19 December, 2018

Is this an Arabian Mate that I see before me ?

As well as the standard problem sets at Chesstempo, you can create sets based on themes or tags or other criteria, such as number of failures.

Naturally, this gives a clue to the solution when you pick a 'themed set', but since chess is about recognising and re-using themes and patterns, although you receive what it says on the tin, sometimes its not the way you expect.

A case in point....the below turned up in my set of Arabian and Anastasia mates.

Black to play: Arabian Mate ?
This isn't, evidently, a real Arabian Mate, since there is no immediate way that Black can whip up that flavour of Mate in a short time, but you can use the idea !

I solved this in the average time ( 1m 31s ) but I had also put some thought into how a mate could be achieved.

For me, Nxe3 was something to be considered, removing the defence of the c1 square, but it doesn't reach a mate.

However, Nxe3, as a pre-cursor to the main idea, leads to a beautiful combination, with a sweet twist to it. Its the sort of combination that could leave Black worse off psychologically if he had over-looked it.

Have a try, its not that hard to find when you know.

12 December, 2018

This is an easy problem....

...but shows one of the issues I have.

White to move

At first, and subsequent glance, this seems to be about a checkmate on g8, so I wasted much time trying to prove it was the case.

However, its not about that at all.

Simply Nxe7 is the solution.

On Qxe7, Qxc8 and White is up material !

What I am lacking is the visualisation that the Knight move opens the diagonal to the Rook. 

As soon as that is revealed, attempts to mate disappear.

05 December, 2018

Is it safe ?

A break from blogging, and indeed from serious chess efforts, but I'm back with a question.

Is it safe ?  

No, I'm not switching obsessions to a discussion of "Marathon Man", instead, I'm asking the question in this position.

After 11. Be2, is Nxe4 a safe move ?
Following 11. Be2, is the capture Nxe4 a safe move for Black ?

This arose in a recent club game with me playing Black in a Queen's Gambit Accepted ( no declining the gambit complexity, give me 19th century chess simplicity ! ).

All opinions welcomed...

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

08 March, 2018

Over 1700 at Chess Tempo

I managed to creep over 1700 at ChessTempo.

In fact ,I achieved this earlier in the year, but then, even though I kept above 1700 for some time, I  hit a very variable streak, rocketing up, but just as quickly dropping back to almost 1600.

Its taken me a month to edge up to within 1700, but somehow just not quite making it.

However, re-focusing in the last week has allowed me to regain the last of those 100 points to go over that 1700 limit again.

In the process, I have managed a continuous 42 weeks of problem solving, and have just completed 89 consecutive days as part of that. Technically, the number of days is almost double, but a software glitch linked to a being in a different time-zone cost me a missed two days.

Below is the problem that took me above 1700 ( to 1700.9 to be precise ), and it is a satisfying one.

White to play
The pawn, Knight and Rook combine to suggest a confinement of the King, but is there enough to force a mate ? 

That is the question to be answered, and although it took me more than the average of 6:20, I found that the answer was "Yes", and proved it.


To show that pride does indeed come before a fall, the below diagram shows me as over-confident, assessing both the solutions I had found, but through a lack of proper calculation and blindness, over-looked an obvious Black response, chose the wrong move, and dropped nicely under 1700 again.

White to play

Solution if required.

Now, though, I'm back above the line and on a slow and steady upward course.

28 February, 2018

Moving forward

It is a great feeling to solve a problem correctly, but even better to take more than just the raw solution from it.

Here, in what is a simple problem, I stared for some minutes trying to decide between Qxh3 and Rxf3, but unable to choose one, the other or something else, I took a break, came back and actually thought about what I was trying to achieve.

As soon as I did that for each move, it was simple. "Qxh3 forces Kg1, which must be good" , but instead of saying " what move is next", it is so much better to visualise the final mating position ( Qg2 will mate the King ), and doing this gives an instant answer of how to get there, with some minimal calculation afterwards to prove the solution.

White to play
Solution if needed

Something similar below, in what appears to be a scary position for White, who has 4 pieces under threat, including the Queen !

White to play
There are many moves that present themselves, and calculating some of the obvious and initial ones, left me stuck.

For example, cxb3 threatens the Queen as well as taking a piece, but is met easily by either Qxb5 or even Qxb7.

Playing c6 to protect the Bishop on b7 and attack the Queen seems better, but Black responds easily to this as well.

Nc6 forks the Queen and Rook, but the response of Rxe2 seems to offer Black a way out.

So here, as well as verbalising the threats and position, because White is experiencing so many threats, the active moves need to both rescue White pieces and threaten Black, preferably with multiple, or stronger, threats on each move.

Once this is realised the solution unfolds...

As always, Chess is a straightforward and very logical game, but achieving this over the board in game conditions is not always easy to do !

As a final note, checking the full game of the last problem, just to see what was actually played in the game, it was somehow nice to see that White was not a super GM, but rather an enthusiastic IM called Cenek Kottnauer, a Czech player who emigrated to England in the 1950s. 

Not only did he find the correct combination, going on to win that game from 1946, but he also achieved a rare thing in a later tournament in that he won all his games (9 of them) in the 1961 Beverwijk Masters, now known as the Tata Challengers tournament in Wijk-aan-Zee.

An obituary from William Hartston reveals a bit more about the man.

"Despite these fine results, many will remember Cenek Kottnauer most fondly for the evening classes he gave at Morley College in London, when he would walk round demanding, not better chess from his class, but greater signs of emotion and enjoyment. 

If he did not hear shouts of joy and anguish and the crash of pieces being banged down, Kottnauer felt his pupils were not entering into the true spirit of the game. 

He was never quite able to transplant the fervour of Prague coffee-house chess to south London, but he did teach his colleagues in the English team a great deal about self-discipline and commitment

Difficult to argue with enjoyment, self-discipline and commitment, in chess or any other part of life.

21 February, 2018

Branded !

Examples like this should be burned into my brain, branded onto my left forearm, so I see it whenever I check the time.

It should be there so that I always remember to check all possible moves, or to remember that pawns are also active soldiers in the army of chessmen, 

I am not alone in this since the move I played, believing it to be the only possible winning move, was also the choice of 78% of the 2000 who failed at the problem

Overall, 64% of those who attempted it failed, which is quite something for a problem that appears very straightforward.

I'm sure you, dear readers, will not fail, since there is a big hint here, but spare a thought for those who did, and remember that pawns are more than the soul of the game, but are active players in their own right !

White to move

Solution, if needed

14 February, 2018

Re-focus and find a better move

Probably harkening back to this recent post and a much earlier one, I paid too much attention to the exposed king, which was acting like a beacon to me.

I did think of an alternative, but the initial moves of that didn't seem to work, so I gave it up and went back to the focus on combinations around the King, such Rxd1 or Bxe5 to remove a defender, but these just would not work.

I needed the Queen out of the way so she did not add protection to the d2 square, allowing Bc6.

Returning to one of the alternatives that I had dismissed, which was about pushing the Queen out of the way, I took the calculation further, and the answer was simple, and not to do with an attack on the king.

So, too much time spent on this, 10 minutes compared to the average of 5:38, but happy to know that I realised the king attack was not working and actively looked for something else.

A step forward.

White to play


The game it came from ( see move 45 )

...and maybe a chance to resurrect some more Focus?

Another wonderful  instrumental...

07 February, 2018

Round the Mulberry Bush : White to Play

A sweet problem that feels, initially, that its not quite resolvable, until you see the issues in the defence for Black.

I saw the problem with the Bishop interposition quite early, but it took me another set of calculations to see why interposing the Queen is also a failure.

It always intriguing to see what line the computer will choose, and in this case it went for the game line.

White to play

31 January, 2018

To swap Queens or not ?

I was distracted during this rapid game and lost focus and the exchange.  A few moves later I was back in it due to his inexplicable ( to me anyway) decision not to re-capture a piece.

This gave the initiative back to me and I went for the king, but he had some dogged defensive play and we reached the below position.

I'm ahead on material, so my initial response to Qe5 is to exchange and simplify, but after all the tactics puzzles I do, there must be something on offer ?

Not too hard to find...

White to play
[5r2/p1Q2B2/4p1R1/3pq2p/3p1k2/2P5/PP1N4/2K5 w - - 0 28]

24 January, 2018

White to play : Alekhine - Rubenstein, 1930

Here's something from the past, 1930, San Remo to be exact.

Sometimes, in problems like these I can see the the target but not always work out the way to reach it.

This was the case here.  There are some instant targets available, but if, like me, you focus on the wrong target initially, it can take a while to re-orient to the real one as you just keep trying to make it happen.

White to play

17 January, 2018

Not a Greek gift : White to play

This is a good pattern to recognise...

White to play
 Sadly, although I saw the motif, I took an alternative path to achieve it which was not as sweet, but proved effective.

Solution [ 12.Nxf7 ]

10 January, 2018


Although this is a "what to play?"  problem, its also great to practice calculation, at least in my opinion.

I did not calculate correctly, at least on this move, but since my opponent mis-calculated two moves later, and with far worse consequences, I went on to win.

Black to play after 18...Ng6

Its also interesting to skip a couple of moves before this move, as that was probably more balanced and white's choice dis-advantaged him.

White to play after 17...Ng5


03 January, 2018

White to play : Win or draw ?

This turned out to be the key point of a long game.

A topsy-turvy game featuring a mis-calculation fron me, followed a few moves later by a mistake from my opponent, leaving me materially ahead.

She was more than up-to-the-challenge and fought all the way until I gained the advantage and this position

However, here, I had a decision to make.

White to  play after 62...Bc8

What would you do ? Winning  or drawing decision ?

Regardless, it was a great game !

01 January, 2018

Bogo-Indian : Black to play

Looking back at the blog, I note that its been a good month since the last post, deferred, no doubt, because of work, life and other things too obvious to mention.

I've not been "chess idle"  in this period with time spent on chesstempo tactics, Team League and some blitz to keep me occupied, as well as that thing called Christmas and the New Year !

Below is a position from a recent blitz game, starting off as a Bogo-Indian, but not really following theory much. White played a few strange king moves after move 12, in my opinion to gain time and just see how I would react. 

It allowed me to whip up much Queen-side activity and reach this position.

30..Rc1 ... Black to Play and win

Sadly for me, the 'phone rang. On answering and knowing I had to chat for a while, I felt obliged to offer a draw ( which was accepted ) rather than let the time run out.

In fact, it was a cast-iron win for Black. Doesn't matter what White responds, Black is much, better !

Highlight for solution [ 30.....Qb5+ ]