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.

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.