19 December, 2014

Black to move and win

Clearly , I didn't see the win for Black , and neither did he, as we had repeated a position.

I knew I should have played Rxf2 previously, but played Kh1 just to gain some time to think.

What is the best move for Black here ?

04 December, 2014

A Forced Win

Earlier in this game, I had played a Rxh6 sacrifice, since I 'felt' that an attack must be possible, but couldn't calculate it properly.. so I just played it to find out.

It was, of course, not a correct sacrifice, in that it was not overwhelming, not winning.

However, weak responses from Black  ( including the bizarre decision not to take the Bishop on d3 (blunting any attack) , or later, Nxa2+ to win a pawn) allowed me another shot.

Again, I felt there was something there, but with limited time, I played the wrong move in the position below.

After the game, I worked out the winning move, as there is a forced win available.

Doing this was very useful, since I realise that the reason I missed the win is that I overlooked mating patterns: one completely ( although it must have been in my thoughts at some time, since I had played Ne5 previously ), the other, and original mating pattern, just slipped out of my mind.

Losing both patterns and the focus in each, just pushed me in the wrong direction.

White to Play and win
Can you do better than me ? What do you play here to win ?

25 November, 2014

T62 Openings Summary

T62 has concluded, so just on the eve of the T63 season, an appropriate time to look again at what Amateurs play in the opening phase in TL chess.

Still nailed in first place is the Sicilian Defence : what more can be said, even Anand chose to play it in the current WCC, so one can hardly complain !

Remaining in the top ten, and more on less in the same proportions, are the usual suspects of the French Defence, Queen's Pawn Systems, and the English Opening, just like last season.

Bubbling under the top 10 are the Slav, Pirc, Grunfeld, Scandinavian, Nimzo-Indian, Two Knights and Alekhine, all in double figures for number of games played.

21 November, 2014

Its no Sacrifice

I rarely have a chance to play this sort of move, probably because my games either end earlier, or the endganes are much closer.
Anyway. here we are.

The game is lost for Black, but gamely, he plays on, bringing the king closer, and finally, blocking the f-pawn with the knight, and leaving the White Rook blocking his own g-pawn.

Job done ? Some sort of parity ?

No, actually, a win for White....

White to play and win

Highlight for solution , if you should need it  ! [  Rd8+ , checks and clears the queening square. Obvious once you've seen it before, or are a genius : for me, its the former ! ]

16 November, 2014

Missed Tactics 5

Reviewing this blitz game, I saw a terrible miss from me ( as Black ).

So obvious in retrospect, and I am sure I would have seen it during a longer time frame, but my focus was on the pawn at d3.

Black to play and......

18. Qd1...Black to Play

Highlight for Solution if needed [  18... Qxd2 19. Qxd2 Nf3+  ]

09 November, 2014

Your Move

In game terms, I had been in a 'repeating-moves position'  a few moves previously, and had decided I didn't want to risk a draw (at move 20), so had exchanged a Rook on the d-file instead.

After some thought, I played 23. Na5, resulting in the below...

After 23. Na5....
I calculated that Qxa5 was terminal for Black ( and for that matter fairly obvious being trivial to work through ).

I also calculated a few moves on the various 23...Bxe5 lines, and noted that Rd6 looked interesting , although I didn't go so many moves down that path.

Overall, I thought it gave Black 'food for thought' and a more imbalanced game afterwards, ie moving away from the draw.

What would be your move as Black ?

Completely unrelated, but I always liked the song linked to below, especially after "discussing it" on a local train between Darlington and Newcastle sometime in the 70s. 

Hey, I was a student, that's what you did !

Probably why it came into my head when trying to come up with a title for the post. !

31 October, 2014

Missed tactics 4a ( and a chess mystery )

A previous post showed a tactic missed in a TL game. 

While working through a number of tactics exercises, I thought the below had a similar theme, but probably more obvious....

White to play
Highlight for Solution [  15. Nf5 ! If Black takes the Knight, his Queen is lost, if not, the game is lost . Equally, 15. Nxc6 and if Qxg4 16. Ne7 mate !  From Alekhine - Muñoz*, Sabadell , 1945 . ]

*However, this just reveals how fascinating a game chess is, or perhaps more accurately, how incredibly intriguing people, their history, and motives are !

This entire game "could"  be  a fabrication by Alekhine, albeit based on his own analysis of the play arising from the earlier moves of a consultation game that occurred in 1941 !

The losing player would appear not to be Muñoz ( based on good deductions ), but cannot be identified at this point.

See the always interesting Edward Winter in Chess History for the full information. 

The Holmesian in me also likes his reference "There is also the dog that failed to bark in the night argument" although that actually comes via Leonard Barden's notes that Winter quotes.

Regardless of the intrigue, it is still a neat puzzle, with more than one solution...

22 October, 2014

Chess : A State of Mind by William Hartston

I found this via an interesting blog  called mccreadyandchess, that was new to me : mainly chess, but a few other things thrown in as too. 

Here you go, a documentary on chess from 1986, created by Bill Hartston, once the "go-to" commentator and observer for the British media, when they were fascinated by the goings-on in the chess world, but needing an informed guide through it.

I have to say Tal looks very creepy (those eyebrows, that look ! ), and Spassky performs an amazing vocal imitation of a squeaky Karpov, and that it reminded me that lots of men in the 80s wore jumpers under their suits or jackets !

Fischer's is the least " American-sounding" American voice I have heard for a long time, but I recall having that thought before about American voices from the 40s, 50s and 60s. 

Enjoy, I certainly did !

Chess : A State of Mind by William Hartston

20 October, 2014

Updated Tactics posts

I've used these few posts as a reminder on missed tactics, in that I can view the post and work out or remember the combination.

Now updated, by adding the solution

Missed tactics 4 

A good Combination  

Missed Tactic 3  

Missed Tactic 2 

Missed Tactic 

16 October, 2014

A blitz swindle

An ongoing discussion : is blitz chess really " chess"  ?

In the end that depends what you believe "chess" is, and why you play blitz chess.

It has its place, and taken for that it is useful/fun/relaxing/etc, in its way..

Here's a recent position : white to play, more than enough time left for both sides...

White to play
Subjectively, as White I have lost, as I have two pieces en prise, and few prospects.

If this was a proper "chess"  game, I would either resign immediately, or play a few moves just to see how Black would tie this up.

However, it is blitz, and the chess part of my mind tells me that " If that Black Knight wasn't on d7, then Qf8 is mate , or if my knight was on f5, and the Ng8 was gone, then Qd7 is mate" so luck and psychology could play a large part here.

I reason that Black could think that he has won the knight(h4) and/or the rook(b1) easily, so may well be inclined to be focusing on either of those ( most likely the higher-valued Rook ) rather than white's remote mate threats.

Nf5 is not a move likely to succeed, since the pawn will snap it up and there are still two pieces en prise. So, how to remove the guarding knight ? 

It seems obvious that d5 is the only move to play.

Not much threatened directly, but if Black is one who reacts to an immediate threat, maybe he will capture, and exd is more likely than cxd ( since that allows Qxb5 ), or it may even be dismissed as a distraction to the real meat of the hanging Rook or Knight  ?

If the e-pawn captures then Nf5 is possible.

So, I play d5....

The response is an expected material gain : Bishop takes Rook !  

I play the pawn capture, dxe . Black immediately responds Ne5, and loses to Qf8 mate !

Yes, its a swindle, but I feel very happy to have won, and by such a " devious"  method, plus  I have exercised my tactical brain a little, spotting two possible mates, and being rewarded, courtesy of a greedy attitude, with one of them !

An example of how an amateur mind works ? human psychology ? or just blitz chess ?

08 October, 2014

Missed tactics 4

From a recent Team League game...

White has a great opportunity presented to him, after Rd1 chases the Queen away...do you see it ?

White to play ...

The mate threat on h7 is very powerful, and though it draws your eye, the tactical target, and sacrificial bait , is elsewhere...

Unfortunately, White missed the clues, and played Nce4, to exchange pieces,and lose the advantage.

Highlight for solution [ The target is e5.  1. Rxe5  Nxe5 and if Nx35, then Qh7#. Instead, if the queen moves, then Nxf6 removes the guard.  A nice combination !   ]

26 September, 2014

A good finish !

From a recent blitz game...

This can hardly be called a puzzle or that much of an exercise, since, effectively,  it plays itself, but it was good to have seen this ( + a couple of previous moves to set it up ).

It is undeniable though, that Black played himself into this situation.

White to play and win
The sort of finish that I wouldn't manage in standard chess !

Highlight for solution [ 1.Nf6+  Kf8 loses material or is mate  via Rh8+, Rh7+, Be6# or Kg8 ( as played in the game ) leads to mate with 2. Rh7#   ]  

21 September, 2014

Missed Tactic 3

Well, a slight fabrication, since the actual position didn't occur, but it was one possibility that may have arisen.

A recent  game has been very level and threatens to continue as such from this position.

Black has just played Nxe5, winning a pawn.

The actual position Nxe5

White did, of course, play the very sensible Rc8+ in reply, which would eventually regain the pawn, but my mind wondered...

What if White decided on Nd4, to threaten the Rook ? Where could the Rook  retreat to ? 

Wrong thought to have, as Nd4 presents Black with a very nice tactic !

A possibility after Nd4

What should Black play ?

Highlight for solution [ The Rook doesn't need to retreat... 1...Rxf2 2. Kxf2 Nd3 forking king and Rook : Black is a pawn up either way  ] 

18 September, 2014

Missed tactic 2

Another missed tactic from a recent game.

This time I did actually consider the move that I should have played, but didn't calculate it enough, and so dismissed it.

Should one trust intuition more in chess ?

Result of not spotting this at move 16, was a 67-move game, including a long Rook + Pawn endgame.

If nothing else that should be an incentive to improve !

Black to play and gain an advantage

Highlight for Solution [ The c-pawn is hanging... 1...Nxc3  various exchanges after that, although not forced ] 

14 September, 2014

Missed Tactic

From a recent game..White to play and gain an advantage.

Luckily ( for me ) White missed this, just as I had overlooked it.

I was concentrating on the a- and b-pawn threat, and I guess he was too, as it wasn't mentioned in the post-game chatter.

The clues about why b5 was bad, are obvious in hindsight, but I can assure you, I did not see them !

Highlight for solution [ b5 leaves the knight defended, but only by d6, which also protects the knight on f5. So  1. Nxd5.  If dxe5 then Qxf5. EIther way, its a material gain for White    ]

04 August, 2014

T61 Openings Summary

Another TL season over, so an appropriate time to look again at what Amateurs play in the opening phase in TL chess.

Hardly changed over the seasons, as the Sicilian Defence is firmly rooted at the top, and the remaining openings played seem to remain more-or-less static, just varying in popularity, although General Queen's Pawn Openings ( ie not specific Queen's Gambits or English or often not with an automatic c4 ) seem to be on the increase at the moment.

Counted in this ( General Queen's Pawn) are 'systems' such as the London or Colle, which I would think are often used by amateurs to cut down on amount of theory required: certainly that applies to me, as I have adopted the London recently.

Other openings remaining most played are the Caro-Kann and French, from a Black point of view, and the English and Spanish from White's perspective.

However, if you consider the most played move, then, technically, 1.e4 is the most used opening move with the reply of e5 just beating c5 followed by e6, c6, d6, d5.

01 August, 2014

Chess Olympiad : Tromso , 2014

The Tromso Olympiad kicks off today, well at least the opening ceremony.

The " live action"  begins in earnest tomorrow.

I will be paying attention to the top seeds, but will also be keeping my eye on the teams and players that I have a "soft spot" for.

Of course, this will include The Netherlands ( especially the women's team and Lisa Schut ), and England ( it would have been great to see Jonathon Hawkins, the new British Champion playing ), plus smaller countries like Portugal and Mauritius, along with players like David Navara or Richard Rapport.

As added  fun, I have entered the Fantasy Chess Olympiad, as dreamed up and launched by Yorkshire Chess. I intended to do this last time around, but was just a little late. This year I am on time, and have entered two teams, one " favourites and emotional ties" , the other statistical.

It will be intriguing to see the results !

Regardless, I am looking forward to some chess that is both entertaining and enjoyable, hopefully without too much politics.

For Olympiad history and statistics, there is no better site than this to wander through.

As a last minute update, I notice that Eva Repkova is playing ( for Slovakia ). 

Why the interest ? Well, with a bit of luck, she may play the Réti Gambit, which seems to be part of her repertoire, and holds  illogical emotional ties for me !  

27 July, 2014

Fast Blitz Mate

Yes, its a Blitz game, but still it shows that paying attention and not making automatic moves in the opening is important.

French Advance , with ( in my experience ) a rare 4. dxc5 which just allows me to accelerate my development.

With what could be an automatic 6. Nc3....

6. Nc3

I had a quicker mate, but took the material first and then saw that 8.., Qe3 was in fact mate.

Yes, my opponent helped me, but I take a little credit for seeing it !!

21 July, 2014

That Mate again....

It doesn't just happen in Amateur TL ...

Up and coming Hungarian GM Richard Rapport disposed of his 2011-rated opponent via the usual trap in 5 moves.

I think I'll avoid the  Caro-Kan as Black for a long time !

Rapport - Rogers, Politiken Cup, 2014

05 July, 2014

Return of Chess Cafe

Finally, after a number of delays, Chess Cafe is back !

I have no idea what the makeover was about, since to my eyes the website has the same layout, and has exactly the same columnists ( saying more-or-less the same things as 6 months ago ! ) but maybe the important changes are "under the bonnet" .

The column I enjoy the most ( Tim Harding's ' The Kibitzer' ) has been continued at his own site during the break, so I didn't suffer too much from the enforced break !

I love his combination of chess + history, and the fact that he displays older games ( often played in a simpler and more understandable style ) from which you can learn. His writing is also fluid,and his chess analysis easy to follow.

The first-returning columns include those of the the two Opening experts ( Abby Marshall and Gary Lane) , both of which hold very little interest for me. Occasionally, I will take a peek, but not that often.

Another I avoid is the ' Chess Evoloution' by Arkadij Naiditsch : far too advanced for this patzer !

I will be eagerly awaiting Karsten Mullers'  " Endgame Corner" . Not so much fun as seeing him on his Endgame DVDs, where his style is incredibly educative, as well as highly amusing, but well worthwhile.

Similarly, Dan Heiseman's "Novice Nook"  will be good to read again. Homely and informative.

The book and product reviews are welcome and interesting to read, but I admit that the Chessbase and sometimes the Convekta/Aquarium section ( when it was there ) were largely not for me .

Although they gave some interesting information ( particularly in Aquarium , as it developed its new ideas on Interactive Deep Analysis ) most of the time I could not comprehend why these columns wrote about such basic usage of the product. Does no-one read a manual any more ?

One column ( or perhaps more correctly, author ) I will undoubtedly still miss is Nigel Davies, whose "Middlegame Motifs'  and "Let's take a look" columns were wonderful, but have not been seen on Chess Cafe for some time.

Luckily, the Archives section at Chess Cafe is still available so if you navigate to here and here, all those instructive middlegame columns are still available to enjoy.

You never know, maybe as July unfolds and more columns are published, new columnists or ideas will be revealed : just have to wait and see !

07 June, 2014

What's the best move ?

In this game, I had just found some space for my Queen after many stressful moves of being close to trapped.

I'd expected White to exchange Queens on c2, but instead he played Qa3.

The exchange of pieces proposed seemed fine for me, and finally resolved the Queen issue.

So, what to play now in response to Qa3?

I chose, not necessarily a ' wrong' move, but certainly not the best.

And you ?

Black to Play

05 June, 2014

Another Mate in 2...from 1921

A further newspaper selection.

Published this day in 1921.

My first attempt had the correct idea, but I chose the wrong piece.  A pleasant distraction !

5 June, 1921 : White to play and Mate in 2

02 June, 2014

How to Proceed ?

I missed a vital part of this problem, and chose a wrong solution.

I did, in fact, see part of the solution, but since I didn't recognise the concept, naturally I failed to solve it.

My solution would, if this was a real game, have put me in a more-or-less equal position, but there is more to be gained from it...

White to play

29 May, 2014

Mate in 2

Looking through old newspapers, its nice to find the occasional  problem from the times when a Saturday evening involved more than just hours of bad TV....

A rather straightforward Mate in 2 from a member of the Rotterdam Chess Problem Club, from today's date in 1921...

1921 : White to play and Mate in 2

31 March, 2014

The most difficult Chess problem

Not, you might think, how to convert a won position into a win, which is, for me, a very difficult chess problem, but rather a 'discovered' problem concocted by some fiendishly clever, and certainly time-rich programmers at Lomonosov University in Moscow.

25 March, 2014

T57- T59 Summary

As a matter of completion, here's a summary of Openings played in the last three TLs, since I seem not to have done this individually, plus a couple of short checkmates !

For me, T57 was the longest with 9 games played, as Magnum Ignotum reached the final. ( In fact we have reached the play-offs in 5 of the last 6 seasons : not bad !).

Although I had good results in T57, this was the tournament where I changed my repertoire for both Black and White., adopting e6 as my main defence and also moving to 1.d4 as White.

These proved to be consistent with main TL openings, as e4 is still the most played, and the Sicilian, French, and Caro-Kann the top replies. No change there.

For White, the main change, compared to T56. appear to be the increase in the the use of general Queen's Pawn openings, ie systems such as the London or Colle, as well as non-Queen Gambit openings, such as the Trompowsky.

Nice to see the short mate rearing it's head again...

Another quick mate in the Caro-Kann

Yes, its that damned Caro-kann !  Black really needs to be careful !

This short game started with 1.f4, but transposed to a King's Gambit, leading to mate in 9.

Short mate in a King's Gambit  
Longest games ?  Again, over 100 moves there were 9 games, only 4 of which were draws, including the longest at 124 moves.

Finally, as a minor exercise, work out the short mating sequence here, where Black resigned after 8 moves, after a failed Latvian Gambit !

T59 - Short game

                 T57, T58 and T59 Top 10 Played Openings

B20-B99 Sicilian  477 (15%)
C00-C19 French Defence  329  ( 10%)
B10-B19 Caro-Kann  227 ( 7% )  
D00-D05 Queen's Pawn General (London\Colle\etc   234 (7 % )
D30-D69  Queen's Gambit Declined 175 ( 5,5 % )
 A45-A50 Indian Defences\Torre Attack  156 ( 5 %)
E60-E99 King's Indian Defence152  (5%) 
A10-A39 English    151 ( 5 %)
C60-C99 Spanish Game ( Ruy Lopez )  148 (4,5%)
A04-A09 Reti   112 ( 3,5 % )

For those interested, all games were re-indexed in Chess Assistant 11,. The Opening classification ranges ( ie grouping ECO codes), I borrowed from Chessville (many thanks, although it seems to have disappeared again :(

See also T56 Summary,  T55 Summary, T51 Summary,  T50 Summary and T47 Summary.

19 March, 2014

Cult Books

One of the issues of  reading newspapers on the web, is that you can easily miss things, since, on the internet, the act of turning pages, and some article 'catching your eye' is severely reduced, if not entirely lost.

Although I used to exercise this indulgent act most Sundays, via the sharing of brunch, newspapers and coffee , it seems that this has slipped away over the years, and the Sunday breakfast is now a solo affair in front of a screen.

Yes, its usually earlier in the day now, and often followed by a lunch, but, with regards to accidental discoveries, as Roy Hawkins puts it , "The thrill is gone".

Hence, I found this interesting list of cult books a little late :)

Reading through it, there are both great and dismal books mentioned, some of which I have to admit to reading ( many, and mainly, it is true,in my youth :).

Siddartha, The Prophet and Jonathon Livingston Seagull, fed my esoteric teenage passion for sure, while Testament of Youth attempted to balance the more political history I devoured ( 20th Century Totalitarianism was one of my specialities at College).

The Dice Man was something I 'borrowed' from my brother. I don't recall finishing it, since even at that age, I sensed it was probably too violent and sexual for me at that time !

Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance :  Who didn't read it among my teenage friends is easier to count than who did, although these days, I doubt if I'd go through it again.

Many others lurk there, including The Holy Blood and Holy Grail ( allegedly re-worked as lucrative fiction by Dan Brown ), a book I read a few years after seeing the original BBC documentary about the priest and his treasure, and even Dune is therea book I've read several times since the Seventies, and thoroughly enjoyed each read.

But is there a chess book in this list of cult reading ?

Well, not exactly, but what caught my eye was the review of one book that I never read...

" Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979)

 About what it means to think, and how that happens, this is written in the spirit of Lewis Carroll. Pattern recognition in the work of geniuses. Loved by maths geeks and anybody with Asperger's syndrome and anyone with sense. But at root a chess textbook. AMcK "

Before I even reached the indicative, final sentence, the mention of pattern recognition had already sparked off the flint of my chess mind, primed by the many mentions of "patterns are the key" by all those switched on Chess theorists.

Needless to say, this is added to my own 'books to read sometime'  list, although what number on the list, it is hard to tell.

01 March, 2014

Lewis Chessmen in 3D

Not in fact all about the Lewis chessmen, but I defy anyone not to enjoy seeing all these wonderful treasures, including the chessmen, and not to marvel at them !

Only the King and Queen shown, but what amazing craftsmanship.  

Imagine owning these and being able to play a game with them.

See them  here.