28 August 2016

Whither?

After five prior losses to one player on Chess.com in five games, I won our game this morning. Of more interest than the game, however, is the choice that I faced in a familiar position.

After his eleventh move, we reached a position that I have had multiple times, including in the game featured in "Beating a National Master".

Black to move

Black can play:

a) 11...Bxd4
b) 11...Nxd4
c) 11...something else.

Which is best? I have tried all three.

Does it matter if White plays 11.h4 instead of 11.g4?

21 August 2016

An Ivanov Miniature

One of the ways that I am enjoying Tadic and Arsovic, Encyclopedia of Chess Miniatures (2015) is working through the games in which Black played the French Defense. The French is my primary response to 1.e4, so it behooves me to be well aware of the pitfalls. Last week, a miniature won by Alexander Ivanov in 2002 caught my eye.* His opponent was Jarod J. Bryan, who had been Maine State Champion in 1988 and 1998, and has won that title five more times since his quick loss to Ivanov at the 2002 Bradley Open.

In this miniature, Ivanov applied strong pressure after some slight inaccuracies by Bryan. Black's position collapsed quickly. The game is notable in the Encyclopedia for the presence of two diagrams. Most games have one.

Ivanov,Alexander (2645) -- Bryan,Jarod J (2218) [C00]
Windsor Bradley op 7th Windsor Locks (3), 20.07.2002

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Qe2 d5 5.d3 Be7 6.Bg2 Nc6 7.0–0 0–0 8.e5 Nd7 9.c4

Black to move

Already, Black's position seems difficult. ChessBase database indicates that White scores over 70% in most lines.

9...dxc4

Tadic and Arsovic offer as better 9...d4 10.h4 b6 11.Bf4, but even here the statistics favor White by a significant margin.

The relatively untested 9...b5 offers hope for Black if statistics have merit. 10.cxb5 Na5.

10.dxc4 Qc7 11.Bf4 a6 12.Rd1

Black to move

12...Nb6?!

12...Rd8 13.Nc3 Nf8 is worth filing away for possible exploration later. The line appears untested, at least in the sort of games that work their way into the database.

13.Nc3

As I played through this game in the North Spokane Library repeatedly, I kept looking at this knight. First, it seems a little tardy to enter the action, and thus easy to overlook. Second, once it enters the battle, Black seems busted.

13...Rd8 14.Ne4 Nd4?

14...h6 is offered as an improvement in the Encyclopedia. Stockfish prefers 14...Bf8, which strikes me as sensible given the tactics centered on f6.

15.Nxd4 Rxd4

White to move

The Encyclopedia has this diagram.

16.Nf6+!+- Bxf6

16...gxf6 17.Rxd4 cxd4 18.Qg4+ Kf8 19.exf6+-.

17.exf6 Rxf4

17...Qd8 was the last chance to suffer longer.

The second diagram in the Encyclopedia appears here.

18.Qe5

18.Qe5 Qxe5 (18...Qd7 19.Rxd7 Nxd7 20.Qxf4+-) 19.Rd8#.

1–0


*Alexander Ivanov should not be confused with Boris Ivanov, who was banned from competition by the Bulgarian Chess Federation due to suspicions of cheating. Alexander Ivanov lives in Boston, Massachusetts and shared the 1995 U.S. Championship. He was awarded the Grand Master title in 1991.

18 August 2016

Winning with Knights

Aleksey Alekseevic Troitski

Working my way through the endgame compositions in Genrikh Kasparian, 888 Miniature Studies (2010) has put me in the midst of forty studies by A. A. Troitsky (1866-1942).* Many of these feature clever checkmates with knights. Here is an example.

White to move

Kasparian's solution is presumably the one offered by Troitsky. However, playing the position against a computer reveals an alternate solution. In Kasparian's solution, all of White's moves are the only move leading to advantage.

1.Ne3 g5 2.Kf3 g4

Here the computer played 2...h4, leading to 3.g4 Kh2 4.Nf5 Kg1 5.Nxh6 h3 6.Nf5 Kf1 7.Kg3+-.

3.Kf2 h4 4.Ng2 hxg3 5.Kg1

Black to move

Black's king can no longer move, forcing the pawn forward until the king is wholly trapped. Then, the knight delivers checkmate.

5...h5 6.Kh1 h4 7.Nf4#.


*Kasparian employs the spelling Troitski, while most English language texts use Troitsky.

07 August 2016

Two Endgame Compositions

These two compositions were brought to my attention through Genrikh Moiseyevich Kasparian, 888 Miniature Studies (2010), which I acquired last week. This book is an expansion of the author's 555 Miniature Studies (1975). This earlier book, as far as I know, was never translated into English. The present work was left in manuscript at the time of the author's death, but was brought into publication fifteen years later through the assistance of his son, Sergei Kasparian.

White to move
Johann Berger 1888
This study is number 17 in Kasparian. I read through the solution, which is under the diagram, and then proceeded to try making sense of it. When I thought I had reached a reasonable understanding of the ideas, I tried playing it against Stockfish. My first effort led to failure, so I returned to the solution. In my second try against Stockfish, I was able to win easily. I continued working with the problem, however, seeking to develop the ability to explain in plain English to beginning chess players how to understand the solution.

Having given the solution so much attention, I looked in Berger's book, Theorie und Praxis der Endspiele (1890) where I was surprised to find the problem was credited to an obscure publication, Columbia Chess Chronicle III, no. 13 (1888). After some searching, I found the problem on the cover of the issue named, where Berger is confirmed as the composer.

Readers of this blog are encouraged to offer their solutions in the comments below. I will refrain from presenting the solution, except in reply to comments.



White to move
Karl Behting 1894
Kasparian credits C. Behting, Rigaer Tageblatt 1894 (21). Tageblatt translates as "daily paper". I do not know whether that is the name of a specific news publication or a generic term for one or more of several newspapers in Riga. Its use in other publications that I have examined suggets that it is a specific paper.

Karl Behting (Kārlis Bētiņš) was a Latvian chess player and composer. The Latvian Gambit bears its name because he studied it with other Riga players and published an article in St. Petersburger Zeitung (1909). Many of his compositions were published in newspapers in Riga, then were republished in books and magazines that culled problems from other publications. I found a version of this problem in Baltische Schachblätter, Issues 6-8 (1898). Below this point, I am presenting the problem as found there and the solution. Of interest in the solution is a technical chess term that is new to me and worth adding to the lexicon of chess terms: Tempozug.

Tempozug means to waste a tempo; that is, to make a move that does not change the position. A Tempozug places the opponent in Zugzwang.


Solution to Second Problem

Behting's composition in Baltische Schachblätter.

Credit here is given to Johann Behting, Karl's older brother. A 1930 publication, Studien und Problem lists both Johann and Karl as authors, suggesting collaboration. Were there separate publications of this problem by both brothers? The position attributed to Johann begins one move earlier than the version of the same problem that Kasparian credits to Karl. Some insights into the compositions of these brothers is offered by John Beasley, "Some Studies by Johann and Carl Behting," British Endgame Study News 52 (September 2007), www.jsbeasley.co.uk/besn/s52.pdf.

Solution from Baltische Schachblätter.



05 August 2016

Corte -- Bolbochán 1946

Reviewing Informant Annotations

The miniature Corte -- Bolbochán, Mar del Plata 1946 is the first game in Leonard Barden and Wolfgang Heidenfeld, Modern Chess Miniatures (1960). It also appears as game 404 in Irving Chernev, The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess (1955) and as game 1060 in Encyclopedia of Chess Miniatures (2015). The Encyclopedia, published by Chess Informant, is by Branko Tadic and Goran Arsovic.

Despite its appearance in these three well-known books, the game is absent from the ChessBase database. The event in which the game took place is also unclear. See "Giuoco Fortissimo" for more about the history of this game. It was written before I had copies of Modern Chess Miniatures and Encyclopedia of Chess Miniatures.

The game is the earliest that I can find with 10.Ba3, which had been suggested by James Macrae Aitken in a 1937 article in British Chess Magazine.* Hence, the move 10.Ba3 is sometimes called the Aitken variation. Chernev notes that Aitken had suggested this move (193). Barden and Heidenfeld offer that Corte -- Bolbochán is part of the reason 10.Ba3 is considered stronger than 10.Qb3, which had been known since before Greco (see "Materialism").

Of the three books on my shelves that offer annotations to this game, Encyclopedia of Chess Miniatures (ECM) shines both for its economy and for its focus on the game's critical points.

Corte, Cesar -- Bolbochan, Jacobo [C54]
Mar Del Plata, 1946

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.0–0 Nxc3

It is well-known today that 8...Bxc3 is better. ECM offers the critical line, 9.d5 Bf6 10.Re1 O-O 11.Rxe4 Ne7 12.d6. This line was played as early as Salwe -- Rubinstein, Vienna 1908, which Black won rather quickly.

9.bxc3 Bxc3?!

9...d5 is an improvement. ECM gives 10.cxb4 dxc4 11.Re1+ Ne7. At least 39 games have been played from this point. The earliest in the ChessBase database is Piotrowski -- Moller, Hannover 1902. Max Euwe, The Development of Chess Style (1966) credits Moller with the introduction of the move 9.d5, but after 8...Bxc3 (4).

10.Ba3 d5 11.Bb5 Bxa1 12.Re1+ Be6 13.Qa4 Rb8?

The alternative given in ECM was played in Schlesinger -- Roeberg, Hessenliga 1994 and led to a draw in 37 moves. 13...Qd7 14.Ne5 Nxe5 15.Bxd7 Nxd7 16.Rxa1 Kd8 with a slight advantage for White.

It is not so easy to give up one's queen, but it is preferable to losing the king. Even so, giving up a queen for a rook, minor piece, and pawn is "a balance of material that is usually sufficient," according to Ernesto Inarkiev in his Informant 128 article about Sergey Karjakin at the Candidates (18).

14.Ne5+- Qc8 15.Bxc6+ bxc6 16.Qxc6+ Kd8 17.Nxf7+ Bxf7 18.Be7# 1–0

Chernev offers only the reference to Aitken, "to give his king elbow room" after Black's move 14, and the conclusion of the game as a comment after 16...Resigns (192-193). Barden and Heidenfeld offer the alternative to Black's move 13 now found in ECM, carrying the line to move 18, and the comment concerning 10.Ba3 referenced above.


*David Hooper and Keneth Whyld, The Oxford Companion to Chess (1996), 5.

04 August 2016

Defend Well

While looking for instructive miniatures for use in next week's chess camp, I came across this game: Letzelter -- Asmundsson, Buenos Aires 1978, Chess Informant 26/241.

Black to move

Black played a logical move, but it lost to a creative and instructive White attack. With a different move by Black, White's attack is unclear.

03 August 2016

Beat Carlsen

This position arose in Aronian -- Carlsen, Stavanger 2016. Carlsen has just played 26...Qxe5, an uncharacteristic error. Aronian found the necessary continuation. The game was published as Chess Informant 128/1, the first in the Games section (see "Determination" for more on this issue).

White to move

31 July 2016

Don't Look Too Close

Blitz chess reveals a player's skill. It reveals intuition, judgement, and pattern recognition. Sometimes, it shows endgame strength or the ability to perform elementary checkmates in under ten seconds.

My strength is evident by my rating, which put me briefly on the USCF list of the top one hundred players older than 50 (see "Top 100"). My chess.com blitz rating, which is based on vastly more games, tells another story. It is volatile because my skill rises and falls day-by-day and hour-by-hour. Sometimes I play well when I squeeze in a game or two between other activities. Sometimes my play is horrid, especially during an addictive binge.

The Past Ninety Days

My ability to play well during a winning streak cultivates self-confidence. It reveals that I am a strong player as long as the games are not examined too closely.

This morning, I prevailed with the White pieces against a Sicilian Taimanov. We castled on opposite wings and both threw our pawns at the other's king, just as Alexander Kotov recommends in The Art of the Middle Game (1964). With a clear attack, I shed a bishop with nary a worry, Then, I blew it. An error in calculation gave my opponent a clear win.

White to move
After 21...Qb7
White's space advantage should lead to victory, However, Black might get some play on the a-file if White dallies.

The game continued:

22.g6 fxg6

Black's prospects improve after 22...e5, but White still has the edge.

23.hxg6 hxg6

I was prepared to meet 23...h6? with 24.Rxh6.

24.Bc4 d5 25.Qh2! dxc4 26.Qh7+ Kf7

White to move

27.Nxc4

This defensive move was unnecessary.

27.Rh6! Bf6 28.Qxg6+ Ke7 29.Bxf6+ gxf6 30.Rd1 and White wins.

27...Bf6 28.Bxf6 Kxf6 29.e5+

29.Rcg1 is better.

29...Ke7 30.Qxg6??

It should not have required more than a few seconds to calculate 30.Qh4+ Kf7 31.Qf4+ Ke7 32.Nd6 Rdc8 33.Qg5+ Nf6 34.Nxb7.

30...Bb5 31,Qg5+ Kf7 32.Rhg1??

Black to move

32...Bxc4?

32...Kg8 and is is White's turn to defend. With best play, Black will prevail.

33.Rxc4= Qd5 34.Rf4+ Kg8 35.Qe7

Black to move

35...Rd7??

35...Qd3+ 36.Ka1 Qc3+ and Black forces a draw by repetition.

36.Rf8+ Kh7 37.Rh1+

37.Qh4#

37...Kg6 38.Rg1+ Kh7 39.Qh4#.

In the end, I could not even coordinate my queen and rooks with enough precision to demonstrate skill. It might be time to give up blitz after such a performance. On the other hand, blitz is fun. I also managed to play two games in a row with the Taimanov Sicilian, winning first with Black, then with White. Even though the games do not bear scrutiny, the experience could prove useful should I play the Taimanov in a tournament game.