31 May 2016

Haste Makes Waste

During an online USCF rated blitz tournament* last night, I reached an instructive endgame position. With more than five minutes left on the clock in the game/10 battle, I could have spent a minute or more working out the correct manner of play. Instead, I moved instantly (Chess.com measured my move time as 0.5 seconds**) and I had to settle for a draw.

White to move


My move is the most accurate, although 52.Kh4 was also winning.

52...Re8 53.Rh7??

The half-second blunder.

How long does it take to notice that 53.Rxh5+ forces the king to move and allows 54.Rh7?

The point, which I could have worked out in half a minute, is that after 53.Rxh5+ Kd6 54.Rh7 Rxe7 55.Rxe7 Kxe7, White has a position with a single winning move. Moreover, I know this position well, having created a position almost identical for my Beginning Tactics exercises, which I am developing into a Kindle Book. In my exercise, White's pieces are down one square and the Black king is on e5.

White to move

56.Kg4! is the only move as it outflanks the enemy king. After 56...Kf6 57.Kf4 seizes the opposition, preparing for another outflanking maneuver further up the board.

The game continued:

53...Kd6 54.Kh4 Rxe7 55.Rxe7 Kxe7 56.Kxh5 Kf6 with a dead draw.

Of course, in such positions with limited time on the clock, it is possible to go wrong. We played another fifty moves as I offered my opponent the opportunity to err. He refused, playing precisely. Eventually, the game was drawn by repetition.

*Chess.com began hosting USCF online rated tournament in March 2015. I joined the group shortly after it formed, but did not play until two weeks ago. Last night was my third event. I won the event on tie-breaks over my opponent in this game. We both finished with 4.5/5.

**A nice feature of Chess.com that puts it ahead of sites such as LiChess.org is the recording of move times. Free Internet Chess Server (FICS) also records move times.

17 May 2016


Two Miniatures

Max Euwe describes the games of Gioachino Greco as "chess fairy-tales on the age-old theme of the conflict between riches and honour" (The Development of Chess Style [1966], 1). One side grabs material while the other plays for checkmate.

In early April, I played a game that might have been lifted from the pages of Greco. I knew when my opponent grabbed my rook on a1 that I would either gain the queen in exchange or win by checkmate.

Stripes, J (1876) -- Internet Opponent (1870) [C54]
Live Chess Chess.com, 05.04.2016

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 

This opening is known as the Greco Gambit.

7.Bd2 is considered a better way to block the check. In blitz, however, I prefer the reckless gambit approach.

7.Nbd2 Nxe4 8.d5 Nxd2 9.Bxd2 Bxd2+ 10.Qxd2 Ne7 11.d6 cxd6 12.0–0 d5 13.Bxd5 0–0 14.Rad1 Nxd5 15.Qxd5 d6 16.Qxd6 Qxd6 17.Rxd6 Be6 18.a3 Rfd8 19.Rd4 Rxd4 20.Nxd4 Rd8 21.Rd1 f6 22.f3 Kf7 23.Kf2 Rd5 24.Ke3 Re5+ 25.Kd3 Rc5 26.Re1 Bd7 27.Kd2 Rd5 28.Kc3 Rc5+ 29.Kd2 Rd5 30.Kc3 Rc5+ 31.Kd2 ½–½ Nakamura,H (2799) -- Giri,A (2776) Khanty-Mansiysk 2015

7...Nxe4 8.0–0 Nxc3

8...Bxc3 is better.


Black to move


9...d5 may be best.

10.Qb3 Bxa1?? 

Now, Black is lost.

10...d5 11.Bxd5 0–0 and White is only slightly better.

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

13.Re1 d6 14.Bxe7+ Qxe7 15.Rxe7 Kxe7 16.Bg8

Black to move


13...Bxd4 14.Bg6 d5 15.Qf3+ Bf5 16.Bxf5 Bxe5 17.Be6+ Bf6 18.Bxf6 Ke8 19.Bxg7 1–0 Greco,G-Analysis 1625.

14.Qf3 Bxd4N 

Two other games in ChessBase's database continued 14...Bf5 15.Be6 Bxd4 16.Bxf5 Ng8 (16...Bxe5 17.Be6+ Nf5 18.Bxd8) 17.Bxd8.

15.Be6+ Ke8 

15...Nf5 is more stubborn.

16.Qxf5+ Qf6 17.Bxf6 g6 18.Nxg6+ hxg6 19.Qxg6.

16.Qf7# 1–0

Then, yesterday morning, I won another quick game when my opponent grabbed a rook instead of protecting his king. This game, although completely different in opening plans and structure, is linked to Greco's via the mating attack that follows a materialistic rook grab.

Stripes,J (2083) -- Internet Opponent (2107) [A80]
Another Chess Site, 16.05.2016

1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 e6 4.e4

I have played this line in correspondence chess and over-the-board. See "Staunton Gambit".

4...fxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Qh5+

7.Nf3 is popular among strong players.

7...g6 8.Qh6 Qe7 9.Nxf6+ Qxf6 

White to move


10.Nf3 seems necessary.

10...Qxd4 11.Nf3 Qxb2 12.Rd1 Qxc2

12...Qb4+ 13.Rd2 Qf8 14.Qg5 White has minimal compensation for the pawns.

13.Bd3 Qc3+ 14.Rd2

Black to move


Black wins material, but disregards the safety of his king.

14...Nc6 and Black is better.


Only move, but leads to a clear advantage.

15.Rd1 Qxh6 and White can resign.


15...Qc3 was the last chance. 16.h5±.

White to move


White has a decisive advantage.


16...Kd8 17.Qg5#.

16...Ke7 17.Qg7+ Kd8 18.Qf6#.

17.Qxh8+ Kf7

17...Ke7 is best, although White has a forced checkmate in thirteen: 18.Qg7+ Ke8 19.Ne5 c5 20.Qf7+ Kd8 21.Qf8+ Kc7 22.Qxc5+ Nc6 23.Qd6+ Kd8 24.Nxd7 Qh2 25.g3 Nb8 26.Nf6+ Bd7 27.Rc2 Qxf2+ 28.Kxf2 e5 29.Qf8+ Be8 30.Qxe8#.

18.Ng5+ Ke7 19.Qg7+ Kd8 

19...Ke8 20.Qf7+ Kd8 21.Qf8#.

20.Qf8# 1–0

Sometimes it is best to play for a material advantage, but not when the king is vulnerable.

15 May 2016

Rook versus Knight

Despite having several other commitments this weekend, I managed to get in two tournament games. Both games were against lower rated opponents who beat me in February. I played terribly in the first round, but managed to offer my opponent an opportunity to stalemate me. He obliged.

In this morning's game, I struggled until my opponent blundered a piece, then struggled again. I gave back the piece for an attack that proved less potent than I had anticipated, then blundered away a piece. We entered an endgame where I had two rooks and an extra pawn against a rook and two minor pieces. One set of rooks came off, as did several pawns.

Due to threats my rook was able to generate against his pawns, he allowed me to fork his bishop and knight. He gave up his bishop for the last of my queenside pawns.

We reached this position with White to move.

I played the only move that maintained a decisive advantage, according to the engine.