Giving up the Initiative: A Sucker’s Bet

There are two competing schools of thought when dealing with winning positions. The first says “reduce, reduce, reduce” and the other says that the material disparity is just one imbalance among many. I subscribe to the second approach. The game today is a cautionary tale about the dangers of overvaluing material advantage.

This is a Game 30. My opponent is rated 1500 and I am 1600. I have the black pieces.

1. e4 e5 2. f4 Bc5 3. Nf3 d6 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. d3 O-O {Nc6 is a bit better. The
game will transpose, but castling first means white has 6. fxe dxe 7. Nxe5?!
It’s not very testing for black but it’s more theory to learn.}

6. f5 {I couldn’t find the f5 push in my database so we’re in new territory. Actually,
this is a common move among amateur players. The e-pawn isn’t under much
pressure now so breaking in the center will be easier.} …c6 {It is a developing
move of sorts. I plan on putting my knight on d7, bishop on b7 and queen on c7.
Black should have no problems then.}

7. a4 {This ignores development. White doesn’t need to play prophylaxis here.} Nbd7 8. c3 {This is pretty thematic. If white wants to castle short he’ll need to control d4. He’s a step slow here because of the f-pawn push.} Nb6 {This necessitates a5 for black. I could’ve
opted for b6 instead and saved a tempo.}

9. Ba2 a5 10. d4 {I’m ahead in development and white can’t break when that’s the case. His e-pawn is loose too.} exd4 11. cxd4 Bb4+ 12. Nc3 Nxe4 13. O-O {So black has won the won opening in every respect. How would you continue here?

What is black’s best plan?

This is the game’s critical position. How do you estimate white’s counterplay
if you grab the second pawn after exchanging? More importantly, how would you
make such an assessment? Do you have a bias? It’s clear here that I
must fight harder against my own materialism in the future.}

13…Bxc3 14. bxc3 Nxc3 {Look at white’s remaining pieces! They’re roaring to life. There’s not a worthwhile defender of black king’s side. Black has provided white easy counter chances.}

15. Qd3 Nxa2 16. Rxa2 Nd5 17. Raf2 Qb6 {It’s not clear what the queen’s doing here.
It almost pins the d-pawn, but white doesn’t care about that! He wants an
attack. I would’ve moved it before too long but every move must be constructive.}

18. f6 {This is crafty. Black will need some accuracy.} Nxf6 19. Ng5 h6 20. Rxf6 hxg5 21. Rxd6 {White has better pieces and has almost resolved the material imbalance.} Be6 22. Bxg5 {?! There’s no need for this yet. It allows black a helpful exchange.} Qb4 {!}

23. Be7 Rfe8 24. Rxe6 Rxe7 25. Rxe7 Qxe7 {This is no cakewalk. Black can’t
really lose but converting the extra pawn won’t be easy against perfect play.}

26. d5 Qc5+ 27. Kh1 Qxd5 {This helps black of course.} 28. Qe3 Rd8 29. h3 c5
30. Qe7 Rf8 31. Rb1 c4 32. Rxb7 Qd1+ 33. Kh2 Qxa4 34. Qe4 Rc8 35. Qe7 Qe8 36.
Qa3 Qe5+ 37. Kh1 c3 38. Qa2 Qf5 {Maintain the initiative whenever possible.
You can’t predefine a value for it but mobilizing your opponent’s army gives
full compensation for a pawn. This much I’ve learned.} 0-1

 

 

 

 

An Instructive Endgame

Here is an online Game 30 where white converts his endgame advantage. The win is not so dramatic but it does emphasize endgame planning. I am 1611 USCF here and my opponent is 1511.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c5 {This is the Symmetrical Defense to the Queen’s Gambit.
White’s first-move advantage means more in an open position like this one.
Development is better.} 3. cxd5 Qxd5 (3… Nf6 4. dxc5 {White is material up.
He should give it back en route to a pleasant game.})

4. Nf3 cxd4 5. Nc3 Qd6 6. Qxd4 Qxd4 7. Nxd4 {Black took with his only active piece. I can see the temptation to rid oneself of a potential liability, the queen is placed in a
difficult spot, but white gets what he wants.} e6 8. g3 {White chose this
development scheme so e4 wouldn’t be weak.} Bc5 9. Nb3 Bb4 10. Bd2 {This isn’t
strictly necessary. White can accept the weakness since black’s capture would
exacerbate his development problems.} Bxc3 11. Bxc3 f6 {It’s a snowball effect
when you lag developmentally. It’s better to offer up the knight and accept a
weakness.} 12. Bg2 Ne7 13. Nc5 {Castling is slightly better.} Nbc6 14. Rd1 Kf7
{I like the spirit of this move.}

15. O-O b6 16. Ne4 Nd5 {Black must have missed the check. The second player ought to have seen the difficulties of his b6-Bb7 plan earlier.} 17. Nd6+ Ke7 18. Nxc8+ {Bxd5 is alright as well} Raxc8

19. Bxd5 exd5 20. Rxd5 Rcd8 21. Rfd1 Rxd5 {This is an error. Black spent two
tempo on that rook and assisted white while doing so! To take is usually a
mistake.}

22. Rxd5 Rd8 23. Rxd8 Kxd8 24. Kg2 {White is better here. He has no
weaknesses. and is free to put his pawns on the light squares. I am fortunate
I did not play d3 since the knight would have chances.} Kd7 25. Kf3 Ke6 26. g4
{This is not fully accurate. The plan is fairly sound, make black run out of
moves, but the move order is wrong.} a5 27. Ke4 b5 {Black aims to exchange
pawns and reduce play to one side of the board. This is sound strategically.
Follow-through is everything however. If the plan fails, the pawns will be
quite exposed.} 28. f4 b4 29. Bd4 h6 30. Bc5 {White should limit the knight’s
scope.} g6

After black’s 30th move.

31. f5+ gxf5+ 32. gxf5+ Kd7 33. b3 {This is both good and bad. Fixing pawns benefits the knight but after h3 it’s not clear how black can secure penetration.} Ne5 34. h3 Kc6 35. Bf8 h5 36. Bg7 {Bd7 is move active.} Nd7 37. Kd4 {So everything makes sense here. White has fixed his pawns on light squares and therefore black’s own pawns shut off the dark squares.

Because of the dark-square pawns either the king or the knight must dedicate
itself to the defense. At a timely point white can switch the attack to
another sector where the knight cannot reposition itself so easily.} Kd6 38.
Bh6 Kc6 39. Bf4 Nb6 40. e4 {This thrust will secure a passer soon.} Nd7 41. e5
fxe5+ 42. Bxe5 {It’s rather nice having the extra pawn. The endgame is far
different without these tempo moves made possible by the material disparity.}
Nf8 43. h4 {Because g5 and f6 are covered there’s no outpost of value on g4.
This justifies the advance. The pawn move also eliminates one of black’s tempi.
White will secure penetration on c5 as a result.} Nd7 44. Bg7 Kd6 45. Kc4 {But
the pawn and bishop create a wall!} Ke7 46. Kb5 Nf6 47. Kxa5 {This is a
mistake. White can win more easily. Simply counting, white gets to his goal
first after Bxf6. The queening square is covered with time to spare.} (47.
Bxf6+ Kxf6 48. Kxa5 Kxf5 49. Kxb4 Kg4 50. a4 Kxh4 51. a5 Kg4 52. a6 h4 53. a7
h3 54. a8=Q) 47… Kf7 48. Bxf6 Kxf6 49. Kxb4 Kxf5 50. a4 Kg4 51. a5 Kxh4 52.
a6 Kg3 53. a7 h4 54. a8=Q h3 55. Kc5 h2 56. Qg8+ Kh3 57. Qh7+ Kg2 58. Qg6+ Kh1
59. Qh5 Kg1 60. Qg4+ Kh1 61. Qh4 {White forgets that the queen cannot win on
her own without black blundering. The only exception to the rule is if white’s
king blocks his own queen (preventing stalemate).} Kg1 62. Qg3+ Kh1 63. Qe1+
Kg2 64. b4 h1=Q 65. Qxh1+ 1-0

 

Gambit in the Nimzo-Indian

Giofreda – (1607) NN – (1525) This is an online Game 30. I am using the Nimzo-Indian as black here, to improve my play from the white side. I fell in love with this gambit and will play it every chance I get. Oddly enough, twenty-six of the first twenty-eight moves played were book moves according to my database. If  something makes sense to you that should increase its appeal.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 {This is the start of Capablanca’s system
against the Nimzo-Indian Defense. In the main line black races ahead in
development but lacks the two bishops.}

The starting position after 6…b5

4…0-0 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 b5 7. cxb5 {Black gets a good game in all lines, but 7. c5 is quite nice: (7. c5 {Gives up the light squares} Nd5 8. Qc2 f5 {Black has few problems}) 7… c6 8. bxc6 (8. Qd3 {This anticipates 8…Ne4} cxb5 9. Bg5

9…h6 {De Jong, Jan Willem – Docx, Stefan continued 9…h6 10. Bh4 Nc6 11. Nf3 Qa5+ 12. Nd2 Nd5 13. Bg3 Ndb4 14. Qc3 Nxd4 15. Rc1 Nbc2+ 16. Rxc2 Nxc2+ 17. Qxc2 Bb7 18. e3 Rfc8 19. Qd1 b4 20. axb4 Qxb4 21. Be5 d6 22. Bc3 Rxc3 23. bxc3 Qxc3 24. Be2 Bxg2 25. Rg1 Bd5 26. e4 Bxe4 27. Rg3 Qa5 28. Kf1 Bd5 29. Qc1 Rb8 30. Nf3Kh8 31. Qf4 Qa1+ 32. Kg2 e5 33. Qf5 Be6 34. Qe4 Qc1 35. Bd3 f5 36. Qh4 Qc7 37. Qh5 Rf8 38. Rg6 Bc8 39. Ng5 d5 40. Bb5 Qe7 41. Be8 Rf6 42. Nf7+ Kh7 43. Nxh6 1-0}) 8… Nxc6 9. g3 {?! Not the best spot for the bishop. There’ll be few things on the light squares.} Ne4 10. Qd3 Qa5+ 11. Bd2 Nxd2 12. Qxd2 Qxd2+ 13. Kxd2 Nxd4 14. Bg2 Rb8 (14… Nb3+ {Black is better} 15. Kc3 Rb8 16. Rd1 Ba6 17. Kc2 (17. Rxd7 Rfc8+ 18. Rc7 Rxc7+ 19. Bc6 Rxc6#) 17… Rfc8+ 18. Kb1 d5) 15.

…Rb1 Bb7 {Not best, although black gets some nice initiative. It’s better to
sit the knight on b3 and prevent b4. You can pile up on it and restrain
white’s pieces.}

16. Bxb7 Rxb7 17. e3 (17. b4 Nb5 18. a4 Na3 19. Rb3 Nc4+ 20.
Kd3 Ne5+ 21. Kd2 Rc8 22. Nf3 Nxf3+ 23. exf3 Rbc7 24. a5 Rc2+ 25. Ke3 Ra2 {This
is an improvement over the text.})

17… Nb3+ 18. Ke2 Rfb8 19. Nf3 a5 {I’m trying to fix white’s backward pawn. Also neat is Kf7 here. I’d like to keep the d-pawn so I maintain flexibility, since a knight sorties would be black’s only counterplay.} 20. Rhd1 Nc5 21. Rd2 Na4 {! Three attackers on the pawn and
it is fixed through c3′s weakness.} 22. b3 {??} Nc3+ {0-1} *

 

A Fun Little Puzzle

Happy Christmas Eve to my friends across the pond. When you’re done eating your figgy pudding, then curl up next to your yule log, break out your old wooden chess set and check out this winter-time puzzler. It’s white’s move and black has a win. Can you find the correct procedure? The solution is below.

First we need a plan, and here we need a little bit of theoretical knowledge as a basis. Two lone knights cannot checkmate a king by force unless the defender allows it. The defender can employ a stalemate defense quite easily. Because the pawn, when freed, prevents a stalemate, the inferior side’s extra material works against him here.

At the proper time black must release the blockade and free his knights up to give checkmate. If black captures this wandering pawn it’s a draw. If he lets the pawn reach the queening square he must make a capture, or checkmate white on the subsequent move. The further-advanced the pawn, the easier the defense. The Troitsky line dictates whether the situation is winning or not. It’s an eyebrow-shaped line connecting a5, b3, c4, d5, e5, f4, g3, h5 (reverse it if you’re white). If the blockaded pawn is on or behind this line it’s a winning position. Both white pawns are on behind the Troitsky line here. Black should leave only one knight on blockading duty, or else the winning side cannot make progress against the king.

The attacking procedure against the pawns is a bit ungainly. Winning it involves the use of zugzwang; black should try and separate the pawns. This makes their defense harder for the king. Don’t let the d4 pawn move though. Here’s how I handled this portion. It gave me great pleasure to see Fritz fail here.

1. Kc4 {1} Nfe3+ {7} 2. Kb5 {2} Nf4 {9} 3. Kb6 {2} Ned5+ 4. Kb5 {4} Kf5 5. Kc5 Ke4 6. Kd6 Ne3 {24} 7. e6 {2} Nf5+ {4} 8. Kd7 {1} Nd5 {13} 9. Kd8 {7} Nfe7 10. Kd7 {1} Kf5 11. Kd6 {1} Kf6 12. Kd7 Nf5 {!} 13. Kc6 Kxe6

Speed is not all that important and I don’t believe my way is fastest. Get the d-pawn by itself and the forward pawn will soon fall. The next part involves herding the king. I find this difficult. Aim for this.

.

The two knights are on opposite colors and create a blockade. The white king cannot cross back to the other side because d7 and d8 are protected. To find out how to finish (albeit, from a slightly different position) this video is a great resource.

 

 

 

 

A Great Puzzle

It’s black to move. Is this a win, loss, or draw?

This endgame comes to us from a Ruy Lopez. If I were to teach a student only one position from any game I’ve ever played, this would be the one. There it was in front of me and I knew that it was special.

I solved the puzzle without knowing how I derived the answer. The process started me thinking about how I approach chess positions. Naturally you must catalog your mental errors before you can stop making them, This is “My System” of thinking, warts and all. Be mindful that no system is universally applicable and that the thinking process is not necessarily linear. Finding whether a move is forced or not (Step One) may require positional consideration. Dart back and forth between stages and add your own.

1. Forcing Moves? If I must make a particular move then I ought to start my analysis only afterwards. Black must move the knight. Three moves result in capture. Both moves to the second file allow white’s passer permanent king protection. So we’d like a check, but after  1…Ke7 the knight is doomed. What to do!? I’m stuck between actively degrading my position and losing a piece. I can’t fathom moving anything but the knight either.

2. Where does my piece belong? We must take into account the piece’s ideal placement as well as the feasibility of the maneuver. Here the black knight can use its peculiar geometry to either harass white’s king and pawn or assist in the black’s pawn’s promotion. The second choice can be eliminated due to time constraints. Once the knight leaves the premises, white will queen. A piece can belong nowhere too, and this is the case here. Black’s knight cannot stop white’s queening attempt because of the b-pawn. Were that pawn not there, white could insist upon the sacrifice indefinitely. The knight can buy time by sitting on the queening square however. Part of your material inventory involves seeing when a piece is no longer materially valuable. Maybe it can proffer some other resource. I love Pal Benko’s endgame manual, but if the winter gets cold enough it’s of greater worth inside my fireplace. The king is also firmly moored to its side as well. Relative immobility of the pieces means tactics will predominate.

3. What does my opponent want to do? What are the consequences of his plans? Are they local (affecting one part of the board) or global (affecting the whole board)? Seizure of a square usually affects a region but promoting a pawn affects everything for instance.

4. I break the board down into sections. There are often, as here, two, or even three, separate chess games within a position. Even with long-range pieces the balance of power in a sector changes slowly. Can the pieces in one sector stymie my opponent’s plan? Are my pieces able to achieve the strategic aim in a given sector? If I lose the “battle” on the queen wing do I have adequate resources on the king wing? Clearly I do not. If I cannot stop my opponent’s plans I must ruthlessly pursue my own.

4. I decide what a winning situation looks like in my area of activity. How do I know I’ve been successful? What must happen? What cannot happen? My success might involve marooning white’s knight on b1. Black’s king can give chase and the beleaguered knight can neither give itself up or stray too far. A draw by repetition will follow. Another try is using the king to bar the knight’s entry into key squares. Is this possible? I fail if I cannot oust the knight in time. How can I lose time? If the white knight and black pawn make me lose tempo.

5. I decide on the move sequence. Which path should the king take? Referencing step number four we can see that Ka3 unnecessarily blocks black’s king. B2 and Kb4 are interchangeable because white will take the knight. Thus one route lacks independent value and I need not analyze it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brain-inspired bric-a-brac and that it improves your chess!

 

 

 

A Sample Colle Game

Here’s another game 30, courtesy of Chess.com. I played as white. Themes include key squares, piece coordination, prophylaxis and control along the a8-h1 diagonal. Black’s relaxed rooks decided the game. How could they have better participated in the struggle?

This opening system is called the Colle. White pressures black’s king early and often. It has my endorsement.

[WhiteElo "1619"]
[BlackElo "1507"]
[PlyCount "91"]

1. c3 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 g6 (3… Bf5 4. Qb3 Qc8 5. c4 e6 6. cxd5 exd5) 4. d4
Bg7 5. Bd3 {We have a Colle.} O-O 6. Nbd2 Nc6 7. O-O Bd7 8. Re1 Qc8 9. e4 dxe4
10. Nxe4 Re8 11. Ne5 Nxe5 12. dxe5 Ng4 (12… Nxe4 13. Bxe4 Bxe5 14. Qd5 Bf6
15. Qxb7 Qxb7 16. Bxb7 Rab8 17. Be4 {White holds little edge.}) (12… Nxe4 13.
Rxe4 Bf5 14. Rd4 Bxe5 {Black’s bishops are good.}) 13. f4 f6 14. h3 (14. Nc5 {
! Black has to keep watch over both the knight and the e6 thrust.} Bf5 15. Qb3+
Kh8 16. Bxf5 {White will win the b-pawn.})

14… Nh6 15. exf6 exf6 16. Bc4+ Kh8 17. Nf2 {White’s position is a bit passive after this.} Nf5 18. Bd2 b5 19. Bf7 Rf8 20. Bb3 c5 21. Bc2 Bc6 22. a4 {To gain space} Qb7 23. axb5 Bxg2 24. Ne4 Nh4 25. Qg4 g5 (25… f5 26. Qxh4 fxe4 {I prefer black’s position by a slight
margin.}) 26. fxg5 fxg5 27. Bxg5 Nf3+ 28. Kxg2 Nxe1+ 29. Rxe1 {The crosspin
looks great optically but white can hold his material.} h6

30. Be3 Bxc3 {! It’s a really good try. Sometimes the queen ends up being enough. The minor pieces have excellent chances here however.} 31. bxc3 Rg8 32. Bxc5 Rxg4+ 33.
hxg4 Rg8 {This is really a decisive mistake. With the rook in the game who
knows? Black needed to watch the powerful bishops.} (33… Qxb5 34. Bd4+ Kg8
35. Nc5) 34. Bd4+ Kh7 35. Kh3 {!} Rg6 36. Ng3 Qxb5 37. Re7+ Kg8 38. Bxg6 Qg5
39. Rxa7 {Qxg6 is not a threat due to the piece liquidation that’d follow.} Kf8
40. Bf5 {I’m in time trouble White’s success depends upon his ability to ward
off spite checks.The knight covers the light squares around my king. The
dark-squared bishop and rook will escort the the c-pawn.} Qc1 41. Ra8+ Ke7 42.
Rc8 Kd6 43. c4 Qd1 44. c5+ Kd5 45. Bf2 Qd2 46. Rd8+ 1-0

 

Chess is the Reason

Here’s an online game I just played. I am holding steady at 1610 due to some long-overdue studying (knock on the chessboard).

It is a Game 30.

1. e4 c6

2. d3 d5: My opponent cedes the center. I’ve found that people mostly neglect the Caro-Kann and don’t know the main lines.

3. exd5 cxd5 4. h3 e5: Obviously h3 is premature.

5. Qe2 Nc6 6. g4 Bd6 7. Bg2 Be6 8. c3 Nf6: Black has solved his opening problems. If black has a free hand this early then white must have played passively.

9. b4 b5: b4 fixes the c-pawn.

10. a3 a5 11. Bb2 axb4 12. cxb4 O-O 13. Qc2 Nd4: Don’t neglect unbalancing moves. The bishop pair may not adequate compensate black but traveling the road not taken broaden your horizons.

14. Bxd4 exd4 15. Qb2 Re8: I wanted to sacrifice the knight but it’s not tactically justified yet. I’ll improve my position first. Re8 is a good move sans follow-up tricks.

16. Ne2 Nxg4 17. hxg4 Bxg4 18. Bf1 Qf6 19. Nd2 Rxe2+ 20. Bxe2 Re8: I can swiftly get each piece involved. The pin is not easily undone. White’s rooks cannot connect unless he solves this problem.

21. f3 Bxf3 22. Nxf3 Qxf3 23. Rf1 Qxd3 24. Qd2 Bg3+ (24… Rxe2+ 25. Qxe2 Qc3+ 26.
Qd2 Qxa1+ 27. Ke2 Qxa3): This sequence is tricky. The mating move is key. I did not adequately work out the forcing variations.

25. Kd1 Qb3+ 26. Qc2 Qxc2+ 27. Kxc2 Rxe2+ 28. Kd3 Re6 (
28… Re4) This saves material. I rejected the move because I didn’t consider it active enough. Perfect play leads to a draw now. Sometimes a particular material imbalance does not tell the whole story. I misled myself. The endgame ahead is instructive. Both sides have winning chances as well as serious strategic questions. Should white press forward with his pawn or curtail black’s central assault?

29. a4 bxa4 30. Rxa4 f6: Is this the right pawn push? The h5 pawn is a great promotion candidate. It is far away from white’s king.

31. Kxd4 Rd6 32. b5 Be5+ 33. Kc5 d4 34. Re1
Rd8 35. Rxe5 fxe5 36. b6 d3 37. Ra1 e4: I’m rather fortunate that my potential queen will support my rook immediately. This offers me a critical tempo.

38. b7 d2 39. Kc6 e3 40. Rd1 Kf7 41. Kc7 Re8 42. b8=Q Rxb8 43. Kxb8 e2 44. Rxd2 e1=Q45. Rd7+ Qe7 46. Rd3 h5 47. Rf3+

Qf6 48. Rh3 h4 49. Kc7 g5 50. Kd7 Qf5+ 0-1

 

 

In the Money

Hanover County Open – 12/01/12 Giofreda (1538) – NN (1300)

This is my game from the final round of a small, four-round tournament. I have 2.5/ 3 and my opponent has 2/3. The gentleman with whom I shared a contentious draw in the previous round won his fourth game quickly. To match his 3.5/4 I need a win.

1. c3 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d3 e6 4. Nbd2 Be7 5. e4 dxe4 6. dxe4 O-O 7. Qc2 Nbd7 8.
Bd3 e5 (Be2 is better for white so that black cannot hound the bishop)

9. Nc4 Bd6 10. O-O b6 11. Nxd6 cxd6 12. Bg5 Bb7 (The bishop pair and the backward pawn look quite nice for white)

13. Rad1 Nc5 (b4 is better here, rather than delaying. The dorsal fin structure is solid. It is common to openings such as the Four Knights but it’s a redoubtable structure in other setups too. The light square bishop and pawn complement one another well here.

14. b4?! Ncxe4 (I am still surprised that I do not have full compensation for the pawn)

15. Rfe1 Nxg5 16. Nxg5 h6 17. Nh3 Re8 (White should play Nh7 since his knight has no future on h3. I consider myself fortunate that my opponent exchanged my knight. I played a piece down because of this strategic error.

18. Bb5 Re7 (It’s better for white to lift his rooks. Bb5 accomplishes little)

19. c4 a6 20. Ba4 Rc8 21. Bb3 Qd7 22. Qd2 (Can you find the sequence which grants black the victory? 22…Bxg2 23. Kxg2 Qg4!)

22…Rd8 23. f3 Bxf3 24. gxf3 Qxh3 25. Re2 Qxf3 26. Rf1 Qg4+ 27. Rg2 Qd4+?? (The knight hangs!)

28. Qxd4! exd4 29. Rxf6 Kh7 (Black should double the rooks straight away.She has few long-term chances in the potential piece vs. pawns endgame.

30. Bc2+ Kg8 31. Rf4 Rde8 32. h3 Re1+ 33. Kh2 R8e2 34. Bb3 d3 (34… Re4 35. Rxe4 Rxe4 36. Rd2 g5 is a clever try)

35. Rxe2 Rxe2+ 36. Kg3 d2 (The pawn cannot promote. Do not underestimate the power of an extra piece against pawns, especially when they cannot move freely).

37. Rd4 Kh7 38. Bd1 Re1 39. Rxd2 Re3+ 40. Bf3 h5 41. Kf2 Re6 42. Bxh5 Re4 43. Be2 Rf4+ 44. Kg3 Rf6 *

1-0

Hamas, Israel and the Lost Chess Game

Congratulations to everyone’s favorite non-state terrorist group! Hamas can finally enjoy some long-deserved peace after its victory. Congratulations too, to the world’s most deluded nation. For acting so aggressively in Gaza, Israel too can declare victory. Each of your decisive triumphs will ring down through the ages! Wait, you both won? How does that work?  Though such logic clearly doesn’t pass muster, many chess players think in such a convoluted way.

Let’s go back to the beginning. After my introduction to the various chess archetypes, mentioned in an earlier column, chess zoologists discovered the presence of another species among us. Please give a warm welcome to the newest member of the chess phylum, the Chronic Disdainful Shusher. Just don’t clap too loudly because they’re liable to get testy.

So what does the emergence of this new creature have to do with people fighting pointlessly in a desert? In both cases its counter-factual evidence that rules the day. The other day I saw a fight escalate in a tournament hall when somebody made too much noise; this is nothing new, but in this instance one principal was dead serious that excessive sound affected his performance. The decibel levels affected him so critically, and apparently not his opponent, he felt justified in declaring a win instead of a loss. So did this guy not so long ago. As they might say in the homeland of one Gaza belligerent, “Oy vey!”

“I was winning easily until they forgot how to shut up,” the aggrieved chess player told the crowd. In my head I told him he was full of beans. My interior monologue must have been in a good mood that day because choicer words were appropriate.

It all makes me think. When you run out of time or get checkmated the game isn’t over. You’ve got to whine a bit and make a show of the world’s wanton unfairness, don’t you?

Should his claim be validated through actual examination or is he as much of a fool as the parties I’ve mentioned before? Not only people, but countries too, should accept their losses. The cost of not doing so is more collateral damage. When you don’t understand the reason why you fail then you’ll probably never improve your chess, or take more than the occasional siesta from killing innocent civilians.

The whole point is that your claim to supremacy is valid only to your dwindling group of sympathizers. So by all means do whatever it takes to protect your house, whether it means reacting with tank columns on the flimsiest of pretexts or pretending the world is a vast conspiracy. Just know that “I was up a pawn” or ” I was experimenting” (one I hear often, much to my delight) make your defeat sound truly pathetic. Use the cease-fire not just to analyze your tactics (the hook and ladder that could have won you material or the encirclement that could’ve made a rag-tag Hamas even more rag-tag) but your entire mode of conduct.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better a Bad Something than Lots More Nothing?

Here’s a game from the same tournament as I wrote on last time, the third round. We played on a wooden set and I enjoy playing this opponent a lot because he’s a heck of a nice guy – he’d be nicer still if he’d drop a game once in a while! Having only one win against him in long time controls, I am still searching for a path to an advantage. Gerry studies a lot and, I’m sad to say, I achieved nothing this day but twenty moves of equality en route to a loss.

Giofreda – Wasserbauer (1770) Zofchek Mem. 2012

1. c3 e5: Black had the opportunity to transpose into a Colle with d5. I had prepared 2 Nf3 and 3 c5?! for that eventuality, to get a Benoni. We will get an Italian Game now. My opponent uses the French against 1. e4, and I have led him away from his deepest book knowledge. Of course, against a better opponent, this is only the beginning of the weaker player’s struggle and certainly not the end.

2. e4 Nf6 3. Nf3 d6 This is not the best try but it is fine. It will eventually get us into a Hungarian Defense-type position.

4. d3 h6 White’s bishop doesn’t really need g5. The f8 bishop is inside the pawn chain and can render white’s pin senseless.

5. Nbd2 Be7 6. d4 Nbd7 7. Bc4 O-O 8. O-O Nb6 9. dxe5 Nxc4 10. Nxc4?! Nxe4 I lost plenty of time on the last few moves. Sometimes you just have to play chess. I felt I could win something but am empty-handed with less than half of my allotted time.

A better continuation for white is to initiate exchanges with (10. exf6 Nxd2 11. fxe7 Nxf3+ 12. Qxf3 Qxe7 where black has to push hard if he wants to win. Despite the paucity of material he is not equal anymore). I looked at this and cannot rightly recall why I chose not to simplify.

11. Qe2 Nc5 12. exd6 Bxd6 13. Nxd6 Qxd6 Depending upon what white wants, he can trade the heavy pieces and settle for a draw.

14. Rd1 Qf6 I really thought I was better here. It looks good, doesn’t it? I frequently overestimate my position, and this is one of those times.

15. b4?! Na4 (15… Qxc3 16. Bd2  Qxb4 17. Rac1 =+) White’s fifteenth creates a pointless weakness. He’s undeveloped. His bishop cries out for the third rank with each passing move.

16. Rd4 Be6 17. Qb5 Nb6 The tactical maneuvers don’t mean much. I feel like I’m dictating the tempo but, as the old adage runs, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.

18. Qc5 c6 19. Rf4 Qg6 20. Nd4 Bd5 21. f3 Qd3 22. Rg4 Kh7 23. Bxh6?? gxh6 1-0

This brings us to the title of the article. Yes it came late to the party, but that bishop sure came on with a full head of steam didn’t it? I’m lost after this poor move. The point is this: if you make only one move in your entire life make it come with a bang they’ll hear in their dreams.