17 February 2017


Mental discipline and hard work improves luck.
James Stripes
My success finally winning a club championship at the Spokane Chess Club included a lot of luck. I was strategically lost in the first round, but my opponent failed to find the correct plan (see "Fiddling with the London System"). In round two, play was balanced until I blundered. But, my opponent failed to calculate the winning combination and was then lost (see "Solve This"). In the third round, I secured a nice position out of the opening only to squander it in the middle game. However, my opponent got into such time trouble that he was unable to convert a rook ending with two connected passed pawns when I had only a rook. He lost one pawn and then let me force exchanges leading to lone kings.

I prepared extensively for my fourth round game against our city champion. I expected a long struggle, but there was one line that could give me a decisive advantage in the opening. He played that line (see "Home Preparation"). In the last round, I was thoroughly outplayed in the opening. That is something that rarely happens to me in the French Defense. My position slowly worsened, but I stubbornly labored to create counter-play while playing rapidly. At a critical point, my opponent missed a resource in my position. He had about three minutes on the clock to my thirty.

Karl Reutter (1853) -- James Stripes (1791) [A34]
SCC Winter Championship Spokane (5), 16.02.2017

1.e4 e6 2.c4

This is an interesting approach to the French Defense. I use it myself to transpose to the Exchange variation. For me, it is mostly a blitz strategy, but I used it a few months ago at the the Spokane Chess Club. See "Useful Knowledge".


I usually play 2...d5 and it might have been a better choice as I'm familiar with the resulting positions, haviing played them over 500 times in online blitz and a few times over the board. It is the most popular move. However, the move that I played has a better score. I was aware of the statistics before the game. I let that knowledge guide me.

In the tournament that first lifted my rating into A Class, I played this game: 3.exd5 exd5 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Nc3 (5.Bb5+ Nbd7) 5...Nxd5 6.Qf3 c6 7.Nxd5 Qxd5 8.Qxd5 cxd5 9.Bb5+ Bd7 10.Bxd7+ Nxd7 11.Nf3 Bc5 12.0–0 0–0 13.d4 Bb6 14.Be3 Rac8 15.Rac1 Nb8 16.Rfd1 Rc6 17.Rxc6 Nxc6 18.Rc1 f6 19.Kf1 Kf7 ½–½ Mathews,D (1786) -- Stripes,J (1764), Spokane 2009.

3.Nc3 Nc6

I spent about eight minutes considering my move, and kept looking at and rejecting a move that I had forgotten I played in 2010. 3...d5? 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nxd5 (5.Bb5+; 5.exd5) 5...Nc6 6.Bb5 (6.Nf3) 6...Bd7? (6...Nf6) 7.Ne2 (7.Nf3) 7...a6 8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.0–0 Bxd5 (9...Nf6) 10.exd5 Nf6 11.Nc3 (11.Re1) 11...Be7 12.Qf3 Qd7 (12...0–0) 13.Rd1 0–0 14.d4 c4 15.Bg5 Rad8 16.Rd2?= Nxd5 17.Bxe7 Nxe7 18.d5 Qf5 19.Qxf5 Nxf5 20.a4 Rfe8 21.Kf1 Nd6 22.a5 Kf8 23.Na4 Re5 24.Nb6 Nc8 25.Nxc4 Rexd5 26.Rxd5 Rxd5 27.Ke2 Rd4 28.Rc1 f6 29.Ke3 Rd7 30.Rc3 Ke7 31.g4 Rc7 32.h4 Nd6 33.Nxd6? Rxc3+ 34.bxc3 Kxd6 35.Kd4 Kc6 36.Kc4 b6! 37.axb6 Kxb6 38.Kd5 a5 39.Kd6? Kb5 40.Kd5 a4 41.c4+ Ka6!–+ 42.c5 (42.Kd4 Kb6 43.Kc3 Kc5 44.h5 g6 45.h6 f5 46.gxf5 gxf5 47.Kd3 a3) 42...a3 43.c6 a2 0–1 Julian,J (2023) -- Stripes,J (1862), Spokane 2010.

4.g3 Nge7

When I arrived home, I first entered the game in Hiarcs on the iPad. I was pleasantly surprised that its opening book prefers my move. Of course, its presence in Hiarcs' opening book means that it is a good line for the computer and I am not a computer.

4...Nf6 is the most popular move, and I considered it. It may be easier for the human player.

5.Bg2 Nd4 6.Nge2 Nec6 7.d3 g6N

White to move

I think that my novelty is unsound. I recall aiming for a set-up that I have used with success against the Grand Prix Attack in the Sicilian, but there are several differences in the position that I failed to appreciate.

7...d6 was a move that I thought about, but not seriously enough until a move or two later. 8.0–0 g6 9.a3 Bg7 10.Rb1 0–0 11.b4 a6 12.h3 Rb8 13.Be3 b5 14.bxc5 dxc5 Meijers,V (2496) -- Halkias,S (2579), Kavala 2008 and Black won in 32 moves.

8.0–0 Bg7

8...d6 transposes to Meijers -- Halkias above.

9.f4 h5!?

Harry the h-pawn starts his charge! At least I can blame Simon Williams and his video lectures on h-pawn attacks for my faulty strategy.

9...Nxe2+ 10.Qxe2 Bd4+ 11.Be3
9...d6 still is probably best.


White's move ends my fantasies of using my dark-squared bishop to make trouble for White's king, cramps my center, and creates a nice outpost for White's knight.

10.h4 d6


I considered 10...d6 and it is still best.

11.Ne4 d5?

11...hxg3 12.hxg3 Nf5 was probably better. Black's pawn belongs on d6.

12.cxd5 exd5

Now was the time for 12...Nxe2+ but White is clearly better in any case.

13.Nd6+ Kf8 14.Nxd4 Nxd4 15.Bxd5

15.g4 h3
15.Be3 Be6

Black to move

15...hxg3 16.hxg3 Qd7

I made this move and then went to the toilet, thinking that I could get a perpetual with Qh3-g3. While taking care of business, I realized that the bishop could block the check. Back to the board to find a new plan.

I do not recall considering 16...Nf5 17.Nxf5 Qxd5 when Black has a playable game.


I expected 17.Nxf7 Rh5 18.Nd6 Qh3 19.Rf2
17.Bxf7 would be an error due to 17...Qh3–+



18.Nxf5 Qxf5

My pieces are awkwardly placed. White's greater mobility and superior coordination are far more significant than his extra pawn.

19.Be3+- Bd7 20.Bxc5+ Kg8 21.d4 Rc8 22.Rf2 b6 23.Bb4

Black to move


23...g5 24.fxg5 Qxg5 25.Qf3 Qg6 (25...Qh6 26.Qxf7+ Kh7 27.Be4+ Qg6 28.Bxg6+ Kh6 29.Bd2#)

24.Bxc6 Rxc6 25.Bc3 Rh3 26.Qf3 Rc7 27.Kg2

Black to move

I considered resigning. I am two pawns down with no play. Even so, my opponent still has work to do, so I should do my best to create complications and make him do the work.

27...f6 28.Rh1 Rxh1 29.Kxh1 Qb1+ 30.Kg2 Bf8

30...Qxa2 31.f5 g5 32.Qa8+ Kh7

31.Qd5+ Kh8 32.Qd8 Rf7

32...Qe4+ 33.Kg1 Rf7

33.Re2 Qd3 34.Kf2 fxe5 35.Qh4+

35.Rxe5 Qc2+ 36.Re2 Qf5


White to move


This blunder gave me the Spokane Chess Club's 2017 Winter Championship.



My opponent told me after the game that he missed this move. Perhaps it was easy to overlook this bishop's ability to come to life. It has been a sorry piece for most of the game.


37.Ke1 Qb1+ 38.Kd2 Rd7+ 39.Bd4 Rxd4+ 40.Ke3 Rxf4+ 41.Kd2 Bb4+ 42.Ke3 Qe4#
37.Re3 Qxe3+ 38.Kg2-+

37...Rh7 38.Qg4 Rh1+ 39.Kg2 Qd5+ 0–1

16 February 2017

The Whole Board

This position has occurred in at least 21 games, including Ree,H -- Piket,J, Breda 2001, which appears in Encyclopedia of Chess Miniatures (2015).

White to move

The best move, which has been played in 19 of those 21 games, is quite elegant.

15 February 2017

Basic Tactics: Pins and Forks

Yesterday, my beginning chess club saw an obscure miniature and then completed the worksheet Beginning Tactics 3.

Beginning Tactics 3

Find the correct move for White in each diagram. Draw an arrow showing the correct move.

These positions all employ pins and forks--some use pins, some forks (the links offer definitions and examples of these tactical themes). Pins and forks are also evident in the miniature that I showed the students on the demonstration board.

Soultanbeieff,V -- Dybina [E14]
Liege, 1950

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.e3 Bb7 5.Bd3 Be4 6.Nc3 Bb4

In the battle for the e4 square, Black pins White's knight.

7.Qc2 Bxd3 8.Qxd3 d5 9.cxd5 Nxd5 10.0–0

Castling eliminates the pin.

10...Nxc3 11.bxc3 Be7 

White won the battle for e4 and now controls the center.

12.Ne5 0–0 13.f4 c5 14.f5 exf5 15.Qxf5 Qd5?? 

Black should have played 15...Bf6 and fought on in a slightly worse position. Now, White wins material by force.

White to move


This discovered attack against the queen also threatens the bishop at e7. If Black captures the knight, he loses his queen (16...hxg6 17.Qxd5 Na6). If he captures the queen, then the knight captures the bishop with check, forking queen and king (16...Qxf5 17.Nxe7+ Kh8 18.Nxf5).


Black tries to escape the unfavorable exchanges.


Again, White seeks to exchange queens and gain the bishop (17...Qxd5 18.Nxe7+ Kh8 19.Nxd5).

17...Nc6 18.Qxc6 1–0

After 18...Qxc6, White's knight forks still pick up additional material. 19.Nxe7+ Kh8 20.Nxc6. Seeing this, Black opted to resign.

I found this game in Encyclopedia of Chess Miniatures (2015), but not in the other usual sources. Some information is available about Victor Soultanbeieff, the player of the White pieces. The Oxford Companion to Chess (1996) has a short entry on a variation of the Slav Defense that bears his name, and Wikipedia has an entry on him. I could find no information about his opponent, who was probably a local player who was below master strength.

Tomorrow, barring another weather incident. my advanced students will get last week's planned lesson (see "Inspired by Morphy"). Last week, we had a snow day.

14 February 2017

The Fighting Dragon

A Book Review

The Fighting Dragon: How to Defeat the Yugoslav Attack (Boston: Mongoose Press, 2016) by Paul Powell is not a repertoire book. It does offer suggestions to meet White's normal lines of play against the Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defense. Unlike repertoire books, however, it does not offer a large number of heavily analyzed lines of seemingly endless variations. The book consists of ten main chapters--the first nine each cover one particular variation, and number ten covers "odds and ends". The shorter second part offers quizzes, a series of positions to solve. Something more than half of these positions occur in games found in the ten chapters.

The Fighting Dragon offers 52 games, all of which end with victory for the player of the Black pieces. Despite this record, these games do not reveal that White's ideas against the Sicilian Dragon are refuted. Rather, both sides have chances until a fatal error by White. Black's play, too, could be improved upon in some of the games.

With one exception, all of the games are shorter than average. More than half are miniatures (25 moves or less). Thirty games conclude by move 25. Ten games are decided in 20 moves or fewer. Only one game lasts longer than 35 moves. Powell, who is a USCF Life Master, explains that he intends his focus on short games to cultivate "inspiration and pattern recognition instead of memorization as a critical element of [the reader's] opening study" (9). Short games reveal catastrophic errors. Learning to identify these errors develops the reader's understanding of tactical themes.

Although I am more likely to find myself on the White side of the Yugoslav Attack, this book has inspired me. Powell's prescriptions to avoid "the rut" have helped me maintain a somewhat healthier focus both in play and in study.
Let us consider the Dragon player who is stuck in a rut. He revels in showing you his favorite game from 2002 where he crushed a master in the main-line Dragon. Great result, but sadly for him he's been playing the exact same line for over a decade in the hopes that another strong player will fall down the same rabbit hole. (16)
Start thinking sooner, even after the first move, even while playing your pet lines, Powell urges. "Comfort turns into complacency," he notes (15). He lays out a plan for reading this book and profiting from it. Take several ideas from each chapter. Play them fearlessly--intending to learn whether winning or losing. Play them in blitz and in slow games. As the reader tries new ideas, some will fit better than others. Refine those.

In The Fighting Dragon, Powell offers light annotations, emphasizing verbal explanations of the core ideas more than alternate variations. After the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.O-O-O Rb8, he notes, "The historical main-line Dragon finds the rook on c8 with pressure on the semi-open file. With ...Ra8-b8 instead, Black intends to use his b-pawn as a battering ram to open up White's castle" (120).

White to move

In his notes to the longest game in the book, Domínguez Pérez,L -- Carlsen,M, Linares 2009, he suggests, "If 10...Rb8 is worthy of being part of a world champion's repertoire, it should be one of the tools at your disposal too" (130). The skeptical reader might note that Magnus Carlsen was not yet world champion in 2009, but the point has merit.

The book uses figurine algebraic notation and prints the diagrams upside down--Black on bottom. This unorthodox printing of diagrams might bother some readers, but may comfort others. For some readers, it might have been helpful to have the coordinates included with the diagrams. These coordinates are missing in The Fighting Dragon.

The writing is mostly lively and interesting. Powell offers fresh metaphors ("One of the most difficult things in chess is deciding whether to paint your house or to go on vacation" [27]), but also weak and tired similes ("they avoid these lines like a zombie virus" [9]). The book reveals Powell as a person who would be entertaining during the social times at a chess tournament and who might say useful and memorable things during post-game analysis.

Chess players looking to start playing the Dragon will be well served reading this book. It facilitates quick grasp of the main ideas. A Dragon player who has studied a shelf full of repertoire books for years could still benefit from reading through this short book (183 pages) as much from the discussion of chess psychology as from the selection of entertaining games. Even players of other opening systems should consider Powell's approach to studying openings via tactical themes revealed through miniatures. The Fighting Dragon deserves some credit for cultivating habits of study that led to a nice win against our City Champion and his Queen's Indian Defense (see "Home Preparation"). After reading this book in December and early January, I began to apply some of its methodologies in my study of other openings.

I heartily endorse this book.

13 February 2017

Decisive Advantage?

When do you resign? Losing an exchange should not be sufficient cause for resignation. But, what if you are down an exchange and your opponent is rated 300 Elo higher? What if you are down an exchange and your position is passive?

Going through the games in Branko Tadic and Goran Arsovic, Encyclopedia of Chess Miniatures (2015), I came across a game where it seemed that Black might have resigned a little early. It did seem as though White's play from the position at the end of the game was relatively straightforward and that Black was consigned to passive defense. Even so, most players would play on in such a position.

I searched for the game online and found that 2700chess.com has it. That site offered me the option of playing against the computer from the final position. Of course, I could easily set up the game on my computer and play Stockfish 7, but it was coffee time. While drinking my coffee, I like to sit in the living room with my dogs and use my iPad. The strongest chess engine setting that seemed available to me on the website was 2200--good enough that it will exploit tactical blunders or force a draw if the opportunity arises.

Komarov,Dimitri (2541) -- Bogdanov,Emil (2249) [E12]
FRA-chT N1 Drancy (3), 06.02.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 b6 4.a3 Bb7 5.Nc3 Be7 6.d5 0–0 7.g3 d6 8.Bg2 Re8 9.0–0 Bf8 10.b4 c6 11.Nd4 cxd5 12.cxd5 Nxd5 13.Nxd5 Bxd5 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.Bxd5 Nd7 16.Bxa8 Qxa8 17.Bb2 Be7 18.Rc1 1-0

Black to move

After playing against the computer, my coffee was finished. I went to my computer, entered the moves into a database, and ran quick analysis with Stockfish 7 at full strength to observe what I or the weakened engine on 2700chess.com might have missed.

Stripes,J -- Stockfish (2200 strength)

18...b5 19.Qb3 Bf6 20.Rc7

Stockfish seems to prefer that I play Rc7 before Qb3. 19.Qd3 was also an option. All of these moves offer white an advantage of 2.5+, a little more than the material difference.

20...Ne5 21.Bxe5

I did not want this knight plugging the c-file.

21...Bxe5 22.Qe3 Qd5 23.Qxa7 Bb2

White to move

One improvement Stockfish 7 noted up to this point was that I might have played Rfc1 on any of several moves. Now, Black prevents bringing the second rook to the open file.


Is it beneficial to exchange queens when ahead a rook for a bishop, and with more active rooks? I thought so here.

24...Qe5 25.Re7

At first, Stockfish prefers 25.e3, but as it examines the position longer, it likes my move almost as much as its first choice.

25...Rxe7 26.Qxe7

Threatening checkmate in one.


26...h5 might be a little better.


This move drops the computer's assessment of White's advantage from near 5.0 to 3.5. Even so, it seems that I have improved White's advantage from the end of Komarov -- Bogdanov.

Stockfish likes 27.Qe8+ Kh7 28.a4.

I did not look at this variation during the game. The central Black pawns had been my focus when considering why Bogdanov resigned.

27...Qxe2 28.Qxd6 Kh7

White to move


The point of my move 27. Giving back the exchange to enter a queen ending with only a one pawn advantage would normally seem the way to convert a win into a draw.

29...Qxb2 30.Qd3+ Kh8 31.h4?!

I had originally planned 31.Qxb5 Qb1+ 32.Kg2 Qe4+ but was not prepared to play 33.f3 Qc2+ 34.Kh3. This unplayed line is Stockfish 7's preference.


White to move

My advantage has diminished to 1.27, but my confidence is now rooted in the observation that Black's queen can defend both e6 and b5 from relatively few squares.

32.Kg2 Kg8 33.Qf3 g6

Stockfish 7 sees this move as half a pawn worse than 33...g5. Was 33...g6 Black's critical error? It seems to me that I now have a third pawn for my queen to attack. How can Black defend everything?

34.Qb7 Qe2 35.Qb8+ Kg7 36.Qc7+ Kh8

White to move


37.Qf7 seems faster.

37...Kg7 38.Qe7+ Kg8 39.Qf6

Black to move


39...Qe4+ at first seems to refute my plan to convert a queen ending 40.Kh2

a) 40...Qf5 41.Qxf5 exf5 42.Kg2 should be a simple win for White
b) 40...Qc2 41.Qxe6+ Kg7 42.Kg2 increases White's advantage to two pawns and weaknesses remain in the Black position.

40.Qxg6+ Kh8 41.Qf6+ Kh7 42.Qf3 Qe5 43.Qe3 Qd6

43...Qd5+ 44.f3 Qa2+ 45.Kh3 Qa1 complicates my task.


Black to move


44...Kg7 45.Qb7+ Kf6 46.Qxb5 and now three pawns to the good for White.

45.Qf4+ Qxf4 46.gxf4

Black to move

The rest is simple.

46...Kh7 47.Kf3 Kg6 48.Ke4 Kf6 49.f3+-

Checkmate was delivered on move 69.

12 February 2017

Patterns and Calculation

If we fail to make an idea work, we need to stop and ascertain the cause of the failure (i.e. answer the question 'why?'), and then attempt to correct our design.
Paata Gaprindashvili, Imagination in Chess (2004), 40.
A chess problem that cropped up in tactics training yesterday immediately reminded me of a game I had seen working through the compositions of Gioachino Greco, but the solution in Greco fails. Noting the failure, I considered why it failed and calculated the remedy. The whole process required about 23 seconds.

This elementary exercise serves to supplement my posts, "Patterns and Calculation" (23 December 2016), "Patterns: Some Evidence" (11 January 2017), and to highlight my endorsement of Paata Gaprindashvili, Imagination in Chess (see "Imagination in Chess").

White to move

The position arose in a correspondence game on Chess.com and was presented to me through the tactic trainer there. That game was a Ponziani in which Black blundered early.

Greco's game arose via a King's Gambit. I present it as it appears in Francis Beale, Royall Game of Chesse Play (1656).

Gambett LIII (Greco) [C37]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 h6 5.h4 f6 6.Ne5 fxe5 7.Qh5+ Ke7 8.Qf7+ Kd6 

White to move

9.Qd5+ Ke7 10.Qxe5# 1–0

The checkmate pattern in both games is the same, except that there is an alternative checkmate in the tactics problem if Black moves the king after White's initial move. The key difference, however, is that Black's knight guards e5 in the tactics problem. Hence, applying Gaprindashvili's advice, White must first lure this knight to e5, then execute the winning queen maneuver.

Instant recognition of patterns can be trained and aids in the development of chess strength. The same pattern often occurs in seemingly dissimilar games. Recognizing the pattern offers a plan, but calculation remains a necessary component to verify that the pattern has application.

10 February 2017

Home Preparation

The Queen's Indian Defense vexes me. I have struggled enough against it that I've found myself playing the Black side recently in blitz. Memories of a particularly frustrating game in 2010 are always present when I face the QID. In a rapid event at the Spokane Chess Club, I had White against Michael Cambareri. At the time, my only win against him had been a blitz game several years earlier when he was in third grade. But, he had taken some time off chess and was just coming back. In a bunch of casual games one night at the club, I won as many as I lost. I thought that I had a chance.

I played well that night, but could only manage a draw. A draw was still a good result for me against Michael, but my ambitions called for more. Three months later, we played another tournament game with the same first seven moves. I tried a different eighth move and lost, just as I had lost previously in 2007.

After last week's games, I thought there was a good chance that I would be playing Michael this week in the Spokane Chess Club Winter Championship. I started reviewing our games in the French Defense, thinking that I would have Black. On Monday, I received the email that told me that I had White against Michael. I started some work on the Queen's Indian Defense. Over the course of the next three days, I probably looked at four dozen grandmaster games.

I did not expect that Sergey Karjakin's 2007 miniature against Falko Bindrich would be helpful, but was aware of the possibility. My study convinced me that the most likely scenario was that we would reach a position out of the opening where I would not feel hopelessly lost in terms of ideas concerning how to proceed. With some luck, I might get a little ahead on the clock thanks to my preparation. In a game 90 + five second delay, being ahead on the clock can help.

Karjakin's miniature is astounding and should certainly be studied by players of the Queen's Indian Defense.

Karjakin,Sergey (2686) -- Bindrich,Falko (2469) [E17]
EU-ch 8th Dresden (10), 13.04.2007

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.g3 Bb7 4.Bg2 e6 5.d4 Be7 6.Nc3 0–0 7.Qc2 c5 8.d5 exd5 9.cxd5 Nxd5 10.Qe4!

Black to move

10...Nb4 11.Qxb7 N8c6 12.Bf4 g5 13.0–0–0 gxf4 14.a3 1–0

When the diagram position appeared on my board last night, I realized that I could not remember all of this game. I realized that I had entered a tactical battle where my queen could very well become trapped.

We both had used about five minutes to reach this position. Now my opponent spent eight minutes. I also used his thinking time trying to recall, and to calculate for myself. If my queen becomes trapped, I lose.

Stripes,James (1791) -- Cambareri,Michael (1993) [E17]
SCC Club Championship (4), 09.02.2017

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3

My move order reserves the possibility of going into the London System (see "Fiddling with the London System").

2...b6 3.c4 e6 4.g3 Bb7 5.Bg2 Be7

White to move


Castling is White's most popular move by far. When I complained to my friend John Julian some years ago about my frustration with Michael's set-up in the Queen's Indian Defense, his advice was, "don't let him set it up." My choice of White's second most popular move was the first step in hindering his tableau.

6...0–0 7.Qc2 

Delaying castling in this manner runs the risk that my king might get stuck in the center, or that I would need to expend the time to castle by hand. But, preventing Ne4 and f5 by Black was my intent.


Black also plays 7...d5 or 7...Na6 here. There are other obscure possibilities that do not seem as good. With either of these two moves, I would be in for a long struggle, but felt that I had looked at enough games that I might play well enough for a draw.

8.d5 exd5 9.cxd5 Nxd5?! 

Annotations on Karjakin's miniature recommend 9...Bxd5.


Michael admitted after the game that he did not anticipate this move. See diagram in Karjakin game above.

10.Ng5 was played in Tomovic -- Pirc, Zagreb 1949.


10...f5 11.Qc4 b5 12.Qxb5 Nb6 13.Be3 Na6 14.0–0  was drawn in 52 moves in Lagno,K (2557) --Dzagnidze,N (2535), Tbilisi 2012

11.Qxb7 N8c6 12.Bf4 Nc2+

12...g5 13.0–0–0 gxf4 14.a3 1–0 Karjakin,S (2686) -- Bindrich,F (2469)/Dresden 2007 (presented above).

13.Kd2 Nxa1 14.Rxa1 

Black to move


14...Bf6 15.Rd1 Bxc3+ 16.bxc3 Qf6 17.Bh3 and White won in 33 moves in  Gajewski,G (2515) --Hernandez Carmenates,H (2524), Calvia 2006.

At this point in the game, I could not recall whether we were still following the Karjakin game or not. I had to do the tactical and positional calculation on my own. However, the knowledge that I was winning in the objective sense after 10.Qe4 gave me confidence. I labored to combine confidence with a clear head and find strong moves.


"This move killed me." M. Cambareri during postgame analysis.

15... d6 16.Rd1 Bf6 17.Bh3 1–0

At this point in the game, I had used sixteen minutes, while Michael had used 34. He thought for another 34 minutes, then tipped his king.

While he was thinking, I walked to stay calm, frequently returning to the board trying to anticipate his move and my response. I thought that 17...Na5 was the most testing.

09 February 2017

A Technical Win?

The annotations in Chess Informant 44/672 by Oscar Panno indicate that Black is in zugzwang. The game was Panno -- Leskovar, Buenos Aires 1987.

Black to move
After 57.Rc1
Even so, it is hard to see how White made significant progress over the next 22 moves. I get that the bishop is forced to move, which allows White to maneuver his king to h4. That would make it possible to exchange rook for bishop should the minor piece again come to rest on g4, but White cannot force it there.

57...Be6 58.Kf3 Bd5+ 59.Kf4 Be6 60.Rc3 Bg4 61.Kg5 Kg2 62.Kh4

Black to move


Panno asserts that this move is an error, but it is not easy to see why. He offers two moves that are equal.

62...Kg1! 63.Rc4 Bf3 64.Kh3 Bg2+=


In the second case, it is easy to see that exchanging rook for bishop draws. In the first case, White cannot make progress. As the course of the game from this point reveals, White's plan was to evict the Black king from the corner so that his own king can move there.

Six-piece tablebases reveal that Black has four moves that draw from the diagram and that 62...Kf2 loses in 66 moves. Panno's annotations were written before these tablebases existed. Panno's annotations also do more to help the student gain an appreciation of the ideas in this ending.

Panno's line after 62...Kh1 resembles positions found in books that point out the handful of exceptions when rook versus bishop is not drawn in a pawnless ending. 63.Rc4 Bf3 64.g4!! White wins a pawn or quickly checkmates Black.

63.Rc4 Bf3 64.Kh3± Bg2+ 65.Kh2 Bf3 66.Rf4

Black to move

66...Ke2 67.Kg1

The six-piece tablebases indicate that this move is best, but my engines prefer 67.Kh3. Stockfish cannot access the tablebases. Hiarcs can, but I only have up to the five-piece on my computer. My external hard drive has sufficient space for the six-piece, but I have not downloaded them. I am not even certain they are available for download anywhere.

67...Ke3 68.Ra4 Ke2 69.Ra2+ Ke3 70.Kf1 Bg4 71.Ra3+ Ke4 72.Kf2

So, the point was not to occupy the corner, but rather to chase the Black king from his fortress.

72...Kd4 73.Re3

Black to move


Black's king is cut off from the kingside, but Black's bishop makes the advance of White's king difficult.

74.Re8 Bg4 75.Ke1 Kd3 76.Re7 Bh3 77.Ra7 

The advance of White's king is necessary, not keeping the Black king away from the queenside.

Black to move


Hiarcs prefers 77...Bg4 78.Kf2 Ke4 79.Ra4 Kd3 80.Rb4 Bd1 81.Rf4 Be2 82.Rf5 Bg4 83.Rb5 Kd4 84.Rb4+ Kd3 85.Ra4 Bd1 86.Ra7 and to my eyes, White is making no progress.

The tablebases may claim this as a win, but if White does not win the pawn by move 104, the game will be drawn by the fifty move rule (see "Max Judd's Draw Claim").

However, after 77...Bg2, Hiarcs declares that White has a forced checkmate in 37 moves.

78.Kf2 Bh3 79.Ra3+ Ke4 80.Ra4 1-0

It appears that Leskovar lost on time.

The game might have continued: 80... Kf5 81.Ra5+ Kg4 82.Rc5!+- (Panno's annotations).

Black to move

Black must move either bishop or pawn, losing whichever one moves. Moving the pawn leads to 83.Rc4+ and 84.Rxh4. I could win the resulting position in a time scramble against a computer. Moving the bishop leads to an elementary checkmate.

Perhaps by studying Panno's annotations to this game, I might have absorbed some ideas about how the weaker side might construct a fortress, or how the stronger might play for an advantage. In practical play, I suspect this ending would usually end as a draw despite the assurance tablebases give us that it is a technical win.