07 October 2015

Converting an Advantage

My copy of Chess Informant 125 arrived on Monday and is already proving challenging. As a long devotee of the French Defense who occasionally adopts the Rubinstein, my attention fell quickly upon Alexander Morozevich's "Midnight in Moscow".  I will devote considerable time to this article in the coming weeks.

Then, there is an abundance of games from the Sinquefield Cup annotated by Aleksandar Colovic, Sarunas Sulskis, and Michael Roiz. The English language content goes on through more than half of the volume, and includes the second installment of "The New Romantics" by Pentala Harikrishna. Mihail Marin's "One Golden Rule -- Development" is the latest installment of his "Old Wine in New Bottles," a column I always make a point of reading.

Turning to the traditional games section in Informant codes, the first game offers a challenging study. White's opening faltered and Black gained the advantage. The annotator offers suggested alternatives for more than half of both players' moves. Black blundered from the position in the first diagram and White turned the tide.

Black to move

How would you play this position? How would I? I am mulling over the position while I consume my morning coffee.

05 October 2015

Tunnel Vision

It seemed to me that playing a thematic attack against the King's Indian Defense gave me a straightforward victory. However, post-game analysis reveals several errors in my game. My tunnel vision in pursuit of one idea led to missing a checkmate in one, another checkmate in two, and several better moves throughout. Had my opponent been more alert in defense, he could have recovered from the early error that gave me an attack. Even when I had the victory thoroughly in hand, I missed several opportunities to close the deal.

The battle was a three minute blitz game at 3:00 am. I was awake due to eating an excess of refried beans and rice at dinner.

Stripes, J (1846) -- Internet Opponent (1855) [E90]
Live Chess Chess.com, 05.10.2015

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4 0–0 6.Be3

I prefer 6.Be2 when I'm awake.


6...Ng4 points out the flaw in 6.Be3.


7.dxe5 is better.

7...Nbd7 8.Bg5

It is interesting that the only master games that have reached this position, and a majority of the amateur games, have done so with White to move. The difference is due to White's poorly timed Be3 followed by the subsequent 8.Bg5. White has already squandered his opening advantage.


Black might have played 8...h6, provoking the wayward bishop to move again.

9.Be2 h6 10.Be3 a6 11.Qc1

Black to move


11...Nc5! The h-pawn is less vital than White's e-pawn. 12.Bxh6 Ncxe4.

12.h4 Ng4?

This error gave me a lasting initiative, almost. It should have done so. I maintained the initiative, however, because my opponent missed every opportunity to capitalize on the errors in my myopic attack.

13.Ng5+! hxg5 14.Bxg4?

14.hxg5+ Kg8 15.Bxg4 with clear advantage.

14...gxh4 15.Bg5

Black to move


15...Bf6 refutes White's move order error.

16.Rxh4+ Kg8 17.Bh6

17.Be6+ Rf7 18.Bh6.

17...Rf7 18.Be6

18.Bxg7 Rxg7 19.Be6+ Kf8 (19...Rf7 20.Qh6) 20.Qh6.


White to move


19.Bxg7! Nxe6 20.Rh8+ Kxg7 21.Qh6#.

19...Kxf7 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Qh6+ Kf7 22.Qh7+ Ke8

White to move


23.Qxg6+ Kd7 24.Qf5+ Ke7 25.Rh7+ Ke8 26.Qh5+ Kf8 27.Qf7#.

23...Kd7 24.Qg7+ Qe7 25.Qxg6 Nd3+ 26.Ke2 Nf4+

White to move


Box, as they say. Only move.

27...exf4 28.Rh1 Qe5 29.Rh7+ Kd8 30.Qg8+ Qe8 31.Qg7 Bf5

White to move


I have been trying to pin my opponent's queen with my rook for seven moves. Now, finally, I get to do that. I might have chosen a better target: 32.Qxc7#.

32...Bxe4 33.Rxe8+ Kxe8 34.Nxe4 Rd8

34...f3+ 35.Kxf3 Kd8 36.Qf8+ Kd7 37.Nxf6#.

35.Nxf6# 1–0

It could have been a satisfying win if I had not taken the time to examine it. Instead, it is an instructive win that shed light on a mental error that sometimes plagues me in over the board play. Myopia produces an inflexible approach to the game. Instead of orchestrating an attack by always seeking the best moves, I charge in like a bull in a china shop. Sometimes that still gets the job done, but sometimes that gives the opponent counterplay.

02 October 2015

Expose the King!

In a recent correspondence game, I found a single reference game in which Black's play struck me as a bit timid.

Black to move

My database contains six games that reached this position, one with White to move. I only looked at those games played by masters (ratings above 2200). The highest rated Black player continued with 10...Ne5.

10...Bd6 was played in the other two games. White must address the threat to h2.


My opponent threatened e5, following one of my reference games.

11.g3 was attempted in the other reference game. That did not go well for White. 11...Bxg3 12.hxg3 Qxg3 13.Kh1 Ne5 14.Nc5 Nfg4! 15.fxg4 Qh3+ 16.Kg1 Qxe3+ 17.Rf2 Qxc5 and White resigned after two more moves. Brynjarsson -- Bjornsson, Reykjavik 2009.


I studied the remaining reference game, and noticed that Black gained an attack on the king. Black's attack faltered, but need not have done so. Initially, Black seems to sacrifice a knight but gains three pawns for the piece. Another sacrifice, however, this time for a single pawn fatally exposes the White king. This second sacrifice was not played in the reference game.


The fork.


Beginning a tactical operation that exchanges a knight for three pawns and leaves the White king exposed.

13.fxe5 Bxe5 14.Nb1N

The reference game continued: 14.Na4 Bxh2+ 15.Kh1 Qg3 (15...Bxg2+! 16.Kxg2 Qg3+ 17.Kh1 Qh3 18.Rf2 Bf4+ 19.Kg1 Bxe3 and Black has recovered the material with interest.) 16.Bf3=  and the game was drawn in 42 moves. Toubale,T -- Villeneuve,A (2345), Cannes 1989.

14...Bxh2+ 15.Kh1 

Black to move

I had been aiming for this position.


As seen in the reference above, 15...Qg3 gives White time to organize a defense.

16.Kxg2 Qg3+ 17.Kh1 Qh3

White to move


18.Rf2 is better 18...Bf4+ 19.Kg1 Bxe3 20.Qf1 Qg3+ 21.Qg2 Bxf2+ 22.Kf1 Ne4–+.
18.Rxf6 fails. 18...Bg3+ 19.Kg1 Qh2+ 20.Kf1 Qh1+ 21.Bg1 Qh3#.

18...Bg3+ 19.Kg1 Qh2+ 20.Kf1 Qh1+ 21.Bg1 Qh3# 0–1

Finding the decisive blow was almost certainly helped by my having read earlier this summer several of Mihail Marin's recent columns for Chess Informant. In particular, for Informant 122 he wrote, "Is Chess a Matter of Memory? Lasker's Double Bishop Sacrifice."

30 September 2015

Child's Play

A two pawn advantage in a rook ending should be decisive. Indeed, I won easily with such an advantage last night in a three minute blitz game. The win seemed child's play.

A few minutes of postgame analysis this morning revealed another story. I made a fatal blunder and won because my opponent missed a critical opportunity.

Black to move
After 46.Ke2
46...g5 47.Kf3 gxf4

47...Kg6 is better. 48.Rxg2 Rxg2 49.Kxg2 g4 and the pawn ending is an elementary win for Black.

48.exf4 e5 49.fxe5+ Kxe5 50.Re1

Black to move


It was necessary to move the king to the d-file. 50...Kd4 was best.


51.Kf2 Rg5 (51...f4 52.Rg1=) 52.Rb1 Rg8 and the computer thinks that Black has a slight edge. Accurate play by White should hold the draw.

White to move
Analysis Diagram after 52...Rg8

The Drawing Method

From the analysis diagram, I played out the position against Stockfish. Perhaps the drawing method is not as simple as the win became in the game, but it requires only application of some elementary techniques.

Stripes,James -- Stockfish 6 64

53.Ra1 Ke5 54.Ra5+

Side checks are the key drawing method until White's king gets too close to the rook, then either restraining the advance of the f-pawn or rear-checks become necessary. Although not a textbook Philidor position, the drawing method follows the same idea.

54...Kd6 55.Ra1 Rg7 56.Ra6+ Kc5 57.Ra5+ Kb4 58.Ra1 Kc3

White to move


59.Ra3+ fails to Kb2.
59.Rg1 fails to Kd2.
59.Rd1 fails to f4.

59...f4 60.Ra4 Rg4 

60...f3 is met by 61.Rf4

61.Ra3+ Kd4 62.Ra4+ Kc5 63.Ra5+ Kb4

White to move


White now prevents f3.

64...Ka3 65.Rf8 Kb3 66.Rf7 Kc2 67.Rf8 Kd3 

White to move


With the White king able to support f3, he must be harassed endlessly with checks from the rear.

68...Ke2 69.Re8+ Kd1 70.Rd8+ Ke1 71.Re8+ Kd2 72.Rd8+ Ke3 73.Re8+ Kf3

White to move


Preparing to resume checks from the side.

74...Ke4 75.Ra4+ Kf5 76.Ra5+ Ke6 77.Ra6+ Kd5 78.Ra5+ Kc6 79.Rf5

Again restraining the f-pawn.

79...Kd6 80.Rf8 Ke6 81.Re8+ Kf6 82.Rf8+ Kg7 

White to move

83.Rf5 Kg6 84.Rf8 f3 

The computer gives up.

85.Rxf3 Kh6 86.Rf2 Rg5 87.Rxg2 Rc5 88.Rf2 Ra5 ½–½

The Actual Game

After 51.Rg1?? in the game, we reached this position.

Black to move


This was Black's only winning move, but is was simple to find and I played it automatically.

52.Kf2 f4 53.Kf3 Rg3+ 54.Kf2 Kg4 55.Re1

Black to move

Now, it is time to convert the rook ending into an elementary pawn ending.

55...g1Q+ 56.Rxg1 Rxg1 57.Kxg1 Kg3 58.Kf1 Kf3 59.Ke1 Kg2 and White resigned.

29 September 2015

Strategic Nuances

This position, which I came to via Karpov -- Timman, European Junior Championship, Groningen 1967-1968, has appeared on the board at least 119 times.

Black to move

Jan Timman played 5...Ba5.

Anatoly Karpov wrote:
The bishop is badly placed at a5, and the whole of White's subsequent play is built on exploiting this circumstance. I consider that Black should have taken the knight, and then played Nc6...d6...and e5.
Anatoly Karpov: Chess is My Life (1980), 28.
Karpov won this game and the championship. He had the Black side of this position against Victor Korchnoi in 1993 and played 5...Bxc3.

Timman's move has been more popular, having been played at least 86 times to 32 for 5...Bxc3. However, White's score against 5...Ba5 has been 67%, while White has scored 56% after 5...Bxc3.

Why is a5 such a poor spot for the bishop?

Karpov elucidates two resulting vulnerabilities in the ensuing comments. One, the presence of the bishop on a5 prevents Black from playing b6, and hence the c5 pawn is difficult to defend. Two, he offers some unplayed lines in which White either wins a piece through tactics, or White's central pawns become mobile at the cost of a pawn.

In the game itself, White's pieces became more active. Under the pressure of an inferior position, Timman blundered away a pawn.

28 September 2015

A Better Day

Taking Care of Business

After losing my round two game and taking my usual round three bye, I started Sunday morning with 1.5/3 in the Eastern Washington Open. My round four opponent is returning to chess after fifty years away and is much stronger than his rating suggests. Even so, he missed a tactical finesse that gave me an opportunity.

Black to move

In round five, I had my third Black in four games. I spent some time with the tournament director looking at the pairings, the logic, and the alternate possibilities. Due to a large number of byes and several upsets by the oldest and youngest players in the event, someone had to forego the usual color equalization. My opponent should not have three Blacks in a row, so he had White.

While I played something resembling the Czech Benoni in round four, I opted for a more normal Modern Benoni in round five. When my opponent played the thematic e4-e5 push, I spent nine minutes working out the best response. Prior to that I had averaged one minute per move.

Black to move

Would you play these two positions the way I did?

I finished the event with 3.5/5 and tied with a bunch of players in third place, sharing the A Class prize with two others. The only Expert went 5-0. All of the A Class players suffered a loss, some more than one. One of my students took out two A Class players on Saturday. The young woman who beat me on Saturday beat another A Class player in round five.

27 September 2015

A Nice Win

Simple Chess

I have been playing correspondence chess on ChessWorld.net for eleven years, longer than any other site where I play at present. It was the third website that I joined for this sort of chess. First was Net-Chess.com in early 2003. Then GameKnot. Ironically, someone in the forums at GameKnot alerted me to the existence of ChessWorld.net. Someone alleged that ChessWorld.net was created by a disaffected former GameKnot member and that CW was inferior to GK. I decided to take a look for myself.

ChessWorld.net is vastly superior to GameKnot in my opinion. The site design is more robust and users have far more options for tweaking the interface. A nice feature of CW that I have not found on other sites is pie charts showing a player's performance.

My Performance
Although I have an overall positive record, my score is 50% in my usual rating group (2000-2200). I have recently risen above 2200, and had done so in the past as well. Staying there may prove difficult. My peak rating on the site is 2262 (280 above my peak USCF). Against opponents above 2280, I have only seven wins in 56 games. Four of these have been on time. Three times I have outplayed my opponent in the top several rating groups.

Pie charts for various rating groups shows how I have performed against those rated higher than me.

Performance Against 1800+

My third earned victory over a player above 2280 ended last night. The game began at the end of July 2014. My opponent played the Budapest Gambit, an opening that has given me trouble over the years.

I only checked two positions in my annotations with Stockfish.

Stripes,J (2202) -- Internet Opponent (2355) [A51]
www.ChessWorld.net, 31.07.2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ne4 

3...Ng4 has given me trouble in a few games.

4.Nf3 d6 5.Nbd2 Bf5 6.Nxe4 Bxe4

White to move


7.Ng5 has been played in a couple of games, and is the engine's choice. I had the notion to play this move next. 7...Bg6 8.e6 fxe6 9.Nxe6 Qd7 10.Nf4 led to a win by White in 42 moves in Veingold,A (2465) -- Carpintero,J (2265), Linares 1994.

7...Bxf3 8.exf3

8.Qxf3 Nc6 9.exd6 Bxd6 struck me as offering Black good compensation for the pawn. Instead, I wanted to get my pieces into play. I was spending a lot of time on Paul Morphy's games during this phase of the game. That probably influenced my decision.

8...b6 9.exd6 Bxd6 10.Be2 0–0 11.0–0 Re8 12.Be3 c5 13.Rad1 Qc7 14.g3 Nc6 15.Rd5 Rad8 16.Rfd1

Both players have completed their development, as the classicists say.

Black to move

16...Ne7 17.R5d2 Nf5 18.Bf1

Removing the bishop as a potential target so my rooks would be free to roam on the d-file.

18.f4 was an alternative.

18...Nxe3 19.fxe3 Be7 20.Rd5 Bf6 21.Kg2 Qe7 22.Qd3

Black to move 

Offering the b-pawn. I was willing to trade rooks if I also could swap queens and keep an extra pawn.


22...Bxb2?? 23.Rxd8 Qxe3 (23...Rxd8 24.Qxd8+ Qxd8 25.Rxd8#) 24.Qxe3+-.


I like having a passed pawn backed by heavy pieces.


I am not certain that this move was Black's most significant error, but my road to victory seemed relatively uncomplicated afterwards. I had to attend to simple tactics and a lot of queen maneuvers.

23...Rd8 24.d6 Qe6 25.b3 Be5 26.d7 and White's advantage seems less significant.

24.d6 Qd7

24...Qf6 25.d7 Rd8 26.Qe4 Kf8 27.Bb5 Qe7 28.Qxh7 g6 29.Qh6+ Bg7 30.Qf4±.


Black to move

A fork of piece and square.


25...Bf6 26.Bb5+-.

26.Qxb2+- Rxd6 27.Rxd6 Qxd6

I would like to trade queens, but my opponent understands this goal and refuses to cooperate. As long as his queen remains, he has the chance, however remote, to force a draw by repetition or even to sneak in a checkmate.

28.Qc2 Qe7 29.Qd2 g6 30.Kf2 Kg7 31.e4 h5 32.h4 Qe6 33.Qd5 Qe7 34.f4 f6 35.Bc4 Qe8 36.Ke3 a6

White to move


Another fork. This move eliminates Black's chances for counterplay with his queenside pawns.

37...Kh6 38.Qxb6 f5

Decision time.

White to move


I was willing to suffer some checks, secure in the knowledge that my queen and bishop were well positioned to weave a mating net once Black had driven my king to h3. Of course, I had to verify that my opponent would not have a free move to play Qh1#!

39...Qxe4+ 40.Kf2 Qc2+ 41.Kg1 Qc1+

I expected 41...Qb1+ 42.Kh2 Qb2+ 43.Kh3 Qb8.

42.Kg2 Qc2+

Still expecting 42...Qb2+ 43.Kh3 Qb8.

43.Kh3 Qc3

43...Qe4 44.Qf8+ Kh7 45.Bg8+ Kh8 46.Bf7+ Kh7 47.Qg8+ Kh6 48.Qh8#.


Black to move


44...Qg7 45.Qxg7+ Kxg7 46.Bxa6+-.

45.Bg8+ Black resigned 1–0

I had played relatively slowly through the first 25-30 moves and had lost the other game with this opponent on time because I failed to log in one weekend. The game was seven days per move. My opponent had slowed down and played each move this summer when he was under twenty hours remaining.

After playing 45.Bg8+, I left him a note with the moves to checkmate. With one day remaining on the clock, he resigned.

26 September 2015

Bad Day

My first day's performance in the Eastern Washington Open was sub-par. In the first round, I missed a key defensive resource and found myself on the Black side of this position.

White to move

Fortunately, my opponent missed the key move here and I was able to defend. We swapped off pieces and I anticipated an ending with a bishop and four pawns against seven pawns. Instead, my opponent dropped a rook in an even position and then resigned.

In the second round, I had White against a young woman who I had briefly coached a few years ago when she was preparing for the Idaho Girl's Championship.

White to move

I made the wrong move here and quickly lost.

How would you play these two positions?