30 November 2008

Elementary Positions

The heaviest endgame book on my shelf is Laszlo Polgar's seemingly rare Chess Endgames (1999). In the United States, Amazon.com lists one copy available from a vendor for $574.53, but Amazon.de lists seven used copies starting at 15.00 EUR and three new from 23.90 EUR. The text is out of print, and appears more readily available in Europe than in the United States. Fortunately, I bought my copy eight or nine years ago for something close to the list price of $29 plus shipping.

It is a daunting book that I use mostly for reference. On the other hand, from time to time I resolve to work through in a short period of time the first 318 problems--called "elementary positions".

This resolution always leads to failure because these elementary positions include quite a few that present difficulties. Consider number 42 for instance:

White to move +-

White has a decisive advantage, but how?

The Composer

This position is attributed to Crum, 1913, probably John Crum--Polgar's source gives no more than last name and date. Irving Chernev's Practical Chess Endings (1961) also has this problem (61), as well as another by Crum from 1913. Polgar has at least one more Crum composition, number 443, dated 1921.

White to move +-

A Google search for chess and Crum turns up in Google Books a J. Crum who was a "First-Class amateur" that lost game number 2659 published in the British Chess Magazine (October 1905). There is also a reference in Edward Winter's Chess Notes 4744 to a Mr. Crum who offered a suggested improvement in a game lost to Joseph Henry Blackburne, who won blindfolded. Crum was also the contact for entries to a problem composition contest sponsored by Chess Player's Chronicle, and open to all the world according to the announcement in the Westminster Papers 1 November 1878 (150).

The website Chess Scotland offers more information: John Crum was the first Scottish Champion, winning the title in 1884, and was a noted endgame composer. Tim Harding's Chess Cafe column The Kibitzer mentions the role of Crum in a postal match between the Glasgow and Copenhagen chess clubs that took place in 1879-1880 and was reported more fully in the Danish magazine Nordisk Skaktidende than in a Scottish publication where he had found part of the game.

28 November 2008

Okay, Not So Easy

In"Training Exercises" I claimed to have achieved "an easily won game" as a result of an exchange sacrifice that was far from the best move in the position. In the comments, both Chesstiger and Rolling Pawns questioned my assertion.
All rook endgames are drawn.
Siegbert Tarrasch*
Ten moves against the computer from the first problem in Imagination in Chess led me to this position.

Black to move

Hiarcs 10 - Stripes,J
Progressive Thinking, 26.11.2008

I played 11... Ra4 with the idea of attacking the knight and passed c-pawn.

Play continued 12.Rd7 Rxd4 the exchange sacrifice

13.Rxd4 Rxc2+ 14.Ke3 Ra2

White to move

6k1/5p1p/6p1/p5P1/3RP2P/4K3/r7/8 w

I propose that this position might be useful for training against the computer as a means of developing endgame skill. Black has an outside passed pawn and has better pawns on the other side of the board. On the other hand, White has some play. White will quickly bring the rook behind Black's passed pawn via d8 or d7, and the e-pawn might threaten some disruption. My first effort was smooth and successful, but I tried again several more times after reading the comments in reply to my assertion that it was easy. I tried the position against several different engines--Hiarcs 10 and 12, Fritz 9--with modest success. I did not succeed in winning every effort.

Black has a technical win, but my assertion that is is easy overreaches a bit.

Mixed Results

The "Easy" Win

15.Rd8+ Kg7 16.Rd7 a4 17.e5

17...Kf8 18.Ra7 a3 19.Kd4 Ra1 20.Kc4 a2 21.Kb3

21...Rh1 22.Rxa2 Rxh4 23.Ra5 Ke7 24.Kc3 Ke6 25.Kd3 Rg4 26.Ra6+ Kxe5 27.Ra7 Rxg5 28.Rxf7 h5 29.Ke2 Rf5 30.Re7+

30...Kf6 seems worth considering with the idea of keeping the White king from in front of the pawns

31.Kf2 Kg4+ 32.Kg1 h4 33.Re4+ Rf4 34.Re6 g5 35.Rg6 Rb4 36.Ra6 h3 37.Kh2 Rb2+ 38.Kh1 Kh4

If not for the h-pawn, White could play Ra3 and draw (Philidor position).

39.Ra4+ g4 40.Kg1 Rg2+ 41.Kh1 Rg3 42.Kh2 Rb3 43.Kg1 Kg3 44.Ra1 Kf3 45.Rf1+ Ke2 46.Rf2+ Ke3 47.Rf8 Rb1+ 48.Kh2 Rb2+ 49.Kg1 g3 50.Ra8

This move seems inexplicable. But sometimes when the computer sees that checkmate is forced, it will make a stupid move as if in despair.

50.Re8+ Kd4 51.Re1 Rf2 52.Kh1 Kd3 53.Rb1 Ke2 54.Kg1 Kf3 55.Rb3+ Kg4 56.Rb4+ Rf4 57.Rb2 h2+ 58.Kg2 Rf2+ 59.Rxf2 gxf2 60.Kxf2 h1Q 61.Ke2 Qd5 62.Ke3 Kg3 63.Ke2 Qd4 64.Ke1 Kf3 65.Kf1 Qa1#

50...Rb1# 0–1

An Easier Win

Hiarcs 12 - Stripes,J
Progressive Thinking, 27.11.2008

15.Rd8+ Kg7 16.e5 a4 17.Ra8 a3 18.Ra7 Kf8 19.Kd4 Ra1 20.Kd3 a2 21.Kc2

21...Rh1 22.Kb2 a1Q+ 23.Rxa1 Rxa1 24.Kxa1 Ke7 0–1

Often the key to winning a rook and pawn endgame is conversion to an elementary king and pawn endgame.

A Variation that Failed

Hiarcs 12 - Stripes,J
Progressive Thinking, 27.11.2008

15.Rd8+ Kg7 16.e5

16...a4 is better. Black's a-pawn is the key to winning.

17.Rd7 Re1+
Black still wins with 17...Kf8

18.Kf4 Kf8 19.Ra7 Ra1 20.e6 Rf1+ 21.Kg4 fxe6 22.Rxa5 Rf5 23.Ra7 Rf7 24.Ra8+ Kg7 25.Re8 ½–½

Learning from Errors

My first effort against Fritz 9 encountered a different defensive strategy, and I failed.

Fritz 9 - Stripes,J
Progressive Thinking, 27.11.2008

14.Rd8+ I cannot explain why this move number is now 14 instead of fifteen Kg7 15.Ra8 a4 16.Ra7 a3 17.e5 Kf8 18.Kf4!

Fritz opts not to chase the a-pawn, preventing its promotion by another method.

18...Ra1 19.Kg3 a2 20.Kg2 Ke8 21.Kh2 Kd8 22.Ra8+ Ke7 23.Ra6 Kd7 24.Kg2 Kc7!

It is not necessary to protect the kingside pawns so long as the a-pawn is menacing.

25.Ra8 Kb7 26.Ra5 Kb6 27.Ra4 Kc5 28.Ra8 Kd5 29.Ra5+ Kc4 30.Ra7 Kb3 31.Rb7+ Kc3 32.Ra7 Kd4 33.Ra5 Ke4 34.Kh2 Kf4 35.Kg2 Kg4 36.Ra4+ Kh5 37.Kh2

37...Re1 38.Rxa2 Kxh4 39.Rf2 Kxg5 40.Rxf7 h5 41.Kg2 Rxe5 42.Rg7 Ra5 43.Kh3 Ra3+ 44.Kg2 Kf5

I've already demonstrated that I could win this sort of position. But I later got mixed up.

45.Rd7 Ra4 46.Kf3 h4 47.Rd5+ Ke6 48.Rb5 Kf6 49.Rb6+ Kg5 50.Rb5+ Kh6 51.Rb8 g5 52.Rh8+ Kg7 53.Rb8 Rf4+ 54.Kg2 Kg6 55.Ra8 Kf5 56.Kh3 Rf3+ 57.Kh2 Kg4 58.Ra4+ Rf4 59.Ra3 Rb4 60.Rc3 Kf4 61.Rc2 g4 62.Rf2+ Kg5 63.Ra2 h3 64.Kg3 Rb3+ 65.Kh2 Kh4 66.Ra4

66...Rb2+ 67.Kg1 Rb7 68.Kh2 Rf7 69.Rd4 Rf2+ 70.Kg1 Rf3 71.Kh2 Ra3 72.Rc4 Ra2+ 73.Kh1 Kg5 74.Rc5+ Kf4 75.Rc4+ Kf3 76.Rc3+ Kf2 77.Kh2 Ke1+ 78.Kg1 Rd2 79.Rc4 g3 80.Rc3 h2+ 81.Kh1 Kf2 82.Rxg3 Rd1+ 83.Kxh2 Rh1+ 84.Kxh1 Kxg3 ½–½

Trying again from the diagram after 66.Ra4:

Fritz 9 - Stripes,J
Progressive Thinking, 27.11.2008

66... Rb2+ 67.Kg1 Re2!

68.Ra6 g3 69.Ra4+ Kh5 70.Ra5+ Kg4 71.Ra4+ Kf3 72.Ra3+ Re3 73.Ra1

73...h2+ 74.Kh1 Kg4 75.Ra4+ Kh3 0–1

It's a long endgame from my training position, and perhaps not so easy. But, neither is such technique horribly complicated. With a bit of practice, these rook and pawn endgames can be won consistently.

*It is not entirely clear that Tarrasch ever made such a statement. An unsourced comment in Frank Brady, Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy (1973) states that Tigran Petrosian took comfort recalling this adage, attributed to Saviely Tartakower, while defending a rook endgame against Bobby Fischer (166). Often the statement as attribed to Tartakower reads slightly differently: "all rook and pawn endgames are drawn." Others attribute the quote to Tarrasch, who did write something similar: "In rook endings the weaker side generally has some chances of a draw right up to the very end" (Tarrasch, The Game of Chess [1935], 81, translated from Das Endspiel [1931]). See Edward Winter, Chess Notes 5822.

26 November 2008

Training Exercises

The Fritz interface that one gets with any of several chess playing programs--Fritz, Hiarcs, Junior, etc.--performs excellent auto-analysis of games. One of the available user options asks the program to create training exercises. Checking this option may result in several exercises in a single game or none. It depends on the nature of the game.

In these exercises, Fritz has a flair for drama.

Black to move

When I run infinite analysis with Hiarcs 12 (my strongest engine), it identifies sixteen Black moves from this position that maintain a decisive advantage. The seventeenth move maintains only a slight advantage: less than a full pawn. I chose this move in my play against the engine. Not surprisingly, the coach piped up with his offer to let me take the move back. I refused and won the game easily.

After the game, I set the engine to run analysis while I read a book. It created a training exercise for this position. After executing the move, it tells me "Correct. You entered the strongest move."

There are sixteen stronger moves, but my move is a dramatic sacrifice that leaves me ahead a single pawn in a rook and pawn endgame. It also reduces the engine's counterplay. The combination of my outside passed pawn and my superior pawn structure on the kingside gives me an easily won game. On the other hand, maintaining the material advantage of rook vs. knight keeps the game tactically complex--the sort of position I blow against engines all the time.

The Source

The position that led to this odd training exercise began as this exercise from the excellent text, Imagination in Chess (2004) by Paata Gaprindashvili. It originates from Short-Topalov, Linares 1995.

Black to move

After the combination that Gaprindashvili expects the pupil to find, he comments, "The rest is a matter of straightforward technique" (152). It is this "technique" that I am struggling to develop in my effort to break into the USCF A class.

23 November 2008

Did Black Resign?

Did he lose on time?

Among the games on the Playchess server today is this one from yesterday:

Arakhamia-Grant,K (2448) - Abu Sufian,S (2418) [B36]
Chess Olympiad 2008 Dresden (9), 22.11.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 d6 7.Be2 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 Bg7 9.Be3 0–0 10.Qd2 Be6 11.f3 Nd7 12.0–0 Nc5 13.Rfd1 a5 14.b3 Qb6 15.Rab1 Qb4 16.Bd4 Bxd4+ 17.Qxd4 Qb6 18.Kh1 Nd7 19.Qd2 Qc5 20.f4 f6 21.Nb5 Nb6 22.Nd4 Bd7 23.Rbc1 Rfd8 24.Bf3 Kh8 25.Ne2 Be6 26.Qb2 a4 27.e5 dxe5 28.fxe5 fxe5 29.Bxb7 Rxd1+ 30.Rxd1 Rb8 31.Bf3 axb3 32.axb3 Qe3 33.Qc3 Qxc3 34.Nxc3 Nd7 35.Nb5 Nc5 36.b4 Na6 37.Bd5 Bd7 38.Bf3 Be6 39.Bd5 Bd7 40.Be4 Bxb5 41.cxb5 Rxb5 42.Bd3 Rd5 43.b5 Nc5 44.Be2 Rxd1+ 45.Bxd1 Nd7 46.Kg1 Kg7 47.Kf2 Kf6 48.Ke3 Nb6 49.Bb3 e6 50.Ke4 Nd7 51.Bc2 Ke7 52.h4 Kd6 53.g4 Nf6+ 54.Kf3 Kc5 55.g5 Nd7 56.Bd3 Kd4 57.Be4 Nc5 58.b6 Nd7 59.b7 Kc5 60.Bxg6 hxg6 61.h5 gxh5 62.g6 e4+ 63.Kxe4 1–0

The final position:

Black to move

Black's knight cannot stop both pawns. However, after 63...Kd6, the king can stop one pawn, while the knight stops the other.

Play might continue 64.g7! Nf6+ 65.Kf4 Kc7 66.b8Q+ Kxb8 67.Ke5 Ng8 68.Kxe8

Black to move

68...Nh6 holds. White's promotion threat keeps Black's pawn at bay, while the king alone cannot force the knight away from defense of g8.

Resigning this position would be senseless. A class player might miscalculate, presume that White's pawns are unstoppable, and resign. On the other hand, Shakil Abu Sufian is a FIDE Master and still improving. He would at least examine a sequence of forcing moves.

Did Black lose on Time?

He might have lost on time.

This game was on board four in the Scotland-Bangladesh match, so it was not widely reported in the press. Still, if Black had lost the game on time, the information must be somewhere. I went looking and found a link to Chess Scotland from Susan Polgar's blog. Now I had a site that had every reason to follow closely the games of Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant--a woman playing for Scotland's strongest ever men's Olympiad team. It took less than a minute to locate Geoff Chandler's analysis of the game and a revealing photo: see Chess Edinburgh: Chandler Cornered.

There we learn:
The official game score shows Keti's final move as Kxe4. As Dougie Bryson pointed out this is likely to be another case of the king going to e4 to signal a White win on the DGT boards. Indeed, we can prove that now as we have photographic evidence...
I recall some brief confusion during Game 7 (see "Something Awry with the Robot") of the recent World Chess Championship when the Playchess server had 37.Ke4, leaving Kramnik's rook intack on c3. Someone pointed out then that the players had moved their kings to the center of the board to indicate a draw, but the DGT board recorded the act as an inexplicable move. Human practice and excellent broadcast technology can lead us astray.

The final position is the photo of yesterday's game shows:

Black to move

Here Black is lost. Without the check, the knight cannot stop both pawns and Kd6 is too slow. White's final move was 63.Ke3, not as reported in the game score both on Playchess and at the official site.

22 November 2008

Feasting at Dresden

Saturday morning, 8:35am Pacific Standard Time

It is late afternoon in Dresden, Germany where the Chess Olympiad is taking place. On the Playchess server there are more than three dozen games still in progress, and many others that have finished. While players in my time zone in the 1970s had to wait several days for the arrival of the New York Times and its chess column to see the results of such events, today we watch the games live thanks to the internet and DGT boards.

I'm trying to watch two games.

Kramnik-Ivanchuk started as a Nimzo-Indian, classical variation

Kramnik Vladimir (2772) - Ivanchuk Vassily (2786) [E32]
Chess Olympiad 2008 Dresden (9.3), 22.11.2008

1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0–0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 d6 7.f3 c5 8.dxc5 dxc5 9.Bg5 h6 10.Bf4 Nc6 11.Rd1 Qa5 12.Bd2 Qa4 13.e3 e5 14.Ra1 Re8 15.Ne2 Bf5 16.b3 Qa6 17.Ng3 Bg6 18.Be2 Qb6 19.0–0 a5 20.Rfd1 Nh7 21.Be1 Ng5 22.Rd5 Ne6 23.Rad1 a4 24.b4 cxb4 25.axb4 Nf4 26.Rd6 Nxe2+ 27.Nxe2 Red8 28.b5 Rxd6 29.Rxd6 Qc7

Carlsen-Beliavsky began as a Closed Spanish

Carlsen Magnus (2786) - Beliavsky Alexander G (2619) [C84]
Chess Olympiad 2008 Dresden (9.12), 22.11.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.d3 d6 7.c3 0–0 8.Re1 Bg4 9.h3 Bh5 10.Nbd2 Nd7 11.Nf1 Nc5 12.Bxc6 bxc6 13.g4 Bg6 14.Ng3 Ne6 15.Kg2 c5 16.Rh1 f6 17.h4 d5 18.c4 dxe4 19.dxe4 Qxd1 20.Rxd1 Rfd8 21.Be3 Nd4 22.Rd2 Bf7 23.Rc1 Rab8 24.Ne1 a5 25.Nd3 Be6 26.f3 a4 27.Nf5 Bf8 28.Bf2 Nc6 29.Rcc2 Bf7 30.Ne3 Nd4 31.Rc1 Ne6 32.Rcd1

Thinking with my Engine

I thought Carlsen was doing well, but Hiarcs 12 had a half-pawn advantage for Black.

Black to move

Black's doubled pawns immediately appear as a weakness, but so does White's cramped position.

32...Rd4 33.Kh2 Rbd8 34.Nd5 Rxc4 35.b3 axb3 36.axb3 Rd4 37.Bxd4 Nxd4 38.Kg2 Nxb3 39.Rb2 c6

Meanwhile, Kramnik is nursing a small advantage.

After 29...Qc7

30.c5 Na5 31.Qb4 Nb3 32.c6

... back to Carlsen-Beliavsky

40.Ne3 c4 41.Nf2 Nd4 42.Rb7 c3 43.Rd3

Beliavsky's doubled c-pawns are rolling, but probably won't get much further. Hiarcs 12 has the game as even now.

43...c2 44.Nxc2 c5

...back to Kramnik-Ivanchuk

32...bxc6 33.b6 Qb7 34.Nc3 Na1 35.Qc5 a3 36.Qxc6 Qxc6 37.Rxc6 Rb8 38.Nd5 Nb3 39.Bc3 a2

40.Bxe5 f6 41.Bc3

... back to Carlsen-Beliavsky

45.Rd2 Ra8 46.Ne3 c4 47.Nfd1 Ne6

Move by move, Carlsen's position gets better. That Wunderkind will be the World Champion in a few years.

48.Rdb2 h5 49.Rb8 Ra3

Hiarcs 12 has 0.50, slight advantage for White

50.Rc8 hxg4 51.fxg4 Kh7 52.Rb7 Bg6 53.Rxc4 Nc5 54.Rbb4 Ra2+ 55.Kg3 Rd2

and the game is looking even, albeit complicated

56.h5 Bf7 57.Rc2 Rd4 58.Rxd4 exd4 59.Nf5

...back to Kramnik-Ivanchuk

Both players managed to promote pawns, and Ivanchuk forced a draw by repetition.

41...Bf7 42.e4 Bxd5 43.exd5 Na5 44.Rc5 Nb3 45.Rc6 Na5 46.Rc5 Nb3 47.Rb5 Rc8 48.b7 Rxc3 49.b8Q+ Kh7 50.Rxb3 a1Q+ 51.Rb1 Rc1+ 52.Rxc1 Qxc1+ 53.Kf2 Qd2+ 54.Kf1 Qd1+ ½–½

... back to Carlsen-Beliavsky

59...d3 60.Rb2 Nxe4+ 61.Kf4 Nc5 62.Nf2 g6 63.hxg6 Kxg6 64.Ke3 Be6 65.Nh4+ Kg5 66.Nf3+ Kg6

67.Rb6 Kf7 68.Rc6 Bd7 69.Rc7 Ke8 70.Nd4 Bh6+ 71.Kf3 Ne6 72.Nxe6 Bxe6 73.Nxd3 f5 74.gxf5 Bxf5 75.Ne5 Bf8 76.Ra7 Bd6 77.Nc4 Bh2 78.Ne3 Bd7 79.Ke4 Bg1

80.Ra8+ Kf7 81.Ra7 ½–½

Who was it that said draws were bad?

11:21am PST

Touch Move: It's the Rule

My game with David Griffin ended badly. He won.

I had Black in this position.

White to move

White has many ways to win, but he chose one of the few moves that let me back into the game. 39.Ke1??

White gives it away.

39...Na4+ 40.Ke2 a1Q 41.Ra6+

I had been looking at the board while my opponent contemplated his move, thinking that I could play Nc3+ if the rook remained on the a-file with a discovered attack on the rook. I had been losing a difficult game and now had an elementary win. This rapid turn of affairs calls for calm reorientation. I needed to spend some time looking at the board. At least long enogh to notice that I needed to move my king.

Instead, I reached out almost instantly and played 41...Nc3+.

This move is illegal: my opponent pointed out that I was in check, and could not play Nc3. But having touched the knight, I could play Nb6 and thus was required to do so. He apologized for telling me this.

“Touch a piece, move a piece”

A few years ago, I created a flyer for a scholastic tournament. It had a photo of a hand moving a chess piece, and the headline: “Touch a piece, move a piece,” followed by this text:
“[except when adjusting pieces in their squares after saying ‘I adjust’ (Rule 10A)]…a player on move who deliberately touches one or more pieces, in a manner that may reasonably be interpreted as the beginning of a move, must move or capture the first piece touched that can be moved or captured.”
USCF Rule 10B

“A director who believes a player touched a piece by accident should not require the player to move that piece.”
USCF Rule 10E

It's the Rule!
I printed the flyer on red paper and scattered copies around the tournament site--on tables, on walls, a small pile at the check-in table.

I assured my opponent that there was no reason to apologize. We are both tournament directors. We know the rules, and we enforce the rules.

I resigned the game.

21 November 2008

Carlsen-Navara, Dresden 2008

I'm finally following a single game in Dresden, and mostly logging comments on Rolling Pawn's attractive blog.

Carlsen,M - Navara, D
Olympiad, Dresden 2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.d3 d6 7.c3 0–0 8.Re1 Re8 9.Nbd2 Bf8 10.h3 b5 11.Bc2 Bb7 12.d4 g6 13.d5 Ne7 14.Nf1 Bg7 15.b3 Nxe4 16.Bxe4 f5 17.Bc2

Black to move

Black sacrificed a knight to get to this position. In Geller - Eingorn, Black ended up getting three pawns for the knight and went on to win. Then, in a correspondence game, Timar's 19.Bd2 appeared to take the sting out of 17...e4. Consequently, Cimra played 17...Nxd5, which is the move Navara adopted in this game.

Geller,E (2540) - Eingorn,V (2525) [C92]
URS-ch52 Riga (9), 01.1985
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.Bc2 g6 13.d5 Ne7 14.Nf1 Bg7 15.b3 Nxe4 16.Bxe4 f5 17.Bc2 e4 18.Nd4 Nxd5 19.Ne2 Nxc3 20.Nxc3 Bxc3 21.Rb1 c5 22.Bb2 Bxb2 23.Rxb2 d5 24.Qc1 d4 25.Bd1 Qd6 26.Rc2 Rac8 27.Qg5 Qe5 28.h4 f4 29.Bg4 Qxg5 30.hxg5 Rc7 31.Rd1 d3 32.Rc3 Re5 33.f3 e3 34.Rcxd3 e2 35.Re1 exf1Q+ 36.Kxf1 Rxg5 37.Kf2 Kg7 38.Rd7+ Rxd7 39.Bxd7 Kf7 40.a4 Bd5 41.Bc8 Bxb3 42.a5 c4 43.Bxa6 c3 44.Bb7 b4 45.Ra1 Bd5 46.Bxd5+ 0–1

Timar,Z - Kovacs,A [C92]
HUN-ch7J corr Hungary, 1987
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Re8 10.d4 Bb7 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.Bc2 g6 13.d5 Ne7 14.Nf1 Bg7 15.b3 Nxe4 16.Bxe4 f5 17.Bc2 e4 18.Nd4 Nxd5 19.Bd2 c5 20.Ne2 Nb6 21.Rb1 d5 22.Be3 1–0

Cimra,J (2330) - Bisco,I [C92]
SVK-ch Trencin, 1991
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.Bc2 g6 13.b3 Bg7 14.d5 Ne7 15.Nf1 Nxe4 16.Bxe4 f5 17.Bc2 Nxd5 18.c4 Nc3 19.Bg5 Qd7 20.Qd2 e4 21.N3h2 c6 22.Be3 d5 23.Bd4 Bxd4 24.Qxd4 Qg7 25.Qxg7+ Kxg7 26.cxd5 cxd5 27.b4 d4 28.Bb3 Rad8 29.Rac1 Rc8 30.Rc2 f4 31.g3 g5 32.h4 h6 33.hxg5 hxg5 34.gxf4 gxf4 35.f3 exf3 36.Rxe8 Rxe8 37.Rd2 Re2 38.Nxf3 Bxf3 39.Rxe2 Bxe2 40.Nd2 Kf6 41.Kf2 Ke5 42.Nf3+ Bxf3 0–1

17...Nxd5 18.b4

The novelty

18...Nxc3 19.Bb3+ d5 20.Qc2 Ne4 21.Rxe4 fxe4 22.Ng5 a5 23.bxa5 Rxa5 24.Nxe4 Kh8 25.Bg5 Qc8 26.Nf6 Rd8 27.Ne3 e4 28.Rc1 h6 29.Nxe4 dxe4 30.Bxd8 Qxd8 31.Qxc7 Qxc7 32.Rxc7 Ba6 33.Nd5 b4 34.Ra7 Bd4 35.Ra8+ Kh7 36.Nxb4 Rf5 37.Rxa6

Everyone thinks that Navara is lost, except Navara it seems.

37...Rxf2 38.Rd6 Rd2+ 39.Kf1 e3 40.Rxd4 Rxd4 41.Nd5

Magnus Carlsen has the sort of advantage that I frequently manage to lose to the computer. But he's a lot better than me, and David Navara is probably not quite as good as the Silicon Beast.

41...Rd3 42.Ke1 h5 43.Bc4 Rd4 44.Nxe3 Kh6 45.a4 Kg5 46.a5 Kf4 47.Kf2 Rd2+ 48.Be2 Ke4 49.a6 Ra2 50.h4 1-0

Congratulations to Magnus the Magnificent!

I'll add some diagrams and more analysis, including taking a stab at joco's questions, later today or tomorrow. I have my make-up game with David Griffin in the Turkey Quads in less than two hours. It's a must win if I care about ratings and want my entry fee back.

19 November 2008

Another Failure: More Useful Practice

This position came about through play from Fred Reinfeld's Winning Chess Combinations and Sacrifices #340.

Black to move

Can Black give up the bishop?

I thought so and played 10...h5

After 11.axb6 cxb6 12.c4 Rxf3
This was my second effort. I tried 12...h4 on the first go, and after the engine and I each queened a pawn, White forced a draw by repetition.

13.c5 bxc5 14.b5 Ra3 15.Kb2 Ra5 16.Nc7

Black to move

It seemed to me that I had to take the pawn, so 16...Rxb5

The engine was able to stop all my pawns with the two knights. How can I improve on my play?

18 November 2008

Nine Seconds

Although I spent a full nine seconds--almost a Deep Think in three minute blitz,--my move from this position was only the third best. Even so, it was good enough.

White to move

I played 30.Qxf5. What two moves are better?

14 November 2008

Turkey Quads

The Turkey Quads are an annual event at the Spokane Chess Club, but this year is only the second time I've played. Last year had a better turn-out with four full quads. This year there is one quad and a mini-Swiss for the other six players. I am the highest rated player. Last year, I was the sixth seed and placed 2nd in group B. My only win was the subject of the post that initiated this Chess Skills blog. Last night I played Judge Korsmo and had an interesting game.

Stripes,J (1754) - Korsmo,K (1652) [A11]
Turkey Quads Spokane (2), 13.11.2008

The Benko Opening gets its name from Pal Benko's use of 1.g3 at the 1962 Candidates Tournament at Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. It may transpose into many openings. I play it when I want my opponent to struggle from move one.

1...Nf6 2.Bg2 d5 3.c4
I choose a Réti/English system.

3...c6 4.Nf3 Bg4
This dynamic move pulls me onto less familiar ground. Chris Copeland played 4...e6 in round one of this event. These two games--both this week--are my only recorded OTB encounters with this position, but I have several dozen in my online games database. My scoring percentage with White is poor: 46%, but it has been 50% since 2006, and 53% over the past two years. The improvement reflects growing comfort with positions rich in positional complexity--the sort of game 1.g3 aims to provoke. Judge Korsmo's move has been played against me sixteen times in online games, which includes two quick wins on turn-based sites. The others were blitz.

After the game, I told my opponent that I didn't think this was a particularly good move. I've usually played 5.O-O or 5.cxd4, both of which are more common. I've also played 5.Ne5, which is probably the best move, and one I considered briefly last night. 5.Qb3 has been played in a few high level games, including:

Filippov,V (2621) - Sulskis,S (2545) [A11]
6th EICC Warsaw POL (9), 27.06.2005
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Bg4 4.c4 c6 5.Qb3 Qb6 6.Qc2 e6 7.0–0 Be7 8.d3 Nbd7 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.Be3 Bc5 11.Bxc5 Qxc5 12.Qxc5 Nxc5 13.Rc1 Bxf3 14.Bxf3 Ncd7 15.Rc7 Rb8 16.e4 Ke7 17.Na3 Rhc8 18.Rxc8 Rxc8 19.exd5 Nxd5 20.Bxd5 exd5 21.Re1+ Kf6 22.d4 a6 23.Kg2 h5 24.h4 g6 25.Kf3 Nb8 26.Kf4 Nc6 27.Nc2 Kg7 28.Re2 f6 29.f3 Kf7 30.g4 Nd8 31.Ne3 Ne6+ 32.Kg3 hxg4 33.fxg4 Re8 34.Rd2 Rd8 35.a4 Rd7 36.a5 Nd8 37.g5 fxg5 38.hxg5 Nc6 39.Ng4 Re7 40.Rf2+ Kg7 41.Nf6 Nxd4 42.Rh2 Kf7 43.Nxd5 Re5 44.Rh7+ Ke6 45.Nc3 Rxg5+ 46.Kf4 Rxa5 47.Rxb7 g5+ 48.Ke4 Nb5 49.Rb6+ Nd6+ 50.Kf3 Kd7 51.Kg4 Nc4 52.Rb3 Ne3+ 53.Kf3 Nf5 54.Kg4 Nd6 55.Ra3 Rxa3 56.bxa3 Nf7 57.Kf5 Kc6 58.Kf6 g4 59.Kxf7 g3 60.Ke6 g2 61.Ne2 Kc5 62.Ke5 Kc4 63.Ke4 Kb3 64.Kd3 a5 65.Ng1 Kxa3 66.Kc3 Ka4 ½–½

5...Qc7 6.d4 Nbd7
This apparently sensible move does not appear in other games in my database.

Objectively, the evaluation of this move should be ?!. 7.cxd5 is better.

7... dxc4 8.Qxc4 Qb6
Clocks: White 1:51; Black 1:55

The d5 square looks to have some importance

9...e6 10.0–0 Nd5

Clocks: White 1:46; Black 1:46

Black has equality according to my engine, but at the board I thought Black's cramped position and uncastled king gave me something to play against. The unplayed 5.Ne5 asks Black to consider the value of the bishop pair. My move here states that I'm willing to give up a cleric and part of my king's cover for a central pawn mass that might get to roll over the top of Black's position.

11...Nxf4 12.gxf4 Be7 13.Kh1
Anticipating that I might want the original f-pawn rolling with the others. Hiarcs 12 has -0.74, but I was enjoying my position during the game.

13...Qc7 14.Ne5

Attacking the queen forces it to move to a better square. Black's brief and slight advantage has vanished. Better for Black would have been 14...Nxe5 15.fxe5 O-O 16.f4 when Black can play against d4 and has no weaknesses.

My opponent told me that he expected 15.Qb3 to keep pressure on e6. My move is more flexible and increases the queen's mobility. Moreover, h3 is available to hit e6 from another angle. As the game developed, h3 proved to be an immensely useful square.

15...Bh5 16.Rac1!
X-ray attacks set up future tactics that force the opponent to burn clock time.

Clocks: White 1:27; Black 1:35

16... f6 17.Qh3 Bf7
17...g6 seems better; I liked the looks of 17...fxe5 18.Qxh5+ g6 19.Qxe5 Qxe5 20.f4+/-. It is clear that my opponent also thought that line would be better for White.

The initiative is critical to success after my decision to trade off my dark squared bishop on move 11. Black's bishop pair will prove unassailable in defense, and victorious in an endgame.


Clocks: White 1:19; Black 1:24

19.d5 exd5
I anticipated 19...Qd7!, when I thought I might try 20.Rfd1. I planned to meet 19...cxd5 with 20.Nxd5!+-

Clocks: White 1:13; Black 1:09

20.exd5 c5
I may not have calculated all of 20...Qxf4 21.dxc6 bxc6 22.Bxc6 Rac8 23.Nd5, but I sensed that the pawn on f4 was safe from any queen forays.

21.Nb5 also looked good

Clocks: White 1:08; Black 0:55

21...Kf8 22.Rfe1 a6 23.Rcd1 Rd8

White has a clear advantage, but how best to press on?

Clocks: White 1:01; Black 0:45

I considered 24.Ne4, which is preferred by my engine. I remembered some comments during the recent World Chess Championship regarding the development of rooks to the third rank via a3. I've brought my rooks into the game in the customary way, but the third rank is still a useful staging area. 24.Rd3 struck me as more flexible that 24.Ne4. I can bring pressure down the d-file, g-file, or h-file depending on Black's defensive choices.

24...Rd6 25.Qe2 Kf7
25...g6 offers better prospects of getting Black's last piece into the battle.

Proceeding according to plan: ever since I played my queen to e6, I've wanted to pull it back and get the bishop there in its stead.

26...g6 27.Be6+ Kg7 28.f5

Clocks: White 0:56; Black 0:28

White's heavy pieces can easily shift to the kingside where the Black king's pawn shield is just as much an illusion as is the absence of a shield in front of the White king.

My opponent thought he might get some counterplay if he could provoke 29.f4 ...

and he played me like a fiddle!

29...Rb6 30.b3 Nd6
Black has improved his position by having the knight and rook trade squares. Both pieces are much better than they were before. Alas, White still has that useful h3 square.

31.Rh3 Rb4 32.Qg4 g5 33.Qh5 Kf8 34.Qh6+

34...h6 leads to checkmate quickly

Clocks: White 0:45; Black 0:19

By this point in the evening, our game is the only one still going. Everyone is watching closely with poker faces while trying to anticipate how I'll finish the game. During the late-night postmortem, Chris Copeland suggested 35.Qg7.

35... fxg5 36.f6 Bf8

I could not decide whether 37.f7+, 37.Qxg5, or the move I played was the most efficient win, so I went for the drama. Hiarcs 12 agrees with my choice.

37... Ne4
My opponent thought later he should have played 37...Re4. Certainly White can go wrong with 38.Rxe4 Ne4 39.Nxe4?? But, I would have played 39.f7+ in a heartbeat if there's no pin on e4.

Now 38.f7+ is best, but I wanted to keep the knight pinned.

38...Rxg8 39.Qxg8 Qf4

Clocks: White 0:37; Black 0:09

Black has a checkmate threat.

40.Qe6+ Kd8 41.Nxe4 Rxe4 42.Qxe4 Qxf6 43.Qe8+ Kc7 44.Rxh7+ 1–0

Next week I play David Griffin, who also won last night. I get Black.

09 November 2008

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

My training against my engines starts with tactical problems from Fred Reinfeld's 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations. I have the positions from this book in a database that I've set up to open to a random position in ChessBase 8. I keep the book near my desk for consulting the solutions after I've played the game against the engine. Finding these solutions is the easy part. Most often I can find the tactical idea Reinfeld had in mind within a few minutes. However, once I've reached a technically won position, at least what Reinfeld states is winning, the work begins.

The Software

Once I've opened a random position in CB 8, one click closes the database software and opens Hiarcs 10 or Fritz 9--the two engines share the same interface. Then I can play against the engine. I have Hiarcs 12, but it lacks compatibilty with ChessBase 8. Hiarcs 12, Fritz 11, and other recent engines work well with ChessBase 10, but older engines cooperate with older database software. I could buy the latest version (CB 10), but that requires a new computer, and I'd like Microsoft to get more of the bugs out of Vista before taking that plunge.

Today's Exercises

When I opened my Reinfeld Sacrifices and Combinations database this morning, it opened to WCASC #142, which I managed to solve in less than five minutes. Hiarcs used ten minutes (I set the game at G/15) to choose its first move, and resigned after my fifth move. As this one took little time, I went ahead with WCASC #143.

White to move

1.Qxg6 fxg6 2.Nf7+ Kg7 3.Nxd8 Rxd8 and that's where Reinfeld's solution ends, but the work begins. White is ahead an exchange, but Black has an extra pawn for the exchange. The doubled c-pawns could become a vulnerable weakness if Black's knights move forward to better posts.

A Winning Advantage?

One of my college roommates was fond of the expression "where the rubber meets the road" when talk must give way to action. Such is the case here. Reinfeld states that White wins with the advantage of the exchange. Finding such wins is my focus in this engine training.

White to move

The rooks must coordinate their efforts and White must find some work for the bishop.

a) 4.Rb1
b) 4.Ra2
c) 4.Re1
d) 4.Bg5

I looked at 4.Rb1, but after 4...b6, have I made progress? I didn't think so. I then considered 4.Ra2 and 4.Bg5. I failed to examine 4.Re1.

After the game, I loaded the game in Hiarcs 12 and turned on infinite analysis. The engine's top two choices were 4.Rb1 and 4.Re1, but when I executed 4.Ra2, its evaluation went up dramatically. Then, backing up to the diagram position Hiarcs favors this move by a substantial margin and 4.Bg5 becomes its second choice. It is gratifying to learn that the engine favors the move I tried first.

My first effort went thus:

4.Ra2 Ne4 5.Re2 N8f6 6.Rfe1 Re8 7.Kg2, but I couldn't find something useful for the bishop. After many moves, my position became worse and Black gained a slight advantage. I backed the game up and tried again.

My second effort went thus:

4.Bg5 h6 5.Bxf6 Nxf6 6.Rae1 Rd7 7.Re6 Nh7

White to move

I tried 8.h4 Nf8 9.Re8 Nh7 10.Rfe1 Kf7 and Hiarcs 12 likes all my moves, as well as those of its older version.

White still has a theoretically decisive advantage, but the best I was able to achieve was a draw. I suspect that a few daft moves might put Black in zugzwang, but could not find these moves.

I tried 11.Rh8, but after 11...Nf7 could not find a way to improve. Hiarcs 12 prefers 11.R1e6, but I didn't examine this move while playing. I could start again from there, but that must wait for another day.