Saturday, December 26, 2009

Capablanca on Moscow 1925

The following interview with J.R. Capablanca was conducted by a Berlin newspaper in 1925. The World Champion had stopped while en route from the recently-concluded Moscow tournament.

...We were received in the capital of the Soviet Union with genuine Russian hospitality, straight from the heart, and the Soviet Government did everything to make the participants' visit to their country as pleasant as possible. During our entire stay in Moscow we were the guests of the government, and were at all times treated with great courtesy. For example, we were freed from all hotel expenses, even the most trifling ones, and accommodation in Moscow as well as the train trip to Russia and back was paid for by the Soviet Government on behalf of all the players.

All of the tournament participants were pleasantly surprised by the extraordinary enthusiasm for chess displayed by all levels of the Russian population. As is well-known, the competition was held in the magnificent Hotel Меtropol, and with such a weight of spectators that the enormous tournament hall appeared to be too small. It was constantly overflowing, and was made to contain three and even four times its capacity, while the tickets for each round were were sold out days in advance. For me this is an indicator of the Russians' genuine enthusiasm for chess, which one could even describe as a passion.

The Soviet Government gives chess a important place in its system. By way of illustration, a formal reception for the players was arranged by Mr Krylenko, the general public prosecutor of the USSR. Mr Krylenko, along with fulfilling his important duties in the field of justice, is also the head of the Chess Section for the entire Soviet Union.

Bogoljubow's victory was met with the greatest enthusiasm by his fellow countrymen. A crowd followed him through the streets, and everywhere he went he was met with deafening applause.

As to the techniques and methods of the Moscow tournament, I will refrain for the time being from making any judgements in this respect. I can only express the view that this tournament has confirmed once again the old assertion that in an international competition there can be no absolute, mathematical certainty as to its outcome. Even where the greatest players are taking part, there is still the possibility that a third party will overtake them. This is what happened in Moscow. In general, the strength of all the participants was well-known to everyone, and everyone had a full opportunity to display their abilities. In my case, I had already had the chance to cross swords with Bogoljubow, in London [1922] and New York [1924].

In any case, the young chessplayers of the USSR survived their baptism of fire in Moscow in excellent fashion, and showed that they are worthy of the hopes placed upon them for the future.

Torre, the youngest participant in Moscow, is improving from tournament to tournament right before one's eyes.

It is still not clear whether I will be able to play in the Semmering International Tournament, which is set to take place in March, 1926. But this tournament also promises to be very interesting, with such players as Alekhine and Tartakover in the lists...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Levenfish on Moscow 1925

Today we offer another extract from Grigory Levenfish's 1967 book Selected Games and Reminiscences.

...The Moscow International Tournament was set to begin on November 9th. The organizing committee did not repeat the mistakes made in connection with the St Petersburg tournament of 1914. The preparatory work had already begun in April, and the entry consisted of 10 Soviet and 11 foreign masters. The committee managed to secure the participation of the world champion Capablanca, the ex-champion Lasker, as well as Rubinstein, Reti, Marshall, Tartakower, and Spielmann, so the entry was truly a strong one.

The Fountain Hall of the Hotel Metropol was chosen as the playing site. This hall is not directly connected to the outside atmosphere. The ventilation system had been designed for approximately 200 restaurant patrons, but during the tournament the number of spectators approached 1,000. The fountain only made the situation worse, and the “climate” can only be described as damp and tropical. Capablanca, who was used to the heat of Havana, told me he would not object if the participants were allowed to wear bathing costumes during play. The order was given to make the ventilation system more powerful, but that was going to take more than a week, and meanwhile the players had to tolerate the heat and the noise. Rubinstein and Spielmann in particular had trouble adapting to the conditions. On the other hand Bogoljubow felt fine, being the picture of health to start with. In the second half of the tournament I managed to acclimatise myself to some extent, but it was already too late. I finished the tournament in 15th place, winning two prizes: one for the best result over the last five rounds, and the other for the best score against the foreign players.

I was amazed by Lasker's adaptability. At the age of 57 he played the whole tournament with great energy and ended up in second place.

All in all the tournament went extremely well. Every day a huge crowd of people would surround the booking office in search of tickets, and the mounted police had to be called in to maintain order.

In the end Bogoljubow achieved the very best result of his chess career. For some time he considered it necessary to go along with Soviet chess organisers, even though he had been living in Triberg continuously since 1914. But when the All-Union Chess Section suggested that Bogoljubow refrain from competing in certain events abroad, he refused to comply and was excluded from the ranks of Soviet chessplayers.

Earlier I referred to the extraordinary interest in the tournament shown by the public. In spite of the high admission price it was not easy to find tickets. However, among the spectators one could spot a number of flashily-dressed women – apparently the wives of new capitalists – who did not understand anything about chess, but who thought it important to make an appearance at such a popular and well-attended gathering. The hot-blooded Capablanca was especially popular with these women, and after the tournament he was able to relate more than one adventure reminiscent of The Decameron...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Levenfish on St Petersburg 1914

We offer without commentary an extract from Grigory Levenfish's 1967 book Selected Games and Reminiscences. Grandmaster Levenfish died in 1961 and his memoirs were published posthumously.

...The organizing committee managed to attract a very strong complement of grandmasters. The first to accept his invitation was Lasker, the World Champion, mainly because he was offered a special appearance fee. Next were the two challengers for the chess crown: Capablanca and Rubinstein. Then Tarrasch, Marshall, Janowski, Bernstein, the two winners of the preliminary masters tournament Alekhine and Nimzowitsch, and finally the veterans Blackburne and Gunsberg. Unfortunately, Duras, Maroczy and Schlechter declined their invitations. There were to be five prizes awarded.

Would the 45-year-old Lasker be able to compete with the young Capablanca, who had astonished all of Europe with his successes, and with Rubinstein, the winner of a series of strong international tournaments? These were the main questions stirring the interest of chessplayers throughout the world.

I assisted the organizing committee in finding accommodation for the players. Rubinstein arrived a week before the tournament and was given quarters in the European Hotel. After just two days he expressed dissatisfaction with his room, saying he was disturbed by the noise of the elevator. One of the Committee members then offered Rubinstein the choice of any room in his apartment. There were six rooms in all, and the host was a bachelor who lived alone. Rubinstein duly moved there, but again he was unsatisfied. He found the apartment so quiet as to be oppressive, and he had to be transferred back to the hotel. It was clear to me that Akiba's nervous system had become weakened, and this did not bode well for the future.

The Moscow lawyer O.S. Bernstein had been Rubinstein's main competitor in the Vilna tournament [1912] and in his playing strength he did not give anything away to his rivals. But Bernstein had not spent much time on chess and his theoretical preparation was manifestly inadequate. He lost the decisive game with Tarrasch right in the opening, and with White at that.

The Riga player Nimzowitsch had achieved a major success in the San Sebastian tournament of 1912, where he was in the running for first prize right up to the last round.

No one was placing any special hopes on Alekhine, as this was his first opportunity to cross swords with world-class grandmasters. In fact he achieved only a modest result against Lasker and Capablanca, but he played with great success against the other grandmasters. As it turned out, Alekhine was the only player from Russia in the group of finalists.

The play of Capablanca made an unforgettable impression on me. He too was making his first appearance in such a strong tournament, but even so he appeared to be playing quite effortlessly. In the preliminary rounds he won game after game. He played exceptionally well in his first encounter with Lasker. An amazing pawn sacrifice led to the win of material, and it was only a very deep defence that saved Lasker from defeat.

At this tournament I saw Tarrasch for the first time. After he lost his match to Lasker, his native arrogance had been knocked down somewhat; nevertheless his impertinent and self-assured manner made an unpleasant impression. His service to the cause of popularising chess is indisputable. Two whole generations have studied his books, and it is no coincidence that he was given the title Praeceptor Germaniae. His strategy was dogmatic, but his tactics were excellent. His game against Nimzowitsch took the first prize for brilliancy.

The Russian emigre Janowski had moved to France and was living in Paris. He was certainly the most elegant of the participants, both in appearance and in his manner of play. During the period from 1900 to 1907 he achieved his greatest successes; but his matches with Lasker and Marshall showed conclusively that his talent had declined. Janowski had become too enamoured with games of chance, and did not have the time or patience for chess.

Marshall's appearance did not correspond with one's image of the typical Yankee. It is possible that a dash of Indian blood was showing its traces. His credo was the attack, which he conducted with great energy and patience, often overpowering weaker opponents. In tournaments of mixed strength Marshall won a number of high prizes, but in grandmaster tournaments and especially in matches against the strongest players, where his ingenious combinations were seen off by sturdy defence, he was not able to achieve much success.

Blackburne, the “patriarch” of the tournament, possessed a similar style. It was no accident that in his heyday his comrades-in-arms had nicknamed him “the Black Death.” Blackburne won a number of prizes in tournaments, but was defeated by lopsided scores in matches against Lasker, Steinitz, and Zukertort. Despite his age, Blackburne fought hard for every point. He defeated Nimzowitsch brilliantly, and in an inferior endgame he outwitted Rubinstein himself and achieved a draw.

In the 1890s Gunsberg had a reputation as one of the strongest chessplayers in the world. He drew a match with Chigorin and lost narrowly to Steinitz after a dour struggle. But an extended break from practical play had had a sharply telling effect on his mastery, and he lost games without a struggle. One must remark upon Gunsberg's patience. It is not easy to endure a series of losses, but Gunsberg remained unruffled and politely congratulated each one who defeated him.

The sensation of the tournament was the complete failure of Rubinstein. In terms of quality, his play was quite unrecognisable. Against all expectations, Rubinstein did not qualify for the final group of five players. Capablanca took the lead easily and finished the first stage with 8 points out of 10 games. There was a bitter struggle for the remaining places. In the eighth round Lasker lost somewhat fortuitously to Bernstein, and in the ninth round he was on the edge of defeat against Tarrasch. The fate of Rubinstein could easily have overtaken Lasker as well. Tarrasch started a joke: while the five qualifiers were playing the final, Rubinstein and Lasker were going to play a match for the World Championship. But in the final rounds Lasker improved his standing, and together with Tarrasch, he finished in second place with 6½ points. The fourth and fifth places were shared by Alekhine and Marshall with 6 points.

In the final stage of the tournament Lasker demonstrated exceptional mastery. It is enough to recall that in 8 games against Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch, and Marshall, he scored 7 (!) points and captured first prize. Capablanca was half a point back. The big surprise was Alekhine's third-place finish. It had become obvious that Alekhine was moving confidently into the first rank of grandmasters.

The tournament produced many fine specimens of chess artistry, and one can only regret that so far no collection of games from this first-class event has been published in Russian...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seven Brutalities 7

My opponent in this game is a rated expert with an aggressive style of play who has victimised a number of masters, myself included. I decided to play the Scandinavian Defence because unless White knows some exact theory he can easily overreach himself. However it soon becomes evident that White is playing for a draw.

P.Burke - D. Scoones
Labour Day Open, Langley 2007
Scandinavian Defence B01

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nxd5 4.Nxd5?!

This ill-considered exchange gives Black's queen a central position from which she cannot be easily dislodged. More common is 4.Bc4 Nb6 5.Bb3 when Black must tread very carefully.

4...Qxd5 5.Nf3

If 5.Qf3 the best remedy is 5...Qe6+ 6.Qe2 Nc6 7.Qxe6 Bxe6 8.Bb5 Bd5! 9.Nf3 0–0–0 which favours Black after 10.Bxc6 Bxc6 11.d3 e5 12.Be3 Bd6.

5...Nc6 6.d4 Bg4 7.Be2 0–0–0 8.Be3

White's best try is 8.0–0 Nxd4 9.Nxd4 Bxe2 10.Qxe2 Qxd4 11.Rb1!? with some compensation for the pawn.

8...e5 9.0–0 exd4 10.Nxd4 Bxe2 11.Nxe2 (diagram)

Time for an assessment. Black has an edge in development and before it fades away he must try to turn it into something more concrete.


The alternative 11...Qb5 12.Nc3 Qxb2 13.Nd5 Qe5 wins a pawn but this would give my opponent an open file against my king and some cheapo potential.


If 12.b3 Rxd1 ( 12...Qh4!?) 13.bxc4 Rxa1 14.Rxa1 Ne5 with continuing problems for White.

12...Bd6 13.b3 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Kh1 Qf5

Also possible was 15...h5 16.Ng1 Qf5.

16.f3 Rhe8 17.a3 Bc5

Here Black can play 17...Bxa3!? with the idea of 18.Rxa3 Qd5 but as before I did not want to give my opponent any open lines against my king unless his queen is exchanged or at least driven to a passive position.

18.Nf4 Ne5

A preventive move directed against 19.Nd3, blocking the d-file.

19.Qc1 g5 20.Ng2 f6

Also possible was 20...Nxf3 21.Bxg5 Re2 22.Qf4 Qxg5 23.Rxf3 Qxf4 24.Nxf4 Rxc2.

21.Be3 Bxe3 22.Qxe3 Nc6 23.Qf2 Nd4 24.Ne3 Qc5

Time for another assessment. In order to meet Black's concrete threats White has had to make a number of pawn moves but that has not relieved the pressure. Black has a definite advantage but notching the full point will not be simple... unless White makes further mistakes...


Stronger was 25.Rad1 Qxa3 26.Rd3 Qc5 27.c4 with some counterplay for White. The text also gives up a pawn but has the added drawback of allowing an effective simplifying combination.

25...Qc3 26.Rfe1 Rxe3!

Black has a winning rook ending after 27.Qxe3 Qxe3 28.Rxe3 Nxc2 29.Rae1 h5 30.R1e2 Nxe3 31.Rxe3 Rd1+ 32.Kg2 Rd2+ 33.Kg1 Kd7. My opponent decided he had seen enough and stopped the clocks.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

A late tactic

Here is rook and pawn ending of a type that occurs frequently in blitz chess. With both sides about to promote a pawn, the general result is a draw. One side will give up his rook for the opponent's pawn, and will then force his opponent to do the same.

I am White in the diagram position and my last move was 57.g7. Black has several ways to force a draw, the simplest of which is 57...Rh4+ 58. Kg8 b2 59.Rb8 Rb4 60.Rxb4 Kxb4 61.Kf8 b1Q g8Q and there is no play left for either side.

However, my opponent apparently believed there was absolutely no danger and that he could play anything he liked. That's how he came up with:


A golden opportunity for White!

2.Rf4+! Rxf4

Unfortunately forced.


Black is now on the horns of a dilemma. If 3...Kb4 then 4.Qb8+ picks up the rook with an easy win. The same goes for 3...Kc3 4.Qg3+. All other moves (except 3...Rf7) allow 4.Qxb3, and White reaches the winning ending of queen vs rook. There was nothing left for Black but resignation.

The lesson here is that no matter how harmless a position may appear, it is still possible to fall into a trap!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Petrosian vs Spassky, Leningrad 1960

The tenth world champion Boris Spassky has written very little about chess. No game collection -- just some contributions to the Santa Monica 1966 tournament book, a contribution to a book on the Sicilian Najdorf, a few articles in obscure Soviet magazines, and that's about it. In this context he once described himself as a “lazy Russian bear.”

While browsing through the 1960 Soviet Yearbook the other day, I came across a rare set of annotations by Spassky, these to his game with Tigran Petrosian from the 27th USSR Championship in Leningrad. The lazy Russian bear had come out of hibernation!

Curiously, this is one of only three decisive games between Spassky and Petrosian from tournament play. Petrosian won again at the 1971 Alekhine Memorial in Moscow, and Spassky took a measure of revenge at the 1975 USSR Team Championship in Riga.

From now on the comments are by Boris Spassky.

Petrosian,T - Spassky,B
27th USSR Championship
Leningrad 1960

Before this game the two opponents had met eight times and even though most of the games had featured a sharp struggle, each one had ended in a draw. This time both players again went for a win and finally managed to break out of the “vicious circle” of draws.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 0–0 5.e4 d6 6.Be2 e5 7.0–0

This was a bit of a surprise for me. In this position Petrosian usually plays 7.d5.

7...Nbd7 8.Re1 c6 9.d5

With this move White closes the centre and also significantly reduces the activity of his opponent's dark-squared bishop. This advance is usually connected with a pawn storm on the queenside. At the same time one should also note the negative aspects of the move. Because Black now obtains a comfortable post for his knight – the square c5 – and because the pawn tension around the square e5 has been released, Black can now advantageously prepare the advance f7-f5.

9...Nc5 10.Bf1 a5 11.Bg5

The beginning of a definite plan. By pinning the Black knight, White prevents his opponent from preparing the advance f7-f5. At the same time he intends to transfer his own knight from f3 to d2 and later to b3. And if Black drives the enemy bishop to g3 by playing h7-h6 and g6-g5, then White will be able to bring it back into play after f2-f3. However, in the present situation this plan does not turn out successfully because of Black's 13th move.

11...h6 12.Bh4 g5 13.Bg3 Bg4! 14.Re3

White prepares to move his queen out of the pin. If he does this immediately by playing, say, 14.Qc2, then 14...Bxf3 15.gxf3 is very unpleasant for White because the bishop on g3 is left out of play. However, the move in the game involves a loss of time and with his 14th move Black begins an active plan of attack against e4, the stronghold of White's position.

14...b5! 15.dxc6

The strongest continuation. After 15.cxb5 cxd5 16.Nxd5 (if 16.exd5 then 16...e4, etc.) 16...Nfxe4 Black obtains good play.

15...b4 16.Nb5

16.Nd5 is also not dangerous for Black because of 16...Nfxe4 17.c7 Qe8 with good play.

16...Nfxe4 (diagram)

A very complicated position has arisen, one that is not easy to assess. White has a passed c-pawn and a strong knight on b5 threatening the backward pawn on d6. Black for his part has compensation in the form of a pawn majority in the centre and the strong position of his minor pieces. In addition White has to reckon with the advance of the enemy f-pawn.


It was better to play 17.Bd3 immediately, and if 17...f5 then to sacrifice the exchange with 18.Bxe4 fxe4 19.Rxe4 Nxe4 20.Qd5 followed by 21.Qxe4 with approximately equal chances due the strong position of the knight on b5 and the dangerous passed c-pawn.


A mistake, relinquishing Black's advantage. Correct was 17...Qd7! If White replies 18.Bd3 then there follows 18...f5. In this situation the exchange sacrifice is not good for White; for example 19.Bxe4 19...fxe4 20.Rxe4 Nxe4 21.Qd5+ Be6 22.Qxe4 d5! with advantage. Instead of 20.Rxe4 White can play 20.h3 but even then 20...Be6 (20...Bh5 21.Nxe5!) 21.Nd2 d5 would give Black the better game.

If White does not take on e4 but plays 19.Bc2, then 19...Nf6 is possible. In view of the threat of f5-f4 White would have to sacrifice a piece with 20.Qxd6 Qxd6 21.Nxd6. However, after 21...e4 and 22…f4 Black would get the advantage.

18.Bd3 Nxg3

The exchange of an active knight for a bishop that has no prospects appears to be illogical. On the other hand it is not clear how Black can fight for an advantage. For example, if 18...f5 then 19.Bxe4 fxe4 20.Rxe4 Nxe4 21.Qd5+ gives White satisfactory play. Or 18...Nf6 19.Nxd6! and the queen cannot take the knight because of 20.Bh7+.

With the move in the game I marked out a plan that was based on an incorrect assessment of the position.

19.hxg3 f5

Black overestimates the strength of his centre pawns. After the game Petrosian suggested 19...Rac8 followed by 20...Rxc7. In that case Black would have a pawn and two active bishops for the exchange.


Consolidating White's advantage. The attack on the d6-pawn is very unpleasant. What should Black do now? If 20...e4 then 21.Qd5+ Kh8 22.Nfd4 with the threat of 23.f3 and White stands better. Or 20...Ra6 21.Qd5+ Kh8 22.Nh2 f4 (22...Bh5 23.Bxf5!) 23.Nxg4 fxe3 24.Nxe3 with an excellent position for the sacrificed exchange.

20...f4 21.gxf4 gxf4 22.Re1 Ra6 23.Be4 h5?

This “active” move only worsens Black's position. It was time to think about how to get rid of the enemy pawn on c7. Deserving attention was 23...Bd7 with the threat of Bxb5 25.cxb5 Rb6. In that case Black could successfully carry on the struggle.

24.Qc2 Qf6 25.Nd2 h4

The advance of this pawn holds absolutely no danger for White.

26.f3 Bc8 27.Bd5+ Kh8 28.Ne4

White has established a blockade on the central squares, and as a result Black's forces are completely paralysed.


Still laying some hopes on the h-pawn.

29.Re2 h3 30.gxh3 Rf5 31.Rh2 a4 32.h4 b3 33.axb3 axb3 34.Qd1 Rxa1 35.Qxa1 Black resigns (1-0)

White threatens 36.Nexd6. Black can only parry this threat with 35...Nxe4. Then 36.Bxe4 Rf8 37.Qd1 puts him in a completely helpless position.

Monday, October 26, 2009

J.Yoos vs L.Davies, Vancouver 2009

Today we will analyse an interesting ending from the game J.Yoos-L.Davies, played in the sixth round of this year's B.C. Championship tournament in Vancouver.

In the first diagram White is about to make his 39th move. Although White has the nominal advantage of bishop vs knight, Black's position does not present any cause for alarm. He is well-centralized and has the entry points under control. Indeed, White's bishop is somewhat short of targets, and will have to content itself with restricting Black's movements in the hope that his colleague the king can make something happen. But at the moment that does not look too likely.

39.Bf5 Ne8 40.Be4+ Kd6 41.Bg2 Nc7 42.Bb7 Ne8 43.Be4 Nf6 44.Bg6 Kc6

After some minor sparring we are back where we started. White tries a different tack.

45.Bf7 Kd6!?

After 45...a6 46.b5+ axb5+ 47.axb5+ Kd6 the draw could be agreed fairly soon.

46.Kb5 Ne4!?

This aggressive move suggests that Black is playing for a win, or at least keeping that possibility open. Otherwise he might have dug in with 46...Kc7 and if 47.Ka6 then 47...Kb8 48.Bg6 Nd5 49.Kb5 Kc7 50.Kc4 Kd6 51.Bf7 Nf6, when things are looking familiar.

It should be noted that at this point both players were running short of time. This largely accounts for the reversals of fortune that occur over the next few moves.


White's only chance for active play is an attack on his opponent's queenside pawns. He could have prefaced this move with the interesting 47.g3!?, trying to prevent Black from creating a passed pawn, but then 47...Nc3+! 48.Ka6 Nxa4 49.Kxa7 Kc7 leads to yet another drawish position.

47...Nxf2 48.Kxa7 Kc7?

A serious error that should have cost Black the game. Correct was 48...Nd3! when there are two main variations:

A) 49.Kxb6 Nxb4 50.a5 e4 51.Bc4! (not 51.a6? Nxa6 52.Kxa6 e3 53.Bc4 Kc5 and Black wins) 51...e3 52.a6 Nxa6 53.Bxa6 Kd5 54.Ka5 h5 55.Kb4 Ke4 56.Be2 h4 57.g4 (or 57.gxh4 gxh4 58.Kc3 Kf4 59.Kd3 Kg3 60.Bg4 Kf2 and draws) 57...Kf4 58.Kc3 Kg3 59.Kd3 Kxh3 60.Kxe3 Kg3 61.Bf3 h3 62.Ke4 h2 63.Ke3 h1Q 64.Bxh1 Kxg4 with an immediate draw;

B) 49.b5 e4 50.Bg6! (other moves lose) 50...Nc5 51.Bxe4 Nxe4 52.Kxb6 Kd5 (not 52...Nxg3 53.a5 and White wins) 53.a5 Nd6 54.a6 Nc4+ 55.Kb7 Kc5 56.a7 Nb6 57.Ka6 Na8 and the draw is obvious.

(second diagram)


A serious error in return. White is perfectly placed to queen his b-pawn, needing only to lever Black's b-pawn out of the way. But he has to do it accurately. He should prevent Black's next move with 49.b5! when the likely continuation is 49...Nd3 50.a5 (only now!) 50...Nc5 (or 50...bxa5 51.b6+ etc.) 51.axb6+ Kd6 52.b7 Nxb7 53.Kxb7 and wins.


Correctly blockading the dangerous White b-pawn. Completely wrong would be 49...bxa5? 50.b5! as in the previous note.

50.Ka6 e4 51.Kxb5 e3 52.Bc4 Ne4 53.Bd3?

This is no time for waiting moves. White can still save the game with 53.Ka6! Kb8 (if 53...Nxg3 54.b5 e2 55.Bxe2 Nxe2 56.Ka7 Nd4 57.b6+ Kc6 58.b7 Nb5+ 59.Ka8 and Black must give perpetual with 59...Nc7+, etc.) 54.Kb6 Nc3 55.a6 e2 56.Bxe2 Nxe2 57.a7+ Ka8 58.g4 Nc3 59.b5 Na4+ 60.Ka6 Nc5+ 61.Kb6 Na4+ and again Black has nothing better than a draw.

53...Nxg3 54.Kc5 e2 55.Bxe2 Nxe2 56.b5 Nf4 57.b6+ Kb7 58.Kb5 (third diagram)

White's connected passed pawns give him a semblance of counterplay, but that's about it.


Black wins cleanly after 58...Nxh3! 59.a6+ Kb8 60.Kc6 Nf4 61.a7+ Ka8 62.b7+ Kxa7 63.Kc7 Nd5+ 64.Kc8 Nb6+ 65.Kc7 Nd7! But the text move does not spoil anything.

59.a6+ Kb8 60.Kc6 Ne6?!

Black is afraid of the advancing White pawns and does not notice the winning knight manoeuvre. After 60...g4 61.hxg4 hxg4 62.a7+ Ka8 63.b7+ (if 63.Kc7 then 63...Nd5+ 64.Kc6 Nxb6, etc.) 63...Kxa7 64.Kc7 Nd5+ 65.Kc8 Nb6+ 66.Kc7 Nd7 Black wins easily.

61.Kd5 g4?

The final error, after which Black can no longer win. He can still transpose to the previous note with 61...Nf4+ 62.Kc6 Nxh3.

62.hxg4 hxg4 63.Ke4!

White's king correctly heads east in order to deal with Black's pawn.


Neither side can make progress and the draw was agreed here.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Relative values

Anyone who studies a beginner's book on chess quickly learns that not all pieces have the same value. In my day the most common table of values went as follows: Pawn = 1 point; Knight = 3 points; Bishop = 3 points; Rook = 5 points; Queen = 9 points. Other tables have slightly different values for the bishop and the queen, but the overall ratios are very similar.

Based on this table, exchanging a rook for two minor pieces is considered advantageous because 6 points is more than 5 points. When such an opportunity arises it is a good idea to take a hard look at the resulting position and see if it is actually favourable. In chess it is not just the presence of pieces on the board that counts. Their location and relevant capabilities can be far more important.

I am playing Black in the diagram position and my opponent's last move was the weakening 20.g3-g4. I saw an opportunity to exploit this move by bringing one of my knights into an attacking position. There was an apparent drawback in that my opponent could give up one of his rooks for both of my knights, which according to the table would mean a net loss of 1 point. However in the resulting position there would be a strong manoeuvre available, one that my opponent had not foreseen.

20...Nge5! 21.Rxe5 Nxe5 22.Qxe5

So far, so good, thinks White; he has won two pieces for a rook.


This forces the White knight on b5 to an offside position and prepares to exchange off his colleague on d4. The preliminary pawn move is important because otherwise my opponent would maintain a knight on d4, giving him much better defensive chances.

23.Na3 Bxd4! 24.Qxd4

White could also play 24.cxd4 but then Black carries on with 24...Qxg4+ 25.Kf1 Qh3+ 26.Ke2 Re6, winning White's queen.

24...Qxg4+ 25.Kf1 Re8!

Also possible was 25...Qh3+ 26.Ke2 Re8+ 27.Kd1 Qf1+ 28.Kc2 Qxa1, but I preferred the text move, slamming the door on the opposing king. White has nothing better than 26.Qxd5+ Kh7 27.Qg3, but then follows 27...Qe2+ 28.Kg1 Rg6, a pleasing echo of the line in the previous note.

After a few minutes my opponent agreed he had no defence and resigned the game (0-1).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Defensive tactics

Here is a late middlegame position of a type that arises so often in mixed tournaments. One side clearly has the initiative because of greater piece activity, but a decisive tactic has not quite materialised. In this particular case both players have pawn weaknesses but Black is on move and should be thinking about putting White to the test. But what's the best way forward?

This was the challenge facing Efim Geller (Black) in his game with Yuri Balashov from the 1969 Soviet Championship in Moscow. If it were White's turn to play, he would oppose rooks with 1.Re1 and take a large step towards neutralising Black's initiative. Geller understood this very well and was ready with an active idea:


The attack on the g-pawn makes things difficult for White, as the following variations show:

a) 2.Be1 Rxc2+ 3.Kxc2 Rxa2+ followed by 4...Rxg2 and Black wins easily;

b) 2.Rg1 Bd4 3.Re1 Rxg2, etc.;

c) 2.g3 Rf2 3.f4 (3.Re1 Rxf3) 3...b5 4.Re1 h5! 5.Re7 Rf1+! 6.Re1 Rxe1+ 7.Bxe1 h4 8.Kb1 ( 8.Rc5 Rxa2 9.Rxf5 Ra1+ 10.Kd2 b4–+) 8...Re4 9.Bd2 h3 and White is in continuing difficulties.

But there is a hidden resource that saves the game for White, and Balashov finds it:

2.Re1!! Rxg2 3.Rc8+ Kf7 4.Rc7+ Kf8

Unfortunately for Geller, Black can no longer play for a win. If 4...Kg6 5.Re6+ Kh5 and now White has the surprise shot 6.Rxg7!, which wins immediately because 6...Rxg7 runs into 7.Rh6#.

After the further moves

5.Rc8+ Kf7 6.Rc7+

the players agreed to a draw.

In the starting position Black has two other tries:

a) 1....Kf7 2.Re1 Rxe1+ 3.Bxe1 Be5 4.g3 f4, but White can defend with 5.gxf4 Bxf4+ 6.Kb2 Be5+ 7.Bc3 Rb4+ 8.Kc1 Bf4+ 9.Bd2 Ke6 10.Bxf4 Rxf4 11.Rc3;

b) 1...b5 2.Re1 Rxe1+ 3.Bxe1 Rc4 4.Rxc4 bxc4 5.Kc2 Kf7 6.g3 and a draw is the correct outcome.

The conclusion is that Black has a temporary initiative but no real advantage.

Despite his reputation as the scourge of world champions, Efim Geller had his hands full with Yuri Balashov, losing four games, drawing ten, and scoring just a single win against the Moscow grandmaster.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Magnus goes astray

Judging from his current position near the top of the chess world, the Norwegian GM Magnus Carlsen doesn't make too many unforced errors. But an instructive counterexample occurred in his game with the Russian GM Peter Svidler from an international tournament in the Athens suburb of Kallithea in 2008.

In the first diagram, Magnus is playing White and is on move. Objectively, the most reasonable plan is to attack Black's g-pawn with 19.dxe6 fxe6 20.h4, bringing White's kingside pieces into action with the minimum of delay. But Magnus tries a different idea.


The idea behind this move is clear enough. White intends to mobilize his pawn majority with gain of time by attacking Black's bishop with f3-f4. But there is a flaw – a forcing variation that interrupts the smooth flow of White's game:

19...exd5 20.exd5 Bc2! 21.Rc1 Bg6

Things have obvously gone wrong for White, and no easy remedy is available. There are only two moves to keep White in the game. One is 22.g4, which is met simply by 22...Bxh5, and the other is the text move:


Now if Black's bishop retreats from e5, White can protect his knight with 23.Be2.

22...Bxh5! 23.fxe5 Nd7! (second diagram)

As a result of the adventure inaugurated by 19.g3, White's pawn centre is now lifeless and exposed. At the grandmaster level one could regard Black's remaining task as a matter of technique.

The conclusion is that Magnus did not seek out Black's strongest reply when he decided on the move 19.g3? This represents a psychological failing that is far more common below the master level.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fritz vs Fred

Fred, of course, is Fred Reinfeld. Fritz is our well-known German friend. Fred Reinfeld died in 1964, while Fritz wasn't “born” until 1992.

There is something of Fred in all human players. We don't see everything there is to see on the chessboard. Fritz doesn't either, but he's a machine – a machine that is tactically perfect within a certain range. Today we're going to turn him loose on one of Fred's annotations.

The diagram position comes from the game Tarrasch-Blackburne, Hastings 1895, and was annotated by Fred in his book Tarrasch's Best Games of Chess, published by Chatto & Windus in 1947. Blackburne is being attacked, and his last move was the reckless 26...g5. Tarrasch was ready:


“A really elegant solution,” writes Fred. Fritz agrees, although he also points out that White can win with the prosaic 27.Bxg5 hxg5 28.Qxg5+ Kf8 29.b4! Na6 30.Bg6 Rd7 31.a3 Nc7 32.h4!, when Black is in a huge bind and cannot stop the march of White's h-pawn. A personal view perhaps, but I suspect that Siegbert Tarrasch's arch-rival Aron Nimzowitsch would have played the position this way.


This loses in simple fashion, but what else can Black do? Fred points out that that White is mating by force after 27...Rxh6 28.Bxg5 Qc7 29.Bf6+! Very nice.

More stubborn was 27...Kxh6, and here is where things get interesting. Fred attaches one of his many exclamation marks to the move 28.Bxg5+, says that White wins, and begins to ramble on about Blackburne's poor handling of the French Defence. Fritz agrees that White can win after 28.Bxg5+, but shows that he must play accurately after 28...Qxg5!. Here is how the win is achieved: 29.Rf6+ Kh5 30.Qh3+ Qh4 31.g4+ Kg5 32.Qe3+ Kxg4 33.Rf4+ Kh5 34.Rxh4+ Kxh4 35.Qg3+ Kh5 36.Qf3+! Kh4 37.Qf6+ Kg4 38.Qg7+ Kf3 39.Kg1! (the star move, helping to close the net around Black's king) 39...Rxh2 (no better is 39...Bc6 40.Qg3+ Ke2 41.Qf2#) 40.Qf6+ Kg4 41.Qxd8 Rxc2 42.Qd1+ Kf5 43.Qxc2+ Kxe5 44.Qh2+ Ke4 45.Qe2+ Kd4 46.Qf2+ Kc3 47.Qxc5 and Black must resign. I don't think Fred saw any of this.

Instead of 28.Bxg5+, White has the more practical 28.Rf6+!? Kg7 29.Qxg5+ Kf8 30.Rh6!, leaving him with two extra pawns and an easy win after 30...Qxg5 31.Rxh8+ Qg8 32.Rxg8+ Kxg8 33.Bxd8. I found this myself, long before I met Fritz.


Now Black is getting mated no matter what he does, and therefore Blackburne resigned (1-0)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Barcza vs Haag, Tallinn 1969

Last time we looked at one of Grandmaster Barcza's rook endings. Here is another less-complicated one (see the first diagram).

Most endings of rook and pawn vs rook and pawn are drawn with best play from both sides. The exceptions occur when one of the pawns is much closer to its queening square. If the inferior side cannot set up a blockade, the correct defensive strategy is to give up the rook for the pawn (or new queen) and then try to promote one's own pawn. The superior side will of course try to prevent this, and the game becomes a race in which the outcome can depend on a single tempo.

In the starting position White has the advantage but with correct play it will not be enough to force a win.

51.g6 Rh3+ 52.Kg4 Rh1 53.Rf7+ Kd6 54.g7 Rg1+ 55.Kh5

(second diagram)


It isn't necessary to calculate variations to see that this move must be wrong. White is queening by force, so Black has to be ready to advance his own pawn as quickly as possible. After the self-blockade, Black will have to spend another move getting his king out of the way, which in this case is enough to turn a draw into a loss.

Correct was 55...Kd5! 56.Kh6 (after 56.Rd7+ Black can safely change plans with 56... Ke5 because his king gets to f6, where it interferes with White's king: 57.Kh6 Kf6 58.Kh7 e5 59.Kh8 (definitely not 59.g8Q? Rh1#) 59...e4 60.g8Q Rxg8+ 61.Kxg8 Ke5 and Black draws easily) 56...Rh1+ 57.Kg6 Rg1+ 58.Kh7 e5 59.g8Q (or 59.Rf6 e4 60.Rg6 Rh1+ 61.Kg8 Rf1 and White cannot make progress) 59...Rxg8 60.Kxg8 e4 61.Re7 Kd4 and White will have to give up his own rook in order to stop Black's pawn.

56.Kh6 Rh1+ 57.Kg6 Rg1+ 58.Kh7 Rh1+ 59.Kg8 Rg1

(third diagram)


This is a rather serious error at the grandmaster level. Instead of taking two moves to win Black's rook, White takes three moves to do the same thing. In this way he returns the tempo that Black wasted earlier, which is enough turn the game back into a draw.

The winning line is 60.Kf8! Kd4 61.Rd7+! (an important technical device that gains a tempo for White) 61...Kc4 (Black also concedes a tempo if the king moves in front of the pawn) 62.g8Q Rxg8+ 63.Kxg8 e5 64.Re7! Kd4 65.Kf7 e4 66.Kf6 Kd3 67.Kf5 e3 68.Kf4 e2 69.Kf3 and White successfully captures the pawn.

60...Kd4 61.Rd8+

Or 61.Kf7 e5 62.g8Q Rxg8 63.Rxg8 e4 and the e-pawn will cost White his rook.

61...Ke4 62.Kf7 e5 63.g8Q Rxg8 64.Rxg8 Kf3 65.Ke6 e4 66.Rf8+ Kg2 67.Kd5 e3 68.Re8 Kf2 ½–½

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Barcza vs Rossolimo, Vrsac 1969

This ending appeared in Informant 8 with analysis by the winner, GM Gedeon Barcza of Hungary. White has just exchanged minor pieces on c6 and is ready to take over the b-file. Having the move is usually a valuable asset when both sides have pawn weaknesses, and that is certainly the case here.

36.Rb3 Ke7 37.Rb5 e4

Black could play 37...Ra6 with the idea that a passed c-pawn is less dangerous than a passed a-pawn, but that would give his rook less mobility than in the game. With the text move he is trying to prevent White's king from joining the action.

38.Rxa5 Ke6 39.e3 h5

If 39...f5 40.Ra7 Kf6 41.a5 (Barcza) and White is threatening Ra7-b7-b6.

40.Ra8 Rb6 41.Re8+

Worth consideration was 41.a5!?, for example: 41...Rb4 42.Re8+ Kf5 43.Re7 Kf6 44.Rxe4 Ra4 45.f4 Rxa5 46.Re5 g6 47.Kf3 and the simple plan of attacking the c-pawn will put Black in serious trouble.

41...Kd6 42.Rxe4 Ra6 43.Kh3 g5 44.f4 f6

(second diagram)


Rossolimo must have breathed a big sigh of relief after this move, a serious error giving away most if not all of White's advantage. The game is going to turn into a pawn race, and in these situations the race is usually to the swift. Much stronger was the immediate 45.g4! If Black continues 45...h4 as in the game, then White plays 46.f5!, fixing a weak pawn on f6. A likely continuation then is 46...Rxa4 47.Re6+ Kd7 48.Rxf6 Rxc4 49.Rg6 Re4 50.Rxg5 Rxe3+ 51.Kxh4 c4 52.f6!, when it is clear that White is winning easily. Black fares no better after 45...hxg4+ 46.Kxg4 gxf4 47.Rxf4 Ke5 48.Rf5+ Ke4 (or 48...Ke6 49.Rxc5 Rxa4 50.h4 Kd6 51.Rd5+ Ke6 52.Rd4) 49.Rxc5 Rxa4 50.Rf5 Kxe3 51.Rf3+! Kd2 (51...Ke4 52.Rxf6 and Black cannot capture the c-pawn) 52.Rf4 and White's h-pawn is the decisive factor. It is strange that a player of Barcza's calibre did not see these ideas when analysing the game.

45...fxg5 46.g4 h4 47.Re8 Rxa4 48.Rg8 Rxc4 49.Rxg5 Re4 50.Rf5 c4 51.Rf1 c3 52.g5

Barcza gave the line 52.Kxh4 Rxe3 53.g5 Kg5 c2 54.h4 Re2 55.h5 Rd2 56.Rc1 Ke7 57.Kh6 Kf8 58.g5 Kg8! and Black draws. If 59.g6 Kh8 60.Ra1 then 60...Rd8! and White cannot make progress.

52...c2 53.g6 Rxe3+ 54.Kxh4 Re2 55.h3 Ke6?

Black can draw easily with 55...Rd2 56.Rc1 Ke7 57.Kg5 Kf8 as given by Barcza, or in much trickier fashion with the immediate 55...Ke7!?, for example, 56.Kh5 Rd2 57.g7!? Rd5+!! (the point of this check is to drive White's king to one of a number of awkward squares) 58.Kg6 (other moves are no better, as the reader can verify) 58...Rd1! 59.g8Q Rxf1! 60.Qg7+ Ke6! and White must repeat moves after 61.Qg8+ Ke7! since 62.Qh7+? loses after 62...Kd6!

56.Kh5 Rd2

Black could try 56...Rf2!? but after 57.g7 Rxf1 58.g8Q+, he will inevitably lose either his rook or his pawn.

57.g7 Rg2

There is no time left for 57...Rd1 because White will simply queen with check.

58.Kh6 Ke5 59.h4 Kd4 60.h5 1–0

An endgame concealing some interesting subtleties.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Seven Brutalities 6

I was looking for some revenge here because my opponent had won our only previous encounter. When an opportunity arose for an interesting knight sacrifice, it didn't take me long to make the big decision. Because Black could have resigned on move 25 I have decided to call this game a miniature, even though it went slightly over the limit!

Scoones,D - Neufahrt,G

Labour Day Open, Victoria 1989

English Opening A10

1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 Bg7 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d6 5.d4 Nd7 6.e3 f5?!

This is not the best reaction to White's restrained system of development. It is unlikely that Black will successfully challenge White on the central light squares and there are even fewer prospects of getting in an effective break with ...f5-f4. Preferable was 6...Ngf6.

7.Nge2 e5 8.b3 Ne7 9.a4?!

An unnecessary precaution. Today I would play an immediate 9.Ba3 and now: a) 9...exd4 10.exd4 Nf6 11.0-0 0-0 12.Re1; or b) 9...Nf6 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Qxd8+ Kxd8 12.Rd1+ Ke8 13.Bd6; with advantage to White in both cases.


Rather ambitious since White is well-placed to attack Black's pawn centre. It was better to castle first and decide on a plan later.

10.f3 d5

Black meets the attack on his advanced e-pawn by building up his pawn centre. There were two other approaches: a) ignoring the attack and seeking active play with 10...0–0 11.fxe4 fxe4 12.Nxe4 d5, but after 13.Nf2 there might not be enough compensation for the pawn; b) exchanging on f3 and giving White a backward e-pawn with 10...exf3 11.Bxf3 Nf6, but this allows White to retain an edge after 12.0–0 0–0 13.Qd3 Qc7 14.Ba3 Bd7 15.b4. The move in the game is best, if only because it is the most consistent.

11.cxd5 cxd5 12.Ba3 Nf6 13.Nf4!?

With this move White threatens to win the d-pawn with 14.Bxe7 – unless Black is willing to displace his king. Neufahrt decides to call White's bluff. But who is bluffing whom?

13...g5!? (diagram)


After 14.Bxe7 Kxe7! 15.Nfe2 Kf7 Black's king position is a minor inconvenience that is more than compensated by his strong pawn centre. But White's true intention was the move in the game, offering the sacrifice of a piece for interesting play.


Black is not forced to accept the offer. Playable is 14...fxe4 15.Nh5 0-0 16.0-0 Be6, although White can perhaps maintain some initiative with 17.Nb5. In view of what happens in the game, this was what Black should have played. But Neufahrt is never one to back down from a challenge!

In making this sacrifice I did not calculate all of the variations to the end. It was enough to see that in the major lines White must have sufficient compensation for the piece. Add to this the multitude of threats and the practical difficulties imposed by the clock and it was clear that Black's defensive task would be a difficult one.

15.e5 Ne4?!

This would be the best move if Black had already castled. In that case the exchange on e4 would not be a good idea for White because of the weakened light squares around his king. It was better to play 15...Ng4, when there are two main variations: a) 16.exf4 Ne3 (stronger than 16...Be6 17.Qd3 0–0 18.h3 Nh6 19.Bxe7 Qxe7 20.Bxd5 etc.) 17.Qh5+ Ng6 18.Kf2 Nxg2 19.Kxg2 a6 20.Rac1; b) 16.Bxe7 Qxe7 17.Nxd5 Qf7 18.exf4 Be6 19.Qd3 0–0 20.Nc3 Bxb3 21.h3 Nh6 22.Rb1 Bc4 23.Qe3 Rab8 24.Kf2. In both cases White has good compensation for the sacrificed piece.

16.Bxe4 fxe4 17.Qh5+ Ng6

Exchanging queens with 17...Kf8 18.gxf4 Qe8 19.Qxe8+ Kxe8 does not bring Black any happiness after 20.Bxe7 Kxe7 21.Nxd5+ Kd8 22.Rc1 Bf5 23.Rg1 Bf8 24.Rg5.

18.exf4 Qd7

If 18...Qa5 19.Rc1 Bd7 20.0–0 Bc6 then 21.Bc5 Bf8 22.b4 Qd8 23.Bxf8 Rxf8 24.f5 with a winning position for White.

19.Nb5 Bf8?!

Black is ahead in material and under some pressure so it's very natural to want to exchange pieces. But a defender's tactical operations must be accurate and this one is nothing of the kind. A better try was 19...Qg4 20.Nd6+ Kd8 21.Qxg4 Bxg4 and now White can keep the advantage with 22.h3! (stronger than 22.Nxb7+) 22...Bf3 23.Rh2!


Black must have overlooked this retort. The pawn cannot be captured because of Nb5-c7+, winning the queen.

20...Qd8 21.Bxf8 Kxf8

No better was 21...Rxf8 22.f5 and along with his other advantages White recovers the sacrificed piece.

22.f5 a6 23.fxg6 axb5 24.0–0+ Kg8

Or 24...Ke7 25.Rf7+ Kd6 26.Rc1, slamming all the doors on the Black king.

25.g7! Kxg7 26.Rf7+ 1–0

This loss must have dented my opponent's morale because I won all the rest of our encounters. As Larsen once wrote, some games bring more than one point!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Alekhine on New York 1927

Alexander Alekhine's book of the New York 1927 international tournament is an acknowledged classic in European countries but is almost unknown in North America. The reason is simple: the book was published in German, and a proper translation has never been made available in English. Today we are going to remedy that situation to a small degree by presenting Alekhine's annotations to one of the more interesting games of the tournament: the first-round encounter between Frank Marshall and Aron Nimzowitsch.

Before this game, Marshall's lifetime score against Nimzowitsch stood at 2 wins, 3 losses, and 4 draws. He had won their last encounter (at Marienbad 1925) and was probably eager to level the scores, especially since he had the White pieces here. His choice of the Exchange Variation of the French Defence was a strange one for this purpose, although he gave it a typically aggressive interpretation. Nimzowitsch handled Marshall's attacking ideas in his own deeply positional style, and the result was an impressive victory, at least on the surface...

The commentary in standard font is by Alekhine from his book Das New Yorker Schachturnier 1927, while the commentary in italics is by Nimzowitsch from his book Chess Praxis. There are some interesting points of disagreement!

Marshall -- Nimzowitsch
New York 1927 (1)
French Defence C01

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.exd5 exd5 5.Nf3

With this move White voluntarily gives up any pretensions to an opening advantage; moreover, by exchanging on c3 at a convenient moment, Black obtains chances of creating an enduring weakness in White's position in the form of doubled pawns. The immediate 5.Bd3 is therefore played more often.

5...Ne7 6.Bd3 Nbc6 7.h3

If 7.0-0 immediately, then 7...Bg4 would not be very pleasant for White. The asymmetrical development of the king's knights has not turned out in White's favour.


Nimzowitsch is emboldened by his opponent's unsuccessful handling of the opening and he therefore avoids the natural exchanging manoeuvre 7...Bf5 in favour of a plan that is complicated and interesting, but also not completely correct.

8.O-O Qd7 9.Bf4

Simpler was 9.Ne2 with approximately equal play. However, the move in the game is also not to be criticised – it actually gives good practical results because it provokes the opponent into some risky experimentation.


Over the past few years, play against weak doubled pawns has become one of Nimzowitsch's favourite strategic motifs; and he plays such positions, which he knows how to obtain in the most varied openings, with particular virtuosity. However, in the present case he is not on the right track because the insecure position of his own king is bound to interfere with the exploitation of his opponent's weak points. Of course, with the move 9...Bd6 he could have easily equalised the game.

10.bxc3 f6

In order to safeguard the bishop against a possible Nf3-g5 – the prophylactic meaning of 7...Be6 is thus clear. White now tried an attack on the open b-file, but it is not surprising that it failed, on account of the dynamic weakness of the double complex.

A necessary consequence of his previous move. Because the king bishop has disappeared from the board, the dark squares must be defended as far as possible by pawns – but now the square e6 has been weakened.

11.Rb1 g5 12.Bg3 O-O-O (first diagram)

Looks risky, but is part of the plan initiated on the 9th move.

The king takes on the defence of the pawns on b7 and c7.

Generally speaking, the role of the king in defence has been seriously underestimated for a long time, particularly after the sad fiasco suffered by the efforts of the older Steinitz to use the king – with many other pieces still on the board – as an inducement for his opponents to attack. It is only the period since the Great War that has brought changes in this regard; see, for example, the games of the match in Buenos Aires, where even in the middlegame the kings often served to protect certain squares where a breakthrough was threatened; in other words, they played an active role well before the endgame.

Of course, Black's last few moves – by their directness and, in a certain sense, their strategic novelty – make a very favourable impression on anyone who believes in the evolution of chess strategy and its extension to new depths. Therefore it is almost vexatious to discover – after a very close examination of the position – that this plan is not only not the best, but that the correct response by the opponent – and not a difficult one to find at that – would actually put Black in a highly unenviable situation.

In view of all this it was better to forgo 11...g5 and play instead the more modest 11...Nd8 followed by 0-0, etc.


Marshall's equilibrium has been disturbed by his opponent's boldness, and he commits – both here, and later on – a series of inaccuracies that are difficult to remedy. For example, instead of the queen move – which carries only the crude and easily-parried threat of 14.Ba6 – a less-stereotyped plan of attack was appropriate: 13.Nd2! If, say, 13...Nb8; then 14.Nb3 b6 15.Qe2 – this time with really unpleasant threats. It would therefore be better for Black to reply to 13.Nd2 with 13...Na5 with the aim of exchanging off the enemy knight on its way to c5. However, notwithstanding that this exchange would restore White's pawn position on the queenside and would therefore demonstrate the insufficiency of the plan begun by the move 9...Bxc3, White would in any case be under no obligation to play the immediate 14.Nb3; very strong instead would be Qd1-c1 (followed by Qc1-a3 when appropriate) and only then the move of the knight. It is not difficult to convince oneself that by adopting such a plan of play White would obtain an enduring initiative. Now, on the other hand, he gradually runs into difficulties.


Not 13...Rdg8 because a flank attack is best undermined by a concentration in the centre and not by a counter-attack on a wing.

Defence (by clearing the square d8 for the king) and counterattack at the same time.


If 14.Ba6 then 14...bxa6 15.Qxa6+ Kd8 16.Rb7 Nf5! 17.Rxc7 Qxc7 18.Bxc7+ Kxc7 with an easy win.

14...Nf5 15.Bxf5(?)

The move 15.Ba6 proves insufficient after 15...bxa6.

It is only through the absence of this bishop that White's queenside pawns become really weak – and this promises White a difficult endgame. In spite of the obvious danger, more chances were offered by 15.Bh2.

15...Bxf5 16.Qb5 Nd8 17.Qc5?

The decisive mistake, giving Black an opportunity to set up – with tempo – a solid defensive position on the queenside. By playing 17.Qa5! Marshall could have prevented this, since if 17...Kb8 then 18.c4! and the resulting complications are not unfavourable for White.

17...b6 18.Qa3 Kb7 19.Qb3

The beginning of a tragedy: the square c2 can hardly be defended otherwise.


Already a blockader makes for c4 where it will demonstrate the weakness of the doubled pawn.


On the 13th move this would have been the start of a very promising attack, but now it is just a modest defence against the threat of a knight invasion on c4. The storm clouds are gathering.

20...Na5 21.Qb2 Rxe1+ 22.Rxe1 Re8

The double exchange of rooks is connected with a purely tactical idea (to say nothing of the fact that Black does not need these pieces in order to realise his advantage): Black eliminates the threat of Nb3-c5+ (after Nd2-b3) and at the same time he avoids the exchange of knights, which would otherwise be forced.

23.Rxe8 Qxe8 24.Qb1

What else could White do? If 24.Kf1, for example, then 24...Qa4 would be very strong.


Here 24...Qe2 was also good.

Time pressure, obviously; otherwise one cannot understand why Black did not play 24...Qe2! Then after 25.Qc1 White would be practically stalemated, while in case of 25.Nb3 Nc4 26.Nc5+ Kc8 27.Nd3 Nd2! Black would win material and also retain the attack.

25.Qd1 Qe6

Also strong was 25...Qc6.

26.Nb3 Nc4 27.Nd2 Na3 28.Nf1 Nxc2

Now Black has an ending with a pawn plus but bishops of opposite colours, and many of the onlookers prognosticated a draw.

Because of the presence of opposite-coloured bishops, White could perhaps reconcile himself to the loss of this pawn, if not for the structural weaknesses on his queenside. But now he can only wait while his opponent prepares the fatal blow.

29.Qh5 Bd3 30.Qd1 Qe4

Not 30...Qe2 at once because of 31.Qxe2 and 32.Ne3.


If 31.f3 then 31...Qe2 is sound.

31...Qe2 32.Qxe2

After 32.Qc1 Ne1! White would gradually perish from suffocation.

32...Bxe2 33.f4 Na3 34.fxg5 fxg5 35.Kf2

Otherwise Black plays 35...Nb5 followed by Be2-d3, etc.

35...Bh5 36.Be5 g4 37.hxg4

Black can only welcome pawn exchanges because on the other wing he has enough material for a win. Therefore from the practical point of view it was better to play 37.h4.

37...Bxg4 38.Ke3 Bf5 39.Bg7 (second diagram) 39...Be6!

Threatening to win a pawn with 40...Nb5, which if played immediately would be premature on account of the possible reply c3-c4. White, being obviously in time pressure (the 40th move!) does not notice the threats, and after this the endgame does not present his opponent any difficulties whatsoever. However, Black would also win after 40.Kd3!, for example: 40...Kd7 41.Bf8 Bf5+ 42.Ke3 Nc2+ 43.Kf4 Bg6 44.Ke5 Ne3, etc.

40.Bf8? Nb5 41.Nb1 a5

Here 41...Bf5 was also playable: 42.a4 Bxb1 43.axb5 Ba2 44.Kf4 Bc4 45.Ke5 Kd7 46.Bb4 c6 47.bxc6+ Kxc6 and the king migrates to b3.

Also possible was 41...Bf5, since if 42.a4 Bxb1 43.axb5, after which the simplest way for Black is Kc8-d7 followed by c7-c6 (in case of Ke3-f4-e5). After the exchange of pawns his king gets to c4.


A winning line, not unlike that shown in the preceding note would be: 42.Kf4 Bf7 43.a4 Bg6 44.axb5 Bxb1 45.Ke5 Ba7 46.Ke6 Bc4 with 47...Kb7 and 48...c6, etc.

42...Bf5 43.Na3 Nxa3 44.Bxa3 Bb1 45.Bf8 Bxa2

Marshall could have quietly spared himself the following 15 moves.

46.Bg7 Bc4 47.Ke3 Kb7 48.Bf6 Ka6 49.Kd2

If 49.Bd8, Black has a win, the king penetrating to b3, e.g., 49.Bd8 Kb5 50.Bxc7 Kc4 51.Bxb6 a4, with 52...Kb3, and wins as the a-pawn cannot be stopped. This variation shows the enduring weakness of the dead and gone double complex. For in the passed a-pawn is mirrored the weakness of the defunct White a-pawn, and in the blocked long diagonal f6-a1 is manifested, in memoriam, the obstructive effect of the pawn formation c3 and d4. White might have resigned here.

49...Bf1 50.g3 Kb5 51.Kc1 Kc4 52.Kb2 c5 53.Be5 cxd4 54.Bxd4 b5 55.Bb6 a4 56.Ba5 d4 57.cxd4 b4 58.Bb6 a3+ 59.Ka2 Kb5 60.Bc5 Ka4 White resigned. 0-1

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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.