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!

About Me

My photo
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.