31 December 2015

Year in Review 2015

Late in 2014, I initiated a study regimen intended to carry me through 2015. The regimen collapsed in the spring. In "To Know a Position," I described the plan and my ambivalence concerning New Year's resolutions.
How far into 2015 this current interest will carry me is unknown. I suspect that at some point other training interests or non-chess priorities will intervene and break me from this path. That is what always happens.
"To Know a Position" (29 December 2014)
Focus began to wane in April during the busy weeks leading up to the Washington State Elementary Chess Championship, an event with nearly one thousand competitors for which I served as tournament director. With the arrival of Chess Informant 124 in early July, it ended almost completely.

Studying classic games via the positions in GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge by Rashid Ziyatdinov was both enjoyable and productive. Time invested in these games improved the depth and breadth of my chess knowledge.

On the other hand, this work also spawned in an ironic sort of way an opening adventure that led to my worst tournament game in the past several years (see "Knowing Better").

Tournament Performance

My USCF chess rating is slightly higher today than one year ago, but it remains below my peak rating three years ago. Did my play in 2015 produce evidence of improvement? The evidence is mixed.

I competed in four USCF rated events, playing four games in each. The first, the Collyer Memorial at the end of February, lifted my rating from 1872 to 1877 with three wins and one loss. The player who beat me tied for first in the event. After a few opening moves, I attacked recklessly and self-destructed. My opponent happily facilitated this process with accurate defense. I was exhausted after the previous round when my game lasted over four hours (the time control was game in two hours plus a five second delay).

My second event was Spokane's annual Inland Empire Open in May. All four of my opponents were lower rated. I won two and lost two. On Saturday, I lost to an underrated high school student (his rating in 2015 rose from 1526 to 1838). Sunday brought my quick loss to an old friend, the first time he beat me in a tournament game. We played for the first time eighteen years ago. My rating plummeted to 1847.

Every game in the Spokane Falls Open went long for me, and none were easy. I played over two hundred moves through the course of four rounds in this mid-August event. I also won every game, finished in first place, and pushed my rating back over 1900 (see "Winning an Open"). This victory qualified me for the Spokane Contenders Tournament that will be played in June and July. The winner of the Contenders Tournament plays our City Champion in a four game match during the same weekend as the Spokane Falls Open. I won the Contenders in 2008, tied for first in 2010 (second on tie-breaks), and won again in 2012. I played in the event in 2014, finishing near the bottom.

Playing well in the Contenders Tournament in 2016 is one obvious goal for the new year.

One month after the Spokane Falls Open, I played in my fourth weekend Swiss for the year, the Eastern Washington Open. I lost a tough game to another underrated teenager, the former Idaho State Girls Co-Champion. My other three games were victories. My rating slid from 1902 to 1886.

In 2015, my tournament record was 12-0-4 against thirteen players rated below my strength and three above. I scored 67% against those rated above me and 77% against those below.

I will have stronger opponents in 2016, at least in the Contenders. In weekend Swisses, winning on Saturdays leads to stronger pairings on Sundays. Without these stronger pairings, I do not play those rated higher than me.

Training 2015

Through the course of 2015, I solved well over one thousand tactics problems, spent many productive hours studying endgames, and played through many hundreds of master games.

Using online correspondence chess to guide some opening study serves me well (see "Applied Study"). For one of the games that concluded in February, I went through approximately 150 master games--every game published in Informant that had reached a position that I was facing. I won that game when my opponent timed out, although it was headed for a draw. Late in 2014, I drew one and lost one in a match against an International Master. In early 2015, I scored 1.5/2 against a National Master. My draw against the IM, my win on time against the untitled player, and my win against the NM were all with the French Defense.

Two weaknesses in my play of the French Defense had become apparent. I was faltering repeatedly in the same manner against the Alekhine-Chatard Attack. I corrected this error through some opening study. Through the last half of 2015, I won most of my games in this line.

The other weak area, identified after a draw with an underrated youth player in August 2014, is the Steinitz variation. My win against the NM came after correcting the error that I played in in 2014. Since acquiring Chess Informant's Paramount Database in November, I have been working through every Steinitz variation game ever published in Informant. There are 588 games through Informant 123. As of this morning, I have gone through the first 285. I intend to transform this weakness into a strength.

Towards the New Year

GM-RAM continues to call me. In 2016, I plan to review the work done in 2014 and 2015. I created training cards for the first 48 middlegame positions. Reviewing these cards will reveal which of the first 31 games need further work. Then, I expect to renew this regimen and proceed through the remaining games, but perhaps at a slower pace. My aim is to balance study of the classics with an effort to make good use of my Informant subscription.

Mihai Marin's Informant column emphasizes the persistent relevance of classic games to modern GM play. I have read several of his columns. I intend to catch up on those that I missed.

I have neglected the endgame positions in GM-RAM, instead working through portions of Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and other works. Ziyatdinov's more limited selection offers an excellent opportunity to identify gaps in my knowledge. I plan to work through this part of GM-RAM in 2016.

30 December 2015

A Zugzwang Lesson

It is not stalemate if a pawn can move.

The last game to finish in today's Holiday Tournament offered an illustration of a lesson from yesterday's Holiday Chess Camp. The two-day camp had three groups--beginners, intermediate, and advanced. One of the youth coaches who was in the advanced section yesterday reached an ending today that he might have understood better had he been in the room with the intermediate players yesterday. It was a youth chess camp, but coaches were encouraged to join the young players in the advanced camp, which was taught by FM Jim Maki.

John Dill and I taught the intermediate group.

Our Holiday Tournament had a scholastic section (NWSRS Rated) that I ran, and a USCF rated open section run by Dill. The Open section was one-third youth and two-thirds adults. The last game to finish was on board one, where a coach had White against a parent of one of the co-winners of the scholastic section.

White to move

I had been watching the game for several moves before I took a photo with my phone, which helped me to reconstruct this position. My sense was that the game was a draw. Black offered a draw here or a couple of moves later, explaining to his opponent that even without the Black pawns on the board, White could not win.

Indeed, White's bishop cannot help the h-pawns to promote because it cannot control the promotion square.

While the players were discussing the draw offer, John Dill whispered to me, "it's the position that we showed the children yesterday." I looked again with a new set of eyes. John was correct. White wins this position with correct play.

The player of Black is correct that without his pawns, White cannot win. However, those pawns change everything. If Black's king cannot move, then the g-pawn must advance.

In John's lecture, "Finding the Best Plan in the Endgame," he presented this position, which he found in Ray Cheng, Practical Chess Exercises: 600 Lessons from Tactics to Strategy (2007).

Black to move

There are obvious stalemate dangers, but if Black prevents the White king from moving without restricting the b-pawn, then White will be in zugzwang.

1...Bc2 2.Ka2 Bb1+ 3.Ka1 Kc2 and White is forced to play b3 or b4.

Both moves lead to 4...axb3 (or cxb3) and after White's only legal move, 5...b2#.

In the tournament game this afternoon, the presence of Black's pawns were fatal to his position. His opponent, however, did not find the winning idea. The bishop must go to g8 and trap the king on h8. Compelling Black's g-pawn to move produces checkmate in two moves.

John and I were both enthusiastic that a position from our camp instruction appeared in an important tournament game the next day.

18 December 2015

Holy Smokes!

My first impression of Shirov -- Gurevich, Munich 1993 (Chess Informant 57/287) was that the game requires more than the usual five minutes observing patterns. Gurevich sacrificed material to open the board before Shirov castled. Later, Shirov struck back and eventually prevailed. According to Shirov's annotations for Informant, Gurevich strayed from the best course from this position.

Black to move

ChessDB has the game so that it can be replayed in most browsers.

14 December 2015

The Blitz Standard

When teaching elementary checkmates to children, I often suggest they should know the basic techniques so well that they can perform them without thought with mere seconds left on the clock. Sometimes I mention an extreme example. Ryan Ackerman and I spent some time at the Spokane Chess Club one evening taking turns checkmating with queen and king against lone king. Ryan set his Chronos clock so that we each had ten seconds. We were each able to execute the checkmate in six to seven seconds with some consistency, although there was more than one stalemate through the course of the evening. Once, I played the nine or ten moves to checkmate in five seconds.

I do not expect children to perform these checkmates in seconds, but consistent success with reasonably rapid moves is a training standard they should aspire to. The first step is learning the technique and developing self-confidence. I learned these checkmates as a teenager, but still practice them in my fifties. My aim in practice is to move instantly and at the same time to execute the checkmate in the fewest possible moves.

12 December 2015

Outplay Chigorin

A Tough Position

I have shown this position to most of my chess students during the past two weeks. None have solved it, although several have seen checkmate patterns that look promising. The position arose in the thirteenth match game Schiffers -- Chigorin, St. Petersberg 1897.* It also appears in Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations, 5th edition (2014) as number 2386. It was brought to my attention two weeks ago via Renaud and Kahn, The Art of the Checkmate (1953).

Black to move

Mikhail Chigorin played 24...b6 and the game was drawn by repetition ten moves later. Renaud and Kahn point out that Chigorin missed a checkmate in five, and their solution is identical to that given in ECC. However, White has a defensive resource that delays checkmate one move, so it is actually a checkmate in six.

Knowing there is a forced checkmate, I was able to work out the five move solution in a few minutes. The computer showed me the additional defensive resource.

Several of my students found the first move easily, but because they could not find the second move, they revised their first move. Alas, all other first moves by Black allow White to unleash an attack.

I think the final checkmate pattern is hard to imagine from this position and that is why Chigorin and my students missed the combination. The solution was pointed out shortly after the game by R.J. Buckley, according to James Mason, The Art of Chess (1905), 210, where the position was represented by a diagram missing the c2 pawn (see Edward Winter, "Schiffers v Chigorin," Chess Notes 7932 [13 January 2013]).

*This game was Chigorin's foray with Damiano's Defense (see "Opening Disaster: Damiano's Defense").

09 December 2015


White to move

This position arose in Kamsky -- Lalic, Bad Mergentheim 1989 and was published in Chess Informant 48/393. It is the 125th game published in Informant with the ECO classification C 11 (French Defense, Steinitz variation). Thanks to the Paramount Database, I am working my way through all 588 C 11 games in Informants 1-123.

Kamsky played 36.a4 and Lalic resigned. Both his rook and king are tied down to the defense of the f-pawn in order to restrain White's f- and g-pawns. After 36.a4, the White king is free to march to the kingside, then through a gap between the pawns to snatch d4 and then over to remove Black's a-pawn. Then, White's a-pawn will march unmolested to the promotion square.

07 December 2015

Checkmate Patterns

The first thing for the reader to learn is to see every possible mate; this is one of the requirements of a good player.
Renaud and Kahn, The Art of the Checkmate
When David Weinstock recommended The Art of the Checkmate (1953) by Georges Renaud and Victor Kahn, I felt that he was underestimating my skill level. I met David when ChessMate, his company, was a vendor at the 1996 Washington Class Championships. It was my sixth USCF tournament and my first outside the Spokane area. Because I did not know anyone there and am an incurable bibliophile, I spent much of the time between rounds looking at the books ChessMate had available for sale and talking with David. He had several Chess Informants available for sale and he showed me how to read Informant codes. The Informants listed in the USCF sale catalog had piqued my interest. David answered questions, paving the way for my first Informant purchase a few months later (see "Playing by the Book").

I was in my mid-30s and had been pretty serious about chess as a teenager. In my youth I had learned how to checkmate efficiently with queen, rook, and two bishops. I had not mastered checkmate with bishop and knight, nor did I have a solid understanding of the two or three dozen most common checkmate patterns. Nonetheless, I thought that my checkmate skills were a strength as I could discover patterns when the opportunity was present.

In my first rated USCF tournament, I found the checkmate in two from this position.

White to move

My confidence in my ability to checkmate could be backed up with evidence from my games. I had been playing chess for more than two decades before entering rated competition. My transition from clueless beginner to capable novice took place during the rapid improvement that followed from learning to read chess books (see "My First Chess Book"). I developed an aggressive playing style grounded in attacking the king.

Surely there were other weaknesses in my game that should be addressed. Indeed, when I look at those old games now, I see terrible opening moves, egregious middlegame blunders, embarrassing endgame technique and even a few missed checkmates.

Nonetheless, when I saw The Art of the Checkmate in a bookstore a few years later, I pulled it off the shelf and looked inside. It was not the book that I had imagined when David Weinstock first suggested it to me. I bought it and started reading. Within a few weeks, I was checkmating my opponents on the Internet Chess Club with new patterns, such as in the game below.*

Internet Opponent (1415) -- Stripes,J (1439) [A45]
ICC 5 0 Internet Chess Club, 03.04.2001

1.d4 c5 2.dxc5 Nf6 3.Bg5 e6 4.c3 Bxc5 5.Nf3

Black to move

5...Ne4 6.Bxd8??

6.Be3 was necessary.

6...Bxf2# 0–1

I began to appreciate the quality of David's advice. The Art of the Checkmate is a terrific book. Renaud and Kahn not only present checkmate patterns that I had not known, or did not know as well as I thought, but much more.

Renaud and Kahn present whole games well-analyzed. They show how positional errors create the conditions for checkmate combinations. They develop each pattern from the basic pattern to more sophisticated examples, and then to the pattern as a threat designed to force positional concessions. The Art of the Checkmate is a simple book, but not quite as simple as I imagined.

The first checkmate pattern presented is dubbed Legal's Pseudo-Sacrifice by the authors, The chapter on this pattern contains seventeen games and not all are king's pawn openings. Some games end in the checkmate pattern, but others lead only to a modest gain of material or positional advantage for the side employing the pattern. Nor does White always prevail.

When I read this book some fifteen years ago, one of the variations presented in the notes to the seventh game stuck with me.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 d6 4.Nc3 Bg4 5.h3 Bh5 6.Nxe5!

Black to move

Among the games preserved in my database, I've had White in this position ten times. Only once did my opponent play 6...Bxd1 and fall for Legal's Mate. Renaud and Kahn's note suggested that 6...Nxe5 is the "lesser evil" (15).

Play then continues 7.Qxh5 Nxc4 8.Qb5+.

I have had the resulting position in seven of those ten games, twice against one opponent. I have won five of those game. I have also faced 6...dxe5 (I won) and 7...Nf6 (I won). Playing the recommended moves has given me an 80% score from the diagram position even though my opponents do not fall for the queen sacrifice (Legal's pseudo-sacrifice).

*I had been exposed to many of these new patterns in my first chess book, but the intervening decades had erased many details from my memory while leaving general impressions.

03 December 2015

The Lesson

Teaching chess to children is a constant search for lessons that will challenge without frustrating. Sometimes the lesson is too easy; sometimes it is too hard. This week's lesson for my advanced students seemed difficult for the young students in my Thursday club. Perhaps the questions were too abstract and they needed more guidance going through the game. Perhaps the questions were clear, but the answers were too complex.

They did answer the first question rather quickly, which did not surprise me as several weeks ago they saw the games in "Patterns".

I presented them with a worksheet that consisted of a game score with one diagram and some text that included questions at the beginning. This game came to my notice while searching a position from The Art of the Checkmate (1953) by Georges Renaud and Victor Kahn. A game won by Ernest Falkbeer via Legall's checkmate is presented there. A search of the ChessBase database revealed three games that reached the diagram position. The best move, which Falkbeer executed, was not played in any of the other three. I chose the game with the highest rated players for this exercise.

Bautista Ballester,Jordi (1885) -- Mejia Fernandez,Josep (1734) [C44]
Roncana Tancats-chT 1st Santa Eulalia de Roncana (1), 23.04.2009

From the diagram position, White has a crushing attack. However, he did not find it. Rather, his move offered prospects of a slight advantage, which he later squandered. Hence, we have some questions:

1) What was the best move 8 for White?

2) How did White let the advantage slip away?

3) Where did Black err, giving White once again the upper hand?

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.0–0 Bg4 7.Nxc3 Ne5

White to move

8.Qa4+ Qd7 9.Nxe5 Qxa4 10.Bxf7+ Ke7 11.Nxa4 dxe5 12.f3 Kxf7 13.fxg4+ Kg6 14.h4 h6 15.g5 Be7 16.Rf5 hxg5 17.Bxg5 Bf6 18.Raf1 Ne7 19.Rxf6+ gxf6 20.Rxf6+ Kg7 21.Nc5 Nc6 22.Ne6+ Kg8 23.Nxc7 Rd8 24.Nd5 Rf8 25.Rd6 Rf7 26.g4 Kh7 27.h5 Rhf8 28.Rh6+ Kg7 29.Rg6+ Kh7 30.Nf6+ Kh8 31.Rh6+ 1–0

My beginning students worked on recognizing simple forks via a worksheet that had such positions as the following.

White to move

White to move

02 December 2015

Pawn Lever

In a fifteen minute game online, my poor play led to a terrible position. However, my opponent failed to deliver the knockout blow. He worked to bring his pieces into play when a simple pawn lever would have accomplished the task.

Black to move


30...c5 shows that White's bishop, the critical defensive piece, is doomed.


White has fantasies of Rh6 and Rxh7#. Black has resources to stop this plan. With Black's c-pawn still mobile, 31.Rd3 was the only defense.


Now, White is winning.

31...c5 32.Rd3 c4 33.Qxc3 Qxc3 34.Rxc3 cxb3 35.Kb2 Rxa2+ 36.Kxb3 Black's two bishops, which work marvelously well with his rooks on an open board will prove overwhelming.

32.Nxf7+ Rxf7 33.Rd8+ Kg7 34.gxf4

Black to move


Still hoping for a breakthrough with pieces. 34...Bxf4 addresses the immediate threats.


35.Qg2+ leads to checkmate.

35...Bxg1 36.Qg2+ 1-0

Black resigned due to imminent checkmate.

26 November 2015

Vulnerable King

As I am working my way through the 588 games classified as C11 (French Steinitz) in Chess Informant's Paramount Database, I am finding many interesting tactical shots, as well as positional crushes. This position arose in Lukin -- Ivanov, USSR 1984, CI 37/318.

Black to move

24 November 2015


White to move and win.

This position is one of a set of 150 problems that I composed three years ago for my beginning chess students. All of them have ten or fewer pieces. More problems from this set are visible at "Lesson of the Week" (January 2013).

20 November 2015

Crashing Through

Although it is difficult to calculate more than a few moves deep in blitz, the positions created in such play remain instructive. White has a clear advantage in this position, but the final blow was not clear to me. I had White.

White to move

The game continued 26.Qh8+ Bg8 27.Ne6+ Rxe6 28.fxe6 Qxe6 29.d7 Rd8 and it is no longer clear that White has the advantage.

How might I have found better moves with only seconds available for calculation?

19 November 2015

Crushing Attack

This position arose in Nigel Short's comments on Short -- Ye, Taiyuan 2004, Chess Informant 91/206. Ye played 17...g6. This position would have arisen had Black played 17...Rd8. Short also offers extensive analysis of lines that follow after 17...h6.

White to move

18 November 2015

Mate in Seven

This position arose in a blitz game in 2013. I have previously discussed this game in the post, "Improving through Blitz." Although I won in only a few moves from this position, I missed the checkmate in seven.

White to move

12 November 2015

Lesson of the Week

Some of my advanced students this week have been presented with this position that emerges from analysis of the conclusion of Drozdov -- Glek, Azov 1996.

Black to move

Some have also seen this simple position from the ending of one of my blitz games.

Black to move

In the second, Black had one desperate chance to avoid losing. It worked. The first comes from a reference game discovered in the effort to understand how Black might have avoided the catastrophic errors that led to such desperation.

My beginning students worked through a set of problems that include elementary forks and pins, as well as one skewer.

10 November 2015

Battle in the Benoni

Jim Maki Annotates

FIDE Master Jim Maki sent me this game for posting. His opponent is a rapidly improving high school student who is getting some coaching from Maki. I have played Travis Miller once. I lost. It is one of very few losses in the past ten years to underrated youth players.

Miller,Travis (1819) -- Maki,Jim (2318) [A70]
Spokane Rapid G/20 +3, 29.10.2015

Annotations by Jim Maki

17 year old Travis Miller, a recent arrival from Alaska to the Spokane area, has been making great progress since moving here as evidenced by his multiple 1st place finishes in Open events. This game was 3rd round of the Spokane Chess Club's Game/20 +3 tournament held recently.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6

White to move


I had recently shown Travis a line I was a bit worried about in the Benoni so I thought he might have come up with a surprise. Here is the line: 7.Nd2 Bg7 8.Nc4 0–0 9.Bf4 Ne8 10.e3 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 b5 12.Nd2 g5 13.Bg3 f5 with a very complex and hard to play position from both sides.

7...a6 8.a4 Bg7 9.e4 0–0 10.Bd3 

Usually white plays Bd3 with h3 so I just thought Travis was mixing up systems. I had two chances to play Bg4 to equalize but decided it was too gutless. But sometimes gutless chess is good chess.

10...Qe7 11.0–0 Nh5 

Or the simple: 11...Bg4 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Nh5 14.Be3 Nd7=.

12.Bg5 Bf6 13.Be3

The first real suprise. I was expecting 13.Bh6


Here I really should have gone for 13...Bg4. Time to get into trouble.


Black to move


Very bad indeed. This comes from playing too much blitz. Better would be 14... Rb8 or: 14...Bd4 15.Bxd4 cxd4 16.Ne2 Nc5 17.Qc2 f5 and if 18.Nxd4 Nf4 19.Bc4 fxe4 and black has good activity.

15.Be2 Ng7 16.f4 Nd7 17.Nc4 Re8 18.Re1


18...Rb8 19.Bf3

Yikes! This is known as the "looks like I'm dead lost" variation of the Benoni. That white center is a tidal wave about to come ashore.

Black to move

19...Qf8 20.e5 dxe5 21.Ne4 exf4?

Now I'm just taking stuff hoping he doesn't find the hammer. Hanging by a thread is the move 21... Be7.

White to move


This looks so good at first sight. This is, after all, a 20 minute game and we are both getting into some nasty time trouble. Winning is: 22.Nxf6+ Nxf6 23.Bxf4 Rxe1+ 24.Qxe1

a) 24...Bg4 25.Bxb8 Qxb8 26.Bxg4 Nxg4 27.d6 b5 28.axb5 axb5 29.Qe4+- The 30. Ra8 threat is fatal.

b) 24...Ra8 25.Bd6 Qe8 26.Be7 Nfh5 (26...Nd7 27.Nd6) 27.Nb6 Ra7 28.Bxc5+- Material is even but black's pieces are so bad that random moves win for white.


The only move but good enough. Black has life again.

23.d6 Nxc5 24.Nxc5 Bf6 25.Rxe8 Nxe8 26.Bxb7?

Black to move

Hard to believe but black is now winning.


Much better is: 26...Rxb7 27.Nxb7 Bxb7 28.d7 Ng7–+.

27.Nd7 Qg7?

Now white is winning again.

27...Qh6 28.Nxb8 Qg5-/+.

28.Nxb8 Bd4+ 29.Kh1 f3

White to move

I thought I was winning here. Travis had less than 30 seconds on his clock but he finds:

30.Qxf3! Nxd6

Can't take the queen; 31.d7 wins instantly.




Every move a blunder but I have 30 seconds and Travis has 16. Winning is: 31...Ne4 32.Nd7 (32.Qxb7?? Ng3+ 33.hxg3 Qh6#) 32...Qh6 I saw this far but thought here white could play 33. h3 but completely missed: 33.h3

Black to move
Analysis after 33.h3


32.Nd7 Ba7 33.Rd1+-.

32...Qf6 33.Nd7 Bxg2+

The natural tendency in extreme time trouble is to play forcing moves like this where I know I can always bail out with a perpetual. But 33...Qd8 is better.

34.Kxg2 Qf2+ 35.Kh3 Qf5+ 36.Kg2 Qf2+ 37.Kh3 ½–½

Black to move

With flags hanging, Travis offers a draw so I take it. So what happens after 37...Qxe1?

38.Nxd6 This is why I took the draw. Black is a piece down, mate threats all over the place, and it seems black will be lucky to get a perpetual. But black is winning. 38...Qf1+ 39.Kh4 (39.Kg3 Bf2+ 40.Kg4 h5+ 41.Kg5 Bh4+ 42.Kxh4 Qf4+ 43.Kh3 Qg4#) 39...Bf2+ 40.Kg5 h6+ 41.Kf4 (41.Kxh6 Qc1+ and mate next move.)

Black to move
Analysis after 41.Kf4
41...Be3+!! 42.Ke5 (42.Kxe3 Qh3+) 42...Qf4+ 43.Kd5 Qf3+ 44.Kc4 Qc6+ 45.Kd3 Qxd6+ 46.Kxe3 Qxd7 and black is better but imagine playing this position on just the 3 second delay.

08 November 2015

King's Gambit Fun

In the Spirit of Allgaier!

Players of the King's Gambit are familiar with the Allgaier Gambit in which White sacrifices a knight for attack.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ng5!? h6 and the knight is trapped, so 6.Nxf7+.

Much safer, while still aggressive, is 5.Ne5.

Here Black has several options.

5...h5 is an old move with a dubious reputation. In The Oxford Companion to Chess (1996), David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld note this is called the Strongwhip variation, and sometimes the Long Whip, which is a better translation of its German name, Lange Peitsche (399). John Shaw, The King's Gambit (2013) employs the term Long Whip.
White's best chance of facing this is to invent a time machine and dial up the 1840s. Still, the strongest lines I can find for White lead to slightly better chances in wild positions, not a clean kill.
Shaw, 117.
Shaw recommends 6.Bc4, "let's fire at f7 in 19th century style."

6.Nxf7?! in the spirit of the Allgaier was tried once by Kurt Osterberg in 1988 in an open tournament. He lost. During some marathon blitz sessions last week, I scored three wins with this dubious sacrifice.

One opponent had beaten me in our three prior encounters.

Stripes (1773) -- Internet Opponent (1792) [C39]
Live Chess Chess.com, 06.11.2015

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 h5 6.Nxf7?!

This sacrifice is premature


6...Kxf7 7.Bc4+

Black to move


8.d4 d6?!

Too slow. White may gain compensation for the sacrifice.

8...Qf6 Guards f4 and prepares f4-f3.


9.Bxf4 seems sensible,


9...Bh6 Black must secure his kingside pawns in order to generate play.


Black to move

White appears to have compensation for the piece. Although down a piece, he has more material in the battle.


10...Nc6 11.Bg5 Qd7 12.Qd3 Nxd4 13.e5 Bxe5 14.Qg6+ Kf8 15.0–0+

Black to move
Analysis, after 15.O-O+
Nf3+ Black must return material

 (15...Nf6 16.Rxf6+ Bxf6 17.Qxf6+ Ke8 18.Qxh8#) 16.gxf3 g3 17.Rae1.

11.Bg5 Qd7 12.0–0±

Black to move


12...Nc6 makes White labor for the victory.

13.Rxf8+ Bxf8 14.Qd2+- Qg7 15.Nd5 c6

White to move

16.Nf6+ Kd8 17.Nxh5+ Qe7 18.Bxe7+ Bxe7 19.Qxh6 1–0

Bumbling Along

On Halloween, I played this dubious sacrifice for the first time. This game was bullet. Two minutes plus one second per move is very close to three minute blitz.

Stripes (1651) -- Internet Opponent (1726) [C39]
Live Chess Chess.com, 31.10.2015

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 h5 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Bc4+ Kg6

Moving the king to the g-file is less optimal than returning to the home square, but should be safe enough if Black is well-prepared.

White to move

8.Nc3 Bg7?!

8...d6 9.d4 Bh6 10.Qd3 White's attack is too slow.

9.d3 c6 10.Bxf4 d5 11.exd5 Qe7+


12.Ne2 cxd5 13.Bxd5

Black to move


Black is already ahead material. King safety should be the priority.

13...Nf6 14.Bg5 Bh6 15.Be4+ Kg7 16.Qd2


14.0–0 was better.

14...Kg7 15.Rb1 Bf6 16.Qd2

16.Rb5 becomes a theme of missed opportunities.

Black to move


16...Nd7 Everything must defend the king because all of White's forces are coming there.


An unnecessary waste of time that also serves to render my king vulnerable.



17...Bf5 18.Bxf5 Nd4 19.Be4 Nf3+ 20.Bxf3 gxf3 Now White's king is the insecure one.

18.0–0 Nd4

18...Nf7 would be a good square for the knight.


19.Bg5? Nf3+ 20.Bxf3 gxf3 21.Rxf3 Nf5

19...Bxd4+ 20.Kg2

Black to move


20...Nf7 still solid.


21.Rb5 appears to have been outside White's planning. The rook's move to b1 was not merely self-preservation, but also preliminary to this lift. The g5 square is a crucial point for getting at the Black king.


Black should not be giving back the material without some gain.

21...Qe5 22.Bf4 Qe7.


Now, perhaps, White's attack will play itself.

22...Bxe3 23.Qxe3 Bd7?


23...Rb8 24.Qd4+ (24.Rb5 is still best, but White is blind to this lift.) 24...Kg8 25.Rf6.

White to move


At least the rook had a target on the b-file, thanks to Black's active cooperation. This move was good enough, but I had several better choices during the final assault.

24.Qd4+ finishes things.

24...Rab8 25.Qd4+

25.Rxd7 Rhe8 (25...Qxd7 26.Qg5#) 26.Qg5+ Kh8 27.Qh6+ Kg8 28.Bd5+ Qf7 29.Bxf7#.

25...Kh6 26.Rxd7 Rbd8

26...Rbf8 27.Qe3+ Rf4 28.Qxf4+ Kg7 29.Qg5#.

27.Rxe7 Rxd4 28.Rf6# 1–0

Missed Miniature

On Thursday, when I played the first game above, I played another. Two years ago in our only prior encounter, this opponent beat me with the Exchange French.

Stripes (1738) -- Internet Opponent (1736) [C39]
Live Chess Chess.com, 06.11.2015

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 h5 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Bc4+ Kg7

Again, I am battling a king on the g-file.

8.d4 Qe7 9.Nc3

Stockfish opines that White has compensation for the sacrifice.

Black to move


9...d5 10.Bxd5 seems close to equal.

9...f3 10.gxf3 Nc6 11.Nd5 with a slight edge for White.

10.Bxf4± Nxe4??

Black could have fought on with 10...d5 or 10...Qb4.

11.Be5+ Nf6 12.0–0 d5 13.Nxd5

Black to move


Giving up the queen helps the king survive a little longer.

14.dxe5 Bc5+ 15.Kh1 Ne4 16.Nxc7

16.Qd3 Be6 17.Qxe4 Nd7 18.Nxc7

16...Nc6 17.Rf7+! Kh6 18.Qc1+ Kg6

White to move

If I could bring my queen to g5, the game would end.


19.Rf6+! solves the problem.

a) 19...Kg7 20.Ne8+ Kh7 (20...Rxe8 21.Qh6#) 21.Qh6#.

b) 19... Nxf6 20.Qg5+ Kh7 21.Bd3+ Ne4 22.Bxe4+ Bf5 23.Bxf5#.

With an overwhelming material advantage, White's job is to mop up and avoid tricks.

19...Bxe6 20.Bxe6 Nxe5 21.Rf1 Ng3+ 22.Kh2 Nxf1+ 23.Qxf1 Rhf8 24.Qc1

Black to move

24...g3+ 25.Kxg3 Bf2+ 26.Kh2 Bxh4 27.c4 Rf2 28.Qb1+ Kg7 29.Bh3 Bf6 30.Qe1 Ng4+ 31.Bxg4 hxg4 32.Qxf2 Be5+ 33.g3 Rh8+ 34.Kg2 1–0

An unsound sacrifice can be effective when Black has only a few seconds per move to solve problems of the king's vulnerability. I doubt that my sacrifice would have any merit in an over-the-board game with tournament time controls. In correspondence chess, it would prove suicidal.

03 November 2015

The Final Blow

These positions are from old Chess Informants. In each, the player on move made the strongest move and won the game. Black's opening choice was the Sicilian Dragon in all cases.

White to move

Matanovic -- Soos, Titovo Uzice 1966 CI 2/346

White to move

Vasiukov -- Ciocaltea, Bucuresti 1967 CI 3/402

White to move

Osnos -- Sakharov, Kharkov 1967 CI 4/418

White to move

Estrin -- Litvinov, Kharkov 1967 CI 4/421

White to move

Shapovalov -- Kitaev, Correspondence 1967 CI 4/428