31 August 2018

Anatomy of a Miniature

Miniatures (games ending in fewer than 25 moves) occur because one of the players makes a catastrophic error. This game was played with each player having three minutes for the whole game. With such a time control, errors abound.

Internet Opponent (1952) -- Stripes,J (1967) [D30]
Live Chess Chess.com, 24.08.2018

1.Nf3 e6 2.d4 c5 3.c4 d5 4.e3 Nf6 5.Qc2

5.Nc3 is the main line.

5...Nc6 6.a3

6.dxc5 was played in a game in the database 6...Bxc5 7.a3 Bd6 8.Nc3 0–0 9.Be2 dxc4 10.Bxc4 a6 11.Bd3 Bd7 12.0–0 Rc8 13.Rd1 Qc7 and drawn in 28 moves, Nyzhnyk,I (2544) -- Slugin,S (2427) Kiev 2010.


The only other game I found reaching this position continued 6...cxd4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.e4 Nf6 9.Bb5?? Qa5+ 10.b4 Qxb5 and White gave up after move 30, Hennemann,H -- Zolanwar,F Heroldsbach 1997.

White to move

7.Be2 dxc4 8.Qxc4 cxd4

8...b5 9.Qxb5 Nxd4

9.Nxd4 Qa5+ 10.Bd2 Qg5 11.0–0 Be7 12.e4 Qh4 13.Nc3

Black to move


13...Nxe4 wins a pawn.


14.Qc7 Nxe4 15.Qxb7 Nxd2 16.Qxa8+ Bd8 17.Qxa7 Nxf1 18.Bxf1±

14...0–0 15.g3 Qh3

Black's idea is clear and simple.

White to move


16.f3 and no knight will occupy g4. Black needs a new idea.

16...Nfg4 17.Bxg4 Nxg4 18.Nf3

Black to move


18...f5 is the best way to dislodge the knight.

19.Rfe1 Bc5 20.Be3 Bxe3 21.fxe3 Bxe4 22.Nbd4

Attempts to secure the knight.


Low on time and losing a knight, White resigned.

22...Nxh2 was a better way for Black to finish the attack. 23.Kf2 (23.Nxh2 Qg2#; 23.Re2 Nxf3+ 24.Nxf3 Bxf3 25.Qd3 Qh1+ 26.Kf2 Qg2+ 27.Ke1 Qg1+) 23...Ng4+ 24.Ke2 Qg2+ 25.Kd1 Bxf3+ 26.Kc1.


29 August 2018

Promote the Pawn

Chess Informant 136 came out last month, but I'm still spending my study time with the previous issue. In CI 135 the article "Endgame Blunders" by Zoran Petronijevic presents some interesing positions where strong players went wrong. This position would have occurred had Samuel Sevian found the winning idea and then Robert Hess played the computer's top choice.

White to move

Variation from Sevian,S. -- Hess,R., Las Vegas 2017

27 August 2018

A Warning

When I'm trying to show young players and even adults how to think about material on the chess board, I often show a Greco game that I've played in its entirety in online blitz. It, along with Paul Morphy's Opera game, illustrates that the pieces in the battle matter, while those on the board who are watching the game do not count.

There is another relatively famous game that I've played in its entirety multiple times. Alas, these games have been quick and embarrassing losses. The players of this famous game are not well known. They seem to have surnames only everywhere I've seen the game referenced.

Silbermann -- Honich [A40]
Czernowitz, 1930

1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Nc6 3.Nf3 Qe7 4.Bf4?!

A risky move.


4...Qb4+ 5.Bd2



White to move


The White pieces have a mutual protection pact. Alas, Black can crush it with a pin.

6.Nc3 is White's only reply

6...Bb4+- 7.Qd2

Better is 7.Bxb4 Nxb4–+

7...Bxc3 8.Qxc3

8.Nxc3 Qxa1+ 9.Nd1 and Black is winning.

8...Qc1# 0–1

25 August 2018


I scrolled through the moves of this blitz game a little faster than they were played, and quickly found the critical error. It was made from this position.

White to move

From Mikhalevski,V. -- Sutovsky,E., Internet blitz 2002. This game appeared in Chess Informant 135 as a reference game in Baadur Jobava, "Chess in the Fast Lane," 32-42.

23 August 2018

Exchange into Rook Ending?

Is it time for White to exchange bishops? In a rook ending, Black's king is perfectly positioned to avert the customary tactical shots. Does White have a way of forcing a win?

White to move

From Damljanovic,B -- Esen,B, Warszawa 2013.

22 August 2018


Some annotations in Chess Informant 129 brought home to me the level of calculation that is necessary in Grandmaster play. While running a local chess tournament last weekend, I spent some idle time reviewing an issue of Informant that I happened to have on the computer that I was using for pairings. I took this position into the skittles room for some participants to work on between rounds.

White to move

It is White's move 24, and SP Sethuraman, who won this game enroute to the Asian Championship, said that his opponent missed this tactic when playing a7-a5 three moves earlier.

Black to move

Sethuraman suggests 21...a6 22.e5 Nd5 23.Nxd5 cxd5 Qh5 "is given by the computer as equal, but I would prefer White here" (SP Sethuraman, "Through the Fire," Informant 129, 71).

After 21...a5 22.e5 Nd5 (22...Nd7 was played in the game) 23.Nxd5 cxd5, the b5 pawn is weak.

The game continued:

21...a5 22.e5 Nd7 23.Bf5 Nxe5 and we have the diagram at the top of this post, where Sethuraman played what he called a "cute little tactic" (71).

21 August 2018

Morra Miniatures

This morning I won a short game employing the Smith-Morra Gambit. The Morra fascinates me because I lost to it in eight moves in a chess tournament twenty years ago. I also have faint recollection of struggling against it in an email game several years later. In junk chess, that is, the online blitz that I play most days, I often employ a variation of the Morra Gambit that mimics the Danish Gambit. However, in the Danish Gambit, Black cannot play e7-e6. Against the Morra, that move is quite normal.

After winning this short game this morning, I spent some time looking at other Morra games, but between masters, using the ChessBase iOS app on my iPad. That program tends to crash, but it does give me access to the ChessBase online database. The game that caught my interest is not available at 365.com, chessgames.com, or other free game collections online. However, via the winning player's name, I was able to download a PGN file of all the games from the event from FIDE's website.

Stripes,J (1968) -- Internet Opponent (1995) [B21]
Live Chess Chess.com, 21.08.2018

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.Bc4 Nc6 4.c3 dxc3

This move order confuses the database. It shows eight games with 5.Nxc3 and a horrid score for White, but entering 5.Nxc3 brings up nearly one thousand games. The two most popular Black replies--5...e6 and 5...d6–-both increase the number of reference games. White's score remains such that the line might be considered a poor choice in serious competition.


My intention was to play an obscure Morra variant akin to the Danish Gambit.

White normally plays 5.Nxc3 e6 (5...d6)

5...e6 6.0–0 a6

I think that Black wastes time driving the bishop to a square where it will not need the queen's protection.


7.Nxc3 transposes to somewhat normal Morra.

7...b5 8.Bb3 d6 9.Rd1 Qc7 10.Nxc3

Now that White has played this move, there are reference games in the database.

10...Bb7 11.Bf4 Nf6

Black is finally beginning to get the kingside developed. White is ready to attack with all of his forces and the Black king remains in the center. Already, Stockfish sees White as having the edge.

White to move

12.Rac1 Qb8 13.e5

13.Nd5! As in the King's Gambit, players of the Morra Gambit should be prepared to sacrifice a piece or find another opening.


Does not help Black's defense.

Necessary was 13...Nh5 14.Nd5 Nxf4 15.Nxf4 d5 (15...dxe5 16.Rxc6 Bxc6 17.Nxe5 Bd6 18.Nxc6 Qc7 19.Nxe6 Qxc6 20.Nd4+) 16.Nxd5 exd5 17.e6 White's attack is strong and should prevail, but Black has faint hopes.

14.Nxe5+– Nxe5

14...Bb4 is the engine's top choice


Black to move


15...Be7 Stockfish would give up the queen.


16.Nxb5 is stronger, but White's move is good enough 16...Be7 (16...axb5 leads to a forced checkmate 17.Qxb5+ Bc6 18.Qxc6+ Nd7 19.Rxd7 Qa6 20.Rd8+ Kxd8 21.Rd1+ Bd6 22.Rxd6+ Ke7 23.Qd7+ Kf8 24.Rxa6 Rb8 25.Ra7 and checkmate in one) 17.Nxa7

16...gxf6 17.Bxe6

17.Nxb5 remains best


Moves into checkmate in five.

17...fxe6 18.Qxe6+ and checkmate in nine 18...Be7 19.Rd7 Qc5 20.Re1 etc.

White to move

18.Bd7+ Kd8 19.Qe8+ Kc7 20.Nd5+ Kd6 21.Nxf6+

21.Nb6+ prevents a delaying move


21...Qd4 22.Rxd4+ Bd5 23.Rxd5#

22.Rxd5# 1–0

Georgy Pilavov was not known to me before this game, although he is in FIDE's list of the top 200 active players.

Pilavov,Georgy (2611) -- Poliakov,Vladimir (2401) [B21]
Crimean Dridge Golubitskaya (3), 26.05.2018

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3

The normal moves in the Smith-Morra Gambit.

4...Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Qe2

Until this move, both players have played the most common move order.

7.0–0 is the normal move order.

Black to move


Two moves that occur more often also seem more in keeping with Black's need to get the king out of the center: 7...Nf6 and 7...Be7.

8.0–0 Qc7 9.Rd1 Nf6 10.Bf4 Ne5

Black's second most popular move in the position.

10...Be7 is the most popular.

11.Bxe5 dxe5 12.Rac1 Qb8

White to move


This move appears in two prior games in the database, one between juniors in 1997 and a more recent game between class players. White lost both games. According to my chess engine, Black can draw with best play. However, an International Master failed to find the necessary defense. Those who play the Smith-Morra in serious games might find benefits from studying this game.


13...axb5 14.Bxb5+ Bd7 Both ways to capture the bishop lead to equality, according to Stockfish.  Nanni,S (1709) -- Bozzao,F (1883) Arco ITA 2015 was won by Black in 28 moves.


Although Morphy's Opera game differed in substantial ways with Rxd7 keeping most of Black's pieces pinned, there is a way this game is similar. All White's pieces are participating in the attack, while Black's forces are spectators. In this game and Morphy's Opera game, Black's king is stuck in the middle.

14.Qd3 Eissing,C -- Philipowski,R Hiddenhausen 1997 was won by Black in 30 moves.

14...Nxd7 15.Bxe6!

Black to move


15...Nc5 16.Bxf7+ Kxf7 17.Ng5+ Kg6 18.Qf3 Kxg5 19.Qf5+ White can force a draw by repetition.

16.Nc7+ Ke7 17.Qc4 Kd8 18.Ng5

18.Nxe6+ Ke7 19.Neg5

Black to move


18...Bc5 19.Ncxe6+ Ke7 20.Nxc5 Qg8 21.Qb4+–

19.Ncxe6+ Nxe6 20.Qxe6 1–0

I really enjoyed playing through GM Pilavov's game.

19 August 2018


Ten years ago this weekend, I played a four game match in the Spokane City Championship against reining champion, FM David Sprenkle. I lost game one rather quickly, then missed good drawing chances in game two. This was the critical position in the second game.

Black to move

This weekend, David Rowles is the challenger against current champion Michael Cambareri. I am directing the concurrently running Spokane Falls Open, an event that I won three years ago. This year's event is the largest in memory with 35 players.