Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mate by castling

Over four years ago, I published a game where I administered checkmate by capturing en passant. Here I deliver another very rare form of checkmate: mate by castling. This appears to be comparable in rarity to mate by en passant. Other examples of it include P. Morphy-A. Morphy, New Orleans 1850, and Kvicala-NN, Prague 1875. The famous game Ed. Lasker-Thomas, London 1912 is not an instance of this, since Edward Lasker in that game chose to play 18.Kd2# rather than 18.0-0-0. Nor, it appears, is Prins-Day, Lugano (ol) 1968, despite the score of that game given at, which shows the game ending with 31...0-0-0#. According to Day, the winner of the game, who should know, the game actually ended after 28...Qe4+. He writes, "And my opponent resigned, unwilling to investigate 29.K-B6 Q-B4+ 30.K-N7 Q-N3+ 31.K-R8 and Black has a choice of absurd mates." Raymond D. Keene (ed.), Learn from the Grandmasters, p. 108. Mate by castling is thus sufficiently rare that I have been unable to find an example of it occurring in the entire 20th century!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A trap in the Caro-Kann Defense, Exchange Variation

I found this trap in Amatzia Avni's excellent book Danger in Chess: How to Avoid Making Blunders. The identical trap can arise by transposition from other openings, such as the London System (1.d4 d5 2.Bf4). The winning idea is sufficiently unusual that most White players missed it - ChessBase shows that in the position after Black's 12th move, only 5 out of 31 players found the winning move! All six masters and experts that reached the position played 13.Nxe5??, scoring only 3-3.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A trap in the Quaade Gambit

What on earth is the Quaade Gambit, you ask? It's a line of the King's Gambit that begins 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Nc3!?, deviating from the usual Kieseritzky prescription of 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5. The line is named for a 19th-century Dutch sea captain (not to be confused with Captain Evans, a Welshman). The natural response is 4...g4 5.Ne5 Qh4+, when White responds with the surprising 6.g3! fxg3 7.Qxg4! Now Black can and should trade queens, when Black will be a pawn up but White's lead in development and better pawn structure give him sufficient compensation.

But who can resist the temptation to win a rook with 7...g2+ 8.Qxh4 gxh1=Q? Not many, according to the databases. But resist Black should, for after 9.Qh5! he is in big trouble. According to John Shaw in his magnum opus on the King's Gambit, Black's best chance is 9...Nh6! 10.d4 d6 11.Bxh6 dxe5 12.Qxe5+ Be6 13.Qxh8 Nd7 14.Bxf8 0-0-0 15.Qxh7 Nxf8 16.Qh6 Ng6 17.0-0-0 Rh8 18.Qd2 Qxh2 19.Qxh2 Rxh2 20.Bd3, when White is a pawn up in the endgame with good winning chances. In the game below, Black instead went down in flames, as he usually does in this line. White won a once-in-a-lifetime beauty of a game:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Another trap in the Caro-Kann, Two Knights Variation

Bobby Fischer wrote in My 60 Memorable Games that the purpose of the Two Knights Variation against the Caro-Kann Defense (1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3) "is to exclude the possibility of" ...Bf5. As I've showed previously, Black indeed gets in big trouble if he proceeds in stereotyped fashion with 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5?! 5.Ng3 Bg6?! But the Two Knights Variation is no one-trick pony. The following game shows another, much less-known trap in the 3...Bg4 line, which is considered Black's best. As the game and notes show, after 4.d4!?, Black gets in hot water if he tries to win a pawn with the natural 4...dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bxf3 6.Qxf3 Qxd4. Better is the solid 4...e6!, which gives Black a plus score in the databases. Scott Thomson ("keypusher" on sets the stage for the game:
I don't have the score, but as our Secretary of State might say it is seared -- seared! in my memory. . . . It was when I lived in England in the early 90s, and for some reason -- perhaps a cholera epidemic -- I was playing first board for Wood Green in a team match. There was a pub next door, to which my opponent repaired after each move (which he took about five seconds on).
Deceived by his opponent's alcohol consumption and seemingly reckless play, Scott proceeded to lose a miniature in humiliating fashion. We've all been there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hello world 2.0 - July 2014

*Wakes up from 6½-month hibernation*

Kindly check out the Chicago Chess Center Blog: I'll be hanging out there for the foreseeable future. As with all new web spaces, it may take us a little time to get up to speed....

Jim Froelich's Chicago Area Chess usergroup on Facebook is a great place to chat and gossip, and the Illinois Chess Association's tournament calendar, maintained by the indefatigable Maret Thorpe, keeps you up-to-date on where to play. It's because of these two great resources that I didn't feel guilty about a sabbatical.

I'll certainly keep this blog up, and I may occasionally post things over here that are incompatible with the CCC's nonprofit mission. And of course, my very nice co-editors are always welcome to continute to use this space for anything of interest to the Chicago chess community or to woodpushers in general.  Thanks to Keith Ammann, Vince Hart, Matt Pullin, Tom Panelas, and especially NM Frederick Rhine for their contributions. 

And thanks to you folks for visiting this site and giving us useful feedback! Your thoughts are always welcome: my personal email is and my Chicago Chess Center email is

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Another trap in From's Gambit

DO NOT play 1.f4 unless you have an answer ready for From's Gambit, 1...e5!? King's Gambiteers can happily play 2.e4. The line White played in the game was fine up to a point. IM Tim Taylor in his book Bird's Opening recommends 7.d4 Ng6 8.Nxg6 hxg6 9.Qd3! Nc6 10.c3! Bf5 11.e4 Qe7 12.Bg2 0-0-0 13.Be3 Bd7 14.Bf2!, when Black doesn't have enough compensation for the gambit pawn. Another line is 5.d4 g4 6.Ne5!, heading into a slightly better ending for White after 6...Bxe5 7.dxe5 Qxd1+ 8.Kxd1. Instead of playing these reasonable lines, most of my blitz opponents have played ridiculously and gotten crushed. A case in point:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Chess for Chicago's youth

I've read a string of wonderful stories in the last week about young Chicago-area players making their mark on their chessboard:
  • The Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship is winding up today in Lubbock, Texas. Most of the young masters on the University of Illinois team are from the Chicago area. Today, the "walk-ons" play a much stronger team from Texas Tech (international players on chess scholarships!) to try to return to the Final Four of chess for a second consecutive year. Please join me in wishing Eric Rosen, Michael Auger, Xin Luo, and Akshay Indusekar the best of luck today! By the time you read this, you may be able to see whether the Illini qualified.
  • David Peng of Wilmette (whose coach is Grandmaster Dmitry Gurevich of Chicago) just won a silver medal in the World Under-10 Championship in Al-‘Ain, United Arab Emirates. Who won the gold medal in the same section? Awonder Liang of Wisconsin, who often studies with Chicago grandmasters.
  • And just a couple of weeks ago, Sam Schmakel of Chicago's Whitney Young High School won his fifth national scholastic title. For this accomplishment, Sam was featured in yesterday's New York Times.
I've played tournament games against six of these seven young people, and have analyzed with the seventh.  I feel honored to know them!

So chess in Chicago must be doing wonderfully, no? Not according to Dylan Loeb McClain, the author of the Schmakel feature:
Schmakel's school, Whitney Young High, is a magnet school that is part of the Chicago public school system and is where Michelle Obama graduated. It was the only representative at the K–12 Championships from the city, which is not known as a chess stronghold. More students are enrolled in scholastic chess programs and are sent to tournaments across the country from schools in New York, which sends more teams to competitions than any other city; Miami; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and even Brownsville, Tex.
It is unusual for a city as large as Chicago, with 2.7 million people, to have only one school enter a tournament as prestigious as the K–12 Championships. By comparison, Los Alamos, N.M., population 18,000, also sent one school.
It helps to go to a great magnet school. It helps to have parents who are willing to make financial sacrifices in order to give their children the opportunity to succeed. But most of the talented young people in our city won't be admitted to Whitney Young. And many of their parents would love to give their children greater opportunities but are barely making ends meet.

In my last fundraising pitch, I also asked for financial assistance to send teams from two Chicago West Side schools to the same Florida event at which Sam Schmakel won his fifth title. In the end, the schools could not accept the money that several kind people (including a CPS administrator) pledged. The airfares jumped in price as the deadline approached, and the trip was called off.

Could these kids have succeeded at Nationals? Of course they could have: the team from Faraday Elementary, which draws its students from some of the most dangerous neighborhoods on the West Side, just finished third in a December 14 Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago event.

The Chicago Chess Center does not want to turn children away because their parents can't afford to pay us. Please help us open our doors: please help us help them.


Speaking only for myself, I don't have very much interest in turning young players into grandmasters. It matters more to me that one of my former students is a freshman at an Ivy League school than his having earned an International Master norm. Chess is a fun way to teach critical thinking skills, the skills that turn kids into high achievers.

Children don't get to choose how much money their parents have, and they don't get to choose the neighborhood they are raised in. We want to be there for all of these children, but we can't do it without your support.

We are fortunate to have GMs Dmitry Gurevich, Yury Shulman, Nikola Mitkov and Mesgen Amanov on our advisory board, which also includes leaders from Chicago's nonprofit and business community.

My friend and fellow board member Dave Ducat made a compelling pitch on Facebook the other day. I can't improve on it, so I'll steal Dave's words:

Of course you're thinking that this is Chicago and that there has to be such a place already . . . an actual "Chicago Chess Center" somewhere . . . right?
There is no physical "Chicago Chess Center" location in the city, and there hasn't been one within the city limits for over 20 years. Cities like St. Louis and Dallas have developed premier chess clubs, have set the new standard and have seen their international exposure and tourism increased over the last three to five years. I want that for Chicago. I want Chicago to become the center for chess in the United States, and I want it to set the example for other cities to follow.
I need your help to make the Chicago Chess Center a reality. I need your financial contributions to create a physical location, centralized and within easy access of public transportation, so that chess-playing people of all ages, all walks of life, and all neighborhoods in and around the city can have a place to call their own. I need your help to shape the future of chess in Chicago and shape it with our youth in mind.
When the CCC was founded, the board put together a campaign to raise $30,000 within a year to fund the acquisition, furnishing and rent of a suitable space to call the Chicago Chess Center. To date, through tireless solicitation by the board of directors as well as through key personal and corporate investments [...], we've been able to raise over half that amount [we're now over $18,000—BB]. It's my hope that you can find a few dollars to contribute to this worthy cause and help the CCC reach its goal of opening the doors of a new location in early 2014. We need your support to make this happen.
Please take a moment to review our website and click the "Donate Now" button. Please consider a donation of $50; however, any amount will be gratefully accepted. For the price of one latte a day for one week, you can make a lasting contribution to a worthwhile cause and help us achieve our mission.
Bill again.  Without your financial support, we may not be able to fulfill our mission. And we are so close to opening our doors . 

Please make your tax-deductible year-end donation now. Thank you for caring.

Bill Brock

Chicago Chess Center NFP Inc.

P.S.  If you'd like to make your donation by check, here's our mailing address:

Chicago Chess Center NFP Inc.
P.O. Box 180095
Chicago, IL 60618