Alekhine vs Podgorny, 1943

You can usually learn from almost any classical game, but this game is unique in my eyes because it contains so many important lessons:
1) 11. d5! is a pawn sacrifice to open the e-file against Black’s uncastled king.
2) 12 axb4 sacrifices an exchange so that later on Alekhine can exploit Black;s queen position on a1.
3) Moves 13 to 17 illustrate the importance of time.
4) Exchanging queens achieves a winning endgame
5) Finally Alekhine exchanged the last major piece which showed how the position should be assessed concretely rather than via some general rules.

You can find this game annotated by Kasparov in mega database. Here it is with my brief analysis:

Ashvin Chauhan

Must Save the Queen

She looked him squarely in the eye. “Checkmate.”
Katie Hadley

We learn at the very beginning how powerful the queen is and that fascinates us for a long time. The queen dominates beginner’s games to such extent many a time it wins the game on its own by capturing most of the opposing pieces. On the other side of the board not having the queen is like a death sentence. You can see the player in that situation feeling lost at words and will power to keep on fighting. Here is one interesting situation from a friendly game played this past week at the club where the queen was front and center.

You might say this is not much of a game. The important aspect to add here is these kids barely new how to checkmate and play basic moves about 2 years ago! Hope this clarifies it a bit and makes you look at it with different eyes. Did not follow it up longer to see how Black managed to win the game in the end. It is not that important even if it sounds far fetched. We all need to go through that stage of vacuuming opposing pieces if we have our precious queen or watch in horror how to it does that if we are on the other side of the board. Hey, it might be more or less distant memory but we all thought 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 or Qf3 followed by 3. Bc4 and 4. Qxf7# was a deadly way to start the game.

Now it is easy for me to talk; however back then I was pretty much the same. It took me a long time to even consider sacrificing my queen for compensation. Below game has remained for me one of the few sticking with me and you for the rest of our chess life. It is the game when for the first time I could have sacrificed my queen for compensation and I did not. It did not even cross my mind even if I was about 1800 rated. Here it is:

In the post mortem a couple of members from our club pointed that to me. At first I did not understand what they were talking about. How could 2 knights and a bishop be enough compensation? It did not make any sense. Luckily the truth is in life once someone points to something new you have never known or seen before, you are changed forever. From that point on I would consider it as anyone should. I always liked this quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr:
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
Your mind is being stretched by new experiences too. All I can say is embrace it and go with the flow. It always leads to better situations.

Valer Eugen Demian

Another Benko

Here’s another Benko gambit played by Magnus Carlsen. The finish was spectacular starting with 30….Ng4 and then 34…Qd4+ followed by 35…Re3, which left White defenceless.

[Event “Midnight Sun Chess Challenge”]
[Site “Tromsø”]
[Round “4”]
[Date “2006.6.27”]
[White “Johannessen, Leif Erlend”]
[Black “Carlsen, Magnus”]
[Result “0-1”]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.g3 d6 8.Bg2 Bg7 9.Nf3 Nbd7 10.Rb1 O-O 11.O-O Qa5 12.Qc2 Rfb8 13.Rd1 Ng4 14.Bd2 Nge5 15.Nxe5 Nxe5 16.b3 Bc8 17.Na4 Qa6 18.Bc3 Bf5 19.Be4 Bd7 20.f4 Ng4 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 22.Bf3 c4 23.e3 Qa7 24.Re1 cxb3 25.axb3 Nf6 26.Ra1 Rb4 27.Kh1 Rc8 28.Qd1 Qb7 29.e4 Rxb3 30.e5 Ng4 31.Bxg4 Bxg4 32.Qxg4 Qxd5+ 33.Kg1 Rc2 34.Qh3 Qd4+ 35.Kh1 Re3 36.Qf1 Qd2 0-1

Sam Davies

The Halosar Trap

I saw a post somewhere on social media the other day asking for recommendations for openings similar to the Halosar Trap. I’d never heard of the Halosar Trap. Was it something like the Fishing Pole Trap? I decided to investigate.

It turns out it’s a variation of the notorious Blackmar-Diemer Gambit.

1. d4 d5
2. e4 dxe4
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. f3 exf3

White usually plays Nxf3 here, hoping to get a quick attack in exchange for the sacrificed pawn. A foolhardy player might prefer the Ryder Gambit, giving up a second pawn to drive the black queen round the board:

5. Qxf3 Qxd4

5.. c6 is a popular alternative, but, as long as you know what you’re doing, there’s nothing wrong with taking the pawn.

6. Be3

Where should the black queen go? After Qg4, for example, White probably doesn’t have enough compensation for the two missing pawns. A very tempting alternative is..

6.. Qb4

.. eyeing the b2 pawn and also, you might think, setting a little trap.

7. O-O-O

This is what White wants to do, but it might also be what Black wants White to do. But who is the trapper and who is the trapped?

7.. Bg4

After 7.. c6 Black is reasonably safe, but instead he snatches at the bait. It’s very easy to assume that White will just move the queen, but instead..

8. Nb5

Creating two threats: Nxc7# and Qxb7. Black has no good defence.

The game might continue:

8.. Na6
9. Qxb7 Qe4
10. Qxa6 Qxe3+
11. Kb1 Qc5
12. Qb7 Bxd1
13. Qxa8+ Kd7
14. Nc3 Bg4
15. Nf3

White has a winning attack.

The question you’re asking, of course, is “Who was Halosar?”. It turns out he was, unexpectedly, the sucker who fell into the trap. Emil-Josef Diemer – Hermann Halosar (Baden Baden 1925) witnessed Black playing 9.. Rc8 in the line given above, and Halosar resigned after 10. Qxa6.

You might also be wondering who Ryder was. I’ll return to that question another time.

Many players, particularly those learning chess, have an obsession with traps like these which very rarely happen in real life. My database of more than 7 million games has just eight examples of the position after 8. Nb5. Of course, you and I both know that this isn’t what chess is about at all, but if you tell them that chess is mostly about grinding out wins in endings with an extra pawn or a more active rook, they probably won’t want to know.

Many players also have an obsession with the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, while others, mostly much stronger players, hate it with a passion.

Should you play the Ryder Gambit? Probably not, except perhaps in the occasional online blitz game.

What about the main lines of the BDG after 5. Nxf3? If you’re a reasonably strong player, probably not. Your opponents are likely to be well prepared and, more often than not, you’ll find yourself with insufficient compensation for the pawn. If your opponent is good at grinding out wins in endings with an extra pawn you’ll just lose. At lower levels you’ll get the chance to win some quick brilliancies: if that’s what you want from chess and you’re not really interested in improving your rating, don’t let me put you off. I even spent some time playing it in online blitz and bullet games some years ago, and scored some nice victories with king-side attacks.

Objectively, it’s not a good opening, but if you want something fun to play in less serious games it might just be what you’re looking for.

Richard James

Forking Your Way to Victory

I’ve been writing a great deal about tactics recently because it’s a chess skill that beginners have trouble with. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, successful tactics require making a combination of moves that set the tactic up. While many tactical opportunities suddenly appear in the games of beginners due to poor piece placement by one’s opponent, the execution of tactics in the games of advanced players require a great deal of planning or seeing ahead. Seeing ahead is another term for calculating a sequence of moves. In other words, if I make this move and my opponent makes that move, I’ll be able to make the move that set’s up the tactic. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong! The problem is that the initial move you make has to force your opponent to make a specific move that allows you to execute your tactic. This is what combinations are all about.

Most beginners employ wishful thinking when trying to set up a combination. They make a move and then expect their opponent to make a specific move, no matter how bad that move is. Once their opponent makes this unrealistic move, our beginner executes the tactic. Beginners often forget that their opponent is trying to win the game as well so they’re not going to purposely make bad moves. The only way to ensure that your opponent will make the move you want them to make is by forcing them to do so. This is why checking your opponent’s king is so powerful when used as part of your tactical combination. The check must be dealt with. In other words, your opponent is forced to react to your move in one way.

Another problem beginners have? Try to force tactics every chance they get. The problem with this idea is that you’ll more often than not, damage your own position, leaving your pawns and pieces weak and susceptible to attack. It’s best to keep an eye out for any potential tactics, looking for enemy pieces lined up along the same Rank, File or Diagonal. Only then should you consider employing tactics. As you become a stronger player and can set up combinations accurately, the forcing of tactics will become easier and safer to execute. Being able to set up forcing tactics requires the ability to accurately calculate many moves ahead. One miscalculation and you might find yourself in a losing position. Beginners should start by mastering simple Knight and Bishop forks because it requires less calculation skills and the combination of moves tends to be shorter in length.

In a fork, one piece attacks two or more enemy pieces simultaneously. Pawns can fork and well as the King. The minor pieces, Knights and Bishops, are great at forking because of their low relative value. The Knight is especially well suited because it’s attack cannot be blocked and it’s “L” shaped movement makes it hard for your opponent to clearly see what it’s up to until it’s often too late. Let’s look at the first fourteen moves of a game in which Black employs some powerful Knight and Bishop forks.

Forks can appear anytime during a game. However, they tend to be employed most often in the middle-game. In this game, Black delivers a pair of devastating forks early on. After 1. d4…d5, White plays 2. c4, signally the start of The Queen’s Gambit. Rather than a more traditional move such as e6, Black plays 2…Bf5. This move follows the opening principles (developing a minor piece to control the board’s center) and isn’t particularly suspicious. Play continues with 3. Nf3…e6. White is making principled moves as is Black. After 4. Nc3…Nc6, White’s showing good opening play. However, White’s next move, 5. Qb3, starts the downward spiral. First off, this move does something you shouldn’t do during the opening, bringing your Queen out early. The opening is about minor piece development. Yes, the Queen is targeting the b7 pawn but that pawn is easily defended! Black responds with a move White never considered, 5…Nb4. The Black Knight on b4 is protected by the f8 Bishop and not only blocks the White Queen’s access to the b7 pawn but creates an enormous threat on c2.

White’s Queen move to b3 is an excellent example of wishful thinking. White planned on taking the b7 pawn, then the Knight of c6 with a fork against the Black King and a8 Rook. This would only work if Black made a series of really bad moves, Black did not and White’s game is now lost. White tries a pointless check with 6. Qa4+ and Black responds with the natural, 6…c6. After 7. cxd5, Black doesn’t capture back but instead, launches into a series of game winning forks, starting with 7…Nc2+, forking the White King and a1 Rook. Because the King is involved, the fork is forcing. White plays 8. Kd1 and Black captures the Rook with 8…Nxa1. White continues to pawn grab with 9. dxc6 and Black hits White with another devastating fork, 9. Bc2+, winning the White Queen. White plays 10. Ke1 and Black wins the Queen outright with 10…Bxa4. The games continues with a few additional forks by Black and White finally resigns.

White’s mistake start with bringing the Queen out early followed by moving the King to a light colored square after each fork. Had White moved the King to a dark colored square, Black’s Bishop wouldn’t have been as effective. Also, when the King and Queen were forked, White should have captured the Black Bishop with the Queen and after the Black Knight took the Queen, White could have captured the Knight with the King, reducing the loss of material.

This was an example of one player not looking at the entire board. Had White paid attention to the entire position after 5…Nb4, the game might have ended differently. Instead, White was looking at Black’s side of the board, using wishful thinking to guide the decision making process. This was a rare example of the power of tactics because this doesn’t happen often so early in the game (not to mention the back to back forks). However, it should serve as a somber warning of the power of the fork and a reminder to be vigilant when exercising board vision. Make sure to look at your side of the board as well as your opponent’s side. Also, don’t bring your Queen out early to hunt for pawns! See you next week!

Hugh Patterson

The Better King

You must have use your king in the endgame that is what you have read somewhere from the book, heard from your coaches. But have you ever noticed that it is much easies for you to use your king in the endgame when facing weaker less experienced players? Why is this?

In my view the following factors play an important and decisive role here:

1) More active & mobile pieces: When you have more active pieces you can often restrict the activity of your opponent’s king. For instance if you have a rook on the 7th rank it can tie the opponent’s king to the 8th rank.
2) Pawn weaknesses or pawn structure.
3) Piece coordination.

First point is very easy to explain but other two are more subtle. I think they are illustrated by two games from the World Chess Championship played between Petrosian and Botvinnik in 1963. In both the games, Petrosian had the better king than Botvinnik. I strongly recommended readers to study both the games bearing in mind the points above.

Ashvin Chauhan

Need Sure Points? Sicilian Defence Edition, Accelerated Dragon, Maroczy Bind

“A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward its achievement”
Bo Bennett (businessman)

The Maroczy Bind pawn formation was invented and used by GM Geza Maroczy (HUN) starting with the beginning of the 20th Century; see positions below. The White pawns’ formation is the calling card for it. Black can either reply using an Accelerated Dragon pawn formation (shown in diagram 1) or a Hedgehog pawn formation (shown in diagram 2, where Black must take care of the backwards d6-pawn in exchange for controlling the d5-square).

It is used as a positional weapon against the Sicilian and for a long time it was considered one of the best choices against it. White builds up a solid position with no weaknesses and applies positional pressure. Black lacks space and targets; failing to break White’s pawn structure normally results in suffocation.

I have found a few examples where the game ends in a draw. It gives Black hope that not all is lost. Please consider this just a modest start in examining in more detail this important positional concept and becoming comfortable to play it at a decent level with both colours.

Valer Eugen Demian

A Game at the Junior Club

There was just time before the lesson started at Richmond Junior Club for me to play a quick friendly game against a boy who, the previous weekend, had shared first place in the Under 8 section of our qualifying tournament for the London Junior Championships. My opponent generously allowed me to play White. Here are the first few moves.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5

I decided to test him on the Spanish. He looked slightly puzzled as he was expecting Nc3 or Bc4, but eventually played…

3.. Bc5
4. O-O Nf6

The most popular move here is c3, but I decided to show him the Fork Trick, which is also fine in this position.

5. Nxe5 Nxe5
6. d4 Bxd4

Very natural if you don’t know the theory, but not best. The recommended moves here are a6 and c6, but, as this level, these moves are not easy to find. There are 33 games with this move on my database with White scoring 92.4%.

7. Qxd4 Qe7
8. Nc3 O-O
9. Bg5 d6

If you’ve read my previous two articles you might think Black should have played c6 here, to keep the knight out of d5. A good idea, but it’s well met by 10. f4 (which I probably wouldn’t have found as I was playing quickly).

Now I can play the familiar (again from my last two articles) attack on the pinned knight, again gaining a tempo because the queen is on e7.

10. Nd5 Qd8
11. Nxf6+ gxf6
12. Bh6 Re8

As it happens I’m winning the exchange here because my bishop is on b5 rather than c4.

13. Bxe8 Qxe8
14. h3

I wanted to keep the black knight out of g4. The engines consider this the best move.

14.. Bxh3

“Ah!”, I thought, being reminded of my private pupil’s games in the Under 10 section of the same event. “Another junior who plays random piece sacrifices in front of his opponent’s king.” So, hoping for a quick finish, I took the piece off without stopping to think or look at the rest of the board.

Instead, 15. f4 is winning. After 15.. Ng4, hxg4 is strong and Rf3 even stronger. The next thing I knew, my young opponent’s knight landed on the f3 square and he announced ‘check’! He’d looked ahead and seen the fork coming – which is pretty impressive for an inexperienced player at this level.

15. gxh3 Nf3+

I can still draw here: 16. Kh1 Nxe4 17. Bg7+ with a perpetual check, but instead I played Kg2 and eventually lost.

There are two lessons for my opponent to learn from this game, though. Two very familiar tactical ideas which should be part of every junior’s armoury. You have to know the Fork Trick: when you should play it, when you could play it, and when you shouldn’t play it. You also have to know, repeating last week’s article, the idea of Bg5, pinning the knight on f6 in front of the castled king, followed by Nd5 and doubling the f-pawns.

Of course, Chess Openings for Heroes features sections on both these ideas.

Richard James

Anatomy of a Tactical Puzzle

In a previous article, I discussed the importance of doing tactical puzzles to improve your overall game. Obviously, doing tactical puzzles will greatly improve your tactical abilities. The successful use of tactics can give you a game winning material advantage so it’s important to master them. The best way to improve your tactical abilities is by working through puzzles. However, working through these puzzles or problems will also help you with your board vision, the ability to see the interaction between all the pawns and pieces within a given position on the chessboard. You’ll also learn to accurately count attackers and defenders, an important skill to have if you want to come out ahead in material (pawns and pieces) when exchanges of material take place.

Now we’re going to examine how to approach solving one of these puzzles. The first step is to determine what tactic you should use. Most of the multi move tactical puzzles will not identify a specific tactic, only whose move it is (in other words, who gets to employ the tactic). Of course, you cannot identify the tactic type until you’ve examined the relationship between the pawns and pieces belonging to both players. In short, you have to use board vision. Beginners will often look at a position in terms of what can capture what and who comes out ahead in an exchange of material, only searching for moves that immediately do this. Multi move tactics puzzles require the tactic to be set up so the solution isn’t an immediate capture of material. You need to think about specific tactics, such as forks, pins and skewers,etc. Is there a potential solution using one of these tactics? To answer the Question, examine the position and see if any enemy pieces are lined up along Ranks, Files or Diagonals. Doing this will either provide you some insight regarding the tactic to employ or will eliminate these choices, forcing you to look at other options. Start with these three tactics and work your way through the other common tactics. Let’s say that Forks, Pins and Skewers are not part of the solution. What then? In the following diagram, click on move fifteen for Black.

While the entire game is presented above, tactical puzzles give you a position within a game so you don’t see the moves leading up to that position. Let’s look at the position in our game after Black plays 15…Nxd7. Remember, we’re first trying to determine what kind of tactic we should employ in this position. In this position, we don’t have any opportunities for forks, pins or skewers so we have to consider another idea.. The most forcing tactics involve a check because the check must be dealt with first. Always look at the King you’re trying to attack and note the pieces you could use to do so. In this position, The White Rook on d1 and White Bishop on g5 would both be attacking d8 if it were not for the Black Knight on d7. In fact if the Knight wasn’t there, White could deliver checkmate. This should give you a huge clue as to what tactic to employ.

Now that you’ve determined that we could checkmate the Black King if we could remove the Black Knight from d7, you should think about a tactic specifically designed for this job. The key here is to make a move so forcing that the Black Knight must vacate d7. As I just mentioned, the most forcing moves involve a check to the enemy King. Examine the position carefully and you’ll see that only one piece can check the King and force the Knight off of d7 and that piece is the White Queen. White plays 16. Qb8+ which is an incredibly forcing check because the only way to stop the check is by using the Knight to capture the Queen with 16…Nxb8. White has sacrificed it’s most powerful piece to dislodge the Black Knight from d7. White can and does play 17. Rd8#.

The point of this article is to get you to work through tactical puzzles slowly and methodically. First determine what tactic will work by using your board vision. Next count any potential attacks or defenders of the square you need to execute the tactic on. In our example, we didn’t need to do the count but in many puzzles you have to. Always count attackers and defenders! I work tactical puzzles very slowly. If I think I’ve found a solution too quickly, I double check the position. You’ll improve a lot faster by working tactical puzzles as opposed to simply reading books about tactics. See you next week!

Hugh Patterson

Learn from Alekhine

At present I am going through some of Alekhine’s games; I believe he had very unique ability to build the attack and this is something I am not very good at. Here I would like to share few examples:

Alekhine vs Rubinstein, 1923 – White to Play

Here Alekhine played Ne4! This offers c5 pawn for h7 pawn. This trade will open h file which White can use later on for a direct attack against enemy king.

16. Ne4 Nxc5 17. Nxc5 Bxc5 18. Bd3 b6

Black can hold the game with Be7 followed by Kf8.

19. Bxh7+ Kh8

An automatic move. It was better to play Kf8 here.

20. Be4

When you are attacking, gaining time is very important; it will speed up your attack and give your opponent fewer opportunities to bring back forces to defend with.

20…Ra7 21. b4! Bf8

The only move. Any other move loses the piece for instance Bxb4 then Qxc8.

22. Qc6!

Attacking the rook and at the same time preparing to bring the queen to the h-file.


If 22… Bd7 then Qxb6 is winning.

23. g3 Qb8

It was better to keep queen near to the king.

24. Ng5

Threatening Nxf7.

24… Red8

Exercise for readers : How could you bring the queen into the attack? White to play

When I was trying to solve this, my first candidate was Bb1 followed by Qe4 or Qg2, but that fails to 25…Qe5!

Hint : As we have already seen, gaining a tempo is very crucial while attacking.

25. Bg6!!

Here Rubinstein played Qe5 giving up an exchange and resigned after few more moves. In case of fxg6, Alekhine can bring queen to h file via Qg2. Here is the line given by him.

26.Qg2 and now:

a) 26…. Bxb4 27.Qh3+ Kg8 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Qxg7+ Kd6 (30…Ke8 31.Qg8+ Ke7 32.Qf7+ Kd6 33.Qxe6#) 31.Rfd1+ Bd2 32.Rxd2#
b) 26…Bd6 27.Qh4+ Kg8 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Qxg7+ Ke8 31.Qg8+ Bf8 32.Qxg6+ Ke7 33.Qxe6#

Few more exercises for the reader:

Note : These exercises are not focusing on finding winning move but rather on attacking technique.

Alekhine vs Lasker, 1934 – White to Play
Hint : Bringing new forces into the attack often scores.

Tarrasch vs Alekhine, 1923 – Black to Play
Hint : Before attacking you should fix the weaknesses of your opponent.

Alekhine vs Marshall, 1925 – White to play
Hint : In case of opposite side castles, attack with your pawns play an important role and you can speed up your attack if you can attack opponent’s pieces with the pawns.

Ashvin Chauhan