30 November 2014

McDonnell -- De La Bourdonnais 1834: Index

I am working my way through all of the available games of Alexander McDonnell (1798-1835). Most of these were part of his six matches with Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840). These matches were played at the Westminster Chess Club in London. William Greenwood Walker, club secretary, recorded the games and published them in A Selection of Games at Chess (London: 1836). Thanks to Walker, these matches became the first between chess masters for which we have a record of the moves.

The matches have come to be regarded as an unofficial World Championship and the beginning of modern chess history. Paul Morphy annotated some of the games for a chess column that he wrote for the New York Ledger in 1859-1860.

I annotated all 25 games of the first match without reference to engine analysis and with minimal reference to annotations by others. Now, I plan to work my way through the annotations of these games in Cary Utterberg, De la Bourdonnais versus McDonnell, 1835 (2005).

Utterberg offers a narrative of the historical milieu, a compendium of comments on the games by other chess writers, and his own analysis. Of particular interest, perhaps, is Utterberg's summation of the state of opening theory when the match took place. His analysis is deeper, more extensive, and better informed than mine.

This post offers links to my posts of the games in the matches between these two players..

McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais, First Match

Game 1: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1/2-1/2
Game 2: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1/2-1/2
Game 3: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1/2-1/2
"Three Fighting Draws"

Game 4: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1-0
"McDonnell Blunders"

Game 5: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1-0
"McDonnell Strikes Back"

Game 6: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 0-1
"McDonnell Takes the Lead"

Game 7: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 0-1
"De La Bourdonnais Evens the Score"

Game 8: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1-0
Game 9: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 0-1
"Two Losses"

Game 10: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1-0
"Small Errors"

Game 11: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 0-1
"Losing Takes a Toll"

Game 12: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1-0
"Weakened King"

Game 13: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1/2-1/2
"Morning Coffee"

Game 14: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 0-1
"McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1834"

Game 15: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1-0
"That Pin of f7"

Game 16: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 0-1
"Strong Knights"

Game 17: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1-0
"Mating Attack"

Game 18: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 0-1
"Attack and Counterattack"

Game 19: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 0-1
"After a Long Drought ..."

Game 20: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 0-1

Game 21: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 0-1
"McDonnell's Cavalry"

Game 22: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 0-1
"La Bourdonnais's Infantry"

Game 23: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 0-1
"Pawn Structure Chess"

Game 24: McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 0-1
"An Opening Disaster"

Game 25: La Bourdonnais -- McDonnell 1-0
"A Powerful Pawn"

This post will be updated ...

29 November 2014

A Powerful Pawn

McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1834

Five months ago I began posting analysis of the games of the first match between Alexander McDonnell (1798-1835) and Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840). My analysis is unaided by computer analysis. The first post was "Three Fighting Draws," and each post contains a link to the next.

Today's post concerns game 25, the final game in the first of six matches between these two players. My analysis of game 24 was posted in "An Opening Disaster".

The match was played in the Westminster Chess Club, London. William Greenwood Walker, club secretary, recorded the games. This match is the earliest between masters for which the games are available. The match marks an early moment in the development of modern chess.

Although the games are uneven in quality and La Bourdonnais dominated the match, they remain instructive. Many are balanced struggles.

In game 25, La Bourdonnais played a version of the Bird Opening (that name would come later) that offers White minimal prospects. Nonetheless, a few small errors by McDonnell put him on the defensive. He then miscalculated the consequences of a series of exchanges. La Bourdonnais was able to grind out the technical win.

De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe -- McDonnell,Alexander [A03]
London m1 London (25), 1834

1.f4 d5 2.d4 c5 3.e3 e6 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.c4

5.c3 is a better move. White's pawn structure would make it difficult for Black's pieces to find activity.

5...cxd4 6.exd4 dxc4 7.Bxc4

Black to move 

White's isolated queen pawn is a potential target, but also gives White temporary control of e5 and threatens the advance d4-d5. It is not easy for Black the exploit the open dark squares leading to White's king. A few checks are possible, but where do they lead?

7...Nf6 8.Nc3 Be7 9.0–0 0–0

Black's position is solid without weaknesses. White has more space. White's dark-squared bishop and Black's light-squared are restricted by their own pawns.

10.Kh1 a6 11.Be3

Overprotecting the weakened isolani.

11...b5 12.Bd3 Bb7

A nice square for the bishop.


Black to move


I'm not sure that I like this move. Was Bxh7+ a credible threat? Was there another reason for the king to step aside?

13...Nd5 seems a reasonable alternative.

a) 14.Bd2 Ncb4

b) 14.Nxd5 Qxd5 15.Qf3 Nxe5 16.Qxd5 Bxd5 17.dxe5=

c) 14.Bxh7+? Kxh7 15.Qh5+ Kg8 16.Nxd5 Qxd5 17.Rf3 f6–+

d) 14.Qe2 Ncb4

14.Bc2 Nb4 15.Bb3 Nbd5 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.Qe2

Black to move


Although this move drives the knight off its outpost, it also weakens the e6 square. This move may have been a critical error. McDonnell must defend a difficult position for the rest of the game, although he is able to generate some threats.

17...Bh4 may have been worth considering. 18.Bxd5 Qxd5 19.Qf3 Qxf3 20.Nxf3.

18.Nf3 Qe8 19.Rae1

Building up pressure on e6.

19...Bd6 20.Bd2 Nxf4 21.Bxf4 Bxf4

White to move


Now the isolani is a passed pawn.

22.Qxe6 does not seem as strong. 22...Qh5 23.Qe2 Rae8 24.Qf2 Bxf3 25.gxf3.


Black has threats against h2


23.d5? Bxd5 24.Bxd5 Qxd5 leaves Black a pawn ahead.

23...Qh6 24.d5 Rae8

24...Bd6 25.Nd4 g6.


25.a3 passing loses. 25...Bxd5-+.

25...Re7 26.Nd4 g6

26...Bc8 27.Nf5.

27.Nc6 Rc7 28.Re4

Black to move


I want to blockade the pawn 28...Bd6 29.Qf2

Here 29.g5 seems to offer Black a draw 29...fxg5 30.Rxf8+ Qxf8 31.Qxg5 Qf1+ 32.Qg1 Qf3+ 33.Qg2 Qd1+.

29.Nd4 Rd8

Everything hinges upon the isolated, passed pawn.

30.Nf5 Qf8 31.Rd1 Rc5 32.Red4 Be5 33.R4d2 Rc4 34.Ne3 Rc7 35.Qf3 Bf4 36.Rd3 Qd6

36...Bd6 still looks good to me. 37.Nf5 Rc2 38.R3d2.


Black to move


A miscalculation

37...Qb6 might hold.

38.dxe6 Bxf3+ 39.Kg1

Black is ahead a piece temporarily, which must have been McDonnell's idea, but La Bourdonnais calculated deeper.

39...Rxd3 40.Rxd3 Rc8

Preventing checkmate

41.e7 Re8 42.Rxf3

Black to move

White's isolated pawn now restrains Black's rook.


Material is equal, but cannot remain so.


The a-pawn is a target.

43...Kf7 44.Rxa6 Rc8 45.b3 Be5 46.h3 b4

White to move


White's king must join the action. Black has everything secure and prevents the advance of the e-pawn. But, Black's pieces cannot stray far. The bishop must guard d6, the rook must prevent White's rook from occupying the eighth rank.

47...Bf4 48.Kf3 Be5 49.Ke4 Bf4 50.Ra7

Freeing the knight for action.

50...Be5 51.Ng7!

Black to move


51...Kxg7 52.e8Q+ Kh6 53.Qxc8.
51...Bf4 52.e8Q#.

52.Nxe8 Kxe8 53.Kf5 Kf7 54.Rb7 1-0

The bishop cannot guard b4 and f6.

La Bourdonnais wins the first match with 16 wins, 5 losses, and 4 draws.

28 November 2014

Forcing Checkmate

White to move

It is checkmate in five from this position. My opponent missed a delaying move, so I was able to mate in four.

26 November 2014

Lesson of the Week

American Thanksgiving cut out most of my school clubs and half of my private lessons this week. Even so, I still met with my beginning students at one school and a few advanced students in individual lessons.

My advanced students are all going through the games Paul Morphy played in the First American Chess Congress, 1857. These games show Morphy's play during a period of rapid improvement. The contrast between his approach to the game and his first two opponents at the Congress illustrate the concept of development that Morphy understood well and that others (see "Modern School" tag at the bottom of this post) would articulate in the decades following. His games in the final two rounds show how he was able to triumph against more stubborn opposition.

I showed an online blitz game to my beginning students that offered several examples of two- and three-move combinations that were played or that could have been played. Any young player who can consistently recognize two-move combinations will quickly become a contender for trophies in scholastic tournaments.

During the moments when such tactics were possible in this game, I asked the students to find the tactic.

Internet Opponent (1639) -- Stripes,J (1702) [C02]
Live Chess Chess.com, 25.11.2014

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Bd3 Nge7

I play an old line.

6...Rc8 is currently hot, and quite sensible.
6...cxd4 is the most common reply.
6...Qb6 is fine.


Black to move

This common and frequent beginner's error presents Black with an opportunity to win a pawn by force.

7.0–0 would have been a good move.


The immediate 7...Nxe5 is better.


8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.cxd4 Nf5 and Black has an advantage, even though he failed to take the free pawn.

8...Nxe5 9.Nxe5

9.Bxd7+ Nxd7 Black is a pawn ahead, as in the game.

9...Bxb5 10.Nc3 Ba6??

White to move

Black needed to play 10...Qb6 or 10...Bc6.


White continues with clumsy play.

11.Qa4+ exploits Black's blunder. 11...Nc6 12.Nxc6 Qd7 13.Ne5 Qxa4 14.Nxa4+- and White is a piece ahead with a nice position.


Black clearly does not perceive his own vulnerability.


12.Qa4+ Ke7= 13.Bd2 Bxe2 14.Kxe2 with equal chances.

12...Bxe2 13.Qxe2 Nxd4

Black has won two pawns.

14.Qg4 Nc6 15.Bg5??

Black to move

15...Nxe5–+ 16.Qa4+

16.Bxd8 Nxg4–+.

16...Qd7 17.Qd4 Nc6 0–1

25 November 2014


I found all the elements of this combination, except the first move. It had been among my candidates, but somehow I dismissed it without clear analysis.

White to play

The position appears in the Anthology of Chess Combinations, third edition (2005). It is from the game Sokolsky -- Koifman, 1948.

23 November 2014

Carlsen -- Anand, Game 11

Magnus Carlsen is on the cusp of successfully defending his World Champion title. The former champion and challenger, Viswanathan Anand, was able to reach a promising position against Carlsen's Grunfeld Defense in game 10, but released the pressure and the game fizzled out as a draw.

Carlsen leads 5.5 - 4.5. Draws in the final two games will secure match victory for the champion. Will Anand play aggressively with Black today in order to try to level the match score?

I predict a Sicilian Defense if Carlsen persists with 1.e4.

Anand Playing the Sicilian, Game 4

Carlsen,Magnus (2863) - Anand,Viswanathan (2792) [B27]
WCC Sochi (11), 23.11.2014

1.e4 e5

1...c5 had been my prediction 2.Nf3.

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Bd7

Carlsen played this move in last year's World Championship match. In today's game, it signals that Anand seeks a double-edged game. I was incorrect in my prediction that he would play the Sicilian, but his manner of playing the Berlin today reflects a fighting spirit.


10.Rd1 is the most popular choice, and was Anand's in Chennai.

10...h6 11.b3 Kc8 12.Bb2 c5


After Anand's 12...c5
Anand seems to be playing a slightly unusual move order.

13.Rad1 b6

Carlsen is thinking.


Anand is thinking.

14...Be6 15.Nd5 g5

After Anand's 15...g5

Carlsen has used 32 minutes so far. My database was showing one reference game before Carlsen's move 16, but this game was not between grandmasters.

Others are calling Anand's 14...Be6 the game's novelty.

I am not able to access ChessBase Online this morning, so am relying upon the slightly less comprehensive database on my computer (5.5 million games).


The Grandmaster commentators, Peter Svidler and Ian Nepomniachtchi, are finding much to say while the players think. I have less to say, lacking deep insights into this position.

Classic notions of development and common sense indicate that Black still needs to deploy his dark-squared bishop and determine the best files for his rooks.


What is Carlsen's plan? Is he freeing the g1 square for redeployment of the knight on f3? Is an f-pawn thrust part of his plan?

17...a5 18.a4 Ne7 19.g4

These last two moves came quickly.

19...Ng6 20.Kg3

It appears that Carlsen intends to play h4, exchange pawns on g5, and either play f2-f4 or penetrate with his rooks on the opened h-file.


After Anand's 20...Be7
Black's rooks are connected. Seigbert Tarrasch might say that he is close to completing his development.

21.Nd2 Rhd8 22.Ne4 Bf8

Anand has an hour for the next eighteen moves. Carlsen is thinking, and has about 51 minutes remaining. 23.Nef6 seems like an obvious candidate.


I predicted a move!

Carlsen has 47 minutes left.


After Anand's 23...b5!?

Svidler and Nepomniachtchi had been discussing this move, but not in this precise position. In their analysis, c7-c6 had been played first.
"White's task is more difficult than Black's."
Ian Nepomniachtchi

Anand has 49 minutes and his clock is running. Carlsen has 38 minutes. Carlsen's last move defers opening any files on the queenside, where Anand is prepared to give lessons on the vulnerability of his king, who "can take care of himself" (Steinitz).
"A very curious position."
 Peter Svidler
24...bxa4 25.bxa4 Kc6

Anand should not be underestimated.


The king is a fighting piece.

Anand has been thinking more than fifteen minutes and now has the same time remaining as Carlsen.

And now he has less time. He has been thinking more than eighteen minutes.


Anand is now behind on the clocks for the first time today.

Does this rook have more scope for attack on the b-file? Was Anand's move defensive in nature?


Carlsen seizes the opposition. He also steps out of a potential pin of his bishop.

27...Rb4! (or ?, or !?)

Mouseslip. He meant to go to b3. (I'm kidding, but that was my first thought.)

28.Bxb4 cxb4

Anand sacrificed the exchange. He is playing for a win!

After Anand's 28...cxb4
This position is unclear. Peter Svidler points out that Black is a full exchange down and has no clear threats. Yet, the computer sees slightly less than a one pawn advantage for White.


Carlsen anticipates Kb7 and c6, so maintains an "rechargeable knight" (Tryfon Gavriel) on f6.

29...Kb7 30.f4 gxf4 31.Nhxf4 Nxf4 32.Nxf4 Bxc4

No rechargeable knight on f6, but rather an idea that I had looked at several hours ago when the material was still equal.


27...Rb4 is starting to look like a mistake. Both players are slightly under fifteen minutes for the next several moves.

After Carlsen's 33.Rd7
"This looks unpleasant." Peter Svidler


"We failed to consider this...an important move." Peter Svidler

34.Nd5 Rc6 35.Rxf7 Bc5 36.Rxc7+ Rxc7 37.Nxc7

After Carlsen's 37.Nxc7


38.Nb5 Bxb5 39.axb5 Kxb5 40.e6 b3

I predicted this move just before Svidler mentioned it.

Both players have reached the time control.

After Anand's 40...b3
I think that Carlsen will win today and end the match. However, Black has chances if Carlsen misplays the position. A win by Anand is not out of the question.

Anand took a risk when he sacrificed the exchange. He forced issues.

Thinking that Carlsen would go into a long think, the commentators went away for a break. But, they came back immediately because Carlsen played a move.

41.h4 Be7 42.Kd3 a4 43.g5

"Black is not in time, I think." Peter Svidler

43...hxg5 44.hxg5 a3 45.Kc3 1-0

Carlsen wins 6.5-4.5.

Anand was well prepared for the Berlin and should not have been worse after 26.Kf3. But, he chose a sharp line that pressed the issue. Carlsen played precisely and retained his title.

22 November 2014

Problems with Knights

These six chess problems all feature knights in a critical role. They were assembled as a problem solving contest for the Black Knight's Joust, a youth chess tournament that I am directing today. All entries with six correct answers submitted before the start of the last round become eligible to win a prize.

At the King's Clash two weeks ago, the solution to all six problems was the move of a king. One entry had six correct answers. The young player won a book.

The knight's move may not be the first in the winning combination. It is often the last.

The first two are from Gioachino Greco, c.1623. Number three is based on one in several problem books. Number four come from a game won by Lionel Kieseritzky in 1842. The fifth, from Horwitz--Bledow (1837), contains a common idea that can arise in the opening. Problem number six is from the 21st match game between Louis-Charles de la Bourdonnais and Alexander McDonnell (1834).

Black moves first







21 November 2014

Anand -- Carlsen, Game 10

World Champion Magnus Carlsen leads challenger and former champion Viswanathan Anand 5-4 after nine games. The match is being played at the Olympic Media Center in Sochi, Russia. Yesterday's game 9 started with the variation of the Berlin Defense to the Spanish Opening that appeared in game 7. Game 7 was on the verge of setting the record for longest World Championship game ever played, but fell short by two moves.

With three games remaining, Anand is under pressure to produce a win. Both players have demonstrated exceptional opening preparation for this match. Both are confident.

Following these games live and blogging them while in progress is both enjoyable and exhausting. The games start at 3:00 pm in Sochi, which is 4:00 am my time. Because of the importance of game 10, I set my alarm for 4:00 am for the first time during this match. I also prepared the beginning of this post last night.

I predict the game's first moves: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4.

Every time that Anand has had White, these have been the moves. Will they vary today?

Anand,Viswanathan (2792) - Carlsen,Magnus (2863) [D97]
WCC Sochi (10), 21.11.2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 0–0 7.e4 Na6 8.Be2 c5 9.d5 e6 10.0–0 exd5 11.exd5 Re8

These moves were played rapidly, and now Anand begins to think. Carlsen opted for a Grunfeld Defense, as in game 1 of this match. However, Anand varied from that game on move 4.

After Carlsen's 11...Re8
I have played the Grunfeld and have played against it. However, I have no experience  with 5.Qb3 and subsequent moves.


Anand spent about ten minutes. 12.Rd1 is the most popular move, and was Anand's choice when he had the diagram position twenty years ago. 12.Be3 and 12.Bc4 have also been played by Grandmasters.

12...h6 13.Be3 Bf5 14.Rad1 Ne4N

After Carlsen's 14...Ne4
Reference Game:

Wojtaszek,Radoslaw (2713) - Ponomariov,Ruslan (2729) [D97]
Poikovsky Karpov 13th Poikovsky (2), 29.09.2012

14...Qb6 15.b3 Rad8 16.Rd2 Ng4 17.Bf4 Qa5 18.Rc1 g5 19.Bg3 Bxc3 20.Qxc3 Qxc3 21.Rxc3 Nf6 22.Bb5 Ne4 23.Re3 Nxd2 24.Rxe8+ Rxe8 25.Bxe8 Ne4 26.Ne5 f6 27.Nc4 Kf8 28.Bb5 Nxg3 29.Bxa6 bxa6 30.hxg3 Ke7 31.f3 Bb1 32.a3 Bc2 33.Na5 Kd6 34.Nc4+ Kc7 35.Na5 Bg6 36.Nc4 Bf7 37.d6+ Kd7 38.Kf2 Bg6 39.Ke3 Bc2 40.Na5 Kxd6 41.g4 Bg6 42.Nc4+ Ke6 43.Na5 Kd5 44.Nc4 f5 45.gxf5 Bxf5 46.Na5 Bd7 47.Nc4 Bb5 48.Nd2 a5 49.Ne4 Bc6 50.Kd3 Ke5 51.Nxc5 Kf4 52.Ke2 Kg3 53.Kf1 g4 54.fxg4 Bxg2+ 55.Kg1 Bd5 56.b4 axb4 57.axb4 Kxg4 58.Kf2 Kf4 59.Na4 Bc6 60.Nc3 a6 61.Ne2+ Ke4 62.Ng3+ Kd3 63.Nf5 h5 64.Ng7 h4 65.Nf5 h3 66.Kg3 Kc3 67.Ne3 Bg2 0–1


When the reference game was a long Black win, it dawns on me that Carlsen could be seeking to bring this match to a rapid conclusion. If he manages a win with Black, he needs only one draw in the last two games to secure his title.


Peter Svidler, who with Sopiko Guramishvili is providing live commentary for the official site, thinks that it is likely both players are still in their preparation.


Anand spent fifteen minutes on this move.

Svidler, who plays the Grunfeld, thinks that Anand's advanced central pawn is strong. I find it reminiscent of a game Garry Kasparov played in his youth, which he comments upon in some depth in Kaparov on Kasparov, Part 1: 1973-1985 (2011).


I expected 16...Kh7. Anand had been thinking for eight minutes as Svidler and Guramishvili return from a short break.

Svidler is confessing that he considered Carlsen's move, although he did not mention it earlier.

After Carlsen's 16...Qf6
17.Bxh6 Qxb2

A queen swap here followed by exchanges of bishops for knights to double the opponent's pawns seems to make the d-pawn less of a threat. Black should hold the position.

18.Qxb2 Bxb2

Although 19.Bxa6 is tempting, keeping the bishop pair on the board offers better prospects for applying the sort of pressure that could lead to a win.

In general, I like having the Black side of the Grunfeld with a two to one pawn majority on the queenside. However, in my experience, Black's c-pawn usually gets exchanged for White's d-pawn. Here, that d-pawn is a potential monster.


Susan Polgar suggested this move in a tweet while Anand was contemplating 18.Qxb2.

Anand has 51 minutes remaining. As Carlsen is thinking, I notice that he is a player who tips his head from side to side while calculating potential exchanges. It is subtle, which helps to explain why I had not noticed it before.

Carlsen has been thinking for twenty minutes.

"The gloves are off," Fabiano Caruana tweeted.

After thirty minutes of thinking, Carlsen played.


Problems with the delay, feed, or hackers caused Svidler to briefly perceive that 19...Bxg2 had been played.

20.Nxe4 Rxe4 21.Bf3 Re7 22.d6 Rd7 23.Bf4

I had these moves in my database before they were played.

After Anand's 23.Bf4
White's d-pawn is blockaded and Black's knight may now have time to find a more useful square, perhaps Na6-b4-c6. Would Anand snap it off on c6? Perhaps, Carlsen needs to slide the other rook to c8 first.

23...Nb4 24.Rd2

Surely White cannot let the a-pawn drop. Or, can he?


This move must be much stronger than my idea.

Svidler has introducing a guest, an expert on the Grunfeld, when the live commentary feed died. Perhaps the broadcast is working elsewhere in the world.

Refreshing my browser brought it back, so the problem seems to be local.


Anand has 22 minutes to get to move 40.

25...Re6 26.h4

Anand avoids backrank checkmates and also prevents g6-g5.

The problems I was having listening to the commentary continue, so I am missing interesting Grandmaster analysis. These problems seem to stem from my notebook computer, which often has connectivity issues. It is a nice box, but the internal WiFi seems substandard. The video works fine on my iPad, but the battery needed charging so I switched to my notebook.

I suppose that I could move the charger to where I am sitting in the living room. These First World problems with technology are soo troubling.


The analysts are not optimistic concerning Anand's ability to play for a win in this position now.

After Carlsen's 26...Be5
27.Bxe5 Rxe5 28.Bxb7 Rxb7 29.d7 Nc6 30.d8Q+ Nxd8 31.Rxd8+

White looking at the position after 26...Be5, I entered some moves in my database. These moves were soon played on the board.

31...Kg7 32.Rd2 1/2-1/2

I did not get as far as the last move by each player in my guess-the-move.

The draw should be considered a victory for Carlsen in terms of the match situation. With two games remaining, Carlsen leads 5.5-4.5.

In the press conference, Anand mentioned 24.Re1 as an alternative to 24.Rd2. The commentators seemed to suggest that Anand lost control of the position near that point in the game.

20 November 2014

Carlsen -- Anand, Game 9

When I awoke at 4:10 am, the ninth game of the World Championship had been underway a few minutes. I grabbed my iPad from the side of the bed and checked on the game. Seeing that it was another Berlin Defense, I put the iPad down and went back to sleep.

No, I do not consider the Berlin boring. Rather, I expected another long game and could use the sleep. Sleep avoided me. At 5:00 am, I checked on the game again. It appeared that Magnus Carlsen could force a draw against challenger Viswanathan Anand. With a one point lead in the match, Carlsen retains his crown if he can manage a draw in every remaining game.

Carlsen's reputation is to play on until "every resource is exhausted," as Peter Svidler so ably put it during the commentary on an earlier game in this match. Perhaps a short draw, however, would be a way to increase psychological pressure on Anand. The challenger is under growing pressure to find a way to win. He has one win against Carlsen in the past few years. That win was last week.

I played a couple of blitz games on Chess.com while still in my warm bed. After a stunning game in which my opponent resigned a rook ahead, I returned to the World Championship game. It was over.

Carlsen,Magnus (2863) -- Anand,Viswanathan (2792) [C67]
WCC Sochi (9), 20.11.2014

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3

The oldest game in the Chessbase database with 9.h3 is Gaprindashvili,N -- Vreeken,C from a preliminary round of the Women's World Championship in 1978. It is a hot move now, having been played by such players as Aronian, Caruana, Karjakin, and Grischuk. Carlsen also played it in game 7 of this match.

9...Ke8 10.Nc3 h5 11.Ne2 

Carlsen played 11.Bf4 in game 7. 11.Ne2 is relatively uncommon, but is something that Anand should be prepared for.

After Carlsen's 11.Ne2
Reference Game:

Carlsen,Magnus (2772) - Jakovenko,Dmitrij (2760) [C67]
Dortmund SuperGM Dortmund (1), 02.07.2009

11...Be7 12.Bg5 Be6 13.Nf4 Bd5 14.Bxe7 Kxe7 15.Ng5 Nd4 16.Rad1 Ne6 17.Ngxe6 Bxe6 18.h4 a5 19.a3 a4 20.Rfe1 g6 21.f3 Ra5 22.c3 Rb5 23.Re2 Ra8 24.Rd4 Raa5 25.Kf2 Rxe5 26.Rxe5 Rxe5 27.Rxa4 Rb5 28.b4 c5 29.Ra7 cxb4 30.cxb4 Kd7 31.Ne2 Rb6 32.Ke3 Bc4 33.Nd4 Kd6 34.Ra5 Ra6 35.Rxa6+ bxa6 36.g4 hxg4 37.fxg4 Ke5 38.Nc6+ Kf6 39.Kf4 Ke6 40.h5 gxh5 41.gxh5 Bd3 42.Ke3 Bf1 43.h6 Kf6 44.Ne5 Bb5 45.Kd4 Ba4 46.h7 Kg7 47.Nxf7 Kxh7 48.Ng5+ Kg6 49.Ne6 1–0


There are ten prior instances of  this move in the reference database that I use. Four of these games were decisive, with two wins for each side.

12.Rd1 Ba6 13.Nf4

After Carlsen's 13.Nf4

Reference Game:

Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2726) -- Ponomariov,Ruslan (2741) [C67]
ESP-chT CECLUB Honor Leon (5.2), 09.11.2012

13... Rd8 14.Bd2 Nd4 15.Nxd4 Rxd4 16.a4 Bc8 17.a5 a6 18.Be3 Rxd1+ 19.Rxd1 b5 20.Nd3 Be7 21.Bc5 Bd8 22.Nb4 Rh6 23.f4 f5 24.c3 Bh4 25.Rd3 Rg6 26.Kh2 Bb7 27.Nc2 Bc8 28.g3 Bd8 29.h4 Be6 30.Nb4 Bc8 31.Rd2 Bb7 32.Rd1 Bc8 33.Rh1 Bb7 34.Kg2 Be7 35.Nd3 Bd8 36.Kf2 Rh6 37.Re1 Bc8 38.Nb4 Kf7 39.Rd1 Ke8 40.Re1 Kf7 41.Re3 Rg6 42.Ke2 Rh6 43.Kd2 Rg6 44.b3 Rh6 45.c4 Rg6 46.Kc3 Rh6 47.Nc2 Re6 48.Nd4 Re8 49.Rd3 bxc4 50.bxc4 Bd7 51.Re3 Be7 52.Bxe7 Kxe7 53.e6 Bc8 54.Kb4 Kf6 55.Kc5 Bb7 56.Nxc6 g6 57.e7 Ba8 58.Re5 Bb7 59.Nd8 Bg2 60.Nc6 Kf7 61.Nb4 Rxe7 62.Rxe7+ Kxe7 63.Nxa6 Kd8 64.Nb4 Ba8 65.Nc6+ Kc8 66.a6 1–0

14.e6 Bd6 15.exf7+ Kxf7 16.Ng5+ Kf6 17.Ne4+ Kf7 18.Ng5+ Kf6 19.Ne4+ Kf7 20.Ng5+ ½–½

Spanish Opening games in this match have averaged 71 moves. Perhaps Anand's novelty refutes Carlsen's preparation, so Carlsen opted to bail. Perhaps a short draw was all he wanted from the beginning.

The Berlin Defense was revived in popularity after many years of neglect when Vladimir Kramnik adopted it in his World Championship Match against Garry Kasparov. Kasparov could not win with the White pieces. Since then, many games have demonstrated that either side can fight for advantage as there are several imbalances in the position.

19 November 2014

Lesson of the Week

The lessons this week focus on elementary tactics that build a foundation for more complex tactics. They stem from a major blunder by the current World Champion. Magnus Carlsen is the highest rated player in history and regarded by growing numbers as the strongest player ever. Even he makes mistakes, however.

In the sixth game of the current World Championship match with Viswanathan Anand, Carlsen played 26.Kd2 to reach this position.

Black to move

Anand was in some time pressure and missed the correct response. He could have gained an advantage that would have made a win in this game likely. He went on to lose and remains one point behind.

My advanced students are asked to find the combination that Anand could have played.

Some of them are presented with other positions inspired by this game, which was a Sicilian Kan.

Black to move

This position arose in Ricardi -- Polgar,J 2001. It is one of the reference games for the Kan in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO)

Black played 25...Kg8 and the game was drawn by repetition a few moves later. Pablo Ricardi sacrificed a rook to expose Black's king. How would he have continued the attack if she had played 25...Ke7?

Beginning students are shown the solution that Anand missed in the first diagram and are given a worksheet with six elementary discovery problems created after a pattern found in Bruce Pandolfini, Beginning Chess (1993). Each problem in Pandolfini's book has ten pieces or fewer. I have found a lot of value creating worksheets for my students with similar problems.

Beginning Tactics: Discovery

White has a winning move in each of these positions.

18 November 2014

Anand -- Carlsen, Game 8

Carlsen's Theoetical Novelty

There is a lot of talk that Magnus Carlsen does not study the openings, but simply plays very good chess. He plays better chess than anyone else, ever.

Viswanathan Anand is almost a legend in his opening preparation. Even Vladimir Kramnik, no slouch in terms of preparation for a match, was thoroughly out-prepared by Anand.

Today's game, thus, becomes very important because Carlsen played a novelty that neutralized White's chances in a well-known position of the Queen's Gambit.

Anand,Viswanathan (2792) -- Carlsen,Magnus (2863) [D37]
WCC Sochi (8), 18.11.2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0–0 6.e3 c5 

6...Nbd7 was played in game 3.

7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.a3 Nc6

The players have reached a fairly common position in the Queen's Gambit declined.

After Anand's 9.Qc2

Carlsen opts for a relatively rare move. 9...Qa5 is the most common move.


There are nine prior instances of this move in the ChessBase database. Other moves played in this position are 10.Rd1, 10.O-O-O, and 10.cxd5.


 This move is essentially the novelty, although it appears once in the ChessBase database, played by an A Class player, Gunther Manheimer in 2010.

10...d4 was played in Showalter -- Janowski 1898, and has been the main move since.
10...dxc4 was tried in the 2002 Championship of Israel, Lev -- Ruderfer. White won in 67 moves.

11.Rd1 Qa5 12.Bd3 h6 13.Bh4 dxc4 14.Bxc4 a6 15.0–0 b5 16.Ba2 Bb7 17.Bb1

After Anand's 17.Bb1
White has his battery aiming at the king. However, due to Carlsen's moves 9 and 10, the Black king cannot become trapped.

17...Rad8 18.Bxf6 Bxf6 19.Ne4

19.Qh7+ was shown by Anand during the press conference. 19...Kf8 20.Ne4 Rxd1.

19...Be7 20.Nc5 Bxc5 21.Qxc5 b4 22.Rc1 bxa3 23.bxa3 Qxc5 24.Rxc5 Ne7 25.Rfc1 Rc8

After Carlsen's 25...Rc8
There are no imbalances in the position.

26.Bd3 Red8 27.Rxc8 Rxc8 28.Rxc8+ Nxc8 29.Nd2 Nb6 30.Nb3 Nd7 31.Na5 Bc8 32.Kf1 Kf8 33.Ke1 Ke7 34.Kd2 Kd6 35.Kc3 Ne5 36.Be2 Kc5

After Carlsen's 36...Kc5
37.f4 Nc6 38.Nxc6 Kxc6 39.Kd4 f6 40.e4 Kd6 41.e5+ ½–½

Carlsen leads the World Championship Match 4.5 - 3.5. Tomorrow is a rest day.