26 November 2015

Vulnerable King

As I am working my way through the 588 games classified as C11 (French Steinitz) in Chess Informant's Paramount Database, I am finding many interesting tactical shots, as well as positional crushes. This position arose in Lukin -- Ivanov, USSR 1984, CI 37/318.

Black to move

24 November 2015


White to move and win.

This position is one of a set of 150 problems that I composed three years ago for my beginning chess students. All of them have ten or fewer pieces. More problems from this set are visible at "Lesson of the Week" (January 2013).

20 November 2015

Crashing Through

Although it is difficult to calculate more than a few moves deep in blitz, the positions created in such play remain instructive. White has a clear advantage in this position, but the final blow was not clear to me. I had White.

White to move

The game continued 26.Qh8+ Bg8 27.Ne6+ Rxe6 28.fxe6 Qxe6 29.d7 Rd8 and it is no longer clear that White has the advantage.

How might I have found better moves with only seconds available for calculation?

19 November 2015

Crushing Attack

This position arose in Nigel Short's comments on Short -- Ye, Taiyuan 2004, Chess Informant 91/206. Ye played 17...g6. This position would have arisen had Black played 17...Rd8. Short also offers extensive analysis of lines that follow after 17...h6.

White to move

18 November 2015

Mate in Seven

This position arose in a blitz game in 2013. I have previously discussed this game in the post, "Improving through Blitz." Although I won in only a few moves from this position, I missed the checkmate in seven.

White to move

12 November 2015

Lesson of the Week

Some of my advanced students this week have been presented with this position that emerges from analysis of the conclusion of Drozdov -- Glek, Azov 1996.

Black to move

Some have also seen this simple position from the ending of one of my blitz games.

Black to move

In the second, Black had one desperate chance to avoid losing. It worked. The first comes from a reference game discovered in the effort to understand how Black might have avoided the catastrophic errors that led to such desperation.

My beginning students worked through a set of problems that include elementary forks and pins, as well as one skewer.

10 November 2015

Battle in the Benoni

Jim Maki Annotates

FIDE Master Jim Maki sent me this game for posting. His opponent is a rapidly improving high school student who is getting some coaching from Maki. I have played Travis Miller once. I lost. It is one of very few losses in the past ten years to underrated youth players.

Miller,Travis (1819) -- Maki,Jim (2318) [A70]
Spokane Rapid G/20 +3, 29.10.2015

Annotations by Jim Maki

17 year old Travis Miller, a recent arrival from Alaska to the Spokane area, has been making great progress since moving here as evidenced by his multiple 1st place finishes in Open events. This game was 3rd round of the Spokane Chess Club's Game/20 +3 tournament held recently.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6

White to move


I had recently shown Travis a line I was a bit worried about in the Benoni so I thought he might have come up with a surprise. Here is the line: 7.Nd2 Bg7 8.Nc4 0–0 9.Bf4 Ne8 10.e3 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 b5 12.Nd2 g5 13.Bg3 f5 with a very complex and hard to play position from both sides.

7...a6 8.a4 Bg7 9.e4 0–0 10.Bd3 

Usually white plays Bd3 with h3 so I just thought Travis was mixing up systems. I had two chances to play Bg4 to equalize but decided it was too gutless. But sometimes gutless chess is good chess.

10...Qe7 11.0–0 Nh5 

Or the simple: 11...Bg4 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Nh5 14.Be3 Nd7=.

12.Bg5 Bf6 13.Be3

The first real suprise. I was expecting 13.Bh6


Here I really should have gone for 13...Bg4. Time to get into trouble.


Black to move


Very bad indeed. This comes from playing too much blitz. Better would be 14... Rb8 or: 14...Bd4 15.Bxd4 cxd4 16.Ne2 Nc5 17.Qc2 f5 and if 18.Nxd4 Nf4 19.Bc4 fxe4 and black has good activity.

15.Be2 Ng7 16.f4 Nd7 17.Nc4 Re8 18.Re1


18...Rb8 19.Bf3

Yikes! This is known as the "looks like I'm dead lost" variation of the Benoni. That white center is a tidal wave about to come ashore.

Black to move

19...Qf8 20.e5 dxe5 21.Ne4 exf4?

Now I'm just taking stuff hoping he doesn't find the hammer. Hanging by a thread is the move 21... Be7.

White to move


This looks so good at first sight. This is, after all, a 20 minute game and we are both getting into some nasty time trouble. Winning is: 22.Nxf6+ Nxf6 23.Bxf4 Rxe1+ 24.Qxe1

a) 24...Bg4 25.Bxb8 Qxb8 26.Bxg4 Nxg4 27.d6 b5 28.axb5 axb5 29.Qe4+- The 30. Ra8 threat is fatal.

b) 24...Ra8 25.Bd6 Qe8 26.Be7 Nfh5 (26...Nd7 27.Nd6) 27.Nb6 Ra7 28.Bxc5+- Material is even but black's pieces are so bad that random moves win for white.


The only move but good enough. Black has life again.

23.d6 Nxc5 24.Nxc5 Bf6 25.Rxe8 Nxe8 26.Bxb7?

Black to move

Hard to believe but black is now winning.


Much better is: 26...Rxb7 27.Nxb7 Bxb7 28.d7 Ng7–+.

27.Nd7 Qg7?

Now white is winning again.

27...Qh6 28.Nxb8 Qg5-/+.

28.Nxb8 Bd4+ 29.Kh1 f3

White to move

I thought I was winning here. Travis had less than 30 seconds on his clock but he finds:

30.Qxf3! Nxd6

Can't take the queen; 31.d7 wins instantly.




Every move a blunder but I have 30 seconds and Travis has 16. Winning is: 31...Ne4 32.Nd7 (32.Qxb7?? Ng3+ 33.hxg3 Qh6#) 32...Qh6 I saw this far but thought here white could play 33. h3 but completely missed: 33.h3

Black to move
Analysis after 33.h3


32.Nd7 Ba7 33.Rd1+-.

32...Qf6 33.Nd7 Bxg2+

The natural tendency in extreme time trouble is to play forcing moves like this where I know I can always bail out with a perpetual. But 33...Qd8 is better.

34.Kxg2 Qf2+ 35.Kh3 Qf5+ 36.Kg2 Qf2+ 37.Kh3 ½–½

Black to move

With flags hanging, Travis offers a draw so I take it. So what happens after 37...Qxe1?

38.Nxd6 This is why I took the draw. Black is a piece down, mate threats all over the place, and it seems black will be lucky to get a perpetual. But black is winning. 38...Qf1+ 39.Kh4 (39.Kg3 Bf2+ 40.Kg4 h5+ 41.Kg5 Bh4+ 42.Kxh4 Qf4+ 43.Kh3 Qg4#) 39...Bf2+ 40.Kg5 h6+ 41.Kf4 (41.Kxh6 Qc1+ and mate next move.)

Black to move
Analysis after 41.Kf4
41...Be3+!! 42.Ke5 (42.Kxe3 Qh3+) 42...Qf4+ 43.Kd5 Qf3+ 44.Kc4 Qc6+ 45.Kd3 Qxd6+ 46.Kxe3 Qxd7 and black is better but imagine playing this position on just the 3 second delay.

08 November 2015

King's Gambit Fun

In the Spirit of Allgaier!

Players of the King's Gambit are familiar with the Allgaier Gambit in which White sacrifices a knight for attack.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ng5!? h6 and the knight is trapped, so 6.Nxf7+.

Much safer, while still aggressive, is 5.Ne5.

Here Black has several options.

5...h5 is an old move with a dubious reputation. In The Oxford Companion to Chess (1996), David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld note this is called the Strongwhip variation, and sometimes the Long Whip, which is a better translation of its German name, Lange Peitsche (399). John Shaw, The King's Gambit (2013) employs the term Long Whip.
White's best chance of facing this is to invent a time machine and dial up the 1840s. Still, the strongest lines I can find for White lead to slightly better chances in wild positions, not a clean kill.
Shaw, 117.
Shaw recommends 6.Bc4, "let's fire at f7 in 19th century style."

6.Nxf7?! in the spirit of the Allgaier was tried once by Kurt Osterberg in 1988 in an open tournament. He lost. During some marathon blitz sessions last week, I scored three wins with this dubious sacrifice.

One opponent had beaten me in our three prior encounters.

Stripes (1773) -- Internet Opponent (1792) [C39]
Live Chess Chess.com, 06.11.2015

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 h5 6.Nxf7?!

This sacrifice is premature


6...Kxf7 7.Bc4+

Black to move


8.d4 d6?!

Too slow. White may gain compensation for the sacrifice.

8...Qf6 Guards f4 and prepares f4-f3.


9.Bxf4 seems sensible,


9...Bh6 Black must secure his kingside pawns in order to generate play.


Black to move

White appears to have compensation for the piece. Although down a piece, he has more material in the battle.


10...Nc6 11.Bg5 Qd7 12.Qd3 Nxd4 13.e5 Bxe5 14.Qg6+ Kf8 15.0–0+

Black to move
Analysis, after 15.O-O+
Nf3+ Black must return material

 (15...Nf6 16.Rxf6+ Bxf6 17.Qxf6+ Ke8 18.Qxh8#) 16.gxf3 g3 17.Rae1.

11.Bg5 Qd7 12.0–0±

Black to move


12...Nc6 makes White labor for the victory.

13.Rxf8+ Bxf8 14.Qd2+- Qg7 15.Nd5 c6

White to move

16.Nf6+ Kd8 17.Nxh5+ Qe7 18.Bxe7+ Bxe7 19.Qxh6 1–0

Bumbling Along

On Halloween, I played this dubious sacrifice for the first time. This game was bullet. Two minutes plus one second per move is very close to three minute blitz.

Stripes (1651) -- Internet Opponent (1726) [C39]
Live Chess Chess.com, 31.10.2015

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 h5 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Bc4+ Kg6

Moving the king to the g-file is less optimal than returning to the home square, but should be safe enough if Black is well-prepared.

White to move

8.Nc3 Bg7?!

8...d6 9.d4 Bh6 10.Qd3 White's attack is too slow.

9.d3 c6 10.Bxf4 d5 11.exd5 Qe7+


12.Ne2 cxd5 13.Bxd5

Black to move


Black is already ahead material. King safety should be the priority.

13...Nf6 14.Bg5 Bh6 15.Be4+ Kg7 16.Qd2


14.0–0 was better.

14...Kg7 15.Rb1 Bf6 16.Qd2

16.Rb5 becomes a theme of missed opportunities.

Black to move


16...Nd7 Everything must defend the king because all of White's forces are coming there.


An unnecessary waste of time that also serves to render my king vulnerable.



17...Bf5 18.Bxf5 Nd4 19.Be4 Nf3+ 20.Bxf3 gxf3 Now White's king is the insecure one.

18.0–0 Nd4

18...Nf7 would be a good square for the knight.


19.Bg5? Nf3+ 20.Bxf3 gxf3 21.Rxf3 Nf5

19...Bxd4+ 20.Kg2

Black to move


20...Nf7 still solid.


21.Rb5 appears to have been outside White's planning. The rook's move to b1 was not merely self-preservation, but also preliminary to this lift. The g5 square is a crucial point for getting at the Black king.


Black should not be giving back the material without some gain.

21...Qe5 22.Bf4 Qe7.


Now, perhaps, White's attack will play itself.

22...Bxe3 23.Qxe3 Bd7?


23...Rb8 24.Qd4+ (24.Rb5 is still best, but White is blind to this lift.) 24...Kg8 25.Rf6.

White to move


At least the rook had a target on the b-file, thanks to Black's active cooperation. This move was good enough, but I had several better choices during the final assault.

24.Qd4+ finishes things.

24...Rab8 25.Qd4+

25.Rxd7 Rhe8 (25...Qxd7 26.Qg5#) 26.Qg5+ Kh8 27.Qh6+ Kg8 28.Bd5+ Qf7 29.Bxf7#.

25...Kh6 26.Rxd7 Rbd8

26...Rbf8 27.Qe3+ Rf4 28.Qxf4+ Kg7 29.Qg5#.

27.Rxe7 Rxd4 28.Rf6# 1–0

Missed Miniature

On Thursday, when I played the first game above, I played another. Two years ago in our only prior encounter, this opponent beat me with the Exchange French.

Stripes (1738) -- Internet Opponent (1736) [C39]
Live Chess Chess.com, 06.11.2015

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 h5 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Bc4+ Kg7

Again, I am battling a king on the g-file.

8.d4 Qe7 9.Nc3

Stockfish opines that White has compensation for the sacrifice.

Black to move


9...d5 10.Bxd5 seems close to equal.

9...f3 10.gxf3 Nc6 11.Nd5 with a slight edge for White.

10.Bxf4± Nxe4??

Black could have fought on with 10...d5 or 10...Qb4.

11.Be5+ Nf6 12.0–0 d5 13.Nxd5

Black to move


Giving up the queen helps the king survive a little longer.

14.dxe5 Bc5+ 15.Kh1 Ne4 16.Nxc7

16.Qd3 Be6 17.Qxe4 Nd7 18.Nxc7

16...Nc6 17.Rf7+! Kh6 18.Qc1+ Kg6

White to move

If I could bring my queen to g5, the game would end.


19.Rf6+! solves the problem.

a) 19...Kg7 20.Ne8+ Kh7 (20...Rxe8 21.Qh6#) 21.Qh6#.

b) 19... Nxf6 20.Qg5+ Kh7 21.Bd3+ Ne4 22.Bxe4+ Bf5 23.Bxf5#.

With an overwhelming material advantage, White's job is to mop up and avoid tricks.

19...Bxe6 20.Bxe6 Nxe5 21.Rf1 Ng3+ 22.Kh2 Nxf1+ 23.Qxf1 Rhf8 24.Qc1

Black to move

24...g3+ 25.Kxg3 Bf2+ 26.Kh2 Bxh4 27.c4 Rf2 28.Qb1+ Kg7 29.Bh3 Bf6 30.Qe1 Ng4+ 31.Bxg4 hxg4 32.Qxf2 Be5+ 33.g3 Rh8+ 34.Kg2 1–0

An unsound sacrifice can be effective when Black has only a few seconds per move to solve problems of the king's vulnerability. I doubt that my sacrifice would have any merit in an over-the-board game with tournament time controls. In correspondence chess, it would prove suicidal.

03 November 2015

The Final Blow

These positions are from old Chess Informants. In each, the player on move made the strongest move and won the game. Black's opening choice was the Sicilian Dragon in all cases.

White to move

Matanovic -- Soos, Titovo Uzice 1966 CI 2/346

White to move

Vasiukov -- Ciocaltea, Bucuresti 1967 CI 3/402

White to move

Osnos -- Sakharov, Kharkov 1967 CI 4/418

White to move

Estrin -- Litvinov, Kharkov 1967 CI 4/421

White to move

Shapovalov -- Kitaev, Correspondence 1967 CI 4/428