Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year!

Let's hope 2011 will be a good year in every way! :)

Here's something to listen to around 12 pm tonight! One of the best guitar solos I've heard, and it even gets better for every time you hear it.

Here's the same solo, but with a different video. It's a bit funny when a blue faced Mel Gibson comes charging, but otherwise it's a nice collage.

Malmö Open 2010

The week end before Christmas (i.e. usually around the 17th-19th of December) is Malmö Open time. This is the only bigger tournament around here that is still being held - unless you count the Sigeman Tournament and the usual invited GMs battling it out. But chess is a bit like sex, it doesn't really matter how bad you are at it, it's still more enjoyable partaking than merely observing...

Malmö Open is also the closest a Swedish chess player gets to an Iron Man contest. It starts on the Friday evening at 8 pm, when most contestants have barely returned from work before it's time to show up in person at 7 to not be removed from the starting list. Then wait for an hour, and then play round 1 - the first of four 1 hour each games.

Round 2 starts at 9 am, and after two more games of speed chess, it's time for the first of three games with 2 hours each. Rounds 6 & 7 are played on the Sunday, when your back is aching and your brain is tired of chess.

I had a reasonably good tournament this year, finishing on 5 of 7. Both losses were against the GMs who ended up sharing 2nd place, and since only four GMs played this year one could say it was a bit unfortunate to run into two of them...

In round four (i.e. the last speed game) I got Hector on board 1. I usually get to play him and lose in this tm, but most often it occurs in round 5.

To my surprise I got an advantage quite easily with the King's Gambit, but failed to find the best moves to prove it. Here's some of it:

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Nge2 d6 6.a3 Bxc3 7.Nxc3 Bg4 8.Be2 Bxe2 9.Qxe2 Nc6 10.d3 g5 11.g3

(By the way, the natural 11.h4!? works according to my engine, e.g: 11...Nd4 12.Qf2 c5 13.hxg5 Ng4 14.Qxf4 Nxc2+ 15.Kf1!? Nxa1 16.Qxg4 Nb3 17.Bf4 Qd7 18.Qg3 0-0-0 19.Rh6+/= and the pressure on d6 gives white good compensation, in combination with more active pieces. But I can't claim to even have been close to considering 15.Kf1 during the game...


11...Nd4 12.Qf2 c5 13.gxf4 Qd7 14.fxg5! is the critical move, but 14.h3 might have been the sensible move, considering the limited time and stronger opponent...

14...Ng4 15.Qg2 0-0-0 16.Bf4 (this is another good time for the sensible 16.h3) 16...h6 17.gxh6! 

 [in the game I played 17.h3? and after 17...hxg5 18.0-0-0 gxf4 19.Qxg4 f3 things went downhill quite fast...]

17...Rdg8 18.0-0-0 Diagram  I saw that this would lead to a lost exchange after Ne3, which is how I ended up choosing 17.h3? instead. However...

18...Ne3 (But, I was already 15 minutes behind on the clock, so in practice he would probably have won anyway.)

[18...Nxh6 Afterwards, before hurrying off to prepare for the next round, Jonny said he would've played this, instead of allowing the Q-sac. 19.Bg3 and White has a clear advantage due to the extra pawn, but in practice Black can still hope to win, especially if he's a GM with a few hundred extra rating points...]

19.Qxg8+! [19.Qd2!? Nxd1 20.Rxd1 is almost as good according to the engine, and easier to play for a carbon based life form; d6 is weak, and Nd5, Kb1, Qa5 seem to get White's pieces into position. 20...b6 21.Nd5 Qe6 22.h4 f5 23.Bg5 Kb8 24.Kb1 Rf8 25.c3 Nc6 26.Nf4+/=]  

19...Rxg8 20.Bxe3+/- with a clear advantage. In corr white would probably just be winning here. A few sample lines: 20...Rg2 [20...Qh3 21.Nd5] 21.h3 Qe6 [21...Rxc2+?? 22.Kb1 Rg2 23.h7+- Qd8 24.Rdg1 Rg6 25.Rxg6 fxg6 26.Bxd4 cxd4 27.Nd5 Qh8 28.Rc1+ Kd8 (28...Kb8 29.Ne7) 29.Rc7+-] 22.Nd5+/-

And for those who want to test their tactical vision, here's a few positions from my other games in the tournament:

 ...Nb5 has just been played, and now White missed a strong idea.


Black to move.

 Black has just played Re4-a4, what to do as white?

My GM opponent in the last round has just played ...b6?! which looked strong during the game, but it seems I missed a chance to equalise here.

Here White is in dire straits, but during the game I assumed that Black had missed that 1.Rxd4 exd4 2.Qxd4 Nxb3 white can hit back on a7. Actually, he said he had missed it, but a strong player is often lucky because he sees his chances, and it turns out that "regaining the pawn" on d4 is actually losing for white (though the alternatives also loses), but it's actually kind of pretty!

It doesn't really matter how White captures on a7, as both captures run into different refutations.

 Qxa7 Qe5!
29.Rb1 (29.Ra2 Nc1-+) 29...Nd2 30.Rd1 Qxb2 31.Qd7 Nxe4! 32.Qxe8 Qxf2+ 33.Kh1 Qe2!-+)

 In the game Rxa7 Qb8 and Qa4 was played:

which runs into

...Bc5! and now it doesn't matter if the rook goes to d7 or a6, Black will clear the c5-square with ...Bxf2+ Kxf2 and ...Nc5 resulting in a rather easy technical win an exchange up.

White to move and win.

Here 46.Nxd6 looked so obviously winning, but Black has 46...Kg7! 47.Ne8+ [the point is that 47.Nxf7? Rxf7 48.Bxf7 runs into 48...Bd6+] 47...Kg8? [47...Kh6 48.Kg3 Kg5 =] 48.Rb7 +-

What white should play in the diagram is: 46.Kg3! g5 and now 47.Nxd6! Kg7 48.Ne8+ Kg6 (48...Kh6 49.Rb6+-) 49.Rb6 h6 50.d6+-

I won't bother giving the solutions to the other ones, if you can't find the solutions yourself, your friendly chess engine will! :)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

In a few days, I'll be back with some chess positions from my games in Malmö Open 17-19/12, including a KG against Hector.

Until then, here's some "traditional" Swedish Christmas Songs! :)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Mike's Chess Pages

I've commented one of my corr games for Mike Donnelly's site - one of four games he offers in this month's update. I originally commented the game in Swedish for SSKK-bulletinen, but the web turned out to be the quicker media. So, a spoiler alert for any Swedish readers who are also corrplayers - if this blog has any...?!

Monday, 22 November 2010

On the Importance of Pauses

Today's "deep thought", in chess as in many other things, it's important to pause to understand. A pause can even be the difference of life and death as in the old example "Execute, not pardoned." vs "Execute not, pardoned.".

In chess, especially nowadays, it's easy to end up in front of the computer clicking thru games at a rushed tempo in preparation for a game later in the evening or next day. And then, at the board you find that most of what you saw has just went thru your skull without leaving much trace. So, seeing, reading, listening without reflection is just a waste of time.

While on the other hand, going thru just one good game at a leisurely pace may be enough to actually feel prepared! It's easy to forget that every move in a game has been the product of at least a few minutes thought, at times much more, and thus each move needs to be consumed in a similar pace to make an impact.

The same also applies when playing chess. Especially in blitz it's more important to find a rhythm of play, than gaining time on the clock by quick theory moves as this can lead to a rushed rhythm and oversights.

The following game from the recent Blitz World Championship is an excellent example. I'm especially impressed by the coolness of Aronian towards the end of the game, as he's able to keep his rhythm despite only seconds on the clock - really making use of that 2 second bonus per move! In a winning position with little time left it's very easy to focus on the clock instead of the board, and that's when howlers appear!

And to round off, here's an old great song by Leonard Cohen which is also a good example of the value of pauses. Just try to read the text of the song as if it was a normal text and the magic goes away immediately!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Chess as Spectator Sport!?

On youtube, the user bumblebee1607 has posted some filmed games from the current Blitz World Championship - and it's hard to stop watching once the games start!

So, maybe this is the future of Chess? Surely even Joe Average can appreciate the suspense and tension of watching a good blitz game? And with a 2 seconds bonus per move, it never reaches the complete Chaos that ensues in club tournaments. In addition, unemployable GMs can suddenly find work as TV-commentators...

Friday, 12 November 2010

Another Book Tip - Simple Chess

A while back I saw this book mentioned by John Cox in one of his works, probably in Starting Out the Alekhine  and it sounded interesting with a small strategic guide book, especially if it was mentioning stuff like: "some pawn structures in the opening can only harbour a certain amount of pieces, so in this structure Black needs to play Bc8-g4 and exchange it for Nf3 or Be2." (a rough quote from memory).

Anyway, I made a mental note to get it if I saw it, and a week ago I happened to see it. And after having read the first chapters on Outposts, I'd say it a perfect book for low rated adults who wish to improve.

People usually only mention Nimzowitsch and his My System in this context but although it was a very useful book once upon a time, it's also full of  discarded stuff not worth learning anymore. For example, nowadays we attack a pawn chain anyway we can and not only at the base. And he also had a tendency to make the leap from "this opening variation is playable after all" to "this opening variation is good".

So, in my opinion Stean's book is better for those who just want to learn strategic thinking. Stronger players have usually already internalised most of the content, for example when calculating variations most of us probably don't think of outpost squares as outposts any longer, but more as "juicy squares to put pieces on".

If you follow the link, the page has a link to a Google Book preview as well, so go take a look! As it has few diagrams and no blue text boxes repeating what's already been said earlier on the page, it might not be for young kids or Americans with the attention span of Homer Simpson.

But I bet there are many 1500 - 1900 players who's playing strength will clearly benefit from spending 6 Euro and a few reading hours on this book.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A night at the club

Last night I went down to my chess club to watch how the Club Championship was going. It's too weak for me to bother participating, as there are only two players over 2200 and most of the others are between 1600-1900.

It so happened that the two 2200s were already playing each other despite three rounds remaining. Anyhow, they reached an interesting position towards the endless time trouble (90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move).

Jonas Lindahl - Anders Nilsson

This could be a suitable exercise - Black to move and win, I'll post the solution in the comment section for those too lazy to start their engine. Funny enough we looked at this afterwards but failed to find the correct moves, despite finding the first move!

A few moves later they reached the following position.

And here White found an interesting idea, playing the cool c5xb6! leaving the queen en prise but planning to resurrect her on b8.

Which led to this position:

with 20 seconds remaining on the clock Black decided to force the draw with Rg3+ and a perpetual.

Afterwards we must have looked at this for at least half an hour trying various ways of playing for a win for Black. For example: 1...Qf3 (threat Nh3#) but it fails to b8Q+ and white checks with the queen on d6 and e5 driving the king to h4 and then trades queens with Qg3+. 1...Rxe1+ (to remove Rb1-b7+) 2.Rxe1 Qf3?? fails to b8Q+ and Qa7+.

Playing ..h6 or ...h5 to give the king some luft doesn't win either after e.g. 2.b8Q+ Kh7 3.Qc8 (>Rb8 / Qf5+)

Funny enough, as far as I recall we never looked at the best move for Black, which is 1...Rf3! with the point that after 2.b8Q+ Rf8 White must play 3.Qxf8+ Kxf8 4.Kxf2 and then Qxh2+ (or Qxd3) gives Black some winning chances but with 30 seconds per move it can still go either way...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Book tips for KGeers

 Just in case I'm not the only one to have missed this: Michael A. Jensen has published a two part article on the Quaade (3.Nf3 g5 4.Nc3) though I've heard the articles use another move order 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 g5, in New in Chess Yearbooks 93 & 95.

Here's a double link to the BookDepository, which is probably the best place to get them.
YB 93 and 95 - I haven't decided yet if I'll buy them myself, as 90% of the other articles would not interest me much. :(  Those who already have read them, feel free to give your opinion in the comments.

Here are the links to the article contents of 93 and 95

Btw, here's an idea for the people at NiC - why not sell individual articles as cbv ebooks and/or allow people to put together their 'own' book, i.e. letting you choose say 20 articles from all YBs and put them in a book? Technically, it should be possible, it would allow them to make more profit per article and customers would be happier...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Some recent stuff...

Got myself yet another book on the Dutch Defence a few days ago, the recently published:
Play the Dutch - Neil McDonald and alas I was immediately disappointed. :( Follow the link to a chesspub thread on the book, where I tell you why.

Here's another link, for those who like chess problems, especially if they look like they might actually happen in a game. Chess problems by Vitold Yakimchik

Last weekend, my club team made its début in the 2nd highest series. We both lost and won with 4½-3½, and somewhat fortuitously I managed to win both my games. :)

In the first, I've just played Rh1-e1 - since my hand insisted on it - then black (a 1960 rated junior) fell for the temptation of snatching the h2-pawn. Luckily, there's a good reply...

That later led to the following, where I've just played the nice move Nc3-d5!, and then my king went pawn shopping and queen dodging.

which later led to this position

and my king eventually reached d7, and when Qd3+ came, he had to exchange queens after Qd5, as after Qh3+ Kd8, Qg8# is an unstoppable threat. For some reason he kept playing on even after the queen exchange but I'll spare you the final diagram...

The next day I was black against a 2300 player and I chose to revisit an opening I hadn't played since 1999. It turned out that I had forgotten most of the theory I once knew, but white didn't seem to know it either, as he let me off the hook but kept playing like he had the advantage.

In the following diagram, he has just surprised me with Rd1-d5, a move I hadn't even considered. And maybe my form is good at the moment, since it's a big mistake!

Often, I find that the difference between playing well and badly is found in the moves you subconsciously remove from your attention when calculating. When your opponent's surprise move is bad, you're good and when it's good, you're bad...

Monday, 11 October 2010

KG - a newish idea in the Modern defence!

Yesterday, I happened to come across some analysis on a new idea in the KG. It was extra unexpected as it was posted at the Chesspub forum in a thread about a new book on the Petroff, due next year. Here's a direct link to the analysis in the thread (For easy viewing, you can copy the analysis, paste it into Notes and save it as PGN).

A closer inspection revealed that the new idea had already been played twice in corr. So, to write my first blog on the dear old King's Gambit, here's a look at what happened in those two encounters, intertwined with most of the analysis & comments provided by Har-Zvi and Gupta at chesspub, plus some remarks by me and my engine.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Bc4 Nxd5 6.0-0 Be6 7.Bb3 Be7 8.c4 Nb6 9.d4 Nxc4 Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta: 'The theoretical line that supposedly gives equality for Black.' 10.Nc3

By the way, 10.Bxf4 is met by 10...Nb6! 11.Bxe6 fxe6 12.Qe2 Nc6 13.Nc3 Nxd4! as I mentioned in the FKG 5-6 years ago, though by now it almost feels like in another lifetime... :/


[10...c6 Shulman - Onishuk, 2003 11.Re1 "N With the idea of Rxe6 and pressure on the c4 square." - Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta: 11...b5 12.a4! "Black's position comes quickly under fire. It's hard for Black to activate his pieces and finish develop in a manner that will not give White a small edge." - Har-Zvi and Gupta.

However, nothing is new under the sun - unless you don't have a database of corr-games. ;)

And to not refer to corr nowadays, is not just snobbish anymore, but quite illogical, as in both OTB and in Corr, players get most of their theoretical inspiration from the use of engines. So these days, a chess book that doesn't refer to correspondence games will age at the rate of a vampire exposed to sunlight.

1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 exf4 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bc4 Nxd5 6. O-O Be6 7. Bb3 Be7 8.
c4 Nb6 9. d4 Nxc4 10. Nc3 c6 11. Re1 b5 12. a4 b4 13. Rxe6 fxe6 14. Bxc4 bxc3
15. bxc3 O-O 1/2-1/2 B, Baroin (2223) - A G, Savage (2405), theme corr 2006. To accept the draw so early looks like a peculiar decision since thematic events are unrated, but maybe white wanted to save his findings for another tournament...?]

11.d5 Bg4 12.Bxf4 (For what it's worth, 12.Qe1 0-0 offers the extra option of 13.Ne5) 12...0-0 Fedorov - Goloshchapov, Ohrid 2001.  

13.Qe1!? A check with my database, showed that this new idea had already been tried twice in corr chess.

So here's a look at what happened in those encounters, plus most of the analysis provided by - Har-Zvi and Gupta, plus some remarks by me and my engine.

 Now, we have already come to a fork in the road. 
A) 13...Na6 or B) 13...Bd6

A) 13...Na6 14.Qg3 Bh5 

[14...Bf5 15.Rad1 Nc8 (15...Bd6 16.Nh4 Bg6 17.Nb5 "If you look at this position it's actually very hard to find a good move for Black. Black is quite cramped and White has several options for improving his piece placement." - Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta.) 16.d6! "The purpose is to open diagonals for White's pieces. Very common thematic sacrifice in the IQP" - Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta. 16...Nxd6 17.Ne5 Sacrifices against f7 are in the air. 17...Be6 18.Bh6 Bf6 19.Bc2 "Black will likely have to acquiesce to g6 and sacrifice the exchange". - Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta.]  

And now a 2nd fork, should Ra1 go to the open e-file or position itself behind the d-pawn? Both make sense, and lead to similar positions, so it's a decision one could base on general feeling or a large amount of analysis...

15.Rae1 Diagram This was played in the most recent game of the two.

15...Bg6 16.Ng5 Bd6 17.Nce4 Nc8 [17...Bxf4? 18.Rxf4 (18.Qxf4? h6 19.Nf3 Bxe4 20.Rxe4 Nc5) 18...Nxd5 19.Bxd5 Qxd5 20.Nxh7! Qd4+ 21.Kh1 Qxb2 22.Nxf8 Rxf8 23.Qh3 Bxe4 24.Rfxe4 g6 25.Re8 and white should be winning.] 18.h4!? Nc5 19.Nxd6 Nxd6 20.Be5 Diagram

20...f6 This obviously invites trouble on the white squares, but the engine says "0.00"...

[A safer defence might be: 20...Nxb3 but maybe 21.h5!? works, if you look into it properly? Something like this:  21...h6 22.Nh7 Nd2 23.Nxf8 Nxf1 24.Rxf1 Ne4 25.Qg4 Qxd5 26.Nd7 Rd8 27.hxg6 Rxd7 28.gxf7+ Rxf7 29.Rxf7 Kxf7 30.Qxg7+ etc. The alternative would be 21.axb3 Ne8 22.Qf3 Nf6 23.Bxf6 Qxf6 24.Qxf6 gxf6 25.Ne4 which looks holdable for black after Bxe4.]  

21.Ne6 Nxe6 22.dxe6 Qe7 23.Bf4 a5 24.Bd1 Be8 25.Rf2 a4 26.Rd2 Rd8 27.Bc2 Diagram 

White has a passed centre pawn deep in enemy territory plus all his long range pieces left on the board to back it up. Still, the engine believes the extra pawn makes it equal, somehow...

27...Bc6 28.h5 Nc8 29.Rf2 Rd5 30.h6 g6 31.b3 Nd6 32.bxa4 Rc5 33.Bc1 Diagram

Here, the engine finally starts seeing a white advantage, which grows and grows...  

33...Rc4 34.Bb3 Diagram

Finally, the bishop is back where he belongs! 34...Rc5 (34...Ne4 35.Ba3! Nxg3 (35...Qxa3 36.Qxc7) 36.Bxe7+-) 35.Ba3 Rg5 36.Qd3 Rh5 37.Rd1 Rxh6 (37...Rd8 38.Qd4+-) 38.Bxd6 cxd6 39.Qxd6 Qxd6 40.Rxd6+- Diagram  And now, black can safely resign, but for some reason he keeps on "fighting". It seems that following the moves suggested by the engine is easier than taking the consequences of its evaluations...

The game ended: 40...Kg7 41.a5 Rh5 42.a6 Kh6 43.e7 Re8 44.Re2 Ra5 45.axb7 Bxb7 46.Bf7 Raa8 47.Bxe8 Rxe8 48.Rd8 Bc6 49.Re6 Ba4 50.Rxe8 Bxe8 51.Rxf6 Kg7 52.Rf8 1-0 A, Krzyzanowski - R, Tacke-Ungruh, corr ICCF 2009.

And now over to the analysis in the chesspub thread, which chooses to put the rook behind the advanced pawn instead.

15.Rad1 Diagram

15...Bd6 16.Ne4 Nc8 17.Nfg5! Diagram


(17...Bxd1 18.Bxd6 Nxd6 (18...cxd6 19.Nf6+ Kh8 20.Nfxh7 (RR 20.Qd3 g6 21.Bxd1 (>Qh3) also wins - TJ.) 20...Bh5 21.Qh4 "And Black's position is completely lost." - Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta.) 19.Nf6+ Qxf6 20.Rxf6 Bxb3 21.Qd3+/- - Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta.)

(Btw, 17...Bxf4 18.Rxf4 Bxd1? also runs into 19.Nf6+ )

18.Bc2 "Maneuvering the bishop to this new diagonal is very logical as it had no realistic prospects on the closed a2-g8 diagonal." - Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta. 18...Bxf4 19.Rxf4 Nd6 20.Nxh7!! Nxe4

(20...Bxh7 21.Nf6+ Qxf6 22.Bxh7+ Kxh7 23.Rxf6 gxf6 24.Qh4++-; 20...Bxe4 21.Bxe4 Nxe4 22.Rxe4 Kxh7 23.Qh3+ Kg8 24.Rh4 f6 25.Rh7 (>Qh5) 25...Qe8 26.Rh8+ Kf7 27.Qh5+ Ke7 28.Re1+)

21.Qxg6! fxg6 22.Rxf8+ Kxh7 23.Rxd8 Rxd8 24.Bxe4 "This resulting endgame slightly favors White, even with the IQP because of the weakness of the c7 pawn, and the doubled g-pawns." - Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta.

What, a queen sac with no diagram??
Well, actually, it turns out that the more pedestrian 21.Bxe4! Diagram

is much stronger, though less spectacular, e.g: 21...Kxh7 (21...Bxh7 22.Bxh7+ Kxh7 23.Qh3+ Kg8 24.Rh4) 22.Qh3+ Kg8 23.Rh4 Qxh4 24.Qxh4 Bxe4 25.Qxe4+- - TJ.

So, black must retrace his steps, and try to find out where to improve. Which brings us back to the fork at move 13 and the first recorded instance of 13.Qe1!?

B) 13...Bd6!? Diagram This strikes me as the most logical, since Na6 + Bd6 as above, spend two moves to deal with the pressure on the h2-c7 diagonal. If Be7-d6 is necessary anyway, it makes sense to play it at once, allowing Nb8 the option of going to d7 instead.

a) 14.Bxd6!? might be most promising, though it's not easy figuring out exactly what's going on... E.g: 14...cxd6 (14...Qxd6? 15.Ne4 +/-) 15.Qg3 Bxf3 16.Rxf3 Nc8 (16...N8d7 17.Qxd6 Nc8 18.Qf4 Qb6+ 19.Kh1 Nd6 20.Raf1 and white has an obvious edge.) 17.Ne4 Nd7 18.Raf1 Ne5 19.Rf6 (19.Re3 f6) 19...Qb6+ 20.Kh1 Diagram

Black has held on to the extra pawn, but paid by giving up the harmony in his position. So white has at least compensation for the pawn, perhaps even an edge if the engine can be trusted, e.g: 20...Qb5 (20...Rb8 21.Qh4 Qe3 22.Bc2 h6 23.R6f2 Kh8 24.Ng3 Qg5 25.Qb4; By the way, the "natural" 20...Kh8?? loses to 21.Qh3! (>Ng5) e.g. 21...Qd4 22.Ng5 Qd3 23.Nxf7+ Rxf7 24.Rxf7 Ne7 25.Qxd3 Nxd3 26.Rxe7) 21.Bc2 h6 22.R6f2 - this will of course need a lot more work, so see it as a place to start your own investigations...

b) 14.Ne5 is another option, I kind of like the look of it, but the computer isn't all that impressed... But if you got the time, it might be worth a closer look. 14...Bh5 15.Qg3!? (15.Ne4 Na6 16.Rc1) ;

And now what happened in the game, which of course follows the engine's main line.

c) 14.Qg3 Bxf4 15.Qxf4 Bxf3 16.Rxf3 Diagram

(Btw: Just before posting this, it struck me that 15.Qxg4!? may be worth a much closer look, as opposite coloured bishops usually favour the one with the initiative.)

At first glance, white looks obviously better, but black can get his knight to block the d-pawn just in time. 16...Nc8! (16...N8d7 17.d6 cxd6 18.Bxf7+ Kh8 19.Qxd6)  


(17.Rh3 Nd6 18.Ne4 (18.Nb5 Nxb5 19.Bc2 is a brutal draw, according to my engine.) 18...Qe7 19.Bc2 h6 20.Nxd6 Qxd6 21.Qf5 g6 22.Qd3 Nd7 23.Rxh6 Qb6+ 24.Kh1 Qxb2 25.Rf1 Qg7 26.Rh3 Rae8 and black is alright, though white is probably also alright, i.e he should be able to hold a draw.)

17...Nd6 18.Raf1 Qe7 19.Re3 Nd7 20.Ng5 Qf6 21.Qg4 Qg6 22.Qxd7 Qxg5 23.Qe7 Qh6 24.Rh3 Qd2 25.Qxc7 Qd4+ 26.Kh1 Rfd8 Diagram

27.Qc3? (27.Qc2 White should keep the queens on and look for ways to trade the d5 pawn for something. At least, it won't be easy for black to make headway without allowing counter-chances.) 27...Qxc3 28.Rxc3 Rac8 29.Rxc8 Rxc8 Now the odds are firmly in black's favour. The passed pawn is securely blocked and a long term weakness, while white has no counter-play. You can call me biased, but I don't want to look too closely at what now happened to white.

The game ended thus: 30.Re1 b5 31.Kg1 a5 32.Kf2 Kf8 33.a3 g6 34.Ba2 Kg7 35.Re2 Kf6 36.h3 h6 37.Kf3 Rc1 38.g4 Rd1 39.Kf2 Rd3 40.Kg2 a4 41.Bb1 Rxd5 42.h4 Nc4 43.Ba2 Rd4 44.Kg3 g5 45.Bxc4 bxc4 46.hxg5+ hxg5-+ Definitely time to resign, but hope springs eternal...? 47.Kf3 Rd3+ 48.Kf2 c3 49.bxc3 Rxc3 50.Re4 Rxa3 51.Kg2 Ra1 52.Kf2 a3 53.Ra4 Ke5 54.Kf3 Kd5 55.Kg2 Kc5 0-1 Venus,U-Schaefer,U 2006.

Now we can look forward to Play the Petroff by Ronen Har-Zvi and Ankit Gupta in 2011, which, hopefully will give King's Gambiteers all around the world more chances to push the f-pawn at move two! :)

And if they are as generous with interesting ideas in their book as in the chesspub forum, I may well be tempted to get a copy myself!

edit: just opened a new chesspub thread on 13.Qe1!?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Beating the Kazon...

I've been waiting for my last opponent to resign for a couple of months now, after which I thought I'd get around to comment the rest of the games.

But by now I've kind of lost interest in the project. Too many of the opponents seem to fail the "Turing Test" by dragging out hopeless positions way too long. Still, most of the games were actually quite interesting so I guess I shouldn't complain. And if there's a new Chesspub team next year, I'd probably be prepared to play again (if asked upon), despite that it is very time consuming.

Anyway, here are the links to my games (in the order they were decided), if the few readers of this blog have any questions on particular positions in the games - feel free to ask by adding a comment below. Interesting questions may spawn a further dissection in future posts. :)

TJ-Triay Moll
Ciuro Munoz-TJ
Polo Molina-TJ

TJ-Tunega is still remaining, mostly because Black is "fighting" by waiting 2-4 weeks between moving. At the moment, I have 217 days left, he has 77 and we will both get an extra 50 days after two more moves... (the time control is 10 moves in 50 days)

When it's finally over, I may take a closer look at it, as it's one of my top three favourites (along with Kuhl-TJ and TJ-Dorer) and perhaps the game I spent most time on, analysing, though it's a very close shave between that game and the Kuhl-game...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Power of Habits

Here's a small way to contribute something to saving our world.

Just change your default search engine to Ecosia, and every search you do will save two square metres of rainforest.

It may not sound like much, but the power of habit always has a big impact, over time. Just imagine how many times you search for something on the net every day, week, month, year - and if you spread the word and just one of your friends starts to use it, and then convinces just one of his or her friends to also start using it every time...

And why stop now? There are hundreds of other habits that can be added to your routine, e.g. why not try: eating vegetarian food once a week, take the stairs instead of the elevator every day, smoke one less cigarette than you did the day before, turn off your TV once a week and use the time to read or spend the time with someone you like.

All journeys start with a single step, repeated until you're there! :)

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The RetiCK - final part

1.e4 c6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 dxe4 4.Ne2!? Bf5 5.Ng3 e6 This is Schandorff's recommendation in The Caro-Kann.

6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Qe2

A) Schandorff also mentions a slight deviation on Black's part: 7...Nbd7 which does look sensible.  

8.Ngxe4 Be7 Diagram 

Reprintsev-Dreev, Internet blitz 2003.

And now, instead of "castling into it" with 0-0-0 as in the game, I think white should develop with g3, Bg2 and castle kingside or perhaps delay castling to first see where the black king goes, and then decide if his own king should follow suit or not. For example: 9.g3 Qa5 10.Bg2 h5 11.h4 (11.h3!? h4 12.g4 Bg6 13.a3) 11...0-0-0 12.0-0-0 Nxe4 13.Bxe4 Bxe4 14.Qxe4.

B) 7...Bb4!? An idea inspired by the real Reti Gambit vs the French - and even there it looks suspicious to me. So, personally, if I were Black here, I wouldn't be interested in exchanging my darkfielder for a measly c3-knight just to keep an exposed e4-pawn. But Caro-Kann players are usually more likely to argue that 'Greed is Good'.

8.0-0-0 Diagram

8...Bxc3 This is similar to the mainline in the real Reti Gambit (1.e4 e6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 dxe4 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Qe2 Bb4 6.0-0-0 Bxc3). Personally, as black, I'd rather go for Dreev's Nbd7 and Be7 above. But this is of course a big part of what makes Chess so interesting - we all have different preferences and ideas, so what one considers 'doubtful' or 'too weakening' another will label 'ambitious' or 'interesting'.

(By the way, 8...Qe7 might be worth a try - if there is a CK-player who would not hang on to an extra pawn for dear life?! 9.Ncxe4 Bxe4 (9...Ba3? 10.Nxf5+- ; 9...Nxe4 10.Nxe4 Ba3 11.Ng3=) 10.Nxe4 Nbd7=)

B1) 9.dxc3!? Allowing the pawns to be doubled on the c-file and removing the d-pawn pawn from the centre. But on the other hand it opens the d-file and allows White to control the d5-square by means of c3-c4, without weakening the pawn cover of his king.

9...Nbd7 10.c4 Qa5 Diagram

And now according to Schandorff, white doesn't have enough for the pawn. Which may of course be true, but in the following game white still beat "a computer enhanced human", and the dark squares in Black's camp do look kind of inviting.

So, to me it's a verdict open to at least debate. 11.Nxf5 (11.Qe3 Bg6 (11...Qxa2 12.Nxf5 exf5 13.Qg5 Qa5 14.Qxg7 Rg8 15.Qh6=) 12.Kb1 0-0-0=/+) 11...Qxf5 (11...exf5 12.Qe3) 12.h3 Qg5+ (12...Qf4+!? 13.Kb1 0-0-0 14.Bc1 Qf5) 13.Kb1 0-0-0 (13...h5!? 14.Bc1 Qg6 15.Qe3 and white can play for g2-g4 or hope to open the g-file with f3 perhaps. My engine consider white to be "0.3" down, which in human terms sound like "compensation". In a blunderchess game I suppose both sides would be reasonably happy.) 14.g4 h5?! 15.Bc1 Qg6 16.g5 Ne8 17.f3 exf3 18.Qxf3 with initiative, the game we're following continued: 18...f5 19.Qe3 a6 20.Ba3 Nc7 21.Be7 Rde8 22.Bd6 e5 23.Qa7 Rd8 24.h4 e4 25.Bf4 Qe8 26.c5 Nb8 27.Rd6 Qe7 28.Be2 Rd7 29.Rhd1 Rhd8 30.R1d4 1-0 Berlinger,G-Caressa,M (2126) ICCF Email 2003.

B2) 9.Bxc3 This gains the bishop pair without incurring any static weaknesses, but on the other hand it doesn't increase White's chances for dynamic counter-play either.   


(9...Nbd7 10.Nxf5 exf5 11.g4! fxg4 12.h3 Qc7?! (12...g3 13.Rg1!?) 13.hxg4 Qf4 14.g5 Qxg5 15.Bh3 Qc5 16.f3 0-0-0 17.Bxf6 (17.fxe4) 17...gxf6 18.fxe4 Qd6 19.Bf5 +/- Borwell,A (2215)-Coleby,R (2058)/ICCF 2008 (1-0 68).)  

10.h4 Diagram


(10...h6!? may be a more exact way for black to play, as white's d3-idea loses some force. 11.h5 Bh7 12.f3 (12.d3 exd3 13.Qe1 (13.Qd2?! a5! with g5 unavailable, there was no point in playing Qd2, as black has other options than moving the queen.) 13...Nbd7 14.Bxd3 Bxd3 15.Rxd3 Qc7 with an edge for black, as his queen is more actively placed to limit the weakness on the dark squares.) 12...exf3 13.gxf3 Nbd7 14.Ne4 Qe7 15.Re1 0-0-0 16.Qh2 Diagram

with reasonable compensation due to better dark square control and the bishop pair.)

11.d3!?N Diagram

My computers idea, the point seems to be that with an open centre white can optimise all his pieces, making it hard for black to break out to make his extra pawn count. Having a black pawn on h5 probably helps white, as it will require either to be defended by pieces or the weakening of more dark squares if ...g6 needs to be played.

[11.f3 exf3 12.gxf3 Qc7 13.Ne4 Nbd7 Horvath-Krizsany, HUN 1995. "White has some compensation for the pawn, but Black is solid and I prefer the material" - Schandorff.
White has no immediate threats so he should probably set his house in order with moves like Rg1, Bh3 and Kb1 and then react to what black comes up with. Which is another way of saying that black is slightly better, I guess.]

11...exd3 12.Qd2!? 

[12.Qe1 Nbd7 13.Bxd3 Bxd3 14.Rxd3 Qc7 15.Kb1 0-0-0 16.Bb2 and with white's queen less active on e1, Black has a slightly better version than in the mainline.]  


[12...Qd5 13.Bxd3 Bxd3 14.Qe1 Nbd7 15.Rxd3 Qxg2 16.Nf5 Qg4 17.Nd6+ Kf8 18.Nxb7 looks promising for white.; 12...Na6 13.Bxd3 Bxd3 14.Qg5=;
12...Qe7 13.Bxd3 Bxd3 14.Qxd3 Nbd7 15.Rhe1 0-0-0 16.Nf5!? Qa3+ 17.Bb2 Qf8 18.Nd6+ Kb8 19.Nc4 Ka8 20.Qg3 with good compensation, perhaps more.]  

13.Bxd3 Bxd3 14.Qxd3 Qc7 15.Qf3 = with the white queen active on f3 and a black pawn on h5, White's compensation is better than in the note on 10...h6!?, for example:

15...0-0-0 16.Rhe1 Diagram

16...Nb6 [16...Kb8 17.Kb1] 17.Bd4 Nbd5 18.c4!? [18.Ne4 Nxe4 19.Rxe4 Rhe8 20.Qxh5 f6 21.Qf3] 18...Nb4 [18...Qf4+ 19.Re3!] 19.Bxf6 gxf6 20.a3 Na6 21.Qxf6 Qa5 22.Qb2 Rxd1+ [22...Qc7 23.Ne4 Qf4+ 24.Rd2 Rxd2 25.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 26.Kxd2+/=] 23.Rxd1 Rd8 24.Ne4= Diagram

White might even have an edge due to fewer pawn islands when it trades down to a simpler ending, but I'll let you determine that for yourself. After all, as Larsen said, a long variation is often a wrong variation...

In conclusion it seems that 2.b3 is (surprisingly enough) playable for White, even with Bc8 outside of the pawn chain. Though you shouldn't expect an edge, unless Black gets over confident or too cavalier.

Still, while there are more critical variations available for a booked-up White-player, 2.b3 seems a decent surprise weapon, and over the board I'd suspect that it gets stronger and stronger as the players get weaker, since Black needs some experience and a sense of danger to not underestimate White's chances in the middlegame...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

RetiCK - quick reply to a reader suggestion

1.e4 c6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 dxe4 4.Ne2 Nd7 5.Ng3 Ngf6 6.Nc3 Nc5 7.Qe2 Bg4 8.Qe3 e6!? Diagram This is a suggestion from a reader of my first post on 2.b3 vs CK.

9.h3 Bf5

A) 10.Nxf5 exf5 11.g4!? f4! (11...Qd7 12.0-0-0 0-0-0 =; 11...fxg4?! 12.hxg4 Nxg4 13.Qe2 Nf6 14.0-0-0 Be7 15.Bh3 Qd6 16.Rde1 +=) 12.Qxf4 Ne6 13.Qg3 (13.Qe3 Bc5 14.Qg3 Bd6) 13...Bd6 14.Qg2 Nf4 15.Qg1 Diagram This is = (0.00) according to my engine, and probably it's right as white can pressure pawn e4 with 0-0-0, Re1, g4-g5 and even f2-f3.

B) 10.d4!? is an interesting alternative. 10...Ncd7 Diagram

Here white has a selection of choices, depending on what level of risk is acceptable for him.  


11.Ncxe4 Nxe4 12.Nxe4 Bxe4 13.Qxe4 Qa5+ 14.c3 Ba3 15.Qc2 Bxb2 16.Qxb2 0-0 17.Be2 =;
11.0-0-0 Nd5 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Nxf5 (13.f3) 13...exf5 14.g4;
11.Nxf5 exf5 12.g4.

11...Bd6!? looks critical.

11...Bg6 12.fxe4 Qa5 13.0-0-0 Ba3 (13...Bb4 14.Kb1) 14.Be2 0-0-0 15.h4 h6 16.Bxa3 Qxa3+ 17.Kb1 Nb6 18.Rhf1 =;
11...Nd5 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.fxe4 Bg6 (13...dxe4 14.0-0-0) 14.0-0-0=

12.Nxf5 exf5 13.fxe4 0-0 Diagram

14.0-0-0 (14.e5? c5!) 14...Nxe4 15.Nxe4 Re8 16.Kb1 Diagram


16...Rxe4 17.Qd2 Nf6 18.Bd3 Rf4?! (18...Re8 19.Bxf5=) 19.d5 cxd5 (19...Nxd5 20.c4!) 20.g3 (20.g4) 20...Rf3 21.g4 Diagram # with initiative.

17.d5 Be5 18.dxc6 bxc6 19.Bc1 Bf6 20.g4 Diagram with good compensation for the pawn according to the machine. Probably based on the bishop pair and a minority pawn storm with g4-g5. But if you're going to play any of this, you should of course check everything for yourself more carefully.


Monday, 16 August 2010

The Reti Gambit vs the Caro-Kann

Over the years since I wrote The Fascinating Reti Gambit in 2006, people have occasionally asked me if the same set-up can be used against other openings than the French Defence. Especially the Scandinavian and Caro-Kann have been suggested. I don't know if this is because they've fallen in love with having a bishop on b2 or if they're not interested in booking up against openings they seldom encounter.

However, I have hardly taken this seriously, as it must be a completely different scenario when Black's Bc8 is allowed to come out without any loss of time - and in the Scandinavian Black also has c6 available for the knight, which should put a stop to this idea once and for all.

Though, in blitz I sometimes use a home brewed system after 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5/Qd6/Qd8 etc and now just Nf3, Be2, and then either 0-0 and b3 or first b3, Bb2 and see what happens. Why not call it The Jokhansson-system, if it needs a name. ;)

It's not very ambitious of course, but in 3 minute blitz online, the Scandinavian with Qxd5 is both very popular and annoying as the Black player usually has an enormous experience of the mainline positions and responds instantly up to around move thirty, and by then you are already pressured on the clock...

And now, back to 2.b3 versus the Caro-Kann. It was only when I recently was looking at the Caro-Kann from Black's point of view that I noticed in two recent repertoire books that 2.b3 was actually dealt with - though with little enthusiasm from the authors! :)

Their lack of enthusiasm may have resulted in some slight wishful thinking though, as my impression when seeing their lines was that White was basically equal and not worse, but with a somewhat different position than CK-players are used to play. By the way, as White over the years I've mainly relied on the Fantasy variation (2.d4 d5 3.f3!?) and more recently on the Apocalypse variation (2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Ne5!?), but after finally seeing the modern theory on the mainlines, I can see why they are usually preferred.

So, a reasonably ambitious White player should no doubt play 3.Nc3 or 3.e5 in my opinion - but there is something with the CK-solidity that often makes White want to play "something surprising" instead (probably because he never bothered learning the theory, as 1...c6 isn't all that popular, and weaker players punting it often crumble easily when surprised.) and there are many, many ideas to choose from and unlike in the French and Sicilian, it's hard for Black to really punish these off-beat ideas, as he has already committed to building a fort - so frequently black just builds the fort according to plan and waits for White to come to him.

And now finally a look at some concrete lines in the RetiCK - or whatever we should call 2.b3 here?! First according to Houska and then Schandorff.

1.e4 c6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 dxe4 4.Ne2!?

Houska mentions two ways to play for black.

A) 4...Nf6 5.Ng3 Nbd7 6.Nc3 Nc5 7.Qe2 (7.h3) 7...Bg4 Diagram

Now 8.f3 is forced according to Houska.

(But to me it looks like 8.Qe3! is a better move, e.g: 8...Qb6 (or 8...e5 9.Ngxe4 with a roughly equal position with fighting-potential, White can hardly expect more than this with 2.b3 vs the Caro-Kann.) 9.Bc4 (9.a4!?) 9...e6 10.h3 Bf5 11.Nxf5 (11.d4!?) 11...exf5 12.Qf4 (12.g4!?) 12...Be7 13.Qxf5 0-0 14.0-0 Rad8 15.d3! exd3 16.Rfe1 Ne6 (16...Bd6? 17.Na4!+-; 16...Rde8 17.cxd3 Qc7 18.d4) 17.Bxd3 +=)

8...exf3 9.gxf3 Bd7 10.0-0-0 (10.Nce4 Ne6 11.Bh3 Qc7) 10...Ne6 Bokuchava-Gurgenidze, USSR 1974. And now I think 11.Qe3!? is best again, covering most of Ne6's options, opening the way for Bf1 and perhaps supporting f4-f5 or d4-d5. Black has a pawn and no weaknesses, but his position is a little congested. In blunderchess white probably has decent compensation, but in corr perhaps not quite full comp..

B) 4...Bf5 5.Ng3 Diagram

The knight hits the bishop and pawn-e4, but also blocks the g-pawn - all necessary to recover the pawn, but also another thing that makes it less similar to the real Reti gambit. Throwing the g-pawn up the board, though weakening, has the usual effect of creating volatile positions with "cut and thrust" play. Now, with the pawn firmly on g2, Black has little to fear except the loss of his extra pawn.

5...Bg6 6.Nc3!? Diagram  Here I prefer to simply take back the pawn ASAP with the text move, without further ado.

Houska gives 6.h4 and even awards it an "!", h4-h5 may be a standard move in the mainline CKs, but here, to me at least, it looks more like a long term weakness. Worse still, is that it doesn't really lead to the kind of play you want as white - as can be seen from the humdrum examples below.

6...h6 (6...h5!? ) 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.h5 Bh7 9.Qe2 e6 10.0-0-0 Nbd7 11.Ngxe4
(11.Ncxe4 Qa5 12.Kb1 Nd5 13.Nc3 N7f6 14.Qf3 Nb4 15.d3 Nfd5 16.Nge2 Be7 17.a3 Nxc3+ 18.Nxc3 Nd5 19.Nxd5 cxd5 20.Qg4 Bxa3 21.Qxg7 Bxb2 22.Kxb2 Ke7 23.Rh4 Rac8 24.c4 b5 25.Rf4 Bf5 26.Qe5 f6 27.Qe3 dxc4 28.dxc4 Rhd8 29.Rfd4 bxc4 30.Qc3 Qxc3+ 31.Kxc3 cxb3+ 32.Bc4 Rxc4+ 0-1 Klee Helmut (GER) (2311)-Van Elsen Danny (BEL) (2248), corr.)
11...Qa5 12.Kb1 Be7 13.d4 (13.g3 0-0-0 14.Bg2 Nd5= Mazalon-Jaroch, Solec Kuj 2003.) 13...0-0-0 14.Qf3 Kb8 15.Bd3 Ka8 16.Nxf6 Nxf6 17.Bxh7 Rxh7 18.Ne4 Rhh8 19.Nxf6 Bxf6 20.d5 Bxb2 21.Kxb2 cxd5 22.Qxf7 Rhg8 23.Rh4 Rdf8 24.Qxe6 Qd8 25.Rg4 Rxf2 26.Re1 a6 27.Qe7 Qxe7 28.Rxe7 Rf5 29.Rb4 b5 30.Rg4 Rxh5 31.Rf4 Rg5 1/2-1/2 Cortifias,V-Zamora Aleaga,J, Cuba 1996, corr.

6...Nf6 7.Qe2 Nbd7 8.Ngxe4 Diagram

Why not unblock the g-pawn? The most natural way to develop now is g3, Bg2 and 0-0, (though 0-0-0 might be possible too). Playing for g2-g4 is hardly recommendable, as it weakens f4 and besides, since pawn e4 has already been recovered there's not much point in chasing Nf6 to an even more active post on d5 or encouraging a knight exchange on e4 for that matter.

By the way, 8.Ncxe4 Qc7 9.h4 h5 10.0-0-0 0-0-0 is preferred by my silicon friend, but it hurts my eyes to see Bf1 standing there boxed in, looking like a big pawn. What the engine likes is probably the chance to gain space with d4 and c4 - but it can hardly be wise to "storm the fort" with less than full force...

8...e6 Developing as usual - and incidentally stopping White's mate threat.  

9.g3 (9.g4? h5!? (9...Nd5!?; 9...Qa5!?) 10.g5 Nxe4 11.Nxe4 Bxe4 12.Qxe4 Qxg5) 9...Qa5 10.a3!? (10.a4?! Bb4 11.Bg2 looks more comfortable for black, as pawn d2 may be a tactical weakness.) 10...Be7 11.Bg2 0-0 (11...0-0-0 12.0-0 (12.b4!?) 12...h5 13.b4 would allow both players to "slug it out".)

12.0-0 Diagram

with a roughly level situation (though my computer prefers Black slightly), where the better player may still prevail. White's game plan will most likely involve advancing his q-side pawns, playing for an eventual b3-b4-b5 or perhaps d2-d4-d5. Black's play will probably involve piece manoeuvres and exchanges, saving c6-c5 or e6-e5 until white has declared his intentions.

Thus far we has some slight remedies against what Houska recommended in Play the Caro-Kann in 2007.

In my next post I'll take a look at what Schandorff recommends for Black in his very recently published repertoire book The Caro-Kann.