23 March 2008


In the making of books there is no end.

22 March 2008

Sandbagging: A Question

Do U/XXXX sections encourage sandbagging? Will children deliberately lose so as to have a better chance of winning a trophy in an under 800 section at a state elementary tournament? Do adults manipulate their ratings at small local events in hopes of cashing in by playing in a lower section at a big money tournament?

18 March 2008

Another Blitz Gem

In a three minute game, one cannot stop to think. Players crank out the moves in one or two seconds each. Taking five seconds must be reserved for difficult positions. I took sixteen seconds to find and evaluate the move I played from the position below.

White to move.

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Ne7+ first caught my attention, and I spent several seconds contemplating where it might take me when I saw Qh6! Quick calculation revealed that the move was immediately winning. My opponent took almost half a minute before playing Bb6+ in reply. After White's king moved to safety Black resigned.

17 March 2008

Inspiring High School Program

The Boylston Chess Club Weblog (Somerville, Massachusetts) brings to our attention a story from Friday's The Bulletin (Philadelphia's Family Newspaper). Chess is one of several after school activities promoted through the donation-funded After School Activities Partnerships (ASAP).

Congratulations to the Carver High School chess team, and to all those that make the program possible.


Opposite colored bishops is a draw, right. Most often it should be. The position below from an internet blitz game is drawn with correct play. However, correct play does not always reveal itself when both players are scrambling with less than fifteen seconds remaining on the clock.

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White perceived an opportunity when Black allowed the h-pawn to fall, causing something perverse to occur. Twelve moves later ...

Black to move. Mate in six.

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16 March 2008

Practical Technique

While playing from position 302 in Fred Reinfeld's 1001 Sacrifices and Combinations (see "Power of Pawns"), I reached this position with White to move.

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Here I conjured the notion to sacrifice my material advantage in hopes of eliminating any possible counterplay. 1.Nc4! Hiarcs took the knight, the rooks were exchanged, and then I played a2-a3, although Ke4 might have been better.

1...dxc4 2.Rxd6 Kxd6 3.a3

As a result of my sacrifice, I reached a materially equal, but easily won king and pawn endgame. The rest was simple.

From the diagram position, the computer seeks to improve the position of the White pieces while maintaining a material advantage. We might say that moves like Ke3 or f5 (the moves favored by Hiarcs and Fritz) are objectively best. However, the practical decision to eliminate counterplay seems more sensible for human players.

12 March 2008

Reciprocal Thinking

Of the tactics books on my shelf, among the most challenging is Paata Gaprindashvili, Imagination in Chess (2004). The problems are difficult, designed to be set on a board and studied at length, rather than flipping through the diagrams at breakfast or lunch as is my habit. In the second chapter, Gaprindashvili advocates correcting an idea that seems not to work after analysis. We will often find that altering the move order or inserting an additional move into the plan transforms a failed idea into a successful one.

This position from Geller - Karpov, Moscow 1976 came up in Kaber's Exercises this morning. It is White's move.

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My initial idea was to play one of the knights to g6 with a check and fork. But, White's advantage seems minuscule after 1.Nhg6+ fxg6 2.Nxe6+ [Nxg6+ loses to Qxg6; the in-between Qxe8+ fails as well because after Kxe8, Ng6 is not check and the rook can move] Kf7 3.Qxe8+ Kxe8 4.Nf4.

Another move inserted in the sequence at the right moment leads to clear advantage for White. What is the solution?

I've previously mentioned the training set called Kaber's Exercises in "Good Luck." More information concerning this training resource is available there.

03 March 2008

Power of Pawns

Here's the gig: I'm using Fred Reinfeld's 1001 Sacrifices and Combinations for tactics training. However, I'm not solving the problems as presented in the book and checking Reinfeld's answers to see how many I get right. Rather, I set up a problem in Hiarcs or Fritz and play it against the engine until one of us gives up. In theory, this exercise should present many opportunities for the engine to resign. In practice, my capacity to lose or draw a winning position humbles me.

In the position below, it is White's move. The tactic that Reinfeld had in mind is simple enough.

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1.Nxe3 and black loses quickly with 1...Rxe3. 2.Ra8+ Kh7 3.Be4+ winning the rook. That's all Reinfeld wants the pupil to find. But, Hiarcs does not play 1...Rxe3. Rather, 1...Be2 gives White a decision regarding placement of the knight. Care is needed because snatching the pawn on e5 leads to Rd1+ and Bh3 with checkmate to follow.

After quite a few moves more, I lost my way and Black gained the edge. During post game analysis Hiarcs pointed out a variation I had overlooked, leading to the next diagram with Back to move. I set up this position and started again.

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Hiarcs played 19...Kd6. How can White proceed now?

I thought to activate my king, so played 20.g4 Bc4 21.h4 Ra2 22.Kg3 Ra3 an unpleasant pin 23.Bxe2 Rxe3+ 24.fxe3 Bxe2 reaching the next diagram.

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Hiarcs gives White an advantage of 2/3 a pawn in this endgame. The bishop has a lot of work to do stopping all White's pawns, but my immediate sense was that the cleric was up to the task. To my surprise, I managed to win this position!

25.Kf4 Ke6 26.e4 Bc4 27.a5 Ba6

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28.h5! Kf7 29.Ke5?! a wasted maneuver looking for the next step in the plan
29... Bb7 30.Kf4 Ba6 31.e5 Bc8

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32.g5! Kg7

if 32...hxg5, 33.Kxg5 Ba6 34.h6 Bd3 35.Kf4 and the Black king must defend e8, while the bishop cannot stop both flank pawns.

33.g6 Kf8 34.Ke4 Ke7 35.Kd5 Bb7+ 36.Kc5 Hiarcs resigns 1-0

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The bishop will fall stopping the a-pawn, and the Black king cannot take the e-pawn without letting the g-pawn promote. The White king has plenty of time to get back in action after capturing the bishop on a8.