20 July 2019


Chess Informant 140 arrived yesterday, but I went to a concert after work. On the way home from the concert, we stopped for burgers and brought them home. While eating my burger, I opened Informant to the first page and started trying to "see" the best game from CI 139 in my head. The tactics and imbalances were hard to fathom, so I installed the CD on my computer immediately after dinner and went through the game again.

The fireworks started with this position, which also appears as a diagram in Informant.

White to move

Instead of the obvious 21.Ne4, Aleksey Goganov played 21.Re4, which annotator Branko Tadic gives !?

Obviously, White wants to swing the rook to h4 to make the bishop sacrifice on h6 effective. Abhimanyu Sameer Puranik would not allow such a thing, so 21...f5.

Now what? The rook should go back to e1, perhaps.

Goganov wanted to fight.


My imagination had to work hard to keep the hamburger juice off my chin while contemplating the possibilities. Puranik takes the centralized rook, as the other cannot get away.

22...fxe4 23.Nxe4 Qf8

White to move

Exchanging rooks on d8 seems sensible enough, but White had ambitions for something more.


Tadic deals with Rxd8 in the commentary. The move evaluations are his.


Obviously, Black doesn't want to give up the whole cavalry for a rook.


Well, this was the idea, but does it work now?

25...Ne7 26.Nxe5!

Black to move

I wouldn't touch the bishop on d5, of course, but the other must be executed.

26...gxh6 27.Nf7+ Kh7

In the subsequent battle, both players made errors. Running an engine while playing through the game confirmed Tadic's series of question marks as White was winning, then Black, then White again. White, as they say, made the second to the last error. This game was not the best of Informant 139 for its accuracy of play. But, it is a worthy game for the creativity of White's aggression and the fighting spirit of both players. I think I'll play through it a few more times, and maybe show it to some students.

19 July 2019

A Positional Crush

My play in over the board events the past few years has been limited, even though I seem to play online most days. After recovering from a couple of poor results that sent my rating racing towards its floor, I climbed back into the middle of A class. That terrible result--the 2016 Collyer Memorial--included three consecutive losses after winning an easy game in round one. This summer, I lost three straight again. I lost the last round of the Inland Empire Open, then my first two games in the Spokane Contender's--an event that takes place over the course of two months to determine the challenger for the City Championship.

Last night I won a game, stopping the string of losses.

My opponent was a high school student who has been having good results at the Spokane Chess Club. This game was our first. I knew from a conversation at the Inland Empire Open in May about Tactics Trainer on Chess.com that he does a lot of tactics and is pretty good. I intended to be careful, avoiding unnecessary complications.

Stripes,James (1881) -- Sauder,Samuel W M (1758) [C02]
Spokane Contenders Spokane, 18.07.2019


In this game, my opponent ran his clock down to 21 minutes, spending lots of time each move, while I used about 31 minutes for the entire game. Of course, I used his time well. Rather than deep tactical calculation, I mainly proceeded on the base of relatively simple and straight-forward positional ideas with a little tactics at the moment of attack.

1...Nc6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e4 d5

I don't usually have to work this hard this early in the game.


Both player's knights seem somewhat misplaced for the French Advance, but it strikes me as a principled way to meet my opponent's odd move order.

Black to move

How should Black continue? During the game, of course, I want to show that Black's plans are all wrong. After the game, my focus shifts. I play the French, so improvements for Black must be found.


Black sets up a tactic if White is foolish (something I've been on the Black side of countless times).

4...Nge7 has fared better for Black than other options. 5.c3 Nf5 6.Bd3 Nh4 7.0-0 Nxf3+ 8.Qxf3 and Black won in 61 moves. Simonian,H (2405)--Shaposhnikov,E (2545), playchess.com INT 2007.

4...f6 must be played sooner or later. 5.Bd3 There are four games in 2016 PowerBook--all White wins, but Black gets some play in several of them. I believe this option offered better prospects for my opponent than the course he chose in the game.


5.Bb5? Nxe5 and Black has the upper hand.

5...Qe7 6.a3

I'm thinking of Dirty Harry's line, "go ahead and make my day." Castle queenside and see what happens.

6...0-0-0? 7.b4±

At this point in the game, I've used seven minutes to Sam's fifteen. I'm starting to feel comfortable that I have a long-term plan. Push the queenside pawns, set up a battery on the a6-f1 diagonal, and prepare to bring the other rook to the queenside. The a1 rook is perfectly developed. Where to put my queenside minor pieces and the optimal move order remain open questions.


Sam prepares a retreat for the knight.

7...f6 8.b5 Na5 9.Bd2 Nc4 10.a4 Nb2 11.Qc1 Nxd3+ 12.cxd3 is good for White, but probably better than accepting near immobility of Black's forces.


I had notions of playing Na4-c5, but the discovery gave me pause.

8...f6 9.b5 Nd8

White to move


10.Na4 b6 and I've lost some tempi, but perhaps a4-a5 will be useful after repositioning the knight. ;
10.a4 was probably fine, but I could see that my opponent had ideas of opening the e-file. I didn't see a way for him to do so, but got my king off it anyway before proceeding with my attack.

10...g5 11.a4!?

11.exf6 I planned to play this move, originally. 11...Nxf6 12.a4 (12.Bxg5 was my intent, but it does offer Black more play than he got in the game. 12...Rg8)


Black's pawn helps shield White against any possible counterattacks.

12.exf6 Nxf6 13.Ne5

A happy knight!

Black to move.

13...Rg8 14.a5 Qg7


(15.Bd2 was my intent 15...Qxd4 was something I overlooked, but maybe I would have looked more carefully if Black had opted to try this line. 16.Nxd7)

15.Ne2! Now Bd2 is a threat 15...Qe7 16.c4


15.Qe2 was the main alternative. I wasn't certain the best move order here, but thought that White was clearly winning in either case. Sam had used nearly an hour to my fifteen minutes.


15...a6 16.Qe2 (16.bxc7 Nf7 17.Qe2 Nxe5 18.dxe5 Ne4 19.Nxe4 dxe4 20.Bxa6) 16...cxb6 17.axb6;
15...c5 16.bxa7

16.axb6 a6 17.Qe2

I've known for a long time that I would be sacrificing a piece on a6, but when is less clear.

17...Bc6 18.Nb5!

I was happy with this move.

18.Bxa6 bxa6 19.Rxa6 Bb7 20.Bf4! was not something I examined. (20.Ra7 was in my calculations, but I played it a little safer. 20...Bd6 21.Nb5 Bxe5 22.Qxe5 seems fine for White, too.) 20...Bxa6 21.Qxa6+ Qb7 22.Qa4 Qxb6 23.Rb1 Qc7 24.Qa8+.

Black to move



18...Kb8 19.Bf4 (19.Na7 Bd6 20.Naxc6+ Nxc6 21.Nxc6+ bxc6 22.Bxa6) 19...Nh5 20.Nxc6+ Kc8 21.Nba7+ Kd7 22.Ne5+ Ke7 23.Nc8+ Kf6 24.Qe3+-.

18...axb5 19.Ra8#.

19.Bxb5 Re7?

19...Bd6 20.Ba3 Bxe5 21.Qxe5 Nh5 22.Qd6 Qe7 23.Bxe8 Qxd6 24.Bxd6 Rxe8 White is winning, but Black can play on a bit.


20.Bxa6 is the right time, according to the engine. I thought it was fine, but Black does have some seventh rank defenders. Besides, my dark-squared bishop is in the way of my plans. 20...bxa6 21.Rxa6 Rb7 22.Ra8+ Rb8 23.Qa6+ Qb7 24.Ra7 Bd6 (24...Qxa6 25.Rc7#) 25.Rxb7 Rxb7 26.c4.


White to move


21.Nxf7 did not seem the right course. This knight assists in maintaining checkmate threats.

21...Rfxf8 22.c4!?

Not Clint Eastwood, but some 1960s Western with a line, "roll 'em, keep those doggies rollin'" or something like that pops into my head.

And so I turned to Google.

My memory of the lyrics is a little off, and it seems that a young Clint Eastwood was in the television series Rawhide, the theme song of which sits vaguely in my memory with incorrect lyrics.

22.Bxa6 bxa6 23.Rxa6 was still possible, but until I see a clear checkmate and as long as my bishop is immune ...

22...Kb8 23.Bxa6

Now is the time, there is no more work for the bishop. Soon a rook battery on the a-file will end things (or I will will find something else.

23...bxa6 24.Rxa6 Qb7

White to move


Defends the rook and puts my pawns to use as insurance against Black organizing a defense.

25.Rfa1 Rg7 26.Qa2 the engine sees a mate in seven, but I was not looking that deep.


25...Kc8 26.Rfa1

26.Nxc6+ Qxc6 27.Qe5+ Kc8 28.Ra8+

Black to move


28...Qxa8 29.Qc7#;
28...Kb7 29.Ra7+ Kc8 30.Rc7+

29.Ra7+ Kd8 30.Qb8+ Qc8 31.Qd6+ 1-0

31...Nd7 32.c6 was my idea.

14 July 2019

Gifford -- Ter Haar 1873

This game came to my attention during a search for examples of smother mate. In early July, I put together a worksheet for my students that featured smother checkmate threats, some of which could be prevented. Some of the source games offered additional interest.

The game was played in the first ever Dutch Championship, which was won after tiebreaks by Henry William Birkmyre Gifford. Little is known today about Gifford, although ChessBase has 39 of his games in their database. Even less is known about his opponent whose only games in the database are from this event.

Gifford,HWB -- Ter Haar,TC [B01]
DCA Congress 1st The Hague (1), 1873

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 d5

Rare move

More common is 3...exd4 4.Nxd4 then several branches.

4.exd5 Qxd5 5.c4 Qe4+ 6.Be3

6.Be2 seems sensible to me.


The pinned bishop is attacked.

White to move


This game is the only one with this move. 7.Nxd4 was necessary.

7...Qe7 8.Nxd4 Nxd4 9.0-0 Ne6 10.Nc3

Black to move

Does White have compensation for the  knight? His pieces are better placed and Black's king is in the center, but it is not so easy to mount an attack. Still, one gets the sense from the game as it subsequently developed that Gifford foresaw this position and estimated the loss of the knight to be a worthwhile sacrifice to bring it about.

10...c6 11.Re1 Bd7 12.Bf4 Nf6 13.Bg3 g6 14.f4 Bg7

White to move


Gifford surely saw 15.f5 Qc5+ 16.Kh1 gxf5.

15...Nh5 16.Ne4 Nxg3+ 17.Nxg3 0-0-0

The g-file will open.

White to move

18.f5 gxf5 19.Nxf5 Qf6 20.Nd6+ Kb8 21.Rf1 Nf4

21...Qe7 22.Nxf7

22.c5 Qg5 23.Qd2

Black to move

The pinned knight is attacked.


23...Qxg2+ 24.Qxg2 Nxg2 25.Kxg2 Rdf8;
23...Ne6 24.Qb4 Bc8


Black is fine even yet.


24...Ka8? 25.Qb4 Rb8 26.Be4 Qh5;
24...Be5 25.Qe3 Bd4 26.Qf3

White to move

This position was on my worksheet.

25.Ne8+ Ka8

Black can delay checkmate two moves longer with 25...Be5 26.Qxe5+ Qd6 27.Qxd6+ Ka8 28.Nc7+ Kb8 29.Na6+ Ka8 30.Qb8+ Rxb8 31.Nc7#.

26.Nc7+ Kb8 27.Na6+ Ka8 28.Qb8+ Rxb8 29.Nc7# 1-0

03 July 2019

The Immobile Rook

As I plod through games that are referenced in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, sometimes a game will catch my eye. This morning it was Franzoni,G.--Dreev,A., Luzern 1993, published in Chess Informant 59/325. Dreev provided the annotations.

Black to move
After 23.Bf3


My first impulse is to guard against the capture of the knight that forks king and rook. Dreev, however, found that his pawns and queen were quite strong enough for the attack. Meanwhile his pawn chain, immobile rook, and bishop could neutralize White's threats.

I should file this position away as an example of intermezzo.

24.Bxc6+ Kf8

White to move


Dreev offers two alternatives for this rook: 25.Rff1 and 25.Rf3. He carries out the second to move 31 when Black is forcing the queens off the board when ahead by a rook.

25...c3 26.Bxa8 cxb2 27.Rb1 Bxe2

White to move

28.f5 Qd2–+ 29.h3 exf5 30.e6 Bb5

One wonders how many moves back Dreev discovered this important resource. White's threats are not insignificant even though Dreev renders them impotent.

31.e7+ Kg8 32.Bf3 Qxc2 33.Bd5 Qxb1+ 34.Kh2

Black to move


White's checkmate threat had to be stopped.


Another checkmate threat.



36.Be4 Qe1 37.Bxg6 Qg3+ 38.Kg1 0–1

I'm always curious about the circumstances when the player who lost gets in the last move. White still has threats, but they are easily parried.

02 July 2019

Helping Benko

In round 22 of the 1962 Candidates tournament, Pal Benko with the Black pieces had a crushing attack against Bobby Fischer. However, he failed to find the knockout blow and then blundered in time pressure. Black can force checkmate from all of the positions below, which might have occurred had Benko played slightly differently. Perhaps, also, Fisher needed to err to reach these positions.

Warm Up (mate in three)

Black to move

Black to move

Slightly Challenging (mate in five)

Black to move

Challenge (mate in seven and nine)

Black to move

Black to move

01 July 2019

Chess Camp

I have my annual chess camp for youth next week. As in years past, the students each receive a camp workbook (see "The Camp Workbook"). When I started creating these workbooks, I would print them on school photocopiers at no cost to me, and then bind them at Staples or FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos) with cardstock covers (costing me about $4.50 each). Publishing them via Amazon, my printing costs are less than binding was in the past, and the students get a professionally bound book.

Two years ago, I created Five Days to Better Chess: Essential Tools for my camp. It is a good quality book that stands own its own as a resource for teachers and developing chess players up to B Class (under 1800). This year, I have finally added a long-planned glossary of tactics to a collection of 150 exercises that I have used since 2006. These exercises with glossary was published last week as Checkmates and Tactics. This book will be this year's workbook, supplemented with a some additional materials.

Every chess camp consists of endgame study the first day or two and some sort of endgame tournament, depending on the strength of the players enrolled. One of my top fifth graders is in the camp, as are several students whom I do not yet know. It is likely that some will be just starting to learn chess.

There is always a camp tournament consisting of one game per day for the five days. The day's camp routine consists of short lectures on positions, concepts, and short games. These lectures are broken up by cooperative and competitive problem solving exercises. The workbook fills idle time as some finish their tournament games earlier than others. Some time is set aside for workbook focus. Any errors that I discover in the book before camp begins (correctable for those buying the book later) become contests for the students: find the misspelled word.

Camp consists of five days, three hours per day. As the week goes on, the presentations are tailored to the needs of the students and we discuss middle games and openings.

Everything the students do, including behaving well, earns camp points. At the end of the week, prizes are awarded based on these points.

29 June 2019

Tactical Ideas: Updated List

Seven years ago, I posted "Tactical Motifs: A List," which contains several lists of varied length from text and internet sources. It had been my intent to develop a "glossary of tactics" to be published along with exercises that I had been using for several years with my students. Over the past three months, I have been poking away at creating this glossary, which also includes a small set of checkmate patterns, as part of a new self-published book. The impetus to finish it was my desire for a workbook that I could give the students in my chess camp next month.

For the book, Checkmate and Tactics (2019), I found an example of every tactic listed. For the checkmate patterns, I mostly used smaller partial diagrams, but a few are illustrated from games.

An example:

Trapped piece:
A piece that is vulnerable to capture because it has no way to retreat out of danger is trapped. Aggressive play grabbing material often leads to getting one’s own piece trapped, as in Spassky,B.–Fischer,R., Reykjavik 1972, the first game of their World Championship Match.

White to move

Fischer had grabbed a pawn with 29…Bxh2. Spassky’s 30.g3 trapped the bishop. Black gained two pawns for the bishop, but it was not enough. Black went on to win the game.

The list in Checkmates and Tactics, sans the checkmate patterns.

Destroying the pawn shield
Double attack
Double check
Greek gift
Intermezzo (Zwischenzug)
Key Squares
Lucena position
Philidor Position
Removing the guard
Square of the pawn
Trapped piece
Undefended/Underdefended piece
Understanding threats

28 June 2019

Mate in Four

From a composition by George Koltanowski. White forces checkmate in four moves.

White to move

27 June 2019

Endgame Exercise

My apologies for inactivity this past month. My chess time has been devoted mostly towards preparing my annual chess camp workbook. Now, however, with it submitted to the publisher, I'm looking at old chess lessons from many years ago. Playing around with an endgame my opponent muffed fifteen years ago, I created this position.

White to move

What must White do?

26 May 2019

Textbook Ending

While continuing to work my way through drawn endgames from my personal database (see "King Position"), I found that I missed a textbook win that I have taught to my chess students. However, my failure dates from 2006 and I've been teaching it since about 2014.

Reuben Fine, Basic Chess Endings (1941) offers this position (No. 40).

White/Black to move

White to move draws, Black to move wins for White.

Mark Dvoretsky, Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual (2003) offers a similar position.

White/Black to move

Again, it is only a win for White if Black is on move. The key, as Dvoretsky points out, is that White's king must occupy h6 while a pawn remains on the second rank, preserving the option of moving one or two spaces. That way, Fine's position can be forced with Black to move.

In a game on Free Internet Chess Server, I had this position.

White to move

1.Kg5 wins.

I played 1.h4 and the game was drawn.

25 May 2019

King Position

I am working my way through pawn endings that I have played over the past twenty years that ended drawn (see "Four on Four"). Some of these are completely lost for one player who was saved by the clock. Many of them are blown wins by one side or the other. Several games reveal that both players threw away a win, as yesterday's "More Endgame Errors".

Of course, these games nearly all come from blitz games played online. By the time a pawn ending is reached, the players may have only a few seconds remaining. Even so, better instincts can be trained, leading to better endings when one must play instantly.

This morning's review turned up an interesting position with both sides possessing pawn majorities, but White's king is better placed.

Stripes,J -- Internet Opponent [D32]
rated blitz match  freechess.org, 17.10.2005

White to move


Seems like the wrong pawn, but ...


33...a5 34.Kf3 Kg7 35.b4 axb4 36.Ke2 Kf7 37.a5 Black's king is outside the square.

34.b4 Kf7

White to move


35.Kf3!+- Ke7 36.Ke4 Kd6 37.Kd4 a6 38.b5

Black to move
Analysis diagram


(38...axb5 39.axb5 Kc7 40.Kd5)

39.f4 Kc7

(39...g5 40.fxg5 fxg5 41.Ke4)

40.Kc5 Kd7 41.Kd5 Kc7 42.Ke6 g5 43.fxg5 fxg5 44.Kf5+-


Black, nonethless, managed to fail, too. The game was drawn at move 61.

24 May 2019

More Endgame Errors

Working my way through more than 200 drawn pawn endgames is revealing how poor my endgame skills were fifteen to twenty years ago. I bought Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual in 2003 or 2004, and that was after training against Hiarcs or Fritz with 100 pawn endgames downloaded from a website with terrific tactics and ending PDFs.

I plan to develop training material for my students from these games.

White to move

Internet Opponent -- Stripes,J. [A46]
ICC 5 0 Internet Chess Club, 24.11.2003


37.Ke3?! a5

     (37...g5 38.g4?? fxg4 39.hxg4 h4 40.Kxe4 a5 and Black has the upper hand)

38.g3 a4 39.Kd2 g5 and Black has the upper hand



37...g5 and Black has the upper hand

38.b3+ Kd5

White to move


39.h4 is the only move that holds the draw.



Did I know that the game had suddenly turned in my favor?

40.Ke2 a5 41.Kd2 Kc5 42.Kc2

Black to move


42...g4 shows a grasp of the right idea.

43.axb4+ axb4 44.cxb4+??


44...Kxb4–+ 45.Kb2 g4 46.hxg4 hxg4 47.Kc2

Black to move


There is a breaktrough idea based on the square of the pawn. Either I was extremely harried because of the clock, or simply lacked understanding of this elementary endgame concept.

47...e3 48.fxe3 f3 49.gxf3 g3 and the pawn will promote.

47...Ka3 48.Kc3 e3 49.f3 gxf3 50.gxf3 e2 51.Kd2 Kxb3 52.Ke1 Kc2 53.Kxe2 Kc3 54.Ke1 Kd3-+

48.gxf3 exf3 49.Kd2= Kxb3 50.Ke3 Kc4 51.Kf4 Kd4 52.Kxg4 Ke4 53.Kg3

Black to move


The only move, but at least at this point in my life, I had an understanding of the opposition.

54.Kxf3 Kf5= 

Black was stalemated on move 73

23 May 2019

Four on Four

While reading Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics, I was inspired to review some of my online games over the past two decades. I searched for games that resulted in a four vs. four pawn endgame, thinking that maybe I would find a breakthrough position similar to those in that section of the book. With a database of nearly 100,000 games, there are many pawn endings. I opted to focus on games that were drawn, reducing the number to 202.

There are plenty of examples where my or my opponent's lack of endgame skill surrendered half a point. These are from the years 1999-2002.

Black to move

I had Black and played 40...f4. The game was drawn at move 55.

White to move

With White, I played 44.Kf4, offering victory to my opponent whose own errors let me back into the game.

White to move

For reasons I can no longer explain, I played 45.Kd7, which my opponent graciously failed to exploit.

White to move

My opponent played the correct 48.Kxb6 and the game was drawn at move 74. Would I have proceeded with competence had he tried 48.h3??

In some games, other pieces were on the board that were exchanged into a drawn or even losing ending.

White to move

I had White. The game continued 49.Rf6?? Rxf6 50.gxf6 Kxf6 51.Kf3 c3?? and was drawn at move 61. White has a win from the diagram, and Black does after 51.Kf3.

22 May 2019

Playing against the Isolani

In the Inland Empire Open last weekend, I was on board two in the last round, fighting for second place. My opponent and I stood at 3.0 points, while those on board one stood at 3.5 and 4.0. There were other players with 3.0 as well. I faced Pat Herbers, who is at his rating floor of 1900. Several prior games against Pat have been draws, and I have lost a few. I have never beat him.

Stripes,James (1889) -- Herbers,Pat (1900) [D30]
Inland Empire Open Spokane (5), 19.05.2019

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.cxd5! exd5 5.Bf4?!


5...Nc6 6.e3

6.Nc3 Nf6 7.e3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Be7 9.Be2 0–0 10.0–0 Be6 11.Rc1 Rc8 12.Qd2 Nxd4 13.exd4 Bb4 14.Bd3 Ne4 15.Qe3 Bxc3 16.bxc3 Nd6 Schleifer,M (2240)--Polacek,J (2250), Toronto 1992 was drawn in 47 moves.

6...Nf6 7.Be2 Bd6 8.Bxd6 Qxd6 9.dxc5 Qxc5 10.0–0 0–0

White to move


An instructive game appears in the database.

11.Nc3 Rd8 12.Rc1 Qb4 13.Qc2 d4 14.a3 Qe7 15.Nxd4 Nxd4 16.exd4 Rxd4 17.Nb5 Rd8 18.Nxa7

Black to move
Analysis Diagram


(18...Rxa7 19.Qxc8 Rxc8 20.Rxc8+ Ne8 (20...Qe8 21.Rxe8+ Nxe8) 21.Bb5)

19.Qxf5 Qxe2 20.Qb5 Re8 21.Qxb7 Rab8 22.Qc6 Rxb2 23.Nc8 Re6 24.Qc7 h6 25.Nd6 Kh7 26.h3 Rd2 27.Nf5 Rd7 28.Qb8 Qd3 29.Ng3 Qxa3 30.Rc8 g6 31.Kh2 Qd6 32.Qa8 h5 33.Rd1 Qe7 34.Rxd7 Nxd7 35.Rh8+ Kg7 36.Qg8+ Kf6 37.f4 Rb6 38.Qc8 Kg7 39.Nf5+ gxf5

(39...Kf6 40.Nxe7)

40.Qg8+ 1–0 Morozevich,A (2678)--Grischuk,A (2701), Togliatti 2003.

11...Be6 12.Nb3 Qe7 13.Nbd4 Rac8

White to move

I have a clear plan to play against the isolani.

14.a3 Bg4 15.Qa4 Nxd4 16.Nxd4 Bxe2 17.Nxe2 a6 18.Rfd1 Rfd8 19.Rd3 Rc7 20.Rad1 Rcd7

White to move


I had a vague sense that I would want my queen on the kingside after Nd4. Perhaps I could have found some other way to probe for weaknesses.

21...Qe4 22.f3

22.Qxe4 dxe4 23.Rxd7 Rxd7

(23...Nxd7 24.Ng3 Kf8 25.Nxe4)

24.Rxd7 Nxd7 25.Ng3 Nf6 should be equal

22...Qxf4 23.Nxf4 Kf8 24.Kf2 Ke7 25.Rd4

25.Ke2 g5 26.Nh3 Rc8 27.R3d2

25...h6 26.R1d3 Rd6 27.Rc3 Rc6

White to move


Abandoning my plan against the isolani in exchange for temporary control of an open file.

28.Rb4 maintains my opening edge.


I have converted my opponent's isolani into hanging pawns.

29.Rb4 c5 30.Rb6 Rd6

White to move

My opponent offered a draw here. We both thought my position was slightly better. Conversing with several players in the room while we were waiting for the round's pairings, I pontificated that if any of us were there for money or for chess rating, we were delusional. All of us are relatively weak players compared to professionals, and none of us will earn substantial money for chess. We are there because we enjoy the game.

Naturally, I needed to play on. I paid an entry fee to play chess.

31.Rb8 Rd8 32.Rb3

32.Rxd8 Kxd8 33.Nd3 Nd7 34.b4 Kc7 35.bxc5 a5 36.e4 dxe4 37.fxe4= The computer says equal, but this ending can be very difficult to play.

32...g5 33.Nd3 Nd7

33...c4 34.Rb7+ Rd7 35.Rxd7+ Kxd7 36.Nc5+ Kc6 37.Nxa6 Kb5 38.Nb4=

34.Rb7 c4 35.Ne5 Ke6

White to move


I considered exchanging into a pawn ending, but could not see clearly that I was better. When I arrived home from the tournament, I entered the game this far into the database and played the pawn ending against Stockfish. I lost.

36...Rc8 37.Nd4+ Kd6 38.Ra7

38.g4 seems unclear
38.Nf5+ Kc6 39.Ra7 Rb8 40.Nd4+ Kd6 41.Rxa6+ Kc7 42.Rc6+ Kd8 43.g4 perhaps White is slightly better.

38...Rb8 39.Rxa6+ Kc7 40.Rxh6

40.Rc6+ gains a critical tempo in the play of kings. 40...Kd8 see at 38.Nf5+. Hastily grabbing the pawn on h6 without first driving back the king let the initiative slip away. It was easy to spot this error after the game.

40...Rxb2+ 41.Kg3 Ne5

White to move


42.f4 gxf4+ 43.exf4 Rb3+ 44.Kh4 Ng6+ 45.Kg5 Rd3 with an edge for Black
42.Ra6 seems best.

42...Rd2 43.Rf5

43.Nb5+ Kc8 44.Rf5 Nd7 45.Rxg5 Rd3 46.Rg4 Nb6 47.h4±


White to move


44.f4 gxf4+ 45.Rxf4=


44...Kb6 45.a4 Ka5 46.Rxf6 Kxa4 47.Nd4 c3 Black is better.



45...Nd7 46.f4??

Black to move

This move would have been useful a couple of moves back, but now simply gives up a pawn for nothing.


Pat could have ended my hopes sooner with 46...d4! 47.Nd5 gxf4+ 48.exf4 Rb2 49.Nxf6 Nb6–+ White is ahead two pawns and irredeemably lost.


47.Na2 Rxe3+ 48.Kg4 Re4 49.Nb4+ Kd6 50.Rxd5+ Ke6 51.Kf3 Rxf4+ 52.Ke3

47...Rxe3+ 48.Kf2 gxf4

White to move



49...Re5 50.g4

I looked at 50.Rxe5 fxe5 51.Nxd5 Kxd5 and thought that Black should win


50...Rxf5 51.gxf5 d4 52.h4= I was optimistic about this line, but the engine says it is equal.

51.Ne2 Re4 52.Rf4


52...Rxf4+ 53.Nxf4 Ne5

White to move


54.h4! may salvage the draw 54...Nxg4+ (54...d3 55.Ke3 Nxg4+ 56.Kd2) 55.Ke2.

54...c3–+ 55.Ke2 Kc5 56.g5


56.Ke1 Kc4 57.h4 Nd3+ 58.Nxd3 Kxd3–+

Black to move

56...fxg5 57.Ne6+ Kc4 58.Nxg5 Kb3 59.Ne6 d3+ 60.Ke3 d2 61.Ke2 Kb2 62.Nc5 d1Q+ 63.Kxd1 c2+ 0–1

Herbers finished in second place and won $100. I still have not beat him, although I had some chances. We went over the game quickly together and were the last to leave the playing venue.