Saturday, September 15, 2012

Answers to Day 2 Problems (Chess Homeschool)

Queens died prematurely in all of these miniatures.

This game was in Guinness for being the shortest game between two masters. 4.h3?? weakens White's defenses along the e1-h4 diagonal, and Black forces White to choose between loss of king or loss of queen:

Black was very brave to accept the Danish Gambit without the customary "return of gift" (3...d5!? or 5...d5!?).  But 6...Bg4? lost a pawn to the standard 7.Bxf7+! trick, and 9...Nf6?? allowed a skewer:

The next one isn't easy: the loser of this game, GM Ratmir Kholmov, once beat Bobby Fischer brilliantly. The in-between move 11...Bxg2! takes a flight square away from White's king so that 12...Bb4+ can only be answered by 13.Qd2. And if White makes a normal move (12.Qd2 or 12.Nc5), Black just takes the free rook.

Black relied on the absolute pin in the game below when he played 11...Rd8?? But after 12.Qxd8+! Kxd8 13.O-O-O+, White unpins with check and wins back the queen with interest.

I apologize for the unfairness of the next problem! (But you did have the big hint that a queen hunt was involved...) The big pitfall to avoid was 12.Bxe7?? Nf3+! winning White's queen. But after 12.Be2!, White really is threatening 13.Bxe7, as well as 13.Bh5 trapping the Black queen, and there's no way for Black to stop both threats.

Accidents happen when the queen doesn't have Luft (chess players use the German word for "air" to mean an escape square or airhole). After 5.Bxf7! Kxf7 loses the queen after 6.Ng5+ Ke8 7.Ne6 or 6...Kf8 7.Ne6+, and 6...Kf6 7.Qf3 is mate. Patzers like you and me might choose to play on after 5...Kf8, but after 6.Ng5, White is up a pawn with a winning attack.

Whenever the queen and king are lined up on the e-file, look for tactics! 9.Qxe5+?? opened the e-file, and Black immediately took advantage with 9...Kd7!, clearing the way for the Ra8 to come to e8. The bishop on c1 was already hanging, and White has no way to answer both threats (10.Qc3 Re8+ and mate in one move).

If you've lost material out of the opening, and you're playing in London in 1940, you should keep calm, carry on, and trap the opponent's queen. Booth played 12.c3!, and Black has no way to escape, nor to stop 13.Nb3. Give yourself full credit if you chose 12.O-O! instead: 12...Qxd4 loses to the discovered attack 13.Bb5+, and 12...Bd7 13.Qb4 is overwhelming for White (or so Houdini tells me).

It is good to threaten mate and the queen at the same time! 12.Nd5! is a killer because 12...Qxd2 is answered by 13.Nc7 checkmate, and 12...Rxd5 13.Qxa5 wins because the poor knight on c6 doesn't really protect a5: it's pinned. The winner of this game, former U.S. Champion GM Arnold Denker, donated the money to fund the annual Denker Tournament of High School Champions.

You've already seen the Bxf7+! followed by Ng5+ & Ne6 queen suffocation idea. The only difference in this game is that Black could have responded to 7.Bxf7! Kxf7 8.Ng5+ with 8...Kg8. While the queen is not lost, checkmate on f7 is Black's fate after 9.Qb3+

Friday, September 14, 2012

Two traps in the King's Gambit

The King's Gambit, that most romantic of openings, has repeatedly been pronounced dead. Over 80 years ago, Siegbert Tarrasch wrote in The Game of Chess (published in German in 1931, English translation in 1938), "I maintain it to be a decisive mistake." Rudolf Spielmann, "The Last Knight of the King's Gambit," was similarly pessimistic, writing an article at about the same time entitled, "From the Deathbed of the King's Gambit." In 1961, the first article in the inaugural issue of the American Chess Quarterly was Bobby Fischer's famous "A Bust to the King's Gambit," in which he opined, "the King's Gambit is busted. It loses by force."

Yet the King's Gambit, like a monster rising from the crypt, refuses to die. Fischer, a couple of years after pronouncing it dead, started playing it himself, scoring 3/3 against Evans (the editor of American Chess Quarterly!), Wade, and Minić! Today another American chess icon, Hikaru Nakamura, keeps playing it, even against world-class GMs. just published a three-part survey on the opening by Tim Harding (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

For almost as long as the gambit has existed, the Kieseritzky Variation (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5!? 4.h4! g4 5.Ne5) has been a critical line. Greco used it to thrash poor NN in 1620, over two centuries before its eponym, Lionel Kieseritzky, took up the line. Spassky and Fischer played the Kieseritzky in their famous first encounter at Mar del Plata 1960. (Fischer's experience in that game, in which he stood better out of the opening but lost, inspired him to advocate 3...d6 in his article, aiming for an improved version of the line, since White can no longer play Ne5.)

The Kieseritzky features very principled play by both sides. Black fights to hang onto his extra pawn, even at the cost of weakening his king-side with 3...g5; if unmolested, he will consolidate with ...Bg7 and ...h6. White further compromises his own king-side with 4.h4 in order to thwart this plan. In the olden days White often played 4.Bc4 instead, intending to sac a piece after 4...g4 5.0-0, the Muzio Gambit. This is rarely seen nowadays, since Black need not be so greedy. More solid is 4.Bc4 Bg7! 5.0-0 d6 (5...h6 and 5...Nc6 are also good). One example of this is Van de Wynkele-Semina, 1997, which continued 6.g3!? Nc6! 7.gxf4 gxf4 8.d4 Bg4 9.c3 Qf6 10.Qb3 0-0-0! Black won in 29 with an attack against White's gratuitously weakened king-side.

The game below is a short, sharp encounter between two 19th Century giants. I have altered its move order in order to illustrate a second trap. The game actually began 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 Bg7 (Paulsen's move, still considered strong today) 6.Nxg4?! (6.d4! is better) d5! 7.exd5?? Qe7+! The changed move order (3...d5 4.exd5 g5? (4...Nf6 is correct)) shows an ill-advised attempt to combine 3...g5 with the Modern Defense 3...d5, a strong and solid defense popular today. (See diagram.) This could have been refuted by 5.Qe2+! (mentioned in Volume 1 of Estrin and Glaskov's 1982 book Play the King's Gambit). Then Black drops a pawn or two after 5...Qe7 6.Nxg5; 5...Be7 6.Nxg5; or 5...Ne7 6.Qe5! Rg8 7.Nxg5; and loses his queen after 5...Kd7?? 6.Ne5+ (6...Ke8/e7 7.Nc6+; 6...Kd6 7.Nxf7+). Amazingly, no one seems to have actually played this very strong move. has seven games with this line, including one by Alekhine a year before his death. None of the players found 5.Qe2+!

The second trap is seen after 7...Qe7+!, an echo of the first. Once again a check on the King 2 (e2 for White, e7 for Black) spells disaster for the opponent, since an interposition will cause the opponent's piece on King Knight 4 (g5 for Black, g4 for White) to hang. Alternatively, a king move will leave the king fatally exposed. Paulsen had pulled off this same trap in a simul a year before. There he had played 9...Bxg4+ 10.Kxg4 Nf6+ 11.Kh3 Qd7+, when White could still have put up some resistance with 12.g4! fxg3+ 13.Kg2! Qxd5+ 14.Qf3 Qxf3+ 15.Kxf3. Although Black still has a won game after 15...Rg8, surviving to a bad ending is more than White deserves. This time around Paulsen improved with the bone-crushing 9...h5! Then 10.Nf2 Bg4+! quickly induced resignation in Gruzman-Arkanov, Russia (ch) 1978. Mackenzie tried 10.Bb5+, when 10...c6, 10...Kf8 (Fritz's preference), and Paulsen's 10...Kd8 all win with ease. Paulsen checkmated Mackenzie in short order.

14th North American Amateur Open this weekend

Cribbed from email: 

 Saturday and Sunday Sept 15th and 16th - North Shore Chess Center (Skokie, IL) 13th NA Amateur Open - 4R-SS G/90 + 30/sec increment. North Shore Chess Center, 5500 West Touhy Ave., Suite A, Skokie, IL 60077. 847.423.8626. EF: $40 for non-members of the chess center, $30 for members of the chess center received by 9/12. All $5 more onsite. Onsite registration - up to 15 minutes prior to round 1 or round 2. If registering prior to round 2, you will receive a half-point bye for round 1. Round times: 11am and 4pm each day. Half- point byes available in any round except final round. Prizes: 4.0 = $100, 3.5 = $75, 3.0 = $50, 2.5 = $25; Top U1800 & U1600 - Free entry to any tournament in the following month. Comparable prizes provided if you have previously won these prizes. Biggest Upset (150+ points): Free entry to any tournament in the following month. Parking: Free self-parking. Online registration only. Additional questions email to: USCF & FIDE rated. For online registration and list of more events please visit - More info and registration see Max 40 participants.

Reminder - Evanston rescheduled to 9/22

Info here!  There is no Evanston tournament tomorrow.

About yesterday's independent study.... (Day 3 followup)

Can everyone here mate with king and rook against king? This interactive lesson at teaches you the basic concept of restricting the king to a smaller and smaller space (think of Han Solo in the trash compactor, with the walls moving in).  No, the method taught in this lesson isn't the fastest, but it's easy for young people to understand.

But don't overdo it! Completely suffocating the enemy king is not necessarily a good thing.

White to play: find two really bad moves for White
Now imagine that White decides to play 1.Kc7 and Black responds 1...Ka7. I showed this position to a group of elementary school students and they were stumped. So I asked their parents to help, and THEY were stumped, too!

You should be able to checkmate in two moves from the above position.
White to play: checkmate in two moves if you can!

1. Pretend it's Black's move. What would Black play? And what would White's best answer be?

2. But it's really White's move. How can White make progress by wasting time? (You should be able to checkmate Black in two moves.)

The rook is an amazingly powerful piece, but without the weapon of zugzwang (making the opponent move when she doesn't want to), it's impossible for king and rook to mate a lone king.

Some time ago, we blogged Capablanca's explanation of how to mate with king and queen against king.  Again, be careful not to stalemate the bare king!

White to play: is 1.Qc7 a good idea?
You should be able to checkmate Black in two moves.
White to play
How many moves does White have that give away the win? (If you can find all the bad moves, you'll be less likely to make them in your next game.)

And can you checkmate Black in three moves from this position?

Teacher Overslept! (Chess Homeschool, Day 4)

No particular theme today. Number 22 is relatively difficult.
11) White to play

12) Black to play

13) White to play

14) White to play

15) Black to play

16) White to play

17) Black to play

18) White to play

19) Black to play

20) White to play

21) White to play

22) White to play

23) Black to play

24) White to play

Strangers on a Train

In 1977 or so, I was a passenger on a CTA train in Chicago, analyzing on my portable Drueke chess set. My seatmate challenged me to a game. The following was the result. No masterpiece, not surprisingly, but it has an amusing finish. After 4.Qf3?! I blitzed out 4...Bg4, but was startled to realize that I was losing a pawn after 5.Qg3! No matter, my lead in development gives me good compensation. His subsequent play doubtless wasn't the best, and 12...Re8+! would've been strong for me. In the final position, he tried 16.Qc3. I played 16...Na2+, and offered to let him take back his move. He then tried 16.Qc5, and I played 16...Nb3+. He scowled and resigned. The manner in which the queen is lost to either of two royal forks, each executed by a different knight, reminds me of NN-Leonhardt, Leipzig 1903, a fun game that I'd learned of a few years earlier from Fred Reinfeld's book "How to Win Chess Games Quickly."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Endgame Practice (Chess Homeschool, Day 3)

Here's something to keep you kids occupied while the CPS teachers strike continues. And adults too! offers you the opportunity to hone your endgame skills, playing against the Crafty engine on a wide variety of positions, ranging from elementary (king and queen versus king) to very difficult (king and queen against king and rook, an ending that even grandmasters have failed to win within 50 moves). Click here and get to work!

 Got to go now - must make sure I can mate with bishop and knight against lone king within 50 moves. Don't want to embarrass myself like GM Epishin! They also have an instructional video on that one.

P.S. It seems that I have mad skillz (that's what the kids, er kidz, say nowadays, isn't it?) with bishop and knight. I mated in 31 moves! Queen against rook, alas, would surely be a different story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ESPN on cheating in chess

It would be pedantic of me to note that the article is illustrated by an illegal position (both kings are in check), so I won't mention it.

Great story, with a few familiar names cited. Hat tip to Ken Marshall.

Let Them Eat Queens (Chess Homeschool, Day 2)

Another day of prep: whew!  So teachers do this 180 days per year?

Winning the queen doesn't guarantee winning the game, but it certainly helps.  So before you turn on Cartoon Network, try the following quiz: answers tomorrow.  I believe that all of these games finished in 12 moves or less.  Some of you will probably recognize the famous position in the first game.

1) Black to play and win
2) White to play and win
3) Black to play and win

4) White to play and win
5) White to play and win
6) White to play and win
7) Black to play and win

8) White to play and win

9) White to play and win

10) White to play and win

Answers (Perils of Pauline)

Here's the answer key to yesterday's problem set:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 Illinois Open coverage in Chess Life Online

Dmitry Gurevich's game with George Li is featured: check it out!  (The first half of the article covers the U.S. Masters in North Carolina.)

The Perils of Pauline (Chess Homeschool, Day 1)

Good morning, class!

The silent films heroine Pauline was always in a life-threatening predicament, but somehow always managed to escape.  Even the corny movies of the 1940s found Pauline's perils a little bit too unbelievable:

Experienced players may find the following ten positions a little corny, too.  But if they help beginners and intermediate players learn new mating patters, that's OK.

You have the White pieces and it's your move. Black is threatening checkmate in one move, so you'd better find a way to escape! Some have suggested that the best defense is a good offense.

1) White to play and win
2) White to play and win
3) White to play and win
4) White to play and win
5) White to play and win
6) White to play and win
7) White to play and win
8) White to play and win
9) White to play and win
10) White to play and win
If you're stumped, remember that Black is threatening mate. You must look at all forcing moves (moves that Black has to answer), no matter how silly they seem!

Too easy? Go for extra credit.

Too hard? If you're having trouble, ask questions in the comments.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hi moms and dads

Until the teachers are back in Chicago Public Schools, we'll try to provide fifteen minutes of chess homeschooling for the duration, starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow.

Confusion in the Symmetrical English

The Symmetrical English (1.c4 c5) is an opening rich in possibilities for both players. After 2.Nf3 Nf6, two ways (among many) for White to play are 3.g3, aiming to get a reversed Maroczy Bind after 3...d5 (again, many other moves are possible: 3...b6, 3...g6, 3...Nc6, etc.) 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.Nc3 Nc7 (6...e5? 7.Nxe5!) 7.O-O e5 8.d3, and 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb4 6.Bc4, not fearing 6...Nd3+. However, combining g3 and e4 in the manner that White does in the game below is much weaker. After 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4? Nb4! White already had a bad game. Kabat-Misicko, Czechia 2007 continued 6.d3 Bg4 7.Na3 N8c6 8.Be2 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qxd3, winning a pawn (0-1, 28). My opponent's 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4?? was no improvement, dropping a piece to the well-known trick 7...Qxd4!, winning a piece (8.Qxd4 Nc2+ and 8...Nxd4). After 11...Bh3+ he resigned in light of 12.Kg1 Nf3# or 12.Ke1 Nc2+, winning the rook.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Illinois Open prizewinners (almost complete!)

Thanks to Wayne Clark and Sevan Muradian for providing the following list. Understandably, the $250 Isaac Braswell Fighting Chess prize has not yet been awarded, as all the games haven't been reviewed yet.

A player who wins more than one prize outright (as NM Tenzing Shaw did) receives the more valuable prize, and the prize not awarded drops down to the next available player.  But players can receive parts of more than one prize: I think that's why the folks on 4th place in the Open Section got a piece of the third-place prize.  Oh, go read the rulebook...this makes my head hurt.

Open Section

GM Nikola Mitkov 2609 5.5 1st & 2nd $1,300.00
GM Dmitry Gurevich 2539 5.5 1st & 2nd $1,300.00
Tenzing W Shaw 2270 5 3rd Place & 1st 2399-2200,  $350.00
Sam A Schmakel 2244 4.5 4 way tie 3rd, 2nd 2399-2200 $275.00
Alexander Velikanov 2199 4.5 4 way tie 3rd, 2nd 2199-2100 $250.00
Tam Nguyen 2116 4.5 4 way tie 3rd, 1st 2199-2100 $250.00
Aakaash Meduri 2076 4.5 4 way tie 3rd, 1st 2099-2000 $250.00
Jonathan S Kogen 2189 4 6 way tie 2nd place 2199-2100 $33.33
Andy F Applebaum 2146 4 6 way tie 2nd place 2199-2100 $33.33
John M Krom 2145 4 6 way tie 2nd place 2199-2100 $33.33
David Plotkin 2136 4 6 way tie 2nd place 2199-2100 $33.33
FM Awonder Liang 2131 4 6 way tie 2nd place 2199-2100 $33.33
FM Andrew D Hubbard 2106 4 6 way tie 2nd place 2199-2100 $33.33
David Peng 2030 4 2 way tie 2nd 2099-2000 $50.00
Steven J Rand 2002 4 2 way tie 2nd 2099-2000 $50.00
Rudy Enriquez 1922 4 1st 1999-1900 $200.00
FM Aung Thant Zin 2325 3.5 3 way tie 3rd 2399-2200 $66.67
Petros Karagianis 2233 3.5 3 way tie 3rd 2399-2200 $66.67
FM Albert C Chow 2211 3.5 3 way tie 3rd 2399-2200 $66.67
Karthikeyan Pounraj 1983 3.5 2 way 2nd 1999-1900 $50.00
Nathaniel Kranjc 1908 3.5 2 way 2nd 1999-1900 $50.00
Adream Liang 1871 3.5 2nd 1899-1800 $100.00
Theodore Mercer Jr 1824 3.5 1st 1899-1800 $200.00

Reserve Section:

Timothy Zhou 1771 5.5 1st Place $750.00
Ethan Brown 1645 5 2nd place $450.00
Roshan Shankar 1747 4.5 3rd place $225.00
Daumants Hazners 1661 4.5 3rd place & 1st 1699-1600 $250.00
Oliver Natarajan 1673 4 2 way 2nd & 3rd 1699-1600 $175.00
John Crissman 1626 4 2 way 2nd & 3rd 1699-1600 $175.00
Kevin S Wang 1539 4 2nd 1599-1500 $100.00
Jonathan Tan 1516 4 1st 1599-1500 $150.00

Booster Section

Jacob Zhou 1302 5 1st Place $250.00
Thomas Grudzinski 1331 4.5 2 way 2nd & 3rd $100.00
Grant Alan Kozeny 1313 4.5 2 way 2nd & 3rd $100.00
Vladimir Koveshnikov 1280 4.5 1st 1299-1200 $100.00
Henry Jose Curcio 1280 4 3 way 2nd 1299-1200 $16.67
Delondo Hawthorne 1209 4 3 way 2nd 1299-1200 $16.67
Tej Rai 1205 4 3 way 2nd 1299-1200 $16.67
Anthony Akintonde 1187 3 1st 1199-1100 $100.00
Anshu Indusekar 823 2.5 2 way 2nd 1199-1100 $25.00
Armel Peel 628 2.5 2 way 2nd 1199-1100 $25.00