Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chess is hard!

Jerry Neugarten, the chair of the Illinois Chess Association's Youth Chess Committee, is putting the finishing touches on the ICA's guide to curricula and study resources for young players.  I pulled out my copy of Irving Chernev's Logical Chess: Move by Move, a classic collection of annotated games for beginners, to see whether it belongs on the list.  It does indeed: it's a fun and instructive read.

But my silicon friend discovered something amazing in the final position of the very first game.  Can you discover it, too, using wetware alone?

 von Scheve - Teichmann, Berlin 1907
Position after 17...Bxf2
White to play resigned

Chernev explains White's resignation: "Black's threat was 18...Qh3+ 19.Nh2 Qxh2#."  ("#" is the abbreviation for "checkmate".)  "As 18.Rxf2 runs into 18...Nxf2#, there was no escape."

NEVER TRUST ANYTHING YOU READ IN A CHESS BOOK!  (This goes double for blogs written by patzers.)  99.9% of the time, the book will be right and you'll discover why your challenge was wrong.  But every so often, you'll discover something cool.

Another silly Internet game

The greatest swindle ever

You may have heard Evans-Reshevsky, U.S. Championship 1963-64 called "The Swindle of the Century". It's a nice one, to be sure, but Marshall-Marco, Monte Carlo 1904 is better. (Bizarrely, that game does not appear in Marshall's mistitled 1914 book Marshall's Chess "Swindles".) Keres-Fischer, Curacao 1962 is also an amazing save, but I wouldn't call it a "swindle" since Fischer (somehow) had no way to win after 72.Qe5!!

By the way, who christened Evans-Reshevsky "The Swindle of the Century"? Why, that would be Larry Evans himself, annotating the game in American Chess Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Winter 1964), of which he was the editor-in-chief.

But the real Swindle of the (20th) Century, indeed the greatest swindle ever to date, is the amazing one that Larry Christiansen pulled off against Alexander Beliavsky at Reggio Emilia 1987-88. From a busted position, Christiansen sacrificed a knight to expose Beliavsky's king, then offered four pseudo-queen sacrifices in an attempt to get a perpetual check. Beliavsky thwarted Christiansen's attempts and repeatedly hammered Christiansen's king. Finally, on the brink of victory, Beliavsky fell for Christiansen's last trick.

After 29.Bc4, Christiansen had a lost position against the No. 5 player in the world. His f-pawn is under attack, but passive defense is hopeless, e.g. 29...Nh6 30.Qb6 winning the c-pawn (30...Qd7 31.Nxf7!). So Christiansen ignored White's threats and dove in with 29...Nxf2!? 30.Kxf2 Ra3! After 31.Bxf7+ Kg7 32.Qe6, he went after White's king with 32...Ra2+. Robert Byrne observed in The New York Times that after 33.Qxa2 Rxa2+ 34.Bxa2 Ng4+ 35.Kg1 Qa7 36.Bb1 Qa3 37.Bd3 Qb2 38.Rc2 Qd4+, "White will experience difficult technical problems." Instead, the game continued 33.Kg1 R8a3!, hoping for 34.Qxe7? Rxg3+ and the rook gives perpetual check along the third rank. Nor was 34.Kh1 Rxg3! 35.Qxa2 Ng4! appealing for White. Beliavsky preferred 34.Ne8+! Now 34...Nxe8? 35.Qxg6+ mates next move, and there is no perpetual check after 34...Qxe8? 35.Bxe8 Rxg3+ 36.Kh1. Undeterred, Christiansen played 34...Kh6! 35.Nxf6 35.Qxe7 Rxg3+ or 35.Qxf6 Qxf6 still leads to perpetual check. 35...Rxg3+ 36.Kh1 Qxf7! Offering the queen a third time, again hoping for perpetual check after 37.Qxf7? Rh3+ or 37.Ng8+? Qxg8! 37.Rd7! White offers his own queen sacrifice: if 36...Qxe6, 37.Rh7#! Another clear win was 37.Ng4+! hxg4 (37...Kg7 38.Qxe5+ is even worse) 38.Qxf7 Rh3+ 39.Kg1 Rg3+ 40.Kf1! Rf3+ 41.Qxf3, leaving White a rook up. 37...Qxf6! Black's last gasp, offering the queen yet a fourth time. 38.Qxf6?? White thinks that he can finally take the queen safely, since now there is no perpetual. White wins after 38.Rh7+! Kxh7 39.Qxf6 Rh3+ 40.Kg1 Rg3+ 41.Kf1 Rh3 41.Qe7+ Kh6 (41...Kg8? 42.Qe8+ Kh7 43.Qd7+ wins the rook) 42.Qg5+ Kh7 43.Kg1 Raa3 44.Kg2. He was rudely awakened by Christiansen's 38...Rh2+! A finish reminiscent of Evans-Reshevsky: Christiansen sacs his remaining heavy pieces and goes for stalemate. The players agreed to a draw in light of 39.Kxh2 Rg2+! 40.Kh3 Rg3+! 41.Kh2 Rg2+! 42.Kh1 Rg1+!, when Black draws by perpetual check or stalemate.

For another amazing Christiansen swindle, see Burden-Christiansen, Las Vegas 1992, wherein Christiansen spots a master a queen for a knight, and wins!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wonderful rook endgame lesson

GM Joel Benjamin lectures on today's game between Chicago Open champion Loek Van Wely and U.S. #1 Hikaru Nakamura.

The wily Nakamura drew a dead-lost ending today.  Crank up the air conditioning, grab a glass of iced tea, and enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's hard to argue with Ron Washingon....

Only a couple weeks left to this summer; only so many summers in our lifetime.  See you at the lakefront!

From the Wilmette Life

If you're running a local Chicago club, one way to increase your visibility is to submit a notice to the Community Calendar of your local Sun-Times Media paper.  In this case, it's the Wilmette Life:

The North Shore Chess Club meets from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays at Starbucks, 347 Park Ave., Glencoe. The club has a relaxed, drop-in atmosphere and is open to players, adults and teenagers, at all skill levels. The club doesn't offer any formal classes but advanced players are always willing to help those who are less experienced. There are no tournaments and no fee. Members need only bring their own chess sets. E-mail:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A silly knight trap

White's 6.Nd5?? set a superficially attractive trap (6...Qxb5?? 7.Nc7+), but after simply 6...Qd8 7.c4 e6, the knight had no escape squares and White could already have resigned.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Another knight underpromotion

A few posts ago, I gave the game Fidlow-Maier, which featured an underpromotion to knight on move 7. Above is another such game, in which the underpromotion actually checkmates White! If White's play seems a bit, um, eccentric, a commenter at has the explanation:

Phony Benoni: I just happen to have an issue of the Lower Slobbovian Journal of Chess which gives a full account of this game, and can translate the story for you.

After <1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4>, Wiede noticed that several of his pawns were off center. He adjusted, in order, his b-, h-, and g-pawns, then played 3.Nf3.

"Wait a minute!" said Goetz, who was an unpleasant fellow. "You touched your b-pawn--you have to move it."

"But I was just adjusting", replied Wiede.

"Then you should have said "j'adoube."

"But I don't speak French!"

"Makes no difference! Move the b-pawn."

Secretly, Goetz was hoping for 3.b4 so he could snatch another pawn, but when Wiede avoided the trap with <3.b3> he reluctantly played <3...Qh4+>. Wiede tried 4.Ke2, but Goetz was alert.

"Wait a minute! You also touched your g-pawn! You must interpose it!"

"What are you talking about? Touch-move isn't retroactive!"

"In this town it is. We're a law-and-order community."

"And anyway, I touched the h-pawn first."

"But that doesn't get you out of check. The rule is that you must move the first piece touched that can be legally moved. You can move the h-pawn next."

So the game continued <4.g3 fxg3 5.h3 g2+ 6.Ke2 Qxe4+ 7.Kf2 gxh1>

"And that's a knight", shouted Goetz gleefully, "With mate!"

"Whaddya mean, knight? You touched my rook; don't you have to promote to a rook?"

"Read the rules, dummy! I can get any piece I like."

"OK, you know the rules. But what's this knight you're talking about?"

"You know. Springer. Caballero. Horsie."

"I don't see one on the board."

"Well, I don't happen to have a third knight handy."

"Then it doesn't exist! Seeing is believing! You think I'm a Platonist or something?"

At this point, the kindly old arbiter arrived at the board, and placed a friendly hand on Wiede's shoulder. "Look, my friend, it is clearly in your best interests to allow the knight promotion with mate. I have watched your play, and the only way you'll ever reach immortality in chess is to go for negative immortality. You can be another Kieseritzky! Another Dufresne! Another Levitsky! You may even outrank Systemsson!

Wiede's response to this was one of those Lower Slobbovian words with which I am not familiar, but perhaps that's for the best. What I can tell is that he gave up chess forever and changed his name to Charles Berlitz.

Chicago Chess Meetup Group

Looking for a game in your neighborhood?  Try the Meetup Group!

chess tourists

Another blogger visits the Chess Pavilion.  (Our North Avenue Beach guest is from the Kenilworth, New Jersey, club, not Kenilworth, Illnois!)

A trap in the QGD Exchange Variation

In the first round of the 1949 Soviet Championship, the young Tigran Petrosian fell into an elementary trap against Alexander Kotov. Kotov's 7.Qc2! is an important finesse, since the natural 7.Bd3 allows Black to exchange pieces with 7...Ne4!, when White has little or no advantage. Petrosian, likely suffering from first-round jitters, played 7...Ne4?? anyway, but after 8.Bxe7 Qxe7 (the abject 8...Kxe7, immediately surrendering a pawn to 9.Nxe4 dxe4 10.Qxe4+, looks like a slight improvement) 9.Nxd5!, Black was losing at least two pawns, and could have resigned already. He did so on move 13, the shortest loss in the career of "Iron Tigran."

Petrosian later became known as one of the world's hardest players to beat. Of over 100 games in Chess Olympiads, he lost only one. He reigned as World Champion from 1963 to 1969. When he beat Spassky in 1966 to retain his title, he became the first sitting World Champion since Alekhine's victories over Bogolyubov in 1929 and 1934 to actually win a World Championship match.

August 14th: Evanston Chess Game/29 rapid

Let's decode the shorthand in the following tournament announcement for non-tournament players:

"5SS" - means each player will play five rounds in the Swiss System (roughly: winners play winners, losers play losers)

"G/29" - means each player has a whopping 29 minutes to make all the moves in his or her game.  If you take more time, you lose!  (If each player takes 28 minutes for the game, the game should be over in slightly less than one hour.)

"3 seconds delay" - What, 29 minutes isn't enough?  You're assured a whopping three whole bonus seconds for each move!  (If you're using a digital clock, that is.)

"bye" - you can choose not to play a particular round, but you have to schedule this with the TD before you begin play.

"Junior players (under fourteen) rated 900+" - A U.S. Chess Federation rating between 900 and 1199 makes one a strong beginner.  Adult beginners (folks who know how the pieces move) of any strength are welcome!

$5 - means $5!  It's a great deal, and the Evanston club is very hospitable.  But please arrive early, as space is limited!  (U.S. Chess Federation membership is required, you can have a trial one-day membership for $12.  If you decide to join, you'll receive a $10 credit towards membership.)
Levy Senior Center
300 Dodge Ave
Evanston, IL 60202
Evanston Chess Presents:
Aug 14, 2010

5SS G/29

One Section
USCF Quick Rated
From time to time Evanston Chess pays one or more titled players to play in our events. We usually do not pair them against each other. Even if they should lose (it does happen) we may pair them with the highest score groups.

Five rounds. Digital clocks are required and will be set to G/29 plus 3 seconds delay. Accelerated or decelerated pairings at TD discretion.

Registration from 9:00 to 9:30 AM. Players must check in by 9:30 am; players who arrive late will receive a half-point bye for the first round. First Round 9:45 am, last round over roughly 4:30 pm.

You may take one half-point bye in any round but the last.

Entry fee is $5, please pay cash (no checks) at the door. Masters and Experts play free.

Send name, USCF number, and telephone number to

Junior players (under fourteen years) rated 900+ are welcome. Sorry, but we do not accept junior players rated under 900. Must be accompanied by a parent throughout the event.

Bring clocks -- Wheelchair accessible -- No Smoking.

Coming Events:
--Sep 25, 2010, 3SS G/70 Three x Three
--Nov 06, 2010, 4SS G/45 Tri-Level

See for details.

Monday, August 9, 2010

From chess champions to mind champions

Vishy Anand's promotional campaign in India is featured in today's New York Times.

P.S.  here's Anand's Twitter account!

GM Alejandro Ramirez wins US Open

Story at Chess Life Online!

It's not clear who the U.S. Championship qualifier from this event will be, as GM Ramirez still represents Costa Rica, and the formula calls for the top finisher not otherwise qualifying by rating.  Needlessly confusing....

If video gamers are smarter than existing computer software....

...what about chess players?  It's awfully hard to incorporate human pattern-recognition skills into software, just as it's virtually impossible for humans to compete with computers running brute force minimax programs.

Young chess players looking for a career should take a look at molecular biology: it's an information science.

Kamsky wins Mainz Rapids

...over a super-strong field. 

Coverage at Chess Life Online and ChessVibes.  Please play through a few of Gata's wins: they're incredibly entertaining examples of simple chess!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Richard Verber remembered

It's hard for me to believe that Richard Verber has been gone for almost nine years.

Tim Redman's memorial originally appeared in the Illinois Chess Bulletin.  (PDF document.)  Hat tip to former ICB editor Colley Kitson.