08 December, 2020

Repeat Pattern

 This motif has turned up in, I believe, three CT problems so far.

Its unusual enough for me to remember it clearly ( I think I took a long while finding the move when I first saw it ) and if that made me see it again for this problem it can only be a good thing.

As seems to happen a lot in chess,  the pin is a powerful weapon at any point in the game, but this has a good twist in the solution !

White to play after 1...Rf7

05 December, 2020

Another good pattern

 I posted about a (mate) pattern that I practised for a time and now, I can usually see these when they turn up.

Below is a similar pattern ( or idea or motif ) that turned up in a Chess Tempo session

After Rb1, Black to play and mate

My eye was drawn to the white Bishop and pawn on e7/d6 almost immediately, probably because its "out of place"in the Black camp.

This is a distraction, since the target is the King, and by the Queen..

Do coloured arrows help? 

Black to play and mate
Even more obvious now.

One bishop pins the g2 pawn to the king ( cue that the pawn cannot capture ), the other Bishop attacks the h2 square.

Distraction is over, and the winning move appears : White cannot prevent mate !

(Footnote : Chess Tempo refers to this mate as "Damiano's Mate" specifically "Damiano's Bishop" 

"Damiano's mate has the opponent king restricted on the back rank by an attacking pawn, while the queen delivers mate with support from the pawn, and an opponent piece blocks horizontal escape on the opposite side to which the queen is checking." )

30 November, 2020

A good pattern to know

 I went through a phase of practising this type of mate pattern, where a Rook (or Queen ) sacrifice forces a king re-capture, with a follow up from Rook ( or Queen ) delivering mate.

In this example the bishop pin threw up a small diversion, but as soon as I calculated that out of the equation, the solution was clear.

One of those few ChessTempo problems that have no clear game source for the problem, which is always a shame in my eyes.

Black to play

30 October, 2020

Here it comes again....

 I love it when my favourite checkmate unfolds from positions that don't seem to be where it should live...

Case in point,  after Black takes the queen bishop and attacks the Queen - White to play and win.

27 October, 2020

A simple combination

 This is probably why we practise tactics : they win games.

From a blitz game...

White to play and win

27 August, 2020

Knight to the rescue

My instant reaction to the below problem was Qxh2, as its mate.

Although, of course, it isn't...

Shortly afterwards, the solution dawns. Its not an Arabian mate, but its the next best Knight mate, and its a Queen sacrifice ! What more can you ask ?

Sadly, the problem does not seem to be from an identified game, but still good to see.

Black to play

22 August, 2020

(August) 20-20 Blues

I have spent some time this last two weeks looking through the music I have ( I am talking CDs here, rather than 'cloud-based') since its another thing you can do at home in "lockdown" during a weekend for occupation and entertainment .

Focusing on what I have in the blues area, I have enjoyed playing old music ( both that bought years ago and shall we say pre-rock era ?), and have re-discovered T-Bone Walker.  Truly incredible music.

As with many musicians of the 30s, 40s and 50s,  albums of their music (in the modern sense) didn't really exist , so generally you end up with either cheap compilations covering "hits" or else box sets focusing on a complete label recording.  

The cheap compilations can tend to have poorer sound, so given that the music is already 80+years old, having something that you can actually listen to properly is an advantage of the 'complete label' approach, since these have often been re-mastered with some care and attention, the down-side being the usually higher price.

My younger self seems, sensibly, to have bought the Imperial records set covering T-Bone's heyday of 1950-54, plus a best of 1942-49, and his 1966 "T-Bone Blues" ( a 'real' album ), so pretty much covered for entertainment and historical value.

What sparked this ? Uncovering the "Penguin Guide to Blues recordings" bought second-hand years ago and suitably shelved in a box. 

Its is a really good guide assessing musicians, their importance and what to look for in their recordings. No idea why it never grabbed me before !   The only issue with it is the fact it stops in 2002, and much has been issued since then, even pre-war blues, with newly-discovered music or, more often, improved mastering ( Robert Johnson and Charley Patton are prime examples here as their complete works are re-mastered and are fully/easily listenable now ).

I am now looking for the out-of-print "Complete Black and White and Capitol Recordings" of T-bone Walker, but as it is expensive when available, I may content myself with something called "The Alternate T-Bone" which seems to be the alternate takes from his vibrant sessions for the Black & White label, so will be interesting and enjoyable. 

As with many musicians from those days, T-Bone Walker re-recorded hits for new labels, so alternate takes from the 40s could often be versions/variations that will turn up on a different label later on. 

Its also a revelation hearing people like Ivory Joe Hunter, Amos Milburn, Hadda Brooks, Big Mama Thornton, Lowell Fulson, Maceo Merriweather and others playing music that isn't 'rock and pop' music, but has the recognisable roots of it.

One more thing my younger self did was to buy compilations recommended, for example, by Mojo or Q, so I have some great CDs with a swathe of lesser-known musicians such as Jimmy Wilson, Roy Hawkins ( writer of the "Thrill is gone" as purloined by BB King ), Jimmy Nelson and others. 

The J.O.B. label compilation of early 1950s  recordings is a case in point, as, although I didn't know it when I bought it via mail-order from Red Lick records almost 20 years ago, it contains 4 of Leroy Foster's later recordings, showing what a remarkable singer and musician he was.  Some pretty amazing Memphis Minnie ( "Kissing in the Dark"is my favourite here), plus the likes of Robert Lockwood, Johnny Shines and others. A great way to discover new artists to explore.

As I write, I'm listening to a more modern 'minor-celebrity covers' album from 2016. Blind Willie Johnson songs re-imagined for the 21st century, and they sound contemporary.

Really enjoyable hearing the likes of Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Rickie Lee Jones and even Sinead O'Connor interpreting these timeless songs ( out of interest O'Connor covers "Trouble soon be over", probably one she likes, or maybe its a statement  she wants to make ? ).

Wouldn't it be great if there was a cleaner re-master of Blind Willlie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell or Blind Lemon Jefferson, so you don't have to rely on your brain assisted by a couple of beers to filter out the noise and scratches ?

I will have to have a search...

21 August, 2020

Yet again, not an Arabian mate

Just to continue the variation on the theme of Arabian mate, here's another example...maybe its an "assisted"Arabian Mate ? This time with a Rook as the bolster.

White to Play

19 August, 2020

Not an Arabian mate

If I were to suggest that this was an Arabian mate, not only would this upset the purists, but I would be wrong. 

However, its the idea that counts....

White to Play

01 July, 2020

Two Knights and a Queen

Technically, it would be difficult to fail this mate problem, as there were 4 or 5 alternatives given in Chess Tempo.

However, I was please to solve it correctly, so only discovered the "alts" afterwards.

This was something that just had to be mate, given the position, but I don't think I have ever seen a mate quite like this, with a Queen and two knights giving a sort of epaulette mate.

White to play and mate

17 June, 2020

Not the three-minute mile

The difference between training with apps and websites compared to books, is that what you do is stored and available for checking, even if you don't remember that you can.

For whatever reason, I decided to check my previous attempts at the below problem, since it was a good problem to solve and took me some time to work out

White to move
I was amazed to find this was my second attempt, and that I had solved it correctly both times, but surprisingly, the second attempt took 2+ minutes compared to the initial 4+.

Conclusions can't be drawn from 1 problem, but certainly, I sense that progress is being made, albeit slowly.  

More importantly, I also seem to gain greater satisfaction and enjoyment during games as well.

11 June, 2020

Is just keeps happening !

This is ,of course, a completely random tactic appearing in ChessTempo, but sometimes you do wonder...

White to play : mate in 3

A very satisfying mate.

01 June, 2020

A recurring theme

I've posted many times about my 'favourite' mate pattern, that of the Arabian and Anastasia's Mate.

I'm not sure why this particular pattern of Knight/Rook or Knight/Queen appeals, but there is no denying that it does.

The below problem turned up in ChessTempo a while ago and although its not a difficult one ( the blitz rating is 1472, the standard is 1170) when the last move dawned on me, it brought a smile to my face :)

Here is is below, with the solution if required, although you know the pattern to aim for.

White to play : Mate in 3

One of the comments to it was "I want to do this in a game" : don't we all !

But I came close in a recent blitz game.

Here was a position where I had repeated the Knight checks (Ne7+, Kg8, Kf8, Ng6) , mainly to gain time as I had about 3 seconds on the clock, but also because my old brain didn't see a quick win easily enough.

But its blitz, you can try anything, crazy or not, and you may not have a perfectly measured responsefrom your opponent

I played the very wrong Rxe6+ ??  

I wouldn't do this in a standard game, since clearly the Black Queen capturing the Rook is a win for Black...

..but Black obliged me with fxe, allowing a nice finish !

 A "lucky" blitz win , but there again, you have to see a pattern to aim for.

30 May, 2020

Pinning for Mate

I mentioned how powerful the pin is in so many situations, but I think this is the first time is has occurred with mate following in one of my games.

Its a blitz/10-minute game, but still a first for me.

Not so strangely, the initial reaction was Qxg5, since the bishop is hidden on a2, but the practise of suppressing the automatic reaction pays off, and the winning move of Qxg6 was played. 

Luckily my opponent made it easy with a reply of Kf8.

White to play, Mate 

26 April, 2020

Same difference...?

This is a position where you can believe that there are two moves that end up with the same result, at least if you only view it from your own perspective, and without great thought.

In fact one of them loses, the other doesn't.

Which capture ?

My initial view was that Kf8 was no good : the White pawn promotes and the game is over.

That leaves Nxd7 or Qxd7.

If you think only in terms of immediate captures and exchanges, Black wins a pawn after either capture : Qxd7, Qxd7, Nxd7. 

If exchanges are the intention it doesn't matter whether the Queen or knight captures : "same difference", so-to-speak.

However, look a little deeper than the focus of the pawn on d7, at more than just captures, and the difference between the two becomes more clear.

What does Nxd7 achieve ? What does it give up or stop doing ?

What does Qxd7 do ?

What response does White have to each of these moves ?

What are White's lines-of-attack ? Especially with the Rooks ?

Chess is so much more than an 'I take this, and he re-captures, and I take that, and he moves there' sort of game. Even simple positions will repay thought and should accumulate experience that can be re-used in different circumstances.

I made the correct move in this position, and for broadly, the correct theoretical reasons, but without seeing all the implications.

19 April, 2020

Triangulation ?

Problems with many pieces on the board, can sometimes seem overwhelming.

However, using a thought process that looks for Lines of Attack, and for motifs such as pins, skewers and forks, can direct your attention to the correct areas.

White to play

Part of the thought process should also include asking : what did their last move do ?

12 April, 2020

Pin Power

Tactics involving the pin motif are among the most common simple tactics that I see during my chesstempo practice.

From these, the Bishop+Queen duo seems one of the most regularly occuring pins leading to mate, either directly, or in a 2 or 3 move combination with the pinned pawn or piece providing the shield for a check, followed by mate

Once you have this fixed in your tactic toolbox, it can be easier to see other types in pin-mates.

Here's the two-move Queen and Bishop combination...

Black to Play

Followed by a related pin-mate"": don't be distracted by the material on offer, as Nigel Short is often quoted "Mate ends the game ! "

Black to play

Another example below...a first glance suggest Black's defence is more than adequate, but the power of the pin ( maybe Pin Squared ?) overcomes this to deliver mate.

White to Play

The deceptive pin is more powerful than you think....First thoughts give Qh8 as the move, but then you see the Bishop guarding the vital square, and supported by the Rook. 

Is there a Pin coming to your rescue ? 

White to Play 

Another example, and yes, there is a winning pin, if you resist the Rook capture.

White to play

A further example of a pin, but careful how you take advantage of it....

Black to Play

Finally, another example where a pin overcomes the defence of two Queens and a Rook.

White to play

10 April, 2020

A nice Candidate !

A very cute mate.  

Simple, but if you are not careful it could slip away from you...

Also made more interesting in that the game it came from was Maxime Vachier_lagrave - Tiemour Radjabov !

White to play

05 April, 2020

Faulty board vision.

This is a simple problem, but yet I have failed it a couple of times.

White to Play
Even though I know I registered the Queen pin, I played the very bad Rxd6.

I can only think that I saw the pin from the Black Queen to the White Queen ( maybe because my natural view is up the board ?), so imagined that it was my piece that was pinned.

Having thought that, I didn't switch my mind around to view other points of view, nor did I calculate White's response, which is evidently NOT Rxe5, but is the deadly Qe1+, winning the Bishop. !

Clearly, I need to make sure I look at all possibilities, and not just focus on what I want to happen.

The below is also a common issue.

White to play

My mind has immediately focused on the mate pattern with Qb3->Qh8, and even though it doesn't work, it seems I cannot stop focusing on it, so I try to MAKE it work, play what my faulty thinking has made me believe must be right, and I fail.

Of course the reward on offer here is not an immediate mate, but gain of material, which is a simple thing to see if you can look clearly and without a 'mate obsession' !

Its also the situation you are more likely to experience in a real game, so an encouragement to shape a thinking process to use.

03 April, 2020

Anderssen - Mayet, 1851

I found this a fiendishly difficult problem, mainly because you have to find a distinctly not "normal" move as part of the solution.

The Andersssen in question is Adolf Anderssen, who gave us both the 'Evergreen' and 'Immortal' games as part of his legacy.

This problem arise from a game Anderssen-Mayet, in Berlin, 1851 (same year as the Immortal game, but a different venue and victim).  

I can't find the entire game, but here's the problem, White to Play

White to Play
Perhaps I should add the extra information that the first two moves need to be accurate ( there are no significant ALTs in ChessTempo-speak) but after that mate will arrive.

29 March, 2020

Guards ! Guards !

My chess brain still manages to avoid seeing some things, particularly involving Knights..

Below, I saw the threat of a draw from White, and the fact the knight could stop it ( and therefore noted that the knight could not move, unless it gave check ).

What I did not see was that the Knight giving check and being captured, allowed the discovered attack on the Rook capture and subsequent mate...problem solved, if I had but seen it !

Black to play

10 March, 2020

The best of a choice of good moves

This problem was one I "failed", although in this case it would not have meant disaster or losing in a real game, but rather not finishing the game as fast as you should.

Here, the correct move is actually the choice of the best of a number of good moves, and that makes it harder.

White to play

02 March, 2020

The endgame...just calculation

I think it was a Daniel King video I watched where he said that the endgame in chess was just calculation, especially when down to a small number of pieces on the board.

He showed how it was done, introduced endgame studies, and how they could help improve both endgame understanding and calculation.

This isn't a study, but it is a very simple problem, as long as you just think it through.

White to move after Ne5-f3

21 February, 2020

A visit from Anastasia

My chess life moves on at a slow pace ( at least in rating terms ).

I enjoy playing the game most of all, which explains the slow pace, as the work to improve has to fit around the work to pay for the creation of the time to do the improvement in, if you understand me.

I play much less blitz these days, as I realise that it is not my forte to calculate at blitz speed, but it is easier to find the time for a blitz game...quite a conundrum !

Here's a nice ending sequence from a recent blitz game...

1. I play Ne7 threatening to win a pawn, but also to cover g6 and g8

2. A suitable response of Ba6 creating a greater threat to my Rook, but easily resolved with Rf3

3. The strange Ne6 ( is he aiming at Nxd4 ? even though its protected ?) allows a visit from Anastasia, who is always welcome

4. One of my favourite checkmates, and it was planned !

26 January, 2020

Gibralter Masters ...a great move

Apparently White ( Bela  Khotenashvili ) had about 20 seconds left when she played the great move Kf1.

Black to Play
Black ( a 2600-rated GM ) responded very quickly, presumably to keep time pressure on his opponent, but unfortunately fell into a well-designed trap.

1...Rd2 failed completely and Black resigned after  2. Rxg5 hxg5 3.Bd3

Wonderful chess !