16 July, 2018

Best laid plans...

I planned this, I really did.

Two or three move before, I visualised what I wanted, and calculated the two possibilities, and so when the below arrived I would be ready....

White to play
But it didn't happen correctly. Wrong move or move order and I was unable to recover.

I bet you, dear reader, will not make the same mistake.

Next move ? and continuation ? Honestly, it is really easy, the hard bit was seeing it before it arose !

11 June, 2018

Hard to resist...

...my favourite mate-of-the-moment, so here's something from the Chessbase site.

Black to play and win
I'm not sure I would find this over-the-board, at least not quickly. Initial move(s) are fine, but then there is a sticking point.

If you played the starting moves and hoped, you may well see it, but just visualising and calculating is a bit harder.

See the solution at Chessbase.

29 May, 2018

Not an Arabian Mate

I thought it best not to post another Arabian or Anastasia's mate, despite being in total thrall to the simplicity and beauty of both of them.

Instead, a couple of combinations from rapid games.

The first arises from the Centre Game, of which there are already a few examples on my blog. 

I started using it after reading an article, ,on the excellent chessvibes.com site some few years ago. It was written by Arne Moll who is, along with the editor, Peter Doggers, an entertaining and educational writer.

( As a diversion, chessvibes.com was was sold to chess.com an few years ago and used to be available regurgitating chess.com articles, but when I tried today, there was no response. A short investigation reveals the site has gone, and is now a twitter account with a re-born life as the news-piece of chess.com. Since I'm not a twitter consumer, this explains why I didn't know of it. In its push for web-chess domination, chess.com has also bought the Komodo chess engine, which is an intriguing development for a web-site !)

Returning to the Centre Game, the article in question used the Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi as a high-profile exponent of the opening in its modern form, with a rapid game against Aronian presented as the guide.

As an enthusiastic novice the Centre Game seemed a great way to 'get your own opening', since after 1.e4 e5 2.d4, the invariable response is 2...exd4, and Qxd4 puts you firmly in "your" opening :perfect , it must be a win !

Of course, nothing is so simple, since, quite naturally, Black doesn't want to play along with you.

However, this gives it a psychological advantage in blitz, as, in my opinion, Black wants to show it isn't good, plus he wants to avoid white's preparation, and, as the Centre Game involves Queen-side castling as well, that is another beacon pulling Black to over-reacting !

Below is the position I reached after a  king-side pawn advance ( a typical plan and as always its rarely pleasant for your opponent to  see a shieldwall of pawns advancing towards you).

In this particular game,Black has also been lax in his weak defence, avoiding exchanges and blocks, retreating his king and ending up in a corner.

Intuition just screams that there is a great combination here, and a minute's calculation convinces me, that victory is in sight.

How would you proceed...

19...Kh8. White to play and win

A different game and another combination, in this case not forced, but a nice example of showing how not only how an idea can be re-cycled, but also how one wrong move turns a level game into a winning one.

When I played Rb8, expecting Qe2 as a response, I had seen a promising sequence ( Nxc5, followed by Bc5+ and an exchange of Rooks ),  but instead a very strong, maybe even winning response of Bf4 was played !

18. Bf4 !

Oops, an overlooked and very nice pin. But  Black's 17...Qa5 prompted the defensive 18.Qd2 from White, instead of the better Bxb8.

This allowed me to free my Rook with 18...Rbd8, and after 19. Qd3 ( below )...

19. Qd3
I re-used my previous idea ( Nxc6, and Bxc5+ ) ending up here.


White responded with the bad move of Kf1, instead of Kh1. I assume he was looking at the loose pawn on the a-file, should the King-side Rook recapture after the exchange on e1. This isn't the losing move but it surely encourages it.

22. Kxe1 ??
An exchange of Rooks, and definitely the wrong re-capture with the King, led White to resign.

A game-winning pin, especially when combined with the winning pawn move of d4 !

03 April, 2018

A surprising move

Something not from Chess Tempo for a change.

This was part of a game illustrating King Safety.

After the actual position (and lesson), the game continuation was given, arriving at this position where Black has a game-winning move.

Satisfying, and a good move to find  !

Black to move and win

Solution if required [  1....Kg8 ]          

23 March, 2018

Anastasia's Mate

Recently, I discovered Anastasia's Mate ( as well as others, such as the similar Arabian mate). Of course, I mean I discovered how the pattern was named.

Anastasia's Mate ( apparently named after a novel by Johann Jakob Wilhelm Heinse) involves Rook and Knight combining, often with a Queen involved.

The example I learned from starts below...

Black to play
...and after 1...Ne2+ 2. Kh1 Qxh2+ 3.Kxh2, we have....

a Rook check, and the knight blocks the escape squares. Very neat.

I must have remembered it well, as in the below problem, after dismissing the first move that came to mind, the knight + Rook pattern emerged. 

Checking the options, I was convinced, played for it and was correct. A neat solution :)

White to play

Solution if required 

Its not that rare, as I saw a similar pattern later.

White to play
The learning point is to know your mating combinations, as they do more than give mate : the mate threat can be devastatng !

17 March, 2018

Time and Tactics

My continued practice of tactics, mainly through the use of Chess Tempo, appears to be paying off for me, despite the difficulty of measuring this precisely.

I find that I can calculate better, and that I see more ideas. 

However, wanting to be confident that I have the correct solution often means that I spend more time than 'the average', which isn't bad per se ,as it means I am re-examining, re-calculating and probably reinforcing positions and variations that I see : extended practise, so to speak. It does mean that I look at fewer problems/positions per session though.

I notice this is in OTB play as well : thinking too long,  I tend to fall into time-trouble towards the end, often being 15 minutes behind my opponent, which naturally increases the risk of mistakes.

Lack of time is not always helped when I forget to stop my clock, since opponents ( especially in League matches ) will rarely remind you. 90 minutes with a 15 second increment sounds like a huge amount of time, but it can be eaten up very quickly.

In a recent game, I was a pawn up, I still had to win it, and it didn't look that simple when you have about 9 minutes to the opponent's 15.

After 34...Rb3

Eventually, after my opponent also burned time thinking, pushed the king-side pawns aggressively and gave me an opening, I ended up in the position below.

White to play after 48..Kxb7

Easy to win, I'm sure you will think, but with about a minute left, and with the Black King in front of the doubled pawns it looks daunting.

In reality, once I had decided on a plan, I just played quickly for 6 or so moves gaining time on the clock, and with a mistaken Kh8 from Black turning up, I could stop and spend some time to make sure of the win, and even more importantly, avoiding the stalemate !

Finally, just to show I can still fail miserably, I spent about 5 minutes staring at the following before making the wrong move. I just didn't consider the White response fully, but it was nice to have the correct idea !

Black to play

Solution if required