31 July 2013

Training Log: July 2013

July was a tough month. I played in the Spokane City Championship for the third time, losing 2 1/2 - 1/2 for the third time. In 2008, I lost to a FIDE Master. In 2012, I lost to a USCF Expert. It was harder to lose this time because until last fall, I was 7-0 against my opponent, who is a strong A Class player. He ended that streak with a 3-0 run in standard play, plus two wins in quick play. Two of the standard rated wins were games one and two of the City Championship. In game three, I seized the initiative with the Black pieces and maintained it throughout, but it was only good enough for a draw.

Several days after the City Championship, my hard drive crashed. Some of the lost data includes the spreadsheet that I use to track my tactics training.

Despite these traumas, I maintained good focus on training and met most of my goals.

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

I correctly solved more than 250 problems before the City Championship in the middle of the month. Although the exact number is not available, I solved quite a bit more than 50 during the last two weeks of the month.

Before the City Championship, I actively used Tactic Trainer on the iPad, Chess Quest (iPad), and Alburt's Chess Training Pocket Book. I had a couple of sessions each on Chess.com, Chess Tempo, and Anthology of Chess Combinations. After the match, I continued with Chess Quest (iPad, and now also iPhone), Chessimo, and Shredder, and Tactic Trainer (iPad). The Chess Quest problems are getting harder on the iPad (level 4). On the iPhone, I am starting fresh at level 1, so I will be repeating previously solved problems.

I cannot say enough in praise of tactics training resources that are available for mobile devices. Whether the platform is iOS, Android, or some other, the available resources are extensive. For the past three years, I have rarely been anywhere without my iPad. One of my training sessions in early July lasted three hours. I rose well before my wife and in-laws one morning during the week that we spent at our cabin. I started solving problems with Tactic Trainer while still laying in bed. I continued after rising to make coffee and feed the dogs. Over the course of three hours, I correctly solved about 100 problems. Yesterday, standing in line to license my cat for another year, I solved four Chess Quest problems on the iPhone.

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

I did not advance further through Max Euwe, The Development of Chess Style (1968) in July. However, I am nearly finished with Logical Chess: Move by Move. Much of the work that I did on Gioachino Greco, Andre Philidor, and other early masters in May was lost when my hard drive crashed (about 15% of this work was backed up). I have started anew on Greco. This time I am beginning with Francis Beale's 1656 edition of Greco's games (see "The Fooles Mate"). I am through the first 28 of the 94 games in that book (plus the illustrations of Fool's Mate and Scholar's Mate).

In the past few days, after reinstalling my chess software on my notebook computer with its new hard drive, I have been going through C67 in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings. Playing through each line and its variations is time consuming, and C67 has many lines. Nonetheless, in each line, I am choosing at least one reference game and going through the whole in more detail. Yesterday's post resulted from this study (see "Pillsbury -- Lasker, St. Petersburg 1895").

Caruana -- Adams played last week is another C67 game that I spent some time with. At the currently running Dortmund Tournament, Michael Adams has won with both White and Black in this opening. With White he beat Dmitri Andrejkin in round 2. Andrejkin finished the strong Tal Memorial last month without a loss. With Black, he won an interesting game against Fabiano Caruana in round 3. I looked through both games, but spent quite a bit more time with the latter.

My study of whole games and whole books has come to characterize the time that I spend on chess!

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

Progress studying Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual did not go forward in July.

4. In 2013, I will lose fifteen pounds.

In July, I lost the weight gained in June. I do some exercise every day--walking a dog, playing tug-of-war with both dogs, or boxing on the Wii.

30 July 2013

Pillsbury -- Lasker, St. Petersburg 1895

Following Harry Nelson Pillsbury's debut at Hastings 1895, winning his first master tournament, he joined three other top players for a six week event in St. Petersburg, Russia. Pillsbury, World Champion Emanuel Lasker, recently deposed World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz, and Mikhail Chigorin each played six games against each of the others. Pillsbury started well, smashing Lasker the first day from the Black side of a Russian Defense.

At the half-way point Pillsbury led Lasker by one-half point. Steinitz was another point behind. Then, in the fourth round, Lasker busted Pillsbury's Queen's Gambit and sent the youth into a slump, losing five of the next eight games. Lasker went on to win the tournament, and Steinitz passed Pillsbury for second place. Pillsbury finished the event with a plus score against Lasker 3 1/2 - 2 1/2, and the same score against Chigorin, but a terrible 1 - 5 against Steinitz.

While going through the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings C67 classification, I grew interested in the second cycle game Pillsbury -- Lasker. It is the main reference game for line 5 of C67.

Opening study provoked my interest in this game, but the endgame sustained it.

The opening line in ECO ends with equality, but Pillsbury outplayed Lasker in the endgame. Lasker had a bishop for Pillsbury's knight, and there were pawns on both sides of the board. Lasker's bishop was rendered impotent through Pillsbury's precise play and a few errors by Lasker. The ChessBase Monograph CD World Champion Emanuel Lasker (2002) has this game annotated (in German) by Karsten Müller.

As near as I can tell, Steve Meyer, Bishop Versus Knight: The Verdict (1997) lacks analysis of this game. Nor can I locate a reference to it in Karsten Müller, and Frank Lamprecht, Fundamental Chess Endings (2001). Nonetheless, it is an important and instructive ending.

Pillsbury,Harry Nelson -- Lasker,Emanuel [C67]
St Petersburg 1895-1896, St Petersburg (2.3), 25.12.1895

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Be7 6.Qe2 Nd6 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.dxe5 Nb7 9.b3 0–0 10.Bb2 d5 11.exd6 cxd6 12.Nbd2 Bf6 13.Bxf6 Qxf6 14.Rfe1 Nc5 15.Ne4 Nxe4 16.Qxe4 Bd7 17.c4 Rfe8

White to move

From this point, ECO continues to move 20 in the notes, giving equality for the diagram, and for the end of the quoted line. No other game in ChessBase online continues with 12...Bf6, and only two continue with 12...Re8. Müller notes that 6.Qe2 is played only sporadically in our era, although it was popular in the late nineteenth century. The ChessBase database reveals that 9.b3 is a rare move, even though that move is commonly found in lines of the Berlin Defense that contain 5...Be7.

18.Qd4 Rxe1+ 19.Rxe1 Qxd4 20.Nxd4 Kf8

According to Müller, "the resulting endgame should be balanced."

21.Kf1

Black to move

21...a5

Andrew Soltis, and Ken Smith, Pillsbury the Extraordinary (1990) offer brief comments on this game, which the authors note, is "not published often due to four slight mistakes by Lasker" (27). Soltis, Why Lasker Matters (2005) does not mention this game, but offers Lasker's critical win over Pillsbury at the start of the fourth cycle. Soltis and Smith opine that 21...a5 was Lasker's second mistake, noting "this pawn will become weak" (27). They do not offer an alternative.

Should Black have tried 21...a6, placing the isolated pawn on a square where it can be protected by the bishop? Perhaps the immediate 21...Re8 is better.

Black's bishop has no targets, and there is no way for him to fix a chain of White pawns on light squares. Is Black already worse in this ending?

Lasker's move threatened a5-a4, when he might be able to swap off his weakest pawn. Pillsbury quickly put an end to this plan.

22.a4 Re8 23.Rxe8+ Kxe8

White to move

Now the rooks are gone.

24.Ke2 Kd8 25.Kd2 Kc7 26.Kc3 Kb6 27.f4

Müller notes that 27.b4 would have been a blunder.

27...h5 28.h3 Kc5

White to move

While Soltis and Smith find fault with Lasker's 27...h5, Müller begins his serious analysis with move 29.

29.f5 g6

Müller, "Vermutlich unterschätzte er die Wendigkeit des weißen Springers." Lasker probably underestimated the maneuverability of the white knight. Müller marks White's 29.f5 as dubious, but offers no alternative. 29...g6 is an error. After 29...d5! Black can play for a win, according to Müller.

30.f6 d5 31.cxd5 Kxd5

Müller suggest 31...exd5, offering a line in which both Black's a-pawn and White's f-pawn are destined to promote on the same move. He evaluates the line as equal.

32.Nf3 Ke6 33.Nd2 Kxf6 34.Nc4

Black to move

34...h4

Müller marks this move as dubious, suggesting 34...Kg5 as more accurate. Playing out his suggestion against Stockfish 3, I was able to find 35.Nb6 Bf5 36.b4 axb4+ 37.Kxb4 c5+ (an essential clearance sacrifice) 38.Kxc5 Be4 (a critical fork) 39.g3 h4 40.gxh4+ Kxh4 41.Nd5 (as in the game, attempting to obstruct the bishop's efforts) 41...f5 (if White's pawn cannot be stopped, Black's, too, will promote) 42.a5 Bxd5 43.Kxd5 f4 44.a6 f3 45.a7 f2 =.

35.Nxa5 Ke5?

This error allows White's knight to gain a tempo attacking the king. In pawn races, tempo can be everything (as everyone knows who reads Mark Dvoretsky, Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual).

After 35...Kg5, Müller gives 36.Kd4 Kf4 37.Nc4 Kg3 38.Nb6 Bg4 39.a5 Be2.

36.Nc4+

White has a decisive advantage.

Black to move

36...Kf4 37.Nb6

The knight harasses the bishop, gaining time.

Bf5 38.Kd4 Be4 39.a5 c5+ 40.Kxc5 Bxg2

White to move

The bishop appears helpless to stop White's a-pawn, while Black's pawns have too far to go.

41.a6 g5 42.Nd5+ Ke5 43.Ne3 Bf3 44.b4

Black to move

44...Ke6

44...f5 seems like the best try. However, after 45.b5 g4 46.Nxg4+! fxg4 47.b6 g3 48.b7, and Black's king must step out of the coming check, which gives White time to cover g1.

45.b5 Be2 46.Nd5 1–0

In Lasker's Manual of Chess, the World Champion wrote about his loss of time in the opening (a French Defense) in another instructive loss to Pillsbury: Pillsbury -- Lasker, Nuremburg 1896. That game is frequently annotated. This less well-known game, however, is an excellent illustration of time in an ending of bishop versus knight. The bishop's ability to waste time is often an advantage, but here Lasker's errors in the placement of his king rendered his cleric impotent.


28 July 2013

Busting the Benoni

The second strongest opponent that I have defeated on Chess.com is rated more than 200 Elo above me.* We met for two games in an ambitiously titled tournament created by a member who is no longer on the site. It's called the chess.com championships, but has no official status as such. In our first game, he outmaneuvered me in the middlegame of a French Tarrasch when I was playing for a draw. In order to remain in the tournament and advance to the next round, I needed a win with White.

Stripes,J (2121) -- Internet Opponent (2325) [A67]
chess.com championships - Round 3 Chess.com, 28.04.2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.f4 Bg7 8.Bb5+

Black to move

When I was playing the Benoni as often as possible several years ago, the Flick-Knife Attack gave me the most trouble.

8...Nfd7

Some of the trouble that I faced was due to playing 8...Nbd7 here. In consequence of playing the wrong knight, White's thematic e4-e5 comes immediately.

9.Nf3!?

I opted for the third most popular move here, in part to test the level of my opponent's preparation. In The Modern Benoni (1994), David Norwood alleges that this move is purposeless as it permits Black to go through with the usual queenside expansion. Norwood asserts that 9.a4 is the correct move.

9...a6 10.Bd3 b5 11.0–0 0–0 12.Kh1 Re8

White to move

This position appears a mere 72 times in ChessBase Online, and yet it should seem to be the most likely position after White's uncommon 9.Nf3. Indeed, this position is found in line 4 of A67 in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings. The principal move given there is 13.Qe1. Reference games are presented also for 13.Be3, which is not recommended, and 13.Bc2.

13.f5

Before I played my ninth move, I had looked forward in the databases and had gone through several games that reached this position. These games were in the spirit of an all out attack on the kingside before Black could finish untangling his pieces on the queenside--the drawback to Black's necessary eighth move.

13.f5 appears in Chess Informant 107 for the first time in three games played by Argentine GM Fernando Peralta. I looked at these games while playing. This research aspect is one of the pleasures of correspondence chess.

13...Nf6

I remember preparing for 13...c4, but I lost the notes to this preparation when my hard drive crashed. Perhaps my plans included 14.Bc2 Nc5 15.Ng5! Ra7 16.Qf3 1–0 L'Ami,A (2362) -- Valenti,G (2204) Reykjavik 2013

14.fxg6

At this point in the game, I was spending a lot of time going through a handful of games in the database. I concluded from this study that this move was more dangerous than the more common 14.Bg5, which had been Peralta's choice. 14.Bg5 leaves Black choices for how to meet White's attack.

Reference game: 14.Bg5 Nbd7 15.Qd2 b4 16.Ne2 c4 17.Bc2 Nc5 18.Ng3 Qc7 19.Rae1 Nfd7 20.e5 dxe5 21.d6 Qc6 22.Be7 b3 23.axb3 cxb3 24.Bb1 Bb7 25.Ne4 Rac8 26.f6 Bh8 27.Qh6 Ne6 28.Rc1 Qd5 29.Rcd1 Qc6 30.Rc1 Qd5 31.Rcd1 Qc6 32.Rf2 Qb6 33.Nfg5 Nef8 34.Nxf7 Bxe4 35.Qxf8+ 1–0 Peralta,F (2557) -- Almeida Quintana,O (2542) Barcelona 2009.

14...hxg6 15.e5!

Black to move

At this point we are following a single reference game from 1999. This move gives up a pawn to maintain the attack.

15...dxe5 16.Ng5 c4

16...Ra7 was played in my reference game 17.Qf3 c4 18.Bc2 b4 19.Qf2 Rc7 20.Nce4 Nxe4 21.Nxe4 f5 22.d6 Rf7 23.Bg5 Qd7 24.Be7 and here Black opted to exchange rook for bishop and knight, but still went on to lose (Narciso Dublan,M [2459] -- Kovacevic,S [2442], La Pobla de Lillet 1999).

17.Bc2 Ra7

White to move

18.Be3

In addition to harassing the rook as the reference game above at 19.Qf2, this move creates the possibility of locating the bishop on the a3-f8 diagonal.

18...Rd7

18...Rc7 is no good due to 19.Bb6.

19.Qf3 Bb7 20.Qh3

Black to move

At this point in the game, my opponent took a long vacation. When he finally moved again, he had exhausted his vacation time and was under twelve hours on the clock. Not having looked at the game in over a month, I had forgotten that I had a nice position with good compensation for the pawn. I was beginning to hope for a time-out victory.

20...b4??

White maintains an advantage after 20...Bxd5, but must continue to find strong moves, or the attack will dissipate. Then, White's loss of two pawns may become decisive.

I saw that my opponent had moved while I was preparing some BBQ chicken for Saturday dinner. I quickly saw that my knight was safe for at least another two moves. The exchange sacrifice appeared to promise a strong attack. After five minutes of looking at Black's choices, I played my move.

21.Rxf6! 1-0

Black resigned a few hours later.

The game might have continued 21...Qxf6, which struck me as Black's only reply. Then, 22.Qh7+ Kf8 23.Nce4 (I planned 23.Bc5+, which Stockfish 3 considers an inaccurate move order. 23...Rde7 24.Nce4 Qf5 reaching the same position as the main computer line) 23...Qf5 24.Bc5+ Rde7.


*The strongest committed an elementary error in the King's Indian Defense and was later banned for engine use. I suspect that he turned his engine on too late in our game.

25 July 2013

Going Astray (in the King's Gambit)

In a recent game, my opponent tried an offbeat line of the King's Gambit Declined. As the game developed, he or she missed the critical line, then I made some inaccuracies. With two minor pieces against a rook, I managed to outplay my opponent in the middlegame and endgame. However, in the spirit of learning through blitz, I spent some time in the databases after the game.

Stripes -- Internet Opponent
July 2013

1.e4 e5 2.f4 Nc6

This move is mentioned only briefly in my books on the King's Gambit. Neil McDonald mentions Gallagher -- Wohl, Kuala Lumpur 1992 that continued 3.Nf3 f5!? as an "ambitious alternative" (The King's Gambit [1998], 154).

2...Nc6 is a rare move, and yet I've faced it nearly 200 times in online play, and I've played it myself on half a dozen occasions. It seems to be sensible, classical development.

3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 Bg4!?

White to move

This position appears a handful of times during the classic era, when the King's Gambit was a leading opening, in Big Database 2011. In the most notable games, Ernest Falkbeer won with Black, Isidor Gunsburg won with White, and Mikhail Chigorin won in a nice miniature in the Russian Championship in 1903.

In none of these games did White play my move: 5.Nc3?!

My opponent followed with 5...Nf6 and I soon gained an advantage.

Database research reveals that in a handful of games that reached the position after 5.Nc3, Black played 5...Bxf3! White does poorly from the resulting position.

Moreno Garrido -- Magnelli Miranda 1996 offeres an interesting minature that shows how quickly it is possible for White to collapse in the King's Gambit.

6.Qxf3 Nd4 7.Qd1

Hiarcs suggests 7.Qd3 as offering equality for White.

7...Qh4+ 8.g3 Qh3

White to move

Something about Black's aggressive queen reminds me of a line that I have played in the Staunton Gambit.

9.fxe5?

9.Bf1 seems necessary.

9...dxe5 10.d3??

10.Bf1 was the only move.

Black to move

Black holds all of the cards. This game concluded 10...O-O-O 11.Be3 Qg2 12.Rf1 Nxc2+ 13.Qxc2 Qxc2 14.Rxf7 Bb4 15.Bd2 Nf6 0-1

My little inaccuracies could have given me a much tougher game.

24 July 2013

The Fooles Mate

The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the term Fool's Mate as coming into the English language in 1618. The work credits J. Barbier's reprint of Arthur Saul's Famous Game Chesse-play (1614).

One of the eight possible means of effecting this checkmate is given in a printed work attributed to Gioachino Greco that was published several years after his death. This text was published by Francis Beale. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, it is the source for William Lewis's 1819 edition of Greco.
The Fooles Mate
Black Kings Bishops pawne one house.
White Kings pawne one house.
Black kings knight pawns two houses
White Queen gives Mate at the contrary
kings Rookes fourth house.
Gioacchino Greco, The Royall Game of Chesse-Play (London, 1656), 17. 
In Greco's works, and for several centuries afterwards, it was not yet customary for White to move first. It was customary, however, for White to win every illustrative game. Hence, if the player moving first loses, that player will have Black.

In modern notation, Greco's game score would be rendered 1.f3 e6 2.g4 Qh4#.

21 July 2013

Deviating from Book

Book moves have proven themselves through many games over many years. Although Grandmasters labor to extend the book with improvements over prior play, most chess players do well to follow a course that is well charted.

Consider this position from the Italian Opening after the normal moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4. This position has appeared on a chess board somewhere in the world every day since the bishop was given the power to move anywhere along a clear diagonal in the fifteenth century (or before).*

Black to move

Black has many possible responses. No less that thirteen appear in the Chess.com database of Master games. However, two moves are mainlines (clearly "book), and two or three others are worthy of mention (arguably "book").

The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO) employs the code C50 for all Black responses other than 3...Bc5 and 3...Nf6. In addition, after the most popular response, 3...Bc5, all White responses other than 4.c3 and 4.b4 are classified C50.

In C50, 3...Be7 is given two lines. 3...g6 and 3...d6 are mentioned in a footnote.

3...h6 is a non-book move that should be considered suspect, and yet the Chess.com Master database contains 29 games with this move. Czech Grandmaster Pavel Blatny had Black in five of these games, scoring three wins and two draws.

White should play 4.d4, and this move generates quite a few more games played by Pavel Blatny, including losses to Peter Svidler, Senff Martin, and Velicka Petr.

As White, I have faced 3...h6 on several occasions, playing 4.Nc3 at least twenty times before opting for the correct move in 2008. A few times since then, I have tried 4.c3, and sometimes get a very good position very quickly. The resulting position is in the diagram below.

The moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 appeared in a considerably number of Gioachino Greco's games, and they have remained popular through the ensuing four centuries. These moves are classified C53 in ECO. In such a position, 4...h6 is rarer than 3...h6.

White to move

The next few moves almost play themselves:

5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3

Black to move

Black is already worse, but his 3...h6 has served to prevent White's use of g5, which was a theme in Greco's games. 7...Nf6 seems best.

A recent opponent tried 7...d6, and his game slid downhill quickly.

8.Qb3 Nf6?

8...Bxc3+ led to a draw in Baranyai -- Horvath 1995.

9.Bxf7+ Kf8 10.Bg6 Qe7

Black still had the option of Bxc3 or d5.

White to move

11.O-O!

White's material advantage is a single pawn, but his positional advantage is overwhelming.


*See H.J.R. Murray, A History of Chess (1913), and Marilyn Yalom, Birth of the Chess Queen (2004) for the transformation of this piece into the modern one.

ECO Code is a trademark of Chess Informant

19 July 2013

Choose Your Poison

Chess is a hard game. Even an opponent who blunders away a pawn in the opening will find a way to set problems in the way of victory. In this game, White went into a tableau, fianchettoing both bishops and developing his pawns to the third rank. Black impatiently thrust a pawn to e4, and lost a pawn in the process. Nonetheless, this pawn sacrifice* produced some disharmony in White's arrangement.

By move fifteen, Black had compensation for the pawn in slightly better piece coordination and the weakness of White's central pawns. Five moves later, Black regained the pawn with check and presented White with a choice. Where should White move his king?

White to move

21.Kg1 requires courage due to the threatened discovery, but it may have been a better choice. An interesting subsequent line leaves the White king safe behind shattered kingside and central pawns, and with a material advantage. 21...Ng4 22.Bh3 h5 23.Rxh5! Rxh5 24.Bxg4 b5 25.Bxh5 bxc4. Black never gets time for the discovered check.

21.Kf2 Nf4+ 22.Kf3 is interesting, but appears to offer Black too much play.

White played 21.Ke1, a move which only appears safe. Black soon gained a clear advantage.

21...Bf4+ 22.Kd1?

Now, 22.Kf2 was the best choice.

22...Bc3 23.Rb1

Now, Black might consider the security of his own king.

Black to move

Black chose to keep the pressure on White, rather than attending to his own security.

23...Ng4! 24.Nd6+ Ke7 25.Nxc8+ Rxc8 26.Rf3

White might have done better with 26.Kc1 because now he must give up his one remaining active piece.

26...Ne3+ 27.Rxe3 dxe3

White to move

Black has checkmate threats, which gives him a clear goal. White can parry these threats, of course, but will be forced to make concessions. In the game, White gave up material to stop a pawn from queening. However, another pawn was then able to march down the board unopposed.

The ending may be instructive.

28.b4 Rc6 29.Rb3 b5 30.a3 Bd2 31.Bf3 Rg6

White to move

Black has fantasies about putting his rook on g1 with checkmate.

32.g4

32.c3 is best, but still losing.

32...h5 33.c3?

Now, c3 is a mistake. White should have tried 33.g5.

33...hxg5-+ 34.Bg2 Rh6 35.Kc2 Rh2 36.Bf1

Black to move

36...Rf2

36...g3! was stronger.

37.Rb1 g3 38.Bh3 Kf6?

Overlooking the simple win of a pawn that blocks one potential queen. 38...Rxe2-+

39.Kd3 +/- Kg5 40.Rg1 Kh4 41.Bd7 g2 42.e5 Kg3 43.Bc6 Kh2

White to move

White must lose a piece to stop the pawn on g2, but there is another g-pawn waiting to begin its march.

44.Rxg2+ Rxg2 45.Bxg2 Kxg2 46.c4 bxc4+ 47.Kxc4 Kf2 48.Kd3 g5 49.b5 g4 50.a4 g3 0-1


*Blunder is a more accurate term.

16 July 2013

Tactical Shot

This position occurred in Lhagvasuren -- Ulibin, Chelyabinsk 1991. It was published as Chess Informant 52/250.

Black to move

15 July 2013

Fortress

Someone at the Spokane Falls Open was asking about the Reti Opening on Saturday morning. I mentioned a Reti Thematic that I had played on ChessWorld a few years ago. My recollection (verified this morning) was that I had placed second in the thematic. The event was an eleven player double round robin with seven days per move. During the event's early months, I spent a lot of time studying the Reti Opening, which was a major part of my repertoire with the White pieces at the time. I scored 14/20, one point ahead of third place. The winner scored an impressive 19.5/20.

In the thematic, the starting position of all games begins with White's third move after 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 d4. I believe that I tried six different moves from this starting position in the event. If I did not play one of these six, I faced it from the Black side.

I also was the victim of the event's biggest upset, losing with White to one of the players finishing near the bottom of the standings. While reviewing that game this morning, I spotted a key endgame position that I would play differently today with hardly a second thought. Then, I tested my ideas against Rybka 4, drawing the Silicon beast. I also played it against Houdini 1.5, which gave me a slightly easier game.

White to move

Black is set to win a pawn, and there is nothing that White can do to prevent this loss. But, the game itself is not lost.

The game continued:

41.Nb2 Nxc6

Here, I opted to keep my bishop on the board (42.Be8), thinking that it could restrain the advance of Black's pawns. Against Rybka this morning, I gave up the bishop and created a light-square fortress.

42.Bxc6 Kxc6 43.g4 Kd5 44.f3 Bc7 45.Nd3 g6 46.Nb2 f5 47.gxf5 gxf5 48.Nd3

Black to move

Black's extra pawn is of no value. Only the king can capture pawns, and there is no way to evict the knight from d3 when the bishop cannot cover all the dark squares to which the knight can hop. White's king finds safety on e2, where he is untouchable. Rybka played the position out to move 169, where the game was drawn by the Fifty Move Rule. Black's pawns advanced to f4 and h4 to avoid earlier draws by this rule.

13 July 2013

Fox in the Chicken Coop

I am playing in the Spokane City Championship this weekend. Wish me luck! After all, as my opponent noted when I told him, "good luck", on Facebook, "that has nothing to do with it." In the meantime, my reader can amuse him or herself with this simple ending from this week's blitz play.

The position reminded me of Jeremy Silman's "fox in the chicken coop" model endgame technique that went by the name "outside passed pawn" when I was young. But, in the heat of the moment, there seemed more to consider.

White to move

While playing blitz, I often fail to take the time to calculate pawn races. After 1.Kd4 Kd6. White wins by going after the g-pawn. The white h-pawn promotes while the black a-pawn is on a2. Moreover, White still has the triangulation option if Black plays 1...Kb5, 2.Kc3!

I played 1.Kc3, and after 1...Kb5 2.Kb3 Kc6 3.Kb4 reaching the diagram position with Black to move. 1.Kc3 was the second best move, but it was clearly winning and needed no calculation.

3...Kd6 4.b5 and Black resigned.

09 July 2013

Watch the Horse

Black has many ways to win this game and one way to lose.

Black to move

Black played 35...Kd5?? This ending illustrates how blitz beats chess players.

08 July 2013

Missing Checkmate

Teimour Radjabov was rated 2751 when he missed a checkmate in one from this position.

Black to move

Radjabov played 51...b6 and checkmated on the following move. It was a blitz game. No matter how strong the player, blitz chess is of dubious value.

02 July 2013

Instructive Position

The game Capablanca -- Mattison 1929 is often remembered for the smother checkmate that ends it, but Irving Chernev's discussion brings out strategic aspects that helped decide the game long before checkmate.

Black to move

In Logical Chess: Move by Move (1998 [1957]), Chernev explains White's compensation for his doubled c-pawns. Black moved his dark-squared bishop four times in eleven moves to exchange itself for a knight that moved once.

1. Active minor pieces
2. All minor pieces in play.
3. Connected rooks.
4. Secure king.
5. Active, centralized queen.
6. A plan to open lines in the center through a pawn exchange, which favors the player (White) whose "development is superior" (163).