28 January 2015

Lesson of the Week

When I watch Grandmaster games live on the internet, I often play guess the move. I imagine that I am in the seat of the player to move and try to find the best move in the position. Watching the end of Aronian -- Ding in the last round of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, I anticipated a sequence of moves that my chess engine considers best for both sides. The game took a different course.

The hypothetical position after an unplayed move by White is this week's lesson. How should Black respond?

Black to move
Hypothetical Position after 55.Bxe5
Instead of 55.Bxe5, Levon Aronian played 55.Bc2. After Ding Liren's 55...Qd5, Aronian resigned.

24 January 2015

Schulten -- Morphy 1857

Game of the Week

My training regimen varies. I use several tactics training resources, both print and electronic. I go through many games most weeks. I study classic games and sometimes follow Grandmaster games as they develop in real time (see "So -- Vachier-Lagrave"). Endgames are a regular element of study, too. During the early weeks of a correspondence game, I often go through many games in the opening that is developing. For one particular game currently in progress, I went through every game published in Chess Informant in that particular variation (over 100 games). I use Chess.com's Chess Mentor.

As chess study bounces about from one topic to another, I usually have an ongoing project that represents a constant: something I return to every few days over many months. For the present, I am working through the 59 games in GM_RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000) by Rashid Ziyatdinov. One game per week.* I started in December 2014. If I persist to the end, this project will conclude in early 2016.

Ziyatdinov's seventh game is a Paul Morphy miniature. His opponent, Johann Schulten, opted for the King's Gambit, which Morphy met with the Falkbeer Counter Gambit. The Falkbeer is one of Black's most promising lines against the King's Gambit. My own performance on the White side of the Falkbeer suggest plenty of room for improvement. As Schulten in this game, I often find myself in a bit of trouble rather quickly.

Although Ziyatdinov's 59 games are presented as the source for 120 middle game positions, errors in the opening quickly demand my attention. Each morning for the past several days, I have spend a little time going through this game. But until today, I did not attend to Morphy's concluding combination. Rather, Schulten's errors large and small in the first twelve moves have captured my attention.

Schulten,J -- Morphy,Paul  [C32]
New York, 1857

1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 e4 4.Nc3

4.d3 seems more precise. It is both more popular than 4.Nc3 and scores better for White. In my own games with White, 4.Nc3 has been my choice more often.

4...Nf6 5.d3

5.Qe2 is an interesting possibility.

5...Bb4 6.Bd2 e3 7.Bxe3

Black to move

Black has a lot of compensation for the two pawns. Black has seized the initiative.

7...0–0

7...Nxd5 does not seem as strong. 8.Bd2 Bxc3 9.Bxc3 (9.bxc3) 9...Nxc3 10.bxc3 Qf6 11.Qd2.

8.Bd2 Bxc3 9.bxc3

9.Bxc3 seems playable 9...Re8+ 10.Be2 Nxd5 11.Qd2.

9...Re8+ 10.Be2 Bg4 11.c4

11.Kf2

11.h3 Qxd5 12.Kf2 Qc5+ 13.Kg3 Nh5+ 14.Kh2 Bxe2 15.Nxe2 Nc6 16.Nd4 Nf6 17.Nxc6 Qxc6 18.c4 Rad8 19.Re1 Rxe1 20.Bxe1 Re8 21.Bh4 Re6 22.Qd2 Rd6 23.Re1 Qxc4 24.Bxf6 gxf6 25.Re8+ Kg7 26.Qe3 1–0 Pridorozhni,A (2524) -- Karpov,A (2330) Khanty-Mansiysk 2008

11...c6

White to move

12.dxc6??

This move is the most critical error of the game.

12.h3 might be the only move. Black retains an advantage, but White's position is playable.

12...Nxc6 13.Kf1 Rxe2!–+ 14.Nxe2 Nd4 15.Qb1 Bxe2+ 16.Kf2 

16.Kg1 is worse 16...Nxc2 17.h3 (17.Qxc2 Qd4+ 18.Be3 Qxe3#) 17...Qxd3 18.Qc1 Ne4 (18...Nxa1).

16...Ng4+ 17.Kg1 Nf3+ 18.gxf3 Qd4+ 19.Kg2 Qf2+ 20.Kh3 Qxf3+ 21.Kh4 

The game score ends here. Maybe Morphy pointed out the checkmate in three.

21.Kh4 Ne3 22.Rg1 Nf5+ 23.Kg5 Qh5#

0–1


*My week begins on Wednesday due to teaching a college history course that meets 6:00-10:00pm on Tuesdays. This course end in mid-February, but has set the training schedule for the year.

22 January 2015

Lesson of the Week

My beginning students and my advanced, including most of those who receive individual lessons, get the same positions this week. For the beginners, I explain the first one and guide them to a solution to the second. Advanced students are asked to solve the first, and then the second.

Both positions and their solutions can be found in Jeff Coakley, Winning Chess Strategy for Kids (2000).

White to move


White to move

20 January 2015

So -- Vachier-Lagrave

Live Blogging

Wesley So has been impressing me during his post-game analysis with Yasser Seirawan. He is currently tied for second place with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ding Liren in the 2015 Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee with 5.5/8. Today's match-up between So and Vachier-Lagrave has important implications for the race to catch Magnus carlsen, if that is even possible. If not, the battle for second place has importance too.

I was awake and looking at the website on my iPad when the games started. Usually, the games have been underway for 90 minutes when I rise. I started trying to guess the move.

The first moves came fast and with the 30-second increment, So had built up his time from the initial 1:40 to 1:49 by the time he played 20.Qc1. Vachier-Lagrave was moving slightly slower, but still managed to add three minutes to his clock. I am using the Ches24 iPad app to watch the game, and find no reason to expect that the clock in the app is particularly reliable.

So,Wesley (2762) -- Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2757) [D87]
Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, 20.01.2015

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0–0 10.0–0 

I've been in this position often enough both as White and Black that this game stimulates additional interest.

Black to move

10...b6

I have played 10...Na5 in recent games. I had White in the only game in my personal database with 10...b6. I won.

10...Qc7 is the most popular move, and is one that I have both played and played against.

11.dxc5 Qc7

Vachier-Lagrave has had both sides of this position in recent years. So has played the Black side.

12.Nd4 Ne5 13.Nb5 Qb8 14.Be2 bxc5 15.f4

I thought about this move but did not have time to think about its merits before it was played. So's moves seem to come instantly while Vachier-Lagrave thinks for almost half a minute.

15...Ng4 16.Bxc5

So has won a pawn.

16...a6 17.Na3

But, now, perhaps his knight is misplaced.

17...Qc7 18.Bd4 e5 19.fxe5 Nxe5

White to move

Three games in my Grandmaster database have reached this position.

20.Qc1

So moved instantly. Clearly he prepared to reach this position.

Reference Game:

Bacrot,E (2720) -- Vachier Lagrave,M (2762) [D86]
FIDE World Rapid 2014 Dubai UAE (4.5), 16.06.2014

20.Qd2 Rb8 21.Nc2 Rb2 22.Kh1 Rd8 23.Bd1 Be6 24.Qc1 Qb8 25.Be2 Bxa2 26.c4 Nf3 27.Rxf3 Bxd4 28.Ra3 Rxc2 29.Qxc2 Bxa1 30.Qxa2 Be5 31.Rxa6 Qb4 32.Bf1 0–1


20...Bg4

Here So thought for a few minutes. I had the time to contemplate two alternatives: 21.Qe3 and the line So played.

21.Bxg4 Nxg4 22.Qf4 Qxf4 23.Rxf4 Ne5 24.Rb1

Black to move

Seizing the open file seems obvious, but can White secure it?

If 24...Rab8, 25.Rxb8 concedes the file. Two other possibilities suggest themselves:

25.Rff1 and 25.Rb3.

24...Rac8

Vachier-Lagrave avoids trades. He is down a pawn after all.

25.h3N

25.Rff1 was played in Estremera Panos -- Rambaldi, Chambery 2014.

25...Rfd8

So has used nearly an hour since move 21 and is thinking still. Vachier-Lagrave has used 35 minutes.

26.Rff1

And now Vachier-Lagrave is thinking.

26...Nd3

Seeing that Black can exchange bishops and win back the pawn, I started to consider Rb7 when So played it.

27.Rb7 Nc5

Vachier-Lagrave moved instantly.

White to move

28.Rfxf7 Nxb7 is hope chess because of the zwischenzug 28...Bxd4+.

28.Bxc5 sets up 29.Rfxf7, but after 29...Bxc3, White's rooks are not even blind swine with g7 defended. Black would be better.

28.Rbxf7 doubles the rooks on the f-file when the sseventh rank is the goal. It will take time for White to get his pieces better coordinated.

28.Re7

Seem best.

28...Bf8

White's position seems a little more difficult than Black's. While I was looking at an open file, Vachier-Lagrave simply brought his rooks to the center. Then, he repositioned his knight, which was already better than So's misplaced stallion.

As White, I would like to get both rooks on the seventh rank, but not at the cost of letting the center collapse.

29.Re5 does not retain the extra pawn. 29...Nxe4 30.Rxe4 Bxa3, but it might be nice to trade knights.

29.Rexf7 is not particularly attractive. 29...Nxe4 30.Nb1. 30.Nc2 looks as though it would lose a piece.

29.Bxc5!?

I was looking at this move, but wary.

29...Rxc5

I expected 29...Bxc5.

30.Rexf7 Rxc3 31.Nb1

The king's knight has found himself on the queen's knight's starting square.

Black to move

31...Rc2 32.Kh1 Bg7

So has 22 minutes for the next eight moves. Vachier-Lagrave has 50.

While I was putting out the garbage, Levon Aronian offered some analysis of this game. He thinks that Black is better. I need to rewind the video to see his analysis as I caught only the last few seconds.

Aronian showed a variation in which White goes after the a-pawn and gets mated. So will find something better, but he should be playing for a draw, it seems to me.

33.Na3 Rxa2 34.Nc4 Rf8 35.Rxf8+ Bxf8 36.e5

Black to move

36...Bc5 37.g4 Rc2 38.Nd6 Re2 39.Ra1 Rxe5 40.Nb7

I expected 40.Rxa6 Bxd6 41.Rxd6 and a draw, which would be convenient as I have essays to grade for the college history course that I am teaching.

40...Be7

Both players get another 50 minutes on the clock.

41.Rxa6 Kg7 42.Nd6 Bxd6 43.Rxd6 1/2-1/2

I was rooting for So, but also found Vachier-Lagrave's resilience impressive. He got the better position and was ahead on the clock. So, however, did not lose his head and go for Aronian's fantasy line that spelled disaster.

As a devotee of the Grunfeld on the Black side, I sense that studying some of Vachier-Lagrave's games are in my immediate future.

The host is interviewing So. I'll watch that and then see if I can get some papers graded before this afternoon's chess club.

18 January 2015

The Scotch Gambit

The 6.Qh5!? Line

My game of the week features a Scotch Gambit refuted by Paul Morphy (see "Meek -- Morphy 1855"). In the annotations to that game, I mentioned but did not explore 6.Qh5!? At first site, this aggressive line looks dangerous. However, with accurate play, Black gets the better game.

A handful of games in the nineteenth century revealed the main ideas and tactics.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4

The Scotch Opening

3...exd4 4.Bc4

The Scotch Gambit

White sacrifices a pawn for rapid deployment.

4...Bc5

4...Nf6 is also playable.

5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5!?

Black to move

Black has three reasonable replies:

a) 6...O-O

b) 6...Qf6

c) 6...Qe7

For each of these Black replies, I offer an illustrative game.

6...O-O

A. Johnston played the Scotch Gambit twice in the Second American Chess Congress, Cleveland 1871. He had an advantage for much of the game in this encounter.

Johnston,A -- Smith,Harsen Darwin [C44]
USA–02.Kongress Cleveland, 1871

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5 0–0 7.Bxf7+

A more recent game continued 7.0–0 d6 8.h3 Ne5 9.Bb3 Qf6 10.Kh1 Kh8 11.f4 d3? and Black threw away a nice position with a series of errors. Facchetti,G (2159) -- Bisignano,G (2055)/Gorgonzola 2003. White won in 24 moves.

7...Rxf7

Obviously not 7...Nxf7 8.Qxh7#.

8.Nxf7

Black to move

8...Nxf7

Black should have played 8...Bb4+ 9.c3 Nxf7 10.cxb4 Nxb4 11.Qd1 when Black has good compensation and a pawn for the exchange.

9.Qxc5 d6

The position is similar to the main line, except that White is ahead an exchange.

10.Qc4 Qe7 11.Qe2 Nfe5 12.0–0 Be6 13.Na3 Rf8 14.f4 Bg4 15.Qb5 Ng6 16.Qxb7 Qxe4 17.Qb3+ Kh8 18.Qg3 Bf5 19.Qf3 Qe8 20.Bd2 Be4 21.Qg3 Nce7 22.Rae1 d5 23.f5 Nxf5 24.Qxc7 Ngh4 25.Rf2 Qg6 26.Qg3 Qe8 27.Qh3 h6 28.g4 Qg6 29.Rxe4??

29.Rf4 Rc8 30.Kf2

29...dxe4 30.Kh1 e3 31.Rxf5 Nxf5 32.gxf5 Qc6+ 33.Kg1 exd2 34.Qd3 Rxf5 35.Qxd2 Qg6+ 0–1

6...Qf6

The last ten moves of Max Lange's thrashing of Hermann Pollmacher offer a study in piece coordination.

Lange,Max -- Pollmacher,Hermann [C44]
Leipzig, 24.09.1856

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5 Qf6 7.f4

White has other options, but this aggressive move is in the spirit of his play so far.

Black to move

7...d6

A pawn sacrifice appears to be Black's best option here. 7...d5! 8.Bxd5 Bg4 9.Bxf7+ is White's only move (9.Qh4 leads to a worse position quickly. 9...Nb4 10.Bb3 d3 and Black is running over the top of White's position.) 9...Qxf7 10.Nxf7 Bxh5 11.Nxh8 Nb4 12.Na3 (12.h3 Nxc2+) 12...0–0–0 with an initiative for Black.

8.h3 0–0 9.0–0 Be6? 10.Bd3 Qg6 11.Qxg6 hxg6 12.f5 gxf5 13.exf5 Bd5 14.f6

Black to move

14...gxf6??

14...Nb4

15.Rxf6

Even more convincing is 15.Nh7!

15...Kg7 16.Rxh6 Kxh6 17.Ne6+! Kh5 18.Nf4+ Kh4

18...Kh6 offers small hope 19.Nxd5+ Kg7 20.Nxc7 Rac8±.

19.Nxd5+- f5 20.Bf4 Ne5 21.Nd2 c6 22.g3+ Kxh3 23.Bf1+ Kg4 24.Kg2 Kh5

24...cxd5 25.Be2+ Nf3 26.Bxf3#.

25.Ne7 Ng4 26.Be2 Rae8 27.Rh1# 1–0

6...Qe7

6...Qe7 is probably Black's best choice. Adolf Anderssen was one of the first to play this move.

Von Eckstadt,Count Vitzthum -- Anderssen,Adolf [C44]
Leipzig, 1855

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5 Qe7 7.f4

7.0–0 may be better.

7...d6 8.h3

Black to move

8...Na5

Better might have been the simple 8...Bd7 9.0–0 0–0–0 Black's lead in development gives him an edge.

9.Bd3 Nf5 10.Nxf7

10.Qxf7+ offers White better prospects of equality. 10...Qxf7 11.Nxf7 Kxf7 12.exf5.

10...g6 11.Qe2

11.Qf3? Kxf7 12.0–0 Ne3 13.Bxe3 dxe3–+.

11...Ng3 12.Qf3 Nxh1 13.Nxh8 Qh4+ 14.Kd1? 

14.Kf1 is more stubborn.

14...Nf2+–+ 15.Ke2 Nxd3 16.Qxd3

16.cxd3 Qf6 17.Nxg6 hxg6–+.

16...Be6 17.Qb5+ Nc6 18.Qxb7

Black to move

18... d3+! 19.cxd3 Nd4+ 20.Kd1 Bg4+ 21.hxg4 Qh1+ 0–1

17 January 2015

Meek -- Morphy 1855

While a student at Spring Hill College on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama, Paul Morphy traveled the twelve miles into Mobile a couple of times. During one of these visits, he played three games with Judge Alexander Beaufort Meek, who was serving as judge of the probate court there. Morphy won. Meek and Morphy would again square off at the First American Chess Congress two years later

One of the games played in Mobile was selected by Rashid Ziyatdinov for inclusion in GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge and is the source for three "essential middlegame positions" therein. I am going through the 59 games in Ziyatdinov's book at the rate on one per week. The tag, "Game of the Week 2015," links to my comments on these games.


Meek,Alexander Beaufort -- Morphy,Paul  [C44]
Mobile, 01.03.1855

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5

Two years later, Morphy would play 4...Nf6 5.e5 d5 6.Bb5

(6.exf6 dxc4 7.fxg7 Bxg7 appears good for Black)

6...Ne4 7.Nxd4 Bd7 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.Bd3 Bc5 10.Bxe4 Qh4 11.Qe2 dxe4 12.Be3 Bg4 13.Qc4 Bxe3 14.g3 Qd8 15.fxe3

(15.Qxc6+ Bd7 16.Qc3 Bb6-+)

15...Qd1+ 16.Kf2 Qf3+ 17.Kg1 Bh3 18.Qxc6+ Kf8 19.Qxa8+ Ke7 0–1 Lichtenhein,T -- Morphy,P, New York 1857.

5.Ng5

Black to move
GM-RAM Position 147
This position occurs in a dubious and uncommon gambit line. Why does it merit inclusion in Ziyatdinov's 120 "essential middlegame positions"?

Perhaps the answer stems from the forcing tactics. An error by Black here could lead to a rapid collapse.

5...Nh6

5...Ne5 scores poorly 6.Nxf7

(6.Bxf7+ Nxf7 7.Nxf7 Bb4+ 8.c3 dxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc3+ 10.Nxc3 Kxf7 11.Qd5+ Kf8 12.Ba3+ d6 13.e5 Qg5, Cochrane,J -- Deschapelles,A, Paris 1821. White clearly has the better game and won in 31 moves.)

6...Nxf7 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qxc5 d6 10.Qxd4, NN -- Alekhine,A, Kislovodsk 1907/EXT 2007. Black has dropped a pawn because he has an undeveloped knight instead of one on c6. Nonetheless, Alekhine won in 21 moves.

6.Nxf7

6.Bxf7+ leads to the same position 6...Nxf7 7.Nxf7 Kxf7 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qxc5.

6.Qh5!? also merits study. There are pitfalls for Black after any inaccurate moves.

6...Nxf7 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qxc5 d6

White to move

Black's king looks exposed, but White is ill-prepared to attack. Rather, Black seizes the initiative. It is my understanding that Ziyatdinov expects the aspiring student to instantly perceive this position as one possible consequence of that in Position 147.

10.Qb5

10.Qc4+ Be6 11.Qd3 with a slight edge for Black.

10...Re8 11.Qb3+

11.0–0 seems better than Meek's move.

a) 11...a6 12.Qb3+ Kg7 13.Qd3;

b) 11...Re5 12.Qd3 Qe7 13.Nd2 Kg7 14.f4 Rh5

b1) 15.b4!? a6 (15...Qh4 16.h3) 16.Bb2 Qh4 (16...Nxb4 17.Qxd4+ Kf7 18.Qxb4+-) 17.h3.

b2) 15.Nf3 Qf6 16.Bd2 Bg4 17.c3 Bxf3 18.Rxf3 Re8 and drawn in 57 moves, Forgacs,A (2256) -- Piroska,I (2153), Dunaujvaros 2011

c) 11...Rxe4 12.Qd5+ Re6

11...d5 12.f3

12.0–0 still seems sensible.

12...Na5 13.Qd3

13.Qa3

13...dxe4 14.fxe4 Qh4+ 15.g3

15.Kf1 Rxe4 16.Qg3 Qg4 Black has the upper hand.

Black to move

15...Rxe4+

Morphy's most important inaccuracy.

15...Qxe4+! 16.Qxe4 (16.Kd2 Qg2+ 17.Kd1 Bg4+ 18.Qf3+ Bxf3#) 16...Rxe4+ 17.Kf2–+.

16.Kf2

16.Kd1 Bg4+ 17.Kd2 Qg5+ 18.Qe3 Qxe3#.

16.Be3!! Qg4 with a slight advantage for Black.

16...Qe7 17.Nd2

17.Bg5 seems better. 17...Qe5 18.Nd2 Bf5 19.Nxe4 Bxe4 Black has the upper hand.

17...Re3–+ 18.Qb5

18.Qxd4 Re2+ 19.Kg1 Bh3 20.Qd5+ Kf8 21.Nf1 Rg2+ 22.Qxg2 Bxg2 23.Kxg2–+.

18...c6 19.Qf1

19.Qxa5 is worse. 19...Re2+ 20.Kg1 (20.Kf3 Qe3#) 20...Qe3+ 21.Kf1 Qf2#.

Black to move
GM-RAM Position 148
19...Bh3 20.Qd1

20.Qxh3 Re2+ 21.Kf3 (21.Kf1 Re1+ 22.Kg2 Qe2#) 21...Qe3+ 22.Kg4 h5+ 23.Qxh5 gxh5+ (23...Qe6+ 24.Kh4 gxh5 25.Rf1+ Kg6 26.Rf6+ Qxf6+ 27.Kh3 Qf5+ 28.Kh4 Qg4#) 24.Kh4 Kg6 25.Ne4 Qxe4+ 26.Bf4 Rxh2+ 27.Rxh2 Qf5 and mate next move.

Black to move
GM-RAM Diagram 149
It may seem odd that Ziyatdinov offers two diagrams separated by a single move. However, the first is justified because the offer of a decoy sacrifice leads to a forced checkmate in nine moves. In the second, Black's victory is certain with correct play even though checkmate is not imminent.

20...Rf8 21.Nf3 Ke8 22.Bd2

22.Bxe3 Qxe3#.

22.Re1 Rfxf3+ 23.Qxf3 Rxf3+ 24.Kxf3 Qxe1–+.

22...Qe4 23.Kg1 Rexf3 24.Qxf3 Rxf3 25.Re1 Rf1+

25...Qxe1+ 26.Bxe1 Rf1#.

26.Rxf1 Qg2# 0–1

12 January 2015

Pawn Thrusts

Tata Steel Chess, Round 3

The Tata Steel Tournament began on Saturday, in Wijk aan Zee. When I awoke this morning, the competitors were nearly two hours into play. I glanced through the opening moves in their games and two caught my eye. Anish Giri aggressively thrust forward his c-pawn against Fabiano Caruana. Magnus Carlsen, playing Black, thrust forward an a-pawn early against Radoslaw Wojtaszek.

Giri was provoked.

Giri,Anish (2784) -- Caruana,Fabiano (2820) [D37]
Tata Steel Masters Wijk aan Zee (3), 12.01.2015

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bf4 0–0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.c5

This position appeared in this blog two months ago. Viswanathan Anand beat Magnus Carlsen from this position in game three of their World Championship match.

7...Ne4

Carlsen played 7...c6

8.Rc1

My database has four prior instances of 8.Rc1, three of them in the past two years.

8...Nxc3N 9.Rxc3 b6

Caruana provokes White's c-pawn.

10.c6

Black to move

10...Nf6 11.a3 a5 12.Rc2 Ne4 13.Bd3 Ba6 14.Bxa6 Rxa6 15.Ne5

Giri's advanced c-pawn provides a forward post for a knight, and so a knight is headed there.

15...Bd6 16.Nd7 Bxf4 17.Nxf8 Bxe3 18.Nd7 Bg5

White has won an exchange, gaining a rook for a bishop and pawn. Caruana has shown so far in this tournament that his performance over the past few months is no fluke. He is the only player with two wins so far in this event.

19.Qd3 Ra8 20.a4 Nf6 21.h4

Black to move

21...Bh6 22.Nxf6+ Qxf6 23.h5 Bg5 24O-O Qf4 25.Rd1 Bf6 26.g3

I will return to this game later.

Magnus Carlsen employed an unusual move order to reach the Dutch Defense, and then thrust forward his a-pawn early.

Wojtaszek,Radoslaw (2744) -- Carlsen,Magnus (2862) [A41]
Tata Steel Masters Wijk aan Zee (3), 12.01.2015

1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 f5 4.b4 Bg7 5.Bb2 a5

Already, my database finds only three reference games.

6.b5 a4 7.e3N

7.a3 was played by an unrated player in the 2001 Brasil championship.

7...Nf6 8.Be2 c6 9.bxc6 bxc6

Some elements of this position are not uncommon in the Dutch, but I cannot recall many Dutch games with a b-file that opened so early.

White to move

10.0–0 0–0 11.Qc2 Qc7 12.Nc3 a3

Now that the knight no longer guards a3, the pawn is able to harass the bishop.

13.Bc1 Nbd7 14.Rb1

Seize the open file. 14...Ne4 15.Nxe4 fxe4

White to move

16.Nd2

16.Qxe4 would be a mistake 16...Nc5 17.Qh4

17.dxc5 is worse Bf5 18.Qh4 Bf6 19.Ng5 Bxg5 20.Qxg5 Bxb1 Black has a clear material advantage.

17...Bf6 18.Qh6 Bg7 19.Qh4 Bf5 20.Ra1 White's pieces seem to lack effective coordination.

16...Nf6 17.Rb3 Bf5 18.Rxa3 h5 

Another pawn thrust by Carlsen.

19.Rxa8 Rxa8

Wojtaszek has won a pawn and traded off a pair of rooks.

20.a3 h4

The h-pawn keeps coming.

21.Bb2 h3 22.g3 Qc8 23.Re1

Black to move

The light squares around White's king might become a problem. Indeed, if Carlsen starts some activity on the kingside, White may find that his pieces cannot get there for defense due to the central pawn structure. Black appears to have more than adequate compensation for the pawn.

23...Rb8 24.Bc3 Nh7 25.a4 Ng5 26.Rb1 Ra8 27.Qd1

Wojtaszek makes an important defense move.

27...c5 28.Rb6 Qe6 29.g4 cxd4 30.Bxd4

More on this game later.

Giri -- Caruana

Returning to Giri -- Caruana, we find that White is maintaining some initiative. We left this game after 26.g3

Black to move
After 26.g3
26...Qg4 27.Qe2 Qh3

Black's queen is getting kicked around a bit. She is posted aggressively near White's king, but cannot do much alone.

28.Rc3 Be7 29.g4 Qh4 30.f4 Bd6 31.Rf1 Qf6 32.Qf2 Rb8 33.Rb3 g6 34.hxg6 hxg6 35.Kg2

Black to move

Both White rooks are prepared to occupy the opened h-file.

35...Kf8

Caruana's king takes a walk to a safer haven.

36.Rh3 Ke7 37.b3 Rh8 38.g5 Qg7 39.Rxh8 Qxh8 40.Rh1 Qg8

Both players have made the time control.

White to move

Giri maintains a material advantage and has Caruana on the defensive. Whether this game is winnable, however, is less clear. Two results seem possible: White could win or the players could draw.

41.Rh3 Qg7 42.Kf3 Qg8 

I will return to this game.

Wojtaszek -- Carlsen

I seem to have overestimated Carlsen's compensation.

My last comment was after Wojtaszek's 27.Qd1, which began to address some problems that I had identified, and then had the game score up to 30.Bxd4.

Black to move

Carlsen's 28...Qe6 left his bishop without escape. White's potential problems on the kingside were real, and he acted to address those problems. The position opened up, and Black opted to sacrifice a bishop for some kingside play.

30...Bxd4 31.exd4 e3 32.gxf5 gxf5

The Polish player is ahead a bishop, but his pawn shield is shattered. Black's pawn shield never existed, as the World Champion has been thrusting it forward for most of the game.

33.Nf1 exf2+ 34.Kxf2 Ne4+ 35.Ke1

At this point in the game, Carlsen had perhaps two minutes. Wojtaszek had perhaps six after spending several minutes on a forced move.

Yasser Seirawan was quite clear that White is winning, but had some difficulty guessing the moves.

35...Qf6 36.Qd3 Rxa4 37.Rb1 Qh4+ 38.Ng3 Kf7 39.Qf3

Black to move

Qh5 is threatened, forcing queens off the board.

39...Kg7 40.Qf4

An elementary decoy to set up a fork gets the queens off the board.

40...Qxf4

Alternatives are much worse. Both players have reached the time control, and White seems to have a decisive advantage.

41.Nh5+ Kf7 42.Nxf4 Ng5 43.d5 Kf6 44.Kf2

Black to move

44...Ra3 45.Bd3 Ra2+ 46.Kg3 Ra3 47.Re1 Ne4+ 48.Kf3 Ng5+ 49.Ke3 Ra2 50.Re2 Ra3 51.Rf2 Ne4 52.Rf3 0-1

I spent some time watching Seirawan discuss Wesley So's win against Levon Aronian with So. So also commented on Giri -- Caruana during their discission.

Giri -- Caruana

"White is clearly playing for a win, but ..."
Wesley So

We left this game after 42...Qg8.

43.Kg2 Kd8 44.Qh4 Qe8

White to move

So thought that he would probably play 45.Qh8 were he in this position. It seems to me that dropping the f-pawn would not be such a good idea. Of course, So and Seirawan were going through the moves quickly and may have had a slightly different position on their analysis board. They said they could not understand what White had in mind with the king dance between g2 and f3.

45.Rc3 Kc8 46.Kf3 Kb8 47.Qh7 Qf8 48.Kg4 Ka7

Black's king looks secure. Seirawan described its journey as a marathon.

49.Rf3 Qe8 50.Qg7 Qxc6 51.Qxf7 Qc1 52.Qxe6 Qg1+

White to move

Will Black find a forced draw by repetition?

53.Rg3 Qxd4 54.Qe3 Qh8 55.Rh3 Qc8+ 56.Kh4 Qf8 57.Rf3 Qh8+ 58.Kg3 Qh5 59.Kg2 Qg4+ 60.Kf1 Bc5 61.Qd3 Qg1+ 62.Ke2 Bb4

White to move

That Black threatens a checkmate in one accentuates that Caruana has seized the inititiative. He is not playing for a win, but his threats keep White from making any progress. Sooner or later, the pawns on the kingside are destined for liquidation.

63.Rf1 Qg4+ 64.Qf3 Qf5 65.Rd1 c6 66.Rh1 Bc5 67.Kf1 Bd6 68.Rh7+ Kb8 69.Qe3

Black to move

White, too, has threats.

69...Qxf4+ 70.Qxf4 Bxf4

Caruana forced the queens off the board, and with them the kingside pawns are nearly liquidated.

71.Rg7 Bxg5 72.Rxg6 Be7 73.Rxc6

Black to move

I cannot imagine either player making any progress from this position unless time trouble causes a blunder.

73...Bc5 74.Ke2 Kb7 75.Rg6 Kc7 76.Kf3 Kd7 77.Kf4 Bd4 78.Kf5 Ke7 79.Rg4 Bc3 80.Rg3 Bb2 81.Rg2 Bc3 82.Rc2 Ba1 83.Rc6 Bd4 84.Rh6 Kd7 85.Re6 Kc7 86.Kf4 Kd7 87.Rh6 Kc7 88.Kf3 Kd7 89.Ke2 Bc5 90.Kf3 Bd4 91.Rh4 Bc5 92.Rg4 Kd6 93.Rg6+ Kd7 94.Rh6 Bd4 95.Kf4 Kc7 96.Kf5 Kd7 97.Rh4 Bc3 ½–½


I usually follow this tournament live and often blog my perceptions of one or more selective games. My busy schedule has made it hard to observe this year. I have not yet found the time to look at Saturday's games, and only glanced through yesterday's superficially.

09 January 2015

Opening Considerations

Szen -- Anderssen 1851

The 59 illustrative games in GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000) are presented as the source for the 120 essential middlegame positions that an aspiring player should strive to know. However, Rashid Ziyatdinov also suggests in his book that the aspiring player should memorize these games.

This process of learning these games by rote drives the student into study of the openings employed in each game. To memorize the game and not gain some understanding of all phases from the first move to the last would seem senseless. Moreover, some of the middlegame positions occur fairly early in the game.*

GM-RAM Position 143
Position 143 is a case in point. It arises after White's ninth move in the fourth match game between József Szén and Adolf Anderssen in the 1851 London Tournament.

In understanding this position, opening principles come to the fore.

In terms of one classic formulation of the opening phase, the diagram position nears the end of the opening. White has castled, has all of his minor pieces posted to central squares, and his queen has stepped forward to connect the rooks. Black lags behind in terms of this classic definition. One minor piece remains immobile and the rooks are not connected.

It may be surprising, then, that from this position with Black, Anderssen chose to start an attack: 9...f5! After the ensuing 10.exf5 Rxf5, the absence of White's e-pawn made 11...d5 a serious threat. White suddenly faced some serious problems. It is hard to find an improvement to Szen's unfortunate retreat of his knight to its starting square as preparation to redevelop it on d2.

Black seized the initiative. Ten moves later, Anderssen missed a forced checkmate in ten moves.** Nonetheless, he launched a decisive assault of tremendous instructive value and won the game. Something went horribly wrong for White in the first nine moves. Where did Szén err?

Szén,József -- Anderssen,Adolf [B30]
International Tournament, London 1851 (2.4)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 e6

This position is found in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings under B40, so the B30 classification by ChessBase might be inaccurate. Four possible moves for White are then given in ECO: 4.Be2, 4.g3, 4.d4, and 4.Bb5. Szén played none of these.

4.Bc4?!

This move should probably be considered dubious even though control of d5 is a strategic aim. The most popular moves 4.d4 and 4.Bb5 aim at control of d4. 4.Bc4 is more popular than 4.Be2 in the ChessBase database, but it scores worse. White's scoring percentage is poor enough to recommend against 4.Be2, but it is far worse after Bc4. The number of games reaching the position after 4.Bc4 is more than twice the number of times that 4,Bc4 was played. The difference suggests that move order variations account for this bishop's presence on c4 most of the time.

The only game in Chess Informant that reached this position had the move order 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 e6 4.Nc3, CI 93/(122).

4...a6 5.a4

5.d4 is worth considering. 5...b5 6.Be2 when White's fourth move cost a tempo, but little else.

5...Nge7

The comparison of Staunton's play as Black against Anderssen to Anderssen's play as Black deserves analysis. Anderssen's placement of this knight resembles Staunton's. But, Anderssen's queen does not go wandering on pawn grubbing expeditions.

6.Qe2

6.d4 should be considered. If there is anything wrong with Black's slow deployment, White needs to act with vigor to demonstrate the point.

6...Ng6

Why not harass White with 6...Nd4! 7.Nxd4 cxd4 8.Nb1 Nc6?

7.d3 Be7 8.Be3 O-O 9.O-O

We have reached the diagram position.

My first impulse as Black might be to solve the problem of the light-squared bishop with 9...b6 and 10...Bb7. Anderssen, however, chose to strike.

9...f5!

Did Szén have a better way to meet this thrust? Did Black have an advantage that compelled him to attack? How can we best characterize the errors in White's opening play? Lethargy? Misplaced pieces?

The c4 square often proves an active square for the bishop in symmetrical king's pawn openings. The bishop also goes there frequently in open Sicilians. However, White chose a closed Sicilian, delaying the d4 thrust. It seems, perhaps, that in such positions, the bishop is better placed elsewhere.

Nonetheless, I often see such bishop placement in my own games--at least in online blitz. I usually thrust forward my d- or b-pawn and drive the bishop back to a2 or b3. Later in the game, this bishop bites back.

Anderssen's f-pawn thrust offers another way of looking at similar positions.



*Ziyatdinov's recommended references offer another indication that opening study walks hand in hand with comprehending essential middlegame positions. For example, he lists Paul Keres, and Alexander Kotov, The Art of the Middle Game. The English edition of this book contains an additional chapter by Harry Golombek, who also translated the book into English. Surely, Ziyatdinov would expect me to read Golombek's section as well. Golombek stresses that the middlegame plan, "must arise naturally and logically out of the opening" (17).

**I posted the other middlegame position from this game last month (see "Mate in Ten").