17 May 2016


Two Miniatures

Max Euwe describes the games of Gioachino Greco as "chess fairy-tales on the age-old theme of the conflict between riches and honour" (The Development of Chess Style [1966], 1). One side grabs material while the other plays for checkmate.

In early April, I played a game that might have been lifted from the pages of Greco. I knew when my opponent grabbed my rook on a1 that I would either gain the queen in exchange or win by checkmate.

Stripes, J (1876) -- Internet Opponent (1870) [C54]
Live Chess Chess.com, 05.04.2016

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 

This opening is known as the Greco Gambit.

7.Bd2 is considered a better way to block the check. In blitz, however, I prefer the reckless gambit approach.

7.Nbd2 Nxe4 8.d5 Nxd2 9.Bxd2 Bxd2+ 10.Qxd2 Ne7 11.d6 cxd6 12.0–0 d5 13.Bxd5 0–0 14.Rad1 Nxd5 15.Qxd5 d6 16.Qxd6 Qxd6 17.Rxd6 Be6 18.a3 Rfd8 19.Rd4 Rxd4 20.Nxd4 Rd8 21.Rd1 f6 22.f3 Kf7 23.Kf2 Rd5 24.Ke3 Re5+ 25.Kd3 Rc5 26.Re1 Bd7 27.Kd2 Rd5 28.Kc3 Rc5+ 29.Kd2 Rd5 30.Kc3 Rc5+ 31.Kd2 ½–½ Nakamura,H (2799) -- Giri,A (2776) Khanty-Mansiysk 2015

7...Nxe4 8.0–0 Nxc3

8...Bxc3 is better.


Black to move


9...d5 may be best.

10.Qb3 Bxa1?? 

Now, Black is lost.

10...d5 11.Bxd5 0–0 and White is only slightly better.

11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Ne7 13.Ne5

13.Re1 d6 14.Bxe7+ Qxe7 15.Rxe7 Kxe7 16.Bg8

Black to move


13...Bxd4 14.Bg6 d5 15.Qf3+ Bf5 16.Bxf5 Bxe5 17.Be6+ Bf6 18.Bxf6 Ke8 19.Bxg7 1–0 Greco,G-Analysis 1625.

14.Qf3 Bxd4N 

Two other games in ChessBase's database continued 14...Bf5 15.Be6 Bxd4 16.Bxf5 Ng8 (16...Bxe5 17.Be6+ Nf5 18.Bxd8) 17.Bxd8.

15.Be6+ Ke8 

15...Nf5 is more stubborn.

16.Qxf5+ Qf6 17.Bxf6 g6 18.Nxg6+ hxg6 19.Qxg6.

16.Qf7# 1–0

Then, yesterday morning, I won another quick game when my opponent grabbed a rook instead of protecting his king. This game, although completely different in opening plans and structure, is linked to Greco's via the mating attack that follows a materialistic rook grab.

Stripes,J (2083) -- Internet Opponent (2107) [A80]
Another Chess Site, 16.05.2016

1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 e6 4.e4

I have played this line in correspondence chess and over-the-board. See "Staunton Gambit".

4...fxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Qh5+

7.Nf3 is popular among strong players.

7...g6 8.Qh6 Qe7 9.Nxf6+ Qxf6 

White to move


10.Nf3 seems necessary.

10...Qxd4 11.Nf3 Qxb2 12.Rd1 Qxc2

12...Qb4+ 13.Rd2 Qf8 14.Qg5 White has minimal compensation for the pawns.

13.Bd3 Qc3+ 14.Rd2

Black to move


Black wins material, but disregards the safety of his king.

14...Nc6 and Black is better.


Only move, but leads to a clear advantage.

15.Rd1 Qxh6 and White can resign.


15...Qc3 was the last chance. 16.h5±.

White to move


White has a decisive advantage.


16...Kd8 17.Qg5#.

16...Ke7 17.Qg7+ Kd8 18.Qf6#.

17.Qxh8+ Kf7

17...Ke7 is best, although White has a forced checkmate in thirteen: 18.Qg7+ Ke8 19.Ne5 c5 20.Qf7+ Kd8 21.Qf8+ Kc7 22.Qxc5+ Nc6 23.Qd6+ Kd8 24.Nxd7 Qh2 25.g3 Nb8 26.Nf6+ Bd7 27.Rc2 Qxf2+ 28.Kxf2 e5 29.Qf8+ Be8 30.Qxe8#.

18.Ng5+ Ke7 19.Qg7+ Kd8 

19...Ke8 20.Qf7+ Kd8 21.Qf8#.

20.Qf8# 1–0

Sometimes it is best to play for a material advantage, but not when the king is vulnerable.

15 May 2016

Rook versus Knight

Despite having several other commitments this weekend, I managed to get in two tournament games. Both games were against lower rated opponents who beat me in February. I played terribly in the first round, but managed to offer my opponent an opportunity to stalemate me. He obliged.

In this morning's game, I struggled until my opponent blundered a piece, then struggled again. I gave back the piece for an attack that proved less potent than I had anticipated, then blundered away a piece. We entered an endgame where I had two rooks and an extra pawn against a rook and two minor pieces. One set of rooks came off, as did several pawns.

Due to threats my rook was able to generate against his pawns, he allowed me to fork his bishop and knight. He gave up his bishop for the last of my queenside pawns.

We reached this position with White to move.

I played the only move that maintained a decisive advantage, according to the engine.

30 April 2016


In The Road to Chess Mastery (1966) by Max Euwe and Walter Meiden, the authors criticize Black's 25...d5, which led to the following position.

White to move

How does White exploit the error?

29 April 2016

One Good Game

As a blitz addict, I find innumerable motives for wasting endless hours in futile chess play. Sometimes I can rationalize my binges with a few instructive positions that I may show my students. Indeed, a young student whom I've been coaching the past year started individual lessons yesterday, and among our concerns in the lesson was cultivating his understanding of pawn majorities and king position in the endgame. We looked at this position played in the wee hours of the morning in online blitz.

White to move

This morning, I started played some blitz on a site where I seem to care about rating. Losing the first game to an underrated "cheat"* meant that I could not stop after one game. My second game was a positional and tactical crush of a slightly higher rated player, but I gained less than the first game had taken from me. My opponent was down three pieces for three pawns at move 34 but did not resign until one move from checkmate thirty moves later.

Then, I lost again. Then, another game where my opponent squandered a three pawn advantage in a rook ending to reach a theoretically drawn position that I lost on time. My fifth game was a twelve move win against the same opponent.

Then, I won another miniature with a classic checkmate sequence.

Black to move
After 17.Bh6??
I made my move and spoke aloud, "take my rook." Doing so, of course, is suicidal. My opponent took the rook and fell to a checkmate in three.

I was able to stop the binge after this game.

*Suspicions of cheating dwarf actual instances of unfair play. In the blitz addict's mind, every untitled player who beats him must therefore be cheating in some manner. Such irrational thinking sometimes renders a game that should be entertaining and even beneficial something only slightly less damaging to healthy existence than substance abuse. Happily, these suspicions are held with a sense of irony. I use the term with full knowledge that it is rooted in paranoid fantasies concerning the extent of my own skill and therefore the extraordinary means that must be taken to defeat me. On the other hand, having analyzed with the computer many thousands of blitz games, I realize that my own pitiful play is the sole cause of most losses and indeed mars even most of my best wins.

23 April 2016

The Bishop Pair

This position arose in a game presented as master vs. amateur in The Road to Chess Mastery (1966) by Max Euwe and Walter Meiden.

White to move

How would you play this position as White? Why?

14 April 2016

When to Resign

When do you resign?

I resign when I know that I could flip the board around and beat Magnus Carlsen. At that point, there is nothing left for me to learn from playing on.

There are times when I might resign early, and other times when I might resign late. In online blitz and bullet, for example, I often play to checkmate or one move prior, especially when my opponent is short of time. In a tournament game at the Spokane Chess Club a few years ago, my early resignation shocked my opponent.

Cambareri,M -- Stripes,J

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.f4 c5 8.Nb5 1-0

I had suffered long in a somewhat better French than this one against Michael several months prior to this game. My confidence in his ability to torture me for two hours and bring home the full point provoked my resignation. I went home to share a bottle of wine with my wife and watch some television.

In contrast, another game several years before this, I fell for a poisoned pawn on b2 and had to give up my queen for a rook. I played on until my opponent checkmated me with two queens. I did set one small stalemate trap a couple of moves before the end.

At the Sixth American Chess Congress, New York 1889, Joseph Henry Blackburne resigned early to Mikhail Chigorin.

Black to move
After 38.Nxf5

Black resigned.

In The Book of the Sixth American Chess Congress (New York, 1891), William Steinitz commented, "Black's game was lost. Still the resignation is chivalrous at this point, for he could have held out for very long" (14).

It is courteous to resign when lost, but there is no rule stating that a player must do so. The determination that a player is lost may be subjective. Sometimes players resign because they have overlooked a resource. There are numerous examples in books of players resigning when the game was still equal.

13 April 2016

Game of the Week

Blackburne -- Gifford 1874

Most of my students this week are seeing this game, which features a clever queen sacrifice to weave a mating net. Advanced students may also see more variations. Students are asked to try to find several key moves along the way.

Blackburne,Joseph -- Gifford,Henry [C44]
The Hague, 1874

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5

6.Nxf7 Nxf7 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qxc5 d5 with the initiative for Black

See also Meek -- Morphy 1855 with 9...d6. Revisiting this game sent me to Tartakower and DuMont, 500 Master Games of Chess and there I found Blackburne -- Gifford.

6...Qe7 7.f4

Black to move


"Assigning to his king a rather storm-swept domicile" (Tartakower and DuMont, 170). The authors recommend 7...d6 as preparation to castle queenside.

8.0–0 d6 9.f5 d3+ 10.Kh1 dxc2 11.Nc3 Ne5 12.Nd5 Qd8

White to move


The final assault begins with an error. 13.Nf3 is the only move that retains an advantage. The idea of Nf3 is to then play Bxh6, destroying Black's pawn shield.

13... Ng6??

13...Bg4 14.Qh4 Ng6 15.Qg3 and Black is no worse.

14.fxg7 Kxg7

14...Be3 15.Qxh6 Bxg5 16.Bxg5+-.

White to move

15.Qxh6+! Kxh6 16.Ne6+ Kh5

16...Nf4 is the only move that holds off checkmate 17.Rxf4 fxe6 18.Rxf8+ Kg7 19.Rxd8+-.


17.Rf5+ Kg4 18.Be2+ Kh4 19.Rh5#.

17...Kh4 18.Rf4+ Nxf4 19.g3+ Kh3 20.Ndxf4# 1–0

Understanding the errors by both players as well as the unstoppable king hunt should benefit young players.

09 April 2016

Checkmate in Seven

In each of the two positions below, Black has a forced checkmate in seven moves. The first position is from Schulten -- Morphy, New York 1857. Morphy played the correct sequence and the game ended when it was checkmate in three. The second arose in Hawkins -- Pert, British Championship 2015, Chess Informant 127/5. Nicholas Pert missed the checkmate in seven, but nonetheless drove the White king to the queenside and prevailed in the game. Despite losing this game, Jonathan Hawkins went on to win the event, becoming the British Champion.

Black to move

Black to move