31 December 2012

A Time for Reflection

As 2012 ends, it is time to consider how well I accomplished my goals for the year.

On 1 January 2012, I expressed my objective of raising my USCF rating over 1900. I was rated 1879 at the time. In 2012, I played in three standard rated events. The first lifted me to 1933 and I took second place in Spokane's premier event. My second event of the year had not been on my calendar. The Spokane Contenders Tournament is by invitation only, and the slots are determined by Grand Prix points. Due to my relatively inactive playing schedule, I did not expect to play this year. Nonetheless, I made it in by a fraction of a point, and then I won the event! My final game in the event, a draw against Michael Cambareri, ended my streak of eleven consecutive wins. It also pushed my rating to 1982.

My third and final standard rated USCF event (I played in two quick rated events later in the year) was the Spokane City Championship, which I lost 2 1/2 - 1/2. It dropped my rating to 1970--still 91 Elo higher than a year ago. I blogged the first round draw, and my second round loss, with an unfulfilled promise to annotate the third game. My first goal for 2013 is to complete those annotations.

Although I met my rating goal, I failed to make a consistent effort in training through the whole year. In my New Year's Resolutions for 2012, I set out three goals. I did well on the first of these through eight months (see "Training Log: Travel"). The second never became habitual, and the third brought forth occasional feeble effort.

I would like to set a goal of making Expert in 2013. That goal cannot be met without consistent training. Developing realistic plans, rather than expressing hubris is the order of the day. My plans to make Expert follow from improvements in training. A resolution requires measurable behaviors. I met my rating goal in 2012, but fell short in efforts to improve my training regimen.

Tactics training became frustrating this fall. When I did not train several times per week, nor even every week, my abilities quickly atrophied. It hurts to get problems wrong. My training was vigorous enough into the middle of August that my average for the year probably exceeded fifty problems per week. As a consequence of less training in the fall, my play in two quick rated events in November dropped my quick rating as much as my standard had risen earlier in the year (see "'Tis but a flesh wound").

Resolutions for 2013

In 2012, my first resolution was fifty tactics problems per week. This goal requires modification for 2013. I must train every single month of the year. Some weeks, work and other distractions might interfere with completion of chess problems, but most weeks I can and should do more than fifty.

1) In 2013, I will solve correctly 300 tactics problems each month.

Major sources for problems include Chess Tempo, Chess.com's Tactics Trainer, Shredder iPad app, Chess-wise iPad app, Tactic Trainer for the iPad, Chess Informant Anthology of Chess Combinations, and perhaps two dozen books.

I will aim to keep some of the books, such as Lev Alburt's Chess Training Pocket Book, an integral part of the training. With consistent effort, perhaps the 2012 goal of making Imagination in Chess a habitual training resource will become reality in 2013.

I will track my progress through the Anthology of Chess Combinations. It is not unreasonable to expect to solve just over 2700 well-selected chess problems over the course of a year or two. Comprehension, rather than quantity is the objective with this resource.

At the time of this writing, I have solved 1917 problems on the Shredder iPad app. When I get to 2000, I will have been through the entire set twice. At that time, planned for the first week of the new year, I will reset the app. In 2013, I will go through these 1000 problems a third time.

2) In 2013, I will study whole games and whole books.

While I was progressing exceptionally well in the first of my 2012 resolutions, and not wholly neglecting the other two, I added a fourth: memorizing chess games. At one point in early summer, I was capable of playing through ten games. Some of these need review because I know pieces, but not the whole. Meanwhile, my list has grown.

Memorizing chess games is not an end itself, and only partly a means to an end. Rather, memorization is a normal consequence of thorough understanding of a game. I noted in "Soviet Chess Politics" that I was able to play through from memory Anatoly Karpov's slaying of Victor Korchnoi's Dragon after fifteen minutes of study. Another game worked its way into my memory through a similar process in mid-December. I started reading Irving Chernev, Logical Chess: Move by Move (1957). After playing through the first game three or four times, I showed it to some young players in an after school chess club without reference to book or database.

Unlike previous readings of this book, dating back to the 1970s, this time I go through each game several times before reading Chernev's comments. I have a database that contains the 33 games from this book. I stripped out all annotations from the database and then saved the clean copy on my iPad and in ChessBase 11 on my laptop. Studying each game, I note the turning points, the key strategic ideas, the tactics found, and the tactics missed. Then, when I am satisfied that I understand the game, I read through Chernev's comments. In two weeks I have gone through one-third of the book.

I will finish Chernev's classic text in January, then move on to a more advanced similar book: Neil McDonald, Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking (2004). Perhaps I will tackle John Nunn, Understanding Chess Move by Move (2001) after McDonald. McDonald and Nunn pattern their books after Chernev's, but the games are more recent, and the analysis more sophisticated (as well as having benefited from checking by computer). These two books each contain thirty games.

My focus is not necessarily on this specific type of book, but upon the discipline to read through a book in a particular way, and to finish the book. I have more than two hundred chess books, but cannot point to a single instructive book and say, yes, I have read that book clear through. I've read the words of many chess books, but read the instructive portions selectively. In 2013, I will begin to be able to say, yes, I have read that chess book cover to cover!

3) In 2013, I will finish my Pawn Endgame Flash Card project

My third resolution for 2013 is the same as my third resolution for 2012. While reading books that annotate whole games calls for the method outlined above, endgame textbooks call for a different methodology. Thorough understanding of the first chapter in Mark Dvoretsky, Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual is all that I ask of myself in this resolution.

4) In 2013, I will lose fifteen pounds

Physical training is essential to chess performance. I am obese. Although I lost 35 pounds in 2010, I began 2012 at the same weight as I began 2011, ten pounds above my summertime low in 2010. In summer 2011, I reached the same low as in 2010, but I failed to get there in 2012. I let rainy weather deter me from my customary walks. Even though walks of five to eight miles became more common in 2012, there were more days with minimal exercise than the year before. There were two bright spots in 2012, however. My wife and I added a Nordic Track Recumbent Bike to our home for foul weather exercise. We also adopted two new family members who will demand frequent long walks.

If I lose fifteen pounds, I will be at a weight that I passed on the way up in the early 1990s. Back then, I worked construction in the summers, which helped maintain some fitness through the endless reading and writing of graduate school.

Chess player in training

29 December 2012

Anthology of Chess Combinations

The Anthology of Chess Combinations (2005) is a product of a long history of efforts to list and classify the tactical elements in chess. Chess Informant's classification of openings (ECO) was so successful that it became the standard. Many players understand the code E05 as well as they do the words Open Catalan. Most books and all leading database programs employ ECO Codes. The editorial board of Informant also set out to classify endings and combinations. For the most part, these are used in Informant publications, but not elsewhere. Informant's classification of combinations is no more definitive than prior efforts (see "Tactical Motifs: A List").

Chess Informant's classification scheme for combinations has three categories and ten motifs. The categories are I) combinations with a mating attack, II) combinations to reach a draw, and III) other. The motifs are a) annihilation of defense, b) blockade, c) clearance, d) deflection, e) discovered attack, f) pinning, g) demolition of pawn structure, h) decoy, i) interference, and j) double attack. Hence, the first Combination in Informant 113 (270) is designated Ia--a combination with a mating attack involving annihilation of the defense.

Search Box
The Anthology of Chess Combinations presents 2709 positions. They are also presented in three levels of difficulty: 1) warm-up, 2) intermediate difficulty, and 3) challenging.

The combinations in the Anthology originate in games played from the mid-nineteenth through the early twenty-first centuries. Both positions actually reached in play and theoretical positions that might have occurred are included. The printed text through the first two editions presents the combinations nine to a page with the classification information printed above. In the third edition, the classification keys are omitted from the problems, and are instead listed in the index at the end of each section.

The electronic version comes on a CD with its own software, the Chess Informant Solver's Kit. As in the third printed edition, the classification keys are hidden in solving mode. Through the solver's kit, it is possible to search combinations by player, event, date, reference number, category, and motif (sub-category). It is possible to scroll the list, or to select a random set. Once a set of problems have been selected, these can be viewed in a batch (HTML View) or individually. It is also possible to print the diagrams, creating a page or pages resembling those in the pages of the printed edition.
HTML View of Random Set
In the software, the board and piece colors can be configured using a color palette, making possible virtually any combination of colors. Sometimes I like green boards, as in the HTML View above.

Problems may be solved in practice mode or in test mode. In test mode, the user's score is tracked. When a problem is opened, the user is greeted with the objective, such as "White to move, goal 1-0." By default, White is at the bottom regardless of player to move. But a single click of the mouse flips the board for those who wish to examine matters from the Black side.

Solving mode, default colors
Correct moves generate text indicating, "You're on the right track," and similar expressions, and the next defending move is generated. Wrong answers revert to the position prior to the move, and generate such text as "Try again." Frustration can be alleviated by requesting a hint, or viewing the entire solution.

The problems are of high quality. Although daunting, it behooves the ambitious player to work through every combination in the Anthology of Chess Combinations. Therein lies the most important feature lacking in the software. There is no record of which problems have been previously solved. I might remember that yesterday I was on problem number 50, but if a few weeks transpire between sessions, it becomes more difficult to remember my place in the sequence.

The Anthology of Chess Combinations CD is one of the best training resources available for club players seeking to rise in the ranks.

28 December 2012

A Rook Endgame

In a three minute blitz game on a website, my opponent blundered from the diagram position. Even so, another two dozen moves were needed to provoke his resignation.

Black to move

36...Kf4?? 37.Rxf6+ and White has a clear advantage.

After the initial rush of self-praise for outplaying my opponent in a rook endgame subsided, I began to seek the truth of the position.

Black should have played 36...Kg6. Then, White remains down a pawn. But, does Black have an appreciable advantage? I downloaded the game from the website and played the position against tChess Pro on the iPad. Twenty moves later, we were down to kings and rooks--a dead draw.

36...Kg6 37.a5 Re8

White to move

Stockfish 2.3 regards this move as second best, but judges it and the preferred 38.Kxc5 as equal.

38...e4 39.fxe4 Rxe4+ 40.Kxc5 Rxg4 41.Kb5 Rg2 42.Rc4 Rb2+ 43.Rb4 Ra2 44.Ra4 Re2 45.a6 Re8 46.a7

Black to move

46...Kf5 is interesting. 47.a8Q Rxa8 48.Rxa8 and Black's two pawns are equal to White's rook.

47.Kc4 g4 48.Kd3 f5 49.Ke2 Kg5 50.Kf2 f4

White to move

51.Kg2 Kf5 52.Kf2 Ke5 53.Kg2 Ke6 54.Rxf4 Rxa7 55.Rxg4 1/2-1/2.

Stockfish finds no substantive errors in the play of the human, nor of tChess Pro's engine. With correct play, neither side had an advantage. 36...Kf4 was a game losing blunder in a position that should have been drawn.

23 December 2012

Soviet Chess Politics

Karpov Korchnoi Candidates Final 1974

While testing the CBase Chess iPad app, I went through the second match game from the 1974 Candidates Final. This match selected the challenger to Bobby Fischer, effectively becoming the World Championship match. Anatoly Karpov won the second match game, and it was judged as the best game of Chess Informant 18. It was the first of Karpov's fourteen Golden Games.* To test the CBase app, I copied the PGN file containing these games from the Best of Chess Informant: Anatoly Karpov CD.

To my pleasant surprise, I found that I was able to memorize the game after less than fifteen minutes of study (see "Memorizing Chess Games"). Memorizing was not my intent, but came naturally as a consequence of efforts to understand the struggle. After learning the moves that were played, and exploring Mikhail Botvinnik's annotations for Informant 18/433, I pored through other texts in my library looking for further commentary. This commentary reawakened my interest in the internal chess politics of the Soviet Union.

Most of the Candidates for the 1973-1975 series were Soviet players, and the non-Soviets--Henrique Mecking, Lajos Portisch, and Robert Byrne--were eliminated in the first round. Fischer's challenger would represent the Soviet Union. In Chess is My Life (1977), Victor Korchnoi explains why Karpov was preferred by the Soviet ideological state apparatus.
Karpov had been chosen as the favourite, and it was clear why. He was born in Zlatoust, in the Urals, in the center of Russia. One hundred percent Russian, he compared favourably with me, Russian by passport, but Jewish in appearance. He was a typical representative of the working class, the rulers of the country according to the Soviet Constitution, whereas I had spent my life in the cultural centre of Leningrad, and was contrasted to him as a representative of the Intelligentsia.
Chess is My Life, 104.
The first critical position in the game came after Korchnoi's eighteenth move.

White to move

Karpov's team had prepared a novelty because, as he explains, "It was established that the 'theoretical' continuation [19. Rd5] does not gain White any real advantage" (Anatoly Karpov and Aleksandr Roshal, Anatoly Karpov: Chess is My Life [1980], 173). Karpov sets the scene.
Up till this point both players had been moving almost instantly. And here I played a move prepared beforehand, which caused Korchnoi to spend a long time deep in thought. ... The innovation [19. Rd3!], overprotecting the knight at [c3], at the same time in a number of variations frees the knight at [e2] for the attack. (173-174)
Korchnoi's response after the long think was an error, 19...R4c5. Karpov mentions the alternatives. Korchnoi's move had not been analyzed deeply, he claims, and so he found the refutation over the board.
When during our preparations for the match we analysed [19. Rd3], we came to the conclusion that the best reply to it was [19...R8c5]. It is highly probable that, after 36 minutes' thought during the game, Korchnoi also came to the conclusion that it was essential to secure himself against the constantly threatening pawn thrusts--[e5 and g5]. I nevertheless consider that Black's best practical chance was the retreat [19...Qd8], as suggested by Botvinnik. Now, after thinking for 18 minutes in search of a refutation of [19...R4c5], I found a fine forcing combination. (174)
Korchnoi acknowledges the quality of Karpov's play in the game, but asserts the champion's success is a bit overrated.
I ran up against a painstakingly analysed, prepared variation from which, by a direct attack, Karpov won. It was clear that the whole game, from beginning to end, was analysis. This was Karpov's best achievement in the match, but I found it strange that the Informator jury should judge it to be the best game of the year. After all, there was no fight, no creativity. (108)
Korchnoi's Chess is My Life explains how difficult it was for him to find strong players who were able to assist him in preparation and as seconds in the match. There were political consequences, he asserts, for those who might consent to work with him. Their travel could be restricted. They might suffer a reduction in their allowance from the State. The whole Soviet chess apparatus worked together to choose the appropriate challenger to Bobby Fischer. According to Korchnoi, they also orchestrated Karpov's first Informant Golden Game.

*I mentioned this game in "Best of the Best: Chess Informant Reader's Contest." In the contest to select the ten best Golden Games from the first one hundred volumes of Chess Infomant, I put this game seventh. It was eighth in the average of all readers. Marginalia in my copy of David Levy, Karpov's Collected Games: All 530 Available Encounters (1975) reveals my study of this game in the mid-1990s when I was returning to active chess study following more than a decade of occasional play. In addition, as I spent a fair amount of time studying the 1978 World Championship Match games after buying Raymond Keene's controversial book of the match in 1979, the chances are good that I also looked at the prior notable encounters of the adversaries as well.

19 December 2012

Lesson of the Week

Since the beginning of November, my weekly chess lessons for Spokane area youth have come from the games of Paul Morphy. It is Winter Break for most of my students, so this week's lesson was limited to the groups that met on Tuesday. Likewise, the first lesson in January will be missed by others. In January, lessons will come from Seigbert Tarrasch, 300 Chess Games.

When Adolf Anderssen missed the correct defensive move, Morphy exploited the error.

Morphy,Paul - Anderssen,Adolf [C65]
Paris, 1858

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d4 Nxd4 5.Nxd4 exd4 6.e5 c6 7.0–0 cxb5 8.Bg5 Be7 9.exf6 Bxf6 10.Re1+ Kf8 11.Bxf6 Qxf6 12.c3 d5 13.cxd4 Be6 14.Nc3 a6 15.Re5 Rd8 16.Qb3 Qe7 17.Rae1 g5 18.Qd1 Qf6 19.R1e3 Rg8

Anderrsen should have played 19...Kg7

White to move
20.Rxe6 1–0

As has become the routine this fall, chess club begins with a set of elementary exercises. These exercises prove challenging, but not out of reach, for the majority of the young players. Those who have completed every Beginning Tactics worksheet, have solved 78 problems. The Beginning Tactics 10 worksheet was given out as holiday homework last week for those who would not be meeting this week. A sample is posted below.

Beginning Tactics 10

Find the correct move for White in each diagram. Draw an arrow showing the move.

Update 22 March 2017: The entire set of Beginning Tactics worksheets have been published as a Kindle book with detailed solutions as Essential Tactics: Building a Foundation for Chess Skills (2017).

15 December 2012

CBase Chess iPad/iPhone App: Review

CBase Chess for the iPad/iPhone and compatible iOS devices shines in support of variations. There are a small number of mobile apps that support study of games with variations, but no other app that I have used handles them as well as CBase Chess. When a point is reached in the game where there is a variation in the annotations, a pop-up appears beside the board. This unobtrusive notification is as it should be. It is possible to continue studying the position, and considering each of the candidate moves, before selecting one for further exploration.

Strangely, most mobile apps place the pop-up over the board.

The app is quite limited in features. It is designed for one purpose: a PGN viewer. The user uploads PGN (portable game notation) files to the program, where it is possible to play through the games, and through the variations. The app supports both text commentary and variations, including layers of sub-variations.

I seek a chess app that will permit me to view the exceptional annotated games published in Chess Informant. CBase Chess is the best that I have found. Unfortunately, it does not appear to support Informant codes. Loading Karpov's Golden Games from the Best of Chess Informant CD, made it possible to play through Karpov's games with Grandmaster commentary in the form of variations, but did not leave in place the commentary embedded in Informant's codes (see "A Fingerprint"). To be fair, some of these codes do not translate well in PGN format, but require Informant's proprietary format.

CBase Chess rotates easily between landscape and portrait.

There are features that would be desirable: user choice of chess set and colors, a built in engine, and a feature for adding commentary. I suspect that developer NM Austen Green has these on his to-do list. The app reveals the signature of a developer who seeks tools for chess improvement, rather than someone driven by commercial ambitions. The app is free and does not carry advertising.

I have more than thirty chess apps on my iPad. CBase Chess is one of a few that I use frequently.

14 December 2012

Dubious Rule

In Logical Chess: Move by Move (1998) Irving Chernev offers a rule for when the h-pawn can be moved.
The move ...h6 by Black (or h3 by White) should be played only if the h-pawn is to form a base for attack by pawns, i.e. if it supports an advance by the g-pawn. Defensively, the move does more harm than good, as it loosens the pawn structure and weakens its resistance to attack. It is especially dangerous if the king has castled on the kingside, as the pawn itself, standing out from the ranks, provides a convenient target. (31-32)
Although Chernev's book offers several examples that illustrate his prescription, it should be an easy matter to find an abundance of examples of strong players in Chernev's day, and in ours, where the best players in the world violated his prescription.

13 December 2012

Lesson of the Week

This week marks the last lesson from the games of Paul Morphy that most of my young pupils will get this school year. The Tuesday clubs get one final Morphy lesson next week, but the others begin their winter holiday instead of meeting next week. In January, the lessons will come from the games of Seigbert Tarrasch.

When Morphy left for Europe, Adolf Anderssen was acknowledged as the world's top player. When Morphy returned home, Anderssen praised Morphy's skill as superior to his own. In Paul Morphy: A Modern Perspective (2005), Valeri Beim reproduces several quotes from Anderssen, including this one from Harold C. Schonberg, Die Grossmeister des Schachs (1976).

I consider Mr. Morphy the finest chess player who ever existed. He is far superior to any now living, and would doubtless have beaten Labourdonnais himself. In all his games with me, he has not only played, in every instance, the exact move, but the most exact. He never makes a mistake, but, if his adversary commits the slightest error, he is lost.
Beim, 151.
Anderssen's words clearly contain a bit of hyperbole. Morphy could not have always played the "most exact move" nor avoided all mistakes, and still managed to lose three games to Anderssen. Still, Morphy dominated the match, and the casual games that followed, winning twelve of seventeen games.

This week's lesson is from their seventh match game. As was frequently the case in Morphy's play, his pieces are more active. Beim's study concludes that Morphy had an outstanding feel "for the initiative, piece development, and the factor of the interaction of the pieces" (154).

Morphy,Paul - Anderssen,Adolf [B01]
Paris 1858

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 e5 5.dxe5 Qxe5+ 6.Be2 Bb4 7.Nf3 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Qxc3+ 9.Bd2 Qc5 10.Rb1 Nc6 11.0–0 Nf6 12.Bf4 0–0 13.Bxc7 Nd4 14.Qxd4 Qxc7 15.Bd3 Bg4 16.Ng5 Rfd8 17.Qb4 Bc8 18.Rfe1 a5 19.Qe7 Qxe7 20.Rxe7 Nd5

White to move

21.Bxh7+ Kh8

21...Kf8 is worse 22.Rxf7+ Ke8 23.Re1+ Be6 24.Rxe6+ Ne7 25.Rexe7#

22.Rxf7 Nc3 23.Re1 Nxa2

23...Bd7 24.Bg6 Bc6 25.Rfe7 Rd1 26.Nf7+ Kg8 27.Rxd1 Nxd1 28.Nd6+-

24.Rf4 Ra6 25.Bd3 1–0

Prerequisite to discussing this lesson is completion of the week's worksheet.

Beginning Tactics 9

Find the correct move for White in each diagram. Draw an arrow showing the move. If you promote a pawn, write the name of the piece the pawn becomes.

10 December 2012

Opening Subtelty: An Historical Transposition

While preparing last week's "Lesson of the Week," I sought to identify where things started to go wrong for Thomas Wilson Barnes. Valeri Beim (Paul Morphy: A Modern Perspective) offers reference to an instructive later game, but more can be said in comparison.

Barnes,Thomas Wilson -- Morphy,Paul [C77]
London m1 London, 1858

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6

As Beim notes, this game was the first time that Paul Morphy played what came to be known as the Morphy Defense. The move had been played twice previously by Charles Henry Stanley in the first U.S. Championship, which was held in New Orleans in Morphy's youth. Stanley lost both games. The move was played a few other times between those games and this one with two Black wins.

White to move

4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nd5

Black to move

Beim marks Morphy's sixth move as dubious. He recommends 6...Ba5 and references Tarrasch -- Chigorin, St. Petersburg (m7), 1893. However, 6...Ba5 was also played in the fifth game of that match, which Tarrasch won in 26 moves. Chigorin won game 7. In game 7, Chigorin omitted 7...b5.

In his comments on game 5, Siegbert Tarrasch recommends 6...Be7, "as on a5 this Bishop will remain inactive throughout the game" (Three Hundred Chess Games: Dreihundert Schachpartien, trans, Sol Schwarz, 285).

I recall Dennis Monokrousses mentioning in one of his videos that Black should play b5 only after White protects the e-pawn. Only then is there a credible threat to win Black's e-pawn by exchanging the light-squared bishop for the c6 knight. That has been my rule of thumb.

The diagram position has been rare (49 games in ChessBase Online). Tarrasch's recommended 6...Be7 has been the most frequent move (16 games), while 6...Bc5 (15 games) has been the most successful (46.7% score for White). The number of games, most of which are not from master play, is too small to draw conclusions from statistics.

7.Bb3 d6 8.0–0 Bg4 9.c3 Ba5

White to move

This position already seems difficult for White. While the comments in my two reference books focus upon inaccuracies in Black's play, White also has some problems. The pin on the knight is a source of irritation. In the Italian Opening and some lines of the Spanish, White plays h3 after Black's d6 to prevent such a pin. White's undefended e-pawn also draws attention.

In the Lesson of the Week, Black's misplaced dark-squared bishop asserted an important pin along the a7-g1 diagonal. Morphy's final maneuver to f4 with this piece was central to the lesson. Of course, that finish remains a long way off from the opening position. Knowing the conclusion of even a short game does not answer questions concerning the advantage at this stage.

Nonetheless, I did not like Barnes' move here, and I sought to find an improvement.


We know the rest of Barnes -- Morphy from the Lesson of the Week.

When I found 10.d3!, I discovered to my surprise a transposition to a later game: the fifth match game of Tarrasch -- Chigorin. Tarrasch played 9.d3 and 10.c3.

The position differs after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nd5 Ba5 7.0–0 b5?! (see comments above) 8.Bb3 d6, where Tarrasch played 9.d3. Nonetheless, his comment has bearing on consideration of Barnes -- Morphy.

9.d3 "is better than 9.d4, which is recommended by the Handbook.* After 9.d4 Bg4! 10.c3 Qd7, White's game is not as comfortable as after 9.d3" (Three Hundred Chess Games, 285).

Black to move

We now shift to game 5 of Tarrasch -- Chigorin.


Tarrasch calls this move the decisive error, recommending 10...Nd7 "although even then White's position is more solid" (285).

11.Nxe5! dxe5

Black must leave the queen alone 11...Bxd1 12.Nxf6+ gxf6 13.Bxf7+ Kf8 14.Bh6# is the line given by Tarrasch.

12.Nxf6+ gxf6 13.Qxg4

What a contrast this game offers to Barnes -- Morphy. In the earlier game, White's castled king suffered the opening of the g-file. In this game, a half-open g-file helps keep the Black king in the center.

Black to move

13...Ng6 14.Bd5 Rb8 15.f4 c6 16.Bxc6+ Ke7 17.Bd5 b4 18.fxe5 Qb6+ 19.Kh1 Nxe5 20.Qh5 Ng6

White to move

21.Rxf6 Kxf6 22.Bg5+ Kg7 23.Qh6+ Kg8 24.Rf1 Rf8 25.Bf6 Qxf6 26.Rxf6 1–0

Although both games offer errors aplenty, it is worth remembering that by playing 10.d4, Barnes missed a key opportunity to transpose into the future. Had he done so, he might have left history with a very different model game for Paul Morphy's initial use of the Morphy Defense.

*Tarrasch refers to Handbuch des Schachspiels, edited by Tassilo von der Lasa. See "Learning from Errors: Adolf Anderssen".

05 December 2012

Lesson of the Week

Thomas Wilson Barnes scored more wins against Paul Morphy than any other adversary. Barnes won seven games. Morphy did not travel well, and Barnes benefited from Morphy playing less than his best as he recovered from the sea voyage. Nonetheless, Morphy dominated the match, winning nineteen games.

This week's lesson comes from one of Morphy's first games in England. Morphy's play offers instruction to young players concerning pins.

Barnes,Thomas Wilson - Morphy,Paul [C77]
London m1 London, 1858

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nd5 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.0–0 Bg4 9.c3 Ba5 10.d4 exd4 11.Nxf6+ Qxf6 12.Bd5 Ne5 13.Bxa8 Nxf3+ 14.gxf3 Bxf3 15.Qd2 dxc3 16.Qg5 cxb2 17.Bc6+ Ke7 18.Qxf6+ gxf6 19.Bf4 Rg8+ 20.Bg3 bxa1Q 21.Rxa1 f5 22.a4 Bb6 23.axb5

Black to move

23...f4 24.bxa6 fxg3 25.hxg3 Rxg3+ 26.Kh2

If 26.Kf1, the game might have continued Rh3 27.Ke1 Rh1+ 28.Kd2 Rxa1


26...Rg2+ seems obvious, and is more accurate. 27.Kh3 Rg6.


Black to move

27...Bd4 28.Kh3 Be5 29.Kh4 Bf4 30.a7 Rh6# 0–1

Beginning Tactics

Players in my clubs are becoming accustomed to starting with a worksheet with six to nine problems. White moves first in all problems for the worksheet, Beginning Tactics 8.

01 December 2012

Searching for Truth

Chess is a search for truth. Each possible position is even, or one player has the advantage. It is not always easy to determine the truth, especially in the course of play. Earlier this week, I reached the following position in a game against one of the top third graders among those whom I coach.

White to move

The questions that I have been nurturing in the minds of youth chess players are relevant.

1) Which side has the advantage?
2) What are the plans for both sides?

My young opponent lost his way from this position. We reset this position, changed sides and played it again.    Then I played it against some of his teammates.