14 April 2015

Beating a National Master

I beat a National Master in a correspondence game!

This achievement might be an indication that my training methods are bearing fruit. I would like to think so, but there is evidence pointing to a more likely cause of this success. My opponent is playing too many games at once. My draw with him finished on 30 March. Since that date, he has finished fifteen more correspondence games with 4 wins, 3 draws, and 8 losses. Perhaps he is treating these online correspondence games as an ongoing simul, playing at blitz speed in correspondence games. He has 63 more games in progress at the moment.

I was happy with the draw because it cut my game load to under one dozen. I discussed the consequences for my own play when I have more than twenty games in progress in "Game Load: Turn-Based Chess" (January 2009).

I spent a lot of time on a few critical moves of this game. The opening was routine up to a point, then I used minimal guidance from databases to reach a promising middlegame. My opponent's predictable assault on my king led me to hunker down and spend some time looking at patterns in pawn storms. Then, during my counter-attack, my opponent's moves demonstrated that he was putting less effort into our game than I was.

Balakrishnan,P (2244) -- Stripes,J (2189) [C11]
TMCL 2014 Playoffs Division C - Board 3 Chess.com, 06.03.2015

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5

I have been in this position with Black at least five dozen times.

9.Qd2 0–0 10.0–0–0 a6 11.g4

A rare move that scores poorly for White. Even so, it seems consistent with White's general plan: a kingside assualt led by pawns. 11.h4 with the idea of Rh3 is popular. 11.Qf2 and 11.Nb3 have been popular among Grandmasters recently.

Black to move

11...Bxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.h4

13.g5? was played in a game that I looked at in Chess Informant 44/345. 13...b4 14.Na4 a5 15.Be3 Qc7 16.Rg1 Ne7 17.Bb5! Rb8 18.Qe2 Bb7 19.Bd3? Rfc8 Hodgson,J (2510) -- Bareev,E (2555), Sochi 1987 (Black won in 44 moves).

13.Kb1 seems useful.

13...b4 14.Ne2 a5 15.g5

15.Ng3 Ba6 16.Bxa6 Rxa6 17.f5 Nxd4 18.Qxd4 Qc7 19.Rhe1 Rc6 20.Rd2 Rc4 21.Qe3 Rxg4 22.f6 Qxe5 23.Qxe5 Nxe5 24.fxg7 Rxg7 25.Nh5 Nf3 26.Nxg7 Nxe1 27.Nh5 Rc8 28.Kd1 Nf3 29.Rg2+ Kf8 30.Nf6 Ke7 31.Ng8+ Kd6 32.h5 Nh4 33.Rg1 Nf5 34.Kd2 h6 0–1 Okrugin,S (2365) -- Iljushin,A (2495), Tula 2001.

15...Ba6

15...a4 was the alternative. It was difficult to choose between these two. I finally decided a piece rather than a pawn should be moved even though both moves were almost certainly necessary. In what sequence remains a perplexing question to me. Moving the piece seems to offer more flexibility because there are two of White's minor pieces on the diagonal. An exchange will remain a possibility for at least two moves, and likely more.

16.h5 a4

So, now the other move.

17.g6!

Black to move

This move presented me a problem. I looked at a batch of French and Sicilian games with similar kingside pawn storms. Possible sacrifices on h6 were on my mind. Indeed, in my other game with this opponent, I made such a sacrifice, which led only to a draw.

17.Kb1 was played in the one reference game remaining in my database. Had we continued to follow this game, I hoped that I would be able to discover Black's critical errors and find improvements. 17...b3 18.cxb3 axb3 19.a3 Rc8 20.g6 fxg6 21.hxg6 h6 22.Bh3 Qe7 23.Nc3 Nxd4 24.Qxd4 Rc4 25.Nxd5 Qe8 26.Qa7 Nc5 27.Ne7+ Kh8 28.Bxe6 Nxe6 29.Qxa6 Rc7 30.Qxe6 Rxe7 31.Qg4 Qc6 32.f5 Qc2+ 33.Ka1 Rxe5 34.Rxh6+ gxh6 35.g7+ Kg8 36.gxf8R+ Kxf8 37.Qb4+ Kf7 38.Qb7+ Kf6 39.Qb6+ Kxf5 40.Rf1+ Ke4 41.Re1+ Kf5 42.Rf1+ Ke4 43.Qg6+ Kd5 44.Qf7+ Kc5 45.Qc7+ Kd5 46.Qf7+ Kc5 47.Qf8+ Kd5 48.Qxh6 Re2 49.Qg5+ Re5 50.Qd8+ Kc5 51.Qa5+ Kd4 52.Qb4+ Kd3 53.Qd6+ 1–0 Rivest,J (1925) -- Arsenault,N (2112), Montreal 2004.

17.h6 seems less dangerous. 17...g6.

17...fxg6

After using enough think time to prompt an email from Chess.com that I was in danger of losing on time, I made my move. It seemed best to try to maintain the g-pawn for protection of my king.

17...f5 18.exf6 Nxf6 19.h6 looks bad for Black. Such a dynamic structure guarantees that Black's king will be exposed.

17...h6 opens possibilities for a piece sacrifice later.

18.hxg6 hxg6

The g-pawn is secure for now.

19.Qe3

19.Be3 b3 20.a3 Na5

19...b3

Now, it is Black's turn for an assault on the enemy monarch.

20.cxb3

Perhaps White can play 20.a3 because Black's dark-squared bishop was exchanged for a knight in the center.

20...axb3 21.a3

Black to move

21...Bxe2

Before playing this move, I worked out a fantasy checkmate that I knew would not occur in a game against a master. But, the vulnerability of the king on the c-file offered me enough counterplay that exchanging two sets of minor pieces seemed worthwhile. It also reduces White's future prospects against my king.

22.Bxe2 Nxd4 23.Rxd4?!

I expected 23.Qxd4 Qc7+ 24.Kd2 (24.Kb1? leads to my fantasy checkmate. 24...Qc2+ 25.Ka1 Rxa3+ 26.bxa3 Qa2#) 24...Qc2+ 25.Ke3

Analysis Position
After 25...Ke3 in the variation
And now what? White's king in the center appears less vulnerable than my king hiding behind two doubled pawns. Black has an extra pawn, but White has a protected outside passed pawn.

23...Qc7+

Proceeding with my plan, which now seems better because b2 is not protected.

White to move

24.Kb1??

I was shocked when I saw that my opponent played this move.

I considered 24.Qc3 Qxc3+ 25.bxc3 Rxa3 when I have won a pawn in addition to the one my opponent sacrificed in the assault on my king.

24.Kd1 was also possible 24...Qc2+ 25.Ke1 Qxb2.

I was in Pizza Factory waiting for my lasagna when I saw my opponent's blunder on my iPhone. I replied instantly. This checkmate is elementary.

24...Qc2+ 25.Ka1 Rxa3+ 26.bxa3 Qa2# 0–1

13 April 2015

Lesson of the Week

My school chess clubs this week will be seeing this position from Fedorchuk -- Krush, Qatar Masters 2014. Irina Krush found the best move here and quickly won the game.

Black to move

Congratulations are due to Irina Krush for winning the U.S. Women's Chess Championship for the seventh time. We look forward to her visit to Spokane for the Washington State Elementary Chess Championship.

12 April 2015

Drawing a National Master

A day or two after I posted "Building Upon Morphy," I sacrificed a bishop on h6. As a consequence, I was able to force a draw against a young National Master (It is possible to play through the game at the link). NM Praveen Balakrishnan may become very strong in the next few years. His current world ranking for players under 14 is 129. Although my Chess.com correspondence rating is high, I have played very few games against titled players.

Stripes,J (2193) -- Balakrishnan,P (2238) [B11]
TMCL 2014 Playoffs Division C - Board 3 Chess.com, 06.03.2015

1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3

This was my first correspondence game with the Two Knights variation against the Caro-Kann. I've been playing with it a bit after looking at a few games in Chess Informant 113.

3...Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.d4 dxe4

White to move

Decision time.

7.Qxe4

My move scores better than the alternative 7.Nxe4, although both have been played by Grandmasters.

7...Nf6 8.Qh4

8.Qd3 does not score as well.

8...Be7 9.Bd3 0–0N

9...Nbd7 has been played several times, although White has won most of these games.

I had been utilizing my database for the past five moves with hopes of getting a playable position for the middle game. One may copy others only so long in a correspondence game. Eventually, it is necessary to think.

10.Bg5 h6

White to move

This position was reached the week that I posted "Building Upon Morphy."

11.Bxh6!

Naturally! Blame Morphy if my move is unsound.

11...gxh6 12.Qxh6=

According to Stockfish 6, I might have tried for an advantage with  12.g4! However, I did not look at this move, or at least not with any serious intent. Rather, I saw that I could force a draw and reduce my game load.

12...Re8 13.Qg5+ Kh8 14.Qh6+ Kg8 15.Qg5+ Kf8 16.Qh6+ Kg8 17.Qg5+ ½–½

11 April 2015

A Plate of Fried Liver

A Tasty Dish
The Fried Liver Attack scores about 75% for White, which helps explain why chess coaches everywhere urge the Traxler Counter Attack (4...Bc5) or 5...Na5, which seems to go by several names. Despite Black's abysmal record, I am of the opinion that Black is no worse with correct play. In fact, I believe White's sacrifice of a knight is unsound. My view is not universally shared.

Practically speaking, accurate defense of the Black side can be tortuously difficult under time pressure. In correspondence chess, I have not lost to the Fried Liver. Nor have I courageously faced it in serious over the board play. Occasionally, however, I invite the Attack in blitz. This post presents a game that I played yesterday in a three minute game.

Nomen Nescio -- Stripes,J [C57]
Online Playing Site, 10.04.2015

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5

Inviting the Fried Liver Attack. 4...Bc5 sacrifices a pawn if White chooses the safer route: 5.Bxf7+ Ke7 6.Bd5. White is more likely to play the double-edged 5.Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6.Kf1.

5.exd5 Nxd5

Black steps to the edge of the abyss. 5...Na5 appears to equalize.

6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 8.Nc3 Ncb4

White to move

9.Nxd5

I don't recall playing against this move in the past.

9.a3 is considered a mistake, but was played in one of my memorable games. In that correspondence game, I spent well in excess of two hours per move through the critical portion of the game and was happy with a 22 move draw.

9...Nxc2+ 10.Kd1 Nxa1 11.Nxd5 Kd6 12.Re1 (12.Ne7!? is interesting. 12...Kxe7 would be a blunder. 13.Qf7+ Kd6 14.Qd5+ Ke7 15.Qxe5+ Kd7 16.Qe6#).

9.0–0 scores well for White.

9.Qe4 was played against me in another memorable correspondence game.

9...Nxd5 10.d4 Be7

I considered 10...c6 which was the correct move.

11.0–0

11.Qe4 was played in the sole game in the database after 10...Be7. The players were unrated.

11...Rf8 12.Qe4 c6

White to move

13.Qxe5+?

13.Qxh7 maintains the vulnerability of the Black king by making g8 somewhat more exposed.

13...Kf7 14.Re1 Bf6 15.Bxd5+ Qxd5

White to move

16.Qxd5+

16.Qc7+ Kg8

16...cxd5 17.c3

Black to move

Black has a material advantage and no longer faces the abyss. Hence, Black has a clear advantage. The rest of the game holds less interest.

17...Bf5 18.Bf4 Rae8 19.Bd6 Be7 

19...Rxe1+ 20.Rxe1 Re8

20.Be5 Kg6 21.h3 h5 22.f3 h4 23.Kf2 Bf6 24.f4 Be4 25.g4 hxg3+ 26.Kxg3 Bxe5 27.fxe5 Rf3+ 28.Kg4 Rd3 29.Rf1 Rh8 30.h4 

Black to move

30...Kh7?

Throwing away a nice position

30...Bg2 was stronger.

31.e6

31.Rf2 exploits Black's inaccuracy.

31...Re8 32.Rf7 Rxe6 33.Rxb7? Rg6+ 34.Kf4 Rf3+ 35.Ke5 Rf5# 0–1

10 April 2015

A Magnet Sacrifice

Chess vocabulary varies and can be colorful. This morning, as I was reading S. Tartakower and J. Du Mont, 500 Master Games of Chess (1975 [1952]), I came across an old term for the maneuver that is usually called decoy these days. The term attraction is also used by some, such as Chess Tempo.

White to move

This position came about in a miniature played by Henri Delaire against an opponent whose name was omitted from the records. It appears in the annotations to G. A. MacDonnell -- Anderssen, London 1862, which is my current Game of the Week.

The move 14.Qxf5+! is called "a magnet sacrifice" by Tartakower and Du Mont. Black's king is lured or attracted to a vulnerable square where it suffers additional assaults. Accepting the sacrifice leads to checkmate.

07 April 2015

More Practice

I have been exploring the merits of a pawn sacrifice offered by Wilhelm Steinitz, and refused by his opponent. The position arises from the Italian Opening and features a dubious sortie by White's dark-squared bishop. Yesterday's "Some Miniatures" offered some games that Black won quickly after White grabbed the pawn. In those games, it seems to me, White always had a better move at a critical point.

As I was awake early this morning before the alarm was set to sound, I grabbed my iPad from the side of the bed and tried the Black side against HIARCS.

HIARCS -- James Stripes [C50]
Spokane, 07.04.2015

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0–0 d6 5.d3 Nf6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Bg3 h5

These moves were played in Dubois -- Steinitz, London 1862, and several times since.

9.Nxg5 leads to the starting position for my play against the iPad. Dubois played 9.h4.

Black to move

9...h4 10.Nxf7 hxg3 11.Nxd8 Bg4 12.Qe1 Nd4 13.h3 Ne2+

All these moves have been played several times in a fourteen move miniature.

White to move

14.Qxe2N

It is strange that this forced move does not appear in the database.

14...Bxe2 15.Ne6 Bxf1 16.Kxf1

Black to move

16...Bxf2? 17.Nxc7+ Ke7 18.Nxa8 Rxa8 19.Nd2 Rh8 20.Rd1 1–0

Black is down two pawns with no compensation.

I tried again, seeking improvements in my play.

HIARCS -- James Stripes [C50]

Spokane, 07.04.2015

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0–0 d6 5.d3 Nf6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Bg3 h5 9.Nxg5

Starting position

9...h4 10.Nxf7 hxg3 11.Nxd8 Bg4 12.Qe1 Nd4 13.h3 Ne2+ 14.Qxe2 Bxe2 15.Ne6

As before. This position is in the diagram above.

15...Bb6 16.Nc3 Bxf1 17.Kxf1 gxf2 18.Na4 Kd7 19.Nxb6+ axb6 20.Kxf2

Black to move

20...c6

20...b5 This attempt at a decoy is better. Black must expand on the queenside in order to create a position where his rooks have mobility.
21.Bb3 c5 22.Ng5 with a slight edge for Black.

21.Ng5 d5?

A positional error. 21...b5 is far more sensible.

22.exd5 cxd5 23.Bb5+ Ke7 24.Re1

Black to move

24...e4?

24...Rhf8

25.dxe4 Nxe4+ 26.Nxe4 dxe4 27.Rxe4++- 1-0

I played a few moves more, but it is clear that White has a decisive advantage. Playing a lost position against a computer is a waste of time.

I am becoming unconvinced that 9.Nxg5 is an error. But, the miniatures stem from lines where Black sacrifices his or her queen. Afyer 9.Nxg5 h4 10.Nxf7, Black could play 10...Qe7.

06 April 2015

Some Miniatures

Playing Against Steinitz

Wilhelm Steinitz offered a pawn to Serafino Dubois in their game during the London International Chess Congress,  1862. Johann Lowenthal comments in the tournament book that Dubois "was not to be tempted" (The Chess Congress of 1862 [1864], 102). I was less keen to the dangers while I was reviewing Dubois -- Steinitz in the early morning last week and proceeded to play this move against Hiarcs on the iPad. I lost, but not in a manner that confirms the general consensus concerning the dangers.

Dubois -- Steinitz begins:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc4 4.O-O d6 5.d3 Nf6 6.Bg5?! h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Bg3

At this point, we have Middle Game Position 168 in GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000) by Rashid Ziyatdinov, which I have been working through since December (see "Game of the Week").

Black to move
GM-RAM Position 168

8...h5!

Steinitz offered a pawn here.

Nineteenth century commentators and Stockfish 6 agree that 9.h4 is best, and that is what Dubois played. ChessBase database has eleven games with 9.Nxg5--all Black wins. The statistics certainly seem grim for snatching the pawn.

The earliest game is Knorre -- Chigorin, St. Petersburg 1874.*

Knorre,Victor -- Chigorin,Mikhail [C50]
St Petersburg, 1874

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0–0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Bg3

Diagram above.

8...h5 9.Nxg5 h4 10.Nxf7 hxg3 11.Nxd8 Bg4 12.Qd2 Nd4

White to move

13.Nc3

There are two games in the ChessBase database with 13.h3. Another game referenced in T.D. Harding and G.S. Botterill, The Italian Game (1977) is absent from this database.

13...Nf3+ 14.gxf3 Bxf3 0–1


Ashley -- Tollit, Birmingham 1923 continues from the diagram with 13.h3

13.h3 Ne2+ 14.Kh1 Rxh3+ 15.gxh3 Bf3# 0-1

This is the game played more recently on at least two occasions (1996 and 2005).

Perhaps, 14.Kh1 is the critical error, however, in this last example. White could have played

14.Qxe2!.

Black to move

After 14...Bxe2 15.Ne6, Black still appears to have an edge, but checkmate no longer seems imminent.

Although the database offers only losses for White after 9.Nxg5, engine analysis of these miniatures and of my play against the iOS version of Hiarcs leaves me wondering whether capturing the offered pawn is a mistake, as asserted by Lowenthal.

James Stripes -- HIARCS [C50]
Spokane, 31.03.2015

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0–0 d6 5.d3 Nf6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Bg3 h5 

Position from Dubois -- Steinitz, 1862

9.Nxg5

Black to move

9...Bg4

9...h4 is the critical line in most commentaries. 10.Nxf7 Qe7 11.Nxh8 hxg3 12.Kh1 with an advantage for Black

10.Qd2 Qe7

10...h4

11.Bxf7+ Kd7 12.h4

12.Bh4 might be better.

12...Raf8 13.Bb3

13.Bc4

13...Kc8 14.Nc3 Bb6 15.a4 Bc5

White to move

16.a5

16.Nd5 with a two pawn advantage, I should seek to exchange pieces.

16...Nd4 17.Kh1 Nxb3 18.cxb3 Rhg8

White to move

19.f4

19.a6 may be better, as is 19.f3.

19...Bd7 20.fxe5 dxe5 21.Bf2 Kb8 22.Na4 Bxf2 23.Rxf2 Ng4 24.Rxf8+ Qxf8

White to move

25.Qe2?? Qf4 0–1

Difficult positions provoke errors. On the other hand, a move cannot be deemed an error merely because it invites difficulties. It may be possible to learn to defend such a position. Having an advantage of two pawns often is worth something.


*See Edward Winter, "Confusion," Chess Notes (updated 14 March 2014) for another early instance of this game, and for discussion of problems regarding the game score of Dubois -- Steinitz 1862.

02 April 2015

Lesson of the Week

Preparing for State

My students this week are seeing a position from a game played by Irina Krush. Advanced students are seeing the entire game, and many get to try their hand at playing the attack that she used to finish the game. I found the game on a video put on YouTube to advertise Krushing Attacks by U.S.. Women's Champion Irina Krush, sold by OnlineChessLessons.net. I bought the video.

I have been going through Krush's games looking for positions from which to create chess problems for a contest that will take place during the 2015 Washington State Elementary Chess Championship, for which I am the Event Director. Irina Krush will there. She will run a chess camp the day before the championship, and play a simul. During the championship, she will offer game analysis all day. Then she will play a a blindfold vote chess game against youth players at a reception that evening.

Krush,Irina -- Liete [E12]
New York Open, 1996

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 b6 5.Nf3

Krush points out in the video that she could have played 5.e4 here.

5...Bb7 6.Bg5 0–0 7.e3 d6 8.Bd3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 h6 10.Bh4 Nbd7 11.0–0 e5 12.Bf5 Qe8 13.Nd2 g6 14.Bd3

14.Bh3? g5 15.Bg3 g4 would be terrible for White.

14...Kg7 15.Rae1 Nh5 16.f4 f5 17.h3 e4

Krush suggests that 17...Qf7 is probably better.

18.Be2 Qe6 19.Kh2 Kh8 20.g4 Nhf6 21.gxf5 gxf5 22.Rg1 Rg8 23.Nb3 a5

23...c5 was worth considering.

24.d5 Qf7 25.Nd4 Nh7

25...Ne8 26.Ne6 Nc5 27.Qd1 Nxe6 28.Bh5 Qd7 29.Rxg8+ Kxg8 30.dxe6 Qxe6 31.Rg1++-.

26.Ne6 Nc5

White to move

This is the position that I present to all students. Some of them have found the correct move with a guidance.

27.Qd1!

Krush threatens both Bh5 and Qd4. Her move is clearly the strongest in the position.

27...Nf8

27...Nxe6 28.dxe6 Qxe6 29.Qd4+.

28.Bh5 Qd7 29.Qd4+ Kh7 30.Rxg8 Nfxe6

30...Kxg8 Some of my students have faltered playing from this position. 31.Rg1+ Kh7 32.Nxf8+ Rxf8 33.Bg6+ Kg8+-.

31.Qh8# 1–0