10 November 2023

The Week's Lessons

My own failures often become lessons for my students. Tuesday morning I had a winning position in what should have been a drawn ending, misplayed it, and managed to win on the clock after my opponent recovered from his error. I had briefly studied rook and bishop vs. rook ten years ago after watching Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana play out a drawn ending for 37 moves in the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee (see "Tata Steel Chess, Final Round" and "Rook and Bishop versus Rook").

I had this position from which I created a problem for my opponent.

White to move
70.Ke5 Rd2 71.Ra7+

Driving the king to the back rank is White's only chance to create a winning advantage.


Black finds the only square for the king.


Black to move

Black must play 72...Ke8

73.Kf6 Re3

White to move
Several of my students saw this position and were given a chance to win from the White side. I failed to find the winning plan and my students mostly played it the way I did with the same result. Then, I showed them how I and they could have played.


This move does not spoil the win, but nor is it the correct idea.

White wins quickly with 74.Rh7 Kg8 75.Rh1

Black to move
Analysis diagram
Black is in zugzwang.

a) 75...Rf3 76.Rd1 renews the mate threat and Black can delay longest by exchanging rook for bishop.
b) 75...Re2 allows Be6+ and exchanging rook for bishop is the only move to prevent immediate checkmate.


74...Kg8 is no better.

Now, White forces a return to a position with a second opportunity to play it correctly.


75.Ra7 is slower. 75.Rc7 is best, as it threatens checkmate.


Black plays the most stubborn defense.

White to move

Of course I knew, or should have known that driving the king off the back rank returns the game to a technical draw. I spent 13 seconds on this error.

76.Rd7+ was best, driving the king back towards mine. 76...Ke8 (76...Kc8 allows a discovery that picks up a rook) 77.Rc7 Kf8 and White can win with 78.Rh7 as above.

Lessons are tailored to the student's skill level.

Other advanced students were presented with a sequence of tactical positions to solve from classic games that every chess player should know. Working from a series of books that present 300 critical positions (Rashid Ziyatdinov, GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge [2000], and a trilogy by Thomas Engqvist, 300 Most Important Chess Positions [2018], 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions [2020], and 300 Most Important Chess Exercises [2022]), I am assembling study positions for my students. The link to a Lichess study is public.

Beginning students worked on checkmates in one and saw two short games: my worst OTB tournament loss and a recent online win with the same idea.

White to move
8.Bxf7+ deflects the king from defense of the queen (also see "Attraction").

03 November 2023

Attack the King

The importance of Irving Chernev, The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess (1955) to me personal development as a chess player was articulated in “My First Chess Book”. But, I read very little of the book when I had that library copy nearly fifty years ago. In the past few years, the book has served as a source for student lessons on many occasions. Finally, however, in September 2022, I resolved to play through every game in the book. Progress is slow, deliberate, attentive.

There are many fine games with creative attacking ideas, and there are many games where an unfortunate blunder led to immediate collapse. As I work through this book, many positions make it to Chess Skills’ Facebook page, and from there to other chess pages on Facebook.
This morning’s games included number 853, Taubenhaus — NN, Paris 1909, which concluded with an instructive forced checkmate in five moves.

White to move
Yesterday, I posted a mate in eight from Jambert — Tibi, Aleppo 1946. Game 848 in the book.

White to move
In both cases, Black’s defense was inadequate prior to the mating sequence. Tibi, in fact, had the advantage when White’s knight came to e7 with check. Moving the king was the fatal error.
Chernev’s book is worthy of study by chess players looking to improve their game, and it is good fun for those with no ambitions. It is a rich source of tactics and checkmate exercises for players at many levels.