26 November 2014

Lesson of the Week

American Thanksgiving cut out most of my school clubs and half of my private lessons this week. Even so, I still met with my beginning students at one school and a few advanced students in individual lessons.

My advanced students are all going through the games Paul Morphy played in the First American Chess Congress, 1857. These games show Morphy's play during a period of rapid improvement. The contrast between his approach to the game and his first two opponents at the Congress illustrate the concept of development that Morphy understood well and that others (see "Modern School" tag at the bottom of this post) would articulate in the decades following. His games in the final two rounds show how he was able to triumph against more stubborn opposition.

I showed an online blitz game to my beginning students that offered several examples of two- and three-move combinations that were played or that could have been played. Any young player who can consistently recognize two-move combinations will quickly become a contender for trophies in scholastic tournaments.

During the moments when such tactics were possible in this game, I asked the students to find the tactic.

Internet Opponent (1639) -- Stripes,J (1702) [C02]
Live Chess Chess.com, 25.11.2014

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Bd3 Nge7

I play an old line.

6...Rc8 is currently hot, and quite sensible.
6...cxd4 is the most common reply.
6...Qb6 is fine.


Black to move

This common and frequent beginner's error presents Black with an opportunity to win a pawn by force.

7.0–0 would have been a good move.


The immediate 7...Nxe5 is better.


8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.cxd4 Nf5 and Black has an advantage, even though he failed to take the free pawn.

8...Nxe5 9.Nxe5

9.Bxd7+ Nxd7 Black is a pawn ahead, as in the game.

9...Bxb5 10.Nc3 Ba6??

White to move

Black needed to play 10...Qb6 or 10...Bc6.


White continues with clumsy play.

11.Qa4+ exploits Black's blunder. 11...Nc6 12.Nxc6 Qd7 13.Ne5 Qxa4 14.Nxa4+- and White is a piece ahead with a nice position.


Black clearly does not perceive his own vulnerability.


12.Qa4+ Ke7= 13.Bd2 Bxe2 14.Kxe2 with equal chances.

12...Bxe2 13.Qxe2 Nxd4

Black has won two pawns.

14.Qg4 Nc6 15.Bg5??

Black to move

15...Nxe5–+ 16.Qa4+

16.Bxd8 Nxg4–+.

16...Qd7 17.Qd4 Nc6 0–1

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