23 June 2021


Blitz offers little time for calculation. One must see patterns or play by instinct. Naturally, many players work on having openings that trip up their opponents for a quick win. But games often last into the endgame, too.

I had this position this morning.

White to move

With a 3-2 pawn majority on the queenside, of course I want to exchange rooks.

Stripes,J. -- Internet Opponent [C40]
Live Chess Chess.com, 23.06.2021

34.Rxg7+ Kxg7

Both players are under a minute. White 58 seconds; Black 55 seconds.

35.Kg1 Kf6 36.Kf2 Ke5 37.Ke3 Kd5 38.Kd3

Coincidentally, I was able to maintain the opposition as the kings moved towards the center. Or, was that something I noticed before the rook exchange?

Black to move


38...h4 also would be met with 39.a4.

39.a4 a6

White to move



40...g4 41.h4

Black is in zugzwang. The king must give way to allow White's plans to convert his majority into a passed pawn. And that results in a pawn race of sorts, and then queen against pawns.

41...Ke5 42.Kc4 Ke4 43.b5 axb5+ 44.axb5 cxb5+ 45.Kxb5 Kf3 46.c6 Kxg3 47.c7 Kxh4 48.c8Q Kh3

White to move

Instinct tells me to move my king closer. How would I have such instinct? I've studied positions in many endgame books, have taught these positions to my students, and have played them against computers and against human opponents.


Tablebases say that it is mate in nine and this is the only move to make it mate in eight.


49...Kh4 50.Kd3 g3 51.Ke2 g2 52.Kf2


50.Kd4 was equally good.

50...Kg3 51.Ke3

51.Qf4 was as good.


White to move


When the standard is perfection, as it should be, this move must be accounted an error. I missed a mate in five.

52.Qc2 h2 53.Qf2+ Kh3 54.Kf4 h1N 55.Qg1 Nf2 56.Qg3#

52...Kg2 53.Qc6+

And again, 53.Qc2+ or 53.Qf4 g3 54.Ke2 Kh1

53...Kh2 54.Qd6+

Still missing the fastest checkmate.

54.Qc2+ Kg1 55.Qf2+ Kh1 56.Kf4 g3 57.Kxg3 h2 58.Qf1#

54...g3 55.Qf4 

Black to move


55...Kh1 is more stubborn. 56.Qxg3 h2 57.Qf3+ Kg1 58.Qf2+ Kh1 59.Qf1#

56.Ke2 h2

Still 56...Kh1 holds out a few moves longer. 57.Qxg3 h2 58.Qf3+ Kg1 59.Qf2+ Kh1 60.Qf1#

57.Qf1# 1-0

The endgame was easy, but felt rushed even though I had almost half a minute left when it ended. Three minute chess is always frantic. 

22 June 2021

Is Less More?

Capablanca was strangely poor at explaining and annotating his own games. Possibly this was because he assumed immediate comprehension on the part of the reader of moves that really demanded considerable explanation.
Harry Golombek, Capablanca's 100 Best Games of Chess (1947)
In My Chess Career (1920), José Raúl Capablanca annotated two of his games from his match with Juan Corzo. Harry Golombek begins Capablanca's 100 Best Games of Chess with the same two games. There is no question that Golombek's annotations are more extensive, but are they more useful?

Let's examine the annotations to the first of these.

Corzo y Prinzipe,Juan -- Capablanca,Jose Raul [C25]
Havana match Havana (8), 06.12.1901
[Golombek and others]

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.Nf3 g5 5.h4 g4 6.Ng5

Black to move

At this point, Golombek inserts his first note identifying the Hamppe-Allgaier Gambit, noting, "it is not sound" (21). He describes Corzo's strategy as an effort to take advantage of Capablanca's lack of book knowledge. This insight merely repeats what Capablanca wrote in My Chess Career: "Corzo knew my complete lack of book knowledge, consequently he tried repeatedly to play gambits of this sort where it would be difficult for me to find the proper answer" (7).

Golombek goes on to state that Capablanca, "does diverge from the book of the time--but only to find a better continuation for Black" (22).

6...h6 7.Nxf7 Kxf7 8.d4

Black to move

Golombek  gives the line 8...d6 9.Bxf4 Bg7 10.Bc4+ with an attack, and the reader is left wondering if 8...d5 was Capablanca's improvement. A glance at a modern database does not resolve the question. ChessBase Mega 2020 lists seven games preceding this one that reached the position after 8.d4. One was game 6 of this match. The other six have three games with 8...d5, two with 8...f3, and one with 8...d6. Five of these games were won by White. In the exception, Taubenhaus -- Lipschuetz, New York 1889, 8...f3 was played.

Of course, Golombek had no databases with which to work. Nor are the databases particularly complete as shall be shown below.

Capablanca is more helpful: "Afterwards Corzo told me that the book recommended 8...d6" (7). The "book" would have been Handbuch des Schachspiels, 7th edition, published in 1891 under the editorial direction of Emil Schallopp.

Handbuch (1891), 8...d6 underlined

There are no games in PowerBook 2020 with 8...d5, but there are eight games with 8...d6. 


9.Bxf4 Bb4 is good for Black (Golombek). Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, 3rd ed. gives this line continuing 10.Be2 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 Nf6 with a better game for Black.


White to move

Capablanca offers a comment here that reveals how, even at the age of 13, he prepared for games through the course of the match with Corzo. He notes they had played this variation previously, but omits the detail that it had been only one week earlier in the sixth game of the match.


10.Be2 was played in game six.
The game ended in a draw, but I should have won. Corzo analyzed the position and told someone that he should have played 10.Kf2. When I heard this I analyzed the situation myself and decided to play it again, as I thought that Black should win with the continuation which I put into practice in the game.
Capablanca, My Chess Career (8).
Capablanca offers no further comments on the game.

10...g3+ 11.Kg1

Golombek offers a diagram here, notes the vulnerability of the White king, and lauds Capablanca's return of the sacrificed piece. "White is continually harassed by mating threats" (22).

11...Nxd4! 12.Qxd4

12.Bxf4 Qf6 (Golombek).

12...Qc5 13.Ne2

Black to move


Golombek states, "An original and pleasing touch and much more powerful than the humdrum 13...Qxd4+ 14.Nxd4 Bc5 15.c3 Now Black's threat of Bc5 forces White to exchange queens thereby allowing Black to bring the queen's rook into the game at once" (22).

The ChessBase DVD Master Class 04 José Raúl Capablanca (2015) notes that Isaak and Vladimir Linder, José Raúl Capablanca: 3rd World Chess Champion (2010) gives 13...Bg4 14.Be3! fxe3 15.Qxg4. A correspondence game in the nineteenth century continued with 13...Bg4 14.Be3 Qxd4 15.Bxd4 Bxe2 16.Bxe2 Bg7 (Deutsche Wochenschach 46 [17 November 1889], 402, points out that 16...Nf6 is better here. Miguel A. Sánchez, José Raúl Capablanca: A Chess Biography (2015), 80, points out the game in Deutsche Wochenschach, and also shows that White is still better after 16...Nf6. This game may be in ChessBase's Correspondence database, but it does not appear in Mega 2020. I did find it in the online version.

Deutsche Wochenschach

Sánchez is the only annotator, it seems to me, who does justice to Capablanca's comments about how he prepared for this game, asking whether he might have known about the game published twelve years earlier. It would not seem likely that a thirteen year-old player with no book knowledge would be reading a German magazine that was published near the time of his first birthday.

14.Qxb6 axb6 15.Nd4 Bc5 16.c3 Ra4

Golombek points the threat of Rxd4 wins another pawn.

White to move

17.Be2 Bxd4+ 18.cxd4 Rxd4 19.b3

"White has been relying upon this maneuver to pull the game round to his favour by exploiting the risky position of Black's queen rook. It soon becomes apparent that Black has seen further into the position than White." (Golombek, 22) 

19...Nf6 20.Bb2 Rd2

Does Golombek offer much value pointing out 20...Rxd5? 21.Bc4+-?


Black to move


"Hoping for 21...Kg7 22.Bc3 Rc2 23.Be5 with distinct counter-chances but Black now finishes off the game in the best style" (Golombek, 22).

22.Bxh8 f3! 23.gxf3

23.Bc3 f2+ 24.Kf1 Bf5 25.Bxd2 Bd3# (Golombek)

23...Nf4 24.Be5

Golombek points out another checkmate threat: 24.Re1 Rg2+ 25.Kf1 Rf2+ 26.Kg1 Bh3-+ 27.Bc3 Rf1+ 28.Rxf1 Ne2#.

Black to move

24...Rg2+ 25.Kf1 Rf2+ 26.Ke1 Nd3+ 0-1

Golombek is certainly more thorough in pointing out some tactical threats, but Capablanca's very brief annotation offers the important story of this game. Golombek might have done more to explain why he thinks Capablanca's divergence from the book line was an improvement.

03 June 2021

Replaying Endgames

For the past two months, I have been working my way through Cyrus Lakdawala, Capablanca: Move by Move (2012). This book was allowed to go out of print and copies are hard to find at a reasonable price. However, ebook versions exist, and so I am both reading it on my Kindle app, and reading while playing through the moves within ChessBase. Both the CBV files for ChessBase and the Kindle version were purchased direct from the publisher in one package, Everyman.

This morning, I began the last section of the book, "Capa on Endings". Having failed Lakdawala's question because I failed to foresee White's queenside possibilities, I reinforced the lesson by playing the position against Stockfish. After seeing how Capablanca won the game, beating Stockfish was easy. You can view Capablanca's entire game at chessgames.com.

Lakdawala presents the first 29 moves of Capablanca -- Conde, Hastings 1919 without comment, then poses a question: should White trade knights to enter the pawn ending?

Kindle Screenshot

The game continued:

30.Nxf6 gxf6 31.a4 d5 32.b3

Sockfish deviated from Conde's play here.


Conde played 32...d4

White to move


The only winning move is fairly obvious. White must keep Black's king on his side of the board.

33...h5 34.g3

Komodo's postgame analysis offers another way to win: 34.cxd5 Kxd5 35.h4 Ke4 36.g4 Kxf4 37.gxh5

Black to move
Analysis Diagram

White's powerful doubled h-pawns remind me of a position in Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual.

I opted to uncreatively strive for Capablanca's solution by advancing my backwards pawn.

34...Kc6 35.Kf2 d4 36.Ke2 Kd7 37.g4 h4 38.Kd3 Kd6

White to move

White to move
Capablanca's Position

My position differs from that reached by Capablanca, but the winning idea remains the same. White's king will be in the square of Black's passed pawns, while White will have passed pawns on both sides of the board.


This move was the critical idea that I missed when I answered that White should not exchange knights.

39...axb4 40.g5 fxg5 41.fxg5 Ke5

White to move

42.g6 fxg6 43.fxg6

With passed pawns on the g- and a-files, it is clear that White wins. Against Stockfish, I played the game out to checkmate.