Friday, November 30, 2007

A Noisy Draw

My sixth round pairing was against a famous youngster in these parts. Last May, there was a story at the CalChess website touting Nicholas Nip as the nation’s youngest expert.

Normally, I would fear losing to a child because of the humiliation factor. Wang summed up the emotional effluvium quite eloquently. But even if I lost this game in a disgusting manner, I had too many endorphins in the tank from my fifth game victory to let it ruin my tournament.

During the game, Nicholas seemed to be distracted by anyone who walked by our board. His eyes were all over the room and he hardly seemed to be concentrating. I shudder to think how much better he could have calculated my destruction had there been no distractions.

Against tournament hall etiquette (there were hardly any active boards around us), we analyzed a little of the opening and late middlegame, but his mom reminded him that they had a long drive ahead, so we wrapped it up. Then Nicholas cutely passed me his scoresheet like a chess professional. I haven’t gotten into this habit at the end of the game because it reminds me of excess paperwork and I’m naïve enough to think that none of my respectable opponents would try to game the system, signature or no signature. But it’s probably a FIDE thing that’s been taught to him as part of the good manners of the game, just like the handshake at the end. So I signed his scoresheet and he gestured as if asking for mine. After a few seconds, I handed him my scoresheet and said something like, “…since you’ll be a famous grandmaster someday.” So I’ve got his autograph. Sigh. In the end, youth must be served and we old codgers got to step aside to make way for them.

Someday, when World Champion GM Nicholas Nip comes back to the Western States Open to do a simultaneous exhibition, people will ask, “Why don’t you play in the simul?” I’ll proudly pull out my signed scoresheet and say, “Don’t need to. When he was ten years old and knee high to a grasshopper, I drew him.”

I had the worse middlegame and mostly escaped by the skin of my teeth in the ending, but I didn’t falter into a completely losing situation. The fact that I had held my own to draw against a rapidly improving youngster enhanced my overall tournament accomplishment. I left the Western States Open thinking that despite my early travails, it had added up to a decent tournament. After castling short, I had scored three points from the last four games. Even including the two losses, I had held my own and rediscovered my ability to calculate. Perhaps not in the magical manic way of my youth, but in a lesser way that was adequate to give me confidence for my next tournament.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

TPS Report #6

After finishing my 1078th problem on Chess Tempo, pushed my Standard rating up to 1909 (accuracy 76.7%), and my Blitz rating up to 2377 (accuracy up to 71.5%). I also got up to second on the 12-hour Activity list as you see. drunknknite has also been there eclipsing me for a while until time ticked his results off the list.

I tried Chess Position Trainer again a couple nights ago and discovered more of its strengths. I put in one of my shorter openings and then went into training mode. It was quite cool how it just popped up random positions from the repertoire so that I would have to use more concentration to evoke the correct move, rather than dully following the thread in ChessBase and thinking, “Yeah, yeah. I know it.” I think I will take the time to input much more of my opening repertoire and try to use it.

Started to annotate Game 6 of WSO.

If everyone at the club is okay with my proposed calendar, then major battles are coming with the class championship in January and February, followed by the preliminaries of the club championship, then there’s Far West Open 2008 in late March, and finally the club championship.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

TPS Report #5

Did another 330 problems on Chess Tempo, pulled my Standard rating up to 1850, and my solving accuracy to 74.3%. I also made it to #2 on the most active in the last 12 hours. The good and the bad are starting to grow on me there, such that I’m getting back that stubbornness that caused me to rack up 10,000 problems on CTS. My longest streak was 27 correct problems. I think the problems on Chess Tempo are sometimes more difficult, not because they’re better problems, but because they’re a little nitpicky as to what is the right move. Some positions are completely winning, but they want you to find the line that mates in 4 instead of 5 moves.

I was going through some old scrap piles and found some old scoresheets. It appears I fibbed about never playing in a CCA event. Back in April, 1993, I played in the Chicago Amateur starting strong with WW, then fading down the stretch with LDD.

Annotated 5th of 6 games from WSO2007. It wasn’t a terribly interesting game, so perhaps I should just skip the quiet games.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Quiet Draw

I had gone out to dinner with a friend from out of town and I had overdone it a little with the caloric intake. I prefer to subscribe to Alekhine’s advice that “During a chess competition, a chess master should be a combination of a beast of prey and a monk.”

My opponent was playing up from his Class A rating. I don’t mind people playing up, but I question the wisdom of it. Does he hope that somehow by jumping into deep waters that he’ll learn how to swim with the big fish? Until a chess player demonstrates that he can dominate in his own section, my revolutionary prediction is that he’s going to get slaughtered playing up, and unless you’re a rapidly improving player (e.g. teenager), there’s going to be very little learning in repeated slaughter. I believe that there’s a certain amount of technique (pressing an edge into a winning advantage, converting the middlegame and endgame advantages, winning the won game, and just overall avoiding mistakes) that chess players ought to learn in playing people below or at their level. Without technique, a chess player’s game is always going to be pretty shaky and subject to sudden reversals. Plus, why not play in your own section in the hope that you’ll win some money?

That being said, I had somehow noticed that my opponent had tied for first in the Class A section in Far West Open 2007, so he had done some “dominating” in his own section and that he might be pretty dangerous. Before our game, I asked him if he was also at 1.0/3 and he said no, he was at 0.5. After drawing me in this game, he withdrew, which surprised me a little. I would think that he scored a moral victory in drawing a higher rated player. If you’re going to play up, I think you should be mentally prepared for bad results. But I can’t really fault him for withdrawing, since I spent the first half of the tournament contemplating withdrawal myself. But I had been getting my head handed to me by my own class of players.

This game wasn’t terribly interesting, but I learned a little about my opening repertoire.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

TPS Report #4

Annotated and posted Game 3 of WSO2007. Now done with 4 of 6 games.

Attempted to do studies from ChessCafe's Skittles Room, getting about 2.5 out of 4. I guess I'm happy about getting most of studies 2 and 3. I started on the Lotta Wotawa studies from Dvoretsky's Instructor column. I was able to solve #2, but #1 completely eluded me. I asked my wife to be the keeper of the solutions because it's too easy for my eyes to grab the keys. I must have asked about four moves before I was able to stumble on the key by random. And then I asked about a couple more moves on the second move of the combination. Finally, I gave up and looked at the answer. Damn! And this is the easiest? Here's the problem.

If you want to check your answer, the studies and their answers are at ChessCafe.

What's so discouraging about studies and problems is that I can beat my head against the wall and not get anywhere and then I just give up and look at the answer. Where is my will to win? What if I had the exact position against a GM with 40 minutes on my clock and $2000 on the line? The move is waiting for me, but my brain just can't find it. My personal deadly chess sin is Sloth. If I can't figure out the right way to go, I just look up the answer or let Fritz analyze my positions. Of course this leads to laziness and superficiality at the board and obviously bad results. Oh well, it's just a study. Two down, thirty-five to go.

Haven't been doing the problems at ChessTempo. Somehow the Standard mode has been a mixed blessing. It feels better to not have time pressure, but it seems I give up more readily. The love-hate feelings I had at Chess Tactics Server seemed to motivate me to do hundreds of problems in a row. Not so much mixed up passions at Chess Tempo. Perhaps CTS was onto something.

Instead, I've been trying to test out some of the offerings in Total Chess Training. I thought I'd start with Mate Studies since the objective is clear. Funny, it estimates my rating at about 2150, I'm sure the progam has inflation built in. There's a time deadline again which I run into often at about 5 minutes. Disgusting.

I downloaded Chess Position Trainer and tried it out. I'm not sure that it would be of value to me, especially since a lot of my stuff is organized in ChessBase files already. Still, it made me think about openings again. I've tried to stay away from studying openings, but they were fun to go back to for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Alekhine’s Gun Almost Backfires Again

Game 3 of the Western States Open was the beginning of my comeback. Chris Harrington titled one of his posts “Fighting Back” which reminded me of the Naval Piranha Plant on Nintendo’s Tetris Attack. I used to play that game so much that the blocks danced around in my dreams. Hmm… strategy games with squares.

After losing to two 2100+ players, I was up against a fellow tail-ender who was probably sitting on his rating floor just like me. Sometimes I think I’m really a Class A player who got lucky once, got floored as an Expert and who has since been wandering around in the wrong section.

This game features a tripling of the heavy pieces that again almost backfired for me. A while back I wrote up a postmortem on a game where Alekhine's gun almost backfired for me. Just because Alekhine’s gun looks intimidating doesn’t mean that there can’t be some tactics against the pieces of the gun. Technically, Alekhine’s gun has the two rooks in the front forming the ammunition, so this game features a mixed up Alekhine’s gun.

I don’t think I did anything special in this game except take over the initiative early. It was my opponent’s decision to sac the exchange when he didn’t have to and then he resigned when he still had fighting chances.

I almost felt disappointed, not because a little sadist in me wanted to torture the guy for another twenty moves (or as chessloser would say, "grind his dick in the dirt"), but winning when I don’t think I deserve it is bittersweet. I can’t just accept a win; I’ve got to overthink the hell out of it. Still, rules are rules and a resignation is a resignation. And this was the game that pulled me out of my funk. In the spirit of the season, I am thankful for the good fortune that comes my way in life and on the chessboard. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Two Dogs Beat A Pig

In Silman’s 3rd Edition of How To Reassess Your Chess, one of his chapters is entitled “Dogs vs. Cats/Bishops vs. Knights”. He doesn’t make any more of the comparison, but I will use his animal analogy in conjunction with the description of “Pigs on the seventh” to refer to this Two Bishops versus a Rook ending as Two Dogs versus a Pig. I know that the Bishop is related to an elephant, especially in Chinese Chess, but somehow two elephants versus a pig seemed too much of a mismatch.

This ending caught my fancy not because it was well played, but because of one major side line that led to several questions and a few tactical surprises. In the position after White’s 32nd move, can Black win? My investigation of the position (with Fritz’s help) led me to conclude that the Two Dogs beat a Pig in this ending. Many variations I ran into seemed to give White the draw, but eventually, I found that the Bishops dominate the board and can net the Rook with the a-pawn, after which, the two Bishops help the king mate the enemy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Tactical Endgame

In the spring of 2004, the organizer of the major Reno tournaments asked me to collate the games bulletin for the Far West Open. This turned out to be a large undertaking as I spent probably dozens of hours entering the games and later annotating them. It's probably overdoing it to actually annotate the games, but I believe it's of value to the people who pay for the bulletin to see some highlighted moves and it's definitely of value to me, because I'm otherwise too lazy to study master games. If you're handy with ChessBase and are good with this kind of tedious work, I would recommend putting together a games bulletin as a way to improve your game, but it is a lot of work. I think I have it down to about a dozen hours of work per bulletin, but that may be underestimating it.

This is one of about three endgames that really stuck in my mind. I didn't label this one of my Endgame Obsessions, since it involves fairly short variations. Still, this ending is surprisingly interesting. I voted it as the Best Endgame of the bulletin. The interest picks up at move 44.

Friday, November 16, 2007

TPS Report #3

Did 270 problems on Chess Tempo. Thanks to Robert Pearson for pointing it out. I like Chess Tempo's interface much better than Chess Tactics Server. And I like that there are two modes: Blitz (time dependent) and Standard (time independent). I'm a little dismayed that even taking 5 minutes on every problem, my solving percentage in Standard is 70%. My percentage at CTS was 90% now drifting down to 85%. One additional nice thing at Chess Tempo is that the ratings are inflated. At CTS, my ego-bruising number is 1500-1600. At Chess Tempo, I'm 1850-2250. Nothing like a little rating inflation fantasy to make believe that my master title is just around the corner.

Started the first 7 exercises with Perfect Your Chess. This is almost over my head as I can only get vague senses of the lines I'm supposed to come up with. Still, the fact that I don't recognize so many ideas tells me that I'm actually getting something from this book. No pain, no gain.

I visited Chicago last weekend to hang out with my college buddies and watch Northwestern beat Indiana in an exciting seesaw battle. I used to think that the only football games I enjoyed were total domination. Perhaps being a Northwestern student has lowered my expectations enough that even little victories are appreciated. One my friends continually celebrated moral victories when things were going badly on the field. A bit of adversity is healthy for the soul to put things in perspective and make you appreciate the good things.

I didn't have time to visit the Chess Pavilion, so I'll have to go back to Chicago later. Goichberg seems to run two tournaments a year there and I've yet to play in a CCA event. I've got my eye on the Chicago Open, but it already looks like there's a scheduling conflict.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Endgame Obsession #2 RaPvB

I became interested in this ending while watching the last game to finish from the 2005 Western States Open. Then-IM (now GM) Jesse Kraai was pressing against GM Alexander Stripunsky. A large crowd of about a hundred players were watching the game, aided by a demo board. I whispered to a 2300 player sitting near me, "Is there a win?" He nodded without elaborating. IM John Donaldson walked by and I heard him say, "It doesn't look like he knows the method." The way he said "method" got me hooked. There's a METHOD? What METHOD? The game ended with Kraai being unable to find the method over the board, running out of time, and conceding a draw. Eventually, I investigated this myself and found a complicated ending equal to my tendency to obsess. White must not advance the Pawn too quickly because Black can successfully blockade it at a6 under many circumstances. The White King ends up having to use a vacant a5 square in the winning method. Also note that if the pawn were gone, Black's King is in the proper corner to stalemate itself in a Rook versus Bishop drawn endgame.

(16) Kraai,J (2497) - Stripunsky,A (2629) [D13]

Western States Open Reno, NV (6.4), 16.10.2005

1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 c6 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.d4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bf4 Nh5 7.Bd2 g6 8.Qb3 e6 9.e3 Bg7 10.Be2 0-0 11.0-0 b6 12.Rfc1 Bb7 13.a4 Rb8 14.Rc2 Nf6 15.Rac1 Ne4 16.Be1 Nd6 17.Nb5 Rc8 18.Ne5 Nxe5 19.Nxd6 Qxd6 20.Bb4 Qb8 21.Bxf8 Rxf8 22.dxe5 Bxe5 23.h3 Rd8 24.Bb5 d4 25.exd4 Bxd4 26.Bc6 Bxc6 27.Rxc6 Qf4 28.Qf3 Qxf3 29.gxf3 Bxb2 30.Rc8 Rxc8 31.Rxc8+ Kg7 32.Rc7 a5 33.f4 Ba3 34.Kg2 Bd6 35.Rb7 Bc5 36.Kg3 h6 37.h4 Kf6 38.Kf3 Bd4 39.Rd7 e5 40.fxe5+ Bxe5 41.Ke4 h5 42.Rb7 Bc3 43.Rxb6+ Ke7 44.f4 Kf8 45.f5 Kg7 46.Ra6 f6 47.Ra7+ Kh6 48.Rf7 Be5 49.Rf8 Kg7 50.Ra8 Bc3 51.Rb8 Be1 52.Rb5 Kh6 53.Kf3 gxf5 54.Ke2 Bb4 55.Rxf5 Kg6 56.Rf1 Be7 57.Kd3 f5 58.Rh1 Bc5 59.Rc1 Bf2 60.Rc6+ Kf7 61.Ra6 Bxh4 62.Rxa5 Ke6 63.Ra6+ Kd7 64.Rh6 Kc7 65.Rxh5 Bg3 66.Rxf5+- Kb7 67.Rf6 Ka8 68.Rf7
I chose to deviate here from the game continuation in order to place the Bishop on its best diagonal, g1-a7. 68...Bh2 [ The actual game continued 68...Be5 69.Kc4 Bd6 70.Kb5 Be5 71.Ka6 Bg3 72.Ra7+ ( 72.a5 See method 2B below 72...Kb8 ( 72...Be5 73.Rf8+ Bb8 74.Kb5 Kb7 75.a6+ Ka8 76.Rg8 Ka7 77.Rg7+ Ka8 78.Kb6 Be5 79.Rd7 Bf4 80.a7 Be3+ 81.Ka6 Bb6 82.Re7 Bd8 83.Rg7 Bc7 84.Rg8+ Bb8 85.Rxb8#) 73.Kb6) 72...Kb8 73.Rg7 Bf2 74.Rg8+ Kc7 75.Rg2 Bd4 76.Rg4 Be3 77.Rb4 Kc8 78.Rb5 Kc7 79.Rb1 Kc8 80.Rb7 Bf2 81.Rb5 Kc7 82.Rb1 Be3 83.Rb2 Kc8 84.Rb3 Bf2 85.Rb5 Kc7 Draw eventually agreed after a time scramble.] 69.Kc4 Bg1 Black's best defense involves keeping his king out of checkmate threats, e.g. when White has his king on the a-file, his own king is on the c-file and vice versa. The Bishop is best placed on the g1-a7 diagonal to prevent White's usage of Kb6 and eventually to stop an advancing Pa7. SETUP: White aims for Ka6 and then Rb7+ to force Black to choose his last stand at a8 or c8.70.Kb5 Bd4 71.Ka6 Kb8 72.Rb7+ Setup complete. Black's main resource in this ending is that the a-pawn can either be blocked by the Black King or the White King. When the White King goes to a6, the Black King's best defense is to go to c8. When the White King crosses to the c-file, the Black King does well to cross over to the a-file. If Black allows White to press the vertical opposition mate threats will appear. White's strategy consists of three plans: OPERATION CROSS OVER: moving the White King from the a-file to the c-file without allowing the Black King to cross over to the a-file. This typically involves a maneuver such as Ka6-a5-b4. OPERATION CUT OFF: pushing the Black King to the d-file and cutting him off with the White Rook on the c-file, perhaps with lateral opposition from the White King on the a-file. This usually happens when the Black King moves to c6. And OPERATION PUSH PAWN: If the Black Bishop can be prevented from getting onto the g1-a7 diagonal for a while, White uses both the Rook and the King to escort the pawn to a7. This typically happens when the Bishop goes to the edge of the board. When the pawn reaches a7, the Bishop must not be allowed to sacrifice itself for stalemate.

PLAN B [ 72...Ka8 PLAN B, PHASE 1: White's job is a little easier in this variation. The overall plan is to advance the a-pawn to a7 while threatening mate on the back rank, ultimately winning a pinned bishop at b8. The position of the kings facing each other in the corner and the pawn on the 4th are important to MEMORIZE with the rook anywhere safe on the seventh and the bishop anywhere on the g1-a7 diagonal. This is the moment for PHASE 1: Advance The Pawn to the 5th. 73.a5! Bf2 PLAN B, PHASE 2: Force the bishop to b8. 74.Rf7 Bc5! This move offers a bit more resistance because Rc7 is a little too close to the King to carry through all the mate threats. Nevertheless, wherever the bishop goes, the rook travels laterally to hit it and threaten checkmate. The goal is to pin the bishop at b8 from a kingside square e8-h8. ( 74...Bg3 75.Kb6 Bh2 76.Rg7 Be5 77.Ra7+ Kb8 78.Rd7) 75.Rc7 Bd6 This is the only move that prevents mate. Notice that from d6, the Bishop does not have enough checking distance to deter a White King at b6. 76.Rg7 This square and the e7 square are good spots for the White Rook because they are far away from the Black King and they threatens to move to eighth rank squares which cannot be controlled by the Black Bishop. 76...Bb8 ( 76...Kb8 77.Kb6!; 76...Be5 77.Rg8+ Bb8 78.Kb5!) 77.Re7 The Rook MUST arrive on the eighth rank with check. 77...Bd6 78.Re8+ Bb8 79.Kb5! This stalemate-avoiding move is one that White must remember. Again Black has two paths, but they soon converge. PLAN B, PHASE 3: Use waiting moves (Re8 or Rg8) to get the Black King to come out on the 7th, check it back with the rook (Re7+ or Rg7+) and then advance Pa6. Use a similar maneuver to get the King on b6. Beware of stalemate always. 79...Kb7 ( 79...Ka7 80.Re7+ Ka8 81.a6 transposes to the 79...Kb7 line.) 80.Re7+ ( 80.a6+ also works. 80...Ka8 81.Rg8 Ka7 82.Rg7+ Ka8 83.Kb6) 80...Ka8 ( 80...Kc8 81.a6 Kd8 82.a7+-) 81.a6 Ba7 82.Re8+ Bb8 83.Rg8 Ka7 84.Rg7+ Ka8 85.Kb6 Be5 86.Rd7 guarding against Bishop check from d4. 86...Bg3 87.a7 Bf2+ 88.Ka6 Bb6 Watch out for stalemate! 89.Rg7 Bd8 Watch out for stalemate! The Rook MUST arrive on the eighth with check. 90.Rg6 Bf6 Watch out for stalemate! 91.Rg8+ Bd8 92.Rxd8#]

PLAN A: 72...Kc8 The tablebase shows that not only does this resist six moves longer, but it is also quite a bit more complicated than Ka8. PLAN A, PHASE 1: Set up OPERATION CROSS OVER: getting the White King to the c-file without allowing the Black King to get back to the a-file. 73.Rb5 With the Black King on c8, White starts by setting up Operation Cross Over with two paths. If Black commits to a Bishop move, White tries for the two branches of the Cross Over beginning with Ka5. If Black plays Kc7, then the Rook has to play to Rb3 to set up a king feint at Ka5-b4-c4.73...Kc7 This resists more stubbornly than Bishop moves. PLAN A, PHASE 2: If the Black King comes to c7, place the White Rook at g3, hitting the Bishop first if it's on f2. With the Black King cutting off one of the Cross Over pathways through b6, White has to do some dancing with the Rook against the Bishop. [ 73...Be3 74.Ka5 Bd2+ ( If Black doesn't prevent Operation Cross Over, then the win becomes fairly easy. 74...Kc7 75.Kb4 Bb6 76.a5 Ba7 77.a6 Bb6 Even if Black establishes the blockade of b6, as long as the White Rook stays on the b-file, the Black King cannot make it back to the a-file. 78.Kc4 Kc6 79.Rb1 Kc7 ( 79...Be3 80.Rb7 Bb6 81.Rh7 Be3 82.a7+-) 80.Kd5 Black would have a draw if his king were on a7 right now. 80...Be3 81.Rb7+ Kc8 82.Kc6 Bd4 83.a7+-) 75.Kb6 Kb8 76.Re5 guarding against Be3+ while threatening Re8#. 76...Kc8 77.a5 ( 77.Re8+ Kd7 78.Re4 Bg5 79.Rc4 Bd8+ 80.Kb5) 77...Bf4] 74.Rb3 If the Bishop is on d4, e3, or g1, put the rook on b3. If the Bishop is on f2, flush it to another square by moving Rb2 before moving Rb3. 74...Bf2 [ 74...Kc6? Black shouldn't volunteer for horizontal opposition because White then can start Operation Cut Off. The Rook chases the Bishop in order to quickly get to the c-file. 75.Rd3 Bf6 76.Rd2 Kc7 ( 76...Kc5 77.a5 Kb4 78.Rd5 should be an easy win.) 77.Ka7 Kc6 78.Rc2+ should be an easy win.; 74...Kc8] 75.Ka5 Here, the path diverges in several directions. If the Bishop goes to a7 or g1, White responds with Rb5 and tunneling his King through b4. If the Black King comes forward again, White plays Rb5. 75...Be1+ This causes a fumbled Operation Cross Over where Black's King jumps back to the opposite side. However, the Bishop becomes trapped in a sense such that it cannot get back to the g1-a7 diagonal for the next eight moves. [ 75...Bg1?! 76.Rb5 Be3 77.Kb4 achieves Operation Cross Over.; 75...Bd4?! 76.Kb4 Kb6?? 77.Kc4+ This discovery wins the Bishop.; 75...Kc8 76.Rb5 Ba7 ( 76...Be1+ 77.Kb6 Kb8 78.Rf5 guarding against the check on f2. 78...Kc8 79.Rf8+ Kd7 80.a5 Bb4 81.Rb8 Bd6 82.Rb7+ Ke6 83.a6+-) ; 75...Ba7 76.Rb5 Bd4 77.Kb4 achieves Operation Cross Over.; 75...Kc6 76.Rb5 This looks like White is just repeating moves, but now that Black has come forward, he is vulnerable to Operation Cut Off. 76...Bc5 Stops Kb4, Operation Cross Over. However, the Black King is stuck at c6 for a couple moves, allowing White to switch to Operation Cut Off. a) 76...Be1+ 77.Ka6 Kc7 78.Rb7+! While the Bishop is on the lame e1-a5 diagonal, White can make maneuvers such as Ka6-b6-c6. 78...Kc6 (a) 78...Kc8 79.Kb6! Ba5+ 80.Kc6 achieves Operation Cross Over.) 79.Rb1 Bd2 80.Rb2 Be1 81.Rc2+ achieves Operation Cut Off.; b) 76...Kc7 77.Kb4; 77.Ka6 taking the lateral opposition. 77...Be3 78.Rb3 Bd4 ( 78...Bd2 79.Rb2 Be1 80.Rc2+ achieves Operation Cut Off.) 79.Rd3 Bg7 ( 79...Bf6 80.Rd2 Kc7 81.Ka7!) 80.Rd2 Kc7 81.Ka7 Kc6 82.Rc2+ achieves Operation Cut Off.] 76.Kb5 Kb7 77.Rf3! The Rook at f3 controls so many squares that the Black Bishop requires at least four moves to get back to the g1-a7 diagonal. Meanwhile, White will try to push the a-pawn to a7.77...Bd2 78.a5 Bh6 79.a6+ Here the path diverges when Black chooses a8 or b8. If Ka8, then the next move is Kb6. If Bg7, then the response is Rh3. After either line, White's plan is basically Rd3, Rd7, Kb6, and a7. 79...Kb8! This route has a couple devious stalemate traps. White basically moves over to h3 to tag the Bishop before returning to the route Rd3-Rd7. [ 79...Ka8 White basically moves Kb6, followed by Rd3-d7 80.Kb6 Bg7 81.Rd3! denying the Bishop its d4 destination for at least another three moves. 81...Bf6 ( 81...Be5 82.Rd7) 82.Rd7 Bg5 83.a7 Be3+ 84.Ka6 Bb6 85.Re7 Bd8 86.Rg7 Bc7 87.Rg8+ Bb8 88.Rxb8#] 80.Rh3 Bg7 [ 80...Bc1 81.Kb6 Bb2 82.Rd3 Kc8 ( 82...Bf6 83.a7+ Ka8 84.Rd7 Bd4+ 85.Ka6!+- (85.Rxd4?? stalemate)) 83.Kc6 ( 83.a7 Bd4+ 84.Ka6 Bxa7 85.Kxa7+-) 83...Kb8 84.Rb3+ Ka7 85.Rxb2+-] 81.Rd3 denying the Bishop its d4 outpost for another three moves. [ 81.Rh7? Bd4= White can no longer put his King and Rook in contact with h7.] 81...Bf6 82.Rd7 Kc8 83.Rf7 Bd4 84.a7 Bxa7 85.Rxa7+-

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

TPS Report #2

Reviewed GM-RAM 40-48.

Annotated game 2 from WSO2007.

Started annotating game 3 from WSO2007 and game 1 from Sweet November.

Did another 400 problems on Chess Tactics Server and couldn’t for the life of me keep my rating above 1580. Damn, that thing is spiteful. The speed factor that causes my rating to go down even when I get the problem right is super annoying. Sometimes, I feel like a gambler who can't get up from a slot machine that keeps taking away my dignity and my money. I express my hostility toward the machine by stubbornly staying in the hope that suddenly my luck will turn. I’ve now done 10,500 problems on CTS. My accuracy keeps edging downward, now at 84.9%.

Pushed my Chess Visualization Training Points up to 2500. The darn Chess Visualization Training has a problem with quality control. I often enter the exactly correct answer only to have it tell me I’m wrong. They don’t seem to respond to my complaints. It’s still good training, but I’ve got half a mind to try to build my own Chess Visualization Training Server and show them up.

Got Total Chess Training I and II in the mail today after ordering it Sunday from Wholesale Chess. The thrill of acquisition has given way to the reality of owning the product. Will it impact my game, or like so many books on my shelf, will it molder in obsolescence?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Two Towers

I'm going to recycle an old article I wrote back in July, 2004. I consider it one of my better creative efforts even though J.R.R. Tolkein (and Peter Jackson) did all the work. I guess that would make it one of my better works of plagiarism. I played this game three and a half years ago in the Far West Open 2004. This game features another h-file attack.

Cast of Characters:
White KingTheoden, King of Rohan
White QueenGandalf, The White Wizard
White King KnightAragorn, Son of Arathorn, Rightful Heir to Gondor
White King BishopTheodred, Son of Theoden
White Queen KnightEomer, Nephew of Theoden, leading The Riders of Rohan
White King RookEowyn, Niece of Theoden
White Queen BishopTreebeard, an Ent of Fangorn Forest
White Queen RookThe Army of the Ents
White Pawns (e, f, g, h)The Defenders of Rohan and The Walls of Helm’s Deep
Black KingSauron, Dark Lord of Mordor
Black QueenSaruman, Traitorous Leader of the Council of Wizards
Black King BishopThe Eye of Mordor
Black King RookBarad-dur, the Tower of Mordor
Black Queen RookOrthanc, the Tower of Isengard
Black King Rook PawnGrima Wormtongue, a spy in King Theoden’s court
Black King PawnThe Army of the Orcs, Helm’s Deep Seige Forces
Black King KnightOrc Raiding Party
Black Queen KnightOrc Captain
Black Queen BishopRingwraith General

(1) Fischer,G (1847) - Hong,E (1934) [E61]

Far West Open, Round 3, April 10, 2004

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 0-0
Sauron (Kg8) returns to the Tower of Barad-dur (Rf8), in Mordor where shadows lie. His giant Eye (Bg7) searches the land for those who would do his bidding. 5.e3 d6 6.Be2 Nbd7 7.0-0 e5 8.Qc2 Re8 9.b3 With 5.e3 and 9.b3, White has chosen to take a passive and slow response to Black's coming Kingside attack. Usual in the King's Indian is e4. With the solidity of e3, White usually chooses to accelerate the Queenside flank attack with b4 where Black's best response may be c5, clashing in the center.9...c6 10.Bb2 e4 Seduced by the power of Sauron, Saruman secretly breeds a new race of Orcs who can venture forth in daylight. The Orcs begin to encroach on the lands of men including the Kingdom of Rohan. 11.Nd2 Qe7 Saruman openly admits his alliance with Sauron by supporting the Orcs against the efforts of Gandalf (Qc2), Aragorn (Nd2), and Eomer (Nc6).12.Rfe1 Eowyn (Re1), begins to see the danger to her kingdom despite her uncle Theoden's (Kg1) blindness to it. 12...Nf8 13.Ba3 Treebeard (Ba3) notes increased Orcs, looks toward Isengard and sees that Saruman (Qe7) is behind it.13...h5 Sauron sends Grima Wormtongue (h5) to spy on Rohan. 14.Rab1 At Treebeard's bidding, the Army of the Ents (Rb1) stirs and moves on Orthanc (Ra8). 14...Bf5 The Ringwraith General (Bf5) supports and commands the Orc Army (e4). 15.c5 White makes a crucial strategic error in his Queenside counterplay. Not only does Black's e4 pawn now have all the supply chains backing it up from b7, but also Black's weakness at c6 is much more difficult to attack. Had White chosen to push d5 and black responded c5, it would have cut off the pawn chain support of e4 and created an opportune target at c5 which could be attacked by the pawn push b5 as well as the Bishop on a3, opening a route for the Rook on b1. The Bishop on a3 is now extremely bad and it will have to move again to make way for the a-pawn. 15...d5 With the supply lines running from Isengard, the Orc Raiding Parties (e4) slowly transform into a full-fledged Army and then a Siege Force. 16.b4 a6 The forces of Sauron set fire to Fangorn Forest. Black has created a nearly impenetrable defense at the b6 square which White needs to break through. Because of the danger to White's Kingside, it may be too late to further attack on the Queenside with moves like Bb2, a4, and b5. The efforts of Treebeard (Ba3) and the Army of the Ents (Rb1) have come to nought. 17.Bb2 Treebeard (Bb2) retreats. Only seventeen moves have been played and White has consumed three of them on a Bishop which is now next to worthless. 17...Ng4 An Orc Raiding Party (Ng4) camps dangerously close to Rohan.18.Na4 Eomer and The Riders of Rohan (Na4) patrol the distant borders of Rohan for Orcs. White cannot afford to further waste time. This move and the plan behind it carry no threat to Black. 18...Qh4 Saruman, normally a coward, uncharacteristically decides to travel to the front to see how his new Orc Army is doing. 19.Bxg4 hxg4 The first casualties of the war are inflicted with Theodred (Be2), son of Theoden and Rohan's only direct heir, dying after a battle with an Orc raiding party (Ng4). Grima Wormtongue (King Rook Pawn now on g4), a traitorous agent of Saruman is cemented as the closest advisor to Theoden. He gives information to Saruman's army about the weakest point in the defenses, the f3 square.20.Nb6 Meanwhile, Eomer and the Riders of Rohan (Nb6) aimlessly wander the frontier of Rohan, unaware of the looming danger to the crown. 20...Rad8 The Rook easily sidesteps any threats from this foray. 21.Nf1 Aragorn (Nf1) and Theoden (Kg1) decide to make their stand at Helm's Deep. 21...Ne6 From the back of the lines, a large Orc Captain (Ne6) carries a torch toward the walls of Helm's Deep. 22.Qe2 Gandalf (Qe2) travels to Rohan and tries to free Theoden from Grima Wormtongue's (g4) influence, but Saruman's (Qh4) spell proves unbreakable. 22...Ng5 The Orc Captain gets closer...23.Nd2 Too late, Aragorn (Nd2) sees the threat posed by the torch-bearing Orc Captain (Ng5). Aragorn yells for the archers to shoot down the torch-bearer, but he sees they're not effective. He makes a fateful decision to sacrifice himself. [ If instead of 23.Nd2, had White played 23.Ng3 , then 23...Nf3+ 24.gxf3 gxf3 25.Nxf5 Qg4+ 26.Ng3 fxe2 Black still wins. This may have delayed the fall of Helm's Deep, but The Two Towers Barad-dur (Re8) and Orthanc (Rd8) would have likely won the day.] 23...Nf3+ BOOM!!! 24.Nxf3 gxf3 Both Aragorn (Ne2) and the Orc Captain (Ng5) perish in the blast and the wall of Helm's Deep is breached. The walls don't have a hole yet, but the control of g2 by Black's f3 pawn is deadly. 25.Qf1 Gandalf (Qf1), knocked down by the blast, retreats and struggles to hold the castle defenses together. [ If 25.gxf3 then 25...Qg5+ 26.Kf1 Bh3#; And if 25.gxf3 Qg5+ 26.Kh1 then 26...exf3 . Then 27.Qxf3 ( and 27.Qf1 Re4 followed by Qh4, Rg4, and Rg2 win the White Queen.) 27...Be4] 25...Bf6 26.h3 A plan for the last stand is hatched using the h3 pawn as a barricade. 26...Kg7 Sauron (Kg7) turns his Eye (Bf6) toward Helm's Deep, sees the destruction his forces have wreaked, and... 27.Kh2 Theoden (Kh2) bravely organizes his remaining forces for one last stand, but the Riders of Rohan are too far away to come to the rescue. Notice the knight on b6 neither attacks nor defends anything useful. 27...Rh8 ...Sauron unleashes the full might of Barad-dur (Rh8). 28.g3 Opening a path for the White Queen to aid in the defense, but it's far too late. [ White resigned in view of 28.g3 Qxh3+ 29.Qxh3 (Saruman and Gandalf annihilate each other in a flash) 29...Rxh3+ 30.Kg1 Rdh8 and unavoidable checkmate on the next move. Note how Black's f3 pawn (Grima Wormtongue) is right there to prevent Theoden's escape and Sauron's Two Towers prevail in the end.] 0-1

I hope you enjoyed this combination of fan fiction and chess and that you found it both entertaining and educational. The chess moral is “Don’t allow your opponent to dictate the terms of the battle.” The broader life moral is that the consistent and diligent efforts of Good are necessary to defeat Evil. “I’ve found that evil usually triumphs unless good is very, very careful.” – Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in “The Omega Glory”.

Monday, November 5, 2007

House of Glass

Game 2 of the 2007 Western States Open was against a player whose name I had seen in expert sections usually on boards ahead of me. So here’s a seasoned expert, the ones that make my confidence sink these days. I have a 2080 performance rating against Class A players, but only a 1980 performance rating against Expert players.

(363) Hong,E (2002) - Tserendorj,B (2154) [D33]

Western States Open, Round 2, Board 15, October 12, 2007

1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 c5 3.Bg2 Nc6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Nf3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.d4 The game has transposed into a Tarrasch Defense. The fianchetto of White's King Bishop indicates the Rubinstein Variation, which is the prescribed method for defeating the Tarrasch. 7...Bg4 I'm used to less aggressive lines such as Be7. I was already out of book here and saw some danger to my center.8.Ne5 This is me bailing out by finding an equal line. I don't lose the d-pawn for nothing, but I'm going to give him the "hanging pawns" at d5 and c6. [ I kept worrying about 8.0-0 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 cxd4 ( 9...Nxd4 10.Bg2 Qd7 11.Bg5 Ne4 12.Nxe4 dxe4 13.Bxe4+/=) 10.Nb5 Bc5; 8.Bg5! Even though this is a typical deployment of the queen's bishop in the Rubinstein, I didn't even consider this move as an indirect defense of my center. 8...Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Nxd4 ( 9...cxd4 10.Nxd5 Be7 ( 10...Qa5+ 11.Bd2! Qd8! 12.Qb3 ( 12.Nxf6+ Qxf6 13.Qb3 Rb8 14.Qb5 Be7 15.Bf4 Bb4+ 16.Kf1 Bd6 17.Bxc6+ bxc6 18.Qxc6+ Ke7 19.Qe4+ Kf8 20.Bxd6+ Qxd6 21.Rd1 Rxb2 22.Rxd4 Qc7 23.Kg2 g6 24.Rhd1 Rb6 25.Rd7 Qc6) 12...Nxd5 13.Bxd5 Qd7 14.Rc1 Bd6 15.Qxb7 Qxb7 16.Bxc6+ Qxc6 17.Rxc6 Kd7 18.Rc4 Be5 19.0-0 Rhc8 20.Rfc1 Rxc4 21.Rxc4 d3 22.exd3 Bxb2 23.Rb4 Bf6 24.Rb7+ Ke6 25.Be3 Rd8 26.Rxa7 Rxd3) 11.Nxe7+/- with the two bishops and the better pawn structure.) 10.Bxd5] 8...cxd4 [ 8...Nxd4? 9.Nxg4 Nxg4 10.e3+-] 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Qxd4 Qb6 Clever. Black often plays Qb6 since trades often benefit his pawn structure. Here it seems obvious not to take because it would bring a rook pawn toward the center I'm hammering away at. Black would get the half-open a-file, and I would be feeling foolish that Black has more center control and more development (Ra8). 11.Qe5+ I decided to try to play against his uncastled king even though that's double-edged with my king uncastled. 11...Be6 12.0-0 Nd7 evicting my queen. Black should probably develop the King Bishop and get the heck out of Dodge by castling. 13.Qf4 Be7 14.e4 It seemed logical to challenge Black's center, but Black need not capture or allow White to do so. The third option cast some disorder into my ranks. 14...d4! 15.Na4?! A knight on the rim is dim. [ A crazy computer variation is 15.Nd5!? cxd5 16.exd5 Bd6 17.Qg5 h6 18.Qxg7 Be5 19.Qxh8+! Bxh8 20.dxe6 Rd8 21.exd7+ Rxd7 Now that the position has reached quiescence, White has RBP versus Queen. White has the advantage of a better protected King and a better pawn structure. Black's Queen is easier to control whereas White's pieces are often difficult to coordinate. 22.Bf4 Kf8 23.Rac1=] 15...Qa6 16.b3 With Black controlling c3, c5, and b6, the White Knight is nearly surrounded. The only retreat seems to be Nb2 which is not a bad place to go in anticipation of Nd3 or Nc5. 16...0-0 17.Bb2?! But now I've disrupted my knight's mobility. [ More coordingated would have been 17.Rd1 c5 18.Ba3 Rac8 19.Rac1=/+] 17...c5 18.Rfc1 Rab8 19.Qd2 Rbc8 20.f4-/+ There goes my prodigal f-pawn! My king is quite a bit more exposed. The simple threat is f5, trapping the bishop. 20...f5 He opens the same window to his king. 21.exf5 Bxf5 A definite crosswind is developing in the center. Black is definitely better now with his advanced center and his slightly safer King. White's minor pieces include an immobile knight at a4, a bishop biting granite at b2, and a bishop attacking an empty diagonal at g2. 22.Re1 Black can't yet smash through with c4 because White can gain a tempo on the fight for c4 with Bf1. 22...Rfe8 23.Re2 Bf8 24.Rae1 Rxe2 25.Rxe2 Nf6?! Black let me get back into the game. 26.Re5! Bd7 Here I began to fear for my queenside pawn structure such as in Bxa4 bxa4. So I hatched a plan to plant my queen at a5. 27.Bf1 Qb7 My plan worked so far, but now I was afraid that the queen on b7 would soon be joined on the diagonal by Bc6 and then it was not hard to imagine my king getting checkmated by the queen-bishop battery. 28.Bg2 Qb8 29.Qa5 Ng4?! Black let me back into the game. Soon I will have a bishop and two pawns for the rook. [ 29...Re8! A Grandmaster's move which was very hard to find. White can't afford to allow the Black Queen to land on e3, so White has to go for 30.Rxc5 ( 30.Rxe8 Qxe8 31.Nxc5? Qe3+ 32.Kh1 Bxc5 33.Qxc5?? Qe1+ 34.Bf1 Qxf1#) 30...Bxa4 31.Re5 Bd7 32.Bxd4-/+] 30.Rxc5!= All my pieces which have been paralyzed by the c5-e4 duo now spring free after the rook sacrifice. 30...Bxc5 31.Nxc5 Bc6 32.Bxc6 [ Fritz likes 32.Qa6!? better. I think I saw this during the game, but 32...Bxg2 33.Qe6+ Kh8 34.Qxg4 Ba8 35.Bxd4= gives me an attack, but my light squares are awfully windy around my king.] 32...Rxc6 33.Bxd4 The pawn center that was paralyzing my development is now gone.33...Qd6 It was time to reassess the late middlegame. Material is imbalanced, but theoretically even. My pieces are fairly well placed and the center seems to be under my control. What I didn't appreciate was that the dark square bishop helps keep my king safe and the fact that the rook isn't on a fully open file at the moment is good. My king is still a bit more vulnerable. I have a constructive plan in advancing the a- and b-pawns. One of my goals was to cement the bishop at e5, but this square is better for the knight. Even though the bishop is insecure at d4, it's more active, preventing tactics against my king. 34.Qc3 Now I have the scary queen-bishop battery aimed at his kingside. 34...Nf6 35.b4 Qd8 36.b5!? This loosens my center. The blocking knight is more difficult to defend. 36...Nd5 37.Qc4?! [ 37.Qb3! is better because it unpins the white knight. My bishop on d4 is safe as long as the knight is pinned. 37...Rc8 38.f5 This move shows up in many of the lines good for White. It provides a strong point for White's knight at e6 with threats on g7 and threatens to intensify the pin with Nf4. 38...Qd6 39.Ne6 Rc1+ 40.Kg2 g6 41.Nf4 Rd1 42.Nxd5 Rxd4 43.Nf6+ Kf8 44.Qg8+ Ke7 45.Qg7+ Kd8 46.Qh8+ Ke7 47.Ng8+ Kd7 48.Qxh7+ Kd8 49.Qxg6 Qxg6 50.fxg6 Rg4 51.Nf6 Rxg6 52.Ne4+/-] 37...Rc8 38.Qb3?! [ 38.f5+/- Qd7 39.Qd3 Qe7 40.Ne6 Rc1+] 38...Qd6 39.Ne4 Qe6 40.Be5?! dropping coverage of e3. [ 40.Nc3 Qe1+ ( 40...Rxc3 41.Bxc3 Qe3+ 42.Kg2 Qe2+ 43.Kh3 Qh5+ 44.Kg2 Qe2+=) 41.Kg2 Qd2+ 42.Kh3 Qxd4 43.Nxd5 Kh8 44.Ne3 Rc3 45.Qf7 Rc8 46.Nf5 Qf6 47.Qxf6 gxf6=] 40...Kh8 41.Ng5? A lame attack that amounts to throwing stones at the enemy's palace. I had visions of glory if Black abandoned the a2-g8 diagonal including Philidor's Legacy Mate. 41...Qb6+! I've gotta watch the g1-a7 diagonal, especially since I so often push my f-pawn. 42.Kg2 Rc2+!! A nice move that takes advantage of the proximity of the knight to my king. I sure miss that bishop on d4. 43.Kh3 [ 43.Qxc2?? Ne3+ If the Bishop had been at d4, this never would have happened. 44.Kf3 Nxc2-+] 43...Qg6! At this point, I thought of my opponent as a shark and me so much shark bait. He's been finding all the best moves here. 44.Kg4?? [ 44.Qf3! h6 ( 44...Qh6+?? 45.Kg4+-) 45.Ne4 Qe6+ 46.g4 h5 47.Kg3=/+ Rxa2 ( 47...hxg4? 48.Qd3! Qh6 49.h4! Qxf4+ 50.Bxf4 Rg2+ 51.Kxg2 Nxf4+ 52.Kg3 Nxd3 53.a4+-) 48.Ng5=/+] 44...Nf6+ [ Fritz says 44...Rd2 is stronger but Black is still winning.] 45.Kf3 Black has mate in 6. [ 45.Bxf6 gxf6-+] 45...Qh5+! 46.Ke3 Qe2+ 47.Kd4 Qd2+ [ The shortest route to mate is 47...Qd1+ 48.Qd3 Qa1+ 49.Ke3 Qg1+ 50.Kf3 Qf2#] 48.Qd3 Qb4+ 49.Ke3 Ng4+ 50.Kf3 Nxh2+ 51.Ke3 Ng4+ White resigned [ 51...Ng4+ 52.Kf3 Nxe5+ 53.fxe5 Rc3-+] 0-1

I guess if there's a moral to this game, don't give up your assets, namely well-placed minor pieces in the center. Throwing stones might seem like a good offense, but when your king lives in a house of glass, it's likely to backfire.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Hikaru's Immortal Game

I don't spend too much time following GMs since my openings don’t follow theirs and their deep play is often inaccessible to me (translation: I'm lazy). But a friend showed me a game of GM Hikaru Nakamura’s that astounded me. Apparently Nakamura has been tearing up the European circuit with this clear first at Magistral D'Escacs in Barcelona and now clear first in the Corsican Circuit. This was his second round game in the Magistral against GM Michal Krasenkow, #44 on the October 2007 FIDE Rankings. Hikaru is listed as #61 -- for now.

This should become a very celebrated game with tons of Informant and New In Chess coverage, but I’m going to try my hand at annotating it, with Fritz’s help of course.

Krasenkow,M (2668) - Nakamura,H (2648) [A14]

Magistral D'Escacs Barcelona ESP (2), 19.10.2007

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.b3 a5 7.Nc3 c6 8.d4 Nbd7 9.Qc2
The ECO code attached indicates A14 English: Neo-Catalan declined. I think d4 has returned it to the Catalan Closed, but it's hard to find a match for Black's queenside development. 9...b6 10.e4 Ba6 11.Nd2 c5 12.exd5 cxd4 13.Nb5 exd5 14.Nxd4 Rc8 15.Re1 b5 16.Bb2 Re8 17.Qd1?!=/+ White's Queen shies away from a rook discovery... [ 17.Rad1=] 17...bxc4 18.bxc4 Qb6 19.Rb1 dxc4 ...while Black's Queen stands its ground. This position almost defies analysis. It took Fritz 8 running on my 1.4 Ghz Celeron M four and a half minutes to a ply depth of 13 moves to finally evaluate 20.Nc6 as good for Black. 20.Nc6? The heat has been building in the last couple moves. This looks like a critical moment, the first spark. Unfortunately for GM Krasenkow, the computer evaluation of this position favors GM Nakamura's interpretation of the tactics. 20...Rxc6! Krasenkow unleashes his fireworks. 21.Bxf6 Black is currently up one pawn, but has Queen and Rook en prise while White only has his Bishop en prise. Superficial logic dictates that White should come out the exchange for a pawn ahead. But logic is just for us mere mortal humans and Vulcans. Positionally, White seems to have both rooks actively developed. Both bishops are raking their respective diagonals. The main problem is that the knight on d2 is lame and also hobbles the Queen behind it. But it's not like Black's Nd7 is much better and Black's Queen is in trouble. I wonder if GM Krasenkow had any inkling of the next move.21...Qxf2+!! Nakamura unleashes a bolt from the blue! Not only is this a spectacular move, it's the only move that helps Black's game in this position. [ 21...Nxf6? 22.Rxb6 Rxb6+/- gives the game the imbalance of Queen versus Rook, Bishop, and Pawn, but Fritz prefers White, perhaps because of Black's weak pawns.] 22.Kxf2 [ First of all, if White declines with 22.Kh1 Rxf6 23.Ne4 Qa7 24.Nxf6+ Nxf6-+ he's down two minors and two pawns (8 points) for a rook (5 points).] 22...Bc5+! [ 22...Rxf6+?? doesn't cut it as the King retreats into the corner and it is White who has the decisive advantage. 23.Kg1+-] 23.Kf3? [ Somehow the distraction of 23.Bd4! helps White's defense. 23...Bxd4+ 24.Kf3 Rf6+ 25.Kg4 Ne5+ 26.Kg5 Bc8-+ Even though Black has only Bishop and Pawn to White's Queen, Fritz evaluates almost eight pawns of advantage to Black. Still, there's no forced mate, just a King's ransom of material to save the hostage at g5.; 23.Kf1 is also miserable. 23...c3+! 24.Re2 c2! 25.Qxc2 Bxe2+ 26.Ke1 Bd3+ 27.Kd1 Bf2! 28.Nc4 Bxc2+ 29.Kxc2 Rxc4+-+ Black has won back the Queen with interest.] 23...Rxf6+ 24.Kg4 Ne5+ 25.Kg5 25.Kh5 Rh6+ 26.Kg5 Rg6+ and 25.Kh4 Rh6+ 26.Kg5 Rg6+ would both transpose back to the game. [ 25.Rxe5 Bc8+! 26.Rf5 ( 26.Kh4 leads to mate in 4 starting with 26...Rxe5) 26...Bxf5+ 27.Kh4 Rh6+ 28.Kg5 Bc8 and Fritz reports that 29.Qe1 is the best move, staving off mate until 14 moves from now. 29...Re3!! adds the insult of declining the queen as the best move to checkmate.] 25...Rg6+ 26.Kh5 [ 26.Kh4 Be7+ 27.Kh3 Rh6+ 28.Qh5 Rxh5#; 26.Kf5 Bc8+ 27.Ke4 Rd6 28.Kf4 a) 28.Qh5 Rd4+ 29.Ke3 Ng4+ 30.Kf3 Nxh2+ 31.Qxh2 Bg4+ 32.Kf2 Rf4#; b) 28.Bh1 g5 29.Rf1 Rd4+ 30.Ke3 Rf4+ (b) 30...Rd3+ 31.Ke2 Nf3+ 32.Ne4 Rxe4#) 31.Ke2 Nf3+ 32.Ne4 Rexe4#; 28...Nd3+ 29.Kg5 Rxe1 30.Ne4 Rxe4 31.Bxe4 Be3+ 32.Kh4 Rh6+ 33.Qh5 g5#; 26.Kf4 Nd3+ 27.Kf3 Rf6+ 28.Kg4 Bc8+ 29.Kh4 Rxe1 30.Qh5 ( 30.Ne4 Rxe4+ 31.g4 Bf2+ 32.Kh5 Rh6+ 33.Kg5 f6#; 30.Qf3 Rh6+ 31.Kg5 Be7+ 32.Qf6 Bxf6#; 30.Rb5 Re5 31.Rb6 Rf4+ 32.g4 Bf2+ 33.Kh3 Rf3+) 30...Rf4+ 31.g4 Bf2+ 32.Kh3 Rf3+ 33.Bxf3 ( 33.Nxf3 Nf4#) 33...Nf4#] 26...f6 27.Rxe5 Rxe5+ 28.Kh4 Bc8 White resigned. Black has mate in 6. [ 28...Bc8 29.Bd5+ Rxd5 30.g4 Rd3 31.Qf3 Rxf3 32.Nxf3 Rxg4+ 33.Kh3 Rg5+ 34.Kh4 Bf2#] 0-1

If he sacrificed his queen against the #44 in the world, in a significant tournament, my friend and I figure that Nakamura saw it all, including the mates. Amazing.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Endgame Obsession #1 RdPvB

Since Wahrheit, who comprises half my audience asked for it, here is the game that started my Endgame Obsession. It was about three years ago, a week before 10th World Champion Boris Spassky made his first appearance at the Western States Open. I was playing a tournament game against a friend who knows quite a bit about the endgame. The game itself was quite interesting through the opening and middlegame, but the endgame turned into a complex struggle down to the last four pieces. I ended up with a Rook versus Bishop draw, and the postgame analysis seemed to indicate that I had nothing more than a draw, but of course Fritz had other things to say. I had recently discovered endgame tablebases and had purchased the 5-man Nalimov tablebase DVD along with Comprehensive Chess Endings from Convekta. My research below would never have been possible without the tablebases. The tablebase software doesn’t always work perfectly with Fritz because Fritz occasionally cuts out good lines because they involve a single repetition of a position. Since then, I have discovered that the web-based Shredder tablebase is one of the best ones around since it has fast response and includes the 6-man tablebases. Basically, my method for understanding this ending and other ones like it involve going up and down the variations in the tablebase to understand why some moves get closer to mate and why some don’t. Incidentally, about ten months later, I ended up on the worse side of a Bishop versus Rook ending and I could have tested my opponent’s knowledge of this, but I didn’t realize what I had before me, so I lost.

By popular demand, here is Rook and King Pawn versus Bishop. Apologies for the extreme length and complexity, but how else can I show you the depth of my insanity? If you actually like this stuff, email me and I can send the ChessBase file so that you can run through the tangled web of variations on your own computer. If you actually enjoy this over watching paint dry, please holler, and I can provide two more installments of Rook and Pawn versus Bishop before moving on to Queen versus Rook and others.

(14) Fleming,G (1754) - Hong,E (1929) [B06]

Spassky Six (6), October 7, 2004

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 a6 5.Qd2 Nc6 6.d5 Ne5 7.h3 c5 8.f4 Nd7 9.Nf3 b5 10.e5!? Qc7?! 11.e6?! fxe6 12.Ng5 Nf8 13.dxe6 Bxe6 14.Nxe6 Nxe6 15.Qd5?! Qc8!? 16.f5?! gxf5?! 17.Bd3?! Nf6 18.Qxf5 Nd4 19.Qg5 Qe6 20.0-0 Rg8 21.Rae1 Qe5 22.Rf5? Nxf5 23.Bf2 Bh6?! 24.Qxf5 Qxf5 25.Bxf5 Bf4? 26.Ne4 Be5 27.Nxc5 Bg3?! 28.Ne4 Nxe4 29.Bxe4 Bxf2+ 30.Kxf2 Ra7?! 31.Bxh7 Rg7 32.Bd3 e5 33.g4 Raf7+ 34.Ke3 Rf4 35.Rf1 Rgf7 36.Rxf4 Rxf4 37.g5? Ke7?! 38.a3 Ke6 39.Be4?! Rh4?! 40.Bb7 Rxh3+ 41.Kd2 Rh2+ 42.Kc3 a5 43.Bc8+ Kd5?! 44.g6 Kc5 45.b4+ axb4+ 46.axb4+ Kc6 47.Be6 Rg2 48.Bf7 d5 49.Kd3 Kd6 50.c3 Rg3+ 51.Kd2 d4 52.cxd4 exd4 53.Be8 Ke5 54.Bxb5 Rxg6 55.Be8 Rb6?! 56.b5 Kd5 57.Kd3 Kc5 58.Bc6 Rb8 59.Bd7 Rd8 60.Bc6 Rd6 61.Be8 Re6 62.Bd7 Re3+ 63.Kd2 Ra3 64.Bc6?
This puts the Bishop where it can't check the Black King off c4.

[ 64.Bc6? This puts the Bishop where it can't check the Black King off c4. 64...Rb3?! ( 64...Kc4! A straightforward win that I overlooked because I was worried about the b-pawn. The White Bishop can't even hassle my King. 65.b6 ( 65.Be8 Ra2+ 66.Ke1 Kc3) 65...Ra2+ 66.Ke1 Rb2 67.b7 d3 68.Bf3 Kc3 69.Bc6 d2+ 70.Ke2 Kc2 71.Ba4+ Kc1 72.Kd3 Rxb7 73.Ke2 Rb4 74.Bd1 Re4+ 75.Kd3 Kxd1 76.Kxe4 Ke2) 65.Bd7 Rb4 66.Kd3 Rb3+ 67.Kd2 d3? This at last throws away the win. ( 67...Ra3 68.Be8 Kc4 69.Bf7+ Kxb5 transposing back to the variation under White's 64th move) 68.Be6 Ra3 69.b6 Kxb6 70.Bc4 Kc5 71.Bxd3 Kd4 72.Bg6 Ra2+ 73.Kc1 White knows that a1 is the safe corner, one in which he can stalemate himself, meaning the king in the corner with the bishop pinned right next to him. The other corner, h1, allows a winning zugzwang. 73...Kc3 74.Kb1 ( 74.Bf5?? Rf2 75.Bh3 Rh2 76.Bf1 Rh1) 74...Rg2 75.Bf5 Rf2 76.Bg6 Kb3 77.Ka1 Rf1+ 78.Bb1 If this were the lower right corner, White's light-squared bishop would be on f1 and the White king would have room to move between g1 and h1. The rook would just make lateral moves until the king went to h1 and then pounce on the bishop for checkmate. 78...Kc3 79.Ka2 Draw agreed] 64...Kc4 65.Bf7+! If White doesn't push the Black King back, his King will soon find itself staring at mate. [ 65.b6? Ra2+ 66.Kd1 Rb2 and Black will eat White's cake and keep his own.] 65...Kxb5 This ending is deceptively difficult. The Rook is already well-placed, but it must often abandon its good position to help the King. The PRIMARY OBJECTIVE is to push the pawn to d3 without losing it. In order to do that, Black must first get his King to c4 or e4 without the Bishop checking him back. We'll call Ke4 or Kc4 the SECONDARY OBJECTIVE. As the current position stands, the Bishop is well placed to snipe at the King from behind. Also, White's King is as well placed as it can be. If he moves to one side or the other, a Bishop check can no longer keep the Black King from getting to c3 or e3. The winning method involves slowly taking the backfield squares - namely a4, b5, c6, d7, e8, f7, g6, h5 - away from the Bishop. We will start with this TERTIARY OBJECTIVE. This takes a lot of fancy maneuvering where Black doesn't look like he's making progress.66.Bg6 Kc5 Step 1: King to e5. Mate in 34.67.Be8 Kd5 Notice that right now the Black King covers c6. The bishop can only check from the kingside for now. 68.Bf7+ Ke5 69.Be8 Step 1A: Stop Be8-c6, if necessary. When the King gets to e5, if the Bishop is on e8, move the Rook to c3. If the Bishop is elsewhere, start on Step 2.69...Rc3!! Step 2: Stop Bc6 and Bg6. Place the King at d5 and the Rook at g3 so that the Bishop cannot use the c6 and g6 pivot points. Mate in 31.70.Bh5 If the bishop goes kingside (f7, g6, or h5), then first secure g6 with Rg3, and then secure c6 with Kd5. If the bishop goes queenside (d7, b5, or a4), then first Kd5, followed by Rg3. 70...Rg3! 71.Be8 [ 71.Bf7? This move would stop Kd5, but allows 71...Ke4! skipping to the Secondary Objective. Note that the Bishop lacks a useful check.] 71...Kd5 72.Bb5! Bb5 and Bd7 are most testing.

Here we'll digress to take care of everything but Bb5 and later come back to the position after 72.Bb5 [ 72.Bf7+? Ke4 Black achieves the Secondary Objective; 72.Ba4? Kc4! Secondary Objective. In many of the winning positions of the Secondary Objective, the Black King has a two-square opposition toward the White Bishop, either lateral opposition or vertical opposition.; 72.Bh5? Ke4! Secondary Objective; 72.Bd7!? White begins the bishop chase right away. 72...Rg7 From this position, d7, c6, e6, and g4, are immediately unsafe for the Bishop. Bh3 and Bc8 allow Ke4 while Be8 and Ba4 allow Kc4, the Secondary Objective. Only Bf5 and Bb5 prevent Black from achieving the Secondary Objective. 73.Bf5 ( 73.Bb5 is a mirror image of the Bf5 lines. 73...Rb7 74.Be2 Rb2+ 75.Kd3 Rb3+ 76.Kd2 ( 76.Kc2 Whenever the White King chases the Rook, the usual best policy is to laterally dodge one square. 76...Ra3) 76...Ke4) 73...Rf7 74.Bc2 a) 74.Bb1 Rf2+ 75.Kd3 Kc5 76.Bc2 Rf3+ 77.Kd2 (a) 77.Ke2 Rg3) 77...Kc4 Secondary Objective. Note the Black King's opposition to the White Bishop.; b) 74.Bg6 Rf2+ 75.Kd3 Rf3+ 76.Kd2 (b) 76.Ke2 Rg3!) 76...Kc4 Secondary Objective; 74...Rf2+ 75.Kd3 Rf3+ 76.Kd2 ( 76.Ke2 Rg3) 76...Kc4 Secondary Objective]

Now back to the position after 72.Bb5! Step 3: Once the King and Rook are on their destination squares (Kd5, Rg3), if the Bishop is on b5, then prepare the bishop chase with a slight rook adjustment. 72...Rh3!! 73.Be8 Step 4: Chase the bishop toward its king at the front of the pawn. [ 73.Bd7?! Rh7 74.Bb5 Rb7 and ( 74.Bf5 Rb7) as in the lines above after 72.Bd7.; 73.Ba4? Kc4!] 73...Rh8 74.Bf7+ Ke5 If the King gets checked off d5 and he can't safely get to c4 or e4, then e5 is usually the best place to be. 75.Bg6 Rg8 76.Bc2 Step 5: Use checks to get the Rook back to the 6th rank and then prepare the King to get in opposition to the bishop. [ 76.Bf7? Rg2+ 77.Kd3 Rg3+ 78.Kd2 Ke4 79.Be8 Rg2+; 76.Bb1!? Step 5A: If the Bishop retreats to b1, then check the position of the Black King. If he's already at d5, then use the maneuver 76...Rg2+ 77.Kd3 Kc5. If the Black King is still at e5, the method of Rg2+, Kd5 fails to Ba2+!! and the Bishop is immune because Rxa2 is stalemate. Kf4 is the short unorthodox way to achieve the primary objective. The Rook will chase the bishop to b1 and sacrifice for the Bishop, leaving Black with a winning pawn ending. 76...Rg2+ 77.Kd3 Rg3+ ( 77...Kd5?! 78.Ba2+!! Ke5 ( 78...Rxa2?? stalemate) ) 78.Kd2 78...Kf4!! 79.Bh7 Rg7 80.Bb1 Rg2+ 81.Kd3 Rb2!! 82.Bc2 Rxc2 83.Kxc2 Ke3! 84.Kd1 Kd3! 85.Ke1 Kc2-+] 76...Rg2+ 77.Kd3 Rg3+ 78.Kd2 Kd5 79.Bf5 Step 6: If the Bishop moves to f5, use Rg7 to make it go back. This is one more tricky zugzwang that is hard to find. 79...Rg7!! Now the ending branches into one nearly trivial variation (80.Bh3 Ke4 Secondary Objective) and three major variations. Variation A) 80.Bb1 Step 6A: If the Bishop goes behind its King, check the King forward and use its blockage of the Bishop's mobility for a zugzwang that forces the bishop forward so that your king can reach opposition to it. 80...Rg2+ 81.Kd3 Kc5 82.Bc2 Rg3+ 83.Kd2 Kc4 Secondary Objective

Variation B) 80.Bc2 Step 6B: Use checks to get the Rook back to the sixth rank and move your King into vertical opposition to the Bishop.80...Rg2+ 81.Kd3 Rg3+ 82.Kd2 Kc4 Secondary Objective

Variation C) 80.Kd3 Step 6C: If the White King comes forward, you may need one last zugzwang move. 80...Ke5! 81.Bc8 81...Ra7!! 82.Bg4 [82.Kd2 Ke4! 83.Be6 d3 84.Bc4 Ra3 Primary Objective 82...Ra3+ 83.Kd2 Ke4 Secondary Objective

Now back to the moves we actually played.64...Rb3?! [ 64...Kc4! A straightforward win that I overlooked because I was worried about the b-pawn. The White Bishop can't even hassle my King. 65.b6 ( 65.Be8 Ra2+ 66.Ke1 Kc3) 65...Ra2+ 66.Ke1 Rb2 67.b7 d3 68.Bf3 Kc3 69.Bc6 d2+ 70.Ke2 Kc2 71.Ba4+ Kc1 72.Kd3 Rxb7 73.Ke2 Rb4 74.Bd1 Re4+ 75.Kd3 Kxd1 76.Kxe4 Ke2] 65.Bd7 Rb4 66.Kd3 Rb3+ 67.Kd2 d3? This at last throws away the win. [ 67...Ra3 68.Be8 Kc4 69.Bf7+ Kxb5 transposing back to the variation under White's 64th move] 68.Be6 Ra3 69.b6 Kxb6 70.Bc4 Kc5 71.Bxd3 Kd4 72.Bg6 Ra2+ 73.Kc1 White knows that a1 is the safe corner, one in which he can stalemate himself, meaning the king in the corner with the bishop pinned right next to him. The other corner, h1, allows a winning zugzwang. 73...Kc3 74.Kb1 [ 74.Bf5?? Rf2 75.Bh3 Rh2 76.Bf1 Rh1] 74...Rg2 75.Bf5 Rf2 76.Bg6 Kb3 77.Ka1 Rf1+ 78.Bb1 If this were the lower right corner, White's light-squared bishop would be on f1 and the White king would have room to move between g1 and h1. The rook would just make lateral moves until the king went to h1 and then pounce on the bishop for checkmate. 78...Kc3 79.Ka2 Draw agreed 1/2-1/2