31 May 2013

Training Log: May 2013

Improving Focus

An excess of online blitz continued to reveal weaknesses in my training focus in May, although discipline was evident for most of the month (see "Improving through Blitz"). A good portion of the last week of the month was devoted to reading and playing through every game and variation in a chess book, William Lewis, Gioachino Greco on the Game of Chess (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1819). I posted my training goals as New Year's Resolutions on the last day of 2012.

1. In 2013, I will solve correctly 300 tactics problems each month.

I met this goal, completing 349 problems in the month. In May, I spent some time with each of my principal resources, except Lev Alburt's Chess Training Pocket Book. This text was packed for a weekend trip to our cabin, but we cancelled the trip because the forecast called for cool temperatures and rain. An update to Tactic Trainer for iPad added statistics, making it easier to track my training with this tool.

My web-based training (Chess Tempo and Chess.com) remains light with two Chess.com sessions and a two short Chess Tempo sessions. Several long sessions with the Anthology of Chess Combinations took me through 75 problems. The level three Chess Quest problems are proving challenging. I am 75% through these, and also am making a dent in the level four problems.

2. In 2013, I will study whole games and whole books.

I have been working my way through Max Euwe, The Development of Chess Style (1968). Euwe asserts, "The development of a chess player runs parallel with that of chess itself; a study of the history of playing methods therefore has great practical value." This idea informs my plans for my youth chess camp in June, which will focus on lessons from players during the romantic era of chess. Consequently, I also am reading very old chess books. In the past week, I went trough all 168 variations of 47 games in William Lewis, Gioachino Greco on the Game of Chess. As I read through these games in an early version of English Descriptive Notation, I entered the moves in a database. The selection of Greco's games in the ChessBase Big database and their online version is woefully incomplete. Moreover, it contains several games attributed to Greco that should be attributed to Pedro Damiano, Ruy Lopez, or Alessandro Salvio. Some of these errors are present in Lewis as well.

The eighth game in Lewis (31-32), for instance, appears in J.H. Sarratt, The Works of Damiano, Ruy-Lopez, and Salvio on the Game of Chess (London: T. Boosey, 1813), as Damiano's first game (1-3).

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nxe4 4.Qe2 Qe7 5.Qxe4 d6 6.d4 f6 7.f4 Nd7 8.Nc3 dxe5 9.Nd5 Qd6 10.dxe5 fxe5 11.fxe5 Qc6 12.Bb5 Qc5 13.Be3 Qxb5 14.Nxc7+ Kd8 15.Nxb5 1–0

Reading through these old games in these old books meets the letter of my resolution. However, I could argue with myself that the intent is not so much to review elementary tactics for beginners, but to improve my positional understanding. I am not likely to find much opportunity to put to use lessons from the games of Damiano and Greco in my match with Nikolay Bulakh or Michael Cambareri this summer. Studying whole games by living grandmasters who employ the classical French will prepare me for Michael because our last few games have all begun 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.f4 a6. Against Nikolay, they begin 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5.

Despite beginning Logical Chess: Move by Move in December, I still have several games remaining to go through in this text. I did not look at it once in May, the first month of 2013 that was absent this text. I also have a couple of good books on the French Defense that I should be working through. One of them has had the virtue of sitting on the table beside my chair in the living room for most of May because I have dipped into it on a few occasions. In one of my current turn-based games, I am testing a new line against the Tarrasch Variation of the French that is recommended in that text. I have gone through several games in that variation.

3. In 2013, I will finish my Pawn Endgame Flash Card project.

I continued to use these flash cards in elementary classrooms while teaching beginners chess in May. Nonetheless, progress studying Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and mastering the blue diagram positions must be rated lackluster.

4. In 2013, I will lose fifteen pounds.

I remain at my winter weight due to inconsistent exercise and too many fast food meals. My arms are getting stronger from playing tug-of-war with my puppies who now weigh 69 and 55 pounds at nearly eleven months of age. This past month, Max and I began our endeavor to walk every mile of the Spokane River Centennial Trail. Our longest walk so far was just under six miles.

30 May 2013

Gioachino Greco on the Game of Chess

In 1819, William Lewis published an English translation of a French edition of the games of Gioachino Greco (c.1600-c.1634). William Lewis, Gioachino Greco on the Game of Chess (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1819) offers Greco's games and commentary from one of England's strongest players in the early nineteenth century. Lewis briefly operated the Maelzel's automaton, The Turk, during its London exhibitions. Lewis had been a chess pupil of Jacob Henry Sarratt, whose book The Works of Damiano, Ruy-Lopez, and Salvio on the Game of Chess (London 1813) remains useful today.

The first published edition of Le Jeu des Eschets dates to 1669, but Lewis may have worked from a more widely available version published later. Greco kept notebooks of games, as was the habit of chess players in his day, and made copies of portions of his notes for patrons. What we know of Greco's chess comes from these manuscripts and published compilations, such as Le Jeu des Eschets.

Lewis did not simply translate the French text. Rather, he rearranged the games by opening. Greco's games in Lewis amount to 168 variations of 47 games with 15 the maximum number of variations in a single game. His arrangement was modified by Angelo Lewis who wrote under the pen name of Professor Louis Hoffmann (The Games of Greco [London: George Routledge & Sons, 1900]), which is likely the source for a frequent claim (found in Wikipedia, for instance) that Greco's collection consists of 77 games. Lewis's first game appears as games I and II in Hoffmann.

In Lewis's and Hoffmann's books are games credited to Gioachino Greco that are not accessible through today's modern databases.

The first game in Lewis begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.0–0 Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc3 10.Qb3

Black to move

A search for this position in ChessBase Online turns up 203 games, including three by Greco (two of which are identical, albeit with different dates). The continuation 10...Bxa1 is given as first game and the first two variations in Lewis. 10...Bxd4 is in variations three and four.

Lewis's first game concludes:

10...Bxa1 11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Ne7 13.Ne5 Bxd4 14.Bg6 d5 15.Qf3+ Bf5 16.Bxf5 Bxe5 17.Be6+ Bf6 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.Qxf6+ Ke8 20.Qf7# 1–0

The ChessBase database deviates at Black's move 18 ending with 18...Ke8 19.Bxg7. The final position of this game also appears in what must have been an arranged draw: Shumiakina -- Litinskaya, Svetlogorsk 1997.

Game one, first variation offers a line that includes what appears as a 1990 novelty in the ChessBase database: 13...d5.

10...Bxa1 11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Ne7 13.Ne5

Black to move

13...d5 14.Qf3 Bf5 15.Be6 g6 16.Bh6+ Ke8 17.Bf7# 1–0

ChessBase credits Paul Oostheim with Greco's 12...Nxd4 in Lewis's variation two.

10...Bxa1 11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Nxd4 13.Qa3+ Kxf7 14.Bxd8 Rxd8 15.Rxa1 Nc2 16.Qb3+ Kf8 17.Qxc2 1–0

Oostheim's move has been played often enough that White has stumbled several times with 13.Qb4+ giving Black the opportunity to recover the otherwise lost game.

Variation three introduces 10...Bxd4 after which Black seems to hold on a few moves longer than when grabbing the rook on a1.

10...Bxd4 11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Bf6 13.Rae1 Ne7 14.Bh5

Black to move

14...Ng6 15.Ne5 Nxe5 16.Rxe5 g6 17.Bh6+ Bg7 18.Rf5+ gxf5 19.Qf7# 1–0

Lewis offers the diagram after White's 14.Bh5, which serves to guide readers through several possibilities outlined in variation four. Variation three is found in the database, but variation four appears only as a curious game from 1962.

14...d5 15.Rxe7

Black to move

15...Kxe7 is presented in three lines and 15...Qxe7 is presented in two.

15...Kxe7 16.Re1+ Kf8 17.Qb4+ Kg8 18.Re8+ 1–0 is first offered by Lewis, then four A offers 15...Qxe7 16.Re1 Qd7 17.Qb4+ Kg8 18.Re8+ 1–0

The most interesting line is Lewis's variation four D, and it deserves a place in the database as part of Greco's oeuvre.

15...Qxe7 16.Re1 Be6 17.Nd4 Bxg5 18.Nxe6+ Kg8 19.Qxd5 c6 20.Qb3 Qf6

White to move


Lewis notes that 21.Nd8+ would have been superior to Greco's analysis. It may have been played in Amsterdam in 1962.

21...Kf8 22.Qb4+ Kg8 23.Bf7+ Qxf7 24.Nxf7 1–0

A Curiosity

In a game found in the ChessBase database, an improvement to Greco's game that was suggested by William Lewis appears to have been played over the board. However, while the loser has a few other games in the database from 1989-1990, this game is the sole example of the winner's play. The game omits Greco's 19...c6 20.Qb3 and offers Qd6 in place of Qf6.

[Event "IBM Reserve F"]
[Site "Amsterdam"]
[Date "1962.08.21"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Schippers, H."]
[Black "Lagendijk, J."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C54"]
[PlyCount "41"]
[EventDate "1962.08.14"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "NED"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2012.11.22"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 Nxe4 8.O-O Nxc3 9. bxc3 Bxc3 10. Qb3 Bxd4 11. Bxf7+ Kf8 12. Bg5 Bf6 13. Rae1 Ne7 14.Bh5 d5 15. Rxe7 Qxe7 16. Re1 Be6 17. Nd4 Bxg5 18. Nxe6+ Kg8 19. Qxd5 Qd6 20.Nd8+ Qxd5 21. Re8# 1-0

A recent work in economic history juxtaposes the names Schipper and Lagendijk as co-authors: Frank Schipper, Vincent Lagendijk, and Irene Anastasiadou, “New Connections for an Old Continent: Rail, Road and Electricity in the League of Nations’ Organisation for Communications and Transit,” in Materialising Europe: Transnational Infrastructures and the Project of Europe, ed. Alexander Badenoch and Andreas Fickers (London: Palgrave, 2010), 113-143.

29 May 2013

Improving through Blitz

I am a blitz addict in recovery. In recent months, I have played as many as 115 games of blitz chess in a single day. I play mostly three minute and five minute with no increment. These blitz marathons produce plenty of slop, but these days are punctuated by days when I play half a dozen or fewer games. Last Wednesday, I played 44 games, winning exactly half. On Thursday, my frenetic pace slowed to nine games for the day.

I have played two online blitz games since last Thursday. When the number of my games drops, my post-game analysis improves. When ten minutes of play is followed by fifteen minutes of analysis, blitz is no longer a drug. It becomes a tool for improving my chess skills.

Yesterday, after eating lunch in my usual coffeehouse, I used their Wi-Fi connection to play a five minute game on the Chess.com iPad app. I tried a new idea against the Sicilian. My opponent missed the refutation and quickly found himself in a hopeless position. After one more weak move, he resigned.

Stripes, J (1779) - Internet Opponent (1862) [B41]
Live Chess Chess.com, 28.05.2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Be3

The fifth most popular move scores poorly. 5.Nc3 is my usual move and is most popular.

5...Nf6 6.Nd2

I decided to try this unusual approach. According to my database, Attila Groszpeter is the strongest player who has employed it, seemingly only in three games against Gyula Sax--all drawn.

Black to move

6...Qc7 7.Bd3

7.Qf3 d5 8.0–0–0 Nbd7 (8...Nc6 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxc6 Qxc6 11.Nc4 Bc5 12.Bd3 Bxe3+ 13.Nxe3 Nb4 14.Be4 Nxa2+ 15.Kb1 Qa4 16.c3 Nxc3+ 17.bxc3 Qb3+ 18.Kc1 Qxc3+ 19.Nc2 Qxf3 20.Bxf3 Ke7 21.Na3 Ra7 22.Nc4 b5 23.Na5 Rc7+ 24.Kb2 Bd7 25.Ra1 Rhc8 ½–½ Groszpeter,A (2554) -- Sax,G (2506) Nyiregyhaza 2008


7...d5 8.f4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Nd5 10.Qf3 Nxe3 11.Qxe3 Nc6 12.Nxc6 Qxc6 13.0–0–0 Bd7 14.Rhe1 h6 15.g4 0–0–0 16.g5 Be7 17.h4 Qa4 18.Kb1 Bc6 19.g6 Bxh4 20.gxf7 Bxe1 21.Nc5 Qd4 22.Rxe1 Qxe3 23.Rxe3 Rhf8 24.Nxe6 Rxf7 25.Nxd8 Kxd8 26.Rg3 Ke7 27.Kc1 Kf8 28.Rg4 Bf3 29.Rh4 Rf6 30.Kd2 g5 31.fxg5 hxg5 32.Rh8+ Ke7 33.Ke3 g4 34.Rg8 Kf7 35.Rg5 Rh6 36.Kf4 Rh2 37.b4 Ke7 38.Ke5 Kd7 39.Rg7+ Kc6 40.a4 Rh5+ 41.Kf4 Rd5 ½–½ Teske,H (2538) -- Drabke,L (2433) Germany 2004


8.0–0 Bb7 9.Qe2 Nc6 10.Nxc6 Bxc6 11.f4 Be7 12.Rae1 d6 13.Kh1 0–0 14.Qf3 d5 15.e5 Nd7 16.Qh3 g6 17.Nf3 b4 18.Nd4 Nc5 19.Rf3 Rfe8 20.f5 exf5 21.Nxf5 Bf8 22.Bxc5 1–0 Mamedov,R (2494) -- Negi,P (2167) Dubai 2004


8...Bb7 9.0–0 d6 10.Rc1 Nbd7 11.c4 b4 12.Qa4 Ng4 13.Bf2 g6 14.f5 Bh6 15.fxe6 Bxd2 16.Qxd7+ Qxd7 17.exd7+ Ke7 18.Rcd1 Be3 19.Nc2 Bxf2+ 20.Rxf2 Nxf2 21.Kxf2 a5 22.Ne3 Kxd7 23.e5 dxe5 24.Bxg6+ Kc7 25.Bf5 Rad8 26.Nd5+ Bxd5 27.cxd5 h5 28.g3 Kd6 29.Ke3 Rb8 30.Ke4 Rb5 31.Bh3 Rc5 32.Rf1 Rc4+ 33.Kd3 Rd4+ 34.Ke3 Rf8 35.Be6 Ke7 36.Bh3 Rxd5 37.Rf5 Rh8 38.Ke4 Rc5 39.Rf2 Rd8 40.Kf5 Rd4 41.Kg5 e4+ 42.Kf4 f6 43.Bf5 Re5 0–1 Laato,S (2035) -- Luukkonen,T (2287) Naantali 2008

White to move






This move seems to be my most significant error. 10.Nd2, 10.O-O, or 10.a4 all would have been better.


After 10...Ng4 11.Qd2 dxe5 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.fxe5 Nd7 Black has a clear advantage.

11.Qe2 Nxe3 12.Qxe3= dxe5

White to move


Better would have been 13.Nxe5

13...Bc5 14.Qg5?! 0–0 15.0–0–0 Nc6??

15...Bxd4 16.Nxd4 Nd7 with a slight advantage for Black
15...h6 16.Qg4 with a slight advantage for Black

White to move

The so-called Greek Gift is not difficult to find, even in blitz. From this point on, I had a decisive advantage, although I missed the strongest continuation in two instances.

16.Bxh7++- Kxh7

16...Kh8 17.Qh5 Rfe8 18.Bg6+ Kg8 19.Qh7+ Kf8 20.Qh8+ Ke7 21.Qxg7+-

17.Qh5+ Kg8 18.Ng5 Rfd8 19.Qh7+ Kf8

White to move


Stronger is 20.Ngxe6++-

20...Ke7 21.Qxg7

The only move that maintains the advantage.

21...Nxe5 22.Ndxe6

More convincing would have been 22.Rhf1 Bxd4 23.Rxf7+ Nxf7 24.Qxf7+ Kd6 25.Rxd4+ Kc6 26.Qxc7+ Kxc7 27.Nxe6++-


After the game, I spent some time looking at 22...Rxd1+ 23.Rxd1 Be3+ 24.Kb1 Qb8 25.Rd8 Qxd8 26.Nxd8 Kxd8 27.Nxf7+ Nxf7 28.Qf8+ Kc7 29.Qxf7++- trying to find better options for Black. I needed to go back to his move 15 to find where the game had been decided.


Going through blitz games in this manner, and going through the reference games that I have embedded in the annotations, cannot fail to improve my performance.

23 May 2013

Can White Win?

Can White win this position? Black appears to be near zugzwang, but how does White make progress?

White to move

22 May 2013

Checkmate with Two Queens

I challenged a group of students to find a position with two queens against a lone king that took me more than three moves to deliver checkmate. After several failed efforts, they came up with the key idea: place White's king where it interferes with the mobility of both queens. I could not find checkmate in less than four moves. Checking with an engine verifies that it is indeed checkmate in four.

White to move

Does a position exist where more than four moves are needed?

18 May 2013

Tactics, Tactics, Tactics

During a blitz marathon, a player misses things. After many games, some strong moves will have been played as well. I offer the positions below as evidence either than there is much to learn from blitz, or as evidence that too much blitz is deleterious to the improvement of chess skills. I cannot decide which.

Things Missed

In these positions, I missed the correct move.

White to move

I won this game, but not as quickly as I should have. A position from earlier in the game appears in the "strong moves" diagrams below.

Black to move

After missing some easy knockouts, I won this game on time in a dead drawn position. The next diagram is from the same game, as is an early position in the "strong moves" positions below.

Black to move

White to move

I won this game, despite making a move here that transferred the advantage to my opponent.

Black to move

Often I reach a nice position, but then offer a howler that turns the tables. Such was the case here.

Strong Moves

In these positions, I played the correct move.

White to move

I observed a weakness in counting pieces during Chess Tempo training a year ago. That weakness is not always evident in actual play.

Black to move

After finding the correct move here, I missed many subsequent opportunities.

Black to move

Black is worse after the best move. A few moves later, my opponent blundered and I reached a clearly won game only to lose on time.

White to move

After the best move, which I played, Black maintains the edge unless he blunders, as he did.

White to move

The tactic here stems from a well-known error in the King's Indian Defense. My opponent made this error in the first round of the 2009 Washington Open, but I failed to manage more than a draw. My highest rated victory in correspondence chess on Chess.com was a result of an engine user making this error before seeking help. It is shocking how often I get such a position in blitz.

15 May 2013

Misleading Review

Flaws in a Review of Chess Quest

Chess Quest has been among my principal sources for tactics training through the past three months. I have solved nearly half of its 1200 problems, including all of levels 1 and 2, and slightly more than half of level 3. The problems have ranged from simple thematic checkmates that build pattern recognition to clever defensive resources that maintain drawing possibilities in slightly worse positions. The problem selection includes a reasonable number of essential endgame positions, while maintaining a focus on tactical ideas in middlegame positions.

Not everyone who has tested Chess Quest shares my enthusiasm for the iPad/iPhone app. C. K. Sample III, for example, identifies "flaws" in some of the problems. Of the twenty-four problems he solved in the basic level before writing his review, he found two where "no checkmate was achieved and [he] can see multiple moves that can be taken by the other player to effectively recoup the game" ("Review: Chess Quest," Sample the Web, 12 September 2009). He offers screenshots of problem 24 to illustrate this "flaw". Problem 17 appears to be the other that he has in mind (see screenshot). Sample concludes that he cannot recommend the app because of these two problems with incorrect solutions, and notes: "If it keeps that 1 in 12 ratio, that means that rather than 1200 puzzles for $2.99,* you’re only really getting 1100 puzzles and 100 duds."
Problem 17, Basic Level

Had he continued solving in levels above basic, Sample would have found a far higher ratio of problems that do not end in checkmate. This ratio should not come as a surprise for Sample's "flaw" is the norm in tactics training. A significant percentage of the problems in Fred Reinfeld's classic 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations (1955) do not end in checkmate. That proportion is even greater in the modern Anthology of Chess Combinations, 3rd edition (2005). Sample reveals not so much problems with the Chess Quest app, as his own qualifications for assessing tactics training resources. His review resembles in one aspect the many five star reviews of the Social Chess app by users whose only point of comparison is Chess with Friends (see "Social Chess iPad/iPhone App: Review"). Such reviews are misleading and offer disservice to readers.

Beginning Tactics: Instruction

C. K. Sample's criticism reveals that there is a market for developers of iPad/iPhone apps aimed at beginning chess players. While collections of carefully selected instructive tactics positions serve those serious about tactics training, elementary instruction is needed, too. Chessimo is one such app (see "Chess Tactics Training on the iPad"). Most Chessimo problems end in checkmate, at least among the 3000+ that I have solved. Nonetheless, that feature alone does not satisfy the need of explaining what constitutes a decisive advantage.

As chess players grow in strength, they learn an abundance of patterns and techniques. They begin to recognize an advantage. They develop the skills to convert an advantage into victory. It was clear to me that winning the bishop was a sufficient solution in problem 24 in the basic level of Chess Quest. But, Sample needs more explanation. This need prompted him to give Chess Quest a misleading negative review.

Sample correctly identifies one element that could be incorporated into tactics training apps: a chess engine. In order to demonstrate that problem 24 in Chess Quest's basic level is not flawed, I played the position against HIARCS on my iPad.

Checkmating the engine took me 42 moves from the problem position. Along the way, there were several positions where learned themes from prior training rendered my moves nearly automatic. The entire battle required less than ten minutes. A stronger player could have concluded the battle more rapidly, and in fewer moves.

White to move

James Stripes -- HIARCS


Chess Quest ends the problem after this move has been found. Pinning the bishop wins it.


Black avoids exchanging queens, and makes two threats. The vulnerable a-pawn is attacked, and the queen threatens to fork White's bishop and king with 2...Qe1+.

2.Qxb7+ Kf6 3.Qc6 Qxa3 4.Qc3+ Kf7 5.Qc7+

Black to move


It seems to me that Black could protract the struggle with 5...Kf6. Nonetheless, the engine considers its move best unless it thinks longer that was permitted in a five-minute game.

6.Qxe7+ Kxe7 7.Kg1

Black will have a passed pawn on the a-file that must be stopped in addition to the isolated and passed e-pawn. The bishop cannot stop both. As the most powerful piece left on the board, White's king must become active.

7...Kd6 8.Kf2

8.b4 is better, fixing the a-pawn.

8...a5 9.Ke3 Kc5 10.Kd3 a4 11.bxa4 bxa4

White to move

At the heart of this position is an elementary idea that Jeremy Silman calls "the fox in the chicken coop."


12.Bg6 would have reduced Black's counterplay.

12...g5 13.Kb2 Kd4 14.Bf3 e5 15.Ka3 Kc3 16.Be4 Kd4 17.Bd3 e4

After a few suboptimal moves, I found myself in a position where only one move maintains the win. Fortunately, this one move had been central to my plan leading up to this position. I meant to sacrifice my bishop to eliminate Black's last viable threat.

White to move

18.Bxe4! 18...Kxe4 19.Kxa4

Material equality had been restored for one-half move, but the pawn ending is an elementary win for White. If Black goes after the c-pawn, the White king will get Black's remaining pawns. The alternative, chosen by HIARCS, is to temporarily go a pawn ahead but let the c-pawn promote.

19...Ke5 20.Kb4

20.c4! is better.

20...h5 21.Kc4 Kf4 22.Kd4 Kg3

White to move

Once again, White has only one winning move, but it is the move that has been prepared. This pawn race has been carefully calculated.

23.c4 Kxg2 24.c5 Kxh3 25.c6 h4 26.c7 Kg3 27.c8Q h3 28.Ke3 h2

White to move


29.Qf5 is objectively superior, but White opts for a standard technique to prevent promotion of the h-pawn. It is worth noting that Chess Quest or Chessimo (perhaps both) offer positions solved with the technique evident in the continuation 29.Qf5 h1Q 30.Qxg5+ Kh3 31.Qh5+ Kg2 32.Qg4+ Kh2 33.Kf2!

29...Kg2 30.Qd2+ Kh3 31.Qe1 Kg4

White to move


32.Ke4 is much better, leading to checkmate in three fewer moves.

32...Kf5 33.Qxh2 Kf6 34.Ke4 Ke6 35.Qh5 g4 36.Qxg4+ Kd6

White to move

One hopes that Sample would not consider a problem flawed if it ended here. And yet, beginners need problems that begin here.


37.Kd4 is the other optimal move. I teach young players to place the queen a knight's throw from the defending king and deliver no check until checkmate. Hence, I exercise that technique here.

37...Ke7 38.Ke5 Kf7 39.Kf5 Kg7 40.Qe8 Kh7 41.Kf6 Kh6 42.Qh8# 1–0

*The current price is $4.99 "on sale for a limited time."

11 May 2013

Alternate Solutions

When I get something wrong, I must know why. Many of my tactics training resources offer limited explanation, which helps force me to study the problem in more detail. If I am stumped after careful examination, I must set up the problem in ChessBase 11 (or in a similar resource that enables engine analysis). With the Anthology of Chess Combinations, that process is made easier because the disc containing the electronic version and "solver's kit" also contained a PGN file of the anthology.

Black to move

A queen sacrifice was the obvious place to begin with problem number 192 in the Anthology. After the second check, the position becomes more complicated if the White king steps towards the center. I found the pawn sacrifice and dance of my knights.

As I executed my solution, the software told me that one move was incorrect. I quickly found an alternate move that covered the same two critical squares. Try as I might, I could not discover what was wrong with my solution. Opening the problem in ChessBase allowed Stockfish to clarify that my move, as well as the published solution, lead to checkmate in the same number of moves.

09 May 2013

Shifting Targets

For five minutes, I looked for ways to break through to the Black king. Alas, Black's defense of h6 appeared to be more than I could overcome. Suddenly, I saw another target.

This problem is number 182 in the Anthology of Chess Combinations.

White to move

07 May 2013

Yep, the Gift is There

I had this nice position in my fourth or fifth (and therefore last) blitz game this morning.

White to move

02 May 2013

Training Log: April 2013

Fighting Addiction

My progress towards my training goals in April ran aground of my need to play. In particular, I went on blitz binge, decided to temper it with new discipline, and then played 320 bullet games over a twenty-seven hour period. I posted my training goals as New Year's Resolutions on the last day of 2012.

1. In 2013, I will solve correctly 300 tactics problems each month.

I met this goal, completing 329 problems in the month. In April, my time for tactics training was spent playing chess online. However, I spent enough time on training that I met my tactics target. I am working through Level 3 on Chess Quest, and have done a few problems in Level 4.

I ignored Chessimo until near the end of the month. Although I have solved 3269 problems on Chessimo, I count towards the month's total only those problems solved six times. In April, I completed 60 problems for the sixth time each.

My web-based training (Chess Tempo and Chess.com) remains light with one Chess.com session and a few short Chess Tempo sessions. I resumed use of the Anthology of Chess Combinations late in April after neglecting it in March.

2. In 2013, I will study whole games and whole books.

I looked through a few of the games of Wilhelm Steinitz for my scholastic lessons, and started going through his annotations of the games of others. Nonetheless, my study of whole games was swamped by my play of blitz, bullet, and a handful of fifteen minute games.

3. In 2013, I will finish my Pawn Endgame Flash Card project.

I am continuing to use these flash cards in elementary classrooms while teaching beginners chess. Nonetheless, progress studying Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and mastering the blue diagram positions must be rated lackluster.

4. In 2013, I will lose fifteen pounds.

I remain at my winter weight due to inconsistent exercise and too many fast food meals.

01 May 2013

Better than Checkmate

While I was struggling for an advantage in a must-win game, my opponent became cooperative. He played 26.Kh1?? from the diagram position.

White to move

This error made possible the combination of my fantasies. 26.Nxe4 keeps the struggle alive.


I spent some time working out some possibilities:

If 27.g4 Qh4 28.Kg2 Rxg4+! 29.hxg4 Qxg4+

White to move

30...Nd2 will follow either 30.Kg2 or 30.Kg1, and White must lose the queen to avoid checkmate.

If 27.g3 Nxg3+! 28.fxg3 Qxg2 29.Qc2 Qxh3+ 30.Qh2 Rxe3 with plenty to show for the knight.

White to move

My opponent deprived me of the opportunity for playing these strong moves.

27.Rg1 Nxf2+ 28.Kh2 Qg3#

Checkmate, in this case, was a disappointing end to the game.