26 September 2013

Alekhine's Defense

A Pair of Games

Alekhine's Defense is not my favorite weapon against 1.e4, but I respect it enough that on the White side I often will play 2.Nc3 with the idea of transposing into a Spanish or Italian Opening. I also play the main line. After a series of frustrating games on Chess.com at 15 minute plus 10 second increment, I played two games against one opponent that both were Alekhine's.

The 15 10 time control on Chess.com frustrates me because I suspect that it is too easy to cheat, and that Chess.com lacks diligence in their probing for nefarious activities by players in the 1600-1800 rating range.* In truth, however, these suspicions are more than likely paranoia that stems from inability to correctly assess the quality of my own play. I'm losing to players rated ~1650 because my play is terrible, not because my opponents are using assistance.

With White in the first game, I made an effort to punish an obvious error: my opponent failed to play d6. I opted to play the Alekhine in the second game so I could play d6 and hence give my opponent a bit of instruction in the proper way to handle his choice of opening.

Stripes.J (1646) - Internet Opponent (1630) [B03]
Live Chess Chess.com, 26.09.2013

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 Nc6

3...d6 is the main line

4.c4 Nb6 5.Nf3

5.f4 is a popular alternative

Black to move

5...d6 is necessary


White already has a clear advantage.


6...d6 was possible still.




7...exd5 8.cxd5 Ne7 White has a slight advantage

8.d6!? cxd6 9.exd6 Nf5


10.Bf4 Qf6 11.Be5+-

Black to move

My play has not been spectacular. Indeed, I have missed the strongest continuation often enough that one might question whether I have the faintest understanding of how to exploit Black's opening failure. Nonetheless, I have a decisive advantage. The win is mine to throw away.

11...Qh6 12.a3 Bc5

White to move

Even in a techically lost position, Black has some tricks.

13.b4?? would have been embarrasing. 13...Bxf2+ 14.Kxf2 Qe3#

13.Ne4 f6 14.Bc3 Bxf2+ 15.Nxf2


15...Ne3 16.Qd2 Nbxc4 17.Bxc4 Nxc4 18.Qxh6 gxh6

White to move


19.Ne4 was more accurate.

19...Nxd6 20.Bxf6 0–0 21.Be7 Nf5 22.Bxf8 Kxf8 23.Rac1 b6 24.Ne5 d6 25.Nc6 Bb7 26.Ne4 Kg7 27.g4 Ne3 28.Rf3 Nxg4 29.Rg3 1–0

Internet Opponent (1621) - Stripes,J (1654) [B03]
Live Chess Chess.com, 26.09.2013

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.d4 d6

White to move


Any of 5.Nf3, 5.f4, or 5.exd6 offer White opportunities for advantage.


Black has an advantage.

6.c5 Nd5


7.dxe5 e6?!

Perhaps if I played Alekhine Defense more regularly, I would understand that 7...Bf5 should be played. Familiarity with the Caro-Kann Defense also could have served me here.


Part of what I find frustrating in the standard rated pool on Chess.com is that I will get an opponent like this one who seems to lack elementary understanding, and then the next opponent with the same rating will play like a well-trained junior, or even a rusty master.

Black to move

8... Nc6

8...Nb4 was better. 9.Qc3 Qd4 10.Qxd4 Nc2+ 11.Kd1 Nxd4–+

9.Bb5 Qe7 10.Bxc6+ bxc6 11.Nf3




12.Nc3? Ba6–+

White to move

13.Bd2 Nb4 0–1

*My standard Chess.com rating in the mid-1600s puts me at the 98th percentile. The Standard rated pool on the site is small, and the ratings are generally low.

23 September 2013

Lesson of the Week

King's Pawn Opening

Black's second move in the King's Pawn Opening may dramatically influence the course of the game. After the common moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3, Black must decide how to defend the e-pawn that is under attack. Alternately, Black might counter White's threat with an attack on e4. Some of the possible moves that Black might choose offer White the opportunity for immediate advantage.

Last week, we looked at a model game played by Paul Morphy when he was twelve years old in which his opponent defended the e5 pawn with 2...Qf6. Morphy's effective harassment of the Black queen well illustrates the pitfalls of that choice as Black's second move.

This week, we look at a game featuring another bad idea for Black: 2...Bd6.

White to move

I have seen this position quite a few times in youth tournaments. But, there are very few games in the databases with this position.

Why is Black's move bad? This move blocks the d-pawn, reducing the mobility and coordination of Black's pieces. But, if the bishop can safely redeploy to c7 before White mounts an attack, Black might avoid suffering too much.

Our model game for exploring how White might take advantage of this error was played in 2005 on www.ChessWorld.net. The time control was 10 moves in 50 days with a maximum of ten days for any one move. Both players had plenty of time to find good moves. Even so, the game ended quickly by correspondence standards, lasting one month, 9 Nov 2005 - 9 Dec 2005.

I had White.

3.Bc4 h6

A game between strong masters continued 3...Nc6 4.0–0 Nf6 5.Nc3 0–0 6.a3 h6 7.d3 Re8 8.Nh4?! loses time. White intends Nf5 to attack the bishop, but Black easily stops this plan with a natural move. (8.Be3 was better) 8...Nd4 9.Be3 c6 10.Ba2 Bc7 and Black is okay, although White eventually won. Strzemiecki,Z (2402) -- Kolosowski,M (2439) Warsaw 2012.

4.d3 c5

Black has made another poor move. Although it frees c7 for the bishop, preparing to get it out of the way of the d-pawn, this move both weakens d5 and renders the bishop on d6 vulnerable. 4...Nc6 was a better choice for Black.

5.Nc3 a6 6.a4

I was concerned to provide a square for the bishop to retreat should Black thrust forward the queenside pawns.

6.0–0 was better 6...b5 is not a threat 7.Bb3.

6...Nf6 7.Be3

7.g4! was worth considering 7...Nc6 (7...Nxg4 8.Rg1 Nf6 9.Rxg7) 8.g5 hxg5 9.Nxg5 Rf8± with clear advantage for White.

7...0–0 8.Qd2

Black to move

Every move has a purpose. Does this move create a problem for Black? Does it create an opportunity? What does it strengthen? What does it weaken? These questions may be asked after each and every move.

8.0–0 may have been better for White.


2...Bd6 was bad, but only now has Black made a move that gives White a clear and decisive advantage. What did Black overlook?

8...Ng4 allows Black to remove White's bishop.
8...Kh7 is the only other move that addresses White's threat.


White has a strong attack against the king. How many of White's pieces are participating in this attack?


9...gxh6 loses quickly. 10.Qxh6 Nh7 11.Nd5 Re8
     (if 11...Bc7? 12.h4 Re8 13.Ng5 Nxg5 14.hxg5 f5 15.Nf6#)


10.Bxg7! was better 10...Kxg7 11.Qg5+ Kh8
     (if 11...Kf8 12.Qh6+ Ke7 13.Nh4 takes advantage of the misplaced bishop 13...Rg8 14.Nf5+ Ke8 15.Nxd6+ Ke7 16.Nf5+ Ke8 17.Nd5+-)
12.Qh6+ Nh7
     (12...Kg8 13.Bxf7+ Kxf7 14.Ng5+ Kg8 15.Qg6+ Kh8 16.Nf7#)

As the misplaced bishop falls, White regains the sacrificed material. Black's king has lost its pawn shield. His position is cramped. He is down two pawns. White has a decisive advantage.

10...Bb7 11.Bd5

11.h4! was better 11...b5 12.axb5 axb5 13.Rxa8 Bxa8 14.Bxb5+-.

11...Bxd5 12.Nxd5 Nc6

If 12...Be7 13.Bxf6 Bxf6 14.h4+-.

White to move


Capturing with the bishop forces recapture with the pawn, and leaves Black's king without protection. Black's second move hampered the mobility and coordination of his forces, and now that proves decisive. There is no way to protect the king.

13...gxf6 14.Qh6 Be7

The bishop finds its natural square, but Black is already lost.

14...Re6 15.c3+-.

15.Nh4 Nd4 16.Kd2

This move defends the c-pawn and prepares a rook lift: Re1–e3-g3.

The computer likes 16.c3.


16...f5 was Black's last chance to make White work 17.Nxe7+ Qxe7 18.Nxf5 Nxf5 19.exf5+-.

17.Rae1 b5 18.Re3 f5 19.Nxe7+ Black resigned 1-0

Had Black played on with 19...Qxe7, the game would end with 20.Rg3+ Qg5+ 21.Rxg5#.


A bad move is not always a losing move.
Be aware of tactical threats.
Mobility and piece coordination are vital.

21 September 2013

Informant Annotations

I am working my way through the games in Chess Informant 113, which was published one year ago. Game 113/49 started as a Maróczy Bind against the Accelerated Dragon. White then played an aggressive kingside pawn storm. The game beacame complicated, and I found it intimidating to understand some of the variations. Consequently, I chose to spend more time on the game, working thorough each of the variations.

This position in the diagram below appears to be critical. White had chances for a winning advantage after a minor piece sacrifice but seems to have missed the strongest continuation. White, IM Bryan G. Smith, lost the game and annotated it for Informant. His comments make liberal use of the Informant signs, offering instructive and entertaining examination of what might have happened.

White to move

Smith played 23.Bf3, which he marked as dubious. He suggested Qh4 as a strong move that gave him excellent chances for advantage. Smith's presentation of the lines that might have been played is the sort of feature that makes Chess Informant worthy of its cost.

After the game's continuation: 23...Bxc4 24.Qh4 Nd7 25.b3 Qc5+ 26.Rf2 Be6, we reach a position where Smith marked his move as a blunder.

White to move

Smith played 27.Bg4.

In the annotations, he suggested two alternatives: 27.Bg7, where one line gives him a draw; and 27.f5 leading to clear advantage for White.

After 27...Bxg4 28.Qxg4 e6, Black had a decisive advantage according to Smith.

The game went on to move 44. The heart of the game, however, is found in Smith's annotations of the fifteen moves that follow from his novelty on move 13.

18 September 2013


Black to move

This position comes from Danielsen -- Djukic, Porto Carras 2011, which was published as Chess Informant 113/47.

17 September 2013

Lesson of the Week

The 2013-2014 School Year

School is back in session. Soon school chess clubs will begin anew. Some chess classes have resumed already. My activities with youth chess players during the 2013-2014 school year begins this week.

As a guest teacher this morning, I worked with a class of first graders on how to checkmate with a queen and a king against a lone king. Some had never played chess before. They did not master the skill, but they are on the path. In the next few days, I plan to post a YouTube video that offers elementary instruction concerning this vital skill. Next week I will be teaching these first graders how to promote a pawn. Imagine! A player who knows how to checkmate with a queen and who knows how to nurture a pawn's journey to the promotion square, may be able to convert a small advantage into victory.

Later this week, my chess classes for home schooled students begin. The after school chess clubs start in October. Each week during school year, I develop a lesson plan that forms the core of my teaching time in after school chess clubs, in-school chess clubs, and home school resource center classes. Some of those who have contracted me for individual tutoring also may get this lesson. The 2013-2014 school year is the third year in which each of these lessons is posted on this Chess Skills blog. All of these posts are tagged with "Problem of the Week." Clicking that tag at the bottom of this post or in the "Spokane Scholastics" sidebar will bring up all these lessons.

Suppose a parent and child check this blog on Monday evening and review the lesson of the week. Then, the next day or later in the week that child goes to chess club. He or she is already familiar with what I am teaching there. That lesson will sink deeper into that child's memory, and it may develop the skill that leads to victory in Saturday's tournament. The lesson of the week may not be posted always on Monday. Sometimes it is posted on Sunday, sometimes Thursday. It is posted every week.

All of the lessons through October will concern a decision that the player of the Black pieces must make on move two after some very common moves.

A Decision in the Opening

1.e4 e5

There are 400 possible positions after both players have completed the first move. The position after 1.e4 e5 is the second most popular.* White played the most popular first move, and Black opted for the second most popular response. Prior to the twentieth century, the position after 1.e4 e5 was the most popular.

2.Nf3 is White's most popular response in the position after the first move, and many masters have said that it is the best move.

Black to move

It is Black's second move, and already there is a problem to solve. White is attacking the pawn on e5. What should Black do about this threat? Black must either defend the pawn or attack White's pawn on e4. Nothing else makes sense. Black has at least six ways to defend the attacked pawn. In addition, there are several ways to launch a counter-attack against White's pawn.

We will be looking at several ideas for Black, and we will be looking at several ways that White continues after Black has made this important first choice.

The Lesson: An Instructive Game

This week's lesson concerns a choice by Black that is not recommended. We will see why Black's choice is not best through examination of a game played by one of the strongest players in New Orleans in the 1840s and a young boy. The boy was twelve. His opponent, James McConnell went on to play several of the top players in the world in the nineteenth century. In 1886, he won a game against World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz. McConnell gained a lesson from the boy in this game. Our illustrative game was played in 1849.


The question mark followed by an exclamation mark means that I regard this move as dubious. It defends the pawn. What is wrong with Black's move?

This move appears several times in the games of Gioachino Greco. In those games, the move is preliminary to a more serious error that sets up an instructive tactic. If you ask, I can show you these illustrative games.

2...Qf6 is a serious positional error: it places the queen on the knight's natural square, creating disharmony among Black's forces; and, it places the queen where she might become a target. The young boy showed how the queen could be attacked to gain a huge advantage.


The boy played White's strongest response. In the annals of chess history, this game is the earliest that I can find with 3.Nc3. Another strong move is 3.Bc4. It appears in the earliest studies and games, such as those of Greco. Note to new readers: moves in bold are the moves played in the game. Notation not in bold are analysis of those moves, or alternative moves that might have been played. A YouTube video explains how to read chess notation.

3...c6 4.d4!

The explanation mark means excellent move. The passive 4.d3 makes it easier for Black to equalize. Honesty compels me to confess that I have played the pawn to d3 in positions similar to this one when I have had opponents play 2...Qf6. I have lost a few of those games. Black's second move is bad, but it does not lose immediately. White must play actively in order to exploit Black's opening error.


White to move

White's knight is attacked by the pawn. How should White parry this threat?


Defend the knight by attacking Black's queen.

5.Bg5! may be an improvement on the boy's play. It was played in a man vs. machine game in a chess tournament in Seattle. That game continued 5...Qg6 6.Qxd4 d5 7.exd5 Qxc2 8.Bd3 Qxb2 9.0–0 Be7 10.Rab1 Qa3 11.d6 c5 12.Qe3 (Nc6 13.Nb5 Qxa2+- 14.dxe7 Ngxe7 15.Nc7+ Kf8 16.Rfe1 Be6 17.Bxe7+ Nxe7 18.Nxa8 h6 19.Qxc5 b6 20.Qc7 Qd5 21.Qb8+ Bc8 22.Nc7 Qxd3 23.Qxc8+ Nxc8 24.Re8# 1–0 Dubisch,R (2270) -- Comp Chessmaster 2100 Seattle 1989.

5...Qg6 6.Bd3 Qxg2

6...Qg4 7.Ne4 Qxg2 8.Rg1 Qh3±.


Note that White's knight on c3 remains under attack, but that White continues to attack Black's queen. Black will not capture the knight until his queen finds a safe square. Beginning players are often urged to keep their queen back in the early game. "Don't bring out your queen too early," is a rule or principle of strategy. This week's lesson illustrates why that principle exists.

Black to move


7...Qxg1+ is better 8.Nxg1 dxc3 9.bxc3± with roughly material equality, but a substantial advantage for White in the mobility of his pieces.

8.Rg3 Qh5 9.Rg5 Qh3 10.Bf1

10.Bf5 is the computer's choice 10...Qh6 11.Rg3±.


White to move


Finally, the boy addresses the threat to his knight, and again he attacks the Black queen.


Black's eighth queen move. Bringing out the queen too early often results in such an excessive number of queen moves.

12.Ne4 h6?+-

McConnell threatens the boy's rook. How does the twelve year old chess prodigy address this threat? By furthering his attack's on the Judge's queen, of course.

12...f6 was better.


Black to move

The boy has played well, giving us a tremendous illustration of how to exploit the error of bringing a queen out too soon. However, this move loses if Black finds the best move. Had McConnell found the correct move here, this game might illustrate carelessness in attack. He did not, however. Perhaps you can.

Maybe the threat to the rook is something more dangerous than the boy thought.

13...Qe6 14.Nfd6+

The boy now begins his attack on Black's king. Meanwhile, the rook remains under attack.

14...Bxd6 15.Nxd6+ Kd8 16.Bc4 Qe7 17.Nxf7+ Kc7

White has a forced checkmate in six moves.

White to move


Black's queen, developed on the second move, was harrassed continually and now with the first move of White's queen, has no choice but to leave the chessboard.

18...Qxd6 19.exd6+ Kb6

White to move


Black's only piece in the game is his king, and it is the target of a hunt by White's entire army.

20...c5 21.Bxc5+ Ka5

21...Kc6 22.Nd8#


Ten moves after it was attacked, the rook moves to safety. But, there's something even more important than self-preservation in this rook's move.

22...b5 23.Ra3# 1–0

The boy in this game was Paul Morphy. As a child he defeated all the top players in his city, and a few visitors who were even stronger. He completed his schooling and passed the test to become an attorney. However, he could not work as an attorney until he was 21 years old. He played a lot of chess as he waited. He won the first American Chess Congress in 1856. Then, he went to Europe where he played several of the strongest players in the world in a series of matches. He defeated all of them.


Do not bring out your queen too early.
When your opponent violates this principle, drive it back as you bring your pieces into battle.
Be careful.

*1.e4 c5 is the beginning of the Sicilian Defense, and it is the most frequently occurring position after the first move.

15 September 2013

Exchanging Errors

[I]n many of [Gioachino Greco's] games the attack is founded on bad play, the party who wins making the first bad move, which succeeds only because his adversary plays worse.
William Lewis, Gioachino Greco on the Game of Chess (1819), vi.
Observing Greco's games, William Lewis described a pattern that continues to hold true in many games between amateurs. My online game this morning illustrates the point. Both players blundered bad enough to alter the evaluation dramatically. The player who blundered first won the game.

With White, I adopted a rare and suspect line against the Berlin Defense to the Spanish. This line gave Black easy equality, but the equilibrium was upset when I blundered. Black squandered his advantage a few moves later. The time control was game 15.

Stripes,J (1679) -- Internet Opponent (1627) [C67]
Chess.com, 15.09.2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.Qe2

5.d4 is the normal move.
5.Re1 is playable.

5...Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.Re1?! 

7.Qxe5+ Qe7 8.Qa5 Qd8 (8...Be6 9.d3 Nf5 10.Bf4 0–0–0 11.Qxa7 Qb4 12.Ne5 1–0 Winawer,S -- Schmid,C Berlin 1881) 9.Qc3 Qf6 10.Re1+ Be7 11.Qxf6 gxf6 12.d3 Be6 13.Nbd2 Nf5 14.b3 h5 15.Bb2 h4 16.Ng5 Kd7 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.Re4 Rae8 19.Rae1 Bd8 20.Nf3 c5 21.h3 Rh7 22.d4 cxd4 23.Nxd4 Ng7 24.Nf3 Nf5 25.Nd4 Ng7 26.Nf3 Nf5 27.Rb4 b6 28.Ra4 a5 29.Rd1+ Kc6 30.Nd4+ Nxd4 31.Raxd4 Rhh8 32.Rc4+ Kb7 33.Rd7 e5 34.a4 Re6 35.Ba3 Rc6 36.Rxc6 Kxc6 37.Rf7 Kd5 38.Kf1 Ke6 39.Rf8 Rxf8 40.Bxf8 f5 41.Ke2 Kd5 42.Bh6 Be7 43.Bc1 Bf6 44.Kf3 Ke6 45.Bd2 Be7 46.Ke2 Kd5 47.Bc1 Bd8 48.f3 Be7 49.Be3 f4 50.Bc1 c5 51.Kd3 Bd8 52.Bd2 Be7 53.Be1 Bd8 54.c3 Be7 55.c4+ Ke6 56.Ke4 Bd8 57.Bc3 ½–½ Andreikin,D (2705) -- Ni Hua (2670) Saratov 2011

7...Be7 8.Nxe5 Be6 9.d4 0–0

White to move


10.Nxf7 Bxf7 11.Qxe7=

10...Nf5 11.Nf3 Nxd4 12.Nxd4 Qxd4-/+ 13.Nd2 Rad8?!

13...Rfe8 seems more in tune with the position.


Black to move


Black trades a substantial advantage for a position that may be close to losing.

14...Qg4 maintains the advantage.

15.Qxc4+/- Bxc4 16.Rxe7 Rfe8 17.Rxe8+ Rxe8 18.Bf4 Be2?



Black to move

19...f6 20.Nd4 Bh5 21.Rxe8+ Bxe8 22.Bxc7 Kf7 23.Bb8 a6 24.Nf5 Bd7 25.Nd6+ 1–0

14 September 2013

Touch Move Rule

“Touch a piece, move a piece” 

The touch-move rule is simple but is subject to abuse and misunderstanding. Most complaints and inappropriate implementations stem from confusion between deliberate toching and accidental. In youth chess tournaments, especially, players will call the touch-move rule on their opponent after an accidental bump of one piece while reaching for another. Short arms do not always navigate regulation chess boards easily.

The USCF Rule is simple:
“[except when adjusting pieces in their squares after saying ‘I adjust’ (Rule 10A)]… a player on move who deliberately touches one or more pieces, in a manner that may reasonably be interpreted as the
beginning of a move, must move or capture the first piece touched that can be moved or captured.”
USCF Rule 10B

Accidental touches are covered as well:
“A director who believes a player touched a piece by accident should not require the player to move that piece.”
USCF Rule 10E
In international competition and many countries, FIDE laws apply. The FIDE rules (Article 4) also employ the term "deliberately".

13 September 2013

Winning, Losing, and Neither

Lately, I have been controlling my obsession with online blitz. Nonetheless, today when the feed for the Sinquefield Cup appeared to be malfunctioning, I gave up on watching Grandmasters play. Instead, a sequence of opponents helped me add half a dozen illustrations of subpar play to my database. The time control was game 15.

In my first game, I seized the opportunity to double my opponent's pawns, only to discover that my plan left me down a pawn. After further errors, I was behind two pawns. My opponent gave one back and he eagerly exchanged rooks into an opposite colored bishop ending with an extra pawn.

Black to move

I happily played 34...Rxe3+. We continued 35.Kxe3 f6 36.h3 Kg5 37.Kf3 Kh4 38.Kg2 f5 39.Be6 f4 40.Kf3 Bc5 41.Kxf4 Bxf2

White to move

I was confident that I could hold this position by trading my bishop and a-pawn for his two queenside pawns. Nonetheless, we played another 25 moves before my opponent stalemated me.

My second opponent also ended up with doubled f-pawns, and for awhile I thought that I had good chances to score.

White to move

24.Be4 Qc5 25.Rh4 Rg7 26.Re1??

Evidently, I am blind to discovered attacks.

Black to move

My opponent strung me along for a few moves. 26...Rag8 27.g3 Bxe4 28.Rhxe4 d3+-+. I played another twelve moves before resigning.

The third game was strange, and I had some problems that should have given my opponent a clear edge. He missed the right plan. When he won a pawn, I saw my opportunity.

Black to move


09 September 2013

Blast the Position Open

In this position from Amin -- Samhouri, Doha 2011 (Chess Informant 113/29), White found that the position met the requirements for a strike in the center. Bassem Amin annotated the game for Informant. This game illustrates how things might go terribly wrong quickly for Black in the Scandinavian Defense.

White to move

07 September 2013

A Blackmar-Diemer Gambit Miniature

My first serious game (i.e. not online blitz) against the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit netted me a nice miniature. I employed the O'Kelly Defense without knowing its name, and quickly gained a superior position.

Internet Opponent (2143) -- Stripes,J (2155) [D00]
www.ChessWorld.net, 10.07.2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e4 dxe4 4.f3 c6

The third most popular move offers White an abyssmal 47.1% through 468 games. This move was suggested to Emil Joseph Diemer by Albéric O’Kelly, hence the name. There is a bit of interesting history and analysis in a Chess Cafe article: Stefan Bücker, "How to Detect a Novelty" (2009).

I have previously always played 4...exf3, and have more losses than wins. A principal appeal of correspondence chess is the research aspect, and for this game I sought help through database research.

White to move


I spent a bit of time preparing for 5.Bc4, White's most popular move in the position.


The choice of the strongest players. 5...Bf5 is slightly more common among club players.

6.fxe4 e5

An essential strike that disrupts White's center and prepares to bring the queen to h4.

7.Nf3 exd4

White to move


We are now following a single game in the database.

8.Bc4 is usually played, and appears to be best. Diemer gave it two exclamation marks in his analysis in response to O'Kelly's suggestion.

Two reference games:

8...Qa5+ 9.Bd2 Qc5 10.Qe2 Nd7 11.b4 Qb6 12.Qf2 Nf6 13.Ng5 Bxb4 14.0–0 Bxd2 15.Qxd2 Qc5 16.Nxf7 0–0 17.Ne5+ Kh8 18.Qg5 b6 19.Nf7+ Rxf7 20.Qxc5 bxc5 21.Bxf7 Ba6 22.Rf4 Rf8 23.Bb3 Re8 24.Rb1 Re7 25.Ba4 h6 26.Bxc6 Re6 27.Bd5 Re7 28.c3 d3 29.c4 Nd7 30.Kf2 Kh7 31.Ke3 Ne5 32.Rc1 Re8 33.Kd2 g6 34.Rf6 Bc8 35.Rcf1 Re7 36.Rd6 Kg7 37.Rd8 1–0 Trumpf,W (2444) -- Mukherjee,A (2495) Switzerland 2003.

8...Bb4+ 9.c3 dxc3 10.Bxf7+ Kxf7 11.Qb3+ Ke8 (11...Be6!?N 12.Ng5+ Qxg5 13.0–0+) 12.Qxb4 Qe7 13.Qxe7+ Kxe7 14.bxc3 c5 15.0–0 Rf8 16.Bg5+ Ke8 17.Ne5 Rxf1+ 18.Rxf1 Be6 19.a3 Nd7 20.Nd3 Bc4 21.Rd1 Bxd3 22.Rxd3 Nb6 23.e5 Nc4 24.e6 h6 25.Bh4 g5 26.Bf2 b6 27.Rd7 Rd8 28.Rxd8+ Kxd8 29.a4 Ke7 30.Kf1 Kxe6 31.Ke2 Kf5 32.Bg3 Ne5 33.Ke3 a6 34.Kd2 Nc4+ 35.Kc2 Ke6 36.Bf2 Kd5 37.Kb3 Nd2+ 38.Kc2 Ne4 39.Be1 Kc4 40.g4 Nf6 41.h3 Ne4 0–1 Anastasiev,V (2046) -- Konyshev,A (2379) Kemerovo 2011.

8...Qh4+ 9.Kd2

Stockfish 4 prefers 9.g3 Qxe4+ 10.Qe2 Qxe2+ 11.Bxe2 when for the pawn, White has a huge lead in development. But, with neither targets nor weaknesses in Black's position, White lacks compensation.

Black to move


9...Qf2+ 10.Kc3 Nd7 was suggested by Stockfish.


Stockfish prefers 10.Nf3 Qxe4.


The engine likes 10...0–0.

11.cxd4 Qxe4

I had been following the single reference game because the win of this pawn seemed to offer me sufficient chances for clear advantage. My engine suggests improvements on the previous two moves, as noted above.

White to move


Now, I'm on my own, but with a nice position. My reference game continued 12.Qe1 Qxe1+ 13.Kxe1 Be6 14.b3 0–0 15.Bc4 Nd7 16.Ba3 Rfe8 17.Kf2 Nf6 18.Rhe1 Bd5 19.Rac1 Rad8 20.Be7 Rd7 21.Bxf6 Rxe1 22.Rxe1 gxf6 23.a4 Bxc4 24.bxc4 Rxd4 25.a5 Rxc4 26.Re7 Rc5 27.a6 bxa6 0–1 Krueger,W -- Rasmussen,J ICCF corr 1990.

12...Qxd4 13.Re1+ Be6 14.Re4

Black to move


This direct attack is not best. Better was 14...Qd6 I need to learn to consolidate, just as I need to learn to build pressure.


If 15.Qe2, I would have responded Qxe2+. (15...Qc5 is probably better).


Black has a clear advantage.

16.Qa4 Nd7 17.b3 0–0–0

I like it when castling is an attacking move!

17...0–0 did not look as good 18.Qh4 Bf5, even though Black still has a clear advantage.

White to move


18.Ba3 Qd5-+

18...Qd5 19.Qxa7 Nc5 20.Re3

20.Qa8+ Kd7 21.Qa7-+

20...Nxd3 0–1

White resigned.

This game pushed me to my highest ever rating on ChessWorld.net.

06 September 2013

Building Pressure

Sometimes my play resembles a beginner's. A direct assault is favored over building pressure until the attack is overwhelming. A recent win at ChessWorld.net (readers may join this site through the site's icon on the sidebar) reveals this tendency. Despite getting a strong position, and the initiative with Black, I squandered several opportunities to increase my advantage. At a critical point, my opponent cooperated with an error when he could have equalized, or perhaps even gained a slight advantage.

Internet Opponent (2117) -- Stripes,J (2142) [C06]
www.ChessWorld.net, 10.07.2013

This position grew from a French Defense, closed Tarrasch.

Black to move

I gain a knight and get the perfect square for my bishop. What could be better?

19...Nd4! would have been stronger.

I teach my students that it is better to pile on a pin, but perhaps the ensuing sequence is not so easy to calculate. 20.Rxe4 Bxf3 21.Rxd4 Bxd1 22.Rxd1–+.


It might be better for White to get rid of the pesky bishop, even at the cost of an exchange. 20.Rxf3 exf3 21.Be3.

20...Nd4 21.Bd2

Simple and best. It may be shocking that White needs to develop pieces while his king is under assault 21 moves into a French Defense.

Black to move 

Impatiently going for the throat.

21...Qd7 would keep the White queen stuck defending h3; it also connects the rooks.


22.Rxf3 is still the choice of Stockfish 4.


22...Rf7 was the choice of the engine, which favors a little security from checks. It likes my move as well.


This move caught me by surprise, although it should not have.

I planned for 23.gxh4 Qxh4  and did not sense the need to work out the conclusion: 24.Qg2 Bxg2 25.Bxd5+ Kh8 26.f4 Bf3 27.Reb1 Bd4+ 28.Be3 Bxe3+ 29.Kf1 Qh1#.

23.Rac1 was worth considering.

Black to move

23...Nf5 was best.

I considered 23...Ng2 24.Rf1 but now my knight would be trapped. Nonetheless, a trapped piece that cannot be captured without material loss is not such a bad thing. It would have been worthwhile, perhaps, to think about the consequences of a trapped knight before eagerly entering a line that returned the extra piece.


24.Qxh4 was the only move. 25.gxh4 Bf3 was my idea, but the engine tells me that I've squandered a decisive advantage, and now White has more than enough compensation for the pawn. White might even have an advantage here.


24...Kh7 it was better to overprotect h6.

25.gxh4 Bf3?

My move was hasty and ill-considered. The bishop was immune from capture.

25...Qxh4 26.Kxg2 Rxf2+ 27.Kg1 Qh2#.


White's threats make it easier for Black to find a convincing attack. I did not falter again.

26.Qh3 Rg8–+ Black's advantage is strong, according to the engine, but a human must find the way to proceed.

Black to move
26...Qxh4 27.Bxg7+ Kxg7 28.Qe5+ Rf6 29.Qe7+

29.Qh2 Rg6+ 30.Kf1 Qxh2 with checkmate to follow.

29...Kg6 0–1

White resigned.

This game was a nice win with the French Defense. Nonetheless, it is critical if I have any hopes of improving that I remember my errors, and focus on how I might have pressed the attack. The natural tendency toward self-congratulation stifles growth.

04 September 2013

Consequences of Exhaustion

I play poorly when I am tired. Nonetheless, I do a fair amount of tactics training late at night as I'm drifting off to sleep, and in the early morning before the first cup of coffee. Such training may be less productive than training while awake and focused. This evening I looked at this problem from the Anthology of Chess Combinations. Within a few seconds, I saw Black's idea for drawing the game. However, I overlooked a key resource for White. I made a hasty move and the Chess Informant Solver's Kit software told me the answer was wrong. Another minute's observation revealed White's resource, and then the correct first move of the problem became obvious.

Black to move

The problem is number 256 in the Anthology, and comes from Unzicker -- Averbakh 1952.

02 September 2013

Rook vs. Bishop

In pawnless endings, rook vs. bishop is a theoretical draw that should offer few difficulties for the weaker player when the stronger wants to press. Rook vs. bishop with pawns on the board is another matter entirely.

Chess Informant 113/10 presents such an endgame without commentary. Tablebases clarify that the moves by the stronger player did not extend the length of the game by more than a few moves, nor did poor play by the defender shorten the game to any significant extent. While neither player was perfect from a computer's point of view, both were quite close. Their play was as optimal as should be expected from humans.

The game is Vitiugov -- Morozevich, Reggio Emilia 2011. Nikita Vitiugov annotated the game for Informant. After 46...Bd3, White had a double attack that provoked Black to swap off the dark-squared bishops.

White to move

The game continued 47.Ra4 Be5 (Vitiugov mentions 47...Bf2 as an alternative that leads to a pawnless ending that is won for White). 48.Bxe5 Kxe5 49.Kg3 Be2

White to move

White's pawn cannot be touched, but neither can it advance without a sacrifice. The problem for White is that after the rook captures Black's pawn, leading to exchange of rook for bishop and pawn, White's king will be on f3, but the Black king will be able to move to f5--a drawn pawn ending.

White must drive the Black king back to the eighth rank. That requires rook and king in coordination. Occasionally, targeting Black's bishop helps force matters. Once the Black king has been driven back, the rook must confine it there while White's king returns to g4 or f4.

While looking through this game in Informant, I did not perceive that White could force matters. After going through the moves several times, however, and checking the play with tablebases, I began to see that White's play is relatively straightforward.

50.Kg4 Kf6

At first glance, this move appeared cooperative with White's plans. However, after 50...Bd1 51.Rb4, the effort to shuffle the bishop between e2 and d1 will alow White's rook to seize the e-file after the White king occupies g5. The consequence of Black's king being driven to the d-file will be that White's king can return to g4, the rook will snatch the pawn, and in the pawn ending the White king will outflank Black. (Readers not familiar will opposition and outflanking can watch my video, "Pawn Endings: First Steps.")

51.Kf4 Bd1 52.Ra6+ Kf7 53.Ke5 Be2 54.Rf6+

Black to move


54...Ke7 is slightly more stubborn, but White has several methods to continue at his disposal, including 55.Rf4 Bd1 56.Rc4 and the Black king will be driven back.

55.Kf5 Bd3+ 56.Kg5 Be2 57.Rf4 Kg8

If 57...Bd1, 58.Rd4.

58.Kh6 Bd1

58...Kh8 59.Rf8#

White to move

The king has been driven to the eighth rank, now the second phase begins: confinement.

59.Rd4 Be2 60.Rd7 Kf8

And now the third phase: White's king returns to f4.

61.Kg5 Ke8 62.Ra7 Kf8 63.Kf4 Kg8

White to move

White is now able to seize the pawn because the Black king is too far back to reach a drawn pawn ending.

64.Ra3 Kf7 65.Rxf3 Bxf3 66.Kxf3

Black to move

White has the distant opposition, and so wins.

66...Kf6 67.Kf4 1-0

01 September 2013

Training Log: August 2013

In August 2012, my training regimen for the year as set forth in New Year's Resolutions began to disintegrate. So, too, in August 2013. Of the four resolutions set forth for 2013, I made reasonable progress on two. For the first time in 2013, I failed to meet my standard for tactics training in August. Tactics had been my steady success through the first seven months of the year.

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

I have ceased accurate tracking of my tactics training. I lost the spreadsheet with my data when my harddrive crashed in July. I began rebuilding the data early in the month, but did not track well this month's meager achievements. Nonetheless, I can estimate that I correctly solved close to 150 problems--half of the month's goal.

Using the iPhone rather than iPad or computer, I managed to drop 100 Elo on the Chess.com Tactics Trainer in a bit more than one hour's training over several sessions. The smaller screen seems to reduce my skill level.

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

My study of whole games and whole books has come to characterize the time that I spend on chess! For much of August, this activity has included games while they were being played. I have watched at least part of the broadcast of the FIDE World Cup every day since it began. Naturally, I spend a lot of time playing guess the move.

I have not finished Logical Chess: Move by Move, but have looked at a few additional games in ECO Code* C67. A few days ago, I began working systematically through Chess Informant 113, and have gone through seventeen games or game fragments. I am marking some for further study.

I continued my work on Gioachino Greco designed to produce a full and reasonably accurate database of the games appearing in his manuscripts.

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

Progress studying Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual did not go forward in July. I learned recently that I had misplaced my cards and must reprint them. Fortunately those files are saved on my desktop.

4. In 2013, I will lose fifteen pounds.

My efforts to walk the entire length of the Spokane River Centennial Trail with each of my dogs progressed in August. Max and I have passed the half-way point, and Amy and I began the journey. She is easily distracted and difficult to walk in the park. She did much better on the trail.

My diet in August included many excellent salads, and way too much junk food. It is a schizophrenic eating pattern.

*ECO Code is a trademark of Chess Informant