27 September 2011

Lesson of the Week

It is week two for one after school chess club, and week one for a chess class for home schoolers. Next week, chess club starts at a school I'm beginning to coach this year. Due to different ages and skill levels, most weeks I will need two problems of the week.

The easy one:

White to move

Slightly more difficult:

White to move

22 September 2011

Steinitz Defense

Wilhelm Steinitz, the father of chess theory, had some ideas that seem wacky today. In The Modern Chess Instructor (1889),* he explains why he prefers 3...d6 against the Spanish Opening, rather than the more common Morphy Defense (3...a6) or the Berlin Defense (3...Nf6). According to Steinitz, the Spanish, or Ruy Lopez, offers White no more than equality.
[W]e have come to the conclusion, after careful analysis, that this form of opening is no exception to the general rule, inasmuch as the pinning of the Knight by the Bishop in the early part of the game cannot be of any advantage; and we find now that at the utmost the game can be made even by White against the best defence, which we think is 3...P-Q3.
Steinitz, The Modern Chess Instructor, 1
Steinitz reasons that deploying the knight to f6 deprives Black of an important resource, which he suggests in his "main variation":

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.c3 f5.

White to move

4.d4 has become the main variation today.

This position from Steinitz's "main variation" appears nine times in ChessBase's Online Database. Moreover, Steinitz did not play 4...f5 when he had the opportunity. Instead, he prepared the f-pawn advance and played it in the early middle game.

Gunsberg,Isidor - Steinitz,William
World Championship, New York 1890
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.c3 Bd7 5.0–0 Nge7 6.d4 Ng6 7.d5 Nb8 8.Bxd7+ Nxd7 9.Na3 Be7 10.Nc2 Nc5 11.Qe2 Qd7 12.b4 Na4 13.Bd2 0–0 14.c4 f5

15.exf5 Qxf5 16.Rac1 Rae8 17.Nfe1 Bg5 18.g3 Nc3 19.Bxc3 Bxc1 20.Ng2 Qf3 21.Qxf3 Rxf3 22.Nge3 Bxe3 23.Nxe3 Ref8 24.Kg2 c6 25.Bb2 cxd5 26.Nxd5 Rd3 27.Bc1 b5 28.Ne3 bxc4 29.Nxc4 Rd4 30.Ne3 Rxb4 31.Rd1 Rb1 32.Ba3 Rxd1 33.Nxd1 Rd8 34.f3 d5 35.Nc3 d4 36.Ne4 Rb8 37.h4 h5 38.Kf2 Rb1 39.Bd6 Rb2+ 0–1

The oldest game that I could find with Steinitz's 4...f5 was played via correspondence the year following his World Championship match with Gunsberg. There, as in several other games, White met this idea with 5.exf5, rather than 5.d4 as given in Steinitz's book.

Pilkington,R - Brunton,William
GBR Fraser corr 1891–96, England 1891

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.c3 f5 5.exf5

5...Bxf5 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 Bd7 8.0–0 Nxd4 9.Bxd7+ Qxd7 10.Qxd4 c5 11.Qe4+ Ne7 12.c4 0–0–0 13.Nc3 Re8 14.Re1 h6 15.a4 g5 16.Nd5 Bg7 17.Nxe7+ Kd8 18.Bd2 Be5 19.Ba5+ Kxe7 20.Qd5 Qc6 21.Rxe5+ dxe5 22.Qxe5+ Kd7 23.Qf5+ Re6 24.Rd1+ Kc8 25.Rd5 b6 26.Bc3 Rhe8 27.b3 Kb7 28.Kf1 R8e7 29.Be5 Qe8 30.Qf3 Ka6 31.Qc3 Rxe5 32.Rd1 Qh5 0–1
Perhaps Steinitz discovered this simple capture between writing his book and facing Gunsberg over the board.

*Edition Olms makes this text readily available with their 1990 reprint.

21 September 2011

Problem of the Week

School is back in session, and the scholastic chess season begins soon. One of my schools has its first chess club meeting this afternoon. Others begin soon. Each week, I create a small number of chess problems to begin each club's meeting.

This position occurred in Porges - Pillsbury, Nuremberg 1896.

Black to move

The pawn on e6 must be captured, but whether with the f-pawn or by the sacrifice of a bishop requires deeper consideration.

13 September 2011

Chess Viewer (Everyman)

Everyman Chess has been publishing good quality chess books long enough that I have accumulated many of their titles on my shelves. Some of my favorites include Garry Kasparov, My Great Predecessors, 5 vols.; John Watson, Play the French, 3d ed.; and Vladimir Kramnik, and Iakov Damsky, Kramnik: My Life and Games. But, Everyman Chess also published what may have been the worst edited book that I've ever purchased from a major publisher, a book that shows evidence of immense need for simple copy editing and that seems as though it received none. Susan Polgar, with Paul Truong, Breaking Through: How the Polgar Sisters Changed the Game of Chess stands as an embarrassment to Everyman Chess. Aside from printing, binding, and distribution, they utterly failed as a publisher.

With this track record, I had some trepidation before purchasing an ebook version of Nigel Davies, Play the Catalan ($19.99) for viewing within the iPad Chess Viewer ($1.99). The three samples provided with the app revealed that viewing games and commentary was functional, although complex variations are not particularly well supported by the Chess Viewer app. It is easier to navigate complex variations in Chess Base, the viewer of choice for Everyman Chess ebooks.

Play the Catalan is less expensive in paperback ($18.96 at Amazon), but weighs more than the iPad, which also contains many hundreds of other books (and currently sixteen chess programs). The advantages of purchasing it in this format include the convenience of the iPad itself, and that acquiring it does not require finding more space on already overcrowded book cases.

Everyman's website lists 125 ebooks, but only 30 appear in the store accessible via Chess Viewer. All these books concern openings, while their list of ebooks available for viewing in Chess Base includes a handful that are not opening manuals, including Jose Capablanca, Chess Fundamentals (algebraic edition).

It seems as though they rushed Chess Viewer through the process without considering the features that might be of interest to readers. Even so, it is a good beginning.

The Introduction in Play the Catalan includes two complete games: Kasparov - Korchnoi 1983, 7th match game, and a game not available in the Chess Base online database, Davies - Brown, 2009. This position stems from the latter.

White to move

Here Davies found a simple winning combination.

11 September 2011


Lajos Portisch played 12...Bc5 from this position.

Black to move

Why not grab the horse? Would White make Black suffer after 12...Qxc3?