Archive for October, 2007

How to Play Chess: Illusionary Delight

October 5, 2007

One of the rich tournaments history-wise in western NYS was the Genesee Valley Open. In 1962 I found time from studies and working to participate and managed to win this pretty game. It was against club president, Dr. Erich W. Marchand and just one of many wonderful battles and experiences with this fine gentleman.

DR (KindredSpirit) vs Dr. Erich W. Marchand

Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 Possibly heading for the Taimanov variation.

5.Be2 A move I attribute to Alexander Alekhine. Marchand was extremely skillful and I hoped to get a bit away from more standard and popular lines.

5…Nf6 6.Bf3 Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Nxc6 bxc6 Now why did I play this exchange? Examine the position carefully.

9.e5 Nd5 10.c4 Gains square count and chases the N away from the center and to the Q-wing where it will take some time to maneuver it to a more useful area on the Kingside.

11.Qc2 Protects the c-pawn and pressures the white squares increasing square count as well.

11…f6 12.Be4 f5 13.Bf3 Ba6 14.b3 Qc7 15.Bb2 Both bishops rake the center.

15…g5 16.g3 g4 17.Bg2 Rf7 18.Nc3 Re8 The e-pawn is taboo. Do you see why?

19.Ne2! Bg5! 20.f4 gxf3 e.p. 21.Rxf3 c5 22.Rd3 Bh6 23.Re1 Nc8 desiring to get his N to a more favorable spot.

24.Nf4 Ne7 I think this was a misjudgment but Marchand likes his bishop pair. Bxf4 looks better to me with about = chances. You should never be afraid to stray from your favorite chess ideas if the position calls for you to break from any of them.

25.Nh5 Kh8 26.Nf6 Rd8 27.Qd1 Again notice how my idea of square count can often find good moves. The Q backs up the R and also attacks the Kingside.

27…Ng6 With this he got up and gave a sigh of relief taking time to look at a few other games in progress while I now spent several minutes studying the position. What would you do here for white?

28.Bd5 A shocking move that took black by surprise and into a long think. I am reminded of Tal and his views about muddying the waters and throwing the whole business into a quagmire. My philosophy  like that of many others is that it is harder to defend than to attack. How did I think of this move? Well, I might suggest it adds to square count! And moves that add to square count should at least be examined.

28…exd5 29.e6 Rxf6 The only other idea I considered was what happens if he plays d4 in order to close off the diagonal but white seems to come out on top. As a teaching tool I put you to the test of figuring out the possible consequences. If I tell you, then how do you improve? No one is helping you when you are involved in a battle.

30.Bxf6+ Bg7 31.Bxd8 Qxd8 32.Rxd5 d6 Black played this as soon as I took the pawn and tried to appear pleased with himself using it as a psychological “take that my friend”!

33.Rxd6 Ouch. Did I overlook Bd4+ cutting the Rook and Queen line in the file? Do you see what comes next?

33…Qe7 But not Bd4+ because of 34.Qxd4+ cxd4 35.Rxd8+.

34.Rd7 Bd4+ 35.Qxd4+ cxd4 36.Rxe7 Nxe7 37.Rd1 Nc6? Not best as Kg7 was necessary but still is inadequate.

38.Rxd4 Nxd4 39.e7 Resigns (1-0).

Lessons to learn from this game:

1.Plan from move 1 what you wish to try to have a reason. Note that Be2 I played had the approval of Alekhine so I felt confident that it was a reasonable alternative to more common book lines. Black spent some time considering his response.

2.Black wisely sets the position of the pawns by expanding on the Kingside and then sets about getting N to the K-side to help in defense and attack.

3.The N appears to be stronger than the B so black may have been better off exchanging it which probably leads to an unclear position of about = chances.

4.Occasionally a strong move presents itself even though it looks silly on the surface and usually involves some form of sacrifice for either a mating attack or one that wins material and/or positional advantage.

5. Psychological factors do play a role in winning chess.

This game was published in the American Chess Quarterly as part of the Woodpusher’s column.

How to Play Chess: Sacrificing the Q and focal point f7 weakness

October 5, 2007

One of the most popular openings is the Ruy Lopez; many defenses are tried through the years and one of the modern approaches relatively speaking is the Arkhangelsk variation and sidelines. So set up your pieces, copy this lecture and be prepared for an exciting trip through the countryside of the 64 squares! Opening: Arkhangelsk (Modern line).

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Bc5 6.c3 [6…Nxe4? 7.Qe2 and 8.d4 when the Kt retreats gives white very good play.]

6…b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.d4 exd4 9.cxd4 Bb6 10.Bg5 [Here a classic going back to 1859, Loewenthal vs. Morphy, London, went 10…Bb7 11.Nc3 Ne7 12.Re1 h6 13.Bh4 g5 14.Bg3 Kf8 15.Qd3 c5 16.e5 dxe5 17.Bxe5 Kg7 18.Bxf6 Kxf6 19.Qe3 Qd6 20.Ne5 cxd4 21.Ng4+ Kg7 22.Qxe7 Qxe7 23.Rxe7 dxc3 24.Rxf7+ Kg6 25.Ne5+ Kh5 26.Bd1+ g4 27.Bxg4+ Kg5 28.Rf5+ Kh4 29.g3 mate.]

10…0-0 11.Nc3 Bg4 12.Nd5 [Lets look at some alternatives here. 12…Bxf3 13.gxf3 Bxd4 14.Rc1,and; 13…Nxd4 14.Nxf6+ gives White a powerful attack.]

12…Bxd4 13.Nxd4 [White here gets an inspiration and carries out a splendid attack with a Q sac tossed in!! Note that this type of position occurs occasionally so you should always consider if the Kt pin is really a pin. Commentary and analysis suggested also the strong move 13.Rc1 but who can blame White for this brainstorm solution!]

13…Bxd1 14.Nxc6 Qd7 15.Raxd1 Nxe4 16.Ne5 Qe8 [It is worth noting the SqCt 12/6. White now demonstrates the inherent weakness of the f7 square on the board.]

17.Nxf7 xf7 18.Nxc7 Qb8 19.Nxa8 Nxg5 20.h4 Kf8 21.hxg5 Ra7 22.Bd5 Aristizabal – Ramirez, Bogotá 1992. After 20..Ne4 21.Rfe1 Nc5 22.Nc7 Nxb3 23.Re8+ Qxe8 24.Nxe8 Nc5 25.Rxd6 Watson-Schiller analysis]

There are many variations within this opening system. You can find more on this opening and many others in the excellent work: Survive & Beat Annoying Chess Openings–The Open Games by Schiller & Watson.

How to Play Chess: Backward pawn and f7 focal point

October 5, 2007

Alexander Alekhine while visiting Russia played many blindfold exhibition games of which this was one. Many were never kept for posterity’s sake but thankfully this one was preserved for all of us to enjoy.

Alekhine vs Amateur  Opening: The French Defense

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.exd5 Nxd5 [More normal seems to be recapturing with the pawn.]

5.Ne4 f5?! [Dangerous as it leaves the e pawn backward in the half-open file. A sounder idea is to retreat the N to f6 as Bg5 can be answered by Be7.]

6.Ng5 Be7 7.N5f3 c6 8.Ne5 0-0 9.Ngf3 b6 10.Bd3 Bb7 11.0-0 Re8? [Obviously his plan includes adding defense to the e-pawn but now the vulnerable f7 square as mentioned in my lecture about Chessboard study turns the light on in Alekhine’s sharp mind as this square is only guarded by the King.]

12.c4 Ndf6 13.Bf4 Nbd7 [Developing but at the same time eliminating some free squares for the Queen to move.]

14.Qe2 c5 15.Nf7!! [With the threat of Qxe6 after the Queen moves. He then has a neat mate pattern. Do you see it?]

15…Kxf7 16.Qxe6+ Kg6 [Naturally after Kxe6 White mates with 17.Ng5 mate.]

17.g4 Be4 18.Nh4++(Checkmate).

Where did Black go wrong? Except for the weak f5 play, he developed his game but did that development contribute to improving his position or eliminating his pawn weakness? The answer is no. Here is a perfect example of my lecture dealing with the f2,f7,c2,c7 focal points, f7 here in this game. Alekhine honed in on the weakness and like a cat, pounced when his forces were positioned for the kill.

How to Play Chess: Functions in position play

October 5, 2007

This example carries forward the SqCt theory but also stresses the role of function and central tension.

Botvinnik vs Keres  featuring The English Opening

1c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 [White can also choose 4.d4 which leads to a different type of game.] 4…Bc5 [Aggressive with alternatives perhaps being either g6 or d5.] 5.Nxe5 [Inviting black to either sac with Bxf2+ or 5…Nxe5 6.d4 Qe7! setting a pretty trap for if 7.dxc5 then Nf3 mate!! The K has no free square which to move nor can the N be captured. So, then White has to play 7.dxe5 Qxe5 8.Bg2 with central control of d5.] 5…Bxf2+ [Leave it to Keres to play for a sharp position even in the opening!] 6.Kxf2 Nxe5 7.e4 [Stopping d5 that would give black about equal chances.] 7…c5 8.d3 d6 9.h3 [Here is an example of SqCt defense of one’s own position guarding the g4 square.] 9…h5 10.Be2 [A two point idea that adds defense to g4 and Q protects the KR.] 10…Ng7 [Inviting White to capture the h pawn which would be a major mistake because after Ng5, Black gets an attack.] 11.Kg2 h4 12.g4 Ng5 13.Be3 Bd7 14.Qd2 Ne6 [Now placing a Rf1 is in accordance with SqCt seems the natural move but should it be played right now? Look around for alternative ideas was advice by Lasker among other great exponents of the game. For many of us, the chess clock tends to curb this vital search in the belief it saves time. Can White open lines or strengthen the center directly? The answer is yes and SqCt is advanced as well.] 15.b4! b6 [If 15…cxb4 16.Nd5 gives White increased control over the center. Now White starts a series of maneuvers to strengthen his position as Black has little he can do but wait to see how White will continue.] 16.Rab1 Bc6 17.Rhf1 Bb7 18.Kg1 Nc6 19.Nd5 Ncd4 20.Bd1 f6 21.Kh2 Bc6 [21…Bxd5 22.cxd5 Ng5 23.bxc5 dxc5 24.Ba4+ is winning for White.] 22.a4 a5 [Keeping with Keres philosophy to avoid passive play. I would suggest mayb Rb8 to keep the defense compact.] 23.bxa5 bxa5 24.Qf2 [Eying the h pawn requiring the Q to guard it and pressuring the Kside in general.] 24…Ra7 25.g5 0-0? [How often does castling appear to be a bad choice? Black should consider the position as White’s Nd5 outpost is his most dominate piece that influences squares deep in the enemy lines. The Kt should be hacked off with Bxd5!? no matter the consequences.] 26.g6 f5 [Black has to protect the h4 pawn but here we have an example from my lecture that illustrates a combination of tactic to remove a defender with a deflection.] 27.Rb8!! Qxb8 28.Qxh4 Qb2+ 29.Kh1 [There is no defense against mate in a few moves at most.] 1-0.

What are the lessons to be learned from this exciting battle and very instructive game to study? First we see a short range plan to secure a strong center by White. For Black, he chooses a plan to weaken the K position that included a neat little trap. Still, the physical structure curtails any real attack against the King and white is left with his strong center intact. No successful attack is good without central counterplay and White has seemingly shut that down completely. The black Queen is a perfect example of having a double function, to protect h4 and to guard the back rank. She cannot do both in the position as White demonstrates with the shocker Rb8.

How to Play Chess: A Look at how square count can apply to winning.

October 5, 2007

As explained, many factors go into winning and losing but we play for enjoyment of the battle; it is just nicer to win than lose! The following two games are examples of how and not how to play chess.

Botvinnik vs Pomar  Opening: QGD-Slav

1.c4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bf4 Bf5 7.e3 e6 [We find ourselves in a symetrical position that can only favor White in the long run. Better would be to play 7…a6 to guard b5.] 8.Bb5 Bb4 9.Ne5 [An excellent outpost.] 9…Qa5 10.Bxc6+ bxc6 11.0-0 Bxc3 12.bxc3 Rc8 [On 12..Qxc3 13.Qa4 would increase space for white on the Qside. SqCt. 8/15.] 13.c4! [This pawn advance increases sq ct to 10. Most important is the threat to play c5 which cannot be prevented without black weakening his position. Perhaps now h6 would be best.] 13…0-0 14.g4! [Another increase in SqCt by 2 and reducing black SqCt by the same.] 14…Bg6 15.c5 [Black sqs become ever more weak and the cramp will begin to tell on black’s available options. Here a question might be asked if white Bishop is bad because the pawns are on his color. No; the Bishop is outside the  pawns and therefore able to participate in any attack into the enemy lines.] 15…Ne4 16.f3 Nd7 [If 16…Nc3, then 17.Qd2.]17.Rf2 Nc4 18.Nxc4 dxc4 19.Bd6 Rfe8 20.e4 f5[Otherwise the B will be boxed in but this weakens the K-side. SqCt 11/11. The = here in count is deceptive. White’s units are much better placed.] 21.Qc2 fxe4 22.fxe4 Qa3 23.Re1 Qh3 24.Rg2 Rcd8 [Bishop controls both open files available for black.] 25.Rg3 Qh6 26.Qxc4 [SqCt 16/8 is significant because White controls the whole board and Black’s count is without teeth.] 26…Qd2 27.Qc3 Qxa2 28.Rg2 Qa6 [Forced because on Qa5? White wins the Q with Ra1 and Rb2.] 29.h4 Rd7 30.h5 Bf7 31.Ra1 [Driving the Q further to a dismal end.] 31…Qc8 32.Qf3 [Preparing a mating net starting with h6 g6 Qf6 and Qg7++. Notice my lecture about the squares being strangled with mate coming.] 32…Qd8 33.g5 g6 34.h6 e5 [Desperation as Qf4 and Qe5 had to be stopped.] 35.Bxe5 Rb7 36.Qf4 [Stopping Rxe5 dxe5 and Qd4+ capturing the unprotected Ra1.] 36…a5 37.Rf2 Bb3 38.d5 cxd5 39.c6 Ra7 40.c7 Qe7 41.Bd6 [Restrict the enemy movement; Square Count vastly improves for the winning forces and often the count for the losing side is more illusionary than real.] 41…Qxe4 42.Qf8+ Rxf8 43.Rxf8++. 1-0.

The next example is from Botvinnik vs Robatsch. Qpening is  Queen Gambit Declined, Exchange variation.

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.d4 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Be7 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.Bd3 0-0 9.Nf3 Re8 10.0-0 Nf8 11.Rae1 Ne4 [More interesting is something like 11…g6 with the aim of Ne6, Ng7 and Bf5 to challenge the white Bd3.] 12.Bxe7[This is probably best as 12.Bf4 Bf5 and Black seems to be okay.] 12…Qxe7 13.Bxe4 dxe4 14.Nd2 b6 [Black conjures up a couple of neat one-two punch trap idea which fails to work and leaves his position more tarnished.] 15.Qa4! [15.Nxe4? Bh6 wins the Exchange.] 15…f5 [Now if 16.Qxc3? Bh6 17.Nc4 Rac8.] 16.f3 exf3 17.Nxf3 Bb7 18.Ne5 Qe6 19.Qc2[How to defend the f-pawn? Note that g6 now weakens the King position and Bc8 disconnects the Rook pair and loses time. Although SqCt is only 7/5 White forces control most of the key squares and whole board will soon come under its pressure play.] 19…Bc8 20.e4 [This center advance shows the power of thinking SqCt so often in a game. Often the sharpest and best move in the position is enhanced by SqCt.] 20…Qd6 21.Rd1 Ne6 22.Qb3 Pins the Kt and launches another strike into the enemy lines. Unfortunately 22…Kh8 23.exf5 Ng5 24.h4 wins the Kt.] 22…fxe4 23.Rf7 [A pretty tickle! Now on 23…Nxd4 24.Rf8+!!] 23…a5 24.Nxe4 Qxd5 25.Rxg7+ Kxg7 26.Qg3+ Kf8 27.Rf1+ Ke7 28.Qh4+ Ng5 29.Qxg5+ Ke6 30.Qf6++. 1-0.

Both games give my theory of Square Count as being an added element to the Board’s examination and topic in the previous lecture. It is not 100% effective as a principal answer but coincides with other functioning elements toward both position and tactical motifs explained in books.

One nice feature of this is that you can actually map the ups and downs of a chess game graphically.

How to Play Chess: Don’t Give Up the Ship!

October 5, 2007

Did you ever play a game where you were certain of victory, and; conversely, did you ever play a game you found yourself in despair? The following battle exhibits numerous lessons about chess, encompassing strategy, tactics and psychological pitfalls we all have experienced.

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 e6 6.Be3

This opening is the closed variation of the Sicilian Defense and has less need for exacting play that other Sicilian lines necessitate due to the sharp tactical nature of those variations. 6.Be3 is a clever idea of Smyslov which sets a clever trap. Should black now play 6…Nd4 7.Nce2 Nxe2 8.Nxe2 Bxb2? 9.Rb1 Qa5+ 10.Bd2 Qxa2 11.Rxb2! Qxb2 12.Bc3 skewering the Queen and Rook.


An alternative is 6..b6 with Nge7 which looks good with …d5 striking the center without wasting a tempo as a short range plan.

7.f4 Qb6

This early Queen sortie is dangerous if he looks to capture the b-pawn if left unguarded. Can you picture the reason for this?  Again, a good alternative is …Nge7 and 0-0 which develops forces for the middlegame fight.

8.Nge2! Qxb2?! 9.0-0!!

For the b-pawn snatch white has gained two tempi that bodes high risk of the Q adventure. Do you see a threat here?


Black threatens Nxe2+ 10.Nxe2 Qxa1 winning the Exchange. Supposing he tries instead here 9…Bxc3 10.Rb1 Qa6 11.Rb3. With the dark square bishop removed, the dark squares become weak targets.


A sharp and alert tactic opening up the long diagonal of the Bg2, vacates e4 for entry by his N and threatens to play Nxd4 cxd4 (Qxc3 Nb5!) Bxd4. It also increases square count.


Opening the position favors the more aggressively posted white forces but what can black do here? If 10…Nxc2 11.Qd2 threatens 12.Rb1, and; 10…Qxc3 (11.Nxd4; 11.Bc1; 11.Bxd4) all lead to a huge white advantage.

11.Rb1 Qa3

No good is …Qxc2 12.Qxc2 Nxc2 13.Bxc5 as life is slowly squeezed out of black.


Now the threat of Nd6+ is potent and must be dealt with.

12…Bf8 13.fxe5

Surrender is no option so long as there is a ticking clock and forces exist to put up some defense. Wait you say?! Lordy be, you got weaknesses all over the place: King in the center; a position riddled with holes galore; miserable negative square count; white has the attack.

13…Nf5 14.Bc1 Qa5 15.g4 Nd4 16.Nxd4 cxd4

Now white can eliminate all black counterplay with 17.Qf3! Qc7 18.Nd6+ Bxd6 19.exd6 Qd7 leaving him passive.

17.Ng5 Nh6 18.Bxb7?!

The beginning of a faulty strategic and tactical plan. Correct is again 18.Qf3 Qc7 19.Ne4 Ng8 20.Nd6+ reverting to the earlier note.

18…Bxb7 19.Rxb7 Qd5!

Centralization of the Queen is the only chance to muddy the waters. Perhaps white still gets a winning endgame by 20.Qf3 as Qxf3 21.Rxf3 Be7 22.Nxe6 fxe6 23.Bxh6 keeps pressure on black.


White probably only considered 20…Nxf7 21.Rfxf7 and if 0-0-0 then 22.Rfc7 mate!

20…Qxb7 21.Bxh6

Wrong capture. Vital here is 21.Nxh8 with chances about even. Naturally the bishop is taboo as Bxh6 meets with Nd6+ forking King and Queen.


Chess Praxis at its best!!

22.Nxh8 Bxh6 23.Qf3 Be3+ 24.Kh1 Rc8 25.Nf7 Rxc2 26.Nd6+ Kd7 27.Ne4 Qxe5 28.Qf7+ (28.Ng3)

The black monarch now goes for a long walk.

28…Kc6 29.Qe8+ Kb6 30.Rb1+ Ka5 31.Ng3 Qd5+ 32.Ne4 Rxh2+!! 33.Kxh2 Qxa2+ 34.Kg3 Qxb1 35.Qd8+ Qb6 36.Qe7 Ka4 37.Nc5+ Ka3 38.Nxe6+ Kb2 39.Nc5 Kc2 40.Na4 Qb8+ 41.Kh3 Qb1 and white is lost.

Lessons to learn from this chess battle:

1.It is important to complete development in timely fashion. Going off on a pawn hunt especially with as here Qxb2 is very dangerous because for a pawn the opponent gets tempi ahead which can be hard to overcome.

2.Black’s early assault on the center was brave but the fact that the Queen was exposed to harrassment and the seemingly potent tactical threats on c2 were imaginary left black struggling.

3.As the heading lists: DO NOT GIVE UP THE SHIP!

4.Beware of the time clock ticking. White secured a substantial attacking position and on move 17 chose a fairly decent move Ng5 but it was not as good as Qf3 that leaves black in dire straights. Hence, with the combination with Bxb7 white begins to go astray as to the course leading to victory. Once black gets a chance for counterplay, he made the most of it.

5. POSTSCRIPT: The lessons here are extensions to teaching chess and are noted in How To Play Chess: The Beginning which should be reviewed periodically along with other lecture topics.