17 May 2020


One of the things I do routinely with Chess Informant is to race through batches of games in openings that I favor. Sometimes the end of the game--when a Grand Master resigned--offers an opportunity to practice my technique finishing a won position against the Silicon Beast (Stockfish 10 in this instance). Yesterday I failed to win from a position where I had a two pawn advantage.

In Krysa,L. -- Kobalia, M., Gibraltar 2020, Informant 143/122, Kobalia resigned after White's move 23. I took White against Stockfish.

Black to move
After 23.bxa4 1-0

Stripes,J -- Stockfish 10

23...Qxe2 24.a5 Qxa2 25.Bb6

These moves were simple enough, especially as they were provided in Branko Tadic's annotations to the game.


According to the engine, my advantage is 2.38 pawns. I should be able to finish this, but how?

White to move

First Attempt

26.a6 Rab8 27.Rb1

This was the only move that did not lose, later analysis revealed.

27...Bb2 28.Qxb8

I found this move after trying a couple of losing moves. Again, the only move that maintains equality.

28...Rxb8 29.Bd4 Rg8 30.Rxb2 Qa4 31.a7 Qxd4

White to move


Once again, White had a single non-losing move.

32...Qxb2 33.a8Q =

Second Attempt

26.Qc6 h6 27.Qc4 Qxc4 28.Rxc4

Black to move

It turns out that the bishops do not change much. This is still a rook ending with a single pawn advantage and that pawn on the flank. Perhaps computer vs. computer gives White winning chances, but all I can do is draw (except when I manage to lose).

28...Rfe8 29.Rfc1 Kh7 30.R1c2 Re1+ 31.Kg2 Ra6 32.Rc6 Ra1

White to move

33.Bc7 Ra8 34.Re6 Bd4 35.Re4

Not a particularly effective strategy, chasing the bishop, but I was feeling rather clueless, despite an apparent advantage.

35...Rd1 36.Bb6 Bxb6 37.axb5 Rb1 38.Rc6 Rb8 39.Ree6

White to move

I played another 30 moves against the beast because a rook ending against a computer is not terrible practice.

There may have been other efforts starting at move 26, but I never managed to find a way to victory.

Stockfish suggests 26.Rfd1 Rxa5

White to move

What would you play? There is a single winning move.

07 May 2020

Chess Informant 143

Chess Informant 143 arrived yesterday as book and CD. After a few more hours of post-dinner work, I installed the CD on my notebook and started working through the first article in the magazine. Ivan Sokolov presents some games and game fragments from the Corus Chess tournament that was held in January at Wijk aan Zee with a one-round visit to Eindhoven.
I was well-familiar with Eindhoven when I was reading about the 1975 Wijk aan Zee tournament in high school because my other passion at the time was the military history of World War II. I read Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge Too Far, watched the film based on the book, and even bought and played an Avalon Hill board game based on the battle.

I usually follow this tournament, although this year that amounted to know more than watching Danny King's PowerPlay videos on YouTube. In January 2000, I followed this tournament live on the Internet Chess Club for the first time. No other Grandmaster chess event consistently draws my attention year after year, but the past couple of years, it seems, I have not found the time to follow it closely.

Hence, Ivan Sokolov's highlights, like Danny King's, are most welcome. I recall watching Sokolov play in this event a few years ago. Sokolov presents more than a dozen games and several fragments. His commentary is instructive and entertaining. The second entry is "seemingly 'simple position'" (16) where Anish Giri blundered.

Black to move

When Stockfish thinks for less than half a minute, there is very little difference between the three moves that Sokolov analyzes here. But, then, the engine finds one move that is equal and a slight advantage for White in the other two. This slight advantage, it turns out, is a technical win that is just deep enough that the engine's evaluation is less than reliable. I played one of them against Stockfish last night. The computer diverged from the game's variation, but finding the winning line still was easy.

The candidate moves:

a) 39...Rd7 (played in the game)
b) 39...Kf5
c) 39...h5

The second choice leads down the same road as the game with a winning pawn ending for White. 39...h5 draws.

The game, Firouzja,A. -- Giri,A., continued 39...Re7 40.Kf3 Kf5 41.Rxh4 Kxe5 42.Re4+ Kf6 43.Rxe7 Kxe7

White to move

44.Kf4 Kf6 45.g4 a5 46.a4 h6 47.h4 Ke6 48.g5 hxg5

And this position caught my interest, thanks to Sokolov's commentary. In blitz, I would have made the wrong move without a thought, but there is an important principle here that should be understood. It involves counting.

White to move

How would you finish?

30 April 2020


My students this week are seeing a series of positions involving rooks. I present each of these for them to solve, then we look at the sources, where we explore what actually happened in the game (or in the case of the position from Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, how I failed against Stockfish). As always, our concern is for how the players should have played more than for how they did.

The first two come from a game on a chess website between two fairly weak players, one of whom made some outlandish claims about his endgame knowledge that sent me looking at his games. The skill he claimed was not evident in this game.

White to move

White to move

The next one is from Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. I skimmed the entire rook chapter in the course of two hours Sunday morning. The elegance of this exercise caught my eye.

White to move

The last two are from a game played at the Spokane Chess Club last Thursday. During the quarantine, the club is meeting online.

White to move

White to move

I might add that errors were made from each of these positions in the original games, except Dvoretsky. I saw the solution before I played it against Stockfish. My errors were much later in the game, after the basic problem had been solved.

19 April 2020

Elementary Checkmates

During the COVID-19 seclusion, organizers in my city are still running youth chess tournaments. We are using a chess playing site and another protected site for posting pairings with the student names linked to the handles they use online. I create the pairings and email them to the tournament organizer. He posts them on the website. Then, the players having the White pieces send challenges to their opponents and the games begin. A group of coaches each watch a batch of games, and post the results in Slack, where we also communicate about problems--games not started, or the wrong time control, or errors reporting, or anything else.

Meanwhile, I have two computers working. One for SwissSys and email. The other for watching the games of those whom I coach. Both computers are logged in to Slack.

I was watching this game, which struck me as a complicated and dangerous position that could go either way.

Black to move


The horror. The horror.

I thought the student should have played 18...Bb4+ 19.Nc3 (19.Kf1 Qd1#) 19...dxc3 20.Qe5+ is White's only chance. (20.bxc3 Bxc3+! 21.Qxc3 Qxh4–+) 20...Kf7 and White can force a draw.

19.Qe7# 1–0

After losing that game, Black had White in the next round and a clear advantage.

White to move


The student overlooked a forced checkmate.

39.Re8+ Kg7 40.Qe5+ Kh6 41.Rh8+ Kg6 42.Rg8+ Kh7 43.Qg7#

39...Qh4+ 40.Kg1 Qd4+

40...Qxe7 White is fighting for a draw.


41.Qe3! wins 41...Qd1+ 42.Qe1 Qd4+ 43.Re3 Qxd5 44.Qf1+ Kg7 45.Rg3+ Kh7 46.Qb1+ Kh8 47.Qb2+ Qd4+ (47...Kh7 48.Qg7#) 48.Qxd4+ Kh7 49.Qh4#


41...Qh4+ 42.Kg1 Qxe7 White is fighting for a draw.

White to move


I was proud of my student for finding this move. There are no more checks other than those that lose the queen.


42...Qf5+ 43.Qxf5+ Kxe7 44.Qe6+ Kd8 45.g4 and the rest is easy.

Now, I am cheering at my computer screen. Find the simple checkmate that I have taught hundreds of times to children over the past twenty years.

43.Re8+ Kg7 44.Rg8+ Kh7 45.Qg6# 1–0

The student found it, and I sent a text message to all the parents of the team that I coach, that this student made my day!

18 April 2020

Avoid This

A common and very well-known tactic led to a rout of one of my students in a chess tournament taking place online today.

A Player (1500) - Another Player (1500) [C20]
Youth Event, 18.04.2020

1.e4 e5 2.Qh5

Black to move


2...Nc6 First protect the pawn. 3.Bc4 Now, prevent checkmate. 3...g6 4.Qf3 Nf6 Again, preventing checkmate. 5.c3

5.Ne2 has been a more popular line 5...Bg7 6.d3

5...Bg7 6.d3 0–0

3.Qxe5+ Be7

3...Qe7 is the last chance to stay in the game. 4.Qxh8 Qxe4+ 5.Kd1 Nf6 and maybe Black can trap the queen.

4.Qxh8 Bf8 5.Qxg8 Qf6 6.d3

Black is already completely lost. White checkmated Black after another 23 moves. 1–0

Some Reference Games

Shaposhnikov,Evgeny (2573) - Vukanovic,Sasa (2351) [C20]
Canarias en Red prel 2nd playchess.com INT (11), 04.05.2004

1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 g6 4.Qf3 Nf6 5.c3 Bg7 6.d3 0–0 7.Bg5 d6 8.Nd2 Be6 9.Ne2 Bxc4 10.Nxc4 d5 11.Ne3 dxe4 12.dxe4 h6 13.Rd1 hxg5 14.Rxd8 Raxd8 15.h4 gxh4 16.Rxh4 Rd3 17.Nc1 Rd7 18.Rh1 Rfd8 19.Nb3 b6 20.Ke2 a5 21.Rd1 Nh5 22.g3 a4 23.Rxd7 Rxd7 24.Nd2 Bh6 25.Nd5 Kg7 26.Nc4 b5 27.Nce3 Nd8 28.Ng4 Bg5 29.Nxe5 Rd6 30.Nxc7 Rd2+ 31.Kf1 Rxb2 32.Qd3 Rxa2 33.Ne8+ Kf8 34.Qd7 Rd2 35.Nd6 a3 36.Nexf7 a2 37.Nxg5 a1Q+ 38.Kg2 Qxc3 39.Qxd8+ Kg7 40.Qe7+ Kg8 41.Qh7+ Kf8 42.Qf7# 1–0

Mede,Istvan (2262) - Laszlo,Janos (2282) [C20]
HUN-chT2 Maroczy 1112 Hungary (1), 25.09.2011

1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 g6 4.Qf3 Nf6 5.c3 Bg7 6.d3 0–0 7.h3 d5 8.Bb3 Be6 9.Nd2 d4 10.Ne2 Nd7 11.Ng3 Nc5 12.Bc2 b5 13.0–0 Qd7 14.Nb3 Na4 15.cxd4 Nxd4 16.Nxd4 Qxd4 17.Ne2 ½–½

Nakamura,Hikaru (2657) - Filippov,Anton (2466) [C20]
Champions Challenge 92nd playchess.com INT (5.1), 30.04.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 g6 4.Qf3 Nf6 5.Ne2 Bg7 6.d3 d6 7.h3 a6 8.Nbc3 Na5 9.Bg5 h6 10.Be3 Nxc4 11.dxc4 Be6 12.b3 0–0 13.a4 Nh7 14.g4 f5 15.gxf5 gxf5 16.exf5 Bxf5 17.Rg1 Bxc2 18.Qh5 Ng5 19.Bxg5 hxg5 20.Rxg5 Rf7 21.Kd2 Bh7 22.Rag1 Qf8 23.f4 Kh8 24.R1g4 Bh6 25.Rh4 Bxg5 26.fxg5 Rg7 27.g6 Qf6 28.gxh7 Rg5 29.Qh6 ½–½

Nakamura,Hikaru (2657) - Filippov,Anton (2466) [C20]
Champions Challenge 92nd playchess.com INT (5.3), 30.04.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 g6 4.Qf3 Nf6 5.Ne2 Bg7 6.d3 d5 7.exd5 Nb4 8.Bb3 Nbxd5 9.h3 0–0 10.Bg5 c6 11.Nbc3 h6 12.Nxd5 hxg5 13.Ndc3 a5 14.a4 Qe7 15.Qe3 Nh5 16.g4 Nf4 17.Nxf4 gxf4 18.Qe2 Qh4 19.Ne4 Kh8 20.Nd2 e4 21.0–0–0 exd3 22.Qxd3 Qxf2 23.Ne4 Qe3+ 24.Kb1 Qxd3 25.Rxd3 Be5 26.Re1 f6 27.Nd2 g5 28.Nf3 Re8 29.Bf7 Re7 30.Rd8+ Kg7 31.Bb3 b5 32.Nd4 Rb7 33.axb5 Bxd4 34.Rxd4 Rxb5 35.Re7+ Kh6 36.Rd6 Kg6 37.Bc4 Rb7 38.Bd3+ 1–0

Nakamura,Hikaru (2657) - Filippov,Anton (2466) [C20]
Champions Challenge 92nd playchess.com INT (5.5), 30.04.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 g6 4.Qf3 Nf6 5.Ne2 Bg7 6.d3 0–0 7.h3 d5 8.exd5 Nb4 9.Bb3 Nbxd5 10.Nbc3 c6 11.Bg5 Qa5 12.Bd2 Qb6 13.g4 Nxc3 14.Nxc3 Be6 15.Be3 Qa5 16.Bxe6 fxe6 17.Bd2 Nd5 18.Qe4 Qb6 19.0–0–0 Rxf2 20.h4 Qd4 21.Qe1 Raf8 22.Ne4 Rg2 23.h5 Qa4 24.a3 Nb4 25.Kb1 Qxc2+ 26.Ka1 Nxd3 27.Bc3 Nxe1 28.Rdxe1 Re2 29.Rxe2 Qxe2 30.Nd2 e4 31.Nb1 Qf3 32.Re1 e3 33.Bxg7 Kxg7 34.Nc3 Qf1 35.Rxf1 Rxf1+ 36.Ka2 Rf2 37.Ne4 e2 38.Nxf2 e1Q 39.Nd3 Qe2 40.Nb4 Qc4+ 41.Kb1 Qxg4 42.hxg6 Qxg6+ 43.Kc1 h5 44.Nc2 h4 45.Ne3 h3 46.Kd2 h2 47.Nc4 h1Q 48.Ne3 Qd5+ 49.Kc3 Qgd3+ 50.Kb4 a5+ 51.Ka4 Q5c4+ 52.b4 Qcc2+ 53.Kxa5 Qxe3 54.a4 Qb6+ 55.Kxb6 Qxa4 56.Kc5 Qb5+ 57.Kd6 Qxb4+ 58.Kxe6 c5 59.Kd6 c4+ 60.Kc7 c3 61.Kc8 c2 62.Kb8 c1Q 63.Ka7 Qa5+ 64.Kb8 Qcc7# 0–1

24 February 2020

Rook Ending Tragicomedy

The third rook ending in Thomas Engqvist, 300 Most Important Chess Positions (2018) sent me back into my database. There I found a game that went from winning to drawn to losing, and then I won on time when my opponent had a forced checkmate in three. It was a blitz game, and likely we were both seriously short on time.

White to move

Stripes,J. (1618) -- Internet Opponent (1573) [E91]
freechess.org, 08.01.2006

55.Kh1 Rf2 56.Rf8+ Kg3 57.Rxf2??

Throws away the game.

Black to move






White to move



59...g3+ 60.Kh1 g2+ 1-0

Black lost on time.

Analysis Positions

White to move
White should win easily, but 56.Ra3?? allows Black a draw.

Black to move
Black has a draw.

Black to move
Black has a draw.

Black to move
Not 61...gxf1Q=

22 February 2020

Rook vs. Pawn

The first rook ending in Thomas Engqvist, 300 Most Important Chess Positions (2018) is from a game that he won because his opponent did not know how to draw. I had an almost identical position in a blitz game twenty years ago with the same result.

White to move


57.Kd8 draws

57...Kd6 58.Ka7 Ra1+ 59.Kb8 Kc6 60.b7 Rb1 61.Kc8

61.Ka8 was worth a try, even though it leads to a faster checkmate. Maybe my opponent was hoping I could not checkmate with the rook in the time remaining.


Further exploration of my database revealed another instructive rook ending that should have been drawn. After my opponent's blunder, my play was near perfect.

White to move


47.Kf5 a2 48.Ra7+ Ke8 49.Ke6 Kd8 50.Ra8+ Kc7 51.e5=

47...a2 48.Ra7+ Ke6 49.Ra6+

Black to move


49...Kd7 is slightly better.

50.Ra7+ Kd8 51.Ra8+ Kc7 52.Ra7+ Kb6 53.Ra3

Black to move

53...Rf1+ 54.Kg5 a1Q 55.Rxa1 Rxa1 56.e6 Re1

56...Kc5 also wins


57.Kf6 Kc5 still wins 58.e7 Kd6

57...Rxe7 White resigns 0-1

The second rook ending in Engqvist's book is a gem from Richard Reti.

White to move

Can you win with White?

13 February 2020

Dancing Knight

The first problem in the Basic Test in Jesus de la Villa, 100 Endgames You Must Know, 4th ed. (2015) inspired my search for instructive positions with which to build a lesson for my students this week. Naturally, a few games in Chess Informant gave me what I needed. These are the positions in the sequence I used.

Black to move
From Van Wely,L -- Epishen,V, Ter Apel 1995, Informant 63/437

Black to move
Variation from the previous exercise.

Black to move
From Bronstein,D. -- Podgaets, M., Soviet Championship 1974, Informant 18/646

Black to move
My composition

White to move
From de la Villa's test. Can White draw?

White to move
From da la Villa's test. Can White draw?

White to move
From Eingorn,V. -- Beliavsky,A., Soviet Championship 1986, Informant 41/555

White to move
From Varga,Z. -- Dinev,D., Novi Sad 2016, Informant 130 Endings.