31 October 2013

Lesson of the Week

There is no better way for the first player to begin a chess game than by advancing the pawn in front of the king two squares. Among Black's excellent choices in response, no move is clearly superior to the same. White's best second move is then to attack Black's central pawn with a knight.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3

Black to move

Black now has a problem to solve. A pawn is under attack. How will it be defended? Alternately, Black could attack White's central pawn. Every problem in chess is an opportunity. Black's decision presents an opportunity to steer the game.

There are poor ways to defend the pawn: 2...Qf6, 2...Bd6, and 2...f6. We looked at illustrative games with each of these moves in late September and early October. Black does well defending the pawn with 2...d6 or 2...Nc6. Throughout chess history, different analysts have favored one of these moves over the other. 2...Nc6 is more popular, but 2...d6 has always had its advocates. We looked at a few ideas with these moves earlier in October.

Black may counterattack with 2...Nf6.

The move initiates the Russian Defense (also called the Petroff Defense). It was popular for a while in the nineteenth century when some players in Russia, led by Alexander Petroff, studied it in detail and began playing it in tournaments. It has become popular again in our day. One of the leading advocates was World Chess Champion in the early part of our century, Vladimir Kramnik. He is Russian, too. Analysis of the opening, however, can be found even in the oldest chess books (see "Petroff Defense: Early History").

We looked at some lines that may occur in scholastic competition.

After 2...Nf6, White should capture the pawn. Black should then drive White's knight back, then capture the pawn on e4. Young players, however, are often prone to an immediate recapture.

3.Nxe5 Nxe4

White to move

How does White exploit Black's error?

4.Qe2! is best.

White's attack on the knight must be met. Retreating the knight loses the queen to a discovered check that also attacks the queen.

First Variation

4...d5 defends the knight. White then attacks the knight with a pawn: 5.d3. It seems that the Knight should retreat, but the same problem remains. 5...Nf6 6.Nc6+ and Black's queen is lost.

Black to move

Second Variation

After the initial moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nxe4 4.Qe2, Black should continue meeting attack with counterattack.

4...Qe7 is best.

White to move

I have often heard young players complain, "my opponent is copying my moves." I always want to laugh because such copying is not against the rules, and it always courts peril for the second player.


Every player should see that copying with 5...Qxe5 leads to disaster. Instead, Black attacks the knight because it is pinned.


White defends the knight, or at least the square on which it stands.


Now, Black could capture the knight with the pawn. That is probably the best move. Instead, we looked at an illustrative game from the works of Gioachino Greco because it offers some instructive tactics.

6...f6 7.f3 Nd7

White to move

Black has four attackers on the knight. White has three defenders. No additional White pieces can be brought up to add protection. However, White has another resource.


Black will capture the knight, but White will then harass Black's queen.

8...dxe5 9.Nd5 Qd6 10.dxe5 fxe5 11.fxe5

Black to move

Black's best move here is 11...Nxe5, but after 12.Bf4 White has pinned the knight two ways and will win it. Greco offered an alternative that maintains material equality a few moves longer, but ultimately loses more than a knight.

11...Qc6 12.Bb5

Is this bishop safe from recapture?

12...Qc5 13.Be3

Now capturing the bishop on b5 is the only way to avoid immediately losing the queen.


White to move

14.Nxc7+ Kd8 15.Nxb5

The moral of this story: Black must first drive away the knight on e5, and only then capture the pawn on e4. Failure to play the correct sequence often results in the loss of a queen, giving White excellent chances of victory.

30 October 2013

Limiting Blitz

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a blitz junkie, and also that from time to time I attempt to use online blitz as a learning tool. Today I managed to limit myself to four games of blitz.

I had a hunch that my first opponent was using some kind of assistance after his abysmal opening play (mine, too, was horrid). His defense seemed quite accurate and he was taking a long time for each move. Once we got into the endgame and he was under one minute, his play deteriorated. He lost on time. As is often the case with such suspicions, post-game engine analysis reveals that I missed the correct moves.

Suspect (1765) -- Stripes (1743)
Live Chess Chess.com, 30.10.2013

1.e4 e6 2.d4 c5 3.d5 exd5 4.exd5 d6 5.c4 b5 6.b3 Nf6 7.Bb2 g6 8.Nd2 Bg7 9.Bd3 0–0 10.Ne2 Re8 11.0–0 Nbd7 12.f4 Ng4

I should have seen 12...Nxd5

13.Qc1 bxc4 14.Nxc4 Qh4 15.h3 Ndf6 16.hxg4 Nxg4 17.Rf3

Black to move

17...Rxe2! wins.

17...Qh2+ 18.Kf1 Qh1+ 19.Ng1 Nh2+ 20.Kf2 Nxf3 21.Nxf3 Qxc1 22.Rxc1 Bxb2 23.Nxb2 Bb7 24.Nc4 Rad8 25.Ne3 Re7 26.Bc4 Kg7 27.Nh4 Rde8 28.Re1 Re4 29.g3 Rd4 30.Nef5+ Kf6 31.Nxd4 Rxe1 32.Kxe1 cxd4 33.Kd2 h6 34.Kd3 g5 35.Nf3 Kf5 36.Nxd4+ Kg4 37.fxg5 hxg5 38.Nb5 Kxg3 39.Nxd6 Ba8 40.Nxf7 g4 41.Ne5 Kh3 42.d6 g3 43.Ke3 g2 44.Kf2 Kh2 45.Ng4+ Kh1 0–1

In the second game, I had a nice position which I badly misplayed.

Viper (1712) -- Stripes (1734)
Live Chess Chess.com, 30.10.2013

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bd3 c5 5.dxc5 Bxc5 6.Ne2 Nc6 7.0–0 Nf6 8.Ng3 Bg4 9.Qe1+ Qe7 10.Qc3 0–0 11.Bg5 Bb6 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.Qxf6 gxf6 14.c3 Rfe8 15.Nd2 h5 16.h3 h4 17.hxg4 hxg3

White to move

18.Bb5 a6 19.Bxc6 bxc6 20.Nf3 Re2 21.Rab1 Kg7

21...Bxf2+ should have been obvious. This position bears some resemblance to Mayet -- Anderssen.

22.Nd4 Bxd4 23.cxd4 gxf2+ 24.Rxf2 Re4 25.Rbf1 Rxd4 26.Rxf6 Rf8 27.Rxc6 Rxg4 28.Rf5 Rb8 29.b3 Re8 30.Rxa6 Re2 31.Rf2 Re1+ 32.Kh2 Rh4+

White to move

White now has a clear advantage.

33.Kg3 Rh5 34.Ra7 Re3+ 35.Rf3 Rxf3+ 36.gxf3 Re5 37.Kf4 Re6 38.Rd7 Ra6 39.a4 Rb6 40.Rxd5 Rxb3 41.a5 Ra3 42.Kg4 Kg6 43.Rd6+ f6 44.a6 Ra4+ 45.f4 Ra5 46.Kf3 Kf5 47.Ke3 Ra3+ 48.Kd4 Kxf4 49.Rxf6+ Kg5 50.Rb6 Kf5 51.Kd5 Ra5+ 52.Kc6 Ke6 53.Kb7+ Kd7 54.a7 Rc5 55.a8Q Rc7+ 56.Ka6 Ke7 57.Rb7 1–0

Stripes (1726) -- Sharp Attacker (1746)
Live Chess Chess.com, 30.10.2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Qe7 4.d4 d6 5.Nf3 Nxe4 6.Be2 Bf5 7.0–0 Nd7 8.c4 0–0–0 9.b4 h6 10.a4 g5 11.Be3 g4 12.Nfd2 Nxd2 13.Nxd2 h5 14.b5 h4 15.c5 g3 16.fxg3

Black to move

More than the bishop on e3 is in trouble, but I was let off the hook.

16...hxg3 17.Rxf5 Rxh2 18.Bg5 f6 19.Bf4 Qh7 20.Rh5 Rxh5 21.Bxh5 Bh6 22.Bxh6 Qxh6 23.c6 Nb6 24.a5 Nd5 25.cxb7+ Kb8 26.b6 cxb6 27.axb6 Kxb7 28.Rxa7+ Kxb6 

White to move

An instant after my move, I saw the refutation.


29.Qa1 protects my weakness, while threatening the checkmate that I sought.

29...Qe3+ 0–1

The final game was relatively easy, or so it seemed.

Stripes (1733) -- Unlucky (1669)
Live Chess Chess.com, 30.10.2013

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nd7 3.c4 c5 4.Be3 cxd4 5.Bxd4 Ngf6 6.Nc3 g6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.f3 0–0 9.Nh3 Nc5 10.Nf2 b6 11.Rc1 Bb7 12.b4 Ne6 13.Be3 Rc8 14.Nd5 Qd7 15.Qd2 Nxd5 16.cxd5

Black to move

16...Rxc1 before retreating the knight.

16...Nc7 17.0–0 e6 18.dxe6 fxe6 19.Rfd1 Rfd8

White to move

Only now do I gain an advantage.

20.Bg5 d5 21.Bxd8 Rxd8 22.exd5 Nxd5 23.Qg5 Qd6 24.Ne4 Qd7 25.Bb5 Qe8 26.Bxe8 1–0

28 October 2013


Playing the White side of a French Advance, I find myself looking through some master games. These are neither won nor lost in the opening. In Vorobiov -- Volkov, Moscow 2004 White prevailed in the endgame.

White to move

White gave up a rook to assure that his pawn would promote.

57.Re4! Rd3+ 58.Kg4 dxe4 59.e7

Even then, however, Black had a pawn that threatened to complete its journey.

59...Kd2 60.e8Q e3 61.Kf3 Rxb3 62.Qd8+ Ke1 63.Qd5 Ra3 64.Qc5 1-0

Black to move

This fork of rook and pawn ends things. After White's queen is exchanged for rook and e-pawn, White's h-pawn will promote.

26 October 2013

Complex Tactics

For the past eight weeks, I have been working through the games and game fragments in Chess Informant 113. Some games occupy no more than ten minutes of my time, as they serve only to introduce me to new patterns in the opening. Other games force me to slow down. Although I sometimes ignore the annotations, other times I discover that they are far more interesting than the game itself.

Haslinger -- Huschenbeth, Haarlem 2011 was a quick win for White against the Sicilian Scheveningen (CI 113/73). However, the annotations by Ivan Cheparinov offer a long line in which Black finds a drawing resource.

The excitement begins with the game's novelty: 15.Bf4!

Black to move

Black played 15...e5 and was busted by move 20.

Cheparinov offers 15...e3 as an improvement. In his main line, after 26...Bb2+, it is clear that Black has a draw by repetition.

White to move

25 October 2013

Expose the King

The shield in front of Black's king is an illusion. White capped a nice miniature with this demonstration in Djukic -- Draskovic, Crna Gora 2011. The game was published in Chess Informant 113/69.

White to move

23 October 2013

Lesson of the Week

We have been looking at the King's Pawn Opening. I recommend that beginners start their games this way. White's first move seizes ground in the center of the board, opens a diagonal for the light-squared bishop, and increases the mobility of the queen. In the starting position, White has 20 legal moves. After 1.e4, White will have a minimum of 29 legal choices for the second move.

1...e5 is Black's second most popular response. It contests White's claim on the center and increases the mobility of Black's pieces.

2.Nf3 is White's best move in the position. It immediately presents Black with a problem: how to respond to the attack on the e-pawn.

Black has a choice after these opening moves.

For 2...Qf6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (17 September).
For 2...Bd6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (23 September).
For 2...f6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (4 October).
For 2...d6 Philidor Defense, see "Lesson of the Week" (11 October).
For 2...Nc6 3.Bc4 Italian Opening, see "Lesson of the Week" (17 October).

The Spanish Opening

2...Nc6 is by far Black's most popular solution to the problem presented by White's second move. In the sixteenth century, a Spanish priest named Rodrigo (Ruy) López de Segura sought to demonstrate that 2...Nc6 was an error. He believed that 2...d6 was superior. His refutation began with the move 3.Bb5.

Because of López's effort to analyze this opening systematically, the name Spanish Opening or Ruy Lopez Opening is used by chess players to refer to the position after 3.Bb5.

Black to move

Black has several possible responses.

3...Nf6 is the Berlin Defense, which may be the topic of a future lesson.

3...f5 is the Schliemann Defense, against which I did badly in my last tournament game.

There are several other possibilities, but the most popular response is 3...a6. Today, the opening books call this response the Morphy Defense. Paul Morphy played this move twice against Adolf Anderssen, who had been considered the best player in the world until losing his match with Morphy.

Black's third move attacks the bishop that attacks the knight that defends the pawn that is attacked. White either captures the knight or retreats the bishop. We looked at both moves in this week's lesson.

a) 4.Bxc6 appears to win a pawn, but only when analysis is shallow.

4...dxc6 5.Nxe5 Qd4 forks knight and pawn, winning back the pawn. 6.Nf3 Qxe4+ 7.Qe2 Qxe2+ 8.Kxe2

Black to move

White has given up chances for advantage in the opening. In fact, Black's pieces have greater mobility. See Hellbach -- Chigorin below.

Capturing the knight is not necessarily a bad idea. It does lead to doubling Black pawns on the c-file. But, this move does not win a pawn. After 4.Bxc6 dxc6, White should play 5.O-O.

b) 4.Ba4

Retreating the bishop while maintaining pressure on the knight is the most popular move, and offers the best prospects for continuing to apply pressure on Black's position.

4...Nf6 5.O-O

Does this move sacrifice a pawn? No. After 5...Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 White has won back the pawn. White also could try 6.Re1, which wins back the pawn in a couple of moves. However, driving the Black knight to c5 forces White to give up bishop for knight, and again White's initiative vanishes.

5...Be7 6.Re1

Now that White protects the e-pawn, the threat to win Black's e-pawn by removing the defender of c6 is a credible threat.

6...b5 7.Bb3 d6

White to move

Here White usually plays 8.c3. These are the most popular moves in the Spanish Opening, but there are dozens of alternatives along the way. One of Black's interesting alternatives is the Marshall Attack. The second reference game below was one of Frank Marshall's first efforts with the system that bears his name. Even though he lost that game, he won several other games with his system. It has become a potent weapon.

Reference Games

Hellbach -- Chigorin,Mikhail [C68]
St Petersburg, 25.01.1900

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.Nxe5 Qd4 6.Nf3 Qxe4+ 7.Qe2 Qxe2+ 8.Kxe2 Bg4 9.d3 Ne7 10.Be3 Nd5 11.Nbd2 0–0–0 12.a3 f5 13.Nb3 b6 14.h3 Bh5 15.c4 Nf6 16.Bd4 Be7 17.Rhd1 Rhe8 18.Kf1 Bxf3 19.gxf3 Nh5 20.Be3 a5 21.f4 c5 22.Nc1 g5 23.Ne2 h6 24.Rac1 Bd6 25.fxg5 f4 26.Bd2 hxg5 27.Rc2 Be5 28.Bc1 Ng7 29.Ng1 Nf5 30.Nf3 Bf6 31.Re2 Rxe2 32.Kxe2 Rh8 33.Rg1 Rxh3 34.Nxg5 Nd4+ 35.Kf1 Bxg5 0–1

Capablanca,Jose Raul -- Marshall,Frank James [C89]
New York Manhattan CC New York, 1918

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 Nf6 12.Re1 Bd6 13.h3 Ng4 14.Qf3 Qh4 15.d4 Nxf2 16.Re2 Bg4 17.hxg4 Bh2+ 18.Kf1 Bg3 19.Rxf2 Qh1+ 20.Ke2 Bxf2 21.Bd2 Bh4 22.Qh3 Rae8+ 23.Kd3 Qf1+ 24.Kc2 Bf2 25.Qf3 Qg1 26.Bd5 c5 27.dxc5 Bxc5 28.b4 Bd6 29.a4 a5 30.axb5 axb4 31.Ra6 bxc3 32.Nxc3 Bb4 33.b6 Bxc3 34.Bxc3 h6 35.b7 Re3 36.Bxf7+ 1–0

22 October 2013

Silly Move

White threw away a win, but still has an easy draw. If the White bishop remains on the board, the White king can take up residence on g1 and sit comfortably until the end of time.

White to move

Why did White play 55.Bg2? It is almost the only move that loses. Bad premove? Playing badly to avoid detection after cheating in other games? Intoxication?

21 October 2013

The Schliemann Defense

I was unprepared for the Schliemann Defense when my opponent employed it against me in the last round of the Eastern Washington Open. Having White against the strongest player in Eastern Washington should be an opportunity, but I was busted by move ten. I made the best of things, playing my longest game of the tournament. But there was never really much question that I would lose. The question was how my opponent would finish me.

As I sat at the board contemplating my options after 3...f5, I wondered why I was unprepared. It was the first time that I faced the Schliemann in a game that I recorded on my scoresheet, but a check of my database of online games offers a clue to my lack of preparation. Against the Schliemann in online blitz, I have fifteen wins, one draw, and two losses. In one of those wins, I was busted in a manner similar to what happened at the EWO, but my opponent ran out of time a few moves before checkmate. Having dominated this response to the Spanish, I had not realized my need to understand it.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 f5

White to move

I briefly considered 4.exf5, becoming convinced that it was dangerous and unwise. This had been my choice in one of my blitz losses and my draw. I also have three wins with this system. It is rare move by strong players and its overall score in the ChessBase database is abyssmal. Rejecting it was a good choice.

I considered 4.Bxf6 with the idea that I might get away with 5.Nxe5. I have five wins and a loss in online blitz following this move. I knew that John Julian would be happy with the bishop pair, and that he could play them well. This line has been played by strong grandmasters, but rarely.

4.Nc3 is the most popular move, scores the best, and one that I considered. I have never played it in blitz, except from the Black side (two draws). Should I face the Schliemann again in tournament play, I hope that I will have some familiarity with some games with this move. At the top levels there are many draws following 4.Nc3, but both Black and White have scored victories.

4.d3 is White's second most popular move. I have played this move twice in online blitz, winning both games. On the Black side, I have one draw. I do not recall that I considered this move during my game with Julian.

I played 4.d4. I have three online wins after playing this move. Several grandmasters have employed it against strong opponents with mixed results.

My game continued 4...fxe4 5.Nxe5 Nxe5 6.dxe5 c6

White to move

After our continuation 7.Bc4 Qa5+ 8.c3?! (8.Nc3 appears better) 8...Qxe5 9.Qd4N Qxd4 10.cxd4 d5 11.Be2, Black had the initiative and an extra pawn. The only merit in my position was that I had a clear plan: start a minority attack to break up Black's pawn chain, and attempt to swap my way into a rook ending where I might have the chance to fight for a draw. Of course, Black understands this plan and Julian easily thwarted it. I got my minority attack, but he kept minor pieces on the board, kept my d-pawn isolated, and created mate threats that led me to sacrifice a piece. When it was clear that my d-pawn would fall, I resigned.

After the game, my opponent showed me a gambit line that I had not considered. It scores reasonably well for White, although much worse than 4.Nc3.

7.Nc3!? cxb5 8.Nxe4 d5 9.exd6 Nf5

White to move

In addition to two pawns, White has positional compensation for the bishop. Here there are three popular tries for White. All of them have been employed by strong players.




Reference Games:

Grodzensky, S -- Filippov, V 
Corr. 2010

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. d4 fxe4 5. Nxe5 Nxe5 6. dxe5 c6 7. Nc3 cxb5 8. Nxe4 d5 9. exd6 Nf6 10. Bg5 Qa5+ 11. Nc3 b4 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Nd5 b3+ 14. c3 Be6 15. Nc7+ Kd7 16. O-O Bxd6 17. Nxe6 Qe5 18. Re1 Qxh2+ 19. Kf1 Qh1+ 20. Ke2 Qxg2 21. Qxb3 Rae8 22. Kd3 Kc8 23. Qc4+ Kb8 24. Qd4 Qh3+ 25. Re3 Qf5+ 26. Qe4 Qxf2 27. Qd5 Bc7 28. Rae1 Rd8 29. Nxd8 Rxd8 0-1

Khalifman, A -- Glek, I 
Leningrad 2009

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. d4 fxe4 5. Nxe5 Nxe5 6. dxe5 c6 7. Nc3 cxb5 8. Nxe4 d5 9. exd6 Nf6 10. Qd4 Be7 11. Bg5 Bf5 12. O-O-O Bxe4 13. Rhe1 Qxd6 14.Qxd6 Bxd6 15. Rxd6 O-O 16. Bxf6 Bxg2 17. Rg1 Rxf6 18. Rxf6 gxf6 19. Rxg2+ Kf7 20. Rg3 Rc8 21. Kd2 1/2-1/2

Klima, L -- Zeberski, J
Czechia 2009

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. d4 fxe4 5. Nxe5 Nxe5 6. dxe5 c6 7. Nc3 cxb5 8. Nxe4 d5 9. exd6 Nf6 10. O-O Nxe4 11. Qh5+ g6 12. Qxb5+ Qd7 13. Qe5+ Kf7 14. Qxe4 Bxd6 15. Re1 Qf5 16. Qd4 Bc5 17. Qh4 Qg4 18. Qh6 Bd7 19. h3 Qf5 20. Be3 Rae8 21. Bxc5 Qxc5 22. Rxe8 Bxe8 23. Re1 Bc6 24. Qf4+ Kg7 25. Qc7+ Kh6 26. Re4 Qh5 27. Rg4 Re8 28. f4 Re1+ 29. Kf2 Rc1 30. Qe7 Rxc2+ 31. Ke1 Qa5+ 32. b4 Rc1+ 33. Kd2 Qxa2+ 34. Kxc1 Qc4+ 35. Kd2 Qd4+ 36. Ke2 Bb5+ 37. Kf3 Qd3+ 38. Kf2 Qd2+ 39. Kg1 Be2 40. Rh4+ Bh5 41. Qf8# 1-0

17 October 2013

Lesson of the Week

We are looking at the King's Pawn Opening through October. I do not spend a lot of time teaching openings to children. Their games are usually won and lost in the ending and middlegame. Tactics are their most important skill. Second is the ability to checkmate.

The first Spokane area scholastic tournament for 2013-2014 will be this Saturday. Some games will be won in the opening. These will be quick checkmates. Some games will be drawn in the endgame. These will be a player with overwhelming force lacking the skill to force checkmate. Most games will be decided by pieces left en prise. The young players who observe undefended pieces and take them after first verifying that it is not a trap will win most of the games.

Black has a choice after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3

For 2...Qf6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (17 September).
For 2...Bd6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (23 September).
For 2...f6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (4 October).
For 2...d6 Philidor Defense, see "Lesson of the Week" (11 October).

The Best Move?

Philidor Defense is solid and worth playing. The Russian Defense, which we will look at later this month is very popular among Grandmasters. But, the best move in the opinion of many strong chess players is 2...Nc6. We are looking at games that follow after this move this week and next.

White to move

White has several ways to play. This week we are looking at one line of the Italian Opening. It is an old line--more than 400 years old--and is named for Gioachino Greco (1600-1634), who has been called the first chess master. This week's game was one that participants in my summer chess camp may already know. We looked at two games that started with the same moves and then diverged. Their workbooks have an additional ten games from the critical position. This week's game is the first of these.

3.Bc4 Bc5

Black could have opted for the Two Knights Defense, 3...Nf6.


This is the main line of the Italian Opening. White's move prepares d2-d4.


White to move

5.d3 is solid and safe.

The Greco Variation of the Italian Opening sacrifices a pawn. This sacrifice leads to a battle of ideas. Black plays for material. White goes after the Black king. Such contrasting ideas are at the heart of chess.


We looked at how Black wins material. I asked the students to work out the next few moves.

5...exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.O-O

Black to move

Black can win a second pawn. Greco's games were illustrative games that displayed tactical ideas in attack. I would like to believe that he also intended to illustrate the flaws in Black's hunger for material game without proper attention to the dangers.

8...Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxb3 10.Qb3

Black to move

Greco has many games that reach this position. In some of them, Black plays 10...Bxd4. We looked one of those in which Black grabbed the rook.


Black's best move is not found among Greco's illustrative games. 10...d5.

The tactics are instructive, and there are several possible branches from this point. With the input of the young chess players, we looked at several possibilities. This week's illustrative game from Greco concluded:

11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Ne7 13.Ne5 Bxd4 14.Bg6 d5 15.Qf3+ Bf5 16.Bxf5 Bxe5 17.Be6+ Bf6 18.Bxf6 Ke8 19.Bxg7 1-0

Another variant of this game was posted last May in "Gioachino Greco and the Game of Chess."

14 October 2013


The Eastern Washington Open was my worst tournament performance in the past several years. I lost one game to a much lower player because I blundered, overlooking simple checkmate threats. Earlier in the game, I twice rejected moves that were probably best because I perceived dangers that I neglected to calculate. Effort assessing the perceived dangers might have revealed that they were not credible threats. That loss gave my opponent the biggest upset prize for the event. My other loss stemmed from lack of opening preparation. Although I had White, my position was technically lost by move ten. Even so, it was my longest game.

Despite my poor performance, I was pleased with my play in round four. My longest think of the game was thirteen minutes considering my opponent's responses to the only move I examined seriously, and which I played. It was the best move in the position. Most gratifying was that my calculation of the critical line consistently found good moves for both sides. About half of these were best or only moves, and where I did not look at the best move, the best was only slightly better than ones in my line. My assessment that I would stand better in the resulting position eight moves deep also was accurate.

My deep calculation begins with this position.

Black to move

16...e5! is best. It makes sense positionally, but I had to verify that it was correct tactically.

I had spent some time preparing this move. This moment appeared the correct time to make it. If not now, White might play Ne5, which would then necessitate more preparation.

Calculation was simple and straight-forward if White replied 17.Nxe5 or if he replied 17.dxe5.

However, the zwischenzug 17.Bb5 creates complications. It was this line that I analyzed for thirteen minutes.

I briefly considered a) 17...Bd7, and spent a few minutes looking at b) 17...e4. I considered the latter as an unattractive, but safe option. Here, my analysis concluded in a position where I thought that I was better, but Stockfish evaluates as equal. However, I missed the best move half-way through this line.

The line that took the longest to calculate and assess begins with c) 17...exd4! It is the best move.

a) 17...Bd7 is Stockfish 4's second choice. I gave it only cursory examination, but realized that some of the ideas in the lines I did examine would be present.

b) 17...e4 is Stockfish 4's third choice.
I looked at 18.Ne5 Bxe5
     Unexamined was the correct 18...Ne5! 19.Bxe8 Nd3-+.
My analysis continued 19.dxe5 Rxe5

White to move
I assessed this position as better for Black. Black is two pawns ahead, but Stockfish sees the position as equal. Black can generate threats against h2, but White has sufficient defensive resources. Black's pawn center is fragile, and thus his material advantage is temporary.

My analysis did not extend to 20.c4, which is White's only move. Otherwise, Black has secured an advantage with subpar moves.

c) 17...exd4 occupied the longest portion of my thirteen minute think. It is the best move.

I did not look at 18.Qd1, 18.Qf1, nor 18.Qd3. 18.Qxe8 struck me as the critical line, as it is a direct effort to refute my idea. Black's back rank has weaknesses. These are not fatal, but White has several forcing moves. Moreover, there are some material imbalances to consider.

18...Nxe8 19.Rxe8+ Bf8 and now more branching occurs.

Examining branching in one of several possible lines four moves from the current position has not been the norm in my over the board play. It must become so. In correspondence chess, such analysis is easier to perform thanks to such tools as analysis boards, database software for recording and observing possible positions, and the old fashioned paper and pencil with a physical board. Doing this analysis under tournament conditions with the clock running while looking at a static board requires imagination. I closed my eyes several times in order to imagine the board.

c1) Bxc6 Qxc6 21.Ba3 (the computer prefers 1.Ne5, which I do not recall considering) 21...Bb7 22.Rxa8 Bxa8 23.Nxd4 Qxc3

White to move

Black's advantage is clear, but I thought that White had a more dangerous line.

c2) 20.cxd4 seemed less dangerous, and I did not go deeper.

c3) 20.Nxd4 seemed critical. Stockfish vacillates between this move and 20.cxd4 as best for White.

20...Bb7 (I do not recall looking at 20...Nxd4, which the engine considers best) 21.Rxa8 Bxa8 22.Nxc6 (Stockfish prefers 22.N2f3) 22...Bxc6 23.Bxc6 (23.Bd3 may be better) 23...Qxc6 24.Rxa7.

Black to move

Although I was not certain my advantage was overwhelming in this position, I thought that I would probably choose this line. I knew that I could spend more time examining it after playing 16...e5.

Our City Champion was watching our postgame analysis, and chimed in that he thought he might like White's position. Black could be in danger if White's bishop and rook could both be brought to bear against f8. We discussed these dangers briefly. White's problem is that Black's queen controls the rook's access to the back rank.

White has three pieces to Black's two, but the queen is a powerful piece and White's queenside pawns are vulnerable once Black shores up the dangers on f7.

Stockfish concurs that Black is winning.

After 16...e5!, my opponent replied 17.dxe5. His move is simplest and best, although it saved me from the dangerous and complicated line. I was relieved. The rest of the game presented one difficulty when my opponent found some tactical tricks to expose my king. Initially, I marched forward, only to see that he threatened a draw by repetition, so my king went back and I had to retreat a knight that I wanted to use in the final attack.

My opponent then missed a tactic that gave me checkmate in two.

11 October 2013

Lesson of the Week

We have looked at three poor responses by Black after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3.

2...Qf6 violates important principles, placing the queen on the knight's best square, and rendering the queen vulnerable to attack. White, by playing sensibly, can quickly build up a strong advantage.

2...Bd6 creates disharmony among Black's pieces.

2...f6 weakens the position of the Black king, and does not defend the e-pawn. After 3.Nxe5 fxe5, White is winning. Black can play 3...Qe7, however. White has a clear advantage.

This week we looked at the Philidor Defense, 2...d6. Ruy Lopez thought that this move was Black's best response. Andre Philidor also thought so. Philidor's Defense has been played by many strong players for several centuries. It is not Black's most popular response, but it is solid.

White to move
Black has secured the attacked e-pawn without committing any pieces. This move also opens a line for the light-squared bishop, but it blocks the dark-squared bishop.

White has several options:

3.d4 is most popular and probably best.

3.Nc3 is okay.

3.Bc4 is a strong move, and we explored it in more detail.

Black should play 3...Nc6 or Be7, but there are many moves worth considering.

We looked at 3...Bg4, which pins the knight.

White should then play 4.Nc3.

Black to move

One game from this position that is worth remembering continued with 4...g6?

The pin on the knight is an illusion. In Legall -- St. Brie, Paris 1750, White played 5.Nxe5. That game ended quickly. 5...Bxd1 6.Bxf7+ Ke7 7.Nd5#.

I have shown this game to hundreds of school children. Most beginners think of 6.Kxd1 as worthy because they have not yet learned to appreciate material value nor king vulnerability. White did not give up the queen so that he could capture a bishop. The queen was bait to set up checkmate.

We then looked at a better fourth move for Black: 4...Nc6.

5.Nxe5 is no longer a strong move, but the queen remains safe because 5...Bxd1 leads to 6.Bxf7+ Ke7 7.Nd5#.

White should play 5.h3.

After 5...Bh5 6.Nxe5, Black has a choice.

Black to move

6...Bxd1 loses to a checkmate that should be familiar by this point.

6...dxe5 leads to 7.Bxh5 when White is a pawn ahead and has an attack.

6...Nxe5 seems to be Black's best move.

After 7.Qxh5 Nxc4 8.Qb5 forking king and knight 8...Qd7 9.Qxc4, White is a pawn ahead and has a lead in development.

Going through these variations, students were introduced to pins, discovered attacks, forks, and piece coordination.

08 October 2013

Fried Liver Attack

The Fegatello Attack, or Fried Liver, favors White in practice. White scores nearly 80% wins in the selection of games available in the ChessBase database. It should be no surprise that Black usually prefers to avoid the line with 5...Na5.

In The Oxford Companion to Chess (1996), David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld offer the assessment that the opening favors White and suggest the origin of the intriguing name.
...an extensively analyzed variation that favours White. It was known to the 16th-century Italian masters and the name is Italian for a piece of liver, perhaps implying that the sacrifice of White's knight is like a slice of liver used as bait in a trap.
The Wikipedia entry currently offers, "White has a strong attack, but it has not been proven to be decisive." That is my view, but it is not universally shared.

The opening begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6

White to move


Now Black makes the first important choice.

Although 8...Nce7 is a frequent move, it is my view that 8...Ncb4 is Black's best choice.

White to move

White has a problem to solve. The most common response here may not be the best.


In my best game on the Black side of the Fried Liver, my opponent played 9.a3. That game continued 9...Nxc2+ 10.Kd1 Nxa1 11.Nxd5 Kd6 12.d4 b5!? and I was in the process of repeating moves when we agreed to a draw on move 22.

9.Bb3!? has been explored in a small number of games. It may deserve more attention.

In a challenge on Chess.com that resulted from my claim that the Fried Liver is unsound, and Black is fine if he or she defends accurately, my opponent continued with 9.Qe4.

When that game finishes, I plan to post it.

04 October 2013

Lesson of the Week

Through the end of October, we are looking at ideas for Black in a common opening position. We started with ideas that Black should reject.

The common moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 reach a position where Black makes an important choice. Will Black defend the e-pawn or attack White's e-pawn. If Black chooses to defend the e-pawn, what defense will he or she adopt.

2...Qf6 is inadvisable. Our model game is Morphy -- McConnell 1849.
2...Bd6 is inadvisable. The model game comes from a correspondence game that I played in 2005.

This week we look at 2...f6, which may be the worst possible move. It is certainly the worst way to defend the pawn.

White to move

This manner of defense is shockingly common in scholastic tournaments. Consequently, a player who understands its pitfalls may find an opportunity to demonstrate this knowledge when it means an easy win in a tournament game.

This move is also a named opening: Damiano's Defense. Pedro Damiano (1480-1544) pointed out White's refutation of this error, and so it is a bit ironic to name the opening for him. During his life new chess rules were changing the nature of the game. Folks used the terms "new chess" and "old chess" to refer to the differences. The queen and bishop had become the pieces they are today. In the old chess, they were much weaker. 2...f6 was a strong move in the old chess. With bishops and a queen that could move all the way across the board, this move became terrible.

Our model game is the opening phase of a battle that took place in Rome in 1560. Ruy Lopez was a Spanish priest who had to be in Rome on church business. He also was one of the leading chess players in Spain. He spent his free time in Rome playing chess with the leading players of that city. His opponent in this game was Leonardo di Bona, who was nicknamed the kid.

3.Nxe5! fxe5??

2...f6 is an error, but not a game losing one. 3...fxe5 is a blunder. 3...Qe7 offers Black prospects for continuing the game.


While looking at the game Morphy -- McConnell, it was stressed that bringing out the queen early was usually an error. However, all strategy generalizations have exceptions. Clear analysis of the position on the board is more important than general strategy principles.

Black to move

Black has two legal moves. The better of the two loses a rook. White's third move looked like a knight sacrifice, but in fact it wins material. If Black tries to hang on to the extra piece, White can force checkmate or win a piece more valuable than the rook.


The kid made the best move. He was prepared for this position, including the loss of his rook. He had a plan that he thought was better than the priest's plan.

5.Qxe5+ Qe7 6.Qxh8 Nf6

White to move

We see that Leonardo di Bona's idea was to trap the White queen. In this position, it has no safe move. However, Black still has some work to do before the queen can be captured. If Lopez succeeds in rescuing his queen, he will have a significant material advantage. If not, he should lose.

7.d4 Kf7 8.Bc4+ d5 9.Bxd5+ Nxd5

White to move

H.J.R. Murray, A History of Chess (1913) tells us that Lopez won this game, but the moves to this position appear to be all that have survived.

In Rome in 1560, Ruy Lopez proved that he was a better chess player than Leonardo di Bona. Fifteen years later, they played another series of games. The Kid had improved significantly. He traveled to Spain to prove his skills. He defeated Lopez and the other leading players of Spain.

03 October 2013

Finishing Things

Having this position, I thought that I had a win in hand. But there is still work to be done. Postgame analysis suggests that my move was not the best, and that it left Black a saving resource.

How does White find the plan for finishing this game?

White to move

02 October 2013


In every one of these positions, I made the wrong move. In each game, my blunder led to a losing position. I won all three games. It is as important to analyze wins as it is losses.

White to move
I played 13.Nxf7+??

White to move
I played 9.Nge2??

Black to move
I played 22...h4??

01 October 2013

Training Log: September 2013

My training regimen was back on track in September. Nonetheless, I still fell short in some areas. I set four New Year's resolutions at the end of December 2012. I made reasonable progress in September on three.

1. In 2013, I will solve correctly 300 tactics problems each month.

After my hard drive crashed in July, it has taken time to recover and rebuild my data. Part of what was lost was my spreadsheet for tracking the monthly totals with each of of tactics training resources. This blog had accurate data through the end of May, so I started there.

It must have been during times of exhaustion of distraction that I kept opening Chess Quest on my iPad because I know that I looked at one problem at least half a dozen times, but when I looked at it three days ago, I was able to solve the problem that had me stuck in less than one minute. Meanwhile, a new app on my phone and two online resources account for the largest number of problems. The iChess app scorecard says that I have solved 138 problems, but some problems have been solved more than once as I learn how to use the app to always start with a new problem. Most of the 103 problems that I have solved are simple one-move checkmates. Regular readers will remember that I discount such easy problems in Chessimo, only counting those that I have solved six times. None of the 80 problems that I solved in Chessimo in September appear on the speadsheet, although a batch of them may appear in October.

With the Chess.com Tactics Trainer, I sometimes torpedo my rating trying to calculate because I exceed the allotted time. In the morning, when I use this resource, I typically fail the first three problems before the mind starts working. My pass rate is less than 50%. Research concerned with expert performance and deliberate practice reveals that practice at the point of failure is necessary. That low percentage should motivate me to use this resource more extensively. My solving percentage is slightly higher on Chess Tempo, and I am working at improving that. I solve in standard mode where time used does not affect rating, and where I can hone my calculation skills. My percentage in September was close to 60%, a little higher than my overall average. Combining these two online resources, focusing on rating with one and accuracy with the other may be my best bet for strengthening my tactical skill.

2. In 2013, I will study whole games and whole books.

My study of whole games and whole books has come to characterize the time that I spend on chess!

I am closer to finishing Logical Chess: Move by Move, but continue to neglect the study plan with respect to this book that I set out in my resolutions. On the other hand, in late August, I began working systematically through Chess Informant 113. I have completed 59 whole games, plus 44 game fragments.

3. In 2013, I will finish my Pawn Endgame Flash Card project.

Progress studying Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual did not go forward in September.

4. In 2013, I will lose fifteen pounds.

My efforts to walk the entire length of the Spokane River Centennial Trail with each of my dogs continues. Walks in the park, too, are regular and Amy is able to overcome her distractions enough to make four half-mile laps before insisting on the return home. My weight loss is a meagre two pounds from January.