30 April 2016


In The Road to Chess Mastery (1966) by Max Euwe and Walter Meiden, the authors criticize Black's 25...d5, which led to the following position.

White to move

How does White exploit the error?

29 April 2016

One Good Game

As a blitz addict, I find innumerable motives for wasting endless hours in futile chess play. Sometimes I can rationalize my binges with a few instructive positions that I may show my students. Indeed, a young student whom I've been coaching the past year started individual lessons yesterday, and among our concerns in the lesson was cultivating his understanding of pawn majorities and king position in the endgame. We looked at this position played in the wee hours of the morning in online blitz.

White to move

This morning, I started played some blitz on a site where I seem to care about rating. Losing the first game to an underrated "cheat"* meant that I could not stop after one game. My second game was a positional and tactical crush of a slightly higher rated player, but I gained less than the first game had taken from me. My opponent was down three pieces for three pawns at move 34 but did not resign until one move from checkmate thirty moves later.

Then, I lost again. Then, another game where my opponent squandered a three pawn advantage in a rook ending to reach a theoretically drawn position that I lost on time. My fifth game was a twelve move win against the same opponent.

Then, I won another miniature with a classic checkmate sequence.

Black to move
After 17.Bh6??
I made my move and spoke aloud, "take my rook." Doing so, of course, is suicidal. My opponent took the rook and fell to a checkmate in three.

I was able to stop the binge after this game.

*Suspicions of cheating dwarf actual instances of unfair play. In the blitz addict's mind, every untitled player who beats him must therefore be cheating in some manner. Such irrational thinking sometimes renders a game that should be entertaining and even beneficial something only slightly less damaging to healthy existence than substance abuse. Happily, these suspicions are held with a sense of irony. I use the term with full knowledge that it is rooted in paranoid fantasies concerning the extent of my own skill and therefore the extraordinary means that must be taken to defeat me. On the other hand, having analyzed with the computer many thousands of blitz games, I realize that my own pitiful play is the sole cause of most losses and indeed mars even most of my best wins.

23 April 2016

The Bishop Pair

This position arose in a game presented as master vs. amateur in The Road to Chess Mastery (1966) by Max Euwe and Walter Meiden.

White to move

How would you play this position as White? Why?

14 April 2016

When to Resign

When do you resign?

I resign when I know that I could flip the board around and beat Magnus Carlsen. At that point, there is nothing left for me to learn from playing on.

There are times when I might resign early, and other times when I might resign late. In online blitz and bullet, for example, I often play to checkmate or one move prior, especially when my opponent is short of time. In a tournament game at the Spokane Chess Club a few years ago, my early resignation shocked my opponent.

Cambareri,M -- Stripes,J

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.f4 c5 8.Nb5 1-0

I had suffered long in a somewhat better French than this one against Michael several months prior to this game. My confidence in his ability to torture me for two hours and bring home the full point provoked my resignation. I went home to share a bottle of wine with my wife and watch some television.

In contrast, another game several years before this, I fell for a poisoned pawn on b2 and had to give up my queen for a rook. I played on until my opponent checkmated me with two queens. I did set one small stalemate trap a couple of moves before the end.

At the Sixth American Chess Congress, New York 1889, Joseph Henry Blackburne resigned early to Mikhail Chigorin.

Black to move
After 38.Nxf5

Black resigned.

In The Book of the Sixth American Chess Congress (New York, 1891), William Steinitz commented, "Black's game was lost. Still the resignation is chivalrous at this point, for he could have held out for very long" (14).

It is courteous to resign when lost, but there is no rule stating that a player must do so. The determination that a player is lost may be subjective. Sometimes players resign because they have overlooked a resource. There are numerous examples in books of players resigning when the game was still equal.

13 April 2016

Game of the Week

Blackburne -- Gifford 1874

Most of my students this week are seeing this game, which features a clever queen sacrifice to weave a mating net. Advanced students may also see more variations. Students are asked to try to find several key moves along the way.

Blackburne,Joseph -- Gifford,Henry [C44]
The Hague, 1874

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5

6.Nxf7 Nxf7 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qxc5 d5 with the initiative for Black

See also Meek -- Morphy 1855 with 9...d6. Revisiting this game sent me to Tartakower and DuMont, 500 Master Games of Chess and there I found Blackburne -- Gifford.

6...Qe7 7.f4

Black to move


"Assigning to his king a rather storm-swept domicile" (Tartakower and DuMont, 170). The authors recommend 7...d6 as preparation to castle queenside.

8.0–0 d6 9.f5 d3+ 10.Kh1 dxc2 11.Nc3 Ne5 12.Nd5 Qd8

White to move


The final assault begins with an error. 13.Nf3 is the only move that retains an advantage. The idea of Nf3 is to then play Bxh6, destroying Black's pawn shield.

13... Ng6??

13...Bg4 14.Qh4 Ng6 15.Qg3 and Black is no worse.

14.fxg7 Kxg7

14...Be3 15.Qxh6 Bxg5 16.Bxg5+-.

White to move

15.Qxh6+! Kxh6 16.Ne6+ Kh5

16...Nf4 is the only move that holds off checkmate 17.Rxf4 fxe6 18.Rxf8+ Kg7 19.Rxd8+-.


17.Rf5+ Kg4 18.Be2+ Kh4 19.Rh5#.

17...Kh4 18.Rf4+ Nxf4 19.g3+ Kh3 20.Ndxf4# 1–0

Understanding the errors by both players as well as the unstoppable king hunt should benefit young players.

09 April 2016

Checkmate in Seven

In each of the two positions below, Black has a forced checkmate in seven moves. The first position is from Schulten -- Morphy, New York 1857. Morphy played the correct sequence and the game ended when it was checkmate in three. The second arose in Hawkins -- Pert, British Championship 2015, Chess Informant 127/5. Nicholas Pert missed the checkmate in seven, but nonetheless drove the White king to the queenside and prevailed in the game. Despite losing this game, Jonathan Hawkins went on to win the event, becoming the British Champion.

Black to move

Black to move

08 April 2016

Minor Piece Ending

Studying with Mihail Marin

Mihail Marin annotated Stefanova -- Pogonina, Tehran 2016 for Chess Informant 127. It was Stefanova's only win in the event, the second of four events comprising the FIDE Women's Grand Prix. After 28 moves, each player had a knight, bishop, and seven pawns.

White to move

Marin asserts this position is equal. Twenty moves later, White had a clear advantage.

White to move

Stefanova did not play the optimal move here, but played well enough to maintain an edge, albeit not necessarily a winning advantage.

Marin labels as dubious Pogonina's move from this position, and indicates that both players erred on the following move.

Black to move

Then, White's move 63 is given a double exclamation mark--a brilliant move.

White to move

I ask myself, would I find Stefanova's move here if I looked at this diagram after I forgot the game? I think the game and the annotations are interesting and instructive.

07 April 2016


When a new Chess Informant arrives, I am like a child on Christmas morning. After a day or two of uncontrolled enthusiasm, I am able to settle down and begin work. One goal with each new issue is to play through the whole of the games section. Informant 127 contains 200 main games or fragments and 116 additional games as comments on these. Getting the CD with the book facilitates this enterprise.

This position is the second diagram in the first game, Rapport -- Fressinet, Reykjavik 2015.

White to move

05 April 2016

Incomplete Miniatures

For a Spring Break chess camp, I created this worksheet.

Miniatures are games that last 25 moves or less. Each of the following games either ended with checkmate or the win of enough material to provoke resignation. Play through the moves given. Complete the game score by writing in the moves in the blanks provided.

1. De Legall -- Saint Brie [C41]
Paris, 1751
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Bg4 4.Nc3 g6 5.Nxe5 Bxd1 6.________ ________ 7.________ 1–0

2. Internet Opponent (1795) -- Stripes,J (1840) [A02]
Chess.com, 05.04.2016
1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.e6 Bxe6 4.g3 Nc6 5.Bg2 Nf6 6.Nf3 Be7 7.0–0 0–0 8.Nc3 Ne5 9.d4 Nxf3+ 10.Bxf3 c6 11.Bg5 Bh3 12.Bg2 Bxg2 13.Kxg2 Ng4 14.Bxe7 Qxe7 15.Re1 _______ 0–1

3. Frazer -- Taubenhaus [C45]
Paris, 1888
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Qh4 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Nf5 Qh5 7.Be2 Qg6 8.________ 1–0

4. Damant -- Amateur [B12]
London, 1932
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.e6 fxe6 6.________ g6 7.________ ________8.________ 1–0

5. Greco,Gioacchino -- NN [C54]
Model Game, 1620
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb6 7.e5 Ng8 8.d5 Nce7 9.d6 Nc6 10.Qd5 Nh6 11.________ Rf8 12.________ Nb4 13.Qd2 Rg8 14.________ 1–0

6. Stripes,James (1824) -- Willaford,Loyd (1694) [B18]
Eastern Washington Open Spokane (2), 01.10.2011
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Nf3 h6 7.Ne5 Bh7 8.Bc4 e6 9.Qh5 Qe7 10.0–0 Nf6 11.Qe2 Nbd7 12.Bf4 0–0–0 13.________ 1–0

7. Stripes,J (1839) -- Internet Opponent (1900) [B18]
Chess.com, 04.04.2016
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Nf3 Nd7 7.Bc4 e6 8.Bf4 Qa5+ 9.c3 Ngf6 10.Qe2 Be7 11.Ne5 0–0–0 12.________ 1–0

8. Dadian -- Doubrava [B00]
Kiev, 1896
1.e4 d6 2.Bc4 Nd7 3.Nf3 g6 4.Ng5 Nh6 5.________ _________ 6.________ 1–0

9. Blake -- Hooke [C41]
London, 1891
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 f5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nc3 exd4 6.Qxd4 Bd7 7.Ng5 Nc6 8.________ ________ 9.________ ________ 10.________ ________ 11.________ ________ 12.Nc3# 1–0

04 April 2016

An Unsound Sacrifice

Ten years ago, I was discussing a line of the French Defense with FM Curt Collyer, who was giving me lessons. He was not yet a FIDE Master, and was only a National Master part of the time that he worked with me. I became a B Class player a few months after the lessons concluded.

While discussing the French Defense, I asked Curt about a sacrifice of a knight for two pawns. In the line we were examining, Black gets a passed, supported d-pawn. Even so, Curt's response expressed his sense that my notion was too ambitious at the least. "You know what your problem is," he said, "you love chess too much."

Yesterday morning, while waiting for a breakfast table at a popular local restaurant, I played a quick game on my phone. After fourteen seconds thought, I sacrificed a knight for two pawns. My position was clearly worse for the next fourteen moves.

Internet Opponent (1820) -- Stripes,J (1837) [C02]
Live Chess Chess.com, 03.04.2016

1.e4 e6 2.d4 c5 3.c3 d5 4.e5 Nc6 5.a3 

5.Nf3 is usual.

5...Bd7 6.Nf3 transposes back to main lines.

6.b4 is consistent with White's prior move.

6...Qb6 7.Be2 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nge7 9.b4 Nf5 10.Bb2

Black to move

My personal database reveals that I have had this position no less than eighteen prior occasions in online blitz. I have played 10...a5 and 10...Rc8. The most popular moves in the approximately 500 games in the ChessBase database are 10...Be7 and 10...Rc8. My score in the prior eighteen games is eight wins, nine losses, and one draw.


I played this move in 2007 on the Playchess server. My opponent hung his queen on move 21.

10...Na5!? was played by Robert Huebner in a game last year, which he went on to win in 38 moves.

10...Be7 and 10...Rc8 are both common and sensible in the position.

11.axb4 Bxb4+ 12.Bc3

12.Nbd2 Rc8 13.0–0 is also fine for White.


12...Rc8 was played in my game nine years ago. 13.Bxb4 Qxb4+ 14.Nbd2 Nxd4 15.0–0 Nxe2+ 16.Qxe2 Bb5 17.Qe3 Bxf1 18.Nxf1 a6 19.Nd4 Rc3 20.Qf4 0–0 21.Nf3 Qxf4 0–1 Internet Opponent (1730) -- Stripes,J (1783) Halle Main Playing 2007.


13.Bxb4 Qxb4+ 14.Qd2 0–0 (14...Qxd2+ 15.Nbxd2 and White must be better) 15.0–0.

13...Rc8 14.Bxb4 axb4

White to move


The g-pawn might become a target. Moreover, the knight's pressure on d4 is inadequate. White should coordinate pieces against the advanced b-pawn, turning a small material advantage into a decisive one.

Even so, White has not yet squandered a clear advantage.

15.Ra2 was probably best.

15...Ne7 16.Nbd2 Ng6 17.Nb3 Nf4 18.Nc5

18.Re1 Nxe2+ 19.Qxe2 Bb5 20.Qd2 Bc4 21.Nc5 Black lacks compensation for the sacrifice.

18...Nxe2+ 19.Qxe2 Bb5

This obvious skewer is not the threat that Black imagined it to be.

White to move


However, White's response suggests agreement that exchanging the rook for a knight benefits Black.

20.Qd2 was fine for White. 20...Bxf1 21.Rxf1 and with only heavy pieces, it is hard for Black to do much with the b-pawns.

20...0–0 21.Qd2? 

Only now does the advantage begin to shift to Black.



And I immediately improved White's position dramatically.


a) 22.Nde1 Qc6

b) 22.Nfe1 Qxd4 23.Qf4 Qxf4 24.Nxf4 b3

22.Rfe1 Rc2 23.Qe3

23.Qb4! Qc6 24.Nc5 b2 25.Rab1 Black's forward b-pawn looks doomed.


White to move


24.Nc5 Bc4 25.Reb1 is better for White.

24.Nb4! was White's best opportunity to maintain the advantage 24...R2c4 (24...R8c3 25.Qxc3 Rxc3 26.Ra8+) 25.Qxb3+-.


After fourteen moves characterized by the errors that are typical when patzers play blitz, Black finally has compensation for the sacrificed knight.

25.Qxd3 R8c3 26.Qd1 b2 27.Nd2?

27.Kg2 Qc6-/+


Black finally has a third pawn for the piece. But, Black's advantage stems from White's lack of mobility and vulnerable king.

White to move

28.Nf1 gives up

28.Ne4 only move 28...Qb6 29.Nd2 (29.Kg2 dxe4-+) 29...Qb4 30.Ne4 Rc1 31.Nxc3 Rxd1 32.Rexd1 Qxc3 33.Re1 g5 34.Re2 Qc1+ 35.Re1 Qc2-+.

28...Qxf2+ 29.Kh1 Qg2# 0–1

It was a fun game that put me in a pleasant mood for breakfast, but my sacrifice does not withstand the light of reason. Even so, it offered good practical chances in a blitz game. I may play it again.