30 December 2006

The Best of ChessCafe

For the first time in a long while, I received a chess book as a Christmas gift this year. The last time I can remember getting a chess book was when I was a teenager and my chess library had a total of one or two books, half of them by Reinfeld. That last gift was Lasker's 'Manual of Chess', which is one reason why I think so highly of it: people always have fond memories of their first loves. Another reason is that it's such a good book that even as my knowledge of chess deepened, I always found something new and interesting in it.

The book I received this Christmas was 'Heroic Tales: The Best of Chesscafe.com 1996 - 2001', edited by Taylor Kingston. It was a good choice of book mainly because I didn't have it already. I received it from a friend of the family, who once was a decent club player and who knows the difference between 1.d4 and 1.e4.

The Amazon.com page...

Heroic Tales: The Best of Chesscafe.com 1996-2001

...has a single Customer Review that says, 'An attempt to paint a rosy picture of FIDE administrators under the guise of impartiality. If you are interested in distorted facts and half truths then this is probably the book for you. If not, don't waste your money!', along with a single star. As far as I can see after browsing the book for a few days and reading 100 pages or so, this comment has nothing to do with anything, so I reported it to Amazon as 'inappropriate'. Since the report form didn't allow me to say why I thought it was inappropriate, my report will probably end up in the bit bucket.

The book was also a good choice as a gift for me because I'm not a big fan of ChessCafe.com and haven't read much of their material. Yes, I know they offer oodles of wisdom from some of the best chess writers on the Web. All of them have outstanding credentials as players, trainers, organizers, or the like. The problem is that the site makes it as difficult as possible for me to determine what, if anything, might interest me.

The ChessCafe home page uses a style of mystery meat navigation that makes its visitors click through to an article to find out what the topic is. For example, at this moment the first article in the list of Columns (ChessCafe's term) is titled 'New Stories about Old Chess Players, Jeremy Spinrad, December 30'. That's all. There is nothing that tells me what kind of story about which old player is featured this month. If I visit the site a month from now, I will see 'New Stories about Old Chess Players, Jeremy Spinrad, January 30', or whatever date the column was last updated.

I've read one of Spinrad's columns and I know that he is a first class chess historian. I might learn something new and interesting from his current column. I might also learn something interesting from 'Opening Lanes, Gary Lane, December 6'. GM Lane might be writing this month about one of my favorite openings. I am never going to find out, because I don't have the time to click through 20 columns (I counted them) to discover which ones interest me personally.

I can only guess why ChessCafe does this, and my guess is arrogance. I suppose that the person responsible for the site's administration just assumes that visitors to the site have nothing better to do than to click through uninformative descriptions of content. This may have been true in 1996, when ChessCafe started operating, but at the end of 2006, nearly 2007, there are more sites competing for everyone's attention than there were in 1996.

A twenty-something told me proudly today that he is a member of the '0-1-2-3' generation. When I asked what it meant he told me that whenever he uses technology, he wants zero manuals or user guides, one button maximum to push, two buttons maximum on the gadget, and three seconds maximum response time. I'm probably the last person in the world to have heard this joke, and I had to laugh.

ChessCafe, in contrast, wants me to click through 20 links to find out what's on offer this month. No, thanks. I'll move on to another site. Have I missed something? Maybe so, but it's only chess and it's just a game, and I can live with an element of ignorance.

There are other reasons why I think the ChessCafe navigation stems from arrogance, but I'll keep those to myself. Unlike many web writers, chess or otherwise but especially chess writers, I'm not out to pick fights with everyone else; not on this topic, at least.

What do I think about the book 'Best of ChessCafe'? It's excellent. In a way it's a pity that someone had to destroy a tree before I could discover this fantastic content that has been a mouse click away for the last five years.

I might have more to say about the book on this blog. Then again I might not; there is so much else to write about. I would enjoy reviewing it for About Chess, but since it was published in 2002, it's too old. Maybe there will be a 'Best of Chesscafe.com 2001-2006'. If there is, and it turns out to be as good as the 1996-2001 version, I am certain that it will be worth an enthusiastic review.

28 December 2006

Is the KID dead?

Another quote from the introduction to
Shereshevsky's 'Mastering the Endgame: Closed Games'
caught my eye.

The reader will note the relatively large number of 'King's Indian' endings, presented in the 'Dark-square strategy' section. The King's Indian Defense occurs increasingly rarely in top-level tournaments. The charm of its novelty has largely been lost, whereas the degree of risk has grown several-fold. White has a wide range of possibilities for developing his initiative -- from direct play 'for mate' in the Saemisch Variation to 'emasculating' set-ups with the exchange on e5.

I am a great fan of the King's Indian Defense (KID) and this was news to me. The introduction also mentioned, 'In recent years [the book was published in 1992], however, thanks to the successes of the World Champion [Kasparov], there is a justification for talking of another burst in popularity of the King's Indian Defense.'

Now that Kasparov is retired, has anyone taken up the slack? From a recent ChessBase article...

'King's Indian: Fear and trembling on the chessboard' by Steve Giddins

...'In recent years, however, the popularity of the [King's Indian Defense] at top level has waned sharply. If one thinks back a while, KID adherents amongst the super-tournament regulars included Kasparov, Gelfand, Judit Polgar, van Wely, Svidler and Topalov, yet if you search your database, you will be hard pressed to find a single KID game, featuring one of these players as Black, in the last five years. Fashion being what it is, this decline in popularity has been reflected at lower levels.'

Giddins went on to compare the unpopularity of the KID with 'flared trousers' (aka bell-bottoms) and to blame it on two Kasparov losses to Kramnik. The rest of the article is a puff piece for a DVD titled 'A World champion's guide to the King’s Indian' by Rustam Kasimdzhanov. [An aside: Has the world abandoned Nigel Short's initiative to spell the ex-FIDE World Champion's name as Kasimjanov?] Puff piece or not, Kasimdzhanov 'sets out to convince you that not only is there nothing wrong with the King’s Indian, but it remains one of the most dangerous defences for the 1.d4 player to face.'

Whew! I can still play it. Now I'm left with two questions: 1) What were the two Kasparov - Kramnik games? -and- 2) Who else besides Kasimdzhanov (currently FIDE 2672) plays it at the 2650+ level? Answers to follow.

26 December 2006

The 'Grand Formation' of the Steinitz Defense

In his introduction to Tarrasch - Lasker, World Championship Match 1908, game 4 (see The Lasker - Tarrasch rivalry; the Steinitz Defense for background), Soltis made several remarks on the historical value of the game.

Lasker defended against Tarrasch's 1.e4 with the Steinitz Defense. This was something of a gauntlet. Tarrasch had scored six wins out of seven previous games against the various forms of the Steinitz. In fact, the best known previous example of the Steinitz Defense was [Tarrasch - Schlechter, Leipzig 1894]. Tarrasch, the finest strategist of his time, had built a Grand Formation based on Bb2, Rad1, Rfe1, and Pawns at b3, c4 and e4, followed by a Rook-lift. It was the "correct" way to punish Black's third move, he said. If he had been able to make strategy, not tactics, the issue in the match, Tarrasch would have become the third official world champion.

The position in the diagram shows the Grand Formation. White hasn't played the move order mentioned by Soltis -- the Rook-lift to the third rank was played before c4 -- but the formation is the same.

Leipzig 1894
Schlechter, Carl

Tarrasch, Siegbert
(After 19.c2-c4)
[FEN "4rbk1/ppq2ppp/2pprn2/8/N1P1P3/1P1QR2P/PB3PP1/4R1K1 b - c3 0 19"]

Schlechter played 19...Nd7. Within a few moves the only plan that he could find was to maintain the status quo and do nothing. Tarrasch pushed g4 and h4, doubled his Rooks on the g-file, and broke through on g5. Black resigned on the 37th move.

What is the origin of the phrase 'Grand Formation'? Soltis doesn't say.

24 December 2006

22 December 2006

Shereshevsky's 'Mastering the Endgame: Closed Games'

Via eBay I was lucky to get a copy of Shereshevsky's 'Mastering the Endgame, Volume 2: Closed Games' (Cadogan 1992) for a reasonable price. This is the sequel to 'Mastering the Endgame: Open and Semi-Open Games'.

The introduction to the book, co-authored with Slutsky, says, 'In games begun with the open and semi-open openings, the endgame for a long time retains its individuality; thus one does not confuse a Sicilian endgame with a Ruy Lopez, or a Caro-Kann endgame with one from Petroff's Defence. In the closed openings things are more complicated. In many of them identical Pawn structures arise and, for example, openings so dissimilar in spirit as the Queen's Gambit and the Gruenfeld Defence can lead to analogous endings.'

The book has only four chapters: Dark-Square Strategy, Light-Square Strategy, Symmetry, and Asymmetry. Dark-square strategy means games where Black has played ...g6, like the King's Indian and Benoni. Light-square strategy means games without ...g6 and usually without ...d5, many of them with ...b6. This was new terminology for me.

A translator's note mentions, 'To reduce the original manuscript to a manageable size for publication, several games have had to be omitted'. I have no idea how many. Since my first task on a new book is to find or create a PGN file, I should discover how many games are missing.

20 December 2006

MonRoi and Recording Moves: Now I Get It!

The November Chess Life has an article titled 'First the Digital Clock, Now This' by Jerry Hanken. Among other things, it explains why FIDE (and the USCF) added the rule forbidding players from writing a move on the scoresheet before playing it. This is a well established practice among many players and was recommended by Kotov in 'Think Like a Grandmaster' as a technique for reducing blunders.

The MonRoi, an electronic scoresheet, has a display which shows the current position. As Hanken pointed out, 'if one could see his or her move on the small monitor prior to making it, it would actually bring one a step closer to the personal horizon of analysis.' The rule change was made to avoid that problem.


That sentence I just copied strikes me as somewhat clumsy. What is 'the personal horizon of analysis'? Why not, 'if you could see the position on the small display before playing a move on the board, it would bring you a step closer to visualizing your analysis'? On the other hand, I have no training as a writer, so what do I know? Hanken is president of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA).

18 December 2006

The Lasker - Tarrasch rivalry; the Steinitz Defense

The next game in the series on Lasker's Moves that Matter is Tarrasch - Lasker, World Championship Match 1908, game 4. I've already discussed these two players in The Lasker - Tarrasch rivalry; the Berlin Defense.

In 'The Game of Chess', Tarrasch said of the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5; p.278), 'There are two good defenses, viz. 3...Nf6 and 3...a6 4.Ba4 Nf6.'

(p.291); An unfavorable -- but very frequently played defense -- is 3...d6 a move that was strongly recommended by Steinitz. This move, which shuts in the King's Bishop, is as little recommendable here as at the second move. White invariably captures the center and thus obtains the better game.
The most important continuations are 4.d4! Bd7 (Naturally Black attempts to maintain the center as long as possible.) 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.O-O Be7 7.Re1 and Black must give up the center by 7...exd4, for, if 7...O-O? he certainly loses a Pawn and perhaps the Exchange, e.g. 8.Bxc6 8...Bxc6 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Raxd8 11.Nxe5 Bxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Nd3 f5 14.f3 Bc5+ 15.Nxc5 Nxc5 16.Bg5 Rd5 17.Be7 Re8 18.c4 (Tarrasch - Marco, Dresden 1892). After 7...exd4 8.Nxd4 O-O 9.Bf1!, Black has a cramped game and only if White makes mistakes can it be freed.

Tarrasch said nothing about 8...Nxd4, the move Lasker played in game 4 of the match. He continued:

After 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 Nf6 the following line of attack is even more forceful: 6.Bxc6. The exchange of a strong piece for an inferior one is justified by the continuation. 6...Bxc6 7.Qd3. Now Black cannot well support the point e5 any longer and consequently gets a disadvantage in position. After 7...exd4 8.Nxd4 White's position is appreciably the better. Black's best continuation is 8...Be7. The attempt to maintain the center by 7...Nd7 is refuted by 8.Be3 for then White threatens 9.d5 (8.d5? Nc5).
Steinitz's defense is only slightly strengthened by the interpolation of the move 3...a6.

In his 'Manual of Chess', Lasker had this to say (p.77):

The oldest defense [to 3.Bb5] is 3...d6 which is the most direct one. Surely a sound and substantial one, though it may not appeal to the high-flown fancy. 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 (5.Bxc6 Bxc6 6.dxe5 Bxe4) 5...Nf6 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.Qd3. Black must now decide what to do with his e-Pawn. Obviously 7...Qe7 blocking the Bishop is doubtful, as is 7...Nd7, which limits the action of the QB. However, an unpretentious move suffices. 7...exd4 8.Nxd4 Bd7. Black desires to keep the two Bishops and to guard the point f5.

Quite a difference in opinion, isn't it. The 1908 match was a clash of two chess philosophies.

16 December 2006

Endgame: Marshall - Lasker, 1907 Match, Game 1

Continuing with Lasker's Moves that Matter, this is the fourth post on the same game. The endgame that starts with the diagrammed position is one of Lasker's most famous.

Kasparov mentioned some Shereveshky analysis. I found it on p.87 of Endgame Strategy, along with an extended quote from Capablanca.

In his book Chess Fundamentals Capablanca comments as follows on this position: "In this position it is Black's move. To a beginner the position may look like a draw, but the advanced player will realise immediately that there are great possibilities for Black to win, not only because he has the initiative, but because of White's undeveloped Queenside and the fact that a Bishop in such a position is better than a Knight. It will take some time for White to bring his Rook and Knight into the fray, and Black can utilise it to obtain an advantage. There are two courses open to him. The most evident, and the one that most players would take, is to advance the Pawn to c5 and c4 immediately in conjunction with the Bishop check at a6 and any other move that might be necessary with the Black Rook. The other, more subtle, course was taken by Black."
Capablanca goes on to explain that with his Rook Black must all the time force White to defend something, when the activity of the White Rook and Knight is restricted, whereas the Black Rook and Bishop retain complete freedom of action.

Lasker played 19...Rb8, and the game continued 20.b3 Rb5 21.c4 Rh5 22.Kg1 c5 23.Nd2 Kf7

World Championship Match (g.1)
New York 1907

Lasker, Emanuel

Marshall, Frank
(After 19.Kg1-f1(xR))
[FEN "r1b3k1/p1p3pp/2p5/8/3pP3/6P1/PPP4P/RN3K2 b - - 0 19"]

Now Marshall played 24.Rf1+. All commentators condemn this as the losing move and recommend instead 24.a3, followed by 24...a5 25.Rb1. Here Kasparov showed that 25...Ke7 and 25...Ke6 are insufficient to win, while Soltis did the same for 25...Bg4.

Now I have to return to Lasker's 13...fxe5!, which he played instead of 13...Ng5 . Since 13...fxe5 draws after best play by both sides, does it really merit a '!' award? Perhaps '!?' is more appropriate.

14 December 2006

World Championship News

Here are a few notes for myself.

12 December 2006

Marshall - Lasker, 1907 Match, Game 1

Second-best moves sometimes win. Continuing with Lasker's Moves that Matter, the diagram shows the position reached at the end of the post on Candidate Moves. See that post for a link to the complete game.

After 13.f3, Lasker played 13...fxe5. Both Kasparov (KAS) and Soltis (SOL) gave the move '!'. KAS wrote, '13...Ng5 was more prudent, but Lasker makes a psychologically wise choice'; SOL wrote, 'Black was simply applying a traditional strategy of taking the attack to an attacker'.

World Championship Match (g.1)
New York 1907

Lasker, Emanuel

Marshall, Frank
(After 13.f2-f3)
[FEN "r1b2rk1/p1p3pp/2p2p2/3pP3/4n2q/4B3/PPP2PPP/RN1QR1K1 w - - 0 13"]

After 14.fxe4 d4, Marshall continued 15.g3. Both KAS ('?!') and SOL ('?') criticized the move, pointing out that 15.Qd2! dxe3 16.Qxe3 was much better and might win.

Commenting on Lasker's 15...Qf6, SOL showed that Tarrasch's suggestion of 15...Qh3 was no better. Now KAS gave Marshall's 16.Bxd4 a '?!', and analyzed 16.Bd2 to a perpetual check. SOL agreed that 16.Bd2 is 'at least equal', added that 16.Qd2 'is a close second', and mentioned that Marshall's 16.Bxd4 'would have been good enough to draw'. Now after 16...exd4 17.Rf1 Qxf1+ 18.Qxf1 Rxf1+ 19.Kxf1, the players reached a position that many commentators have believed is a forced win for White.

I've left out most of the detailed analysis here. The whole sequence is extraordinary. Lasker played the inferior 13...fxe5. Two world class commentators gave it a '!', then pointed out that Marshall missed a possible win and at least two ways to draw. Finally, we are told that Marshall should have drawn an endgame that has often been used as an example of Lasker's refined endgame play. I'll look at this last point in a subsequent post.

10 December 2006

Candidate Moves

Returning to Lasker's Moves that Matter, the position in the diagram is from one of Lasker's most famous games. Marshall played 11.Re1. What's the best move for Black? I fed the position to my chess playing software, and after about ten minutes, it established the following moves as its top choices.

  • Re8
  • Bf5
  • Bb7
  • Rb8
  • Ba6
  • a6
  • Qh4
  • Nc5
  • a5
  • Rd8

There was not much difference in the valuations of these ten moves. There are other moves worth considering, like 11...Be6. What move did Lasker play?

World Championship Match (g.1)
New York 1907

Lasker, Emanuel

Marshall, Frank
(After 10...Qd8-e7(xN))
[FEN "r1b2rk1/p1p1qppp/2p5/3pP3/4n3/8/PPP2PPP/RNBQ1RK1 w - - 0 11"]

Lasker played 11...Qh4. Kasparov (KAS) gave the move '!?' and quoted Zak, 'In search of complications Black avoids 11...f6 which leads to a good position: 12.f3 Ng5 13.Bxg5 fxg5 14.Nc3 Be6 followed by 15...c5.'

Marshall played 12.Be3.

KAS: 'The immediate 12.f3!? would perhaps have been better.'
Soltis (SOL): 'Hoffer led the critics in arguing for 12.f3 immediately. It has merits: 12...Qf2+? 13.Kh1 Nc5 14.Be3 drops a piece. But 12...Nc5 13.Be3 Ne6 and 14...f6 is nothing much.'

After Lasker's 12...f6, SOL commented, 'Tarrasch preferred 12...f5 13.f3 f4, but 14.Bd4 Ng5 15.Nc3 favors White because of the dark square bind. He's also better after 14.Bd4 c5 15.fxe4 cxd4 16.Nd2!.' Now after 13.f3, my software suggested only two moves which don't lose immediately: ...Ng5 and ...fxe5, with a big preference for the first move. What did Lasker play?

To play through the complete game see...

Frank James Marshall vs Emanuel Lasker, World Championship Match 1907

...on Chessgames.com.

08 December 2006

The Machine Sees Further Ahead

The recent Kramnik - Fritz match resulted in an indisputable victory for the machine. This set it apart from the previous match won by a computer over a World Champion -- the 1997 Kasparov vs. Deep Blue match -- where Kasparov's unfounded accusations of cheating convinced the more gullible members of the non-chess playing public that foul play was involved.

A decade ago chess playing software passed from not-as-good as a person to at-least-as-good. Since then the software, coupled with better hardware, has passed to better-than. What changed? The machines can see even further ahead than before. A paragraph in David Shenk's 'The Immortal Game' drove this point home for me.

With so much fluidity in the game -- a near-infinite number of ways to win and a near-infinite number of ways to lose -- a newcomer might reasonably assume (as I certainly did) that chess is mostly a game of quick thinking. Since a game is won or lost on a player's ability to outmaneuver an opponent's pieces, and since it is surely impossible to memorize or analyze even a tiny fraction of all the possible board configurations, one would naturally expect most games to go to the sharpest -- or deepest -- thinker, the player able to see the furthest ahead. (p.77)

While other factors might tip the balance for person vs. person, or for machine vs. machine, in a match between a person and a machine the computer is unquestionably the player 'able to see the furthest ahead'. The grandmaster's better understanding of chess no longer compensates for the machine's advantage in calculating variations. For man - machine matches to become fair fights again, some other form of compensation is required.

Can Kramnik beat Fritz if he starts with an extra Knight? With an extra Pawn? With equal material but two consecutive moves at the beginning? There is only one way to find out.

06 December 2006

Four-player Chaturanga?

While reading 'The Immortal Game, A History of Chess' by David Shenk, a passage on the birth of chess caught my attention.

After what might have been centuries of tinkering, chatrang, the first true version of what we now call chess, finally emerged in Persia sometime during the fifth or sixth century. It was a two-player war game with thirty-two pieces on a sixty-four-square board [...] Chatrang was a modified import from neighboring India, where an older, four-player version of the game was known as chaturanga -- which itself may have been a much older import from neighboring China. (p.17 & 18)

...Shenk's claim didn't square with my understanding of the early evolution of chess, which I documented in a recent introductory article...

The Origin of Chess

...'India - Chaturanga: It is not surprising that the earliest evidence of chess is also the murkiest. Forbes believed that the game called chaturanga, which means 'quadripartite' in Sanskrit, referred to a four-player version of the game using dice and was mentioned in the Puranas, which he dated to 3000 B.C. Murray showed that the four-player version came after the two-player version, discarded the notion of dice, and refuted the dating of the Puranas. This left literary evidence pointing to 620 A.D.'

One of my sources was 'The Oxford Companion to Chess' by Hooper and Whyld.

chaturanga, the earliest precursor of modern chess that can be clearly defined. [...] On account of the false trail laid by Forbes, the ancestor of chaturanga was once thought to be four-handed chess, no evidence of which exists before the 11th century.

Forbes became notorious for several factual errors. The same source says that he is 'now ignored'.

Forbes, 'Duncan (1798-1868), Scottish writer on chess history, professor of oriental languages. [...] Regarded by his contemporaries as a monument to scholarship, Forbes's history is now ignored.

Shenk provides extensive notes on many of his facts, but gives nothing to support the statement about four-player chaturanga. If he is right, this is new information that upsets the historical foundation that H.J.R.Murray built.

04 December 2006

Lasker's Aborted Matches with Tarrasch and Maroczy

Continuing a 'A curious affair': 1907 Lasker - Marshall, Hannak had this to say about Lasker's arrangements to play Tarrasch or Maroczy.

At Monte Carlo 1904, Ostend 1905, and Barmen 1905 Maroczy had scored three great triumphs in succession, and Tarrasch had convincingly beaten Marshall in a match (8:1, with eight draws). Surely, people said, it was about time for Lasker to defend his title against either Maroczy or Tarrasch, or both. Lasker was not unwilling, and negotiations were first started with Tarrasch, a provisional agreement was reached and the time actually fixed for the match. But Tarrasch suddenly decided to withdraw. Once again he had missed a chance to face that crucial test.

The obvious alternative was to defend the title against Maroczy. Once again negotiations were started, and an agreement was reached and published in the 1905 volume of Lasker's Chess Magazine. All the chess world was eagerly looking forward to an exciting struggle between Lasker and the Hungarian grandmaster; and there was widespread disappointment when Maroczy cancelled the arrangement at the last moment.

From 'Emanuel Lasker: The Life of a Chess Master' by J.Hannak, Dover 1991, p.111.

02 December 2006

'A curious affair': 1907 Lasker - Marshall

In 'Why Lasker Matters', Soltis' introduction to game 1 of the 1907 Lasker - Marshall match has four historical points worth further investigation...

The world championship match with Frank Marshall was a curious affair. The American had a plus score against Lasker [1]. but almost no one thought he had a chance -- despite Lasker's Chess Magazine's efforts to encourage Marshall's fans [2]. It was a backup event, a replacement for the collapse of Lasker's arrangements to play Tarrasch [3] or Maroczy [4].

...The first point ('[1]') is easy enough: Marshall - Lasker, Paris 1900, 1-0; and Lasker - Marshall, Cambridge Springs 1904, 1/2. As for the other three points, what are the details?

30 November 2006

The Importance of Small Differences

Continuing with Lasker's Moves that Matter, the diagram shows a position that did *not* occur in the famous first game of the 1907 Marshall - Lasker World Championship match.

The diagram is the position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.d4 exd4 7.e5 Ne4 8.Nxd4 O-O 9.Nf5 d5 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.Nxe7+ Qxe7. Soltis pointed out that it is similar to the Marshall - Lasker game, which opened 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.O-O Be7 6.e5 Ne4 7.Nxd4 O-O 8.Nf5 d5 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.Nxe7+ Qxe7. The only difference is the Pawn on a6, which was on a7 in the Lasker game.

(Not the)
World Championship Match (g.1)
New York 1907

Lasker, Emanuel

Marshall, Frank
(After 11.Qd8-e7(xN))
[FEN "r1b2rk1/2p1qppp/p1p5/3pP3/4n3/8/PPP2PPP/RNBQ1RK1 w - - 0 10"]

Soltis also mentioned that many annotators of the game assumed that White already had a bad game, although 'The position is nothing more than a transposition to a standard Lopez variation. The only difference is the addition of ...a6 to a position recognized today as just equal.'

Isn't the position of the Pawn on a6, which is on the same color as Black's remaining Bishop, the difference between an equal position and a a position which is slightly better for Black? The development Bc8-a6 is excluded in all variations. I have seen other positions where the advance of an a-Pawn or an h-Pawn from its second rank to its third is the difference between a good game and a not-so-good game. Perhaps the diagram is another example.

28 November 2006

Blogger Beta: 'Upgrade Your Template'

Today is another maintenance post. I chose the option to upgrade my template, selected the same look that I had previously, and checked the results. After reorganizing the sidebar to have the elements in the same order, I added RSS feeds from About Chess at the end.

The archive list in the new template is a big improvement. It shows the count of posts in each month and has a button on each list to expand it in place. This will make it a lot easier for me to look at all chess blogs once a month. Thank you Blogger.com!

26 November 2006

When Is a Game or a Position a Foregone Conclusion?

Continuing with Lasker's Moves that Matter, the diagram shows the continuation of Evans Gambit: Chigorin - Lasker, St Petersburg 1895. The first post has a link to the complete game on Chessgames.com.

There are two types of flaws in analysis that annoy me. One is assuming that the result of a game is a foregone conclusion before it is played. For example, when Chigorin played Lasker, the German master won because he was the better player. The other is assuming that a position leads to a foregone conclusion because it is obvious. For example, Lasker won from the diagrammed position, and there was nothing Chigorin could do to change the result.

St Petersburg 1895
Lasker, Emanuel

Chigorin, Mikhail
(After 11.Bb6-a7)
[FEN "r1bqk2r/b1p2ppp/p1pp1n2/P3p3/3PP3/2P2N2/5PPP/RNBQ1RK1 w kq - 0 12"]

The game continued 12.dxe5 Nxe4 13.Qe2. After White's 13th move, the game was lost. Would 12.Qa4 have drawn? What about 13.exd6? At what point was White's game irretrievably lost?

24 November 2006

Using ShredderBase

In the October 2006 Chess Life, GM Pal Benko's column 'Endgame Lab' discusses 'Computers and Endgames'. Benko gives a number of 5 and 6 piece endgames which he analyzed using tablebases. I need practice using this technique, so I checked his analysis using...

Shredder Computer Chess : Endgame Database

...Everything checked well except Benko's third position, shown in the diagram.

White to play and win
[FEN "8/7n/2K3kP/4P3/8/8/8/6N1 w - - 0 1"]

Benko gave 1.e6, which ShredderBase (SB) confirms as a 'Win in 29'. Now Benko continued 1...Kxh6, although SB says that 1...Kf6 loses slower. After 2.e7 Nf6 3.Kd6 Kg7 4.Ke6 Kg6 5.Ne2, Benko said, 'The computer pointed out 5.Nf3 is quicker'. SB says that both 5.Ne2 and 5.Nf3 'Win in 21.'

This is not an earth shattering disagreement, but I thought it curious that even people using computers can differ on optimum sequences. How long will it take to produce 7-piece tablebases?

22 November 2006

Evans Gambit: Chigorin - Lasker, St Petersburg 1895

After digressing for a few days longer than expected to make the switch to Blogger Beta, I'm raring to return to Lasker's Moves that Matter. The next game, Chigorin - Lasker, St Petersburg 1895, saw a theoretically important novelty in the Evans Gambit.

In his introduction, Kasparov (KAS) made an interesting point:

Lasker had an indifferent attitude to the study of opening theory, considering that the main thing was to achieve playable positions. Even so, he devised at least two defences that bear his name: in the Queen's Gambit (cf. his match with Marshall, 1907) and in the Evans Gambit -- here his defensive plan put the "opening of the 19th century" out of action for almost 100 years!'

The Lasker Defense to the Queen's Gambit starts 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3. Now Lasker played 5...Ne4 three times -- games 3, 5, and 15 (the last) -- in his 1907 title match with Marshall.

The Lasker Defense to the Evans Gambit is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bc5 (5...Ba5 is more common, but transposes to the game continuation) 6.O-O (KAS: 6.d4!) 6...d6 7.d4 Bb6. The position is shown in the diagram.

St Petersburg 1895
Lasker, Emanuel

Chigorin, Mikhail
(After 7...Bc5-b6)
[FEN "r1bqk1nr/ppp2ppp/1bnp4/4p3/2BPP3/2P2N2/P4PPP/RNBQ1RK1 w kq - 0 8"]

Now Chigorin (Kasparov's preferred spelling; Soltis [SOL] prefers 'Tchigorin') continued 8.a4.

KAS: 'Alas, Chigorin avoids the current 8.dxe5 dxe5! with two possible continuations:
  • 9.Qxd8+ Nxd8 10.Nxe5 Be6 and in view of the weakness of White's Queenside Pawns, Black has a favorable endgame (Chigorin - Pillsbury, London 1899).'

  • 9.Qb3 Qf6 [I'm omitting the side variations in the published analysis] 10.Bg5 Qg6 11.Bd5 Nge7 12.Bxe7 Kxe7 13.Bxc6 Qxc6 14.Nxe5 Qe6 15.Nc4. Regarding this, the main variation of the defence, the two players conducted a lively dispute on the pages of the magazines they edited. Chigorin believed in White's attacking resources, whereas Lasker considered that Black's two Bishops and the absence of any weaknesses in his position promised him the advantage -- for example, after 15...Rd8 16.Qa3+ Ke8'.

  • KAS also gave variations to show that 9.Nbd2 and 9.Bxf7+ are inferior.
SOL: 'On 8.dxe5 [Lasker] intended 8...dxe5! so that 9.Qxd8+ Nxd8 10.Nxe5 Be6 reaches a favorable endgame. Chigorin didn't believe it was favorable and lost the ending to Pillsbury at London 1899 -- a loss that was regarded as the death blow to the Evans until 9.Qb3! was found.

Reinfeld/Fine, referring to the choice between 8.dxe5 and 8.a4: 'White to be sure could regain his Pawn by 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Qxd8+ Kxd8 10.Nxe5 Be6, but his Queenside Pawns would be weak and his game undeveloped. Here we see the main strength of Lasker's Defense: when White adopts the Evans Gambit, he wants to play an "immortal" game; instead he is confronted with the unpleasant alternative of (1) turning into a dry ending in which he has to work hard to stave off defeat, or (2) giving up the Pawn for a slight semblance of an attack that can be parried with ease.'

After 8.a4, Lasker continued 8...Nf6. There is a lot more play in this position and I'll look at the game again in another post.

It's possible I'm misunderstanding something, but there seems to be a contradiction between KAS and SOL. KAS says that 'the two players conducted a lively dispute' on the merits of 9.Qb3. SOL says that Lasker's line 'was regarded as the death blow to the Evans until 9.Qb3! was found'. KAS also says that Lasker's 'defensive plan put the "opening of the 19th century" out of action for almost 100 years'. Did it take 100 years for the chess world to appreciate the dispute on the pages of Lasker's and Chigorin's magazines?

To play through the complete game see...

Mikhail Chigorin vs Emanuel Lasker, St Petersburg 1895

...on Chessgames.com.

20 November 2006

101st post: Switched to Blogger Beta

'Want to switch? Three things you need to know:
- You’ll need a Google Account
- Third-party applications need to update
- You can’t “undo”'

A few useful(?) links...

More about Google Accounts


Terms of Service


18 November 2006

100th post: What happened to the switch to Blogger Beta?

For the last week or so, each time I signed into Blogger.com I was given the option to switch to the Blogger Beta version. The first page(s) warned me that this would involve switching my Blogger account to my Google account, or something like that. Since I was pressed for time all week I decided to wait until the weekend, make the switch, and test everything out on my 100th post. Today is Saturday, but I'm no longer getting the option to switch.

So here is the 100th post on Chess for All Ages. Now what am I going to do?

16 November 2006


Trying to understand Nimzovich can be maddening. In 'Chess Praxis', he included a useful 'Register of Stratagems'. It is a glossary of terms like 'centralisation', 'prophylaxis', and 'blockade', with references to games in the book where the principle is explained or applied. At least that is what it appears to be.

One of the terms in the register is 'mummification', with references to six games. Unfortunately, none of those games explains what the term means, and it is not self-explanatory. Only three of the referenced games use the word, a fourth uses the equally vague word 'obstupefaction', as in 'the reply 13...b5 would only have led to obstupefaction after...' The two other games don't use the term or anything close.

The position given as an example of obstupefaction looks like an extreme example of a blocked position, where neither side is able to play for a Pawn break. The first use of mummification is in a note to the following position.

Dresden 1926
Nimzowitsch, Aron

Johner, Paul
(After 11.f2-f4)
[FEN "r1bq1rk1/p4ppp/1pnp1n2/2p1p3/2PP1P2/1NPBP3/P5PP/R1BQ1RK1 b - f3 0 11"]

Nimzovich played 11...e4. He noted, 'Had Black played 11...Qe7 and retired, after 12.fxe5 dxe5 13.d5 the Knight to 13...Nd8 (13...e4 is better), the sequel would be 14.e4 Ne8 with general mummification.'

The game was also included in 'My System' as no.35 of 'Illustrative Games'. There he wrote, '11...Qe7 was also possible, for if, say, 12.fxe5 dxe5 13.d5, then 13...Nd8 14.e4 Ne8, and Black by 15...Nd6 and 16...f6 gets a strong defensive position.'

Does this mean that mummification = a strong defensive position? I doubt it.

To play through the complete game see...

Paul F Johner vs Aron Nimzowitsch, Dresden 1926

...on Chessgames.com. BTW, I know I've used two different spellings for Nimzo's surname. That's another maddening aspect of researching his work. Web searches on his name are as cumbersome as can be.

14 November 2006

From Wonderful to Blunderful

Continuing the thread on one of Lasker's most famous games -- Combination: Pillsbury - Lasker, St Petersburg 1895 -- the diagram shows the position where the last post ended. At this point the game suddenly took a different course when both players started playing second rate moves.

The mistakes started with Lasker's next move 22...Rc7. Both Kasparov (KAS) and Soltis (SOL) assigned the move a '?'. As Lasker himself wrote, '22...Qc4 was the logical continuation. It would have made it impossible for White to guard the second rank.' He blamed this inaccuracy on time trouble and noted that after 23.Rd2, which Pillsbury played, 'White can breathe again.'

St Petersburg 1895
Lasker, Emanuel

Pillsbury, Harry Nelson
(After 22.Kb1-a1)
[FEN "6k1/pp3rp1/5b1p/1q1p3Q/3P4/P7/P5PP/K2R3R b - - 0 22"]

The breathing space lasted one move. Lasker played 23...Rc4, which was answered by 24.Rhd1. KAS: ?; SOL: ?; 24.Re1 Qa5 25.Re8+ Kh7 26.Qf5+ g6 27.Re7+ draws by perpetual check. 24...Rc3. KAS: ?; SOL: ?; 24...Qc6 wins. 25.Qf5 Qc4 26.Kb2. KAS: ?; SOL: ?; 26.Kb1 should win. 26...Rxa3. KAS: !!; SOL: !!. 27.Qe6+ Kh7. KAS: ?, '27...Kh8 'would have won cleanly' 28.Qe8+ Kh7; SOL: ?!.

28.Kxa3. KAS: ?, 28.Qf5+! Kh8 29.Kb1, but Black has a better continuation; SOL: 28.Qf5+ Kg8! 29.Qe6+ Kh8 transposes to the same won position Black could have reached with 27...Kh8. If one of the strongest players of all time has trouble analyzing this position with the aid of a computer, we can understand the trouble the players had with the clock ticking.

The game ended in checkmate a few moves later. 28...Qc3+ 29.Ka4 b5+ 30.Kxb5 Qc4+ 31.Ka5 Bd8+ 32.Qb6 Bxb6# 0-1.

12 November 2006

Elista Travel Diary -or- What Happened to the Candidate Matches?

Instead of this...

...let's have an update on this...

  • 23 September 2006 • Presidential Board meeting

    'In order to resolve difficulties in the organization of the Candidate matches, the Board offered a round-robin tournament for the 16 players as an alternative to the original form of the competition. President Ilyumzhinov offered to hold all the matches or the tournament in Elista in April 2007.'

  • Results 1 - 10 of about 20 for "Around a year ago FIDE adopted a new system of World Championship".
    Gelfand Open Letter to FIDE

  • World Chess Championship 2007

...It's time for FIDE to get back to its core business.

10 November 2006

Rethinking Blogrolls

When I first started this blog, I decided to link to the Kenilworthian Blogroll. This was for reasons I noted in my first post on the subject, A Note About Blogrolls.

As things evolved, it was not a clever strategy. That particular blogroll does not appear to have been updated since I first linked to it. For example, it still lists blogs that were once on Modblog.com, a service that disappeared around the beginning of 2006. As most people who maintain lists of web links eventually discover, they are easy to initiate -- you merge the links from several existing sources and eliminate the duplicates -- but difficult to maintain. You have to check the existing links periodically to see if they are still alive, while adding new links when you become aware of new resources.

When I started writing monthly about the chess blogosphere in Chess Blog Tripping, I developed the habit of refreshing my list of blogs as the first step to preparing a new article. Why not publish that monthly list? I decided to do that and to keep the lists on my personal site...

Index of /cfaa/blogroll

...using the filename BYYYY-MM.HTM, which should be self-explanatory. It's not an elegant solution, but it has the advantage of keeping an ongoing history of blog activity.

Along with the blog name and domain, the list indicates if it was flagged as a top blog ('*') on About Chess, gives the date of the last post on the day I ran through all blogs, and shows a count of the number of posts made by that blog during the month covered by the list. I drop blogs from the list after they have been inactive for six months.

08 November 2006

Combination: Pillsbury - Lasker, St Petersburg 1895

Continuing the series on Lasker's Moves that Matter, the Pillsbury - Lasker game is one of the most famous games in chess history, featured in many anthologies. Besides the books by Kasparov and Soltis, which are the core of this series, I found it in 'Lasker's Greatest Chess Games, 1889-1914' by Reinfeld and Fine (p.56), originally 'Dr. Lasker's Chess Career: Part I, 1889-1914'; 'The World's Great Chess Games' by Fine (p.52); 'Emanuel Lasker, The Life of a Chess Master' by Hannak (p.66), with a subset of the notes from the Reinfeld/Fine book; and 'Lasker's Manual of Chess' (p.273), in the chapter on 'The Aesthetic Effect of Chess'.

The combination started in the diagrammed position. Lasker, who had just exchanged Knights on d4, played 15...Be6. This only makes sense if he had anticipated that after 16.f4 Rac8 17.f5, he would play 17...Rxc3. Both Kasparov (KAS) and Soltis (SOL) gave this move a '!!'. Kasparov wrote,

A fine, deeply calculated combination, which any grandmaster could be proud of even today. It is beyond the powers of even a strong computer -- here additional forces are needed. Whereas after the prosaic 17...Bd7 18.Qf3 the chances would have become double-edged.

St Petersburg 1895
Lasker, Emanuel

Pillsbury, Harry Nelson
(After 15.e3xd4)
[FEN "r4rk1/pp1b1pp1/5b1p/q2p3Q/3P4/2N5/PP3PPP/1K1R1B1R b - - 0 15"]

Pillsbury continued 18.fxe6, when both KAS and SOL agreed that 18.bxc3 was inferior. After 18...Ra3, they both assigned another '!!'. Most annotators declare that this is the real point behind Black's 17th move.

Now Pillsbury played 19.exf7+.

KAS: '?'; After dismissing 19.e7?, which was the main alternative considered by the other annotators I listed, Kasparov wrote, 'It also seems hopeless to play 19.bxa3! Qb6+ 20.Kc2 Rc8+ 21.Kd2 Qxd4+ 22.Ke1 Qc3+, but the e-Pawn serves as a shield for the King and by the sequence 23.Ke2 Qc2+ 24.Rd2 Qe4+ 25.Kd1 Qb1+ 26.Ke2 White gains a draw.' He then gave more moves to support his conclusion.

SOL: The American GM player and historian pointed out that after 19.bxa3 Qb6+ 20.Kc2 Rc8+ 21.Kd2 Qxd4+ 22.Ke1, Kasparov's analysis had been improved by Sergey Sorokhtin: 22...Qe3+ 23.Be2 fxe6 24.Qh3 Bc3+ 25.Kf1 Rf8+ 26.Bf3 Ba5 27.Qg3 Bb6.

It is also worth noting that 19.bxa3 Qb6+ 20.Ka1 fails to 20...Bxd4+ 21.Rxd4 Qxd4+ 22.Kb1 fxe6 23.Be2 Qe4+ 24.Ka1 Rf2.

The game continued 19...Rxf7 20.bxa3 Qb6+ 21.Bb5 Qxb5+ 22.Ka1 Rc7. I will pick up the game at this point in the next post in this series. For more about Sorokhtin, see the ChessBase.com article...

Kasparov revisits Pillsbury - Lasker

...To play through the complete game see...

Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs Emanuel Lasker, St Petersburg 1895

...on Chessgames.com.

06 November 2006

Pillsbury - Lasker, St Petersburg 1895

The next game in the series on Lasker's Moves that Matter features another of Lasker's most famous combinations. First he sacrifices a Rook for a Knight on c3. After White takes another piece instead, he sacrifices the same Rook on a3, this time for no material, which White accepts. Later he sacrifices the other Rook on a3 for a Pawn, which White accepts a move later.

Before I get to those combinations, the opening is worth a look. The game started 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.Bg5 cxd4 6.Qxd4 Nc6, reaching the position shown in the diagram. Pillsbury played 7.Qh4. Over eight years later the two players reached the same position in the last game they contested together. In the second encounter Pillsbury played 7.Bxf6!.

St Petersburg 1895 / Cambridge Springs 1904
Lasker, Emanuel

Pillsbury, Harry Nelson
(After 6.Nb8-c6)

Soltis informed, 'Marco, who was emerging as the world's preeminent annotator, helped spread the myth that Pillsbury discovered 7.Bxf6! after [the St Petersburg 1895] game and had to wait eight years before exacting revenge against Lasker.' In Predecessors I, Kasparov annotated the Cambridge Springs 1904 game directly after the previous game, wthout mentioning the myth.

The 13th World Champion noted that after 7.Bxf6!, 7...Nxd4 is bad because of 8.Bxd8 Nc2+ 9.Kd2 Nxa1 10.Bc7 dxc4 11.e4 Nb3+ 12.axb3 cxb3 13.Bc4. Lasker played instead 7...gxf6 8.Qh4 dxc4 9.Rd1 Bd7 10.e3, which Kasparov called the 'critical position of the variation'. Kasparov: '10...Ne5?! Lasker falters! Later he recommended 10...f5; Euwe suggested 10...Be7'. After 11.Nxe5 fxe5 12.Qxc4 Qb6 13.Be2!, Lasker was in trouble and Pillsbury went on to win the game.

To play through the complete game see...

Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs Emanuel Lasker, Cambridge Springs 1904

...on Chessgames.com.

04 November 2006

Software for Chess Blogs

While blog tripping in October, which is not posted on About Chess yet, I found a few tools of special interest to the chess blog community. The first was a game viewer...

Game Viewer Test

...based on Chess Publisher. I fed it the first game I completed when I returned to play at the ICCF a few years ago...

[Event "EM/J50/P198"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Weeks, Mark"]
[Black "Rodrigues, Ademar"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Be7 9.c4 Nc7 10.Nd6+ Bxd6 11.Qxd6 Na6 12.b4 Qe7 13.a3 Qxd6 14.exd6 O-O 15.Be2 Nb8 16.O-O a5 17.b5 a4 18.Bb2 Na6 19.bxa6 c5 20.Rab1 Rxa6 21.Rfd1 Bb7 22.Bc1 Ba8 23.Be3 Be4 24.Bd3 Bxd3 25.Rxd3 Ra5 26.Rb7 Rd8 27.Rd1 g6 28.Bg5 f5 29.Bxd8 1-0

...and it came out looking like this...

...Note that the source is stored on the Maribelajar.com domain, aka Chess Patzer Theories, which could be problematic. The domain was down for the entire time that I was researching the October tripping article.

I found another useful trick in...

Add diagrams to your chess blog the easy way

...The following diagram is from the example given on that page...

Looks good.

02 November 2006

Endgame (2): Tarrasch - Lasker, Hastings 1895

In the series on Lasker's Moves that Matter, this is my third post on the same game. The position in the diagram is where Endgame: Tarrasch - Lasker, Hastings 1895 left off. That previous post has a link to the complete game on Chessgames.com.

Lasker played 40...Kc4, reaching the position where Kasparov (KAS in the rest of this post) started annotating. After this move, Soltis (SOL) remarked that , 'Both players could sense that the outcome of the game rides on a single tempo. But they each blunder by trying to gain that tempo.'

Hastings 1895
Lasker, Emanuel

Tarrasch, Siegbert
(After 40.Kf3-e4)
[FEN "3b4/pp6/8/8/1k2K1P1/2p5/P3N2P/8 b - - 0 40"]

Tarrasch played 41.Kf5.

KAS: ?!; 'A desperate move!' After showing that White loses with 41.Nd4 b5 42.Nc2 b4 43.Ne3+ Kc5, Kasparov pointed out that White draws with 41.Nxc3 Kxc3 42.Kf5 b5 43.g5 Bxg5 44.Kxg5 Kb2 45.h4 Kxa2 46.h5 b4 47.h6 b3 48.h7 b2 49.h8=Q b1=Q. It is hard to understand why KAS assigned '?!' to Tarrasch's losing move, when there was another move that drew. A '?' would be more accurate.

SOL: ?; 'With 41.Nxc3! White forces a drawable Q-ending' and gives the same line.

The game was annotated in the tournament book by Pillsbury, the winner of the event, who reached the same conclusion. • PIL: 'White should have taken the Pawn first, 41.Nxc3 and a drawn game would have resulted.'


KAS: ??; 'Lasker, Tarrasch, and other commentators thought that 41...c2! would have given Black only a draw: 42.g5 Bxg5 43.Kxg5 Kd3 44.Nc1+ Kd2 45.Nb3+ Kd1 46.a4 (46.h4 46...b5! 47.h5 a5 48.h6 a4) 46...a5 47.Kf5 (47.h4 47...b5!) 47...b5 48.axb5 a4 49.Nc1 49...Kxc1 {50.b6 a3 51.b7 a2 52.b8=Q a1=Q 53.Qf4+ Kb1 54.Qe4 etc.' However, after 54...Qc3 he wins! Those wishing to learn the winning method can look in Averbakh's 'Comprehensive Chess Endings'. • Using a six piece tablebase, I verified that the position after 49...Kxc1 is lost. The tablebase said, 'b5-b6 Lose in 31'.

SOL: ??; 'White's move saved him a tempo compared with 41.Nxc3. But it allowed Black to use a tempo to get closer to Queening with 41...c2!' He then confirmed Kasparov's analysis.

Pillsbury's commentary contradicts Kasparov's statement that 'Lasker and other commentators thought that 41...c2! would have given Black only a draw'. • PIL: 'Black throws away the game, which seems to be won by 41...c2 42.g5 Bxg5 43.Kxg5 Kd3 44.Nc1+ Kd2 45.Nb3+ Kd1 46.Kf5 (best) 46...a5 47.a4 b5 48.axb5 a4 49.b6 (49.Nc1 Kxc1 50.b6 50...a3 etc., Black should win) 49...axb3 50.b7 b2 51.b8=Q 51...b1=Q and should win. In both these variations the Pawn at the seventh square can be forced to Queen shortly. [Ed.: Mr. Lasker pointed out this win immediately on the conclusion of the game.]'


KAS: !; 'Now there is no stopping the passed Pawns.'

SOL: !.

42...Kxc3 43.g5 43...Bb6
SOL: 'The tempo proves decisive in 43...Bxg5 44.Kxg5 b5 45.h4 b4 46.h5.

The game ended with 44.h4 Bd4 45.h5 b5 46.h6 b4 47.g6 a5 48.g7 a4 49.g8=Q 1-0. A fascinating game in all its phases.

31 October 2006

Endgame: Tarrasch - Lasker, Hastings 1895

Continuing with Lasker's Moves that Matter, this is again Tarrasch - Lasker, Hastings 1895. I presented some background to the game in The Lasker - Tarrasch rivalry; the Berlin Defense. Soltis analyzed the entire game, while Kasparov only mentioned the opening and started his analysis from an endgame position.

After a tense middle game, the players reached the position shown in the diagram. The game is unclear. Tarrasch played 35.Rd2, which Soltis gives a '!'. I'm not sure this is merited, because after Lasker's next move, 35...Kb5, Soltis assigns a '?'. He then says, 'Instead of advancing the King immediately he should start pushing Pawns 35...Kc6 36.h4 b5 37.h5 b4 38.g5 c3', followed by some analysis that ends in a win for Black. Black's last move in that variation, 38...c3, shows the downside to 35.Rd2; it leaves the Rook in the path of the advancing Pawn.

Instead of 35.Rd2, why not 35.Rc2? If 35...Kb5, then 36.h4. Or if 35...Kc6, then 36.Rxc4+ Kd5 37.Nd2. This needs a more thorough look.

Hastings 1895
Lasker, Emanuel

Tarrasch, Siegbert
(After 34...Bb2-d4)
[FEN "3r4/pp6/1k6/8/2pbN1P1/8/P4RKP/8 w - - 0 35"]

After 35...Kb5, White continued 36.Nc3+. Here Soltis gives another '?' and says, 'White would draw after 36.h4', without any analysis.

The game continued 36...Kb4 37.Ne2 Bf6 38.Rxd8 Bxd8 39.Kf3 c3 40.Ke4 Kc4, when it reached the position where Kasparov starts annotating. I'll look at that position next time.

To play through the complete game see...

Siegbert Tarrasch vs Emanuel Lasker, Hastings 1895

...on Chessgames.com.

29 October 2006

2012 Chess Olympiad in London?

In July 2005, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge announced that London will host the 2012 Olympic Games. Will the 2012 Chess Olympiad be held in the same city?...

London Chess Olympiad looks like a killer move

...Despite some typical rube comments about chess ('I assumed [Mark Hogarth from the English Chess Federation] wanted to hire a conference room at a Travelodge off the A46 so a couple of Americans and Russians could get it on for a few hours'), writer John Inverdale managed to present a few compelling arguments for hosting the two events in the same city during the same year.

The 2006 Olympics and the Chess Olympiad were both held in Turin, Italy. Ditto for the 1924 events in Paris, although that Olympiad, the first in the series, is not counted as an 'official' Chess Olympiad. What other cities hosted Olympics and Olympiads in the same year?

P.S. Don't overlook the Comments in the Telegraph article.

27 October 2006

Google News Archive Search

This popped up on the radar this week...

Google News Archive Search - chess

...'Results about 123,000 for chess'. The first article is 'Why They Play: The Psychology of Chess' by Gilbert Cant, TIME Magazine - Time Inc. - Sep 4, 1972.

Another ground breaking idea from Google, it needs more investigation.

25 October 2006

The Lasker - Tarrasch rivalry; the Berlin Defense

The next game in the series on Lasker's Moves that Matter is Tarrasch - Lasker, from the 19th round of the great Hastings 1895 tournament. In 'Predecessors I' Kasparov mentions that this was the first game between the great rivals.

On ChessLab.com I found 30 games between the two players. They were played in the years shown in the following table.

1895 - 1
1896 - 1
1908 - 16
1914 - 3
1916 - 6
1918 - 2
1923 - 1

I didn't check ChessLab's list against another source, so there might be errors. ChessLab had five more Tarrasch - Lasker games from the period 1880-1882. Three of these were between Tarrasch and Berthold Lasker, the second World Champion's older brother. The two other games were between 'Tarrasch & allies' and 'Lasker & allies'; these are undoubtedly Berthold Lasker as well.


The Hastings 1895 game began with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 (Berlin Defense, C67) 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8, reaching the position shown in the following diagram.

(After 8...Ke8-d8(xQ))

I've played the 5...Be7 line in the Berlin Defense where Black's King Knight ends up on b7, but I've never played the 5...Nd6 variation. I watched a game with this line at the Biel 1985 Interzonal between Sax and Torre. Torre needed only a draw for an almost certain qualification into the Candidate matches, played 5...Nd6, and lost. I've shied away from it ever since.

The same line was played four times in the Kasparov - Kramnik match, London 2000, where Kramnik drew each game with Black. Kasparov played 9.Nc3 in each game, just as Tarrasch played, and Kramnik played 9...h6 in two games, just as Lasker did. Where Tarrasch played 10.Bd2, Kasparov continued 10.Rd1+ in one game, and 10.h3 in the other. He analyzed the variation in his notes to Harmonist - Tarrasch, Breslau 1889, another game in 'Predecessors I' (p.148).

I had never noticed the similarities between this variation of the Berlin Defense and the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez, which Lasker played as White, and which was adopted years later by Fischer. In both lines Black has a crippled Queenside Pawn majority offset by the two Bishops . Although he is given little credit for it, Lasker was ahead of his time in understanding the openings.

23 October 2006

Olivier Verroken (1955-2006)

'Le bonheur pour une abeille ou un dauphin est d'exister... pour l'homme, de le savoir et de s'en émerveiller.' - Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Adieu, mon ami!

21 October 2006

Combination: Lasker - Bauer, Amsterdam 1889

'What? Where is Lasker - Bauer? You know, the two Bishop sacrifice. Almost every collection of Lasker games begins with that, doesn't it?' - Andrew Soltis, 'Why Lasker Matters', introduction to game no.1 (Tietz - Lasker 1889).

Unlike GM Soltis [SOL hereafter], I will adhere to tradition and begin this new series on Lasker's Moves that Matter with the famous Lasker - Bauer game.

Soltis used the game as no.3, introducing it with, 'Okay, it can't be delayed any longer. This is the brilliancy that made Lasker famous. But it was for the wrong reasons. Thanks to it, he became known for his originality in combinational play. But his combination had been played before. What is generally overlooked is that White's victory is based on a well-grounded plan that was designed to create a huge mismatch on the Kingside.'

True to tradition, Kasparov [KAS] included the game as the first in his 108 page chapter on Lasker in 'Predecessors I'. My third collection of Lasker games, 'Lasker's Greatest Chess Games 1889-1914' by Reinfeld and Fine, uses the game as no.2.

Amsterdam 1889
Bauer, Johann Hermann

Lasker, Emanuel
(After 13...Qc7-c6)
[FEN "r4rk1/pb2bppp/1pq1pn2/2ppB3/5P2/1P1BP1N1/P1PP2PP/R2Q1RK1 w - - 0 13"]

Lasker played 13.Qe2. Both KAS and SOL gave this the move '!', the first such award in the game.

SOL: 'Kasparov called this a psychological trap. White seems to be threatening 14.Bb5, but his real goal is to play 14.Nh5, which is stronger now that g2 is protected.'

KAS:'A psychologically subtle move: both prophylactically defending g2, and threatening Bb5, which in fact is a sham -- the Bishop is looking in quite the opposite direction! After 13.Nh5 13...d4!, no win for White is apparent'. He gives two long variations, starting 14.Rf2 and 14.Nxf6+ to prove his point.

SOL: ??; 'It is easy to find improvements: 13...Ne4 and 14...f6, and even 13...g6.'

KAS: ?; 'Bauer falls into the trap set for him, although he had a reasonable choice between 13...Ne4 and 13...Nd7 with equal chances in each instance.' As usual, he gives substantial analysis to back his claim.'

14.Nh5. SOL: '!'; KAS: !; 'It is amazing that Black's position is practically hopeless.' 14...Nxh5. KAS gives four alternatives, concluding that 14...Rfd8 is the strongest. SOL also considers it best. 15.Bxh7+. SOL: '!!'; KAS: '!'. 15...Kxh7 16.Qxh5+ Kg8 17.Bxg7
SOL: !; 'The two Bishop sac [Soltis uses "sack" throughout the book] has been copied dozens of times and dubbed "Lasker's Combination", the title of a 1998 book devoted to it. He then goes into a long discussion about whether the combination is original and whether its originality is importnat.

KAS: !!; 'The double Bishop sacrifice is Lasker's patent'; he mentions that it was played in Tarrasch - Nimzowitsch, St.Petersburg 1914 (no.51 in his book).

Black resigned about 20 moves later. To play through the complete game see...

Emanuel Lasker vs Johann Hermann Bauer, Amsterdam 1889

...on Chessgames.com.

19 October 2006

GM Analysis and GM Evaluation

I encountered this position while working on the Slav. It was featured in the October 1983 Chess Life (p.26), in an 'Opening Forum' column by GM Leonid Shamkovich.

White played 15.Nd2, threatening to trap the Queen with Nd2-c4. Black countered with 15...a6, but White achieved a won game with 16.Bxc6 Bxc6 17.Nc4 Qf5 18.Bd6 e3 19.Nxe3 Qxb1+ 20.Qxb1 Bxd6 21.Qxb6. The players on first board were the national champions of their respective countries.

Radio Match USA-USSR (Game 2) 1945
Denker, Arnold

Botvinnik, Mikhail
(After 14.Bc8-d7)
[FEN "r3k2r/p2b1ppp/1pn1p3/qB6/3PpB2/bQP2N2/P4PPP/1R2K2R w Kkq - 0 15"]

Shamkovich proposed 15...O-O, and if 16.Nc4, then 16...Nxd4! wins. He gave several alternatives for White.

  • 16.Qc4 a6 17.Bxc6 b5, and

  • 16.Be3 Rfc8 17.Nc4 Nxd4 18.Bxd4 Qxb5. Now there are again two main lines.

    • 19.Nxa3 Qg5 20.O-O e5 21.Be3 Qg6 22.Kh1 Be6

    • 19.Qxb5 Bxb5 20.Nxa3 Bd3 21.Rc1 f6

    Here Shamkovich remarked, 'In both cases, I believe Black has adequate compensation for the piece. He has two strong Pawns, he can attack White's weak c-Pawn, and he won't be challenged by White's misplaced Knight at a3 for a while.'

I confirmed the GM's nice analysis, which was prepared before computers were available for tactical checking. It is useful to note that the GM and modern chess software arrive at the main variations. The GM's evaluation was another matter. With only two Pawns for a piece, the computer values the position at a Pawn down. Who is right, the GM or the computer?

To play through the complete game see...

Mikhail Botvinnik vs Arnold Denker, Radio Match USA-USSR (2) 1945

...on Chessgames.com.

17 October 2006

NAO Is No More

Europe Echecs for October 2006 reported (p.5 & 68) that the NAO chess club of Paris lost the sponsorship of Nahed Ojjeh and closed its doors. According to Wikipedia (French version)...

N.A.O. Chess Club

...the club twice won the European Club Cup (2003 and 2004), among other honors.

Ojjeh also had an impact on the World Chess Championship between 2002 and 2004...

Madame Ojjeh say NAO to Einstein
[15 January 2003]

Madame Ojjeh blasts the FIDE championship
[22 June 2004]

...I haven't seen the news reported outside of France. It is bad news for French chess players.

15 October 2006

World Championship Tiebreak

While working on an article for the Kramnik - Topalov unification match, I started thinking about tiebreak. There haven't been many other World Championship events where tiebreak was an issue. It was used in the FIDE knockout tournaments, the final round following the same principles as for all preceding rounds.

I can think of only one other occasion where it would have resolved a tie : the 1948 match tournament with Botvinnik, Smyslov, Reshevsky, Keres, and Euwe. What sort of playoff was foreseen for that event?

13 October 2006

Kramnik Wins World Championship Unification Match!

Friday the 13th had to be bad luck for Vladimir Kramnik or for Veselin Topalov. After four tense tiebreak games, the odd man out was Topalov. Congratulations to GM Kramnik and thanks to both players for the most exciting match I can remember.

11 October 2006

Lasker's Moves that Matter

Dr. Emanuel Lasker, second World Champion, had a style that was difficult to fathom. Two books exploring his play and ideas have appeared in recent years. 'My Great Predecessors, Part I' by Garry Kasparov was published in 2003. 'Why Lasker Matters' by Andrew Soltis was published in 2005. Both writers are grandmasters and both have a special interest in chess history.

I thought it would be instructive to see which Lasker games have been annotated by both players, to determine whether there was significant difference in opinion on specific moves or positions, and to study the differences. Here is a list of Lasker's games found in both books.

1889 Amsterdam, Lasker - Bauer
1895 Hastings, Tarrasch - Lasker
1895 St. Petersburg, Pillsbury - Lasker (Rd.1)
1895 St. Petersburg, Chigorin - Lasker (Rd.3)
1907 New York, Marshall - Lasker (WCC Gm.1)
1908 Dusseldorf/Munich, Tarrasch - Lasker (WCC Gm.4)
1910 Berlin/Vienna, Lasker - Schlechter (WCC Gm.10)
1914 St. Petersburg, Lasker - Tarrasch (prelim)
1914 St. Petersburg, Lasker - Capablanca (final)
1914 St. Petersburg, Lasker - Marshall (final)
1924 New York, Reti - Lasker
1925 Moscow, Iljin-Genevsky - Lasker
1934 Zurich, Euwe - Lasker

I'll tackle them one by one in subsequent posts. It is entirely possible that some games have more than one move worth studying.

07 October 2006

Combination: Capablanca - Molina and Ruiz, Buenos Aires 1914

This is the last game in this series on Capablanca's games 'to be studied'. The future World Champion introduced the game with:

During this second visit [to Buenos Aires] I played several games of the so-called brilliant kind. The inexperience of my opponents made it possible for me to obtain positions where a win could be best secured through the sacrifice of one or more pieces. I give below an example, which I feel sure will please both the dilettante and the connoisseur.

In the diagrammed position Capablanca played 23.Nxh7!, and wrote,

Better than 23.Rh3 when would follow 23...h6 24.Nxf7+ Nxf7 25.Bxc4 d5. I daresay very few masters would have made this sacrifice. It requires not only very great power of combination, but what is still more, exceedingly accurate judgement. A very careful analysis will demonstrate that the sacrifice is absolutely sound.

Buenos Aires 1914
L.Molina and E.Ruiz

Capablanca, Jose Raul
(After 23...b5-c4(xP))
[FEN "r2nqr1k/1p3bpp/3p1n2/2p1pPN1/2p1P2Q/P2P1R2/BP1B3P/R5K1 w - - 0 23"]

The game continued 23...Nxh7 24.Rh3 Bg8. Capablanca:

24...Bh5 was no better. White could play 25.Qxh5 with advantage, but still better might be 25.Bxc4.

25.Bxc4 Rf7 Capablanca:

No doubt 25...Nf7 looks like the right move. White, however, could continue with 26.Kh1 in order to play 27.Rg1, and could also carry the game quickly by assault as follows: 26.f6! g5 27.Qh5 Nd8 28.Qh6! Rf7 29.Bxg5 Qf8 30.Kh1! Qxh6 31.Bxh6 Rxf6 (31...Nxf6 32.Rg1) 32.Rg1.

26.Kh1 b5 27.Bd5 Raa7 28.Rg1 Rf6 29.Bg5 Raf7 30.b3! Capablanca:

Now that the Black pieces are pinned, White proceeds to obtain a passed Pawn with which to win the game.

The allies resigned around the 40th move. To play through the complete game see...

Jose Raul Capablanca vs R Molina, Buenos Aries cg 1914

...on Chessgames.com. How many errors can you spot in the game's heading?

05 October 2006

Planning: Nimzowitsch - Capablanca, St.Petersburg 1914

Continuing with Capablanca's games 'to be studied', this next game shows how a good plan can overcome a material deficit. The game was also no.81 in Kasparov's 'My Great Predecessors, Vol.1'.

The first thing is to note is the similarity between the diagrammed position and the Benko Gambit; 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 is a straightforward example of the Benko. White has an extra a-Pawn, but is subject to pressure on the a- and b-files. The Bishop on g7 plays an important role in limiting White's options.

Capablanca played 13...O-O and commented,

Black is a Pawn behind, but all his forces are now deployed and ready for maneuvering, while White, who had to make three moves with his Queen in order to win a Pawn, is therefore very backward in his development. Nimzowitch, it is true, does not make the best moves now, but I believe he has been unjustly criticized for losing this game, although none of the critics have given a satisfactory line of procedure. They have all suggested moves here and there; but the games of the great masters are not played by single moves, but must be played by concerted plans of attack and defense, and these they have not given.

St.Petersburg 1914
Capablanca, Jose Raul

Nimzowitsch, Aron
(After 13.0-0)
[FEN "2r1k2r/Q1pq1pbp/2pp1np1/8/4P3/2N5/PPP2PPP/R1B2RK1 b k - 0 13"]

Nimzowitsch played 14.Qa6. The first question is 'to what purpose'? Is the Queen better positioned on the a6-f1 diagonal than on the a7-g1 diagonal?

Kasparov criticized the move with, 'A waste of a tempo. Tarrasch suggested 14.Bd2 to answer 14...Rfe8 or 14...Qe6 with 15.f3 and when convenient 16.Qf2, and he doubted whether Black had compensation for the Pawn.' After quoting the whole of Capablanca's note to 13...0-0, he continued, 'Let's support Tarrasch's idea (14.Bd2) with a concrete plan: b2-b3, a2-a4, and Rad1; if ...c5 then the Queen escapes via a6 and the Black Knight has to guard the d5-square.'

Computers are incapable of formulating a plan. When I asked mine to analyze the position, it gave 14.f3, 14.Qe3, 14.Qa6, 14.Rd1, and 14.Qa4, as its first five suggestions. The move 14.Bd2 was not among the first ten suggestions. All of the top moves were valued in a very narrow range. The game continued 14...Rfe8 15.Qd3. Capablanca:

This makes the sixth move with the Queen out of fifteen played so far. Evidently White's plan is to consolidate his position and finally win with the extra Pawn. He fails, however, to take the best measures against Black's plan, which consists in placing his Rooks in the open lines, bringing his Knight around to c4, if possible, and through the combined pressure of the Bishop, the two Rooks and Knight, and the Queen if necessary against the a- and b-Pawn, to regain his material, keeping the upper hand at the same time. The plan is masked by the direct attack against the e-Pawn.

That correctly describes the strategy behind the Benko Gambit. After 15...Qe6 16.f3 Nd7, Capablanca noted,

Now the Bishop's line is open and the Knight threatens to come to the Queenside for the attack against the a- and b-Pawn. It is doubtful if White has any longer a good line of defense. At any rate, I believe that the best he can hope for is a draw.

Later in the game he remarked,

I have chosen this game as an example of position play. The apparently simple moves are in reality of a very complicated nature, and they all obey a preconceived plan. Such games are in fact of the highest and most difficult type, and only the connoisseur can fully appreciate them.

That is why I included the game with the others 'to be studied'. To play through the complete game see...

Aron Nimzowitsch vs Jose Raul Capablanca, St Petersburg 1914

...on Chessgames.com.

03 October 2006

Rubinstein played the Rubinstein

A paragraph from 'Chess Memoirs' by Dr. Joseph Platz (p.51):

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4. The Rubinstein Defense. The first time it was ever played against me, in a simultaneous exhibition when I was a youngster, was by the great Akiba Rubinstein himself. I was almost trembling with excitement, but I gave a good account of myself. When he made an unsound combination -- a very rare occurrence -- I refuted it and came out a full Rook ahead. Gracefully, silently, without even looking at me he turned over his King in surrender. It was the first and only time I ever saw Rubinstein.

The full game score isn't given. 'In 1933, when Hitler came to power I had to leave Germany in a hurry and fled across the border into Switzerland.' Dr. Platz told me once that when he saw the swastika adorning the hospital where he worked, he knew it was time to leave. Much of his chess memorabilia was left behind.

01 October 2006

A lesson in the Lopez from Capablanca and Kasparov

While preparing the next game in Capablanca's games 'to be studied', which is Nimzowitsch - Capablanca, St.Petersburg 1914, I learned something new about the opening. It starts with the position shown in the diagram.

I usually open 1.e4, and sometimes answer 1.e4 with 1...e5, so I have played the diagrammed position countless times. What could I possibly learn about it, which arises after the further moves 2.Nf3 Nc6? Nimzowitsch - Capablanca continued 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 (ECO C48-49) 4...d6. For some reason, I had never considered Black's fourth move. As Black, I usually play 4...Bb4 (C49), and I once analyzed 4...Nd4 (C48, the Rubinstein Variation) with Dr. Joseph Platz, my first and only chess teacher.

Why hadn't I ever considered 4...d6? Was it because of some Tarrasch dictum warning against shutting in the King's Bishop voluntarily with ...d6? Whatever the reason, if it was good enough for Capablanca, it is certainly good enough for me. I decided to investigate further.

I found the game in Kasparov's 'My Great Predecessors, Vol.1' as no.81, where he assigned the opening to ECO C62. Now I was really confused. I thought the opening was a Four Knights Game, but the 13th World Champion said it was a Ruy Lopez. The Capablanca game continued 5.d4 Bd7 6.Bxc6. Here Kasparov noted, '6.O-O exd4 7.Nxd4 Be7 leads to a tabiya of the variation, for example' 8.Re1, 8.b3, and 8.Nf5?!.

I checked my old copy of ECO and found under C62 (written by Keres) 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 exd4 6.Nxd4 Nf6 and now ECO gave only 7.Bxc6. To reach the Kasparov tabiya 7.O-O Be7, is required. After 5...Nf6, ECO gave only 6.Bxc6!, with a note that 6.O-O is C66, the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez, 3...Nf6.

Under C66 (also written by Keres) I found 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O d6 5.d4 Bd7 6.Nc3, and now 6...exd4 7.Nxd4 Be7 is Kasparov's tabiya. Incidentally, if 6...Be7 7.Re1, then 7...exd4 is best. The move 7...O-O? is an old trap: 8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Rfxd8 11.Nxe5 Bxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Nd3 f5 14.f3 Bc5+ 15.Kf1 +-, as documented by Tarrasch.

Did Kasparov classify the opening as C62 erroneously? Perhaps. In any case, I had learned something new about an opening I had played many times.

29 September 2006

Today Kramnik forfeited game 5 of the unification match

What does it mean for the future of the World Chess Championship?

27 September 2006

Combination: Capablanca - Bernstein, St.Petersburg 1914

The game Capablanca - Bernstein, St.Petersburg (preliminary) 1914, is the second in the series of Capablanca's games 'to be studied', between these two opponents. The first was Combination: Capablanca - Bernstein, San Sebastian 1911. The game was also featured as no.83 in Kasparov's 'My Great Predecessors, Vol.1'.

From the diagram the game continued 15.Bg3 fxe5. Here Capablanca remarked,

Black has regained the Pawn, but an examination of the situation will show that White has an overwhelming position. All his pieces are in play, some in a defensive and others in an attacking position, even the Bishop which does not seem to do much will soon be very effective, while Black has not yet castled and his Queen Rook and Queen Bishop are undeveloped. It is now up to White to take advantage of the position before Black has time to deploy his forces.

This verbal assessment shows how the Cuban judged a position. The Bishop 'which does not seem to do much' is the piece on d3.

St.Petersburg 1914
Bernstein, Ossip

Capablanca, Jose Raul
(After 14...f7-f6)
[FEN "r1b1k2r/2qn2pp/p1p2p2/1pb1P3/4PBn1/2NB1N2/PP3PPP/2RQ1RK1 w kq - 0 15"]

After 16.b4! (the '!' symbols are Capablanca's) 16...Ba7, he noted,

A careful examination will show that Black could not safely take the Pawn on account of Nd5. The object of White's previous move is accomplished. The Bishop no longer holds two diagonals, one offensive and the other defensive, but only one, and as he has weakened the defense of his King it is now time to carry on the assault.

If 16...Bxb4 17.Nd5 Qd6 18.Nxb4 Qxb4 19.Rxc6 O-O 20.Rc7, although Kasparov gives 20.Bc2. After 17.Bxb5! axb5 18.Nxb5 Qd8 19.Nd6+ Kf8 20.Rxc6 Nb6 21.Bh4!, we come to the position that prompted me to include it in 'games "to be studied"'. Capablanca:

This is to my mind the finest move in the game, though all annotators have overlooked this fact. Before making it I had to plough through a mass of combinations which totalled at least a hundred moves. The text combination is one of them, and I had to see through the whole thing to the end before I decided on this move. Otherwise the simple continuation 21.Nxe5 would have been adopted.

The point is that 21...Qd7 (forced), allows 22.Nxc8!, although 22.b5 with the threat of 23.Nxc8 is simpler. After 22...Qxc6 23.Qd8+ (23.Nxa7 Rxa7 24.Qd8+ Qe8 25.Qxb6 also wins), Capablanca caught Bernstein's King in a mating net and won on the 43rd move.

To play through the complete game see...

Jose Raul Capablanca vs Ossip Bernstein, St Petersburg 1914

...on Chessgames.com.

25 September 2006

Did Capablanca misjudge the Meran?

Continuing with Capablanca's games 'to be studied', the next game to be studied is Capablanca - Bernstein, St.Petersburg preliminary, 1914. Before I get to the position that Capablanca thought was worth analyzing, I have a small observation on the opening.

The game started 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 c6. Here Capablanca noted, 'This and the few following moves constitute a system of defense which had been carefully studied by Dr. Bernstein, and which he had already played against me in one of our two games at Moscow. The previous game had resulted in a draw, after I had had the worst of the opening, due to my failure to bring out the Queen Bishop.'

The game mentioned in the note (Capablanca - Bernstein, Moscow 1914) started 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Bd3. This is a line known as the Meran Variation (ECO D47-49). After the further moves 6...dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 a6, we have the position shown in the diagram.

(After 8...a7-a6)

Here the players continued 9.O-O (D48) 9...c5 10.dxc5 Nxc5, and the game was drawn after 30 moves. The main line of the Meran is 9.e4 c5 10.e5 cxd4 11.Nxb5 (D49). Theory says that Capablanca had 'the worst of the opening', not because of his 'failure to bring out the Queen Bishop', but because he played 9.O-O and 10.dxc5.

To play through the complete game see...

Jose Raul Capablanca vs Ossip Bernstein, Moscow game 1914

...on Chessgames.com.

23 September 2006

What theoretical disadvantage?

Working on the Caro-Kann, I ran into this statement by Fine in 'Ideas Behind the Chess Openings' (p.78):

'This defense is motivated by a desire to secure the good features of the French (prevention of any attack on f7) and to avoid the bad ones (cramped game, especially due to the fact that the QB is shut in). However, it is subject to the theoretical disadvantage of supporting a center Pawn (d5) not with another center Pawn (as in the French) but with a side Pawn. It thus becomes easier for White to get the upper hand in the center.'

I had never encountered the idea about the 'theoretical disadvantage of supporting a center Pawn not with another center Pawn but with a side Pawn'. Are there other examples of this?

21 September 2006

Endgame: Allies - Capablanca, Vienna 1914

I'm continuing with Réti learns a lesson from Capablanca (which has references plus a link to the complete game), the current game in Capablanca's games 'to be studied'. The diagram shows the position where Capablanca wrote,

From now each move should be studied with care as the coming endgame is very difficult. I consider it one of my very best.

Since Black threatened 25...Rg8+ 26.Kf1 Qa6+, the game continued 25.Qxf6 Rxf6. The Pawn count is five on each side, but Black is effectively a Pawn ahead because of the doubled h-Pawns. 26.Re3 Rb6. Capablanca gave the last move a '!' and remarked,

The beginning of a very elaborate plan, the first object of which is to force the advance of one of White's Queenside Pawns, so that the Rooks cannot be free to maneuver and attack Black's Queenside Pawns. Many of the other points, which would take pages to explain, will be revealed by the coming moves in the game.

Vienna 1914
Capablanca and Réti

Kaufmann and Fähndrich
(After 24...Kg8-h7)
[FEN "r4r2/pp5k/5q1p/3p1p2/3Qb3/5N1P/PPP2R1P/4R1K1 w - - 0 25"]

White played 27.b3. The move 27.c3 was bad because of 27...Rg8+ 28.Kf1 f4 and the attacked Rook has no good moves. Another possibility, 27.Rb3, loses to 27...Rxb3 28.axb3 Kg6 29.Kf1 Kf6 30.c3 Re8. Now The Black Rook can penetrate to the first and second ranks via the a-file, without sacrificing a Pawn, as in the game. The White Rook can be prevented from penetrating the Black position on the g-file by posting the King on f7. 27...Rc8. Capablanca:

To prevent the White Rook from going to c3. At the same time the attack on the c-Pawn holds the Knight at d4 and keeps a Rook defending the Pawn.

28.Nd4 Rf6 29.Rf4 Kg6. Capablanca:

Forcing the c-Pawn to advance, which is part of Black's plan.

This prevents a Rook from entering Black's position via the c-file. 30.c3. Capablanca:

If 30.Rf2 the f-Pawn will soon advance and the Black Rook will go to c3.

E.g. 30...f4 31.Re1 Rc3. 30...Kg5 31.Ne2 Ra6! Capablanca:

The plan is maturing. White will have to play 32.a4 and Black can then break through by 32...b5!

32.h4+ Kf6 33.a4 b5! Capablanca:

Now as the Rook goes through, and the King advances to the center, the enormous power of the Be4 becomes evident. The passed f-Pawn will soon advance and the game will be over.

That is exactly how the game developed. The remaining moves were: 34.axb5 Ra1+ 35.Rf1 Rxf1+ 36.Kxf1 Ke5 37.Nd4 f4 38.Rh3 Rg8 39.Ke1 Rg1+ 40.Ke2 Rg2+ 41.Kf1 Rb2 42.Ke1 h5 43.Kd1 Bf5 44.Nxf5 Kxf5 45.c4 Ke4 46.Rc3 f3 47.Ke1 d4 0-1

19 September 2006

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Official correspondence from About.com tells me 'You Have Been a Guide Since: 2002-09-19'. I can't believe four years have passed; I'm still just getting started! There is so much to write about in chess and to learn about on the Web.

17 September 2006

Réti learns a lesson from Capablanca

While looking for other references to the game Kaufmann and Fähndrich vs. Capablanca (started in Double blunders can be instructive, the current game in Capablanca's games 'to be studied'), I found that it was ending no.19 in 'Capablanca's Best Chess Endings' by Irving Chernev. There the game was attributed to Fähndrich and Kaufmann playing against Capablanca and Réti.

Chernev introduced the game with a story that Réti was surprised when Capablanca refused to consider a natural developing move at one point in the game. Where had I seen this story before? It was in game 31 of 'The Development of Chess Style' by Dr. Max Euwe. The story concerns the position shown in the diagram.

Vienna 1914
Capablanca and Réti

Kaufmann and Fähndrich
(After 14.Qd1-e2(xN))
[FEN "r2q1rk1/pp3pp1/5n1p/2bp4/6bB/2N2N2/PPP1QPPP/R4RK1 b - - 0 14"]

Euwe wrote,

Here Reti commented as follows: "A position was arrived at here in which the opportunity presented itself to develop a hitherto undeveloped piece and indeed with an attack. The move 14...Re8 would have had that effect and was in accordance with the principles prevailing when I grew up and which corresponded almost entirely with Morphy's principles (for he would, without considering, have chosen that move). To my great astonishment Capablanca would not even consider the move at all. Finally he discovered the following maneuver by means of which he forced a deterioration of White's Pawn position and thereby later on his defeat."

Capablanca's move was 14...Bd4. The game continued 15.Qd3 Bxc3 16.Qxc3 Ne4 17.Qd4 g5 18.Ne5 Bf5 19.f3. Euwe assigned the last move a '?' and remarked,

A weak move; White could simply have played 19.Bg3. Against this Capablanca gave the following variation: 19...Nxg3 20.fxg3 Bxc2 21.Ng4 f5 22.Ne3 Be4 23.Rad1 Qb6 24.Nxd5 Bxd5 25.Qxb6 axb6 26.Rxd5 Rxa2, and Black has won a Pawn -- wlich happens to be virtually worthless.

Capablanca's assessment of the variation was that Black has 'a very slight advantage'. Later in his notes Euwe remarked,

A model of enterprising play in every phase of the game. "With this game," said Reti,"began a revolution in my conviction as to the wisdom of the old principle, according to which in the opening every move should develop another piece. I studied Capablanca's games and realized that contrary to all the masters of the period he had for some time ceased to adhere to that principle." Here, however, we must add that we do not unreservedly agree with Reti's judgment on this remarkable game, for it is not clear that the advantage obtained from the maneuver 14...Bd4 is absolutely forced.

Nine good players out of ten would play 14...Re8. Why wouldn't Capablanca? After learning that the game was played by both Capablanca and Réti, a fact that Capablanca neglected to mention, I found the game on Chessgames.com. The searches both on 'Capablanca' and on 'Reti' failed to locate it. To play through the complete game see...

Fahndrich / Kaufmann vs Reti / Capablanca, Vienna consultation 1914

...where the kibitzers mention that Réti's comments first appeared in his book 'Modern Ideas in Chess'.