27 November, 2022

Did I recognise the mate pattern ?

I played a short online blitz game yesterday, the first time in a few weeks that I have played online.

We reached this position after 11...a6 was played 

I think it was the below chesstempo problem that I had recalled, consciously or not

Start of problem : White to play

..since after 2.Qxc6 Bxd5 3.Bxb7+ Kb8 4.Ba7+ Kxa7 5.Qa6+ Kb8 6.Qa8#. 

It ends with a Queen and Bishop mate.

How did my game continue ? Obviously, I took the knight, and Black should have accepted the loss and played the Queen out of danger with Qe6. Instead he re-captured on c6 with the b-pawn

After 12...bxc

The rest was simple 13.Bxa6+ Kb8 14. Qb3+ Ka7 with 15. Qb7#

15. Qb7#

Evidently the mate was straightforward and may have nothing to do with solving problems with Queen and Bishop mate, but I'm sure there is some connection.

20 November, 2022

Mowing the lawn

 I can say with complete honesty, that none of my OTB games ( since I joined club in 2018 ) have ended in checkmate.

Every single game that ended in a win, has been the result of a resignation.

Why then should we study "standard" checkmates ?  

Simply put, because these are also patterns that are helpful to know, and the threat of them can produce a gain of material or other concession, which can improve a position or end a game.

I've taken the time to learn , or in some cases refresh my knowledge of, basic mates, such as Q+K, R+K, two Rooks, etc which has been both enjoyable and interesting, since in many cases, I've played them out against a friend.

I've also learned the theory behind some, and strived to mate in the shortest number of moves, rather than just mate. This could be thought of as irrelevant, since mate is mate, but as I learned from Chesstempo tactics, making the best move can sometimes be the difference between an easy win, and a win that you have to work hard for.

I've also begun to look at endgames in more detail, also by playing them out against a real opponent, making mistakes and talking through the exercises. This can really produce interesting results and is very educational, much more so than just studying by yourself.

Below is an example of what I now know is called a lawnmower mate. 

Simple, but an enjoyable combination to aim for. If only I was actually allowed to play it in a real game !

White to play and mate

24 August, 2022

Mate in 11

 I rarely channel my "Inner Tal", but somehow this position spoke out for an attack...

White to play

I chose 19.Bxg7 and there followed Kxg7 20. Qc3+ and then Kf8

White to play : Mate-in-12 !

To be honest, after Qh8+, I think losing with White would be a difficult thing to do, although there is the scary part after the forced response of Ke7 when the White Queen is attacked by two Rooks. 

However, resolving that is probably the only hard part, and you would have to do that before playing Qa8 anyway.

Play continued with 21.Qh8+ Ke7, and with perfect/engine play there is now a mate in 11 to find.

Naturally, my play was not perfect, but Black's was even more flawed and I managed the mate-in-3 that I had visualised with 22. Nf6+ Kd8 23. Rxe8+ Qxe8 24. Qxe8#.

However, Black had given almost no resistance, unlike in the engine variation. 

Enjoy finding it !

10 August, 2022

Know your mates addendum : Practice what you preach !

As an addition to my previous post, usually, I do this, but yes, it happens with me as well.

In blitz, the focus on time is very high, and it can be easy to miss things as time runs out.

Here, I had was planning for an obvious threat, with Bf5, however, I missed the mate-in-one : too much focus on a plan and not eating up move time.

Black to play and win
As its a variation on my favourite mating combination I can feel suitably ashamed.

However, all ended well. The Albin prevailed, although I could have saved myself 14 moves !

A similar focus ( or over-anticipation ?) occurred at the Chennai Olympiad when Sam Shankland touched his king, expecting a certain move, but his opponent played differently.

Its painful to watch his realisation that he had lost, as he was forced to move his King. Thirty seconds, when I probably know what is going on in his head.

03 August, 2022

Know your mates

 It really does help to know mate combinations and be alert to them appearing on the board.

Here, Black played the remarkable 20...f5 ??

..evidently not seeing the back-rank mate !

Same here. 

Black has the choice of Kh8 or Kh6.

Kh8 maybe feels like its bad as it puts the King into a corner, but if you don't know the mate, its not much calculation to see that Kh6 is a worse move and a slightly quicker mate.

After the poor Rf8, White has Nf5+, and Black cannot capture because of the pin so is forced to h5, where Qh4 is mate

Kh8 is , for me at least, a harder mate to see and calculate.


But if you see the end position, you should be able to work out the mate in 5

25 July, 2022

What happens if...?

This question crosses my mind nearly every time I complete a Chesstempo puzzle.

I have the correct "answer", and yet because the full CT solution is often not what I expected ( especially if it is so different to the game it came from) , or else deviates at one or more points, I ask myself the 'What If..." question.

If its obvious, I see it immediately. 

If I'm lucky, I will have a relatively quick answer in the comments ( and to be honest, these are always worth reading for the insight they give into how people think ), and at worst I would have to try and work out why, which at times becomes both difficult and rewarding.

An engine gives a clear variation, but then having to work out what that means is, at times, a more difficult proposal !

Looking at games without any annotation prompts the same question.

I know that one approach of viewing games is just to run through many of them and let the patterns sink in, but sometimes you just have to check why someone didn't make that so "natural" move.

Here's two examples from the same game, Aronian-Tari, TFX Road to Miami, July 2022.

First example is simple.

While playing through the game the pin on the Black Queen is evident, so on Black's Re1, you have to ask why, as it leaves the Queen hanging. However in this case its very obvious, as there is a clear mate threat from Black

Maybe in blitz there could be an automatic reaction, but Aronian's sensible 29.Bd2 is clearly much better than the losing move Qxd7.

Later on there is another example after 35. Nxf8.

35. Nxf8

Tari played 35...Qa1+.   Nothing wrong with that but why not Rxf8 regaining some material ?

Its not quite as obvious as the mate-in-one threat from move 28, but its simple to work out and reveals a nice combination only 4- or 5-ply long, with only one place where you can trip up, and provides the explanation of why Rxf8 would be a bad move to make. In addition, its not too difficult to find, even for a club player on a lunch break ! 

I suppose my point is that looking at the moves not played is as instructive as those seeing that were, and sometimes can be a better learning experience as you do it all yourself, and you don't leave the question unanswered.

07 May, 2022

Instinct first ?

My initial focus was around the Queen, ie moving the Be7 to allow check or to capture Ra7 ( as the Bishop is pinned ).

Next I switched to adding an attack on the Bishop via Nd5 or Rxd6 : one easily defended, the other not sensible.

Only then did I return to my instinctive move Ng6+ , and this coupled with my Rook thoughts formed the basis of the solution. 

Further checking, I move and have that pleasant feeling of being correct :) 

White to play after 1... exf

03 May, 2022

Another one of those stupid moves

 As always seems the case, once you uncover one 'stupid' move, it starts appearing more often.

Below, with Black to play, my first thoughts were drawn to 

1) trapping the white Rook, 

2) capturing the pawn on c5, 

3) exploiting the fork on c4 ( Rook check forking Bc1, after capturing c3 ) 

and finally to the correct solution, pausing briefly after seeing white's riposte to the first move, and knowing how to respond.

Black to play

Maybe, one of these days, I will have an opportunity to use see and use this is a real OTB game !

27 April, 2022

Striving to find the best move

Black is ahead in this game, as result of a previous combination exploiting a pin on the King, and winning the exchange ( Rook for Bishop ).

I played a good move ( the third best !) , but the best move and combination is why practicing tactics, calculation and visualisation is so important, as it wins games much quicker.

The question I need to ask myself is why I failed to see/find this, since the key part of it was something I had already used. I am sure time was a factor here, ie lack of, but still the idea is transferable, so should have been at the front of my mind.

Black to play and win

24 April, 2022

The Next Post

A significant hiatus in posts for this blog. 

Easily explained by the ongoing pandemic, however it is about time I caught up with the world and began to post again.

Here's a recent puzzle that I took some time on, until the solution dawned on me... 

I can only explain the time taken by saying I was doing these tactics to take my mind from other issues. Possibly not the best situation to exercise your chess muscles, but needs must, when the Devil drives.


White to play 
Dziuba, M - Wojtaszek, R, Katowice , 2017 

Should you need any hints, I refer to an excellent blog reporting an April's fool for this year.