28 December 2013

Success Through Miscalculation

Working through the Anthology of Chess Combinations after eight months away, I started badly. I kept missing simple forks and other elementary tactics. By the time I added a second pour to my coffee cup, however, I was beginning to solve some problems.

I found the full combination from Kagan -- Burnevsky 1964 (ACC 280) without error.

Black to move

In the next problem, I quickly identified White's queen as the target and played the correct move.

Black to move

From Stepanov -- Romanovsky 1926.

However, my calculation included an impossible skewer and I missed the second move of the combination. The Chess Informant Solver's Kit asked only for the first move, so I was credited with success. You and I know, however, that it should count as a fail.

27 December 2013

A Teacher's Angst

You'd better not kno so much than know so many things that ain't so.
Josh Billings
One of those dreaded phone calls began with the caller going on at length how much he appreciates my work teaching chess in his grandchild's school. His anguish came through in his words of gratitude. Something in his tone or the way he started the conversation caused me to hear "but" at the end of every statement of praise. Every compliment was the lead up to an unspoken criticism that I knew was coming.

My memory of the conversation is hazy because it was a dream, a bad dream.

The man had taught his grandchild to play chess. Then, the child learned the game from me at school. Now the grandfather was conflicted. The child is telling him that he has some of the rules wrong.

He is not certain why I think my way is the correct one. He has played chess all of his life, and he had never heard of some of the things his grandchild learned in school. The man had been his school's champion sixty years ago.

I woke up before the conversation got into specifics. Even so, I knew what was coming. Children frequently tell me their father, grandfather, uncle taught them a way of chess that differs on some point or another from what I am teaching. I am careful not to tell them that an older relative is wrong. Kids often think they hear one thing, when something else was said. I do emphasize, however, the correct rule.

In the dream, I was preparing my defense: listing my tournament successes, describing the global culture of competitive chess play--email chess with opponents from South Africa to Poland to Iceland, websites where I have played opponents in every country, the FIDE Laws of Chess.

For some casual players to whom chess is just a game, the scope of chess in global culture comes as a surprise.

Many of the things they get wrong have a long history. Some were rules in another era.

"You forgot to say check, so I can ignore it."
"En passant is an optional rule."
"The king always stands to the right of the queen."
"A pawn can only be promoted to a piece that has been lost."
"When you castle, the king and rook swap places."
"Castling is not allowed if the king was ever in check."

Chess books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries began with lists of rules that attempted to account for regional variations--whether en passant was permitted, whether stalemate was a win, a half-win, or a draw, the peculiarities of castling in Italy. Some leading players made efforts through their clubs to standardize the rules. Most of the rules we use today were in place and accepted by the time that Howard Staunton organized the London International Chess Tournament of 1851.

Some old ideas from earlier eras persist, however. Sometimes they are reinvented by those who did not quite learn the rules before they started teaching others. Millions of chess players compete online in formal and informal competition through websites, mobile devices, and face-to-face. Far more people play the game casually with family and friends.

22 December 2013

Sunday Tactics

According to Bogdan Lalic's annotations in Chess Informant 112, Robert Eames was in time pressure when he missed the strongest continuation here.

White to move

It is White's move 30. The game was drawn by repetition at move 43.

19 December 2013

An Active King

Tarrasch -- Schlechter, Monte Carlo 1902 has occupied my study time this past week (view at chessgames.com). It begins as a mainline closed Spanish. It appears that Schlechter made a series of small errors that led to a clearly worse position, but Tarrasch still needed to demonstrate some fine endgame technique to secure the win.

White to move
After 49...Ke7
50.Ra4 appears to give White a decisive advantage.

50...Rxa4 51.Bxa4 Kd8 52.Kc2 Kc7 53.Kb2

Black to move

White has a clear plan to penetrate with his king and start picking off vulnerable pawns. However, this process might take many moves and Black is not without resources to snatch a draw from the position.

Schlechter's 53...Nc5 seems to me to render White's job easier. In the game, Tarrasch demonstrated how the resulting passed pawn could be pushed and sacrificed to force an exchange into a pawn ending.

Practicing Technique

Starting from the position in the first diagram above, I played out the game against Fritz 11. Although not my strongest engine, it is adequate to the task. My first few efforts demonstrated a want of proper technique in my set of skills. I had to concede a draw on several occasions. After several efforts over three days, I was able to win against the engine.

My tests suggest that 53...Nc5 was not the critical error, but that Black is already lost at this point.

Stripes -- Fritz 11

50.Ra4 Rxa4 51.Bxa4 Bb7 52.Kc2 Kd8 53.Kb2 Kc8 54.Ka3 Nb8 55.Kb4 Na6+ 56.Ka5 Nc7

White to move

57.Kb6? would stumble into a tactic. 57...Bxd5 58.exd5 Nxd5+ and White will be happy with a draw.

57.Bf2 stepping out of the fork.


I was stunned when the computer played this move, but it took several efforts for me to hone the skills necessary to win with the extra piece.

58.exd5 Bxd5 59.Bd1 Kc7 60.Kb5 Kd7

White to move

Wednesday Evening I played this position to a successful conclusion.

61.Bb6 Ke8 62.Be3 Kd7 63.f4 gxf4 64.gxf4 Ke7 65.Be2 Be4 66.Bxc4 exf4 67.Bxf4 Bg2 68.Be2 Kd7

White to move


I did not find the plan immediately.

69...Bc6 70.Bd3 Ke7 71.Kd4 Bb7 72.Be4 Ba6

White to move


I tried 73.c4 and that game ended with insufficient material on move 105. So, I backed up and tried 73.Bf5 with success.

73...Bb7 74.Kc4 Bc6 75.Kb4 Bd5 76.Kb5

Now, my king knows his role.

76...Bf3 77.Kb6 Bd5 78.Kc7 Bc4

White to move


After winning this pawn, my king then maneuvered its way to g7 to win the other pawn, which I was able to capture on move 99.

In the morning, feeling a sense of success after several false starts, I set out to win the game more efficiently from move 61. Fritz varied its defense and I needed a new winning plan.

Thursday Morning

61.Be3 Ke6 62.Be2

Threatening to force the exchange of bishops.

62...Ke7 63.f4 gxf4 64.gxf4 exf4 65.Bxf4 Kd7 66.Bxc4 Bf3

White to move


Stockfish 4 suggested during postgame analysis that I could exchange the g-pawn for White's d-pawn. 67.Kb6 Bxg4 68.Bb5+ Ke6 69.Kc7 Kf5 70.Bxd6 Bd1 71.Bd7+ Ke4 72.c4! and the c-pawn starts to roll.

67...fxg5 Bxg5 68.Bxg5 Be4 69.Be2 Kc7 70.Be3 Bg2 71.Bb6+

I suspect that I was pursuing another phantom at this stage.

71...Kb7 72.Bc4 Bf3 73.Be6 Bc6+ 74.Ka5 Be4 75.Be3 Kc6 76.Kb4 d5

White to move

Not very many years ago, I would give up in such positions and concede a draw. But there is a simple winning plan: the White king with the assistance of his bishops can force his way behind the Black pawn.

77.Bd4 Kd6 78.Bf7 Bf3 79.Kb5 Be2+ 80.Kb6 Bf3 81.Bc5+ Ke5 82.Bg6 Kf6

White to move

I thought to myself that Fritz was cooperating a bit. Even so, I had plans of Kc7 to prevent Kd6, then Bd4 to blockade the pawn, and after Kc6, I would threaten Bg8+. So, perhaps, chasing the bishop makes sense for Black.

83.Bh7 Kg7 84.Bc2 Kf7 85.Bb3 Ke6 86.Kc6 Bg2 87.Bd4 Be4

White to move

88.Bd1 Bh1 89.Bg4+ Ke7 90.Bf5 Bf3 91.Bh7 Kf7 92.Kd6

Now that my king occupies the critical square, the rest should be easy.

92...Bg4 93.Bc2 Ke8 94.Bb3 Kf7 95.Bxd5+

Black to move

95...Kg6 96.c4

This time I accepted the machine's resignation, satisfied that I had no more to learn from the position.

18 December 2013


Lesson of the Week

This position comes from an unplayed variation in the game previously referenced in "Pawn Wars". In the actual game, my opponent played 34...h5. Had he played 34...a5 or 34...c5, my position still would have been winning, but I would have needed to find a move I had not worked out when I exchanged the rooks several moves earlier.

In this position, after 34...c5, White has only one move that maintains the win. Black is able to force White to find several such only moves. It is thus a good position with which to practice calculation skills. I routinely replay such positions against the computer. In one that I played out yesterday, I chose a seemingly risky line in which both players promoted pawns. Then, I missed the forced exchange of queens, winning by a more clumsy route.

White to move

Both players seek to run the other out of pawn moves. Whoever is forced to move his king will lose.

14 December 2013

Lasker's Common Sense

Emanuel Lasker presented a series of lectures in London in 1895 concerned with the fundamentals of chess. Later, he published an outline of his remarks under the title Common Sense in Chess.* His stated intention was to illustrate "general principles" or "rules" through a small number of carefully selected games.

He begins by asserting that chess is a fight, but not one appealing to base instincts of blood lust. Rather, chess is "a fight in which the scientific, the artistic, the purely intellectual element holds undivided sway" (9). The chess player is as a military commander preparing for war, but one who knows exactly the strength and position of the enemy. The task in the beginning is to "mobilize our troops, make them ready for action, try to seize the important lines and points which are as yet wholly unoccupied" (10).

Lasker's lines and points should serve beginning chess players as useful orientation towards the board itself. The files and ranks, diagonals, and important squares of the board are the first object of battle before action against the opponent's king will be possible. Lasker offers two variations on Legall's checkmate as illustrations of the failure to properly mobilize.

*There have been several editions offered by different publishers. My paperback copy (Dover 1965) is essentially a facsimile of the 1917 David McKay edition, which had been corrected by David A. Mitchell. Google Books offers a digitized copy of the 1917 edition. Internet Archive, however, has possibly an earlier edition published by J.S. Ogilivie. It is undated, but a librarian penciled in 1910? Then, e+Books offer an algebraic edition for their iOS reader, based on a 1915 edition published by Will H. Lyons. In the book description, it mentions that Common Sense was first published just over one year after the lectures in 1896/1897. The early date is corroborated by an excerpt in American Chess Magazine 2 (1898) that presents the four rules that close the first lecture (6). The source presented in ACM is Kentish Mercury. Edward Winter (Chess Notes 4982) presents the dates of the lectures as 4 March - 28 May 1895 and gives the first publisher as Bellairs & Co., London 1896. Chess Notes 5788 offers an image of the title page of the first edition.

12 December 2013

Checkmate Threats

Mikhail Tal faced the threat of checkmate in one against Johann Hjartarson in Reykjavik in 1987. The game as a whole shines as an example of Tal's attacking skill late in his career.

White to move

How did Tal defend?

A student with whom I am playing an unrated training game on Chess.com brought this game to my attention. We are exploring the main line of the Spanish Opening.

11 December 2013

Consider the Consequences

Lesson of the Week

This week's lesson is not particularly complicated for young players who look at the board carefully. However, too many look at threats against pieces without looking at control of squares.

White to move

White can restore the material balance with Rxb7. What would be the consequences of this move?

This position is from the game Westernin, H -- Ivkov, B Palma de Mallorca 1968.

In the game, White played 41.Raf1, and after 41...R4c7, White resigned.

09 December 2013

Creating Tactical Opportunities (for the Opponent)

Positional Blunder

This morning I have been going through some games in the Spanish Opening (Ruy Lopez), Chigorin variation in which White opts to close the center. In many of these games, White attempts to exploit a space advantage (greater piece mobility) by building up an attack on the g- and h-files. Hence, I felt immediate revulsion when Black played 18...h5 from this position.

Black to move

The game that led to the diagram position:

Weber,Gerhard -- Geissert,Eberhard [C97]
DDR-ch 13th Aschersleben (17), 1963

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.d5 Re8 13.Nbd2 Bf8 14.Nf1 g6 15.Ne3 Bg7 16.Nh2 Kh8 17.b3 Rf8 18.g4

diagram above

18...h5? 19.f3 Qe7 20.Ng2 Nh7 21.gxh5 gxh5?

Black's seemingly obvious move is identified by Stockfish 4 as the error that led to White's clear advantage. The engine perceives 21...Ng5 as Black's only move. My intuition traces the critical error back three moves to a weakening pawn thrust. The pawn exchange on h5 is a consequence of Black's plan to play into White's plans by facilitating action on the g- and h-files.

White to move

Now White is prepared to demonstrate the flaws in Black's plan. A temporary pawn sacrifice to open the center is a central part of the refutation.

22.f4 exf4 23.e5! Bxe5 24.Bxf4 f6 25.Qxh5 Rg8 26.Kh1 Bb7 27.Rad1

Black to move

Surely, White is better here.

27...Rg7 28.Bh6 Rg3 29.Nf4 Kg8 30.Rg1 Rg5 31.Bxh7+ Qxh7 32.Rxg5+ fxg5 33.Qxg5+ Bg7 34.Rg1 Qe4+ 35.Qg2 Bxd5 36.Nxd5 1–0

07 December 2013

An Exchange versus the Bishop Pair

In a recent game on ChessByPost, my opponent committed an all-too frequent error* in the King's Indian Defense that left me ahead an exchange. However, I failed to convert my advantage and had to settle for a draw.

White to move

I could not find a clear way to make progress here. My plan was to improve my king's position, sacrifice the rook for Black's light-squared bishop, and pick up the resulting weak c-pawn. I overlooked a simple tactic that dropped the b-pawn, still sacrificed the exchange, and had a king no more active than my opponent's.

Perhaps it is time to invest effort studying Michael Stean, Simple Chess, or some other book concerned with patiently nursing a clear advantage.

*My highest rated win on Chess.com was against an opponent who made this error. I was able to convert the advantage to an easily won pawn ending. In the 2009 Washington Open, my first round opponent committed the same opening error, and there also I had to settle for a draw.

06 December 2013

Lesson of the Week

This week, young players were presented a position from a game played by Jacob Henry Sarratt in 1818. Few of Sarratt's games are recorded, and in most cases his opponent is not named. Sarratt wrote chess books and frequented a coffee house in London where he played and taught chess for pay. He has been called England's first chess professional. He called himself the chess professor.

White to move

Here is the whole game with a few comments. Bold type is the game; normal type are comments and possible variations.

Sarratt,Jacob Henry -- NN [C38]
London, 1818

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 Bg7

4...g4 5.0–0 d5 (5...gxf3 6.Qxf3 was played in several Anderssen -- Zuckertort battles) 6.Bxd5 gxf3 7.Qxf3 Qg5 8.d4 Bh6 9.Nc3 Ne7 10.e5 c6 11.Ne4 Bg4 12.Qf2 Qg7 13.Nd6+ Kd7 14.Bxf7 Be6 15.Bxf4 Bxf4 16.Qxf4 Na6 17.Bxe6+ Kxe6 18.Nxb7 Raf8 19.Qe4 Rhg8 20.Rf6+ Kd7 21.Rd6+ Kc7 22.Na5 Nb4 23.a3 Rf4 24.Qe2 Rg4 25.g3 Rxg3+ 0–1 Zukertort,J - Richter Berlin 1871


5.d4 was played in a pair of McDonnell -- Labourdonnais games.

5...h6 6.d4 d6 7.c3?! 

7.Qd3 Nc6 8.c3 Qe7 9.hxg5 hxg5 10.Rxh8 Bxh8 11.e5 f5 12.Bxg8 dxe5 13.dxe5 g4 14.Nd4 Nxe5 15.Qe2 Bd7 16.Kd1 0–0–0 17.Bb3 Qg5 18.Bd2 c5 19.Ne6 Bxe6 20.Bxe6+ Kb8 21.Kc2 a6 22.Na3 b5 23.Nxb5 axb5 24.Qxb5+ Kc7 25.Qxc5+ Nc6 26.Qxf5 1–0 Marshall,F -- Gunsberg,I Vienna 1903


7...Qe7 8.0–0 0–1 Medunova,V (2115) -- Stanek,S (2101) Czechia 2009 (57 moves).

8.Qb3 Qe7 9.0–0 b5? 


10.Bd3 Bb7


11.a4 a6 12.axb5 axb5?


13.Rxa8 Bxa8 14.Qa3 Bb7 15.Qa7 Na6 16.hxg5 hxg5 17.Nxg5 Qxg5??

17...Qd7 would have been better 18.Rxf4 Bf6 19.Rf2 Bc8 20.Qxd7+ Bxd7±

18.Qxb7+- Qh4

18...Nb4 19.Bxf4 Qe7 20.Qa8+ Qd8 21.Qxd8+ Kxd8

19.Qxc6+ Ke7


20.Bxf4 Qh1+ 21.Kf2 Qh4+ 22.g3 Qh2+ 

22...Bxd4+ 23.cxd4 Qf6

23.Ke1 Qxb2 24.Bxd6+ Kd8 25.Qb6+

25.Qa8+ Kd7 26.Rxf7+ Ne7 27.Qb7+ Kxd6 28.Qxe7+ Kc6 29.Qe6#

25...Kd7 26.Bxb5+ Ke6 

26...Qxb5 27.Qxb5+ Kd8 (27...Kxd6 28.Qd5+ Kc7 29.Rxf7+)

27.d5# 1–0

05 December 2013

Following Carlsen's Reti

A recent correspondence game followed in the wake of Magnus Carlsen's worst game in the World Championship match with Viswanathan Anand. It was part of a match between Team USA: Northwest and Team Slovenia on Chess.com.

Stripes,James (2167) -- Kovač,Miha (2101) [A09]
WL2013 R9: Team USA: Northwest vs Team Slovenia Chess.com, 18.11.2013

1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 dxc4

2...c6 is most popular, followed by 2...e6, and 2...d4.


3.g3 has been my normal response in more than 100 online blitz games. On the other hand, ChessBase Online has a mere 74 moves with 3.g3. 3.d4 leads the way with nearly 23,000 games. Second place, 3.e3, has 911 games.

3...Nc6 4.g3

I opted to follow Magnus Carlsen's recent WCC game, even though it had been the game that offered Anand his best prospects of winning.

4.Qxc4 has been my choice in three prior games. Two of these were in September 1999 on the Internet Chess Club--both wins.

4...g6 5.Bg2 Bg7

White to move


Playing from memory, rather than databases, I missed the path that I had chosen. Or, perhaps I had my doubts about Carlsen's position.

Carlsen's move may be best: 6.Nc3 e5 7.Qxc4 Nge7 8.0–0 0–0 9.d3 h6 10.Bd2 Nd4 11.Nxd4 exd4 12.Ne4 c6 13.Bb4 Be6 14.Qc1 Bd5 15.a4 b6 16.Bxe7 Qxe7 17.a5 Rab8 18.Re1 Rfc8 19.axb6 axb6 20.Qf4 Rd8 21.h4 Kh7 22.Nd2 Be5 23.Qg4 h5 24.Qh3 Be6 25.Qh1 c5 26.Ne4 Kg7 27.Ng5 b5 28.e3 dxe3 29.Rxe3 Bd4 30.Re2 c4 31.Nxe6+ fxe6 32.Be4 cxd3 33.Rd2 Qb4 34.Rad1 Bxb2 35.Qf3 Bf6 Carlsen,M (2870) -- Anand,V (2775) Chennai 2013 ½–½

6...e5 7.Nxe5!?

This interesting move has produced five draws and three White wins in ChessBase Online.

7.Qxc4 seems the safer alternative, and is the most popular choice.

Black to move

7...Bxe5 8.Bxc6+ bxc6 9.Qxc6+ Bd7 10.Qe4

Black to move

10...f6 11.f4 Bf5 12.Qe3

12.Qc6+ Bd7 could be a useful repetition when the time control is based on a set number of moves. White also has the option of bailing out of the game with a repetition here.


This move had not been played at move 12, but was played in the same position by Etienne Bacrot earlier this year. In that game, there had been repetitions of queen checks at c6. Bacrot lost that game, but went on to win the tournament.

Predecessor (2): 12...Qd4 13.fxe5 fxe5 14.Qxd4 exd4 Dubov,D (2624) -- Najer,E (2626) Moscow 2013 ½–½ (65)

White to move

13.Rf3 Nh6!N

An improvement over Bacrot's Bg4.

14.fxe5 Ng4

White to move


This seemingly obvious move is sub-optimal, according to Stockfish 4.

15.Qc5 Nxe5 16.Rf4 g5 17.Rf2=

15...Nxe5 16.Rf2

16.Re3 0–0 17.Qh6 Qd7 White's pieces are a long way from deployment, while all of Black's are soon in play.(17...Ng4? 18.Qxh3 Nxe3 19.dxe3 is good for White).


16...0–0-/= White still has problems deploying his forces.

17.Rf3 Ne5 18.Rf2 Ng4 19.Rf3 Ne5 ½–½

I was happy to get a draw in what developed into a slightly worse position. In this matter, too, I followed the World Champion in this line.

04 December 2013

Italian Opening: Developing Theory

For several hundred years, the Italian Opening was among the most heavily analyzed chess opening. Only the King's Gambit had a comparable number of complete games and opening variations in chess books published prior to Handbuch des Schachspiels (1843), the first comprehensive opening encyclopedia. In this volume, as well, the Italian and the King's Gambit occupied more space than other openings.

In Gioachino Greco's well-known and influential texts, the King's Gambit comprises the largest number of games, followed closely by the Italian. Later Italian chess authors--Ercole del Rio, Alessandro Salvio, and Giambattista Lolli--followed suit. Even François-André Danican Philidor (1726-1795), who emphasized positional play over the tactics of the Italian masters, employed the Italian opening in his most important illustrative games.

The second illustrative game in Jacob Henry Sarratt, A Treatise on the Game of Chess (1808) explicates some of the leading attacking ideas in the Italian Opening in the early nineteenth century. I offer here Sarratt's comments interspersed with a few of my own (designated J.S.). Sarratt's main variations are presented as "Back-Games". I have retained his archaic language--"the Black"--and punctuation in most of the comments.

Although Sarratt misses a few key moves, one of which is almost obvious to class players today, his tactical analysis mostly hits the mark.

Second Game [C54]
A Treatise on the Game of Chess 1808
[Sarratt, J.H.]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6

This is the best method of defending the King's Pawn. It will be proved in several subsequent games, that if Black support his King's Pawn in any other manner, he must lose the game.

3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4

5.d3 is more popular today. J.S.

Black to move


5...Bb6 6.dxe5 Nxe4 7.Qd5 Bxf2+ 8.Kf1 Black loses a piece; being obliged to castle, or to play his Q. to his K. second square, to avoid check-mate; and in either case, you will take his K.Kt. with your Q. First Back-Game

5...Bd6 6.dxe5 Nxe5 a (6...Bxe5 7.Ng5 0–0 8.f4) 7.Nxe5 Bxe5 8.f4 Bd6 9.e5 and you will gain a piece; but if he were to play his Q. to his K. second square, you must also play your Q. to your K. second square, for if you were to castle, he would give check with his K.B. and then remove his K.Kt. Second Back-Game.

6.cxd4 Bb6

The Black loses the game by this move; he ought to have given you check with that Bishop. This will be analyzed in the second book. J.H.S.

This error appears in Greco's analysis as well. Both Howard Staunton and Wilhelm Steinitz played this move with success, calling into question Sarratt's assessment. Nonetheless, 6...Bb4+ is vastly more popular, and scores better for Black than 6...Bb6. J.S.


Black to move


7...Ng4 8.Bxf7+ (8.h3 is mentioned as an alternative by Sarratt, and is better than his main line (J.S.). 8...Nh6 9.Bxh6 gxh6 10.Qd2) 8...Kxf7 9.Ng5+ Ke8 10.Qxg4 and the White has a good game. Third Back-Game.

7...Nh5 8.Ng5 0–0 (8...g6 9.Nxf7) 9.Qxh5 h6 10.Nxf7 and you will very easily win the game. Fourth Back-Game.

7...Qe7 8.0–0 your situation would have been very advantageous.

Sarratt does not examine 7...d5, which is almost automatic among players today. Staunton played this move in 1853, and the game continued 8.exf6 dxc4 9.fxg7? (9.d5 and White has a better game) 9...Rg8 10.d5 Ne7 and Black won in 37 moves 0–1 Rives -- Staunton,H Brussels, 1853.  Staunton likely realized after this game that Sarratt was correct, and that he prevailed in this game merely because his opponent played badly. J.S.

8.Bd5 f5

8...Ba5+ 9.Kf1.


9.Nc3 is superior to Sarratt's recommendation. J.S.

9...fxe4 10.Bg5 Ne7 11.Nh4

Black to move


11...d6 12.Qh5+ g6 (12...Kd7 13.Qg4+ Kc6 14.Qxe4+ d5 15.Qc2+ Kd7 [15...Kb5 16.Na3+ Ka5 17.Bd2+ Ka6 18.Qd3#] 16.Nf5 White is clearly winning, but Sarratt's next moves lose quickly. [J.S.] 16...Re8 17.Nxg7 Rg8 18.e6+ Kd6 19.Bf4#) 13.Nxg6 hxg6 14.Qxh8+ Kd7 15.e6+ Kxe6 16.Qxd8. Sixth Back-Game.

11...h6 12.Qh5+ Kf8 (12...g6 13.Nxg6 Rh7 14.Nxe7+ Kf8 [14...Rf7 15.Qxh6 Rxe7 (15...d5 16.Ng6 Qd7 17.Qh8+ Rf8 18.Qxf8#) 16.Qg6+ Rf7 17.Bxd8] 15.Ng6+ Ke8 16.Bxh6 Rxh6 17.Qxh6 d6 18.d5 dxe5 19.Qf8+ Kd7 20.Nxe5#) 13.Ng6+ Kg8 b 14.Nxe7+ Kf8 15.Ng6+ and you will take his Q. with your Q.B. the next move, &c. Fifth Back-Game.

It is hard to understand why Sarratt missed 11...0–0, unless due to his purpose was to showcase Black's errors. J.S.

12.Nf5 gxf5 13.Qh5+ Kf8 14.Bh6+ Kg8 15.Qg5+

Black to move


15...Ng6 16.Qxd8+ Kf7 17.Qf6+.

16.Qf6+ Ke8 17.Qxh8+ Kf7

17...Ng8 18.Qxg8+ Ke7 19.Bg5#.

18.Qf6+ Ke8

18...Kg8 19.Qg7#.

19.Qf8# 1–0

Although the ChessBase database and other large collections contain analysis games from Greco and Philidor, this gem of attacking play is not in these collections. The two volumes of Sarratt's Treatise, as well as several other books by him, are readily available via Google Books and the Internet Archive. 

02 December 2013

Assessing the King's Gambit

François-André Danican Philidor (1726-1795) asserted that with correct play on both sides, the King's Gambit led to a draw. Jacob Henry Sarratt (1772-1819) contested Philidor's assessment. According to Sarratt, Philidor analyzed the art of defense with less care than his labors analyzing the art of attack. Consequently, Philidor believed the player who has the first move should win, while most other authorities asserted that a game played equally well on both sides should be drawn.

For Philidor, the King's Gambit represented inaccurate play, and hence led to a draw. J. H. Sarratt, in A Treatise on the Game of Chess (London, 1808) concurs that the King's Gambit is not to be recommended. But he disagrees that it leads to a draw. He believes the first player should lose.
PHILIDOR says, the the King's gambit, when properly attacked and defended, ends in a drawn game. The members who composed the celebrated Academy of Chess at Naples, after a most careful analysis, gave it as their opinion, that he who plays the gambit ought to lose the game. Experience tends to confirm their decision: the King's gambit is an instructive game, replete with critical and remarkably striking situations, and very few players know how to defend it; but when the defense is correct, he who attacks has indisputably the disadvantage: Salvio's proverb is well known; "Gambitto a giocator: non farsi lice." (xix-xx)
Sarratt's Treatise marks the beginnings of a revival of interest in the playing style of the Italian masters from Gioachino Greco to Alessandro Salvio, Ercole del Rio, and Giambattista Lolli. The principles of the Modenese School favored active piece play. This emphasis differed from the positional ideas of Philidor focused upon pawn play.

28 November 2013

Morphy Defense: Signature Games

Max Lange Annotates

The Morphy Defense to the Spanish Opening (Ruy Lopez) owes its name to the second and fourth games of Paul Morphy's match against Adolf Anderssen. This match was played at the Hotel Bretenil in Paris, where Morphy was staying, 20-28 December 1858. Morphy lost the first game, playing the White side of an Evans Gambit, drew the second game, and then won five games in a row.

In the second game, Anderssen played a dangerous sacrificial attack against Morphy's king. Morphy defended well. Morphy might have had an advantage in the end, but chose to repeat moves and agree to a draw. The third game was the sole Ruy Lopez in which Morphy had White. The American won a nice miniature. Game four began along the lines of game two, and Morphy won with Black.

On 22 December 1858, Morphy won games three and four of the match. Game three lasted about two hours, and game four lasted four hours. After Morphy's success with the defense that now bears his name, Anderssen switched to 1.a3 for the remainder of his games with White.

Max Lange annotations to the games of the match appear in Paul Morphy: A Sketch from the Chess World, trans. Ernest Falkbeer (London, 1860). With slight alterations, such as converting English descriptive notation to algebraic, this post reproduces Lange and Falkbeer's notes to games two and four.

Anderssen,Adolf -- Morphy,Paul [C77]
Paris m2 Paris (2), 21.12.1858
[Lange, Max]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6

It would be stronger to play Nf6 at once. The White bishop is well placed at a4, and if Black, in order to dislodge him, should venture upon advancing the b-pawn, the queen's side will be exposed.

3...Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 Qe7 6.0–0 0–0 7.d4 Bb6 8.Bg5 d6

4.Ba4 Nf6

White to move


Castling at this point would be stronger; for if Black takes e-pawn with knight, White answers with Re1 followed, eventually, by d4. Still the move in the text has some merit of its own, as the first player threatens to play c3 on the next move. In this position Black's game is extremely confined, and the slightest error will place it in jeapordy, as indeed, can be seen by the next moves.

Nevertheless Herr Lowenthal zealously censured the move d3, exaggerating the force of other attacks, and pretending that the above move has only been made for the sake of the defence, whilst Herr Falkbeer did full justice to the first player, thus concluding in his notes: "The brilliancy of this game, one of the best which was ever played since the arrival of Mr. Morphy in Europe, reflects great credit both on the American champion and on his renowned antagonist. The spirited and energetic manner in which White followed up his attack, and also the tenacity of Black's defence, are equally deserving of admiration."

5...Bc5 6.c3 b5

The German Handbuch recommends Qe7 in the variation given at move 3 above. In the present position, however, the move in the text is preferable, as Qe2 at this point could be answered with d4, and if exd4 with castling on the next move.


It may be left as an open question whether the retreat of the bishop to b3 should not be more advisable at this juncture. However, we for our part, have no occasion to answer that question as Herr Lowenthal does, stating: "We much prefer  Bb3," without giving any reason for this assertion.

7...d5 8.exd5 Nxd5 9.h3 0–0 10.0–0 h6 11.d4 exd4 12.cxd4 Bb6 13.Nc3 Ndb4 14.Bb1

Had he advanced the d-pawn instead of Bb1, to avoid the apparent loss of a pawn, the following variation, which would have resulted in Black's favor, might have arisen. 14.d5 Ne7 15.Be4 f5 16.d6 (16.Qb3 fxe4 17.d6+ Kh8 18.Qxb4 Qxd6 19.Qxd6 cxd6 20.Nxe4 d5 21.Ned2 This move being compulsory to save the h-pawn. Black has decidedlythe better game.) 16...fxe4 17.dxe7 Qxe7 18.Nd5 Nxd5 19.Qxd5+ Be6 20.Qxe4 Qf6 with the better game; If, however, White at his fourteenth move had preferred to protect his d-pawn with the bishop, the annexed interesting variation would have probably occurred. 14.Be3 Nxc2 15.Qxc2 Nxd4 16.Bxd4 Bxd4 17.Rad1 c5 18.Nxd4 cxd4 19.Qe4.


Black could not have taken the pawn with impunity.

14...Bxd4 15.Ne2 Bb6 16.a3 Nd5 17.Qc2 winning a piece.
14...Nxd4 15.Nxd4 Bxd4 16.Qf3 Be6 (16...c6 17.Rd1 Qf6 18.Qe4) 17.Qe4.

15.a3 Nd5 16.Ne2 Nf6

Necessary, as White threatened to play Qc2 winning a piece. In the fourth game of the match, in which, up to this point, the same moves were played, Anderssen played 16.Be3 instead of the move in the text. 17.Be3 Re8 18.Ng3 Bc4 19.Nf5 This way of establishing the knight on e5 is one of the favorite manoeuvres of the German master, by which he has obtained many a brilliant victory. Had he played Re1, instead, Black could have taken the d-pawn with impunity. Qd3, however, would have lessened the attack, which it is White's evident intention to keep up by all means.

19...Bxf1 20.Qxf1 Ne7 21.N3h4 Nxf5 22.Nxf5 Qd7

White to move


The depth and elegance of this sacrifice is acknowledged even by Herr Lowenthal, as follows: "From personal experience we know how dangerous it is to make such a sacrifice as this, in contending with Mr. Morphy, whose insight into a difficult position is such as to enable him to hit the blot which almost invariably accompanies the giving up of a piece for a pawn. Mr. Anderssen, however, here follows up the game with great accuracy and ingenuity, and the result does him much credit."

We have no doubt that the sacrifice of the bishop at this critical point was perfectly correct and opportune, the more so, as the preparatory and seemingly strong move Qc1 could have effectually been replied to with Ne4, shutting up the White bishop.

23...gxh6 24.Qc1 Bxd4

24...Ne4 25.Qf4

White to move


25.Nxh6+ would have been less efficacious. True, White would have won, had Black moved  the king to h8.

25...Kh8 26.Bf5 Qe7 (26...Qd6) 27.Qf4 (27.Qg5 Bxf2+) 27...Qe2 28.Qh4.
25...Kf8 26.Bf5 Qd6 27.Qg5 Re5 28.Kf1 Rae8 29.f4 Re2.

25...Re1+ 26.Kh2 Ne4 27.Bxe4 Rxe4

27...Rxa1 28.Ne7+ Qxe7 29.Bh7+=

28.Qg5+ Kf8 29.Qh6+ Ke8 30.Nxd4

Black to move


Even Herr Lowenthal here remarks: "The last series of moves has been admirably played by the German master."

30...Qxd4 31.Qc6+; 30...Rxd4 31.Qh8+.


Anderssen never displays his powers so effectually, as after having exchanged the queens. He is justly considered the greatest living chess player with regard ti the skillful management of the minor pieces.

31...cxd6 32.Rd1 Kf8 33.Rd2 Rae8 34.g4 R8e5 35.f3 Re1 36.h4 Rd5 37.Kg3 a5 38.h5 Kg8 39.Kf2 Re8 40.Kg3 Re7 41.Kf4 Kh7 42.Kg3 Re3 43.Kf4 Re8 44.Kg3 Re3 ½–½

This game lasted five hours.

Anderssen,Adolf -- Morphy,Paul [C77]
Paris m2 Paris (4), 1858
[Lange. Max]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 Bc5 6.c3 b5 7.Bc2 d5 8.exd5 Nxd5 9.h3 0–0 10.0–0 h6 11.d4 exd4 12.cxd4 Bb6 13.Nc3 Ndb4 14.Bb1 Be6 15.a3 Nd5 16.Be3 

Black to move

In the second game Anderssen played Ne2

16...Nf6 17.Qd2

With the twofold object of placing the Rook on d1 and of capturing h6 with the bishop at the right moment.

17...Re8 18.Rd1 Bd5

Decidedly stronger than Na5, which could have been answered with the above-mentioned sacrifice.

19.Ne5 Qd6

White to move


20.Nxd5 Nxd5 (20...Qxd5 21.Ba2) 21.Qc2 Nxe3 22.fxe3 Nxe5 23.dxe5 Qxe5 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Bf5 Bxe3+ 26.Kh1 g6 with the better game.

20...Nxd4 21.Bxd4 Bxd4

White to move


22.Ng4 would have much improved White's attack.


This is the correct reply. Had he taken Qxd5, White would have advantageously answered with Nc6.

23.Nxf6+ Qxf6 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Be4 Rad8

White to move


This is the turning point of the game. White ought to have played now Rf1, and thus obtained the better game; for if Black, on the next move takes Bxb2, White can effectually reply Rae1. By the weak move above White missed the opportunity of following up successfully an attack, which was well planned hitherto.

26...Bxb2 27.Rab1

In answer to Re1, Black could have played g5.

27...Rxd1+ 28.Rxd1 Qxf2 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Qh7 Be5 31.Bf3 Qg3 32.Kg1 Qg6 33.Qxg6 fxg6 34.Bb7 Rb8 35.Bxa6 c6 36.Kf2 Bd6 37.Rd3

Even a4 at this point would scarcely have saved the game.

37...Kd7 38.Ke2

Black to move


38...Kc7 39.a4 Bf8 (39...Be5 40.axb5 cxb5 41.Rd5) 40.axb5 cxb5 41.Rc3+ Kb6 42.Bc8.

39.Bb7 Rxa3 40.Rd1 Kc7 41.Bc8 Ra2+ 42.Kf3 Bc5 43.Be6 Rf2+ 44.Kg3 Rf6 45.Rd7+ Kb6 46.Bg4 Bd6+ 47.Kh4 c5 48.Bf3 c4 49.Rxg7 Rf4+ 50.Bg4 c3 51.g3 Rxg4+ 0–1

27 November 2013

Morphy Defense: First Book Lines

Before Paul Morphy played 3...a6 in response to Adolf Anderssen's Spanish Opening, or Ruy Lopez, published analysis had appeared in Handbuch des Schachspiels (Berlin, 1852).

The Handbuch, often called the German Handbook in English publications set the standard for opening reference in the nineteenth century and was still in use well into the twentieth century. It went through eight editions: 1843, 1852, 1858, 1864, 1874, 1880, 1891, and 1912-1916. It's first editor, Paul Rudolf von Bilguer (1815-1840) died before the first edition was published. Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa (1818-1899) saw the first five editions through publication, retaining Bilguer's name as editor.

The 1852 edition was the first to include what would come to be known as the Morphy Defense. The lines presented in the Handbuch (1852) are reproduced here. There are two notes to line 3 that I have not yet translated, but that I may add later.

After 3...a6
Line 1.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6* 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.Nxe5 Qd4 6.f4** Qxe4+ =

Line 2.

-- -- -- -- 5.0–0 Bd6 6.d4 exd4 7.Qxd4 f6 8.Re1 Ne7 9.e5 fxe5 10.Nxe5 0–0 11.Bg5*** Qe8 12.Nc4 Nf5

White to move

13.Rxe8 Nxd4 14.Rxf8+ Kxf8 15.Nxd6 Nxc2 16.Nxc8 Rxc8 17.Na3 Nxa1 =/+

Line 3.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 13.Qc3 Qg6 14.Nxd6 cxd6 =

Line 4.

White to move
Position for Lines 4 and 5

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 12.Nd2 Nf5 13.Qc3 Qh5 =

Line 5.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.Nd2 Be6 =

Line 6.

[1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6] 4.Ba4 Bc5 5.c3 b5 6.Bb3

After 6.Bb3 in Lines 6 and 7
6...d6 7.d4 exd4 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Bd5 Nge7 10.Nc3 Bg4 11.Be3 Bxf3 12.gxf3 =

Line 7.

6...Qe7 7.a4 Rb8 8.axb5 axb5 9.0–0 Nf6 10.d4 Bb6 11.Bg5 d6 12.Qd3 Bd7 =

Line 8.

-- -- -- - 4...Nf6 5.d3 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5 7.c3 d6 8.d4 Bb6 +/=

White to move

*This move, described by Anonimo Modenese [that is, Domenico Ercole del Rio; see "Morphy Defense: Early History"] could possibly occur. But if White would take Nc6 immediately, Black then will be a bit better developed with 3. Ng8 to f6 instead a7 to a6 because of his threat towards e4.

** White also can play the knight to d3, f3, or g4 with the same result.

*** Reference to Cozio ending here with the remark that White has a beautiful game. The game, however, as shown in the following lines is not unfavorable for Black.