Monday, November 14, 2016


I grew up in the days after Sean Connery, so Roger Moore was my 007. It's strange to see such an enduring character through so many decades. The movies tend to blend together: add one megalomaniac, some femme fatales, big stunts, unusual vehicle chases, and of course, large explosions and you've got a formula for something. The latest installment named Spectre for a many-tentacled crime organization starred Daniel Craig with familiar faces Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, Harry Potter series) as M, Monica Belluci (Matrix Reloaded) as widow Sciarra, and Andrew Scott (Sherlock) as C. As a piece of octopus evolution, the diagram above was found on a movie site discussing the logo. Perhaps Spectre was a ghost which evolved into an octopus and then into a septopus.

Piece auras are a parallel processing way to think about chess pieces and the force they exert. I once thought of chess pieces as one-dimensional vectors that existed only while I was looking at them, but eventually, I came to see that the aura of a bishop is a diagonal X, the aura of a rook is an orthogonal cross, the aura of a king is a 3x3 square, and a queen's aura is the combination of bishop and rook, an asterisk? Even though the queen's aura is 8-armed, the knight's aura is the one usually likened to an octopus.

This is Chess Tempo #44631. White has just played a2-a3 to shoo away the black queen. One thing to note is that the Nb3 is supported by the pawn on c2, pinned by a black rook battery against white's queen. Further, the white queen and rook are the only pieces on the back rank where the white king would have no escape at the moment. Black's pawns seem too far away to exert any initiative. The black bishop doesn't seem to have any targets. The black knight on e4 is held by the Rc4 laterally and can attack the white Bg3. Further, the rook on e2 is a juicy prize in that it's undefended and it sits on the square of a royal knight fork. From this analysis, I had Qxb3 and Nxg3 as my candidate moves. Now comes the process of calculating forward into the future. Lines: Qxb3 cxb3 Rxc1 Rxc1 Rxc1+ Re1 Rxe1 mate. Qxb3 cxb3 Rxc1 Ree1 - Black is ahead by a minor piece, so he must do better. Qxb3 Rxe4 {distraction} Rxe4 cxb3 Rxc1 Rxc1 - material is even. Qxb3 Rxe4 Rxc2 - Black gained a pawn, White must move his queen. Or maybe there's a hook-and-ladder trick} Re8+ Rxe8 {white queen still en prise and can't capture c2}. So back to Rxc2, maybe Black has more initiative to pursue the back rank mate? CONCLUSION of Qxb3 lines: White can win a pawn and gain initiative on the back rank.

What about Nxg3? Nxg3 axb4 Nxe2+ Kf1 Nxc1 Rxc1 - Black is ahead by a whole rook. Nxg3 hxg3 Qxb3 - Black is ahead by a minor piece. What about hook-and-ladder in this position? Nxg3 hxg3 Qxb3 Re8+ Rxe8 cxb3 Rxc1 Rxc1 - here I think I miscalculated and thought material was even. The Re8+ move didn't gain any knight, but because it had in the line of Rxe4, I thought white had equalized in material. The pieces on the board don't bear that out as the Bg7 is the only minor left. I forgot to check start material and in my mind, somehow, White gained a knight he didn't gain. So I chose Qxb3 and got this problem wrong. Tools: Knight forks, Hook-and-Ladder tricks. Root cause: Losing track of material.

This is Chess Tempo #97479. White has just advanced b2-b4, creating a problem for his Ra1. 1...e4 creates a double attack against Bf3 and Ra1, but 2.dxe4 creates tactical possibilities for White's queen. If 2...Qxa1 3.Qxd7 and White threatens to take the Bf7 or the Pf5 with check while holding d1. At this point I looked for the knight to run and the f3 knight fork looked really good, so 2...Ne5 was the next move. I hadn't looked too carefully and didn't anticipate 3.Qxf4, but 3...Nxf3+ 4.Qxf3 Qxa1 seemed to provide for a durable material advantage. White can try to get a third pawn for the rook with 5.Qxf5+ Bg6 6.Qd7+ Rg7 7.Qd2 but 7...Rd8 brings him to grief because of the weak position of Nd1. Tools: Knight fork, discovery, skewer, consolidation. Root cause: Didn't get it wrong, but should have checked Qxf4.

This is Chess Tempo #165523. I got this one wrong. I spent a lot of time trying to crack open the Black king castled position. Whenever I analyzed h6, I saw g6 with tempo on my queen and pruned the variation. I didn't think to use a broader vision to look at the arrangement of d7 and g8 for a knight fork pattern using Qxd7 and Nd5-f6+. That's the secret to this problem. 1.h6 g6 2.Qxd7 Qxd7 3.Nf6+ Kh8 4.Nxd7. Tools: Knight fork, distraction, pawn lever. Root cause of miss: Failed to see how powerful Nd5 was and how juicy Nf6+ would be.

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