Sunday, December 9, 2007

The wandering king 1

Games where one side's king makes a successful mid-game journey into enemy territory are rare but always fascinating. Perhaps the most well-known example is the offhand encounter between Carl Hamppe and Philipp Meitner at Vienna in 1872, which featured a cascade of sacrifices ending in perpetual check. In more recent times Nigel Short (as White against Jan Timman at Tilburg 1991) marched his king to g5 with a board full of pieces and set up an unstoppable threat of Kh6 followed by mate to the Black monarch.

The following game is remarkable not only because of the White king's incursion into no-man's land through the crossfire of enemy pieces, but also because of the identities of the combatants. Viktor Korchnoi had defeated Boris Shashin in their only previous encounter but on this occasion it was the little-known master who triumphed over his more famous opponent.

Shashin B – Korchnoi V
Leningrad (ch) 1973
Nimzo-Indian Defence E57

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0–0 5.Bd3 c5 6.Nf3 d5 7.0–0 Nc6 8.a3 cxd4 9.exd4 Bxc3 10.bxc3 dxc4 11.Bxc4 Qa5 12.Bb2 e5 13.Re1 Bg4!?
Korchnoi has already given up one minor exchange and now decides to give up the other one. This leaves him with two knights against two bishops and some defensive obligations. Another way of handling the position was 13...e4 14.Nd2 Bf5.
14.h3 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 Rad8 16.Ba2
In Informant 15 Korchnoi gave the variation 16.Rad1 Rd6 17.d5 e4 18.Qg3 Rfd8 19.Ba2 Nxd5 20.Bxd5 Rxd5 21.c4 Rg5 as better for Black, but here 22.Qf4! Rg6 23.Rxd8+ Qxd8 24.Rxe4 looks quite equal.
Black could avoid complications with 16...exd4 17.cxd4 Nxd4 18.Bxd4 Rxd4 19.Re7 Rd2! 20.Bb3 (otherwise 20...Qc3 follows) 20...Rd7 21.Rxd7 Nxd7 22.Qxb7 Nc5 23.Qf3 Nxb3 24.Qxb3 and the draw is just around the corner.
17.Re2 Rfd8
Now 17...exd4 18.cxd4 Nxd4 19.Bxd4 Rxd4 20.Qxb7 Rd7 leaves White with a slight edge after 21.Qb3.
18.Rae1 exd4 19.cxd4 Qb6 20.Qc3 Nxd4 21.Re7 Rxe7?!
In playing this move Korchnoi appears to have seen much of the play that follows. He has either decided that it is not dangerous for him, or that he will likely outclass his somewhat weaker opponent. The alternative defence 21...Kf8 22.Rxd7 Rxd7 23.Qc8+ Rd8 24.Qc4 Ne6 25.Bxf6 gxf6 26.Rb1 Qc6 27.Qb4+ Kg7 28.Bxe6 Qxe6 29.Qxb7 does not leave either side much to play for.
22.Rxe7 Nf5!
There is no turning back. Both 22...Ne6 23.Qb3! and 22...Qd6 23.Qe1! are better for White.
23.Rxf7 Rd1+ 24.Kh2 (first diagram) 24...Qd6+?
Analysis shows this to be a mistake, but it was very difficult to see this in advance. Instead Black can practically force a draw by repetition with 24...Ng4+! 25.hxg4 Qd6+ 26.Qg3! (certainly not 26.g3? Qh6+ and mates) 26...Nxg3 27.Rd7+ Kf8 28.Bxg7+ Ke8 29.Rxd6 Nf1+ 30.Kg1 (simpler than the overly ambitious 30.Kh3 Rxd6 31.g5 Rd2 32.Bg8 Rxf2 33.Bxh7 Ra2 34.g6 Rxa3+ 35.Kh4 Ra4+ 36.Kg5 Ne3 37.Be5 Rg4+ 38.Kh5 Rxg2 39.g7 Kf7 40.g8Q+ Rxg8 41.Bxg8+ Kxg8 42.Bd4 Nc4 43.Bxa7 and White must still show that he knows how to draw) 30...Nd2+ 31.Kh2 Nf1+, etc.
25.g3 Ng4+ 26.Kg2 Nh4+!
Not 26...Nge3+? 27.Kf3! Nd4+ 28.Ke4! (stronger than 28.Qxd4 Rxd4 29.Rd7+ Kf8 30.Rxd6 Rxd6 31.Kxe3 but White is clearly better here) 28...Nd5 29.Bxd5 Qxd5+ 30.Kxd5 Nb5+ 31.Ke6 Nxc3 32.Bxc3 with a winning position for White.
27.gxh4 Qh2+ 28.Kf3 Qxf2+ 29.Ke4! (second diagram)
Quite wrong, or course, is 29.Kxg4?? Rg1+ 30.Kh5 g6+ 31.Kh6 Qxh4 mate.
The only try was 29...Re1+ 30.Kd5 and now:
a) 30...Qxf7+ 31.Kd6 Rd1+ 32.Kc5 b6+ 33.Kb4 a5+ 34.Ka4 b5+ 35.Kxa5 and White wins (analysis by Korchnoi);
b) 30...Ne3+ 31.Kd6 Nc4+ 32.Qxc4 Qb6+ (32...Rd1+ 33.Kc7 [or 33.Ke7 Qe2+ 34.Qe6] 33...Qb6+ 34.Kb8 Rd8+ 35.Qc8 Qd6+ [or 35...Rxc8+ 36.Kxc8 Qxb2 37.Rf2+ Qxa2 38.Rxa2 and wins] 36.Rc7+ Kf8 37.Bxg7+ Ke8 38.Bf7 mate) 33.Kd7 Rd1+ 34.Bd4 Rxd4+ 35.Qxd4 Qxd4+ 36.Kc8! (third diagram) and Black cannot prevent mate without giving up his queen (analysis by Korchnoi).
c) 30...Rd1+! 31.Kc4 Kxf7 32.hxg4 Ke8 33.Qe5+ Kd8 and Black has avoided immediate disaster although his long-term outlook is still bleak.
30.Kf4 Rf1+ 31.Kg5 h6+ 32.Kg6 Ne5+ 33.Qxe5 Rg1+ 34.Qg5 Qxb2
If Black plays differently he loses differently, as follows: 34...Rxg5+ 35.hxg5 Qe8 36.gxh6 gxh6 37.Kxh6 Qf8+ 38.Rg7+ Kh8 39.Be5 b5 40.Bf7 a5 41.Kg6 and White wins.
35.Rxg7+ 1–0

This victory must have been a high point in Boris Shashin's relatively modest chess career.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Seven Brutalities 5

The safety of one's king is an important factor in chess, but when assessing a position one must take a concrete approach and consider other factors as well. Sometimes there is an opportunity to win material or gain another advantage at the cost of some inconvenience to one's king. If this inconvenience amounts to only a few checks then the king was obviously not unsafe at all. Here is a game illustrating this concept.

Scoones D – Zimmer E
Victoria Winter Open 1983
Queen's Gambit Accepted D24
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.Nc3 a6 5.e4 e6 6.Bxc4 b5 7.Bd3 c5 8.e5 Nd5 9.Ne4 c4 10.Bb1 Nd7 11.Nfg5 Bb4+ 12.Bd2 Bxd2+ (diagram) 13.Kxd2 Qa5+ 14.Kc1 c3 15.bxc3 Nxc3 16.Qf3 Qa3+ 17.Kc2 Qa4+ 18.Kxc3 Qc4+ 19.Kb2 Qxd4+ 20.Qc3 Qd5 21.Nd6+ Ke7 22.Be4 1-0

The sharp variation beginning with 4.Nc3 was analysed by IM John Watson in a long article in the early 1980s, the main line going 4...a6 5.e4 b5 6.e5 Nd5 7.a4 c6 8.axb5 Nxc3 9.bxc3 cxb5 10.Ng5. At this point another 1983 game Scoones-Hunt saw Black go wrong with 10...e6? The idea was a good one: to meet 11.Qf3 with 11...Ra7, saving the rook and simultaneously defending f7. The problem was the shot 11.Nxf7! when Black was already busted. Instead of Hunt's 10...e6? Black must play 10...f6!? 11.Qf3 Ra7 with an extra pawn in exchange for White's lead in development.

In the main game, Black avoided complications with 5...e6, which allowed White to regain his pawn immediately.

White should meet 8...Nd5 with 9.Bg5! aiming for a favourable exchange of dark-squared bishops since after 9.Ne4?! Black could have tried 9...cxd4 10.a4 Nb4 with complications. Instead, 9...c4 took all of the pressure off White's centre.

After 11...Bb4+ 12.Bd2 Bxd2+ White could not resist the cheeky 13.Kxd2!? even though retaking with the queen was objectively stronger. The point was the obvious continuation 13...Qa5+ 14.Kc1 when the complications appear to favour White. Instead of 13...Qa5+?! Black could have played 13...Kf8!, defusing the knight check on d6.

Black went seriously wrong with 14...Nxc3?, allowing White to gain a decisive advantage with the double attack 15.Qf3. He could have stayed in the game with 14...Qa3+ 15.Kd2 b4.

After 20.Qc3 Black's checks quickly ran out and when 22.Be4 was played he decided he had seen enough.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Seven Brutalities 4

Sitting down to the board to begin play, you never know when you are going to be involved in a so-called miniature game (of 25 moves or less). If your opponent is relatively weak there could be some advance clue, but when you're up against a strong player there's no way of foreseeing the result, much less the number of moves you will play. It's just a roll of the dice.

Reeve J - Scoones D
Labour Day Open 1975
Spanish Game C68
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.0-0 Bd6 6.d4 exd4 7.Qxd4 f6 8.Nbd2 Be6 9.Nb3 b6 10.Be3 Ne7 11.Qd2 c5 12.Rad1 Ng6 13.Qe2 Qe7 14.c4 0-0 15.Nfd2 (diagram) 15...f5 16.exf5 Bxf5 17.Rfe1 Rae8 18.Nb1 Qh4 19.g3 Qh3 20.Qf1 Qh5 21.Nc3 Ne5 0-1

Jeff Reeve is a strong master who has won many impressive games on the White side of the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation. Before our last-round matchup in the 1975 Labour Day Open in Vancouver I was fiddling with a pocket set, trying to find something that would keep me in the game for awhile. Of course it was always going to be a sideline, and on this occasion my eye fell on the rare move 5...Bd6. I was sure my opponent would continue with 6.d4, which I intended to meet with 6...exd4 (7...f6 returns to one of the main lines) 7.Qxd4 f6.

On d6 the bishop is often vulnerable to exchange with Nd2-c4. But in looking at the position after 8.Nbd2 it occurred to me that Black could play the useful developing move 8...Be6. If White carries on with 9.Nc4 then Black wins a pawn with a minor tactic: 9...Bxh2+! followed by 10...Qxd4 and 11...Bxc4.

White sidestepped this variation with 8.Nb3 but his knight was left in an offside position. After 13...0-0 Black had completed his development and was very comfortable.

After this White began to drift, which can be seen from the sequence 14.c4?! 0-0 15.Nfd2?!, which merely decentralises a key defender. Black struck immediately with 15...f5!, guaranteeing himself a clear advantage after 16.exf5 Bxf5.

In the sequel the key strategic factor is Black's unopposed light-squared bishop. After 18.Nb1? Qh4 19.g3, fatal weaknesses had appeared in White's kingside. The centralising move 21...Ne5 leads forcefully to the win of at least the exchange. White decided he had seen enough and called it a day.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A touch of irony

I had an interesting online blitz game against a Russian chap today. As Black he tried to play me into a well-known book trap, but of course I avoided it. Later I set an oddly similar trap for him, and this time... but see for yourself.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nd4?!
A dubious but tricky move that everyone should try once or twice, if only in speed chess. The idea – the only idea -- is the following very plausible trap: 4.Nxe5? Qg5! 5.Nxf7 Qxg2 6.Rf1 Qxe4+ 7.Be2 (or else the queen is lost) 7...Nf3 mate!
Also possible is 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.0-0 as in Bird's Defence to the Ruy Lopez.
4...Nxf3+ 5.Qxf3 Nf6
More consistent is 5...Qf6; for example, 6.Qg3 d6 7.d3 Qg6 8.Nc3 Qxg3 9.fxg3 f6 10.Be3 c6 and Black does not stand too badly despite playing many pawn moves.
6.d4 d6 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Rd1 Bd6 9.Nc3! (diagram)
It is very important for White's strategy that this developing move holds up tactically. Less direct but also strong was the prophylactic move 9.h3.
9...Bg4 10.Qg3! Bxd1? 11.Qxg7
Here is the touch of irony. Instead of punishing White with a timely ...Qxg2, Black is being punished by a timely Qxg7!
11...Rf8 12.Bg5 Be7
If 12...Bxc2 13.Bxf6 Qd7 14.Be2 and White has more than enough for the exchange since Black's king is stranded in the centre and his pieces are disconnected.
13.Rxd1 Nd7 14.Bh6!
Correctly avoiding exchanges and simply intending to recover the sacrificed material.
14...Bf6 15.Qxh7 Qe7 16.Bxf8 Qxf8 17.Qf5
More incisive was 17.Bxf7+ Qxf7 18.Qxf7+ Kxf7 19.Rxd7+ Ke6 20.Rxc7 and wins. But over the years I have learned that in a blitz game a bishop is handier than a knight when ahead in the pawn department.
17...0–0–0 18.Nd5 Bg7 19.Rd3 Kb8 20.Nc3 Nb6 21.Qxf7!
It is better to simplify by exchanging queens than to take another pawn with 21.Bxf7.
If 21...Nxc4 22.Qxg7! Rc8 23.Qxf8 Rxf8 24.b3 Nd6 25.Rd5 and Black will not last long.
22.Qxf8+ Bxf8 23.Bxd3 Bb4 24.Ne2 Bc5 25.Kf1 a5 26.f4 Bd6 27.f5
From here on White's play is not always the strongest but he's so far ahead that it makes no difference.
27...Nd7 28.Kf2 Kc8 29.g4 Kd8 30.g5 Ke7 31.h4 Kf7 32.Bc4+ Kg7 33.Ng3 c6 34.Nh5+ Kh7 35.Be6 Nf8 36.Bc8 b5 37.Nf6+ Kh8 38.Ne8 Be7 39.Kg3 1–0

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chess Informant: a negative trend

It goes without saying that most serious chess players are regular readers of Chess Informant. The long-running Yugoslav publication founded by GM Aleksandr Matanovic (and known in Serbo-Croat as Sahovski Informator) will soon celebrate its 100th issue.

Chess Informant has been around for so long and has become so pervasive that it is now rather difficult to gauge its true impact on the chess world. Perhaps Garry Kasparov was closest to the mark when he characterised the players of his generation as “the Children of Informator.”

Against this backdrop it is not surprising that whenever Chess Informant is mentioned by chess book reviewers, it is uniformly praised. Here are some examples:

Chess Informant has a tremendous amount of interesting material to offer, whether for opening studies, or for general training purposes. I for one would not want to be without it. -- Carsten Hansen

The main games are still the heart of Informants; they are brilliant and/or essential to following the latest developments in hundreds of openings. It is indicative of their quality that Chess Informants are used by every titled player that I’ve met over the years, and by most other serious players. -- John Watson

I have to agree that Chess Informant is a great publication and, when used properly, has a positive influence on one's playing strength. But in this article I want to draw attention to a surprising negative trend that until recently has only nagged at the periphery of my awareness. When I sat down and did some serious background work, it practically jumped out at me.

Chess Informant is shrinking. Getting smaller. Publishing fewer games. And charging the same price for it all. Meanwhile, chess activity around the world is increasing, year by year.

What exactly is happening? The numbers tell the story. Here are the total number of pages and games for each year between 2001 and 2006. For comparison I have included the total number of games for each year published by The Week in Chess.

Year: 2001. Total pages: 1144. Total games: 1599. TWIC games: 63,296
Year: 2002. Total pages: 1088. Total games: 1516. TWIC games: 63,227
Year: 2003. Total pages: 1128. Total games: 1474. TWIC games: 74,649
Year: 2004. Total pages: 1176. Total games: 1518. TWIC games: 75,255
Year: 2005. Total pages: 1094. Total games: 1334. TWIC games: 80,827
Year: 2006. Total pages: 1022. Total games: 1287. TWIC games: 91,044

In other words, between 2001 and 2006 there was a 44% increase in the number of games reported in The Week in Chess. In the same period there was a 20% decrease in the number of games published in Chess Informant. If that isn't a negative trend, I don't know what is.

Back in the 1980s Chess Informant used to publish around 1400 games per year in two volumes. Starting in 1991, Informant began to publish three volumes per year. Here we are in the 21st century and Informant is now publishing fewer games in three volumes than it used to publish in two volumes!

I don't accept the argument that there has been an offsetting increase in the number of game fragments cited within the main games. These fragments are no more than a species of annotation. They don't alter the fact that Chess Informant is getting smaller.

It is up to Chess Informant's customers to decide how important this trend is to them. I have a complete set of Informants and do not intend to stop buying them. But I do wish the publishers would take note and respond to this trend in a positive way.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Seven Brutalities 3

At the time of this encounter, my opponent was a young B-class player. Today he is a rated master.

Scoones D - Vitko G
Portland 1976
Sicilian Defence B22
1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 e6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Qe4 d6 8.Nbd2 Qc7 9.Nc4 dxe5 10.Ncxe5 Nxe5 11.Nxe5 (first diagram) 11...Nxc3 12.bxc3 Qxc3+ 13.Kd1 Qxa1 14.Bb5+ Ke7 15.Qb4+ Kf6 16.Ng4+ Kg6 17.Qe4+ Kh5 (second diagram) 18.Nf6+ Qxf6 19.Be2+ 1-0

Theory and practice have established that 7...f5!? is the strongest reply to White's move 7.Qe4. I think anyone coming upon this position for the first time would have a hard time agreeing to take on a backward d-pawn. It looks far more natural to exchange White's advanced e-pawn than to set it up as a future target.

In the position of the first diagram Black should play the defensive move 11...a6, preventing a bishop check on b5. Instead he is drawn into a tactical operation that wins the exchange. Unfortunately, it also leaves Black dangerously behind in development. After 13...Qxa1 White is able to strike immediately.

Instead of 15...Kf6 Black can play 15...Kd8 but this does not get him out of trouble. White follows up with 16.Nxf7+ Kc7 17.Qc4+ Kb8 18.Kc2! intending a decisive bishop check on f4. Black can then resign with a clear conscience.

After 17.Qe4+ Black may have been planning to put up a defence with 17...f5. Unfortunately for him this fails to the non-standard mating move 18.Be8.

White's final task is to jettison his knight in order to clear the way for his bishop. That is accomplished with the desperado move 18.Nf6+. After 18...Qxf6 the attractive switchback 19.Be2+ ends the game immediately.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Seven Brutalities 2

No one can win a game of chess unless the opponent goes wrong, so it might be said that inducing error is one of the primary tasks facing the tournament player. This assumes of course that one's technique is up to exploiting the error. There are many ways to send the opponent down the path to danger, and a popular one is playing an unexpected opening variation.

A few months before this game I had spent some time looking through a monograph on the Schliemann Defence by the Hungarian master Tibor Florian. I was reasonably prepared for the main lines, but got a pleasant surprise when my opponent wandered into a sideline that had first been seen in the nineteenth century.

Forbes G - Scoones D
B.C. Championship (1) 1977
Spanish Game C63
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 f5 4.d4?!
The correct move here is 4.Nc3.
4...fxe4 5.Nxe5 Nxe5 6.dxe5 c6 (diagram) 7.Bc4?!
White has already gone wrong but this accelerates the negative trend. For better or worse the piece sacrifice 7.Nc3!? must be tried. I remember having an improvement on Florian's analysis but I can't remember what it was.
7...Qa5+ 8.Nc3 Qxe5 9.Bxg8 Rxg8 10.Qe2 d5 11.f4 Qf6 12.Bd2 Qh4+ 13.g3 Qh3
White is a pawn down and is being overrun on the light squares. No further commentary is required.
14.Nd1 Bg4 15.Nf2?! Bxe2 16.Nxh3 Bf3 17.Rg1 Bc5 0-1

It is always great to start a tournament with a quick win, especially as Black!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hammer and anvil

Grandmaster Mikhail Gurevich has had a long chess career and many of his impressive wins have found their way into Chess Informant and other publications. Today I would like to show an encounter that did not go so well for him thanks to some imaginative play from his opponent, the Azerbaijani WGM Firuza Velikhanli. It is probably worth remembering that one of her more illustrious countrymen is none other than Garry Kasparov.

Velikhanli F - Gurevich M
Izmir Open 2006
Pirc Defence B09
1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.f4 Nf6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 Na6 7.0-0 c5 8.d5 Nc7 9.a4 Bg4?!
The alternative 9...Rb8 10.Kh1 Bg4 is considered more accurate than the text because the tempo spent on 10.Kh1 slows down White's kingside initiative.
10.h3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 e6 12.Bd2 exd5 13.exd5 a6 14.a5 Rb8 15.f5!?
A novelty. The game J.Polgar-Todorcevic, Pamplona 1990 went 15.Bc4 Nd7 16.Na4 and White won after a long struggle.
15...Nh5 16.Qg4 Bd4+ 17.Kh1 Be5 18.Rf3!?
Also interesting was 18.Ne4, for example, 18...Bxb2 19.fxg6 hxg6 20.Rab1 Bg7 21.Bg5! and Black is forced to make concessions. The text move 18.Rf3 is the prelude to a very fine positional pawn sacrifice.
18...Nf6 19.Qh4!
Quite inconsistent would be 19.Qc4 b5 20.axb6 Rxb6 with counterplay for Black.
Because of the disappearance of Black's light-squared bishop, capturing White's d-pawn is somewhat risky, to say the least. But it is difficult to suggest a better plan for Black.
20.Bg5! Qd7 21.Nxd5 Nxd5 22.Bc4! Nc7?
Black had to try 22...Nb4 in order to keep White's bishop from returning to d3. But even here White is doing extremely well after 23.fxg6 hxg6 24.Re1 Rbe8 25.Bh6 Qd8 (or 25...Bg7 26.Rxe8 Qxe8 27.Bxg7 Kxg7 28.Qf6+ Kh7 29.Rf4 and wins) 26.Qg4 d5 27.Bxf8 Qc7!? 28.Bh6 dxc4 29.Qxc4.
Yes, another exclamation mark. This is not latter-day Reinfeldism, but a simple reflection of the quality of White's play.
23...Rbe8?! (diagram)
After 23...Ne8 the simplest way is 24.fxg6 hxg6 25.Bd5 with a dominating position for White. The text gives Velikhanli the opportunity to finish the game with a “Baku de grace.”
24.fxg6 hxg6 25.Rxe5! Rxe5 26.Bf6 Rh5 27.Qxh5!
Black ends up a piece down after the forced 27...gxh5 28.Rg3+ Qg4 (since 28...Kh7 29.Bd3+ Kh6 30.Bg7 is a very pretty mate) 29.hxg4, etc., and therefore he resigned.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Seven Brutalities 1

Here is the first of seven miniature games taken from various stages of my so-called career. Each game features some hard-hitting tactical play... hence the title, borrowed from an old article in Joel Benjamin's magazine Chess Chow. (My favourite chess magazine of all time, by the way. After it folded unexpectedly I was depressed for months.)

Scoones D - Holzknecht A
Victoria 2005
Pirc Defence B08
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e4 Bg7 5.Be2 0-0 6.0-0 Nc6 7.d5 Ne5 8.Nxe5 dxe5 9.Be3 Bd7 10.f3 Nh5 11.Qd2 e6 12.Bc4 exd5 13.Nxd5 c6 (diagram) 14.Bg5! 1-0

Al Holzknecht is a local expert who plays resolutely for a draw whenever he is up against higher-rated players. Needless to say, this approach does not always produce the desired result. This game is no exception.

7...Ne5 is hardly the best way for Black. Such theory as exists on this position says Black should retract his last move with 8...Nb8, as in the old game Leonhardt-Chigorin, Carlsbad 1907(!) In fact I have played 8...Nb8 myself with success.

The decentralising 10...Nh5 might have worked out if Black had continued with 12...Nf4!? If White accepts the pawn sacrifice Black gets excellent compensation through dominating the central dark squares.

Instead, Black exchanges pawns with the aim of clearing up the situation in the centre. Unfortunately, 13...c6? is not the correct follow-up, as White demonstrates. But even after the stronger 13...Be6 14.Rfd1 the position is better for White.

After 14.Bg5! Black is losing at least a pawn on account of his awkwardly placed queen and the unavailability of the defensive move 14...f6. Still, resignation was a pleasant surprise!

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The first diagram shows a position from the game Janowski-Schallop, Nuremburg 1896. White has active pieces but seems to be losing the initiative because of the counterattack on his rook. He solves that problem with a surprise move:

An interference sacrifice, closing off the defence of c6 by the Black queen. If Black plays 1...Qh3 then White can simply win a rook with 2.Bxc6+.
1...exd5 2.Qxc6+ Kd8 3.Qxa8+ Kd7 4.Qb7+ Ke6
Other moves are obviously no better. Black is continuing out of pure inertia.
5.Qc6+ Bd6 6.Bf4!
Black resigned. He is mated after 6...Qxh1+ 7.Kd2 Qxa1 8.Qxd6+ Kf5 9.Qe5+ Kg6 10.Qg5.

The second diagram shows a position from the game Scoones-Gregg, Portland 1976. My opponent has sacrificed a piece for some counterplay against my king, which is more annoying than it looks because of my passive bishop on g3. After studying the position for a short time I saw an opportunity to break Black's resistance by sacrificing the bishop in unusual fashion:

1.Be5! dxe5
If 1...Bxe5 then 2.Qf8+ Kd7 3.Bf5 mate. The strongest line of resistance is 1...Qa3+ 2.Kd1 dxe5 3.Qxg7 (not 3.Qg8+? Qf8) 3...Bxf3 4.gxf3 Qd6 but after 5.Ke2 the win is not in any doubt.
2.Qg8+ Kd7 3.Qxg7+ Kd6 4.Qxh6+ Kc5 5.Qxg5
Black's position is hopeless and he resigned after a few more moves.

Janowski's combination must be valued more highly than my mundane effort, for two main reasons:

1. In Janowski's game, the sacrifice is the only way to win or even avoid serious disadvantage;
2. In my game, the sacrifice is effective but not strictly necessary. White is already a piece ahead and has an alternative winning line that starts with 1.Qg8+ Kd7 2.Bf5+.

I do not believe I had seen the Janowski combination when my game was played. But I know I had seen something like it. One must study the classics!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ljubo's missing games

In 1978 the Yugoslav GM Ljubomir Ljubojevic was the convincing winner of a medium-strength international tournament held in the Serbian town of Titovo Uzice. The tournament crosstable and a few games were published in Chess Informant 26, but for some reason most of Ljubojevic's wins were left on the cutting room floor.

No matter – we're now solidly in the era of chess megabases, so it should be a simple matter to whistle up Ljubo's games from this event for a closer look at his uncompromising playing style. It should be simple, but it isn't. The ChessBase Big Database contains just 29 games from Titovo Uzice 1978. Only five of those were played by Ljubojevic. This is more than the three that published were in Informant 26, but it's still not good enough.

We're also solidly in the era of the internet, so after this minor setback the search was on for Ljubo's missing games. I'm happy to report that after much digging I have recovered all 13 of his efforts from Titovo Uzice.

Matulovic-Ljubojevic, Titovo Uzice (1) 1978
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 exd5 5. Ngf3 Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd6 7. O-O Nge7 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9. Nb3 Bd6 10. Nbd4 O-O 11. Be3 a6 12. Bd3 Ng6 13. Qd2 Be7 14. Rfe1 Bg4 15. Bf5 1/2-1/2

Ljubojevic-Jovcic, Titovo Uzice (2) 1978
1.b3 d5 2.e3 e5 3.Bb2 Bd6 4.c4 c6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 Qf6 8.cxd5 Qxf3 9.gxf3 cxd5 10.Nc3 Nf6 11.Rg1 g6 12.Nb5 Ke7 13.f4 Nc6 14.Nxd6 Kxd6 15.Be2 Rhe8 16.fxe5+ Nxe5 17.f4 Ned7 18.Rc1 Rac8 19.Rxc8 Rxc8 20.Kd1 Ne4 21.Rg2 a6 22.h4 Ke6 23.Bf3 f5 24.Bd4 Nef6 25.d3 Kf7 26.b4 b6 27.a4 Ke6 28.Rb2 Kf7 29.a5 b5 30.Rg2 Ke6 31.Kd2 Kf7 32.Rg1 h5 33.Rg2 Rc6 34.Bd1 Rc8 35.Bb3 Rg8 36.Rg1 Ke7 37.Rc1 Kd6 38.Be5+ Nxe5 39.fxe5+ Kxe5 40.Rc6 Rf8 41.d4+ Ke4 42.Ke2 1-0

Andersson-Ljubojevic, Titovo Uzice (3) 1978
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 e6 4. e3 d5 5. d4 Nc6 6. Be2 dxc4 7. Bxc4 a6 8. a4 cxd4 9. exd4 b6 10. d5 exd5 11. Nxd5 Nxd5 12. Qxd5 Bb4+ 13. Bd2 Bxd2+ 14. Nxd2

Ljubojevic-Ermenkov, Titovo Uzice (4) 1978
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.e4 e5 5.d5 Nc5 6.f3 a5 7.Be3 Be7 8.Nge2 c6 9.dxc6 bxc6 10.Bxc5 dxc5 11.Qxd8+ Kxd8 12.Na4 Kc7 13.Nc1 Be6 14.Nd3 Nd7 15.b3 Rhd8 16.h4 f6 17.0-0-0 Bf7 18.g3 Nb6 19.Ndxc5 Rxd1+ 20.Kxd1 Nxa4 21.Nxa4 Bb4 22.Bd3 c5 23.Kc2 Be8 24.Nc3 a4 25.Nd5+ Kd6 26.Kb2 axb3 27.axb3 Bf7 28.Nc3 Be8 29.Rd1 Bc6 30.Bc2+ Kc7 31.Bd3 Ba3+ 32.Kc2 Bb4 33.h5 h6 34.Rh1 Kd6 35.Be2 Bxc3 36.Kxc3 Ra2 37.Re1 Be8 38.g4 Bc6 39.Bd1 Kc7 40.Bc2 Kb6 41.Rd1 Kc7 42.Rf1 Kd6 43.Rf2 Ra3 44.Bd1 Bb7 45.Kb2 Ra8 46.Rd2+ Kc7 47.Be2 Bc6 48.Kc3 Rd8 49.Rb2 Rb8 50.Bd1 Rd8 51.Bc2 Rb8 52.Rb1 Kc8 53.Ra1 Ra8 54.Rf1 Rb8 55.f4 exf4 56.Rxf4 Bd7 57.e5 fxe5 58.Rf8+ Kc7 59.Rf7 Kd6 60.Rxg7 Rf8 61.Be4 Rf4 62.Kd3 Bxg4 63.Rg6+ Ke7 64.Rxh6 Bd1 65.Bd5 Rh4 66.Re6+ Kd8 67.h6 Bxb3 68.Ra6 Ke7 69.h7 Kf8 70.Ra7 e4+ 71.Kc3 Rh3+ 72.Kb2 e3 73.h8=Q+ Rxh8 74.Kxb3 e2 75.Ra1 Kg7 76.Re1 Rh2 77.Kc3 1-0

Tringov-Ljubojevic, Titovo Uzice (5) 1978
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 Nb6 5.a4 a5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.Be2 Bg4 8.exd6 exd6 9.0-0 Be7 10.Re1 0-0 11.Nbd2 Na6 12.Nf1 Bh5 13.c3 Nc7 14.Ng3 Bg6 15.Bd3 Nbd5 16.Bf5 Re8 17.Bd2 b5 18.Qb3 Nb6 19.Qc2 Ncd5 20.axb5 cxb5 21.b3 Qc7 22.Qd3 Qc6 23.Rec1 Rec8 24.h4 a4 25.bxa4 bxa4 26.h5 Bxf5 27.Nxf5 Qc4 28.Qe4 Bf8 29.Ne3 Nxe3 30.Ng5 f5 31.Qxe3 Qd5 32.Qg3 Nc4 33.Bf4 Re8 34.Rcb1 a3 35.Qd3 h6 36.Nf3 Nb2 37.Qc2 Re4 38.Bc1 Rg4 39.Kf1 Qc4+ 40.Kg1 Qd5 41.Kf1 Nc4 42.Qa2 Qf7 43.Rb5 Rc8 44.g3 Qxh5 45.Kg2 Qf7 46.Nd2 d5 47.Nxc4 Rxc4 48.Bxa3 Bxa3 49.Qxa3 f4 50.Qa8+ Kh7 51.Rb8 fxg3 52.Rh8+ Kg6 53.Ra6+ Kh5 54.f3 Rxc3 55.Raxh6+ gxh6 56.fxg4+ Kxg4 57.Rg8+ 0-1

Ljubojevic-Rajkovic, Titovo Uzice (6) 1978
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Bc4 Bg7 7.h3 0-0 8.Bb3 Nc6 9.Be3 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.0-0 Bxb3 12.axb3 a6 13.Qe2 Rc8 14.Rfd1 Nd7 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Nd5 Re8 17.Ne3 Qb6 18.Ra4 Rc5 19.Qd2 Nf6 20.Rd4 Qc6 21.b4 Re5 22.f3 Ra8 23.g4 h5 24.Kg2 hxg4 25.hxg4 Rh8 26.Rc4 Qe8 27.f4 Rxe4 28.Rxe4 Qc6 29.Nd5 Nxe4 30.Nxe7 Nxd2+ 31.Nxc6 Nc4 32.Rd4 Ne3+ 33.Kg3 bxc6 34.Rxd6 Nxc2 35.Rxc6 Nxb4 36.Rb6 a5 37.Rb5 Ra8 38.g5 Nc6 39.Rc5 Nd4 40.Rd5 Nf5+ 41.Kf3 a4 42.Rc5 Rb8 43.Ra5 Rb3+ 44.Ke4 Rb4+ 45.Kf3 Nd4+ 46.Ke3 Ne6 0-1

Kovacevic-Ljubojevic, Titovo Uzice (7) 1978
1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0-0 a6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6 9.b3 Nbd7 10.Bb2 Be7 11.Rfd1 0-0 12.Ng5 Bxg2 13.Kxg2 Qb8 14.Nge4 Rd8 15.Nxf6+ Bxf6 16.Qxd6 Qb7+ 17.Kg1 Ne5 18.Qa3 Nc6 19.Ne4 Be7 20.Nd6 Qc7 21.c5 bxc5 22.Nc4 Nd4 23.Rd2 Bg5 24.f4 Bf6 25.Kf2 Qc6 26.Qa5 Rd5 27.Rad1 Rh5 28.h4 g6 29.Qb6 Qd5 30.Qc7 Rxh4 31.Rg1 Rh2+ 32.Kf1 Qf5 33.Rg2 Qb1+ 34.Kf2 Rh1 35.Nd6 Rf8 36.Ke3 Nb5 37.Nxb5 Bxb2 38.Nd6 Bc1 39.Qa5 Bxd2+ 40.Qxd2 Rd1 0-1

Ljubojevic-Kurajica, Titovo Uzice (8) 1978
1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Qc7 4.Ngf3 Bg4 5.Be2 e6 6.0-0 Nd7 7.b3 Ngf6 8.Bb2 Bd6 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Bxf3 Ne5 11.Re1 0-0-0 12.a3 h5 13.Qe2 Rde8 14.c4 dxc4 15.d4 Nd3 16.e5 Nxb2 17.bxc4 Bxe5 18.dxe5 Nd7 19.Ne4 Qxe5 20.c5 Kc7 21.Rab1 f5 22.Nd6 Qxe2 23.Rxe2 Rb8 24.Rexb2 Nxc5 25.Rc2 Kxd6 26.Rd1+ Ke7 27.Rxc5 g6 28.a4 Rbd8 29.Rb1 Rd7 30.a5 a6 31.Be2 Kf6 32.f4 h4 33.Re5 Re8 34.Re3 Ree7 35.Reb3 e5 36.fxe5+ Rxe5 37.Bf1 Ree7 38.Kf2 Kg5 39.R1b2 Kf6 40.Be2 Kg5 41.Rb4 Rh7 42.Bf3 Kf6 43.Rc4 Rd3 44.Ke2 Rdd7 45.Rb3 Rhe7+ 46.Re3 g5 47.Rb4 Rxe3+ 48.Kxe3 Re7+ 49.Kd4 Re5 50.Rxb7 Rxa5 51.Bxc6 Ra3 52.Rh7 a5 53.Bd5 Rg3 54.Rf7+ Kg6 55.Rf8 g4 56.hxg4 fxg4 57.Ke5 h3 58.Rg8+ Kh7 59.gxh3 Rxh3 60.Rg5 Rh2 61.Be6 a4 62.Bf5+ Kh6 63.Kf6 Rb2 64.Rg8 Rb6+ 65.Be6 Rb7 66.Rxg4 Rb5 67.Rxa4 Rg5 68.Rh4+ Rh5 69.Rg4 Ra5 70.Bc4 Rc5 71.Bf7 Rc6+ 72.Be6 Rc5 73.Rg8 Rc7 74.Rg6+ Kh7 75.Rg1 Kh8 76.Rd1 1-0

Smejkal-Ljubojevic, Titovo Uzice (9) 1978
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 b6 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. d4 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 a5 7. O-O O-O 8. Bf4 Be7 9. Nc3 d5 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Qc2 Na6 12. a3 Qd7 13. Rfd1 Rfd8 14. Rac1 h6 15. Ne5 Qe6 16. Qb3 Bf8 17. Nb5 c5 1/2-1/2

Ljubojevic-Jansa, Titovo Uzice (10) 1978
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 0-0 7.e4 Bg4 8.Be3 Nfd7 9.Qb3 Nb6 10.Rd1 Nc6 11.d5 Ne5 12.Be2 Nxf3+ 13.gxf3 Bh5 14.Rg1 Qc8 15.Nb5 c6 16.Nxa7 Rxa7 17.Bxb6 Ra8 18.a4 Qh3 19.Rg3 Qxh2 20.Bf1 Be5 21.Rh3 Qf4 22.dxc6 bxc6 23.a5 Bc7 24.Bxc7 Qxc7 25.a6 Rfd8 26.Bc4 Rxd1+ 27.Qxd1 Rd8 28.Qc1 Rd4 29.Kf1 Qd7 30.Kg2 Bxf3+ 31.Rxf3 Qg4+ 32.Rg3 Qxe4+ 33.f3 Qe5 34.Qc3 Qd6 35.a7 Rd2+ 36.Kh3 Qd7+ 37.Rg4 1-0

Todorcevic-Ljubojevic, Titovo Uzice (11) 1978
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 Rb8 6.f4 d6 7.Nf3 e6 8.0-0 Nge7 9.Be3 Nd4 10.Bf2 Nec6 11.Nxd4 Nxd4 12.Rb1 b5 13.Ne2 b4 14.Nxd4 cxd4 15.Qe2 0-0 16.h4 Rb5 17.a3 a5 18.axb4 axb4 19.b3 Bd7 20.Ra1 Ra5 21.Qd2 Qb6 22.Rxa5 Qxa5 23.Be1 Rb8 24.Bf3 e5 25.fxe5 dxe5 26.Kg2 h5 27.Kh2 Qc5 28.Bd1 Qe7 29.Bf3 Kh7 30.Qe2 Rc8 31.Qd1 Be6 32.Rf2 Ra8 33.Bd2 Qc5 34.Bg5 f6 35.Bd2 Ra2 36.Be1 Bh6 37.Qe2 Bxb3 0-1

Ljubojevic-Radojcic, Titovo Uzize (12) 1978
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.f4 Nc6 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Bd3 d5 9.e5 Nd7 10.Be3 a6 11.Ne2 Nc5 12.Nfd4 Nxd3+ 13.Qxd3 Nxd4 14.Nxd4 Bd7 15.0-0 Bc5 16.Rf3 Bxd4 17.Bxd4 g6 18.Bc5 Rc8 19.Qd4 Qa5 20.Rc3 Qa4 21.Bb4 Rxc3 22.Qxc3 Qc6 23.Qd2 b5 24.b3 f5 25.exf6 Kf7 26.Rc1 Rc8 27.Qd4 a5 28.Bxa5 Qc5 29.Qxc5 Rxc5 30.Bb6 Rc6 31.Bd4 Ra6 32.Ra1 h6 33.Kf2 Ke8 34.Ke3 Kd8 35.Bc5 Be8 36.Kd4 Kc7 37.Kc3 g5 38.g3 Ra8 39.Kb4 Rb8 40.Re1 Bf7 41.f5 1-0

Bagirov-Ljubojevic, Titovo Uzice (13) 1978
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Nc3 Ne4 8. Qc2 Nxc3 9. Qxc3 c5 10. Rd1 Bf6 11. Qd3 d5 12. cxd5 exd5 1/2-1/2

USCF Senior Master and Chess Digest publisher Ken Smith used to recommend studying the games played by a tournament winner. I hope you find this set by Ljubomir Ljubojevic enjoyable and instructive!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Quiet please

Playing White in a recent blitz game I reached the position shown in the first diagram. This is a Classical French with the extra moves h4 and ...h6 thrown in, a small detail that will improve White's attacking chances should Black decide to castle kingside. On the reasonable assumption that his king would soon go the other way, I repositioned my queen in order to create some attacking chances.

13.Qe3!? 0-0-0 14.f5!?
It was objectively stronger to maintain positional pressure with 14.Kb1 Kb8 15.a3 Bc8 16.h5, but one cannot apply tournament standards to a blitz game.
14...d4 15.Nxd4 Nxd4?
The correct defence was 15...exf5 16.Nd5 Qxe5 17.Nb6+ Kc7 18.Nd5+ Kc8 and neither side can advantageously avoid the draw by repetition; for example, the cheeky 18...Kd6!? is met by 19.Qc3.
16.Rxd4 Bc6 (second diagram)
I suspect Black was quite satisfied here since it looks like he is exchanging my active rook and taking over the d-file. But the unfortunate grouping of pieces on the c-file means that it's suddenly White to play and win!
17.Rc4! Nd7
No better is 17...b6 18.b4 Bd5 19.Rd4 Nd7 20.Nxd5 exd5 21.Bxa6+ Kb8 22.Rxd5.
18.Rxc6+ bxc6
The exchange sacrifice was obvious enough, but now White should not rush to take the a-pawn with check. Instead there is a quiet move available that transforms the capture into a deadly threat:
Black's next move is the only defensive try but it is not enough to save the game.
19...Rde8 20.Bxa6+ Kd8 21.Qa8+ 1-0
Black resigned
here since he is mated after 21...Nb8 22.Qxb8+ Kd7 23.Rd1+.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Anthology piece

In the game Tukmakov-Panno, Buenos Aires 1970, the Ukrainian GM executed an impressive final combination that has deservedly found its way into the anthology books. But equally impressive was the play leading up to the combination.

In the first diagram Black has just played 11...Na5 with the obvious intention of disturbing White's pieces with 12...Nc4. Tukmakov takes immediate action to prevent Black's plan, simultaneously aiming his queen at Black's kingside:
12.Qd3! Bd7 13.g4 Kh8?!
A passive defensive regrouping that does not properly address the vulnerability of the square h7. Both 13...Rac8 and 13...d5 were more in the spirit of things.
14.g5 Ng8 15.Rf3 Nc6 16.Rg1!
I like the way Tukmakov is bringing all of his pieces into play before going over to direct attack.
16...Nxd4 17.Bxd4 f5?!
In Informant 10 GM Aleksandr Matanovic suggests 17...Bc6!? without further analysis. But as in the game White carries on with 18.Rh3! and it is difficult to see a good defence for Black.
18.Rh3 e5 19.Nd5 Qd8 20.fxe5!
White had to foresee that Black's next move would not get him out of trouble.
This brings us to the second diagram, the one that is in the puzzle books. It's White to play and win!
According to the game score as published in Informant 10, Panno saw what was coming and resigned here. It wouldn't surprise me if this were the case, but according to the tournament bulletin some further moves were played:
21...exd3 22.Bxd3 h6
In Informant 10 Matanovic gives 22...Nf6 23.gxf6 Bxf6 24.Rxh7+ Kg8 25.Nxf6 and wins; or 21...Be6 22.Rxh7+ Kxh7 23.Qxe4+ Bf5 24.Qh4+ Nh6 25.Nxe7 and wins. In the Encyclopaedia of Chess Middlegames, 21...Be6 is refuted more simply by 22.Bxg7+ Kxg7 23.Qd4+, when Black must interpose his rook to avoid mate. That costs him his queen after 23...Rf6 24.gxf6+.
23.gxh6 Nxh6
Or 23...Nf6 24.hxg7+ Kg8 25.Rh8 mate.
24.Rxh6+ Kg8 25.Rxg7 mate 1-0

Monday, September 24, 2007


Many years ago I reached this position as Black against a young expert. I had just managed to trade off two of my opponent's active pieces, which was helpful because sometime earlier I had played the mysterious weakening move ...g7-g6, leaving my king in a very draughty position. But now I was the one with the active pieces.

Naturally enough I was starting to think about how to get something going against his king. Queen to the long diagonal looks crunchy, but there is the small problem of his queen and knight controlling key squares. Deflect his queen perhaps? How about taking the rook pawn with my rook? Queen takes rook is met by queen to c6 check – a killer. But he can take with his rook. I get a couple of checks with my queen and knight, but what then? Suddenly it all became clear:


My opponent gave a small gasp of surprise, then put his head in his hands and began to stare intently at the position. I didn't feel like staying at the board, so I got up and wandered around the tournament hall, leaving him to think it over. Five minutes went by, then ten, then fifteen. Finally after twenty minutes my opponent turned and looked at me across the hall and smiled. Then he reached over and stopped the clocks.

Because 2.Qxa3 Qc6+ loses immediately, White must play 2.Rxa3. But then comes 2...Qc1+ 3.Kg2 Qg1+ 4.Kf3 Nd4+ and if 5.Kf4 then 5...g5 is mate. Instead of 5.Kf4 White must play 5.Qxd4, but after 5...Qxd4 Black faces only a technical task in order to notch the point.

In our next encounter my young opponent won a pawn with forceful play and then ground me down in a long bishop ending.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Black to play and... lose

This rook ending arose in the game Wolff – Fishbein, USA Jr. Ch. 1988 and was analysed by Fishbein in Informant 47. Black will soon have to surrender his rook for White's advanced pawn, and his drawing chances will turn on whether he can promote his own pawn safely. Because it is still on its home square and White's pieces are not too far away, indications are that the race will be a close one. In the game Fishbein managed to achieve the draw as follows:

Unavailing is 1...Rc1+ 2.Kd8 Kg5 3.Ra5+ Kg4 4.Rd5! (making it more difficult for Black to control the queening square) 4...Ra1 5.Ke7 Ra8 6.d8Q+ Rxd8 7.Rxd8 h5 8.Kf6 h4 9.Rd4+ Kg3 10.Kg5 h3 11.Rd3+ Kg2 12.Kg4 h2 13.Rd2+ Kg1 14.Kg3 h1N+ (or 14...h1Q 15.Rd1 mate) 15.Kf3 and wins.
2.d8Q+ Rxd8 3.Kxd8 h5 4.Ke7 h4!
Of course not 4...Kg4? 5.Kf6! h4 6.Ra4+ and White wins as in the previous note. In these positions the technique of “shouldering off” the opposing king always plays an important role.
5.Ke6 h3 6.Ke5 Kg4 7.Ke4 h2 8.Rh7 Kg3 9.Ke3 Kg2 10.Rxh2+ 1/2-1/2

Based on this rather straightforward result, the diagrammed position is labeled by Informant 47 as “Black to play and draw.” But it turns out there is a large and surprising improvement for White:

1...Kg5 2.Ra1!!
Black must of course avoid the capture, but the result is that White's rook gains crucial checking distance against Black's king.
2...Rd2 3.Rg1+! Kf5 4.Rh1! Kg6 5.d8Q
After some accurate play to restrain Black's king, White now cashes in his pawn for Black's rook. Meanwhile Black's pawn has still not moved.
5...Rxd8 6.Kxd8 h5 7.Ke7 Kg5 8.Ke6
White is obviously somewhat ahead of the game Wolff-Fishbein, and the difference is enough for a decisive result. Here is one possible conclusion:
8...h4 9.Ke5 Kg4 10.Ke4 Kg3 11.Ke3 h3 12.Rg1+ Kh2 13.Rg8! Kh1 14.Kf3 h2 15.Rb8 Kg1 16.Rb1 mate.

As they say, it just ain't over till it's over!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Queen sacrifice

In his heyday Mikhail Tal used to watch the televised chess lessons that were aimed at beginning players. The World Champion declared in an interview that it can never do any harm to review the fundamentals of chess strategy and tactics, no matter what a player's ranking may be. Given his outstanding accomplishments it is hard to argue with this claim.

A couple of weeks ago I went back and started working through Fred Reinfeld's two-volume set of combinations and mating attacks. I honestly can't remember looking at these books anytime since my days as an A-class player. But I well remember the important role they played in helping me break the 2000 barrier.

The first chapter of 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate is completely given over to queen sacrifices. Having solved perhaps 200 of these mating combinations over a period of several days, I decided to take a break and play a few games of online blitz. In one of those games... you guessed it: I managed to force mate by sacrificing my queen.

I am playing White in the first diagrammed position. My kingside pressure has already induced my opponent to sacrifice a piece. However, his remaining forces are quite active and on top of that my king is rather exposed. I have to play aggressively without being too reckless.

1.Bf4! Qa5+
White was threatening to increase the pressure with 2.Qh2! since whenever Black takes on f4 the immediate result is mate on h8. The queen check is designed to break the pin and here the most accurate reply is undoubtedly 2.Ke2! intending 3.Rag1. But I saw an opportunity to set up a mating combination and couldn't resist it...
2.Bd2 Qb6 3.Bc3!? Qe3+
The best defence is the prosaic 3...Bxc3 4.Nxc3 Qd4 but since Black has only one pawn for the knight this cannot promise any happiness.
4.Kf1 Qf3+ 5.Kg1 Qe3+ 6.Kg2
Here too Black can exchange bishops and then queens but as before the endgame is hopeless. Whether by design or oversight Black decides to continue his “attack” with:
6...Rxd3? (second diagram)
Now it's White to play and win!
7.Qh8+! Bxh8 8.Rxh8 mate!

A satisfying combination but one likely to be realised only in a blitz game.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jekyll and Hyde 2

Here we go again with a pair books by the same author -- Ukrainian GM Valeri Beim -- with cover art of two quite contrasting standards.

The cover of the first book reminds me of a few experiences from my teenage years. It seems my mother did not share my passion for chess because she wasn't always diligent about putting my board and pieces away before using the kitchen table for other purposes. Needless to say, I soon learned to take better care of my things!

By contrast the cover of the second book is a model of effective design. Paul Morphy's pieces are of a modern Staunton pattern, while those of his opponent Louis Paulsen are of a nineteenth-century pre-Staunton pattern. What better way to graphically depict the "modern perspective" on Morphy?

Recommended reading: Ogilvy on Advertising, by David Ogilvy (Random House 1985).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Endgame study

The importance of studying the endgame was underlined once again by the outcome of a recent blitz game of mine.

I am White in the diagrammed position and it is Black to play. My opponent saw that he could not go forward without moving his knight and surrendering his last pawn in the process. So he offered me a draw, and of course I accepted it immediately.

This outcome seems reasonable because in the overwhelming majority of cases the ending of knight vs pawn is a trivial draw. But a little analysis shows this particular case to be an exception. Let's have a look:

1...Kd7! 2.Ka8 Nd6!
The idea Black had missed. He can sacrifice his last pawn because despite the greatly reduced material White's king is caught in a mating attack.
3.Kxa7 Kc7 4.Ka8 Nc8!
Forcing White's reply.
5.a7 Nb6 mate!

On his third move White can avoid capturing the pawn but it makes no difference:
3.Kb8 Kd8 4.Ka8 Kc7 5.Kxa7
Now this is forced.
5...Nb5+ 6.Ka8 Kc8 7.a7
Unfortunately this too is forced.
7...Nc7 mate!

You all know the moral of the story so I won't bother repeating it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jekyll and Hyde

When it comes to chess book sales, cover art probably has little or no influence on the buying decisions of serious players.

Otherwise, how can the same talented writer -- IM Jeremy Silman -- be associated with two books whose design standards are so far apart?

According to, the cluttered and confusing How to Reassess Your Chess has a sales ranking of #81, 403; while the sleek and stylish The Amateur's Mind is far behind at #162, 111.

But then, successful chess players know that to understand the game properly one must look below the surface.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Attention please

I was up early this morning for some online blitz chess and one of my games arrived at the position in the first diagram with my Black opponent to play his 14th move. As you might guess this is a ...Nf6 Caro-Kann that has gone somewhat badly for White. I had been expecting to get mated in short order but when my opponent did not find a way forward I was suddenly able to turn things around:

14...exd4 15.Nxd4 Bxe2 16.Rxe2!
At first glance 16.Nxe2 looks safer but Black has 16...Nc5 after which White is struggling to stay afloat; for example, 17.Qc2 Qf3+ 18.Kg1 Nd3 and now 19.Rf1 loses to 19...Nb4.
16...Bc5 17.Qf3!
The defender's tactical operations must always be accurate. Here White is able to protect his rook and simultaneously attack Black's queen. This allows him to meet 17...Qxf3 with 18.Nxf3, getting his knight off prise. But Black can make a counter-threat of his own.
Threatening mate in one and renewing the attack on the knight.
White has survived the first wave of the assault but he must stay alert because h2 is a natural target for a mating attack.
Due to inertia Black continues to make attacking moves but it was already time to think about consolidation with 18...Kb8. After 18...Rg6 we have arrived at the second diagram, a position where White's pieces have stumbled onto good squares...
A somewhat fortuitous tactical resource but perhaps a thematic one after all. Black's king is also vulnerable!
If 19...bxc6 20.Qxc6+ Kb8 21.Bf4+ Ne5 22.Bxe5+ fxe5 23.Qxc5 Rh6 24.f3 and White must be winning easily.
Also possible was 20.Nxd8.
20...Kb8 21.Nxg6 hxg6 22.Qxe3 Rh8 23.f4
White has now consolidated his advantage. Black's position is pretty well hopeless and he was forced to resign a few moves later.

Frank Marshall once wrote that attention is more important than concentration in chess. The course of this game helped me understand what he meant.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


I don't usually pay any attention to chess problems – those fantastic positions that could never occur in a real game where White's key move leads to a forced mate in all variations. But when this one was set up last week at the local chess cafe, a number of strong players (2200+) tackled it for an hour or so and finally gave up.

Have a go yourself – it's White to play and mate in four moves. And don't expect any help from Rybka or Fritz. They cheerily announce mate in five but that's not the same thing, is it?

Solution in a few days.

UPDATE: 1.Ba6! e4 2.Bc8 e5 3.Qxd7 Kxg2 4.Qxh3 mate!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pressure play

There are certain players who seem to possess an innate ability to spot the key vulnerabilities in the opponent's position and then find the precise moves to apply pressure. This is a valuable ability to have and a difficult one to oppose in practice. If I had to name the single greatest talent in this regard it would be Bobby Fischer.

The other day I was studying a game played at age 15 by the Ukrainian GM Sergey Karjakin. In a position that was hardly out of the opening Karjakin found a very simple and powerful strategic idea.

The diagrammed position arose in the game Karjakin – Bricard, France 2005, after Black's 11th move. The experienced player will recognise this as a line of the Modern Defence featuring the exchanging manoeuvre ...Bg4xf3. White has more space and better development but it is not clear what plan he should adopt. The advance 12.e5 is met by 12...dxe5 13.fxe5 Nxe5, 12.d5 compels White to reckon with 12...Bxc3, and the alternative 12.f5 appears unpromising because a later fxg6 can be met by ...hxg6 and pressure down the h-file. Nevertheless there is a way forward and Karjakin finds it.
White's pawn goes to f5 for two reasons: to prevent Black from starting a blockade with ...f5 and to add pressure to the central light squares that will be augmented by White's unopposed bishop on f1.
According to Karjakin, Black should have continued to develop with 12...Ngf6. Opening the position is not a good idea but Black was no doubt intent on extending the range of his fianchettoed bishop.
13.dxc5 Nxc5 14.Bd4!
Neutralising Black's most dangerous piece whether it is exchanged or not.
Black loses at least a pawn after 14...Bxd4 15.Qxd4 Nf6 16.b4 Qb6 17.e5!
This forces Black to reckon with the double attack b2-b4 at almost every move.
15...a6 16.Bc4!
The traditional weakness of f7 is exacerbated by the departure of Black's king and the disappearance of his light-squared bishop, and by White's strategic advance 12.f5!
16...e6 17.Qg5!
A fourth successive hammer move against the weaknesses in Black's position.
No better is 17...h6 18.Qe3 e5 19.Bxc5 Qxc5 20.Qxc5 dxc5 21.Rxd8+ Rxd8 22.Bxf7 g5 23.h4 Nh7 24.Bg6 and White wins.
18.fxe6 Qxg5 19.Rxg5 fxe6 20.Bxe6
As Roman Dzindzichashvili likes to say, White now has the pawn and the compensation. Black resigned on move 37.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Critical moment

There was a sharp finish to the game Rublevsky-Bologan from the 2005 Russian Team Championship. In the diagrammed position it is White to play his 30th move. He is on the verge of recovering an earlier pawn sacrifice and his pieces seem to be more active. As always I recommend that you take a few minutes to study the position and try to work out how the game should continue. There are two initial candidate moves:

A. 30.Nxe4? This loses quickly after 30...Bxe4 31.fxe4 Qc5+! (driving the king to the corner) 32.Kh1 Qxd6! and White cannot recapture because of the mating move ...Rf1.

B. 30.fxe4 As played by Rublevsky. Bologan had a strong reply ready in 30...Qc5+ 31.Kh1 Bg4! Now 32.Nf3 is forced because the attacked rook is chained to its post by the threats against d6 and f1. Black continued the attack with 32...Qf2 33.R6d2 (better was 33.R6d3 but Black is in command after 33...Rc2 34.Rg1 h6) and now there is a forced win: 33...Rxf3! 34.Qxf3 (if 34.Rxf2 Rxb3 35.Rc2 Rf8 and Black is a piece up) 34...Qxd2! 35.Qxg4 (or 35.Rxd2 Rc1+ 36.Rd1 Rxd1+ 37.Qxd1 Bxd1 and wins easily) 35...Rc1! Black's rook attacks and defends at the same time. Rublevsky could not prevent mate or loss of material and he therefore resigned.

Thus in the diagrammed position White cannot immediately recapture on e4. Because of the latent mate threats he must provide a flight square for his king. This can be accomplished with a scrappy move that is our third candidate:

C. 30.g4!? Now there are two variations:
a) 30...Qc5+ 31.Kh1! Black's position suddenly looks critical because White threatens both 32.gxf5 and 32.Nf7+, and 31...Bg6 fails to 32.Rxg6! hxg6 33.fxe4 followed by 34.Qh3. But Black's advanced pawn comes into play with 31...e3! 32.Nf7+ Rxf7 33.Qxf7 Qxd6! 34.Rxd6 e2! Now White has nothing better than 35.Qxf5, when 35...e1Q+ 36.Kg2 Qe2+ followed by ...Rg8 defends successfully for Black.
b) 30...Qe7 31.Qe3 Bg6 and now 32.Rd7 (instead of 32.fxe4 Rcd8 as given by Bologan) 32...Qe8 33.Nxe4 with a position that can only be assessed as equal.

In my opinion Rublevsky's loss can be explained by psychological factors. He had enjoyed some initiative in the play leading up to the diagrammed position but then failed to notice a critical moment when it was time to think about defence for a move or two.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Return of the king

Anatoly Karpov's recent appearance in the Valjevo grandmaster tournament was a welcome event for those who remember the crystal-clear playing style that characterised his world championship years. He has not competed in many events lately but if there is anyone entitled to rest on his laurels it is surely Karpov.

As it turned out he came close – very close – to winning the Valjevo tournament. A late defeat by the Israeli grandmaster Michael Roiz dropped him out of the running but he regrouped and managed to take third prize.

Karpov's win over the Serbian grandmaster Mihajlo Stojanovic was especially powerful and will no doubt receive wide coverage in the chess media. Today I will offer my impressions of this game.

A.Karpov – M.Stojanovic
Valjevo 2007
This was always Karpov's first move but in the early 1980s he made the big switch to 1.d4 in anticipation of his lengthy rivalry with Garry Kasparov.
1...e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3
Of course in the 1970s Karpov made his living with 3.Nd2.
3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7
A popular but rather simplistic attempt to equalise the chances through exchanging Black's problem bishop. According to my database this system (if one may call it that) scores an unspectactular 38% above the master level. On the other hand I can imagine some grandmasters dedicating time to Black's cause and finding ways to keep White's initial advantage within manageable limits.
5.Nf3 Bc6 6.Bd3 Nd7 7.0–0 Ngf6 8.Ng3!
I like this move, which avoids exchanges for the time being. Black could have played 7...Bxe4 8.Bxe4 c6 but after 9.c4!? Ngf6 10.Bc2 White has taken control of key central squares and retained the bishop pair.
8...Be7 9.Re1 0–0 10.Qe2 b6!? (first diagram)
Preparing to drop the bishop back to b7 and follow up with the space-gaining move ...c7-c5.
A remarkable concept, playing to exchange light-squared bishops. This idea surprised me at first since the bishop on d3 seems to be gazing expectantly toward Black's kingside. But as soon as Black plays ...g7-g6 the bishop's range will be blunted and therefore White should keep an open mind.
11...Rb8 12.c4 Bb7
The game continuation suggests that 12...Ba8 was more circumspect. After the exchange of bishops two defects appear in Black's position: the hole on c6 and the awkward position of his rook.
13.Bxb7 Rxb7 14.Ne5 Qc8
If 14...Nxe5 15.dxe5 Nd7 16.Rd1 and Black has a very passive position with few opportunities for counterplay.
15.Nc6! Re8 16.Bg5 Bf8
Black seems to have avoided further concessions but Karpov is ready with another surprising idea.
17.Bxf6! Nxf6 18.Nh5!
Black's queenside pieces are awkwardly placed for defensive purposes so it makes sense to exchange the kingside defenders.
18...Nxh5 19.Qxh5 certainly looked dangerous but Karpov soon demonstrates that Black's move is worse... much worse...
19.Qg4 Kh8 20.Re3 Nb8 (second diagram)
In offering the exchange of knights Black was no doubt expecting the variation 21.Ne5 c5! when he is clearly back in the game.
It is said that in his heyday Karpov used to solve ten combination puzzles every morning before breakfast. If that is true the regime has certainly done him no harm!
There were three other defensive tries:
A. 21...e5 22.Qxc8 Rxc8 23.Nxe5 and White is simply a pawn up;
B. 21...g6 22.Nf6 Nxc6 23.Rh3 h6 24.Qg5! and White wins;
C. 21...Nxc6 22.Nxg7 Ne7 23.Nxe8 Qxe8 24.Qf3! and Black has nothing better than 24...Nf5 leaving White the exchange ahead with an easy win.
22.Qh4 Nxc6
Capitulation, but if 22...Qd7 23.Ne5 Qe7 then 24.Ng6+! hxg6 25.Nf6 mate.
23.Nf6! h6 24.Qxh6+! gxh6 25.Rg8 mate 1–0

The final combination is of course nice and thematic but far more impressive was the play leading up to it.

I sincerely hope that Karpov's participation in the Valjevo tournament signals his return to active play because I suspect he has many more beautiful games to give to the chess world!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Find the continuation 2

This position from the match game Chistiakov-Goldin, Moscow 1967 appeared in the Encyclopaedia of Chess Middlegames: Combinations (1980) under the section Annihilation of Defence. The stipulation is White to play and win.

Because the lone defender of f7 is under attack, the most natural try is 1.Rxd5. This is in fact what Chistiakov played and after 1...cxd5 2.Qxf7+ Kh8 3.Qxd5 Black defended against the threatened attack 4.Nf7+ Kg8 5.Nh6+ Kh8 6.Qg8+! Rxg8 7.Nf7# with 3...Re7. The continuation was 4.Be3 Bxe3 5.Rxe3 and after 5...Rd8 White concluded matters with 6.Ng6+! 1-0 Black had to resign because 6...Qxg6 7.Qxd8+ mates quickly while 6...hxg6 7.Rh4# mates immediately.

Could Black have defended himself more accurately? Yes, and there were three separate opportunities to do so:

A. Instead of 5...Rd8?, Black had to try 5...Qf6. After this White has two pawns and a strongly-placed knight against Black's rook but there is still a lot of play left and anything could happen.

B. Instead of 3...Re7?, Black could have turned the tables completely with 3...Bxf2+! White's moves are practically forced: 4.Kf1 Rf8 5.Re2 Rad8 6.Nd7 Qa6! 7.Qd6 Bb6! After this clever manoeuvre White is completely tied up and has nothing better than giving up his queen for two rooks with 8.Qxf8+ Rxf8 9.Nxf8. Then comes 9...Qxa2 and Black is winning without too much difficulty.

C. Instead of 1...cxd5?! Black could have played the immediate 1...Bxf2+, for example: 2.Kf1 cxd5 3.Qxf7+ Kh8 4.Bh6 (practically forced) 4...gxh6 5.Qxf2 Rf8 6.Nf3 Qxf2+ 7.Kxf2. White is down the exchange and faces a difficult defensive task.

A database search reveals that the diagram position did occur in the actual game. Instead of 1.Rxd5? White's strongest move is 1.Qc2, after which the chances or more or less even.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blitz analysis

The Soviet IM Rashid Nezhmetdinov once wrote that analysing blitz games is "stupid." Assuming, of course, that one can even remember them accurately.

The charge of stupidity may have been true back in Super Nezh's day but the internet has changed everything. Today's avid player can retrieve a complete score of every game he has played online, whether at slow, blitz, or bullet time controls. And many a nagging question can be answered by plugging the moves into Fritz or one of its cousins and pushing a button.

I have to confess that today I gave the top-rated engine Rybka a position from one of my internet blitz games and asked it to show me the mate that I knew must be there but could not find in the 36 seconds I had left on my clock.

I have White in the first diagram and it is my move. Many players will recognise this as a position from the Sicilian Dragon and the more experienced will see that White has good attacking chances. In the game I started off well enough but ran short of time and had to take a draw...

1.Rg5 Qb4 2.Rxh5! Rxc3 3.Qh6+ Kf6 (second diagram)
With time running down I decided to repeat moves with 4.Qg5+ and 5.Qh6+. Believe it or not, the far-sighted point behind Rybka's move is the opening of the d-file for White's rook.
4...dxe5 5.Rf5+! Bxf5 6.Qg5+ Kg7
Black's last few moves have all been forced.
7.Nxf5+ Kg8
Other moves are no better: 7...Kh7 or 7...Kh8 allow 8.Qh6+ and mates, while 7...Kf8 runs into 8.Qh6+ Ke8 9.Qh8# -- thanks to the rook on d1!
8.Qh6! gxf5 9.Rg1+ Qg4 10.fxg4
and White wins easily.

Did I learn something from this analysis? It feels like I did, if only because playing the Sicilian Dragon demands a good sense of White's attacking resources. On the other hand I'm quite certain that I would have found the winning line in a tournament game, so from that perspective the instructive value is rather diminished.

I have to conclude that the only way to find out if analysing blitz games is instructive is to try it and see what happens.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


In his book of the London 1851 International Tournament, which of course was a knockout event, Howard Staunton had this to say about the second-round combatants Elijah Williams and James Mucklow:

"In some respects these players were well paired, not for equality of force, indeed, Mr Williams being by far the stronger, but because each, in his degree, exhibits the same want of depth and inventive power in his combinations, and the same tiresome prolixity in manoeuvring his men. It need hardly be said that the games, from first to last, are remarkable only for their unvarying and unexampled dullness."

A typically biting assessment from the self-styled leader of English chess, but is it an accurate one? I think not. Have a look at the fourth match game:

Mucklow,J - Williams,E [C02]
London knockout London (2.4), 1851

1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bb5 Qb6 6.Bxc6+ bxc6 7.0-0 cxd4 8.Nxd4 c5 9.Nb3 f6 10.Re1 f5 11.a4 a5 12.c3 Rb8 13.N3d2 Nh6 14.h3 Nf7 15.Nf3 Be7 16.Na3 Bd7 17.Nc2
17...g5 18.Ne3 h5 19.Kf1 g4 20.hxg4 hxg4 21.Ng1 Bc8 22.g3 Ba6+ 23.Kg2 d4 24.cxd4 cxd4 25.Nc2 d3 26.Ne3 Qc6+ 27.f3 Nxe5 28.Nxf5 Nxf3 29.Nxf3 gxf3+ 0-1

I think any modern master would have been quite satisfied with Black's play in this game.

Staunton's disdain toward Williams is perhaps best explained by the final tournament standings: 1. Adolf Anderssen 2. Marmaduke Wyvill 3. Elijah Williams 4. Howard Staunton.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Janowski trap

The diagrammed position may look fairly modern but is taken from an old game between David Janowski and Ignatz Von Popiel, played in the last round of the Deutsche Schachbund congress at Hannover in 1902. It is White to play.

There are many situations in chess where the player on move has a positional advantage as well as an opportunity to start a tactical sequence. There is a temptation to think that such tactical sequences must end favourably for the player who starts with the advantage. This is not always true, the Janowski-Von Popiel game being a case in point.

As a confirmed representative of the combinative school, David Janowski decides it is time for White's centralised army to exploit Black's inferior development. His chosen method contains a very deep tactical point, but some analysis reveals that Black could have defended himself.

1.e5!? dxe5 2.Bxe5 Qb7 3.Bxf6!?
Janowski was fond of the two bishops, but also knew when to give one of them up.
Von Popiel falls into Janowski's far-sighted combinative trap. Correct was 3...Bxf6! 4.Nd5 Kg7! White gains little from exchanging on f6, so the conclusion is that Black has managed to equalise.
6.Bxg7! Bxd1
There is no turning back. If 6...Kxg7 7.gxf3 and White is a piece up.
7.Bh6 Bxc2?!
Black had to acquiesce to the loss of material. After 7...e5 8.Rxd1 he will continue to suffer, but after his bishop move things end very quickly.
A very nice concluding blow, which threatens mate on the move. The only defence is 8...f6 but it costs Black his queen after 9.Qe6+ Kh8 10.Qf7 Rg8 11.Rxe7 Qxe7 12.Qxe7. Von Popiel resigned after 8.Qe5 and thus Janowski won the tournament.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Find the continuation 1

I recently took some good advice that I believe originated with the well-known trainer Dan Heisman and started a database of interesting positions from my own games. Normally these would stay private but in the wonderful 21st century world of blogging it has become acceptable to make private things public!

The diagram position arose in an online blitz game. It is Black to play and win. As always I would encourage you spend a few minutes deciding what you would do before looking at the solution.

Black has a multi-stage combination that wins a piece:
1...Na5 2.Na4 Qd6! 3.Qc2 Nxc4 4.Qxc4 b5! 5.Qxb5 Bd7!
White's queen must now abandon the knight on a4. He can try a desperate attack..
6.Qh5 Bxa4 7.Ng5 Bxd1
White has a few checks but nothing to compensate for the missing rook.

I was Black in this game. Unfortunately I missed the combination and went on to lose through hanging my queen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Golubev corrected

The extremely sharp Dragon Sicilian position shown in the first diagram arose in the game Palac-Lalic, Pula (Croatian Team Ch.) 2000. It is White to move. Both sides appear to be attacking, and it is not easy to say whose chances are better. The immediate question is whether the knight on c3 must be defended. More precisely, can White ignore it and play 1.Bxh6 right away?

In the game, Palac went for safety with 1.Rd3?! This could and should have allowed Black to barnacle with 1...g5!, but Lalic instead played the mistaken 1...h5? After 2.gxh5 Nxh5 3.Qg2! Black's draughty king position gave White a strong initiative and his attack eventually prevailed.

Some time later this game came under the scrutiny of the noted Dragon theorist Mikhail Golubev, a grandmaster from the Ukraine. He recommended the following continuation of White's attack: 1.Bxh6! Rxc3 2.Bxg7 Kxg7 3.Qh6+ Kf7 4.g5 Ne8 5.Rh4! e5 6.Qh7+ Kf8 7.Rdh1! Here Golubev writes that Black is helpless against the threatened 8.Qxg6 exd4 9.Rh8+ Ke7 10.Rxe8+ and his analysis ends here.

After 7.Rdh1 Black cannot play 7...exd4 because of 8.Rf4+ and wins, so he must find a different move. If we give him the superfluous 7...a5, Golubev's line can be continued as follows: 10...Bxe8 11.Rh7+ Kd8 12.Qxd6+ Kc8 13.Qe6+ Kd8 14.Rxb7 Rxb7 15.Qf6+ Kc8 16.g6! Here the legendary Mikhail Tal would certainly adjudge this as winning for White, and very few would disagree with him.

In passing let us observe that instead of 6...Kf8 Black cannot block the queen check with 6...Ng7 on account of 7.Rh6! Rg8 8.Qxg6+ Ke7 9.Qxd6+ Kd8 10.Qxe5 and with four pawns and a raging attack for the piece White must be easily winning. This idea will resurface in a later note.

Of course there must be something stronger for Black than the superfluous 7...a5. At the very least one could look at 7...Qc7, which gives White almost the same variation with the key difference that the pawn on d6 is now defended. Now After 8.Qxg6 exd4 9.Rh8+ Ke7 10.Rxe8+ Bxe8 11.Rh7+ Kd8 12.Rxb7 Kxb7 13.g6 Black can give back a piece with 13...Bxg6 and fight on with two rooks against White's queen. Whether he would be successful is another matter, but the point is that this is not clearly a forced win for White.

Let us peel back to the position after 4...Ne8 (second diagram) and make White play 5.Qh7+! instead of 5.Rh4. With the square e7 still blocked by his pawn, Black cannot play 5...Kf8 since 6.Qh8+ followed by 7.Rg7+ delivers a quick mate, so Black must reply to 5.Qh7+ with 5...Ng7. Unfortunately this allows White to switch back to the variation analysed above with 6.Rh4! e5 7.Rh6! As before Black has nothing better than 7...Rg8 8.Qxg6+ Ke7 9.Qxd6+ Kd8 10.Qxe5 and a win for White is just a matter of time.

Varying the order of one's moves and gauging the effect is an important part of attacking technique. I wish I could learn to do this properly during actual play!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Power play

I was very impressed by the energetic play of GM Alexander Moiseenko in his game with GM Adam Horvath from the 2005 Saint-Vincent Open. Moiseenko got things going with a strong opening novelty, moved into gambit mode by sacrificing material for a lasting initiative, and then finished off his opponent with some nice tactical play.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.d5 Ne5 5.f4 Ng4
This is a very sharp line of Chigorin's Defence. Black must be well-prepared in order to survive.
6.e4 e5 7.Nf3 Bc5 (first diagram)
Here is Moiseenko's novelty, in place of the more usual 8.Qa4+. It looks like a mistake at first glance but things turn out otherwise.
If 8...Nf2 9.Qb3 Nf6 10.Rf1 N6xe4 11.Ng5! and now 11...Nxc3 12.bxc3 0-0 13.Rxf2 h6 14.Nf3 Bxf2+ 15.Kxf2 e4 16.Ne5 Qh4+ 17.Kg1 Qe1+ 18.Bf1 leaves White on top.
9.Nxe5 Nxe5
After 9...N8f6 10.Bb5+ Kf8 11.Qf3 Nxe5 12.fxe5 Qxe5 would transpose to the game but instead of 11...Nxe5 Black might consider 11...Bd4!? with interesting play.
10.fxe5 Qxe5 11.Bb5+ Kf8 12.Qf3 Nf6 13.Bf4 Qd4 14.h3 Bd7
If 14...Bb4 15.Bd3 Bxc3+ 16.bxc3 Qxc3+ 17.Kf2 and White has excellent compensation for the sacrificed material.
15.Bd3 Bb4 16.a3
Perhaps 16.Be3 Qe5 17.0-0 Bd6 18.Ne2 was stronger.
16...Bxc3+ 17.bxc3 Qxc3+ 18.Kf2 (second diagram)
I like 18...Qd4+ 19.Qe3 (if 19.Kg3 Nh5+ 20.Qxh5 Qxd3+ 21.Kh2 Qxe4 22.Bxc7 Qf5! and it is hard to imagine White eking out any winning chances) 19...Qxe3+ 20.Kxe3 Re8 21.Kf3 c6 22.d6 c5 23.Rac1 b6 24.Rhe1 h5! when it is still anyone's game.
19.Rhe1 c6 20.Kf1 h6 21.Bd6+ Kg8 22.Rab1 Bc8 23.Rbc1 Qd4 24.Bc5 Qe5 25.Bxa7 Bd7 26.Bf2 cxd5 27.exd5 Qxd5 (third diagram)
Over the preceding moves Black has not managed to neutralise White's pressure and the awkward position of his king is now a decisive factor. It's White to play and win by force!
28.Rxe8+ Bxe8 29.Qxd5 Nxd5 30.Rc8 Nf6 31.Bd4 Kf8 32.Bc5+ Kg8 33.Be7
The culmination of White's forced manoeuvre. Black must lose a piece and so he resigned here.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Exploiting advantages

Here is a position from a recent game of mine. A comparison of space, king safety and mobility suggests that Black is on the defensive, but White must still find a way forward. In this context the bishops of opposite colour are a feature of interest. White's bishop is temporarily restricting Black's knight, while White's knight stands ready to block the long diagonal in anticipation of the manoeuvre ...b6-b5-b4 with an attack against c3. Tripling the heavy artillery on the h-file with the idea of Rh8+ followed by Qxh8# is perhaps White's most obvious plan. If Black does nothing significant over the next few moves his position will become critical.

23.Ne5 Nd7
Black's knight is not doing much so exchanging it for White's more active knight is a natural idea.
White gets nowhere after 25.Ba4 Nxe5! 26.fxe5 (if 26.Bxe8 Nc4! 27.Bxf7+ Kxf7 and Black is better) 26...Rb8 with adequate counterplay for Black. With the text move White avoids the exchange and creates an opportunity to play either Nh6+ or Nf6+ as convenient.
When a wing attack threatens it is often effective to strike a counterblow in the centre. The problem with this pawn lever is that White's is able to keep the centre files closed by simply bypassing the pawn. Much stronger was 24...Qc5 25.Qh3 Kf8 26.Qh7 Qc4, but after 27.Kb1! Qxf4 28.Nh6 Bxh6 29.gxh6 Ke7 30.Bxg6! Nf8 31.Qg7 Nxg6 32.Rhf1! Black must surrender his queen for two pieces in order to stop White's attack.
25.f5! gxf5 26.Bxf5 e4
Also unavailing is 26...Nf8 27.Rdg1 Ng6 28.Qh3! Qxg5+ 29.Ne3! Qf4 30.Bxg6 fxg6 31.Rxg6 with irresistible threats. The text move allows White to win immediately.
27.Rxd7! Rxd7 28.Bxd7 Qxd7 29.Nf6+ Bxf6 30.gxf6
After the exchange of his key defenders Black has no adequate defence against the mating attack with Qe3-h6, and therefore he resigned.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Endgame tactics 2

Last time I showed a rook ending in which a tactical device simplified the task of converting an extra pawn. Today there is a similar example on the menu.

The position in the diagram arose in one of my games from the 1976 B.C. Championship. After an unusual opening a weak pawn had appeared on e4, and in the middlegame that followed I managed to exchange off every piece that could reasonably defend it. We have now arrived in a rook ending with the pawn about to be captured.

34.Rxe4 Kd6 35.Ke3 Rf7
No better is 35...Rb5 36.f4 h5 37.Kd3 g6 38.Ke3 and Black is in a mini-zugzwang; for example, 38...Rd5 39.Rd4 or 38...Kd7 39.Re5.
Of course the natural move here is 36.f4, so my actual move 36.Rd4+ requires a bit of explanation. After 35...Rf7 it didn't take me too long to work out my opponent's defensive strategy, which in simple terms consists in defending the b-pawn laterally with his rook and keeping his king centralised in order to prevent the advance of White's king. With these thoughts in mind I worked out a few variations and in so doing spotted an unusual tactical trick.
As predicted!
37.f4+ Kf5 38.g4+!
This appeared to take Black by surprise.
38...Kxg4 39.f5+! Kxf5
This loses immediately, but after 39...Kh5 40.fxe6 Re7 41.Re4 Black cannot hold the position; for example, 41...g5 42.hxg5 Kxg5 43.Kd4 Kf6 44.Kd5, etc.
40.Rf4+ Kg6 41.h5+!
The main point of White's play. Black's king is deflected away from his rook, which is then captured by White for an easy win.

Being able to foresee and make use of tactical devices in order to simplify the task of converting an advantage is part of what is known collectively as endgame technique. It is very important that in playing for such tricks we analyse carefully and do not allow the opponent any surprise defences that may bring him back into the game. For example, in this game it was very important that the alternative 39...Kh5 did not bring any relief to Black.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Endgame tactics

Picture this: after a difficult middlegame you have managed to transpose into an endgame with an extra outside passed pawn. Smooth sailing, right? No, not always. If your opponent has blockaded your extra pawn you could still have a lot of work left to do. Before casting around for a second target, it is often worth another look to see if the blockade is actually all that sturdy.

Here is an example from one of my games in the 1983 B.C. Open. I am Black and I would like to promote my advanced b-pawn, but there doesn't seem to be an easy way forward at the moment. Enter the tactician... it turns out that the geometrical situation is perfect for an unusual trick:
Attacking the f-pawn. If White lets it go his position will deteriorate rapidly.
2.Rf3 Qc2+!
White's reply is more-or-less forced because the alternative 2.Rf2 runs into 2...Qxf2+! 3.Qxf2 b2 and Black will either win White's queen or get a new one of his own.
3.Qxc2 bxc2 4.Rc3
My opponent had banged out his last two moves quickly and was now looking quite satisfied with himself. Unfortunately for him, I have seen a bit further:
Although this is not a check, it has similar force. I am threatening the discovery 5...c1Q+, to which 5.Kg1 is no defence because of 5...Rb1+ followed by 6...c1Q and wins. So my opponent grabbed his king and went to play it up a rank... and then froze in mid-move... and then turned somewhat red... With his time running down he eventually realised he had to move the king that was in his hand, so he quietly put it on g3, pressed the clock, and waited...
5.Kg3 Rb3!
The point of Black's manoeuvre. White's rook is now pinned against his king and he has lost control of the important c-file. My opponent did not want to see any more and resigned the game here.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


One of the oddities of chess is that it is entirely possible to give a good effort, win an interesting game... and then find out that it has all been played before. This is pretty much what happened to me this morning, in an Internet blitz game against a player whose rating was very close to my own. When a tactical opportunity presented itself I had to think for a minute before responding but it was time well spent because the game was soon over.

I have the White pieces.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6?!
Stronger is the main line move 3...Bg4.
4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Bg4 7.d5
Black has already gone wrong and here he should try to dig in with 7...Bxf3 8.gxf3 Ne5. But White keeps an advantage with 9.f4 Ned7 10.e5 Ng8 and now 11.Qb3 seems best. Instead of this Black plays a tempting but unsound move whose only merit is increasing the pressure on f3.
7...Ne5? (diagram)
White to play and win!
8.Nxe5! Bxd1 9.Bb5+ c6 10.dxc6
White now threatens both 11.cxb7+ and 11.c7+ followed by liquidation on d7 and a recapture on d1. Black has a whole tempo to work with but cannot prevent the loss of at least a piece.
This loses quickly. The alternatives are:
a) 10...a6 11.c7+ axb5 12.cxd8Q+ Rxd8 13.Nxd1 with an extra piece for White;
b) 10...Bg4 and now:
i) 11.c7+?! Qd7! (stronger than 11...Bd7?! 12.cxd8+ Rxd8 13.Nxd7 Nxd7 14.0-0 e6 15.Rd1 Be7 16.Bf4 a6 17.Ba4 b5 18.Nxb5! axb5 19.Bxb5 f6 20.Rxd7 Rxd7 21.Rd1 and Black resigned in Zimlich-Baumgardt, German League 1996/97) 12.Nxd7 Bxd7 13.Bf4. Here White is only a pawn up but should still win eventually;
ii) 11.cxb7+ Bd7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.bxa8Q Qxa8 14.0-0 and Black cannot prevent 15.Rd1, which will leave White with three pieces against Black's queen;
iii) 11.Nxg4! bxc6 12.Bxc6+ Nd7 13.Ne5 e6 14.Bxd7+ and White finishes a piece ahead after either 14...Qxd7 or 14...Ke7 15.Nc6+.
11.Bxc6+ Nd7 12.Bxd7+ Qxd7 13.Nxd7 Kxd7 14.Nxd1
Black resigned.

About Me

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.