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

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

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

“What Say You?” The 1 Minute Challenge (19)

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer”
Bruce Lee

A quick reminder how to do it:

  • Have a look at the position for 1 minute (watch the clock)
  • Think about the choices in front of you and pick the one you feel it is right
  • Verify it in your mind the best you can
  • Compare it with the solution

I picked this position of the internet. It is perfect for practicing king and pawn endgames. I could not find out who the author is or who the players were if it is the last part of a game. Please be kind to let me know if you happen to know this information. It is Black to move and win; for this you have 3 choices. Which one would you pick?

If you still practice your endgame on a regular basis, solving this puzzle is relatively simple. Looking at the position we identify the following:
A passed pawn – we need to use the rule of the square (a good source is level 3, lesson 26 of our chess app)
Pawns facing each other on the king side – the possibility of a pawn breakthrough needs to be explored (a good source is level 3, lesson 28 of our chess app)
Zugzwang (level 3, lesson 20 of our chess app) must be part of it as most of the times is the case in such endgames
If you have identified the above thematic elements of the position, I am confident you also understood they need to be taken into consideration in that particular order.

A passed pawn
We need to use the rule of the square to clarify if Kg8 can catch the b3-pawn or not. If it does, Black could think about moving a pawn. If it does not, Black must choose option A 1… Kf7 We count how many squares are in front of the b3-pawn to promote = 5; now we count the rows between the b3-pawn and Kg8 = 5. In this case Kg8 does not have to move to catch the b3-pawn.
Pawns facing each other on the king side
In order win Black must use a pawn breakthrough to create a passed pawn of it’s own. The only pawns capable to do that are the g4- and h4-pawns. So far so good. This tells us we need to focus on them.
1… h3 forces White’s hand 2. gxh3 … and now
2… gxh3 3. Kf2 … and the white King takes care of both black pawns, while the b3-pawn plays the role of a decoy. Here White wins
2… g3 3. f4 … the White king again takes care of both Black pawns and White wins with ease having two passed pawns
Looking at the above the only option to play is 1… g3 bringing us to the last thematic element.
Zugzwang
After 1… g3 the options for White are reduced drastically. The f3- and g2-pawns are blocked, the White king must stay there to stop the h4-h3 breakthrough and the b3-pawn will eventually be caught and captured; after that happens, Black would bring his king to the king side and help its pawns promote This is the correct solution. If you got it and figured out all or most of the thoughts above, you did really good. Replay the solution to make sure all is accurate.

Valer Eugen Demian

The First Round

Continuing last week’s story, in the first round my pupil had the black pieces against one of the stronger players in the event. The game was very typical for this level.

Here’s what happened.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5
4. O-O

While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just a developing move with, as it turns out, no particular plan in mind.

4.. d6
5. h3

White wants to avoid the pin, but by playing h3 before Black has castled he’s setting up a target. Black might think about a plan involving h6, g5 and g4, along with O-O-O.

5.. Nf6
6. Nc3 O-O

There’s still nothing wrong with this, as long as you’re aware of the danger.

7. d3 Nd4

Another idea was Na5 to trade off the white squared bishop, but at this level they never find this because they’ve been taught not to put their knights on the side. When he reached a similar position in a later game, as you saw last week, he played an unsound sacrifice: Bxh3.

8. Nxd4 Bxd4
9. Bg5 h6
10. Bh4 Qd7

Black is scared of the pin, and also scared of moving the pawns in front of his king. But this is a big mistake. He shouldn’t be scared of the pin so much: instead he should be scared of getting doubled pawns in front of his castled king where the enemy queen is strongly placed. So he needs to do something about Nd5: he should either play c6 to prevent this, or Be6, prepared to trade off the knight. As it happens, g5 is also possible here as White can’t sacrifice a piece for two pawns: 10.. g5 11. Bg3 Kg7 or c6.

11. Qf3

Missing the chance to play 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nd5.

11.. Qe7

Now Black’s wasted two tempi moving his queen to a worse square, where it will be hit by Nd5. There were better alternatives: Bxc3 or Nh7.

12. Qg3

The simple and obvious Nd5 was now completely winning. But instead White is seduced by the idea of pinning the g-pawn, hoping for a mate on g7. So many children get obsessed with this plan to the exclusion of everything else.

12.. Kh8

Again, he’s scared of the pin so moves his king out of the way. But this was worse than useless. After 12.. c6 he’s back in the game. What he should really be scared of here is Nd5.

13. Nd5

Finally White seizes the opportunity and the game is soon over.

13.. Qe8
14. Nxf6 gxf6
15. Bxf6+ Kh7
16. Qg7#

The basic plan here (Bg5, Nd5, double your opponent’s f-pawns in front of the castled king, use your queen to deliver mate) is essential knowledge for all juniors as it happens over and over again at this level.

Many children try it with White and are often, as here, rewarded with swift victories. If you like, it’s the next level up from Scholar’s Mate. If your opponent doesn’t know what’s happening you’ll win quickly, but, against a well prepared opponent you’ll just get a rather dull position.

To make progress, though, you need to move on, to learn how to play different types of position, and, specifically, more open games.

You’ll still need to know it with Black, and, because it’s based on a symmetrical opening, the idea works with either colour. If you’re playing in intermediate level junior events you’ll meet a lot of opponents who just develop (e4, Nf3, Nc3, Bc4, O-O) without thinking. If you understand this game you’ll stand a pretty good chance of winning quickly.

Even if you decide to switch to the Sicilian with black, you’ll still get the chance for this sort of attack against opponents who think the opening’s just about getting your pieces out.

Most opening books will tell you very little about this important plan. That’s because they’re based on what happens in master games, not what happens in intermediate level games. There is one exception: Chess Openings for Heroes. If you’d like to see an advance (unproofed) copy please get in touch.

Richard James

Qualification

One of my private pupils came round to show me the games he’d played in a qualification tournament for the London U10 Championships.

He needed to win his last round game with the black pieces to score 3½/6 and achieve his aim of qualifying for the London U10 Minor.

Here’s how the game went.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Nc3 Bb4

He explained that this was a fingerslip. He’d intended to play Bc5, which he thought was the correct move. I told him that I preferred Bb4 as Bc5 could be met by Nxe5. He’d seen this several times before but, of course, had forgotten about it.

4. Bc4 Bc5

Now he decided to correct his previous move, but he’s just lost a tempo.

5. d3 d6
6. h3 Nf6
7. O-O Bxh3

But what’s this? He’s seen lots of games where the winner sacrifices a piece against the opponent’s castled king, but as yet doesn’t have the maturity to understand that you have to calculate whether or not it works, or at least have the experience to tell whether or not it’s likely to work. Here’s he’s only getting one pawn for the piece. You might consider it if you already had bishop and queen lined up against h3, but here, no. If White plays h3 and O-O in this sort of position (not the best combination of moves) you should consider h6 followed by g5 and perhaps g4, intending to castle on the queen side.

8. gxh3 Qc8

Qd7 would have made more sense, to allow for a future O-O-O, but, as yet, he doesn’t have the thinking skills to differentiate between the two moves rather than playing the first move he sees that attacks h3.

Now Kg2 or Kh2 would leave him with insufficient compensation for the piece, but, at this level, I suppose, some practical chances. He had a different idea, though. He thought that Black’s idea was to play Ng4 at some point so decided that the knight needed to be eliminated.

9. Bg5 Qxh3
10. Bxf6 gxf6

The cure, as so often, was far worse than the disease. By now, my pupil had seen what his opponent missed: that the g-file was now open for a mating attack.

11. Nb5 Rg8+
12. Ng5 Rxg5+
13. Qg4 Rxg4#

In round 2 he’d faced a beginner and again played Bxh3 against the castled king. She could have taken the bishop, but didn’t. Next move he played Bxg2 and she didn’t take that either.

In round 4 he’d played white against a stronger opponent:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5
4. d3 Nf6
5. Ng5

I’ve spent the past year or so trying to persuade him not to play this opening, showing him games with more interesting variations of the Italian or the Ruy Lopez, and giving him the moves to take home and play through again, but he still plays this every tournament because it’s what he knows.

I’ve also told him regularly not to play Ng5 when your opponent can castle. He still plays it because it works against beginners who don’t know how to defend, but here his opponent knows exactly what to do.

5.. O-O
6. Nc3 d6
7. Qf3 Nd4

Black already has a large advantage. I asked him if he deliberately allowed the fork here but he told me he hadn’t seen it.

8. Qg3 Nxc2+
9. Kd1 Nxa1
10. Nxh7

Sacrificing a piece because he’s seen a way to threaten mate.

10.. Nxh7
11. Bh6

A very familiar idea. I’ve seen so many games at this level where players sacrifice their entire queen side just so that they can create this threat. Again, Black’s a good enough player to know what to do.

11.. Qf6

White’s a rook and knight down for nothing. Black, of course, won easily.

Next week we’ll go back and look at his first round game.

Richard James

“What Say You?” The 1 Minute Challenge (18)

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer”
Bruce Lee

A quick reminder how to do it:

  • Have a look at the position for 1 minute (watch the clock)
  • Think about the choices in front of you and pick the one you feel it is right
  • Verify it in your mind the best you can
  • Compare it with the solution

Black should have won this game long time ago. Somehow he did not but managed to be up a pawn in this endgame. The moment of truth is now. What should Black do now to win it: option A or option B?

We have established from the beginning Black is up a pawn. It also is a king and pawn endgame where the main goal is to create a passed pawn. Normally that detail gives away the right choice, except in this case it does not; both options create one for Black. Black should look for another detail to help out. The Black king is far better placed and has the liberty to move around. The White king is tied up either to the defence of the a3-pawn or to stop the passer. Going along with this observation, let’s see what options does the Black king has. Well, imagine putting it anywhere you want along the 5th row (except h5 where there’s a pawn) to see what can he do. Is there a way for the king to reach the White pawns? Hmm, no room on h4, f4, e4, c4 or b4. Can it be possible? The Black king has no way in? Well, good golly!
If you have reached this point in your analysis, you have your answer. Playing option A 1… b3 blocks the position and the Black king cannot enter inside the White fortress. Option B 1… bxa3+ is the correct move. Black missed this and drew after choosing option A. Enjoy the solution below with black’s comment for his choice.

Valer Eugen Demian

2017-18 Season (9)

For my 14th and final game of the season, another trip to Surbiton, and another very strong opponent and former Richmond Junior Club member from many decades ago, Mark Josse. I had Black and found myself facing an English Opening.

1. c4 f5
2. g3 Nf6
3. Bg2 e5
4. Nc3 Nc6
5. e3 g6
6. Nge2 Bg7
7. d4

Of course d3 is also possible here. Now I have to make a decision in the centre.

7.. e4

Probably not the right choice, as the knight on f4 will be difficult to shift without playing the weakening g5. 7.. d6 is more popular, and, I suspect, more intelligent.

8. Nf4 d6
9. a3

Mark could have played the immediate h4 here. Black’s probably doing fine if he can play g5 at the right time, but his position will be difficult to handle once g5 becomes impossible.

9.. a5
10. b3 Ne7
11. Bd2 d5

Too inflexible, but the problem with this move only became apparent to me several moves later.

12. Rc1 c6
13. c5 O-O
14. Na4 Qe8
15. h4 h6
16. Nh3

Seems rather unnecessary. My computer now advises me to free my position with the pawn sacrifice f4. Needless to say, this idea never occurred to me at the time.

16.. Nd7
17. Bc3 Qd8
18. Qd2

Now it’s clear that, as a result of my poor opening play, I have a big problem with my a-pawn. It’s becoming very hard for me to find useful moves, while White is in no hurry at all.

18.. Bf6
19. Nf4 Kf7
20. Kd1 Rh8
21. Kc2 Nf8

An oversight: now White wins the unfortunate a-pawn. It was very tempting to resign here, but as I was captaining the team I had to stay to the end rather than go home for an early night, so I decided to play it out. As the position’s closed it will take Mark a long time to bring home the full point.

22. Nb6 Rb8
23. Bxa5 Qe8
24. Bf1 Ne6
25. Be2 Nxf4
26. gxf4 Be6
27. Rcg1 h5
28. Na4 Ng8
29. Bc7 Rc8
30. Bd6 Nh6
31. Qb4

Winning another pawn: resignation is now even more attractive but I played on out of inertia.

31.. Rh7
32. Qxb7+ Kg8
33. Qb4 Ng4
34. Rg2 Ra7
35. Nb6 Rd8
36. a4 Be7
37. Bxe7 Qxe7
38. Bxg4

Rather unnecessary, as the black knight was offside and the bishop had useful work to do on the other side of the board.

38.. fxg4
39. Rgg1 Rb8
40. Ra1 Bc8
41. Qc3 Ba6
42. Kd2 Bd3
43. b4 Kf7
44. Qb3 Ke6
45. Kc3 Be2
46. Ra2 Bd3
47. b5

The breakthrough, but there’s still no immediate win.

47.. Rc7
48. Raa1 Kf5
49. Kd2 Ke6
50. bxc6 Bc4
51. Qc3 Bd3
52. Qb3 Bc4
53. Qc2

Qa3 or Qc3 would have been quicker. White really wants to threaten Nxc4 so that Black doesn’t have time to capture on c6.

53.. Bd3
54. Qa2

But what’s this? Mark has unwittingly given me the opportunity to force a draw. But, demoralised by the course of the game, I missed my chance.

I could have scored a totally undeserved half point by playing 54…Rxb6 55.cxb6 Qb4+ 56.Kd1 Rxc6. Now White might want to prevent Bc2+ by playing 57. Rc1, but after 57.. Rxc1+ 58.Kxc1 Qc3+ 59.Kd1 Bc4 60.Qd2 Bb3+ 61.Ke2 Bc4+ 62.Ke1 Qa1+ 63.Qd1 Qc3+ 64.Qd2 it’s a draw. Or he could press on regardless: 57.a5 Bc2+ 58.Qxc2 (58.Ke2 loses after 58.. Bb3 59.Qb1 Qb5+ 60.Kd2 g3 (to open the 2nd rank) 61.fxg3 Qb4+ 62.Ke2 Rc2+) 58…Rxc2 59.Kxc2 Qc4+ 60.Kb2, which is also a draw.

54.. Bc4
55. Nxc4 dxc4
56. Qxc4+ Kf6
57. d5 Rd8
58. Ke2
and Black resigned

A pretty dispiriting game, especially considering the missed opportunity at the end. In fact, after the season had started well, the last three games were all pretty dispiriting.

By the time you read this I’ll probably have played by first game of the new season. Ah well, onwards and upwards. Or, more likely, downwards.

Richard James

2017-18 Season (8)

On to a visit to the recently revitalised Hammersmith club for game 13. I had the black pieces and was again matched against a higher rated opponent in the shape of Chris Skulte. Would it prove unlucky?

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. d4 exd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 Bb4

Another Scotch Four Knights. At least he chose one of the few openings in which I know a bit of theory.

6. Nxc6 bxc6
7. Bd3 d5
8. exd5 cxd5
9. O-O O-O
10. Bg5 c6
11. Qf3 Bd6

All well known. If White trades on f6, the active bishop pair will provide adequate compensation for the damaged pawns.

12. Rfe1 Rb8
13. Rab1 Be6

They usually play the immediate h6 here, but this is also OK.

14. Ne2 h6

But now h6 is a pretty stupid move as the white knight has access to d4. I should have preferred c5, with h6 to follow.

15. Bxf6 Qxf6
16. Qxf6 gxf6
17. Nd4 Bd7
18. Bf5

O’Donnell (1860) v Lee (2102) (London 2012) saw Nf5 here, when Black was able to untangle and eventually outplay his lower rated opponent. Chris chooses the stronger alternative.

18.. Be8
19. b3

Giving me time to drive the knight back. Instead, Bg4 or Bh3 would have given White a clear advantage.

19.. c5
20. Ne2 Bc6
21. Bd3 Rfe8
22. Ng3

Time to make a critical decision. The engines don’t want to give up the bishop pair, and are happy to meet Nf5 with Bf8. Rightly or wrongly, I didn’t like the look of this and thought I had no choice but to chop off the knight.

22.. Bxg3
23. hxg3 Re6
24. f3 Rbe8
25. Red1 Kg7
26. Kf2 Re5
27. Rh1 Bd7
28. g4 d4
29. Rbe1

The engines suggest White should double rooks on the h-file here. Now I have to make another decision. Should I trade off all the rooks and head for the bishop ending? Again that’s the computer’s choice. My pawns are weak, but, on the other hand, the white bishop and pawns are on the same colour squares. Is this important? Perhaps a strong player will tell me.

29.. R8e7
30. a4 a5
31. Re4

What’s this? An oversight allowing a simple win of a pawn: 31.. Rxe4 Bxe4 leaving the f-pawn overworked: 32. Bxg4 but of course I missed it.

31.. Bc6
32. Re2 Bd5
33. Rhe1 Re8
34. Kg3 R8e7
35. Kf4 Rxe2
36. Rxe2

One pair of rooks has disappeared from the board, and now I have yet another decision. The engines seem to think I have drawing chances if I trade rooks. With my time running down, play continued:

36.. Be6
37. Bb5 Kg6
38. Re1 Kg7
39. Rh1 Rc7
40. Rh5 c4
41. bxc4 Bxc4
42. Ke4 Bxb5
43. Rxb5 Rxc2
44. Kxd4 Rxg2
45. Rxa5

Reaching a rook ending.

45.. Rd2+

Immediately after the game our top board, IM Gavin Wall, berated me for not playing Ra2 here. Well, of course I’ve spent much of the past 45 years telling kids that rooks belong behind passed pawns. I knew Ra2 was the right move, but I started overthinking and convinced myself that this position was an exception and I needed to play some checks first.

After Ra2 the position should almost certainly be a draw, but I suspect I’d either have gone wrong or run out of time anyway. Now it’s completely lost.

46. Kc4 Rc2+
47. Kb3 Rf2
48. Rf5 Re2
49. a5 Re3+
50. Kb4 Re1
51. a6 Rb1+
52. Kc5 Ra1
53. Kb6 Rb1+
54. Rb5 Re1
55. a7 Re6+
56. Ka5 Re8
57. Rb8 Re5+
58. Kb6

Black resigned

A pretty dispiriting game. I played poorly in a technical position and missed a simple tactic.

Richard James

Bad Ideas (3)

“Errare humanum est…”
Seneca

Two previous articles about bad ideas can be revisited HERE and HERE
In the first article I finished Seneca’s quote:
“… sed in errare (errore) perseverare diabolicum”
and did not offer a translation. The internet has it at your fingertips:
“To err is human, but to persist in error (out of pride) is diabolical.”
Persevering does not necessarily have to be out of pride; it could also be because someone is firm in their belief that they are doing the right thing. This could become a dangerous place to be. Persevering can lead to habits and those are hard to turn around. It is the reason why I have been paying close attention to how my students play their games. You can pay attention to your habits as well by replaying and annotating your games. What should you look for? You should look for pattern ideas you are using repeatedly in certain situations or in similar moments in your games. If these ideas are bringing you the desired outcome, it is good to reinforce their value. If these ideas are not having good outcomes, it is never too early to recognize that and discard them. When you have been using the bad ones for a while and they became kind of a habit, it is not easy anymore to bury them in the attic.

The best way to understand what I mean is to present some samples. This student shows a lot of promise. He tries any new aspect we learn together and that is very good. He is not afraid to experiment especially in the opening where some are not that eager to play gambits (for example) unless there’s a forced winning line they can learn. Of course such lines do not exist and one has to be willing and give it a try. My student also has a weakness: he cannot help but trade pieces whenever possible. See exhibit one below (annotations by Eric unless otherwise noted for both games):

In the second game he played a different opening and followed up with the same idea of exchanging queens early to win the e5-pawn. This has been happening more often that it should. It is a habit now. We are also talking about it each time this is happening and eventually he will stop doing that. The main idea of gambits is to offer pawn(s) for attacking chances. Why would one forget about it (first game) and be happy to get his pawn back? This sucks the fun out of it and more importantly defeats the purpose of playing gambits.

Valer Eugen Demian