO rating of 2310 in 1869, with a world ranking of 53rd. His speciality was playing blindfold chess and the piano at the same time.

When he moved to Oxford he became involved in chess there. In 1873 he played on board 1 in the first Oxford v Cambridge chess match, and may possibly have been involved in its foundation and organisation. He won both his games against John de Soyres, who would later become a clergyman and emigrate to Canada. In the first game de Soyres made an unsound combination while the second, given below, was an exciting encounter with missed opportunities on both sides. Finally de Soyres erred in a rook ending, and the game, which was unfinished at the close of play, was adjudicated a win by Steinitz. In 1874, by now president of the University Chess Club, he faced the same opponent. This time three games were played, and his opponent extracted his revenge, winning two games and losing one.

The following February saw Parratt drawing with Steinitz in a blindfold simul, although in the final position Steinitz had an extra pawn and much the better position. But he declined the opportunity to take part in the University Match that year, citing lack of practice. And that, as far as I know, was the end of his chess career. Or almost the end. In 1921 the Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law, himself a strong chess player, who was visiting Windsor Castle, wanted a game of chess. Sir Walter was summoned to play him. “Isn’t he a bit old?”, asked the PM when meeting his elderly opponent? After an hour’s play Sir Walter announced checkmate. “Not at all”, said Bonar Law. “I have seven moves.” Sir Walter then demonstrated how he would force checkmate in each variation. Towards the end of his life he agreed to represent Oxford Past in a match against Cambridge Past, but had to withdraw due to ill health.

Given the popularity of both chess and music in Russia it’s hardly surprising that many of the great Soviet musicians were also strong chess players. One of the strongest was the celebrated pianist, teacher and composer Alexander Goldenweiser (10 March 1875 – 26 November 1961). It’s only in recent decades, with the release of many previously unknown Soviet recordings, that we’ve started to appreciate the importance of the Russian piano school, of which Goldenweiser was a leading member, both as a pianist and as a highly influential teacher. His pupils included such legendary names as Grigory Ginzburg, Lazar Berman, Samuil Feinberg, Dmitry Kabalevsky and Tatiana Nikolayeva. You can hear him play Beethoven’s great Waldstein Sonata here, hear some of his most celebrated pupils here, and hear one of his own compositions here.

As a young man Goldenweiser was a friend and regular chess opponent of Leo Tolstoy, also a strong player. If you believe a rather inaccurate Hungarian book on chess playing celebs, he won games in simuls against Chigorin, Lasker and Alekhine, and drew with Capablanca, Botvinnik and Rubinstein. I haven’t yet been able to discover whether or not he played any competitive chess, but it seems he was, like Sir Walter Parratt, a very strong amateur.

Her’s a win against Chigorin, who plays a theoretical opening involving a rook sacrifice, but goes wrong on move 10 (the right move was 10. fxe5, and if 10… fxe5, 11. Rf1).

Your homework before next week is to listen to the music and study the games. See you then.

Richard James

The Dark Side

Competition is healthy and has fueled great advances in civilization. Competition drives economics. Competition, within reason, can be a healthy motivator that brings out the best in us because we have to work hard when competing. However, it can also bring out the worst in us. There’s a fine line to be walked when it comes to competition and, if you fall over the wrong side of that line, you’ll find yourself on the dark side, a place akin to the Twilight Zone!

I make reference to the landmark television series, the Twilight Zone, because in each episode we were afforded a glimpse into a skewed reality into which the story’s protagonist is haplessly thrown. In my story, we meet a young chess player who’s thrown into the world of competitive junior chess. Our young protagonist starts out as a chipper, charming young man who serves a model of compassion. However, he ends up becoming a victim of the side effects of competition. He truly got to experience the Twilight Zone first hand.

William, that’s what we’ll call our young man, was a former student of mine. He was shy and not one of the more popular kids at his school. He wasn’t athletic but he was extremely bright. However, he looked at being smart as a curse. He wanted what the guys who played on his school’s sports teams had, friends and popularity. He knew how to play chess and knew the school had a chess team which I coached. He came in one afternoon, signed up and fit right in. I was amazed at his ability to quickly pick up the concepts I taught him. William was also a gracious winner and even more gracious when he lost. The one thing I stress above all is good sportsmanship and he had it.

The young don’t know social boundaries and have to learn them the hard way, by trial and error. This means they might jump up and down screaming “Ha, I beat you” after winning a chess game. However, once you point out that this is not the way to embrace victory, they often heed your words and become more gracious. Sometimes, it takes being beaten themselves by a person exhibiting bad sportsmanship to drive home the concept. The point is, they eventually learn. Of course, if they refuse to behave properly, they’re off our team.

William, was a great sport. After several months of training he was off to his first tournament with the team. He won all but one of his games, taking first place and bringing the team to second place overall. Of course, I was happy because I had a team that was strong and worked well together. Then something started to happen.

William slowly started to become more aggressive, being a bit less gracious with each victory. I talked at length with him and his parents about his behavior, explaining that as his rating went up his opponents would become a much stronger. There would be a time when William would face a series of losses against stronger players and have to deal with those losses calmly. The parents felt William had such a strong record of wins and, since he had handled his losses well up to this point, that there wouldn’t be any problems in the near future (despite what I had seen and commented on). As a coach dealing with parents, you can only make a sound argument and hope the parents leave the decision making to you. After all, you’re the professional. Well, the parents let William do as he pleased because he was happy. After a few months, William’s parents decided their son would be better off playing tournaments on his own, “not having to act as sole strong player on our team.” There’s an old saying, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and William’s father, it turns out, was a really bad sport. The parents took William off the team, hired an International Master to train him and entered him in tournaments.

About six months later, I get a call from his new trainer who says “the kid has turned into a bloody little monster.” Of course, I really wanted to say “and how is this my problem” but refrained as that would make me a bad sport. It turned out that William was now so rude to his opponents that Tournament Directors were taking serious notice. I asked his new trainer if he had talked to the parents. He had and reported to me that the father would scream things like “I’m paying you good money to deal with this nonsense.” Somehow, I suspect I got the good end of the deal when I was taken out of the equation. Within months, William had been all but black listed from tournament play. He eventually gave up on chess. William gained personal power through chess but in the end absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I tell this cautionary tale because I see the dark side of competition on a regular basis in the junior chess arena. Again, competition is a good thing within reason. However, some individuals take it to an unhealthy extreme. I’d like to offer some advice for young players and their parents:

To you youngsters: Enjoy winning because it feels good. Your hard work has paid off. However, remember that your victory on the chessboard means your opponent is suffering emotionally from their loss. Losing doesn’t feel good and having to deal with an opponent who rubs victory directly in your face makes matters worse. When winning, think of your opponent’s feeling before your own. Offer them a handshake and thank them for a good game. People remember gracious winners in a far better light than winners who grandstand. Be the better person. Who knows, your opponent might end up becoming a good friend of yours (if you’re a good sport).

For parents: Don’t live vicariously through your child. I see this all the time. Just because you didn’t win the junior state chess championship in your youth doesn’t mean you get a second chance through your child. I’ve seen parents put so much pressure on their children to win that it takes away the love that child has for the game. I’ve also seen parents belittle their children in front of other children because the child’s performance wasn’t up to par. Children have feelings! It’s about enjoying the game.

You, as a parent, should also let your child develop their chess skills naturally. Your son or daughter is not going to be playing like Magnus Carlsen after six months of lessons. You’d be surprised at how many parents have completely unrealistic expectations regarding their children and chess. Here’s an easy one: If your child doesn’t want to take chess lessons, try something else. I have had students who have no interest in chess but attend classes because their parents want them enrolled. Listen to your children and let them pursue what interests them.

Teach them how to win graciously. As I mentioned earlier, children tend to discover social boundaries through trial and error. However, helping them along can make their social journey a lot easier. Remember it’s easier to develop good habits than it is to break bad habits. Teach them to love the game first and foremost. If they behave in an unsportsmanlike manner, explain to them why this isn’t the proper way to act. Ask them how they’d feel had they lost the game.

Lastly parents, how you act at a chess tournament influences your child and how her or she behaves. You are their ultimate role model. I’ve seen parents sink to all time lows in an effort to see their child win a tournament. This behavior ranges from trash talking other children and parents to using subtle hand signals to aid their child while playing which is also known as cheating. Be the better person. Chess should be enjoyed and loved, first and foremost. Speaking of enjoyment, here’s a game to ponder until next week.

Hugh Patterson

Building Your Tactical Shield

“A knowledge of tactics is the foundation of positional play.” — Richard Reti

When you play through a game between two masters, you may notice that they blunder less often than you do. Their games flow from strategic idea to strategic idea, occasionally peppered with tactical threats that support those plans. The games are often devoid of the big combinations we are used to solving on our favorite tactics server.

Of course, the reason behind this is that masters are much better at tactics, so they are better at avoiding blunders (although we’re all human). Their tactical ability protects their carefully laid strategic plans. Former World Champions Anatoly Karpov and Tigran Petrosian were known for their positional prowess, but they both had incredible tactical ability as well. This skill didn’t display themselves in the big thematic combinations, but in their ability to parry their opponents’ tactical threats while playing their positional chess.

Reflecting on this reminded me of my study of the Filipino martial arts. In the Filipino martial arts (also known by names Kali, Escrima, and Arnis), training is done with rattan sticks – which are safer to train with than swords. The beauty of the art is that the weapon is both a tool for offense and defense. The same can be said for tactics. They are both used to punish those who blunder as well as avoiding blunders.

Tactics is our sword – and conventional tactics training addresses this aspect fairly well. However, tactics is also our shield. In this article, we’ll discuss how to build your tactical shield.

Limitations of Conventional Tactical Training

In the beginning, it is important to learn the basic tactical motifs such as pins, forks, and discovered attacks. I think studying one of the many good books on the topic is a good start for beginning players. After we are familiar with the basics, solving combinations and checkmate problems is highly beneficial. I discuss more in depth about how to improve your tactics this way in a previous article I’ve written.

Most players understand the importance of tactics, and practice tactics regularly. However, in conversations with fellow players, I often hear a recurring theme: “I train tactics all the time (and do well), but I have a hard time finding tactics in games.”

There are a few limitations to conventional tactics training that help explain this.

  • Most tactical problems are offensive in nature. As mentioned above, we need to use our tactical skill to defend our strategic plans as well as punishing blunders. To use another martial arts analogy, boxers do not learn to defend themselves by practicing their punching only.
  • Most tactical problem solutions end with either a big material advantage or checkmate. However, a majority of the positions in our games start off in a fairly even position – until someone blunders of course.
  • Most tactical problems alert you to the end objective – e.g. mate in three, White to play and win, etc. You will not get such a warning in a game. I should mention here that others have written about how to address this issue – for example, chess author and coach Dan Heisman’s concept of “seeds of tactical destruction” (such as loose pieces, unsafe king, weak back rank, etc.
  • As a corollary to the above point, because you know there is a tactical solution, you think differently than you do in a game – where a tactical solution may not be present.

Solving conventional tactical problems is an essential part of your training, but it isn’t the only way, particularly when you’re trying to build your tactical shield.

Transference of Tactical Skill

In education, an ongoing issue is the transference of skill. This is the ability to apply what is learned in the classroom to real life. In chess, we are looking for the transference of our tactical skill (traditionally demonstrated through our ability to solve tactical problems) to our games.

There are several ways that educators increase the transference of skill.

  • Providing variation in the conditions or practice methods to gradually simulate real life situations. For example, learning basic math operations and then gradually introducing word problems using real life examples.
  • Maximizing the initial learning experience to ensure better understanding of the underlying concepts. “Teaching a man to fish” instead of just giving him the fish.
  • Activating prior knowledge. Using what was learned before to understand new things to be learned, and using new knowledge to further understand old knowledge.
  • Simulations. For example, instead of just talking about what to say in a job interview, practice answering job interview questions.

Get in the Kitchen

My martial arts instructor once told me, “If you want to learn how to cook, you have to spend time in the kitchen.” If you want to develop a broad and effective tactical shield, you need to train the way you play (or want to play). You need to get into the chess kitchen!

Here are a few ways to do this. They are listed roughly from basic to advanced, but feel free to supplement your current tactical training with the ideas in any order.

  • Build a tactical foundation by understanding the basic tactical motifs. Find a good instructional book on tactics and study it if you haven’t already done so.
  • Solve the standard problems on chesstempo.com. These problems are taken from real games and at the higher levels, incorporate the type of calculation we are trying to develop. There are other servers to practice combinations, but I have found the ones on Chess Tempo to be the most useful.
  • Play longer time controls. Although blitz has its usefulness, such as getting a higher volume of games to practice your openings, for this type of development, you need time to properly calculate and plan. Sometimes, the tactic you are protecting against is several moves away in your calculation of variations.
  • When you study master games or solving tactical problems, try to explain the solution or moves in your own words. We are so used to reading variations from chess engine analysis that we gloss over them sometimes, not taking the time to fully comprehend what is going on. If you can’t explain it, you don’t fully understand it.
  • Observe your thought process that you had during your games, particularly at points when you blundered. What moves or variations did you overlook or underestimate? What assumptions did you make that weren’t true? Which of your opponent’s responses did you consider? Store these positions and observations in a database or notebook for future review. Know thyself.
  • Play Solitaire Chess. This is the simulation mentioned above. The key for developing your tactical shield is to note when you make a tactical blunder as well as seeing how the original player navigated any tactical minefields while applying strategic planning to their moves. The annotated games of great tactical players like Garry Kasparov (annotated by the players themselves) provide excellent material toward this purpose.
  • Play against the computer (or stronger player). I am not a big proponent of playing against computer chess engines. However, for the purpose of building your tactical shield one thing is certain – the computer will spot your tactical errors. I recommend setting up positions from your opening repertoire.

By incorporating these methods in your chess schedule, you should see measurable improvement in your in-game tactics over time.

Final Thoughts and Test

The knowledge of tactics are indeed the foundation of chess strategy. I think most players, beginner and master alike, understand and agree with this.

The problem is being able to apply our skills in our games. Using concepts from the field of education, we can use a variety of training methods to practice tactics in situations that will increase our ability to use them in our games.

To conclude this article, I want you to consider the following position. Try to calculate the best moves before looking at the solution, understanding that tactics are not just your sword, but your shield as well. Until next time, good luck and better chess!

Bryan Castro

The Zen of the French Defense

A man walks into the doctor’s office with a duck on his head.
The doctor asks, “Can I help you?”
The duck says, “Yeah, Doc, can you please get this guy off my a**?!”

My latest epiphany about the handling of French Defense positions where White has advanced the king’s pawn to e5 is that it’s like getting the guy off the duck. No subtle positional scheme is involved. Black works crudely to get liberated from White’s cramp by any means possible. When that has gone as far as it can go, Fischer’s Rule of Reciprocity, “You gotta give squares to get squares,” applies, and Black opportunistically utilizes those squares White has neglected in his struggle to maintain the bind.

Here’s a salient example from the Zurich Chess Challenge in February, 2016 wherein Hikaru Nakamura quacks up Alexei Shirov. In the final position, it’s all over after 39. Kxh2 Qh5+ due to tactics based on the discovery on the White queen.

Jacques Delaguerre

Recognise the Pattern # 33

Today we will see a typical sacrifice on f6 (f3) in order to destroy a king’s pawn cover. Earlier we discussed the classical Bishop sacrifice and Lasker’s double Bishop sacrifice which had the same goal.

Before sacrificing piece on f6 (f3) one should carefully evaluate the possibility of participation of his major pieces along the g- or h- file (rook lifts are a very typical theme here) and possible ways of declining the sacrifice.

Here is an instructive example:

Tal against Dmitry in 1970

In the given battle White has already lifted his rook and knight and is ready to jump on f6, while on the other side Black’s queen is already cut off from the main battle field although she is attacking the White rook. Therefore White’s queen has to leave the first rank with tempo, which is quite possible after opening up the h-file. In general White’s position has great potential.

Here Tal played:

18. Nf6+!! gxf6 forced
There is no way to decline the sacrifice. If Black plays 18…Kh8 then Nxh7 is simply enough to win.

19. Bxh7+!!

As discussed the White queen needs to leave the first rank with a gain of tempo.

19…Kh8

Black is preventing White’s queen being activated with check. If Black plays Kxh7 then Qh5+ followed by Rg1! wins

20. Rh4 Kg7 21. Qc1

Threatening Qh6 mate.

21…Ng8 22. Bxg8

Black resigned here in view of following lines:
a) If 22…Kxg8 then 23.Rb3.
b) If 22…Rxg8 then 23.Qh6.

Otherwise there is no defence to Qh6 except by surrendering the queen on b1.

Work for readers!!
It is recommended that you study the following games on the same theme:
Nunn against Craig William in 1986
Petrosian against Larsen in 1960
Spielmann against Hans Gebhardt

Ashvin Chauhan

Attitude

Something the chess books never mention is the importance of the right attitude to the game. And the most important quality I know of is the ability to respond to failure in a productive way.

The easiest way is to relegate the importance of the game so that a disappointment is deemed to have little value. This may avoid short term pain but it also avoids invaluable lessons that may be held therein. Someone who does this can be in danger of carrying their ‘pain avoidance’ over to other aspects of their lives, most commonly blaming others for everything bad that has ever happened to them.

A better way is to accept that things went wrong and then look for possible causes and ways to do better next time. This can demand a level of self honesty that is not required in normal life and it certainly isn’t easy. But therein lies the road to progress and self improvement.

This is why chess can be an invaluable tool in one’s personal development and why it is so good for kids to learn. But don’t make excuses, don’t withdraw from tournaments and never, ever give up.

Nigel Davies

New Training Technique

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White wins with 1. d3! a2 2. c4+ Kc5 3. Kb7 a1=Q 4. Be7 mate.

Of course, Black can avoid checkmate, but in all other lines he cannot promote his pawn.

This week’s position comes from a new training technique I have been experimenting with.

I have a large collection of mate in 3 or 4 moves on the computer. I select one and look at the position for a maximum of 3 seconds.

I then try to solve them blindfold. I don’t always succeed.

Can you find the mate in 4 for Black that I missed?

Steven Carr