22 October 2010

Simple Opposition

White to move

Skilled players need no more thought to play this position correctly than to speak the basic phonemes in their native language. That's the contention of Rashid Ziyatdinov, whose book I discussed last February in "GM-RAM: Essential Knowledge."

The position arose in Malakhov-Najer, Moscow 2007 and came to my attention via the CD Chess Informant 5-99 Endings Section. Endgames have been part of every issue of Chess Informant since issue 5 in the late 1960s. Most problems are more difficult than this one.

11 October 2010

A Blow to the Back of the Head

In this weekend's Eastern Washington Open, I started well. I won two hard-fought games on Saturday, then took my traditional third round bye. Sunday morning I was paired against the top A Class player on board two. I labored to get an advantage, thought that I had achieved one, but overlooked the power of a check. As things started to turn my opponent's way, I offered a draw. He refused, but did not capture the free pawn, opting to first resolve a back-rank vulnerability. We played a lot of moves in a position that I thought was a dead draw before he returned the offer.

In the final round, I was part of a pack battling for second place and was paired against an ambitious young player with a provisional B Class rating. I chose the Devil's Opening:

Joshi,K (1648) - Stripes,J (1843) [B19]
Eastern Washington Open, Spokane 2010

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bd2 Ngf6 12.0–0–0

We have reached a fairly typical Caro-Kann position in under one minute of play. I took a walk while my clock ticked to decide whether I had the fighting spirit for something novel, or should hunker down and make my upstart opponent prove that White can secure an advantage.


Either 12...Qc7 or 12...Be7 is fine.

13.Bf4 Nd5 14.Bd2 Rc8 15.Rhe1 c4!?

Again either 15...Qc7 or 15...Be7 is quite reasonable.

Now Kairav went into a long think. There are only two moves worth looking at, I thought, both bad. The queen must move to e4 or e2.


The blow to the back of the head, which I thought was a desperate gamble. He is lost, so he plays for some cheap checks. I was wrong.

16... fxe6??+-

16...Be7 is the only move 17.Rxe7+ ( 17.Qf5 c3) 17...Nxe7 and White has an advantage.

17.Qg6+ Ke7 18.Nf5+ (I thought this move was impossible) exf5 19.Re1+

I resigned in view of 19... Ne3 20.Rxe3+ Ne5 21.Rxe5+ Kd7 22.Rd5+ Kc7 23.Rxd8 Rxd8+-


Kairav Joshi will be over 1800 soon. He's also a terrific chess organizer in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

11 August 2010

Blindness and Insight

Chess Training Pocket Book II by Lev Alburt and Al Lawrence arrived in the mail yesterday. I've been going through the problems in the first edition off and on for close to ten years and wanted to see how the new edition changed. The second edition is easier to recommend to mothers of the children that I coach because the cover art is not skanky as the first: what does a woman wearing a short dress and standing over a chess master twice her age as he studies an endgame position say to potential readers? Chess skill will get you amorous opportunities!

Just before sleep I started through the problems in the book. The first two were easy for me. The third was familiar because IM John Donaldson has shown it as part of one of his lectures the evening prior to the annual Dave Collyer Memorial Chess Tournament a few years ago.

White to move

My familiarity connected it to this classic by Reti:

White to move

White draws by simultaneously chasing the pawn and threatening to assist his own. Either both pawns come off the board or both queen and the game is theoretically drawn. Donaldson presented these two together and talked about a book that he was then reading (I bought it a month later): Andy Soltis, Rethinking the Chess Pieces.

Despite knowing the idea and immediately recognizing the pitfalls, I went to sleep without solving my battle against White's bishop and pawn.

I tried again this morning. After ten minutes, I thought I had figured out the maneuver. I set up the position in my trusty engine and played it out. I failed. I tried again. After the third failure, I cheated and looked at the solution on the facing page.

19 May 2010


While doing some work on Adolf Anderssen, I came across this statement by Howard Staunton from his tournament book for the London 1851 international chess tournament.
Chess is certainly the most widely spread scientific amusement even known among civilized nations. The Chess-amateur must travel far indeed in these days to find himself debarred from the indulgence of that pleasant recreation, the knowledge of which will often prove to be a surer passport in foreign lands than all the mysterious symbolism of Freemasonry. Among the most remote regions of the golden East, or the fabled West, in the torrid South, or on the frozen shores of the North, amongst the great military nations and amidst men devoted to commercial enterprise, the Chess-player, who is essentially a cosmopolite, will speedily find a circle of friends through the more than Masonic influence of this ancient and absorbing game.
Howard Staunton, The Chess Tournament (1873)
He then explains problems stemming from variations in the rules from country to country. The London tournament was, among other things, a substantially successful step towards unifying the rules by which we now play.

13 May 2010

Sofia Rule

In the recently finished World Chess Championship, the challenger adhered to the so-called Sofia Rule even though it was not among the rules for the match.

12 May 2010

Sour Grapes

A group of chess fans from Bulgaria took issue with ChessBase's one-sided coverage of the World Championship in which Viswanathan Anand dispatched challenger Veselin Topalov. It was a great match; both players can be proud of their performance and the quality of games. Of course, errors were made, and Topalov's final error was fatal.

It does seem that the world was rooting for Anand. This impression does not stem solely from the coverage by ChessBase, but from a potpourri of websites and chess discussion forums. Even so, Topalov has his admirers, including many in his own country. It's too bad that some of them are so partisan that they offer this nonsense:
Kramnik has not played even one nice game in his whole life and does not deserve anything except to be pitied.
Chess Fans from Bulgaria, Darmstadt, Germany
Kramnik has played many fine games.

27 April 2010

Seeking Failure

For deliberate practice to work, the demands have to be serious and sustained. Simply playing lots of chess or soccer or golf isn't enough. Simply taking lessons from a wonderful teacher is not enough. Simply wanting it badly enough is not enough. Deliberate practice requires a mind-set of never, ever, being satisfied with your current ability. It requires constant self-critique, a pathological restlessness, a passion to aim consistently just beyond one's capability so that daily disappointment and failure is actually desired, and a never-ending resolve to dust oneself off and try again and again.
David Shenk, The Genius in All of Us, 55
David Shenk is known to chessplayers as author of The Immortal Game: A History of Chess (2006). The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ is Wrong (2010) is his new book. It develops further some of the themes in The Immortal Game.

14 April 2010

Karpov for President

The more I learn about Anatoly Karpov, the more I like him. Hence, I am passing on his campaign statement from the ChessBase News site.


*A new direction requires new leadership
International chess needs a new direction and this can only happen under new leadership. Mr Karpov wants to lead a program of unity and positive change. His great experience as a chess champion and UNICEF Ambassador make him the ideal leader to return the sport to prominence on the global stage.

*International support at every level
Mr Karpov’s status and dedication will allow him to be an agent for unity in the chess world. He has already attracted support worldwide as well as a leadership team and advisory panel of unmatched experience and international character.

*Ending the crisis with a return to FIDE’s roots
Chess is in crisis today because FIDE has become disconnected from its foundations: the federations and the players. Mr Karpov believes that support for our new direction must come from below, to benefit the many, not from above to benefit the few.

*Turn chess into a modern, professional sport
Chess has great potential as a commercially viable sport. It has lagged in this development because the current FIDE administration has harmed the reputation of the sport and shown no interest or aptitude for modernization and professionalization. Mr Karpov believes chess requires leadership that understands why professionalization is essential and how to build a team to achieve it.

*The ability to unite and mobilize the community
Chess has limitless potential and great resources among its millions of supporters and players around the world. Mr Karpov has the unique capacity to attract and lead these human resources for the benefit of chess federations and players throughout the world.


*UNITY. The FIDE motto Gens Una Sumus, “We are one family” must be taken seriously. This can be done by providing channels of communication and community among federations and players using modern technology and by keeping the FIDE leadership’s doors wide open to feedback and new ideas. FIDE cannot afford to once again ignore the needs of its members the day after the election.

*TRANSPARENCY AND INTEGRITY. Without these elements there is no trust from potential business partners or from member federations and players. These crucial relationships cannot be built without new leadership at the top in FIDE.

*RESPONSIVENESS. This campaign and Mr Karpov’s administration will emphasize communication and responsiveness with the global chess community we serve. We want to know what the federations and their members want and need from FIDE and to create a continuous and open dialogue.

*COMMERCIALIZATION AND SPONSORSHIP. Art, science, and sport, chess is also a hugely marketable commodity. FIDE’s current administration has failed to exploit this to the benefit of member federations and players. No one knows better than Mr Karpov the great potential for chess as a professional sport. For nearly three decades he battled for the world championship in many of the world’s great capitals. FIDE must professionalize its operations in order to develop mutually beneficial ties with commercial sponsors around the world.

*GRASSROOTS GROWTH AND CONNECTIVITY. The elite events we all enjoy cannot be sustained without growth and support from the grassroots in every corner of the globe. That worldwide involvement is our most precious resource and it has been squandered for too long by FIDE’s administration. The international federation’s resources should be put to work bringing member organizations and members together to better promote the game.

12 April 2010

Understanding Mayet's Thinking

One of several games between Adolph Anderssen, probably the best player after Morphy quit, and Carl Mayet provides the first middlegame position in Rashid Ziyatdinov's GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000). This position is not that one, but stems from earlier in the game. This position precedes the critical point when Anderssen launched his mating combination.

White to move

Mayet played 5.Bxc6. His move has not become common. Indeed, in the eight other instances I found, five are from youth events. I believe Mayet's move is a positional error. Perhaps he thought removing the knight prepared 6.d4, but the immediate 5.d4 is possible with the idea of meeting 5...exd4 with 6.e5!

What principles explain the assessment that 5.Bxc6 is a positional error? I'm tempted to claim that bishops are superior to knights, but it is too early in the opening to rest on this principle, which becomes dogma in such assertions. In the Spanish Opening, White's light-squared bishop often becomes a critical attacking piece. Even so, White gives it up in the exchange variation, but c2-c3, which Mayet played the previous move, makes less sense in such lines.

I think the move is an error, but I'm not confident in my explanation why.

01 April 2010


I collect diagrams of chess positions. Once collected, I print these diagrams on cards for review. My cards of pawn endgame positions from Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual (2003) has been aiding my review of the instruction in that text, and has proven popular with some of my pupils. Sometimes in a chess lesson, I pull out the cards and fan them across the chessboard upside down. The student picks one, we set it up on the board, then he or she solves it. There are a few in that set that I do not yet play with full confidence. When I have mastered those, it will be time to create another set from Dvoretsky's book.

Meanwhile, I'm collecting middlegame positions. I have several sets of cards that I created years ago. The oldest are index cards upon which I stamped diagrams, and laboriously stamped each piece with red or blue ink on the appropriate square. When I look at these old cards, I am reminded of time I spent reviewing them between rounds at the Dave Collyer Memorial tournament the last time Gary Younker ran it. Gary died in 2001, and shortly after his death we created a foundation to honor his memory and continue his work. The 2001 Collyer was a good event for me. I started the event rated 1400 and had an even score against three B Class opponents. My run of success started late Saturday night when I discovered a practical chance in this hopeless position.

White to move

I'm down two pawns, and there's no stopping my opponent's d-pawn. In a final desperate ploy, I played 31.Rf1! Keith Brownlee had several ways to counter my threat, but instead played 31...d3?? I sacked a rook to force a draw by repetition. After the game, my opponent told me that he only examined my checkmate threats, of which there were none, but not my drawing combination. He also stated that this game was the first time he failed to win against the King's Gambit.

On Sunday morning I beat a B Class player in a game that summoned more tactical courage from me than was my custom. Flash cards contributed to my confidence. Within the next year, I bought some software that facilitated creating professional looking printable diagrams, and my index card collection went into storage. I collected dozens of positions from Lazlo Polgar's Chess in 5334 Positions (1994) and several databases. I printed these positions on cards with a diagram on one side and the best moves on the other.

My initial non-provisional USCF rating was in the low 1400s, but before it was published I played in an event that pushed it up to 1495. That was in 1996, but in 2000 I was back down to 1400. My success in the 2001 Collyer rocketed me up to 1450, and in 2002 I climbed over 1500. I faltered briefly in 2004, dropping to 1487 before rising to 1600 in 2005. I made it over 1700 for the second time in 2008, and kept climbing over 1800 in 2009. If I am to cross over 1900 in 2010, my training must step up a notch.

Ziyatdinov's Method

Rashid Ziyatdinov advocates learning entire games thoroughly. In GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000), he lays out a plan for improvement based on 300 key positions. Half of these are endgame positions--most are pawn endgames and rook endgames--and the others stem from classic games. His fifty-nine games from which the middlegame positions arise span less than a century from a few 1851 victories of Adolph Anderssen to Mikhail Botvinnik's 1936 defeat of Saviely Tartakower.

I find myself drawn to certain aspects of Ziyatdinov's method. My cards from Dvoretsky's text lack the answers on the back, for example. I'm also working on memorizing games, including those in Ziyatdinov's fifty-nine. His most compelling idea is the notion that key diagrams function as fingerprints of whole games. Most collections of diagrams highlight tactical motifs. There are certainly quite a few tactical shots in Ziyatdinov's collection. But memorizing, studying, and knowing thoroughly a limited set of games--the plans that led to what happened over the board, and what might have happened--goes beyond tactical patterns. The 120 middlegame positions in GM-RAM "are like the fingerprint of the games--from this fingerprint, the associated game can be identified" (77).

Karpov's Best Games

Although I share with Ziyatdinov the conviction that nineteenth and early twentieth century games merit our attention, I am unwilling to limit my study to these old games. I may end up with more than the legendary 300 positions as I pursue Ziyatdinov's regimen (he expects the reader to supply nearly four dozen of the 300). As I am going through the best one hundred games of Anatoly Karpov that were published in Chess Informant (see "Coincidence?"), I am collecting diagrams. These diagrams are fingerprints for games worth knowing as thoroughly as Anderssen's "Evergreen Game".

Some of the positions from Karpov's games feature tactical shots. In this position from 1973, Karpov's tactical shot provoked Spassky's resignation.

White to move

The following year, in the ninth game of the World Championship Candidate's Match, another tactical shot by Karpov provoked another resignation by Spassky.

White to move

Then, in 1977 at Las Palmas, A. Martin Gonzalez perceived the futility of further resistance when Karpov's move threatened a clever mating net.

White to move

Such tactical shots are the bread and butter of chess training. But, it seems to me that if I can comprehend the thought processes that went into finding the move that Karpov played against Vlastimil Hort from this position in 1971, it might become part of the knowledge that can elevate me to expert class.

White to move

Hort played on for another eleven moves as Karpov increased the pressure. This diagram is the fingerprint of the earliest of Chess Informant's list of Karpov's 100 best. It is a positional masterpiece, Karpov's signature. As I collect these diagrams, I aim to learn the games from which they stem.

28 March 2010

Vasily Vasilievich Smyslov, 1921-2010

In the art of chess there are no unalterable laws governing the struggle, which are appropriate to every position, otherwise chess would lose its attractiveness and eternal character.
Vasily Smyslov
Grandmaster Vasily Vasilievich Smyslov died Saturday. He was World Chess Champion 1957-1958. For several years after the end of World War II he was considered the second strongest player in the world behind Mikhail Botvinnik. Garry Kasparov states, he "was the strongest player in the world in the mid-1950s" (Kasparov, My Great Predecessors, vol. II, 263); in his three championship matches against Botvinnik, he scored +1. He placed second behind Botvinnik in the 1948 World Chess Championship tournament to choose a successor to Alexander Alekhine.

Smyslov was among the first group of players awarded the Grandmaster title by FIDE in 1950. He won the 1953 Candidates Tournament in Zurich, two points ahead of David Bronstein, Paul Keres, and Sammy Reshevsky. The next year he scored 12-12 (7 wins each) against Botvinnik in the World Championship match, so Botvinnik retained the title. In 1957 he defeated Botvinnik 12.5-9.5 (Smyslov won 6, lost 3) becoming World Champion. Botvinnik regained the title the following year with a score of 12.5-10.5 (Botvinnik won 7, lost 5).

Although his reign as world champion was brief, he continued to qualify for the Candidates' matches into his sixth decade. In 1983 at the age of 62 he lost the Candidates Final to Garry Kasparov, who went on to wrest the World Championship from Anatoly Karpov through two epic matches.

Smyslov became a professional chess player after he failed in his audition as an opera singer at the renowned Bolschoi Theatre. He often sang at international chess tournaments, accompanied by Mark Taimanov on piano, earning accolades for his voice from his fellow competitors. Fifty years after his audition at the Bolschoi Theatre, he performed there in celebration of Anatoly Karpov's birthday.

Search for Truth

Smyslov's chess style was worthy of emulation. Kasparov quotes Smyslov's own expression of his philosophy:
I am a staunch supporter of classical clarity of thought. The content of a game should be a search for truth, and victory a demonstration of its rightness. No imagination, however rich, no technique, however masterly, no penetration into the psychology of the opponent, however deep, can make a chess game a work of art, if these qualities do not lead to the main goal -- the search for truth.
Smyslov, as quoted in My Great Predecessors, 283
In the introduction to the English edition of Smyslov, My Best Games of Chess, 1935-1957, Peter Romanovsky emphasizes his skepticism towards dogma. Romanovsky draws attention to Smyslov's comments on the power of the bishop pair. The following position was reached in the game Euwe-Smyslov from the World Championship tournament.

Black to move

Smyslov played 19...Bxb2. He wrote in My Best Games of Chess (1958):
Outwardly simple, but in actual fact a major decision. Euwe undoubtedly considered this reply, but hoped with the help of his two Bishops to win back the pawn on b3 and obtain the better ending. So great is the conviction nowadays in the advantage of the two Bishops! Here it is interesting to recall that M.I. Tchigorin readily carried on the struggle with two Knights and obtained repeated successes. In the art of chess there are no unalterable laws governing the struggle, which are appropriate to every position, otherwise chess would lose its attractiveness and eternal character.
Smyslov, My Best Games of Chess, 78
Romanovsky observes Smyslov's penchant for unusual moves, but notes:
In the course of his daring denial of the routine and commonplace Smyslov does not in the least depart from classical principles and testaments; quite the reverse, he creates a deepening understanding of these principles, widens their effect and opens new avenues for their development.
Romanovsky, "Vassily Vassilievitch Smyslov," Introduction to My Best Games of Chess, xviii
In his fidelity to classical principles combined with resistance to dogma, Smyslov conscientiously followed the ideas of Tchigorin under whom his father, Vassily Osipovitch Smyslov, had studied. The Russian Chess School of Tchigorin trained the first Soviet masters, and they produced the innovations in training and theory that would dominate chess in the latter half of the twentieth century. Indeed, the upcoming World Championship Match between the challenger Veselin Topalov and the current champion Viswanathan Anand is the first WCC match since World War II that does not feature at least one protagonist that gained his early training in the Soviet School. As the Soviet School was gaining dominance, Smyslov was one of its leading proponents.

27 March 2010

Viswanathan Anand

Inasmuch as World Champion Viswanathan Anand defends his title in one month, it behooved me to install and begin examining the contents of a CD that has been on my shelf for the past few months: "The Best of Chess Informant, Viswanathan Anand." Anand's first annotations in Chess Informant appeared in 38/202. His win with White against Deen Hergott was played in the 1984 Olympiad in Thessaloniki. In the forward to the CD, Anand describes the circumstances of this early publication.
My mother travelled in [sic] me to Thessaloniki in 1984. This was the first time I was to play in the Indian team. When we saw that I would share the hall with other great legends, my mother was extremely proud that I was to play there. I casually mentioned to her that I would never even dream that my games could be published in the Informant. She chased Milutin and persevered until he agreed to have a game of that Indian boy who played fast. If I am not mistaken they carried a game of mine from Thessaloniki. The first game I did for them was with Deen Hergott.
Starting through this game immediately reminded me of a short draw I played on the Internet Chess Club in 1999. The opening moves:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 (the Kalashnikov, which I played with some frequency in the late 1990s) 5.Nb5 d6 6.N1c3 a6 7.Na3 b5 8.Nd5 Nf6 9.Bg5 Qa5+ 10.Bd2 Qd8

My online opponent opted to repeat the position with 11.Bg5, and we drew after my move 13. Anand was less accommodating towards Hergott.

11.Nxf6 Qxf6 12.c4 Qg6 13.f3 Be7

14.cxb5 Nd4 the novelty. 14...Bh4+ appears in Chess Informant 22/408

15.Be3 O-O 16.Bxd4 exd4 17.Qd2 d5 18.Bd3 Bg5

Anand's annotations note the importance of playing 17...d5 before this move. 17...Bg5 leads to 18.Qxd4 with a strong advantage for White.

19.Qe2 dxe4

Anand's annotations reveal enthusiasm for Chess Informant's system of symbols. If 20.Qxe4 Qxe4 21.Bxe4 Rb8 and Black has compensation for the pawn due to the bishop pair.

20.Bxe4 Bf5 21.O-O

Anand gives explanation marks to Black's move and his own here. On the other hand, the variation beginning with 21.Bxa8 leads to a decisive advantage for Black as his bishops control msot of White's first rank from e3 and d3.

21...Be3+ 22.Kh1 Bxe4 23.fxe4 Qxe4 24.Rad1 axb5 25.Nxb5 Rxa2 26.Nxd4

The critical position. Here, according to Anand, 26...Ra4 leads to equality, but the move played is an error.

26...Qe5? 27.Nf5 Bf4 28.Qg4 g5 (box) 29.Rde1 h5 30.Nh6+ Kg7 31.Qxh5


The final error. 31...Qf6 offers more stubborn defense.

32.Nf5+ Kg8 33.Qg4 Qd2 34.Rd1 Qb4 35.Rd4 Qb8 36.h3 Kh7 37.Rdxf4 gxf4 38.Qg7#

19 March 2010


Readers of "Blitz Luck" had no difficulty solving the problem that I posted there. Consequently, they should find Karpov's move in this position from his game against Spassky in the 1975 Soviet Team Championship.

White to move

It was a happy coincidence that I examined this game briefly last weekend, then on Wednesday found myself in the blitz position posted that evening. The game appears in the list of Karpov's one hundred best games. I am going through them via the software The Best of Chess Informant: Anatoly Karpov.

17 March 2010

Blitz Luck

Lunch in a cafe with an internet connection and I played a handful of three minute games with a chap from the Netherlands. The last one evened the score after a couple of blitz errors near the finish. He outplayed me through the middlegame and earned a two to one pawn majority on the queenside. This majority became a dangerous passed pawn that I struggled to stop.

Black to move

I played 25...Qb3?? (25...Rb5 would hold).

My opponent replied with 26.Rb1?? when 26.Re1 wins easily.

I found the winning move, the only move that does not lose.

Black to move

13 March 2010


I've heard far too often the statement that the knight differs from other pieces because it can fork, when in truth every piece can fork. An example of a king fork appears in the correct line of play from this position from the endings section of Chess Informant 23.

Black to move

Black played 1...Ke6, and the game continued 2.Kb5 Kd5 3.Kb6 Nb8 4.Nf6 Kd6 5.c7 1-0.

Black missed an easy draw.

10 March 2010


Looking through some games because I'm playing a French Defense thematic tournament on Chess.com, I came across an instructive example of simplifying into an elementary endgame. This game was played in the United States Championship in 2007 and appeared in Chess Informant 101.

White to move

The players were Julio Becerra and Varuzhan Akobian. According to my database, this game was the third French Defense played by Akobian against Becerra. Becerra won the first game and this one, while the intervening game was drawn. Seven months later, Akobian won with Black and the French (a game I tried to follow in my game against Becerra on Chess.com--I lost). In their next two meetings, Akobian had White, scoring a win and draw to even the score over their six encounters.

From the diagram, the game concluded:

43. e8Q Bxe8 44.Rxe8 Kg6 45.Rc8 Kf5 46.Rxc4 dxc4 47.c3 Kf4 48.Ka3 1-0

Now what is left is a simple king and pawn endgame that an amateur should be able to win against either of these grandmasters.

05 March 2010

Evergreen Game: Critical Position

This diagram is #146 in GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge. The book neither states the player to move, nor presents any analysis.

Anyone familiar with the Evergreen Game: Anderssen-Dufresne, Berlin 1852 instantly recognizes it as the position just before 19.Rad1. Was Anderssen's move the best in the position?

Dufresne responded with 19...Qxf3, threatening checkmate in one, but it is a losing move. Anderssen's stunning sacrifice first of the exchange, then of his queen earned the game's nickname. But, Dufresne had other, better moves.

19...Qh3 is hard to find, but forces 20.Bf1.
19...Bd4 offers a bishop to create interference in White's plans.

Addendum: 8 March 2010

Saturday morning, during check-in for a scholastic tournament I ran, I wrote down this game from memory up to the position after 19.Rad1. I had two purposes: check my memory (I made one error), and present a problem to a sixth grader to mull over after she finished her warm-up game with her father. With the help of a seventh grader, she analyzed the game and found an answer to my question: How can Black's play improve over the 19...Qxf3 played by Dufresne?

The two girls offered 19...Ne5.

Another coach and I spent a few minutes at the start of round three looking at their idea. We failed to find the refutation, which consists of three consecutive only moves by White. I found the first move, but not the second, and thus rejected the first in favor of 20.Be4, which fails to three separate alternatives for Black.

The Evergreen Game is well named not only for the stunning finish, but for the complexity of unplayed variations. Black's position has an abundance of resources. If not for the single game losing error on move 19, the result might have been quite different.

03 March 2010

Chessmaster versus Fritz: Footnote

From Ubisoft's forums for Chessmaster


Q: Is it possible to play online with people who have other versions of Chessmaster?
A: No. Due to the use of different protocols, you can only play against others who are using Chessmaster Grandmaster Edition.

The Playchess server, on the other hand, permits players with any version of Fritz or associated software to play in the same environment. Chessmaster's online play is not worth talking about. As a practical matter for the serious player, it does not exist.

Also see my "Chessmaster vs. Fritz: Analysis".

13 February 2010

GM-RAM: Essential Knowledge

Essential Knowledge

The catalog description of GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Chess Knowledge (2000) by Rashid Ziyatdinov with Peter Dyson intrigued me and I decided to order it as part of an array of chess books and equipment. When I received the order a few weeks later, GM-RAM was not in the shipment. It was out of stock. Ten years later, I searched online through the collections of several used books stores and bought a copy still in pristine condition. The used price was a few dollars more than it had cost new, but the bookstore shipped it the first business day after my order. It arrived in the mail last Wednesday.

Although I found the catalog description appealing, others failed to read it, ordered the book, and then disliked what they received.
Contains positions only, no analysis.
USCF Catalog, c. 2000
The publisher, the author, and some reviewers— positive and negative, describe this distinctive feature of this book: it contains diagrams without analysis. The author does not indicate the player on move. For some positions, one diagram thus becomes two elementary positions.

White wins.

Black to move draws; White to move wins.

In the middlegame positions, the rationale for excluding the knowledge of who is on move differs. The authors offer a useful explanation at the head of a chapter containing 120 positions and fifty-nine game scores.
The first part of the chapter gives the positions. Certain of the games have more than one position included. These positions are like the fingerprint of the games—from this fingerprint, the associated game can be identified. Following the positions, the full game scores are given.
GM-RAM, 77
If I study the games, if I make the effort to memorize them, then I know when I see the position whether Black or White is on move. Moreover, in some positions there might be some useful insights gained from an extra tempo. If the position derives from a game where White was on move, but we look at the diagram as if it is Black to move, the result might differ. Such a thought experiment could reinforce the need for vigorous play, for the element of time in chess strategy.

The Legendary 300

On the back cover of the book, the publisher offers an extract from the introduction.
In Russian folklore it is said that there are 300 positions which comprise the most important knowledge an aspiring player must acquire. About two-thirds of them are from the endgame and the remaining third are from the middlegame.
GM-RAM, 12
In the introduction, Ziyatdinov explains that opinions differ as to the precise identity of these 300. He mentions Lev Alburt’s Chess Training Pocket Book: 300 Most Important Positions & Ideas (1997) which contains a substantially different collection than the 253 in GM-RAM (forty-seven are left to the reader). Ziyatdinov’s selection favors endgames and middlegame positions from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Botvinnik-Tartakower, Nottingham 1936 is the most recent game in the fifty-nine. Alburt’s collection favors more recent grandmaster practice.

Ziyatdinov also offers a more ambitious assessment of the value of complete games from the nineteenth century.
If you know just one of the important classical games, you will be able to become a 1400 level player, know 10 games and you will be 2200 level, know 100 and you will be 2500.
GM-RAM, 77
That’s it: my road to expert is much shorter than I thought. If I know ten nineteenth century games, I’ll blast right through expert and make master. But, wait, I’ve known more than ten of these games for years, and I only recently broke into class A. What holds me back from realizing Ziyatdinov’s promise?

My knowledge of such games as Anderssen’s “Evergreen Game” must lack depth. Ziyatdinov explains how infants acquire language, “when we start to speak, we repeat many times the words we are hearing from other people” (7). When he speaks of knowing a game, he does not mean the way I have memorized a handful of poems, or part of Ahab’s soliloquy in Moby-Dick (1851). Rather, he means learning those games the way we learn the alphabet, and the combinations of sounds that make up the words we use every day without needing to think about them. He likens this “tacit knowledge” to the information stored in a computer’s RAM. Possession of this knowledge renders playing second nature.

Alburt’s promise is more modest. His 300 includes twelve key king and pawn endgame positions, and claims these are all that are needed to become a strong player. On the other hand, a master must know fifty positions.
Here’s a promise: To be a strong player, you do not need to know hundreds of King and Pawn endgame positions—but only 12 key positions. Of course they have to be the right positions—and they’re in this book! To be a master you do not need to know thousands of King and Pawn endings. You need to know 50 key positions.
Alburt, 9
While I was waiting for GM-RAM to arrive last week, I created forty-eight flash cards of pawn endings. These forty-eight are all of the blue diagrams in the first chapter of Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual (2003). The two dozen pawn endgames in GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge include a few that are not among these forty-eight, but perhaps all the essential ideas are in both sets. Knowing Ziyatdinov’s two dozen, and Dvoretsky’s four increases my number to about sixty pawn endgames. That’s not too intimidating.

12 February 2010

Missing Things

I earned a draw against an expert this morning in the Spokane Chess Club's Winter Championship. With two wins and two draws after four rounds, I am in a four-way tie for second going into the final round. I'm assured of not losing two games in the event, as I have in each of the past two club championships.

The draw is nice, but I had an opportunity for more.

Black to move

I played 42...Kf8 and we agreed to a draw at move 56.

10 February 2010

Corus Tactics

The 2010 Corus tournament at Wijk aan Zee has been over more than a week. Many of the games featured the sort of tactical shots that could be part of the training of any and all improving players.

Here's a start:

White to move

Van Wely - Short, GM A, round 1

White to move

Robson- Swaminathan, GM C, round 1

White to move

Vocaturo - Plukkel, GM C, round 1

White to move

Ni-Sutovsky, GM B, round 2

Black to move

Nisipeanu-Giri, GM B, round 2

Black to move

Reinderman-Nyback, GM B, round 2

01 February 2010

Grandmaster Missed Mate

Daniel Stellwagen prepared a nice novelty and won the game, but he missed a checkmate much earlier. The game was a Bayonet Attack against the King's Indian Defense in a line that is a specialty of Loek van Wely.

See NH Chess on Blip.TV.

31 January 2010

Floating Square

According to Mark Dvoretsky, A. Studenecki suggested the floating-square rule in 1939.
If a square whose two corners are occupied by pawns (on the same rank) reaches the edge of the board, then one of those pawns must queen.
Mark Dvoretsky, Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual (2003)
Playing around with the diagrams given in Dvoretsky's text, I created this little problem.

White to move

If it is Black's move, the evaluation may differ.

28 January 2010

Partial Credit

I spent ten minutes looking at this position from Geller - Pribyl, Sochi 1984. It is problem 184 in Imagination in Chess (2004) by Paata Gaprindashvili. This book sometimes intimidates me because I rarely solve a problem with full success. Last Wednesday at lunch I looked at eight problems without setting them up on a chess board. I found the key move in two of the eight. Today, I set out to do better and brought a chess set into the cafe.

In seconds I realized that 1.Rd8 was the idea, but it took very little time to see Black's defense, 1...Kf8. As Gaprindashvili suggests, I found the idea, calculated, found a problem with the idea, then sought to correct the idea.

1.Be7 suggested itself. After several minutes of calculation, I decided I had the solution correct and checked the answer in the back.

I was wrong. In fact, I did not even look at the correct move, although its target was something I considered via another route. During the drive home, I began to comprehend the superiority of the correct move and became satisfied that the book's answer was correct. It is a far more direct route to the central objective preparing Rd8.

When I fed the position into Hiarcs 12, it liked my move for a few seconds. Then, my choice was its second choice for a bit longer. After several minutes of analysis, my choice dropped to third behind 1.Rd8 and the correct answer.

For finding the initial idea, finding the defense, and working to correct the idea with viable moves, it seems that I deserve partial credit.

17 January 2010

Database Use: Rules Confusion

In correspondence chess, players have always used study materials. Since the advent of computers, much has changed.

1. More people play turn-based chess than ever played traditional correspondence chess, and that includes growing percentages of players who play no other form of chess, often are beginners, and often have limited or no exposure to the traditions and culture of slow chess.

2. Engines are sometimes encouraged, sometimes banned, sometimes silently tolerated.

3. Databases are considered the equivalent of printed books, but not consistently.

01 January 2010

Giving It Away

I am playing a series of games against a Chessmaster personality that is programmed to blunder. In each game I get an advantage easily, but then I often blow the win through a monstrous error.

At least three moves keep the win in hand here.

White to move

I wrote the best move on my scoresheet, but played another.