Archive for December, 2012

Kindred’s Special: Understanding Defence ala The Chess Sacrifice Type to Accept or Refuse

December 28, 2012

Sparkling sacrifices have for centuries stirred the juices of the combative group of players who have been bitten by the chessbug. Is it not the dream of every player from student, lecturer and teacher, of world-class champions, to introduce to the public this creative art that symbolizes all the elements that make up the human condition?  Great men of history have found use of the pen to exalt the joys of its devotees in literature embracing many languages.  Ignorance of chess and its value was illustrated in Searching for Bobby Fischer when Josh’s female teacher told the father that “chess was just another game.” For those of us who got bittened, it raised a collective dander.  And it bolstered the realization that the good old USA was fast falling behind worldwide chess as a team sport because many students were coached that chess was just another fun game.

Never mind that its elements taught from the 1700s on had much in common that paralleled life and critical thought.

One such element and topic here is the Chess Sacrifice.  I do not know all the answers.  I have studied what great proponents and not so great proponents have passed on to us by sharing their knowledge both as writers and skilled masters of chess art mostly acquired by examples from actual game study. What makes my own task difficult to convey to readers the art of sacrifice is in the diversity of examples amassed that give weight to the questions this one tactic adds to attack and defence. I get the feeling that I am in a cornfield maze where trying to find a way through the stalks is as baffling for me as for my readership. Some of you have suggested deeper study of what might be called my series of lectures. My notes have been relatively short because the attention span of the human mind seems to diminish interest beyond a passing fancy for many in America who thrive on instant gratification.

The criteria of the Chess Sacrifice comes in a number of forms.  The immediate force initiating a sacrifice can be the Knight, Bishop or Rook (Castle). On rare occasions the Queen can also be sacrificed and all these may result in checkmate or gain of space or material.  It is sometimes used to break up a pawn position, weakening its structure.  The most usual form of sacrifice is the Pawn that often is associated with the term GAMBIT seen commonly as an opening ploy.  Another example is the Pawn that commits suicide for the cause of opening lines for attack.

Remember that a chess duel or battle is a two-way street.  A sacrifice of material is a major attempt to alter the position; the defender has the task to accept or decline the sacrifice.  Such decisions often are based upon acquired skill.  It is worth noting that it almost always takes more than one mistake to ruin a plan of attack or defence.  The study of master chess games can point to moments that illustrate a number of conditions that represent the sacrifice theme.  Lets look at a sampling that gives a nod to understanding the chess sacrifice and inspire you to seek out more.

1. c4  Nf6  2. Nc3  e6  3. Nf3  c5  4. e3  Be7  5. b3  O-O  6. Bb2  b6  7. d4  cxd4  8. exd4  d5  9. Bd3  Nc6  10. O-O  Bb7  11. Rc1  Rc8  12. Re1  Nb4  13. Bc1  Ne4  14. a3  Nxc3  15. Rxc3 

Nc6  16. Ne5  Nxe5  17. Rxe5!?

Here is the plan that initiates the start of a sacrificial offer.

17. … Bf6  18. Rh5  g6  19. Rdh3

White offers up the Rook as a sacrifice to weaken the pawn structure around the enemy King. 19. … gxh5  20. Qxh5  Re8  21. a4  so to be able to deploy his Q-Bishop to a3. Qd6  22. c5 later study proved was winning for White.

Not taking the Rook means that White will play Rxh7 and further expose the black monarch to attack.  But the question is: Just how serious is the attack? After all, White is boxing himself up on the K-side with limiting the square count value. Once again a King hunt is often best met by action in the centre!!

19. … dxc4!

Black realized that White could not take time out to recapture the pawn by 20. bxc4 Be4!! defends the weakened pawn structure around the King. And now the last hurrah presents the dilemma of choosing the candidate moves of 20. Rh6, Qg4 or Rxh7.

20.  Rxh7 c3  21. Qc1  Qxd4 covering g7 and h8.

22. Qh6  Rfd8  23. Bc1  Bg7  24. Qg5  Qf6  25. Qg4  c2  26. Be2  Rd3  27. f4  Rd1+  28. Bxd1  Qd4+  White resigns.

I hope this example from a game between Keres vs Smyslov gives you incentive to search out on your own for additional examples.  Also, this game strategy points to square count offering up a sample.

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Kindred’s Special: Threats and Defence Finding Restraint a Positive Result

December 28, 2012

My readers have heard me mention the craftiness of former World Chess Champion, Dr. Emmanuel Lasker.  One of his philosophies of chess strategy was his belief  that THREATS ARE  THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF ANY ATTACK.   The art of attack contains the very acknowledgement that players witness by the very nature of aggressive intent, becomes real with the mounting of threats.

One of Dr. Lasker’s chess principles is that a threat is an intended combination where the attack becomes a danger until the defender prevents or parries the threat. Perhaps a more modern use of our language might shorten it to simply say: a threat is a plot toward exploiting a weakness in the opponent’s position.  With regards to the attacker, such aggression can be seen as:

  1. Threats  leading to checkmate;
  2. Threats to occupy weak squares or use of square count;
  3. Threats to weaken the Pawn Structure of the opponent;
  4. Threats to expose one enemy force to be an over-worked unit.

The role of the defence requires careful timing with regards to the nature of the threat. You must assume your opponent is clever enough to envision a planned action that carries with it the threat to wreck your defence  by use of a trick or tricks that catch you napping.  The rule has to be taking care of the worst scenario–the checkmate threat.  The threat of an attacked piece such as Knight attacking the Queen requires immediate attention to avoid a major loss of material.  One of the pretty threats given by a Knight is called a ‘fork’ that describes a play where the tactical Knight attacks two or more pieces, squares which, in both cases, can present a fracturing of a position’s defence structure and be viewed from either side. The question becomes one of relative value in meeting attacks.  In chess, as in life, one must weigh the consequences and define for yourself whether the disease is more or less dangerous than the cure of a defensive decision.  Ultimately, each player faces that old question: Is the threat seemingly greater than its execution?

There are times when one consumes so much time and energy in looking at perceived threats beyond those which are real, the whole board becomes a whirlpool of indecision!  That is a danger having nothing to do with the game in play and can be more damaging than the threats that do exist.

I have previously presented many games some that illustrate my current article. I shall endeavor to present more games for this column I write featuring this art of attack and defence as an important study guide to self-improvement.

Kindred’s Special: Planning a Chess Opening Strategy

December 22, 2012

When facing the city champ who I knew favored the Sicilian Defence and particularly the variation 1.e4  c5  2. Nf3  e6 that was shown in an earlier column, I decided to play it again in an exhibition game at  school where my opponent gleamed with confidence.

White:  Don Reithel      vs.   Student   Anon      Opening:  Sicilian Defence

1. e4  c5   2. Nf3   e6   3. Be2

This idea I got from the games of the 1924 New York Tournament which were annotated by Alexander Alekhine. Like what often happens with youngsters who see moves not seen before, he jumped to the chance to hurry and shot out ….Nc6 and then went to the hall and joyfully exclaimed a good position to his buddies.  They all came back to look at the board.

3. … Nc6  4. d4  cxd4  5. Nxd4  Nf6  6. Nc3

I was greatly tempted to play what I had earlier 6. Bf3 allowing my c-pawn to remain a potential threat.  But I was interested in seeing how he would play this known position.

6. …d6  7. O-O  Be7  8. Be3  O-O  9. f4  a6  10. Kh1  Qc7  11. Qe1  Bd7  12. Qg3  b5  13. a3

Purely defensive in line with square count to keep an eye on b4 and discourage any thought of a future b4 by Black. Note that White enjoys a sqct. of 15/5 which suggests planning action to open lines.

13. … Rfd8  14.  Rad1  Nxd4  15. Bxd4  Ne8

This kid knows what he is doing.  I had to give weight to this repositioning to strengthen the K-side.  I spent a few minutes calculating  and decided to expand on the K-side with hope of opening some lines using pawn exchanges.  The advance of the e-pawn did not appear as promising.

16. f5  Bf8  17. f6 e5  18. fxg7  Bxg7  19. Rxf7!  Kxf7  20. Rf1+ Resigns.

In the final assault, it all fell into place.  Black cannot save it.  20. … Kg8 21. Nd5 Qxc2  22. Ne7+ Kh8  23. Rf8+ Bxf8 24. Qg8 checkmate.  If he tries to use his Knight to block the f-file, extending the final curtain, then 21. Rxf6+ still wins because the mating net still exists. 

For the student, to learn the nuts and bolts of chessplay, I have always advocated meeting 1. e4 with e5.  By applying my strategem of plans laid out from move 1, with outcomes whether in victory or defeat, it is about as good a way to build skill.  Just a word about this battle; my youthful opponent had the idea that because I varied from what he was used to meeting in the Sicilian Defence, namely 3. d4  cxd4  4. Nxd4 there was false hope of a quick initiative and win for himself perhaps.  Also, the whole line of defence strategy was seemingly bookish as a pattern.  His ideas seemed good on the surface and I will not dispute that but he entered the middlegame lacking a clear plan of action which gave me that advantage of knowing my previous moves and their purpose.  Chessmasters rarely just stumble into a winning combination.

Somewhere in my chess adventures I may have got a similar position opportunity as happens so playing and studying chess games whenever you come across them is a proven way to learn patterns for various types of attack as well as defence.  Some good literature for this is Winning Chess by Fred Reinfeld and the book on tactical and combinative play by Polgar.

KindredSpirit’s Kaleidoscope: Art in Christmas Memories– Trilogy, The 3rd Part

December 10, 2012

One of the most cherished reminisces of Christmas past, present and hopeful future is found in the many wonderful Christmas carols, songs and paintings. These are the things that draw attraction to Christmas.  But perhaps an even greater reminder is that of church structures and the beautiful as well as simplified designs that frequent the landscape throughout many lands.  All religions and heritage reflect in their architecture the many designs– some featuring centuries of such art while others find the joy in simplicity that come from God’s earth of stone and wood.

In every case, church represents the demand of societies from small hamlets to giant cities for a place to worship their religious beliefs and social values and needs.  The floor and seating plans of church interiors follow the Greek cross or what might be called a T-Shape.  Thus, congregations that form the church membership will find it in this static design.

Before the Reformation these styles were an expression of Roman Catholic values.  Both Martin Luther and John Calvin sought and encouraged smaller church structures and Protestant church buildings thus dotted the countryside with structures that were more economical. The Protestant colonial churches adopted the English and Holland architectural patterns.  In the Southwest, architectural design followed in the Spanish baroque style and a favorite of the Roman Catholic Spanish missions. These structures are often seen in western cowboy and indian movies.

Most modern American structures have opted more and more the adoption of old Greek temples for their beauty but new and interesting changes due to modern technology and freedom of architectural design find more and more to reflect a more independent free style structure.

Families today have a rich heritage in art.  Christmas trees come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and decorative patterns featuring bulbs, lights, tinsel, and home crafted ideas of children and parents.  Today there exists a long tradition of family preparation. In earlier times, it was common for the tree not to be brought fresh into the home until near Christmas eve after the children were in bed.  Father and mother would then set up the tree, decorate it and put wrapped presents under the tree.  Children would rise early and likely be the first to see it in the morning.  Homes with fireplaces often had stockings with small gifts stuck in them. The beauty was exultingly joyful.  Father and mother would hurry down with mother getting breakfast and father stoking the embers, adding coal or wood.  Presents were left until after breakfast, sometimes after going to church, and all this beauty was a cherished memory for the whole family. Family wealth varied but love was supreme throughout the holidays with cherished memories for one and all.

Regrettably today such memories really do not exist beyond the tearing open of gifts. Family trees spring up as early as November in many cases so that with the coming of Christmas, the expectancy, the joy, the purpose has been watered down to be thought of as good to be rid of for another year. That magic that once invaded the home of long ago is seen as Christmas being just another commercial season. The beauty that comes from window shopping and enjoying the artfulness of store front windows is virtually gone from the minds of impatient shoppers cramming to get in to buy sales.

The art at Christmas is seen mostly today in paintings such as the Last Supper,  winter scenes by creative imaginations, historic movies that depicted Roman times and Crucifixion of Jesus. Artist concepts of the birth of Christ child and of Mary adorn together with beautiful scenes painted for Christmas cards.  It is a time for remembering friends and family with notes meant for togetherness and reflection of love at home and those separated by miles.

So ends my trilogy.  I cannot speak or even care to rebut those who despise Christmas. I speak nor write no more of this. It has been my belief that no one can challenge my faith.  I write as a witness to a long life of joy from wonderful literature and movies of a great era of magnificent prose and heartfelt songs that uplift our spirit and remind us of our many blessings.

TO ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A MEMORABLE AND HAPPIEST OF NEW YEARS AND MANY BLESSED RETURNS.

KindredSpirit’s Kaleidoscope: The Joyous Birth and Meaning of Christmas — Part II of the Trilogy

December 9, 2012

The greatest story ever told was that of the coming of the Christ child called Jesus.  Being of the house of David, Joseph and Mary of Nazareth had to pay taxes in Bethlehem, city of David.  There Jesus was born. The Bible, according to the Gospel of St. Luke, noted that an angel appeared to shepherds tending their flocks  in fields near Bethlehem and announced the recent birth of Jesus. The Gospel of St. Matthew tells of the three wise men who were directed to Jesus’ birth place in Bethlehem by a bright star that pointed the way.  Soon the wise men departed after presenting their gifts for the Christ child.  Then, Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod.  This is recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was born at the time when shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem when an angel appeared to them with the joyous report of the Savior’s birth. Certainly the joyous announcement must have awed the shepherds.  And in those days, long before modern writing materials such as pens and pencils, paper, typewriters or computers existed, such events were very carefully and accurately recorded by scribes on parchment.

CHRISTMAS, a day in the Christian calendar, instituted near the 4th century by Emperor Constantine was officially established as the birthdate of Jesus our Lord and Savior to be December 25th. The Bible tells us that he may have been born sometime in August due to the account of shepherds who were known to tend sheep and a bright star that appeared during that period in the Heavens that attracted the three wise men to Bethlehem.

A lot of Christmas customs vary from country to country and are characterized by joy of family and merry-making. Many customs grew out of the Roman winter festival. The exchange of gifts and lighting of candles customary at Christmas as well as the exchange of green branches from evergreens that supposed good fortune and luck may well find the origin in Roman culture. They also sent holly as gifts. Later on the legend arose that a Christian bishop by the name of St. Nicholas brought gifts to children at Christmas.

The Yule feast among the Anglo-Saxons became identified with Christmas after their conversion to Christianity.  The Yule log and the Christmas Tree probably appeared first in Germany during the Middle Ages.  The mistletoe, a sign of peace and goodwill among the Celtic druids was adopted as a decoration by the English.

Today we have an abundance of Christmas music and carols and many books and stories with a Christmas theme.

KindredSpirit’s Kaleidoscope: The Trilogy of Kindred’s Spirit and Belief –The Foundation

December 8, 2012

 Christianity is a religion founded with members’ belief in Jesus and Biblical history coming from the Word.  I think of the term modern Christianity as a composite of numerous entities called under an umbrella of worship– such engines and railroad cars being pulled by a mighty engine that in some ways reminds me of Germany’s Berlin rail system having several branches in all directions. Each engine, while alike, taking different paths with cars loaded with patrons stopping to take on passengers and letting off others who have reached their destination traveling their path to eventually find their individual destination.

The study of the Christian religion is historically documented. The 2nd century saw the threat of barbarian invasion and this caused the Roman governors to seek unity in the provinces.  Dissent was widespread among the Christians to worship Roman emperors. In 313 A.D. Emperor Constantine, in order to strengthen defenses of the Roman Empire, needed the Christians who had suffered much persecution and even death for their beliefs and spreading it throughout the Roman empire. He granted Christians freedom of worship and brought about creating a harmony with the pagan religions and beliefs. (More later). By the end of the century Christianity was the state religion of the Empire.  The barbarians overran the Roman Empire but a good number had been taught by missionaries so the destruction was not as great as it could have been.

The destruction plunged Europe into the historic Middle Ages.  The importance of Christianity and religious fervor is important. It survived the most trying of times. Monasteries founded schools. Learned monks studied the Bible and works of the great thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, and St. Augustine.  Is it not obvious to the people today to see that the basis for the rebirth forever since was maintained by the infusion of Christian institutions? 

Christianity did not remain united in one church.  Human nature saw many who criticised practices of some Roman Catholic clergy and this led to the Reformation and founding of Protestant churches.  The work of Martin Luther made possible the writing and printing of the Holy Bible for all to possess in the Christian home.  Today there are several offshoots that sprung from the Roman Catholic belief.  Still, religions have tended to stand together as a unifying force against practices that try to disunite the Christian Church and belief structures.

I do believe that Satan and Lucifer are the same–just carrying different names but both convinced that Christians can be misled through cunning deceit, lies, and to entice those lacking character and possessing little critical thinking brain matter due to temptations of the body and spirit.

KindredSpirit’s Kaleidoscope: Defence in Chess And Use of the Square Count Theory

December 3, 2012

Chess is war; it beautifies the landscape within the 64-squares where it has been treated by the giants and lesser knights of chess as art with musical like delight that encompass both a struggle –a fight– and science.  It is perhaps found to be champion of literary works since it has for a long time been considered the most written about of any man-made following.  But herein lies a magical wonderment! Reading tons of literature and game play in books and magazines, I noticed from earliest times, the chess public interest in attack with brilliantly sharp sacrifices usually terminating in gold coins being tossed to the victor by onlookers.  The early chess delights gave little attention to defence against a numerous barrage of opening sacrifices that carried various Gambit names until the arrival of post-civil war era players, W. Steinitz and Emmanuel Lasker, who raised the bar to show that defence was as much a vital role as attack.  It always was.  It simply did not get the proper recognition. A deep respect and understanding of the defence role in chess was seen in the play and writings of numerous world champions and exponents of the modern era. It has taken its rightful place beside attack in the opening realm of literature and practice.

The role of the attacker and defender, if a color pattern was used (say Green for attacker and Red for defender), would probably show a terrain of about equal square coverage of the respective territories under control. Practice usually shows the White forces having a favorable spatial edge and count in the early opening stage, even into the middle game, and historically is called the initiative.  Here, the role of the defender must be to decide upon the type of defensive structure to combat the enemy incursion.

The physical nature of the position can change rapidly and may well alter the appraisal of the position and equally that of square count.

Lets define methods of defence as being:

  1. To minimize the incursion achieved by the aggressor;
  2. To hopefully at some stage turn the tables;
  3. To understand that the danger of defensive chess play is losing;
  4. To recognize that it usually takes a flawed plan and number of miscues to lose so always try to find the best in any position;
  5. To guard and protect square weaknesses in the position;
  6. To utilize the principle of imbalance toward creating counterattacking opportunities when vying for a win;
  7. To utilize the principle of balance toward securing equality.

The rule in successful chess play is having fun which comes from attack and mating an opponent.  That enlightening experience is great but the real effect of defence is aiming for improvement. The study of lost games is a long tested positive. In time, you will learn that defence is not dull but invigorating ideas for creating planned operations of defense and counterattack.  Just to excite you about the power of good defence, I now give you a game…………..

                                White:  Neikirkh            Black:  Mikhail Botvinnik        Opening:  Sicilian Defence      Leipzig 1960

1. e4  c5  2. Nf3  Nc6  3. d4  cxd4.

Botvinnik adopts the Sicilian Defence and already using,  knowingly or not my point thinking from move 1 that should White advance d4, he will trade pawns and establish an extra pawn in the central files d/e while creating a half-open c-file that might be used to build up Q-side pressure and dominate the c-file with a Rook and possibly a Queen.  Book play to be sure but thinking out its logic puts your mind on the purpose with the nuts and bolts finding not routine as annotations might suggest to you but eye on critical thinking and where this gives you a ready-made plan of operations for the future. Your moves and plan have a purpose.

4. Nxd4  Nf6  5. Nc3  d6  6. Bc4  e6  7. Bb3  Be7  8. O-O  O-O  9. Kh1?!

This wholly defensive move seems out-of-place because for the moment it is not necessary,  and he could better continue with say, 9.f4. In effect, White has given up his extra edge of having the lst move.

9. … Na5

Botvinnik strikes at the Bishop, gets the Knight out-of-the-way of an exchange and prepares to play the jump move ideas of ….b6,  ….Bb7, ….Nxb3.

11. e5  Ne8!

Capturing the e-pawn would be a mistake because it would open up the center and create a half-open f-file.  Attack requires open lines is our maxim.

12. Rf3!

White finds a clever retort to Black’s plan.  Now, if 12. … Bb7 13. Rh3  Nxb3  14. Qh5! h6  15. Nxb3.

This justifies it seems White’s strategy.  So, it is time to say that things don’t always prove out with the best laid plans.  The scientific master of chess, Mikhail Botvinnik, had to put on his thinking cap!  He spots the weak link in his strategic plan.  The Bishop tempo move actually loses steam because of White’s attack having the dominate aggression of a King Hunt. This is an example where square count on the surface is wrong; but is it?

12. …. Nxb3  13. Nc6.

White sets his eye on the undefended c6 square. He reasons he can win the e7 Bishop for the Knight which he deems a worthwhile exchange since obviously he breaks up the Bishop-pair, known to be favored by his opponent.

13. …Qd7  14. Nxe7+  Qxe7  15. axb3  f6!

Play the position!!  Botvinnik doesn’t worry about not having the Bishop-pair because he sees that his own minor pieces will dominate the Board.

16. exd6  Nxd6  17. Rd3  Nc4  18. Ra4  Qe8  19. Ne4  b5  20. Ra5  Bb7 21. Nd6.

Not 21. Nf5 Bxg2+!)

21… Nxd6  22. Rxd6  Rd8  23. Qd2 Rxd6  24. Qxd6  Qd8 25. Qxe6+ Rf7   26. Qe1 Re7  White Resigns.

Note the power of square count merely took a slightly different course with the same results.

This illustration of using critical thought from the very  lst move should give you a better and practical understanding using principles and exercising your mental faculties rather than just playing by rote book moves. In chess, the plan from move one as I illustrated from this Grandmaster game gives the player using it the edge whether playing the White or Black pieces.  In studying the openings from books, it is good to use this same feature as it helps to keep the essence of the opening goal in sight and lays the groundwork toward a better chance of success entering the middle game.

A number of rich descriptions for defensive tactical strategies has enriched the defence establishment. I am sure I shall miss some colorful gems  that describe the defence and include attack motifs. By now you can probably see examples arising regularly as part of the literary examples of such theory. The struggle between the active and passive pawn structures  and Piece mobilization; Blocked positions; Capablanca was famous for play on both the Kingside and Queenside by timely transfer of Rooks from one sector to the other; The acceptance or decline of a sacrifice; Zwischzug is a chess term meaning an in-between move where the expected course of play is altered by a surprise and unexpected move; where a sacrifice is met by a counter sacrifice.

You have to remember that pawn grabbing is a two-way street.  It may work to win a pawn or two only to find the loss of tempo or tempi can offset such bargains if square count can be gained to the degree setting fire to the nature of the position.  A famous story goes that New York 1927 tournament game  between Frank Marshall and Vidmar found embarrassment by none other than Alexander Alekhine who wrote the tournament book on the game. He pointed out that Vidmar could have taken a gift pawn but declined to do so on several different settings which Alekhine proved would have given Black a won game. When both Marshall and Vidmar were shown the analysis and win of material, neither Marshall nor Vidmar could give an answer. Pawn snatching remains almost a taboo among masters.  Bobby Fischer was famous for accepting such a loose pawn as was Larry Evans. “After all, a pawn is a pawn!” Fischer came away with buttering his knife in many contests.

In forming square count as both theory and having practical application in both selection of a plan, move or idea using my jump moves I find, if used properly, is quite reliable.  A second feature is the chance to map a game graphically that accurately shows the various states of position as being equal or a plus or negative.  I found using a graph every five moves or so is a good reference but any can be applied.  Often it can tell the student, coach or parent the progress of home study and training.