28 February 2015

Taking Care of Business

My friend John Julian always reminded me that high rated players must take care of business in the early rounds of a Swiss tournament. That is, players in the upper quarter will be paired against players that they are expected to beat. They need to do so. In a two-day Swiss, the tough games come on the second day.

Taking care of business is not always easy.

I have had a cold this past week, and today the congestion resulted in a persistent headache. It was not terribly severe, but it refused to leave. Combine the headache with with my penchant for photographing as many players as possible during the early rounds of Spokane's weekend tournaments, and I was in a bit of trouble before I became properly focused on my first round game.

I recall a conversation with my opponent between rounds during last year's Collyer Memorial. He drove up from Oregon to participate in the event. This game was the first time that we played.

My opponent opted for the Ponziani, which had been my new weapon last year. It made the beginning of the game psychologically difficult. I spent six minutes on my third move.

Beverly,Jacob (1462) -- Stripes,James (1872) [C44]
Collyer Memorial Spokane (1), 28.02.2015

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 f5

I think that Paul Morphy might have played this move were he in my seat.

4.exf5 e4 5.Qe2N

Black to move


I have learned playing the Ponziani that opponents often freak out, so, I freaked out and blundered a second pawn after intentionally sacrificing a first.

5...d5 seems best.

6.Qxe4 Nf6 7.Qc2 d5 8.Bb5 0–0 9.Bxc6

9.d4 was better.

9...bxc6 10.0–0

Black to move


I was rushing to win back one of the pawns. Morphy, on the other hand, would find the best squares for his pieces.


As expected, and best.

11...Nd6 12.Nd4

Here, I became alert to many threatened knight forks that interfered with my plans.

12...Qd7 13.Nd2


13...Nxf5 14.Nxf5 Qxf5 15.Nf3 Bd6 16.Be3

16.Nd4 was better.

Black to move


I don't know how I missed  16...Qh5 as that was part of my intent behind 15...Bd6. I spent seven minutes on Bd6 and two on Qg6.

17.Nh4 (17.g3 Rxf3) 17...Qxh4-+.

I considered 16...Qg4 17.Nd4 (17.h3? Qh5 18.Ne1 Qe5 19.g3 Bxh3-+).


17.Nh4 Qh5 18.g3 Bh3-+.

17...c5 18.f4 Bf5 19.Qb3 c6 20.Rd1 Bg4

White to move

At this point in the game, I had used a full hour to my opponent's 25 minutes.

21.Rd2 Rfe8 22.Nc2 Rab8 23.Qa4

Black to move


I spent fifteen minutes on this move.

23...Rxb2 occupied much of my long think. I was uncertain, and so played a move that seemed safer. 24.Qxc6 Rxc2 25.Qxd5+ Qe6 was not my likely move, although it is the only one in the position that leaves Black with an advantage.

24.b3 Rb7 25.Qa5 Bf5 26.Bxc5

Black to move


26...Rb5 was suggested by Darren Russell during the post-mortem. It is the computer's top choice.


27.f5 Bxf5 28.Nd4


Finally, I am winning. At this point I had 37 minutes left on the clock.

28.Rc1 Be4 29.c4 Bd6 30.g3 Bxf4 31.Rf1

Black to move


I didn't even consider 31...Bxg3 which leads to checkmate in seven moves.

 32.Qxd2 Rf7 33.Re1 Rf3 34.Bf2 Ref8 35.cxd5 cxd5 36.Bc5

Black to move


I found the checkmate in three. Indeed, I had been trying for it for several moves prior.

37.hxg3 Qxg3+ 0–1

In round two I had a more difficult game against the Caro-Kann that seemed roughly equal well into the middlegame. As I was organizing my forces to create attacking chances, I overlooked the danger of my opponent's counterplay. Then, he moved his queen to the wrong square, allowing me to exchange a rook for two minor pieces and end his prospects for attack.

With my bye in round three, I start round four tomorrow morning with 2 1/2, which is what I expect in weekend Swiss.

24 February 2015


Morphy -- Lowenthal, London 1858

The fourteenth match game between Paul Morphy (1837-1884) and Johann Jacob Lowenthal (1810-1876) is an instructive game that highlights Morphy's positional understanding, which was decades ahead of his time. As Valeri Beim notes, this game is a "treasure even by modern-day standards" (Paul Morphy: A Modern Perspective [2005], 108).

Over the past week, I have played through this game several times. First, I looked through without any assistance and found the zugzwang. Then, I probed the database for some perspective on the opening.* Third, I entered variations that highlight tactical and strategic alternatives. Variations were expanded and contracted as I read through Beim's comments on the game (106-108). Finally, a couple of lines were checked with Stockfish.

Morphy,Paul -- Loewenthal,Johann Jacob [C77]
London m London (14), 21.08.1858

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d4

This game was the first one recorded with this sharp line.

5...exd4 6.e5

6.0–0 is also possible, and is vastly more popular.

6...Ne4 7.0–0 Nc5

7...Be7 is also popular.


8.Bb3 Nxb3 9.axb3 Be7 10.Re1 0–0 11.Nxd4 Nxd4 12.Qxd4 was drawn in 52 moves in Lochte,T (2165) -- Hiermann,D (2190), Germany 1996.


8...bxc6 appears twice in the database, played only by relatively weak players (albeit close to my level). Lowenthal's choice to activate the queen must be the correct idea.


It is interesting that this position has been reached a few times with White on the move, that is, via a different move order that excludes Bb5-a4.

9...Ne6 10.Nxe6 Bxe6 11.Qe2

Black to move


"This natural looking move is the root of all Black's troubles" (Beim, 106). He suggests 11...Qd4.

12.Nc3 Qe7 13.Ne4 h6

The first time that I played through this game, this move looked strange. But a few seconds of analysis revealed that it was necessary to prevent Bg5.

13...Bb6 14.Bg5

a) 14...f6? 15.exf6 Qf7 (15...gxf6 16.Bxf6 Qf8 17.Rad1+-) 16.fxg7 Qxg7 17.Bf6+-.

b) 14...Qd7 15.Rad1 Qc8 would be awkward for Black.


"A outstanding positional decision" (Beim, 106). Beim notes that depriving Black of the bishop pair gives White the advantage on the dark squares.

14...Bxe3 15.Qxe3 Bf5

15...0–0–0? 16.Qa7.

15...b6!? 16.f4 0–0–0.


"Morphy bravely sacrificed a pawn for a small, but lasting initiative" (Beim, 106).

16.f4 Bxe4 17.Qxe4 0–0–0 gives White a slight advantage

16...Bxc2 17.f4

Black to move



a) 17...Bg6? 18.f5 Bh7 and White is clearly better.

b) 17...Bh7!?

c) 17...0–0 18.f5 Qg5 19.Qc3 Ba4 20.e6 with an initiative for White.

d) 17...Qb4 is Stockfish's choice.


White threatens to play 19.Qc3

Hypothetical Position

I looked at some alternatives to this move.

a) 18...Ba4 is easily refuted. 19.exf7+ Kxf7 20.Qc3 Bb5 21.Rfe1 Qf6 22.Qb3+ Kg7 23.a4.

b) 18...0–0 leads to a maze of complications that mostly seem better for White.
19.Rf2 Bf5 20.Nxf5 gxf5 21.Qb3

b1) 21...b6 22.Re1

b2) 21...fxe6 22.Qxb7 Rfb8 23.Qxc6 Rb6 24.Qc3

b3) 21...Qxe6 22.Qxb7 Qd6 (22...Rfb8 23.Qxc7) 23.Qb3.

c) 18...0–0–0 19.Rac1 Bd3 20.Qa7 Qxe6 21.Rcd1 (21.Rfd1?! Beim points out that this is the wrong rook 21...c5 22.Qa8+ Kd7 [Beim's line continues 23.Rxd3+ Ke7 24.Rxd8 Qe3+–+] But the computer offers 23.Qxb7 when White seems slightly better) 21...Qc4 22.Rf3 with a clear advantage for White.

19.Nxf5 gxf5 20.exf7+ Kxf7 21.Qh3 Qf6

21...Rad8 22.Qxf5+

22.Rae1 Rhe8 23.Re5

Morphy simply puts his rook on a secure square on an open file.

23...Kg6 24.Rfe1 Rxe5 25.Rxe5 Rd8

Lowenthal grabs the other open file for his rook.


This check gains a tempo to make possible White's next move.

26...Kh7 27.h3 Rd7

Lowenthal might have held the position with 27...Rd5 28.Re8 Qg7 29.Qh4 Rd1+ 30.Kh2 Rd2 31.Re7 Rxg2+ 32.Kh1 Rg1+=.

28.Qe3 b6 29.Kh2

"Morphy, always energetic, proceeds to straightforwardly strengthen the position, knowing that the necessary level of coordination between his pieces has not yet been attained" (Beim, 107). The italics are Beim's. Throughout Paul Morphy: A Modern Perspective, he emphasizes Morphy's understanding of dynamic play, piece coordination, and development. He contends that focus on Morphy's play against weak opponents has led to a distorted view of his strengths. His play against the top players of the day, including Lowenthal, show that he possessed an intuitive understanding of many concepts that would be articulated over the course of the next century. Morphy anticipated not only Steinitz, but also Nimzovich.

Black to move

29...c5 30.Qe2 Qg6 31.Re6



31...Qg8! might hold 32.Qe5 Rf7 33.Re8 Qg7 and no White breakthrough is in sight.

31...Qf7? 32.Qe5 c4 33.Re8+-.

32.Qh5 Rd5 33.b3

This is the position that I posted in "Zugzwang!" earlier this week.


33...Qf8 34.Qg6+ Kh8 35.Re8+-
33...a5 34.a4 and still zugzwang.

34.Rxa6 Rd6 35.Qxf5+

35.Rxd6 cxd6 36.Qxf5+ Kh8 37.a4 bxa4 38.bxa4 should be winning.

35...Qg6 36.Qxg6+ Kxg6

White to move


Beim gives a long line that Morphy could have calculated leading to certain victory:

37.Rxd6+ cxd6 38.Kg3 b4 39.Kf3 d5 40.g4 Kf6 41.h4 Ke6 42.h5 Kf6 43.Ke3 Ke6 44.g5 hxg5 45.fxg5 Kf5 46.g6 Kf6 47.Kf4 d4 48.Kg4 Kg7 49.Kg5 d3 50.h6+ Kg8 51.Kf6 d2 52.h7+.


37...c6 38.a4 bxa4 39.Rxa4 Rd3
(39...Rd4 40.Rxd4 cxd4 41.Kg3 h5 42.h4 c5 43.Kf3 Kf5 44.g3 Kf6 45.Ke4 Ke6 46.b4+-)

38.g4 c6 39.Kg3 h5 40.Ra7 hxg4 41.hxg4 Kf6 42.f5 Ke5 43.Re7+ Kd6 44.f6 Rb8 45.g5 Rf8 46.Kf4 c4 47.bxc4 bxc4

White to move

48.Kf5 c3 49.Re3 Ra8 50.Rd3+ Kc7 51.Rxc3 1–0

I will need to go through this game again and again. I may return to it in a few weeks or months.

Tomorrow morning, I begin a week on Barnes -- Morphy, London 1858, first match game.

*I was able to spend a few minutes discussing the first few opening moves with FM Jim Maki, who has recently moved to our area and offers game analysis to youth players at area scholastic tournaments. I direct these tournaments. For the first few minutes each round, before any games finish, Jim and I get a few minutes to talk. Then children arrive with their notated games to get superb instruction and a raffle ticket.

23 February 2015

Pawn Endings: The Key Position

Lesson of the Week

This diagram may be the single most import one for understanding elementary pawn endings. It is the key to understanding many complex pawn endings.

If it is White's move, White wins.

1.e7 Kf7 (only legal move) 2.Kd7 and the pawn promotes. The position can be shifted to the right or left, and the White king may stand on either side of the pawn. However, if the pawn is on a rook file (the a-file or h-file), the position is a draw.

If it is Black's turn, Black draws.

1...Kd8 2.e7+ Ke7 3.Kd6 stalemate.

As a practical matter, White may try to confuse Black by playing 2.Kc5, or other moves, aiming to triangulate and recreate this position with White to move. Black easily stops these ploys unless he or she becomes careless in time pressure.

The defender should keep in mind the king's idea position is directly in from of the pawn. When that is impossible, in front of the pawn with one intervening square, or in front of the king with one intervening square must be selected. As long as the diagram position with White to move is avoided, Black holds.

Another important pawn position may reach the first in some variations.

White wins no matter which player is on move.

With White to move:

1.Kd6 Kd8 2.e6 Ke8 and the first diagram is reached with White to move.

If 1...Kf8 or 1...Kf7 2.Kd7 supports the pawn for the last three squares of its journey.

With Black to move:

1...Kd8 2.Kf7 and the pawn has the support of its king.

A third diagram serves to illustrate how the first diagram is a foundation for more complex pawn endings.

If Black's h-pawn falls, the position is elementary. Hence the Black king must shuffle between g8 and h8.

Black to move, loses.

1...Kh8 2.h4 Kg8 3.h5 Kh8 4.g4 Kg8 5.g5 Kh8 6.g6

A form of the first diagram will be reached after 6...Kg8, or after 6...hxg6 7.hxg6.

If White moves first, it is necessary to move one of the pawns a single square on its first move in order to reach the last diagram with Black to move.

21 February 2015


Working through a random set of combinations from the Anthology of Chess Combinations, third edition, I find that I need the patience to slow down and improve the accuracy of my calculations. Too much blitz and timed tactics solving has cultivated an expectation that I should see things instantly.

This position is a case in point. I found the correct key (first move), the correct idea, and saw clearly and correctly the final position. However, I missed the second move of the sequence.

White to move

19 February 2015


Black is ahead one pawn and has everything defended against White's threats. There is just one problem. Black must move. Every possible move produces weaknesses.

Black to move

From Morphy -- Lowenthal, London 1858.

Two moves later, White was ahead a pawn.

18 February 2015

Building a Foundation

My lessons with beginning chess students and with accomplished scholastic competitors are designed to build a foundation for a lifetime of chess. Most young chess enthusiasts play the game actively for a couple of years in elementary school, and then take up other activities. Some return to chess later in their youth. Others may put the game aside until they have children of their own.

Whether they keep playing, or play for a while and then return, elementary endgames and basic tactics should serve them now and in the future.

My advanced students this week are grappling with a famous combination played by Paul Morphy at the First American Chess Congress. The whole game with analysis was posted yesterday at "Morphy's Immortal".

Black to move

For those students that find the combination, I will play Qd3 on White's third move from the diagram because Black's refutation is particularly challenging to find.

My beginning students this week, and some of my advanced students last week, are reviewing (or learning for the first time) "Six Pawn Endings" (see the Lesson of the week from mid-December at the link).

17 February 2015

Morphy's Immortal

Game of the Week

This week, I am working on the sixth match game between Louis Paulsen and Paul Morphy. Some commentators have called this game "Morphy's Immortal". The decisive combination that begins with a queen sacrifice is the first problem in Anthology of Chess Combinations.

I have been reading several chess books, and also watching YouTube videos to get a sense of what others say about this game. In addition, I read through A.J. Goldsby's annotations and all of the comments on chessgames.com.

This game is number ten in Rashid Ziyatdinov, GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000).

Paulsen,Louis -- Morphy,Paul  [C48]
USA–01.Kongress New York (4.6), 1857

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bc5 

Morphy's move is still a popular choice among some Grandmasters today.

4...Nd4 was first played by Emil Shallop against Paulsen. 5.Nxe5 (5.Ba4 Nxf3+ 6.Qxf3 c6 1–0 in 42 moves, Paulsen,L -- Schallopp,E, Berlin 1881) 5...Qe7

4...Bb4 is most popular.


5.Nxe5 Nxe5 (5...Bxf2+? 6.Kxf2 Nxe5 7.d4±) 6.d4 Bd6.


5...d6 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 Bd7 8.Nf5 0–0 9.Bg5 Bxf5 10.exf5 Nd4 11.Bd3 d5 12.Bxf6 gxf6 (12...Qxf6  is better 13.Nxd5 Qg5) 13.Na4 1–0 in 26 moves, Paulsen,L -- Zukertort,J, Leipzig 1877.


Black to move


6...Nxe5 is an interesting possibility 7.d4 Bd6 8.f4! (8.dxe5 Bxe5) 8...Nc6 9.e5 Be7 10.d5 (10.exf6 Bxf6) 10...Nb4

6...Nd4 7.Be2 d5 ½–½ is 32 moves. Marco,G -- Marshall,F, Monte Carlo 1904

6...Bd4 7.Nf3 Bxc3 8.dxc3 Nxe4 9.Bd3 d5 ½–½ in 33 moves, Tarrasch,S -- Schlechter,C, Monte Carlo 1903.


7.Nf3 "gives an advantage" (Kasparov, My Great Predecessors, Part I, 33).

7...dxc6 8.Bc4 b5

8...Nxe4? 9.Nxe4 Rxe4 10.Bxf7+ Kxf7 11.Qf3++-.


9.Bb3?! Bg4 10.Qe1 b4 with a slight advantage for Black, according to A.J. Goldsby 11.Nd1 Rxe4 12.Ne3 "is hardly advantageous to White" (Kasparov, 33).

9...Nxe4 10.Nxe4

10.Bf3? Nxf2 11.Rxf2 Qd4 12.Ne4 Rxe4–+.

10...Rxe4 11.Bf3

11.c3 is playable here Qh4 12.d4 Bd6 13.g3 Qh3 (with the idea 14...Rh4) 14.f4 Bd7 15.Bf3 Re7 and White has chances for advantage.



White to move


"A simply hideous move: who would think of allowing the queen in at d3?" (Kasparov, 33)

12.d3 has been suggested by most commentators, including Ray Keene.

"We can safely say that the play, as above given, was the main cause of White's disasters, particularly when contending against such a far-sighted and powerful adversary as Mr. Morphy."
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (28 November 1857).

A.J. Goldsby diagrees, offering: "Yet another perfectly reasonable move. (The main idea is to play d4, and block out Black's powerful dark-squared KB.)  I know Reinfeld condemned this move here, but again I am not at all sure that this criticism is either merited -- or justified. (David Lawson gives this a whole question mark, but this is completely and totally unjustified.)"

Goldsby offers the following variation: 12...Qh4 13.g3 Qf6 14.c3 Re8 15.d4 Bh3 16.Bg2 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 Bd6 18.Bd2 Qf5 19.Qf3 Qc2 when Black may be a little better.

12.a3? a5 Black has a clear edge.


Yikes! The cramping effect of this move reminds me of my victory over Stockfish from a set position based on analysis of Mayet -- Anderssen (see "Training with Anderssen").


13.Re1 seems better 13...Rxe1+ (13...Rb8) 14.Qxe1 Bf5 15.Bxc6 Rd8 16.Qe5 Qc2 17.Bf3 Bd6 18.Qxb5 Bd3 19.Qc6 Kf8 "Black still has the advantage" (Kasparov, 34)

13...Bb6 14.a4

"Probably worse for White" 14.Re1 Rxe1+ 15.Qxe1 Bd7 16.Qf1 Qc2 (Goldsby).

14...bxa4 15.Qxa4

Black to move


15...Bb7 may be superior. Indeed, Kasparov identifies 15...Bd7 as Morphy's most significant miscalculation. 16.Ra2 Rae8 17.Qd1 Ba6 18.Rxa6 Qxa6 19.d4 Qc4 20.Bd2 a5 and Black has a clear advantage, according to Kasparov (34).


16.Qa6! was Paulsen's last chance.

16...Rae8 17.Qa6

Black to move

This position is the first one in the Anthology of Chess Combinations, third edition.

17.Qc2 was no good. 17...Qxf1+ 18.Kxf1 Re1#.


"Beautiful as unexpected. Mr. Stanley, one of the bystanders, remarked of Mr. M., on his making this seemingly rash move, that he should be confined in a lunatic asylum. No one present could fathom the meaning of this bold play, until move after move showed to the wonder-struck spectators how accurate had been Mr. M.'s calculations. Just think of this, student--seeing into a dozen moves ahead, with all its attendant variations."
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.

"One of the most amazing moves ever played on a chess-board." A.J. Goldsby

17...Qxf1+? 18.Qxf1 Re1 19.d4 Rxf1+ 20.Kxf1 and White has an advantage.

18.gxf3 Rg6+ 19.Kh1 Bh3 20.Rd1

20.Rg1 Rxg1+ 21.Kxg1 Re1+ 22.Qf1 Rxf1#.

20.Qd3 tests Black's calculation.

Black to move
Analysis diagram after 20.Qd3
I put this position in front of the members of a Chess.com fan page on Facebook. No one found 20...f5!

a) 20...Bg2+ was suggested 21.Kg1 Bxf3+ 22.Qxg6 hxg6 and White is materally ahead.

b) 20...Bxf2 was the best of the suggestions on Facebook. 21.Qxg6 fxg6 22.Rd1 Be6 23.Ra1 Bd5 24.Kg2 Bh4 Black has a bishop and pawn for a rook, and perhaps a slight advantage.

c) 20...f5! keeps the attack alive. 21.Rd1 Bg2+ 22.Kg1 Bxf3+ 23.Kf1 Bxd1 and Black should win.

20...Bg2+ 21.Kg1 Bxf3+ 22.Kf1

Black to move


Morphy missed 22...Rg2! 23.Qd3 Rxf2+ 24.Kg1 Rg2+ 25.Kf1 (25.Kh1 Rg1#) 25...Rg1#.

23.Kg1 Bh3+

23...Be4+ 24.Kf1 Bf5 25.Qe2 Bh3+ 26.Ke1 Rg1#.

24.Kh1 Bxf2 25.Qf1

25.Rf1 Bxf1 26.Qxf1 Re1 27.Qxe1 Bxe1 28.Rxa7 h6-+

25...Bxf1 26.Rxf1 Re2 27.Ra1 Rh6 28.d4 Be3 29.Rf2 Rxf2 30.Bxe3 Rfxh2+ 31.Kg1 Rh1+ 32.Kg2 Rxa1 33.Bxh6 gxh6 0–1

15 February 2015

The New Informants

Long a publication that crosses language barriers, in recent years Chess Informant has been expanding its front sections with articles written in English. These changes began with opening theory and expanded into articles on many topics.

Informant 110 offered a new feature called CI Labs with five articles concerned with new trends in the openings. Each article contained a short introduction in English. CI Labs expanded to six articles in the next issue, which also added two other articles. "Chess History" by Harald Fietz celebrates the centenary of Jose R. Capablanca's entry into the world elite. Anna Burtasova's "Women and Chess" marked the 50th birthday of Maia Chiburdanidze, five-time world champion.

CI Labs peaked at ten articles with Informant 113 and that issue also included the first "Garry's Choice" column, which ran through Informant 118. In these columns, Garry Kasparov offered his analysis of recent Grandmaster games. The number of articles continued to grow as did their breadth and depth. With Informant 119, the company added download versions customized for the ChessBase database software. Because I use ChessBase daily, this feature puts Informants in easier reach.

The new content is outstanding. While Informant has long been a periodical that was indispensable to professional players, some average players found it intimidating. Many of the new articles aim at the average tournament player.

Mihail Marin's column, "Old Wine in New Bottles," has proven illuminating. In Informant 119 (the Viking edition), he explored rook endings. Viswanathan Anand missed a draw in a difficult rook ending in his World Championship match with Magnus Carlsen. Most chess enthusiasts know that, but still may find Marin's analysis illuminating. In the same article, he points out a hidden resource in the well-known game Capablanca -- Tartakower, New York 1924. Marin poetically notes that the reputed author of the aphorism, "all rook endings are drawn," missed a drawing opportunity in his most famous loss.

In Informant 122, Marin examines the role of memory in chess through an exploration of the double bishop sacrifice. He works his way back through time, beginning with recent play by a teammate and working towards Emanuel Lasker's famous game against Johann Bauer (1889). The importance of pattern recognition in chess training is brought home for ambitious players and chess teachers working with all levels of students.

There are also compelling columns by Alexander Morozevich, Ivan Sokolov, Karsten Mueller, Wesley So, and an ever changing cast of Grandmasters. These columns are suitable for chess enthusiasts across a wide range of skill levels.

Informants have long had versions compatible with ChessBase, but not all commentary translated well. The image below shows Informant 75/156 in Chess Informant Expert (left) and ChessBase (right). The intended text "with the idea of 17...Rac8, 17...Qa1" is almost unreadable in ChessBase. (readers may click on the image for better viewing).

Side-by-side CI Expert and ChessBase
In the latest versions created especially for ChessBase, such commentary reads perfectly. Below is some text from "Midnight in Moscow: Avoiding the Saemisch by a Less Traveled Road" by Alexander Morozevich. "With the idea" is spelled out, and the figurine algebraic displays correctly.

Informant 122 in ChessBase
I have been a fan of Chess Informants for nearly two decades. My first issue in late 1996 or early 1997 was Informant 64 and it quickly paid dividends in a nice win in a correspondence game (see "Playing by the Book"). In the early years of this century, I started buying electronic editions of Informants and reading them in Chess Informant Reader (CIR). Later, the company came out with Chess Informant Expert, which offered editing and publishing functions not available in CIR. CI Expert also offered a more pleasing interface with options for different color combinations.

CI Expert offers functionality not available in ChessBase. For example, from the electronic edition of the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, it is possible to jump to reference games in the relevant issue of Informant, as I demonstrated in this YouTube video.

Despite the advantages of reading Informants in their proprietary software, or in print, I welcome these new ChessBase versions. Designing Chess Informant publications specifically for ChessBase software makes Informants more accessible.

13 February 2015

Lesson of the Week

My clubs and several private students this week have examined a position from Thompson -- Morphy, 1857. This game was the third in Paul Morphy's first match during the First American Chess Congress, which he went on to win.

As last week, we are anticipating threats and seeking to understand necessary defensive measures. Last week, Alexander's Alekhine's defensive measures muted White's threats and led to a position that he was able to win. In this week's lesson, Thompson's response to Morphy's threats ended the immediate crisis, but still left Morphy with a technical win.

With the beginning students, we have only looked at the immediate threats. More advanced students have also seen this game through to Thompson's resignation.

White to move

White has two concrete problems to solve: 1) the queen is attacked, and 2) Black has a checkmate threat.

12 February 2015

Correcting Errors

Yesterday's post, "Game of the Week," offered a claim that I had mastered a particular position with clear evidence in the same paragraph that I have not. This post aims to correct that error.

In a single pawn ending where one player's king stands on its starting square, or the adjacent square, with a a pawn in front of it, the opposing side's king may stand on any of thirteen squares and hold a draw. That is the case, if the stronger side is on the move.

If the weaker side is on the move, there are an additional fifteen squares on which the king may stand.

With White to move, Black draws with a king on any of the squares occupied by a Black king in the diagram below. With Black to move, Black draws if the king can reach any of these squares.

11 February 2015

Game of the Week

I am going through one game each week with the intention of understanding it thoroughly. This labor is part of a study plan guided by Rashid Ziyatdinov, GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000).

There was an earlier, privately published version of this book. It caught my eye in the USCF product catalog in 1999 or thereabouts. The catalog description, "positions only, no evaluation," intrigued me. I ordered it; it was back-ordered for a few months and then I learned that it was no longer available. Ten years later, I bought the Thinker's Press edition, which also had gone out of print.

Ziyatdinov offers some hints concerning a program of study, and his co-author, Peter Dyson, offers additional hints. Much is left to the reader.

The basic plan is simple: each of the 253 positions (133 endgame, 120 middle game) in the book, plus an additional 47 selected by the reader, must be mastered thoroughly. That is, these positions must become as letters of the alphabet. Children learning to speak struggle to master the differences between the letter m and the letter n. Most have mastered these sounds before they begin school. Within a few years, the memory of these difficulties is forgotten and the sounds and meanings are second nature.

This past Saturday morning, I was discussing and playing Diagram 2 from "Problem Solving Contest" with a young student. The student did not yet understand some of the nuances of the position. We were also looking at slight variations of the same position. The student would make a move, and then I would either respond with an instant move for Black, or I would state, "the game is drawn". Diagram 2 is a win if it is White's move. If it is Black's move, Black steps the king forward one square, producing Diagram 14 in GM-RAM. Black holds a draw.*

Another young player, observing the exercise, stated, "But, you've studied this position!" I responded with an enthusiastic affirmation and the suggestion that he should do the same. This endgame position has become second nature for me, as have a handful of others in GM-RAM.

The 120 middle game positions are sourced from 59 games that Ziyatdinov offers in his book. Beginning in December, I have been systematically going through one of these games each week (see "Training with Anderssen"). Because I have been teaching an evening class on Tuesday nights, my week begins on Wednesday.

Mastery of these middle game positions is not easy. I am far from meeting the standard that I have attained with the simplest king and pawn endings and the elementary versions of Lucena and Philidor rook endgames. Even so, I am making progress. Some games are pushing me into study of obscure and or unsound openings.

Last week's "Game of the Week" is a case in point. I have not memorized the game. Nor have I come to a thorough understanding of the alternatives for both sides from the critical middle game positions. However, I have grown in my understanding of Louis Paulsen's opening ideas. In some of my blitz and rapid online games this past week, I have played Paul Morphy's move order against the Sicilian, and I have played Paulsen's defensive scheme from the Black side, albeit with improvements that I identified in my study.

Here are some of my notes on the game, the ninth in GM-RAM.

Morphy,Paul -- Paulsen,Louis [B40]
USA–01.Kongress New York (4.1), 29.10.1857

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.Nf3

Morphy's move order nuance offers Black some choices, but no refutations.


3...e5 is interesting, when  4.c3 seems best.

a) 4.Nxe5?? Qa5+

b) 4.Bc4 Qc7

(4...Nf6 5.Ng5 d5 6.exd5 h6 7.Nf3 Bg4 led to interesting play in Cochrane,J -- Staunton,H, London 1842 [Staunton won in 24 moves])

(4...Nc6 [4...dxc3 5.Nxc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 d6 7.Ng5 Nh6 Bondarevsky,I -- Kasparian,G,Tbilisi 1937 (White won in 24 moves)] 5.cxd4 exd4 6.Nxd4 [6.Bc4 has scored better than the main line])

5.Bb3 Bb4+ 6.c3 dxc3 7.0–0 Nf6 appeared in Anderssen,A -- Harrwitz,D, Breslau 1848 (Harrwitz won in 30 moves).

4.Nxd4 Bc5

White to move

This move seems dubious to me, and yet a few Grandmasters have played it in recent years, especially Vladimir Epishen. Louis Paulsen played it five times in the First American Chess Congress. He won the first, and then faced Morphy. Morphy won three of the four games, and had a material advantage that he was unable to convert in the other.

After these games, Paulsen switched to 4...Nf6. His older brother Wilfried played 4...Nf6, and then tried 4...a6 in a few games.The three main moves, 4...a6, 4...Nc6, and 4...Nf6 each have their merits. All other choices must be regarded as sidelines.


This move remains the main line today.

5.Be3 was Morphy's choice after the drawn game.

5...Bb6 6.Nc3 Ne7 7.Bf4

Black to move


7...d5 should be played 8.exd5 Nxd5 9.Nxd5 exd5 (9...Qxd5!?) 10.Bb5+ Nc6 11.0–0 0–0 and Black's position was good enough for victory against the World Champion in a simul: Anand,V (2786) -- Bluesette (2155), ICC INT 2007 (Black won in 50 moves).

8.Bd6 f5 9.e5 a6 10.Be2 Nbc6 11.0–0 Rf7 12.Kh1 f4 13.Ne4 Nf5 14.Bh5 g6 15.Bg4 Ng7 16.Qf3 h5 17.Bh3 Qh4 18.Nf6+ Kh8 19.Qe4 Qg5 20.g3 f3 21.Nd2 Bd8 22.Nxf3 Qh6 23.Rg1 Bxf6 24.exf6 Ne8 25.Bf4 Nxf6 26.Qxc6 Qxf4 27.Qxc8+ Rxc8 28.gxf4 Rxc2 29.Rac1 Rxf2 30.Rc8+ Ng8 31.Ne5 Rg7 32.Nxg6+ Kh7 33.Nf8+ Kh6 34.Nxd7 Rxd7 35.Rcxg8 Rxf4 36.Bxe6 Re7 37.R8g6+ Kh7 38.Bg8+ Kh8 39.Rh6+ Rh7 40.Rxh7# 1–0

This morning, I am moving on to the sixth game of the Morphy -- Paulsen match at the First American Chess Congress even though much work remains for me to do on the first game.

*Please see a correction to this paragraph in the comments below, and also in tomorrow's post.

08 February 2015

The Rule of Four

Chess sets with missing pieces are commonplace. As I take a dozen chess sets into many classrooms year after year in order to teach beginners, I have spent a bit of time looking for ways to prevent misplaced chess pieces.

My system is not perfect--none is--but the number of chess pieces lost from a dozen chess sets and many hundreds of young hands has been minimal. I teach second graders and other young players to put chess pieces in the bag according to the "rule of four". Start with the royalty: two queens and two kings, four pieces. Then, four bishops (the clergy). Four cavalry (knights). Four chariots (the original name for the rook). Then, four pawns, four pawns, four pawns, and four more pawns.

If at any point four pieces are not easily found, check the floor.

I put away my own chess sets by the same method.

The Orphanage
Some pieces still become misplaced. I keep a plastic bag with misplaced pieces in my chess bag. Young players in my chess clubs have learned to call this bag the orphanage.

07 February 2015

Problem Solving Contest

At today's Groundhog's Shadow youth chess tournament, participants may attempt to win a chess book. One entry will be drawn from all those that submit answer sheets with all the answers correct.

Begin with the endgame if you want to become a strong chess player. Assess each of the following diagrams as two positions: a) White to move, and b) Black to move. Indicate on your answer sheet whether the side to move should win (W), draw (D), or lose (L) with best play by both sides. Give the best move for each position.







03 February 2015

Perceiving Threats

Lesson of the Week

Youth chess students in the after school clubs that I coach will be looking at a position from a game played by a young player who would go on to become World Champion. Many chess scholars regard Alexander Alexhine (1892-1946) as the best to ever play the game of chess. This position comes from a correspondence game against Konstantin Alekseyev Vygodchikov, who was Alekhine's age. Alekhine had Black. In 1928, Vygodchikov would share first place with two others in the Belarusian Championship. Alekhine had become World Champion one year earlier.

This game was played 1909-1910.

Black to move

What did Alekhine play? Why?

Some students may see a second position from this game.

Black to move
After 29.Rxg6
Who stands better? Why?

01 February 2015


One of the hallmarks of modern opening play is to aim for maximum flexibility. That is, you want to use the move order that will achieve a position where you have excellent choices of how to proceed.
Edmar Mednis*
My study game this week is the second match game between Paul Morphy and Alexander Meek at the First American Chess Congress, 1857.** Friday morning, I played Rashid Ziyatdinov's Position 152 (GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge) against Rybka 4 and managed to win. Today, I am mulling over the initial moves in the game.

Morphy,Paul -- Meek,Alexander Beaufort [C01]
USA–01.Kongress New York (2.2), 16.10.1857

1.e4 e6 2.d4 g6 3.Bd3 Bg7 4.Be3

Up to this point, the moves are identical to those in the fifth match game between Adolf Anderssen and Howard Staunton at the London International Chess Tournament, 1851 (see Anderssen -- Staunton 1851).


Is Meek's play superior to Staunton's?

5.Ne2 b6 6.Nd2 Bb7

White to move

This position offers aesthetic appeal and also anticipates the twentieth century struggles of the hypermoderns. White occupies the center, while Black seeks to contest the center from a distance.

Morphy violated the not yet formulated rule that knights should be deployed before bishops, and also posted his knights on slightly less active squares than the more usual c3 and f3. In doing so, however, his f- and c-pawns remain unimpeded.

François-André Danican Philidor considered it an error to block the f-pawn, but few chess players have agreed with him on this point. Philidor was concerned about reducing the flexibility of the pawns. In the diagram position, Morphy's f- and c-pawns are prepared to advance one square to support the center, or to advance two squares to claim more space on the chessboard.

White's bishops are also more flexible than Black's. Dan Heisman employs the term "two-way bishops" in Elements of Positional Evaluation (2010), quoting Aron Nimzovich. Nimzovich offers an example of defending pieces with "slight elasticity (capacity for maneuvering) ... in the case of a sudden attack on another wing, they will not be able to equal the attacking pieces in rapidity of motion" (My System [1947], 147).

Each of Black's bishops occupies a long diagonal and strikes towards the center. White's bishops on the other hand, occupy the center and are able to strike in either direction. As this game developed and the center closed, Black's light-squared bishop was locked out of the action. In Morphy's game against Meek, this bishop took no part in the battle. In my game against Rybka (beginning at move 19 in Morphy's game), this bishop became Black's last piece, defending a hopeless position against a knight and two pawns.

White's knights impede the mobility of the queen and are themselves less mobile on the second rank than the third. On the other hand, both knights are poised to maneuver to either wing.

*"What Price Flexibility?" Inside Chess (13 November 1995), 14; as quoted in Dan Heisman, Elements of Positional Evaluation: How the Pieces Get Their Power, 4th. ed. (Milford, CT: Russell Enterprises, 2010), loc. 869 (Kindle edition).

**I describe my this aspect of my current study plan in "To Know a Position."