An unexamined life is not worth living.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Modern Chess Combinations–Volume 7

Modern Chess Combinations: July, August, September 2016 is now out with over 120 puzzles for you to solve. It is available on Amazon. The Kindle free sample contains dozens of combinations, so you can first practice those positions and see if you like the selection. This publication is a collection of over 120 best combinations played by strong chess players in tournaments that took place the third quarter of 2016. I first filtered the correct combinations with various computer-assisted approaches, and then manually went through the entire collection to select only the puzzles useful to practical chess players.

The highlight of this edition are the games from the Chess Olympiad, where the USA team won the gold medal in the main tournament. Here are a couple of samples:

Heberla, B. - Ali Marandi, C.
TCh-TUR Super League 2016   2016.08.05 , B13

8 White to move

Solution: 30. Re1!!

Putting the rook under attack, but the bishop must guard the d8 square.
30. ... fxg5
( 30. ... Bxe1+ 31. Kxe1 fxg5 32. d8=Q+ )
31. Re8+ Kf7 32. Nd6+ Kf6
33. fxg5+
The final blow, since the pawn must be captured.
33. ... Kxg5 34. Nf7+ 1-0

Indjic, A. - Cruz, Cr
42nd Olympiad 2016   2016.09.08 , E38

10 White to move

Solution: 32. Bxe5+!?

The first move suggest itself, but the correct follow up is harder to find.
32. ... Kxe5
33. Qb2+!!
( The obvious 33. Qh2+? fails to 33. ... Ke4 )
33. ... Kd6
( 33. ... Ke4 34. Qd4# )
34. Qh2+!
With the king on d6, the check along the h2-b8 diagonal is deadly.
34. ... Kc5 35. Qc7+
35. ... Bc6 36. Qxc6# 1-0

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

History Does not Repeat itself–Two Grischuk Endgames

A curious mistake that Mark Dvoretsky would have included into his book – happened in the following game, where White voluntarily exchanged into a hopeless pawn endgame:

Robson, R. - Grischuk, A.
42nd Olympiad 2016   2016.09.10 , C67

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nxe5 8. Rxe5 O-O 9. Nc3 Ne8 10. Nd5 Bd6 11. Re1 c6 12. Ne3 Bc7 13. Nf5 d5 14. Ne7+ Kh8 15. Nxc8 Rxc8 16. g3 Qf6 17. Bh3 Rd8 18. d4 Nd6 19. Bf4 Bb8 20. Be5 Qh6 21. Bg2 Nc4 22. Bxb8 Rxb8 23. b3 Nd6 24. Qd3 Qg6 25. Qd2 Rfe8 26. Re5 f6 27. Rxe8+ Rxe8 28. Qb4 f5 29. Re1 Rxe1+ 30. Qxe1 Qf6 31. Qe3 g5 32. f4 h6 33. a4 a5 34. Kf1 Ne4 35. c4 Kg7 36. c5 gxf4 37. gxf4 Qh4

38. Bxe4?
( 38. Bh3!? )
38. ... fxe4 39. Qf2?!
The position is objectively lost, but trading queens makes things too easy for Black.
39. ... Qxf2+ 40. Kxf2 Kf6 41. Kg3 Kf5 42. h3
42. ... h5 43. h4 e3 44. Kf3 e2 45. Kxe2 Kxf4 46. Kd3 Kg4
Interestingly, it was pointed out to me that Grischuk had lost a pawn endgame that was a complete mirror of this position only three years earlier:

Le Quang Liem - Grischuk, Alexander
   2013 , D87

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O b6 11. Qd2 Bb7 12. Rfd1 Rc8 13. Rac1 e6 14. Bh6 cxd4 15. cxd4 Qh4 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Qe3 Rfd8 18. h3 Qe7 19. Bb5 Qb4 20. Rb1 Qe7 21. Nf4 Nb4 22. d5 Nc2 23. Qg3 e5 24. Ne2 Na3 25. Rb3 Nxb5 26. Rxb5 Ba6 27. Rb2 Bxe2 28. Rxe2 Qd6 29. Qd3 Rc5 30. Rc2 Rdc8 31. Rdc1 Kf8 32. Qa3 Qe7 33. Rxc5 Rxc5 34. Rxc5 Qxc5 35. Qxc5+ bxc5 36. Kf1 Ke7 37. Ke2 f5 38. f3 Kd6 39. Kd3 f4 40. h4 Kc7 41. Kc4 Kd6

42. Kb5
The protected passed pawn decides matters as Black is unable to defend c5 pawn in the long run and is falling into Zugzwang.
42. ... h6 43. Kc4 a6 44. a3

'History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes' as Mark Twain supposedly has said ...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Carlsen–Karjakin – Game 5 with opposite coloured bishops

Karjakin’s d5-d4 pawn break in today’s game really reminded me of the move that I played almost 10 years ago in a position with similar material (bishops of opposite colour) and ideas:

Carlsen–Karjakin match, 2016 – Game 5
image Karjakin played 42…d5-d4! with initiative

Jiganchine – Trotchanovich, Keres 2007
imageWhite to move.

I also analyzed this game in the book Spanish Opening - Strategy and Tactics, here is the full analysis:

Jiganchine, Roman - Trotchanovich, Pavel
Keres Memorial 2007   2007.05.20 , C80

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Nxe4 7. d4 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2 Nc5 10. c3

10. ... Nxb3?!
This is a positional mistake, as now White's control over d4 and c5 becomes very firm. Black instead had 3 main moves: 10... Bg4, 10... Be7, and 10... d4, the last of which was played in the Karpov-Korchnoi game.
11. Nxb3 Be7 12. Nfd4! Nxd4
( 12. ... Nxe5 is considered dangerous - Black is likely to lose material 13. Re1 Ng6 14. Nxe6 fxe6 15. Nd4 e5 16. Ne6 Qd7 17. Qxd5! Qxd5 18. Nxc7+ Kf7 19. Nxd5 +/- )
13. cxd4 O-O 14. Be3
20White won the majority of the games that arrived at this position. Black's pieces are rather passive, and he has no compensation for the weaknesses along the 'c' file. However to exploit his position, White would have to build up pressure on both sides of the board and only then execute a breakthrough. His plan is roughly as follows:
  1. establish a knight on 'c5' and control the 'c' file
  2. advance pawns on the kingside and resolve the pawn structure there
  3. activate the dark squared bishop to the a3-f8 diagonal
  4. use the third rank for manoeuvres of heavy pieces and build pressure on both sides of the board
  5. once Black pieces are tied up - either engineer a pawn break, or open a file and invade with heavy pieces.
Of course, depending on how the opponent acts, White would have to modify his plan accordingly.
14. ... Rc8
( 14. ... f6 was a bit more active, but did not fundamentally change the evaluation of the position. )
15. Rc1 c6 16. Nc5 Bxc5 17. Rxc5 a5 18. Qc2 Bd7 19. f4
21Not only White is putting pressure on the queenside, but he also wants to advance with f4-f5-f6, so Black has to prevent that somehow.
19. ... f5
A committal move, as now the 'e' pawn will need to be continually watched by Black.
( Also possible was 19. ... g6 20. f5! Bxf5 21. Qd2 and White has great compensation for the sacrificed pawn, as Black's dark squares are very weak. 21. ... Qd7 22. Bh6 Rfe8 23. Bg5 h5 24. Bf6 Kh7 25. Qg5 a4 26. Rf4 a3 27. b3 22and White can continue to build up pressure, with possible sacrifices either on 'f5' or on 'h5'. Black's position cannot be saved. )
20. Rf3 Qe7 21. Bd2 a4
23Black has completely surrendered the dark squares, tying all hopes to passive defence. Such positions however are very unpleasant to defend as White can combine threats on both sides of the board. The game goes on for quite a while from here, but Black is always struggling due to the weaknesses of his position.
22. Bb4 Qf7 23. Rcc3 Rfe8 24. Rh3 Re6
Black manages to trade off one pair of rooks, which is probably to his advantage.
25. Rcg3 Rg6 26. Rxg6 Qxg6
Now my main risk is that Black will trade off the second rook the same way, so I tried to go back and forth, hoping to tie up the black rook to be guarding e6 or the a file.
27. Rg3 Qf7 28. Ra3
24One of White's ideas is to play b2-b3, and invade on the 'a' file. This has to be timed very carefully, of course.
28. ... Qe8 29. Re3
( With his last move Black made sure that he is prepared to meet 29. b3 axb3 30. axb3 with 30. ... Ra8 )
29. ... Qe6 30. Qe2 Re8 31. Ra3 Ra8 32. h3 Qe8 33. Kh2 Be6 34. Rg3
25With the queenside threats, White forced Black to put the rook to 'a8', and now Black is unable to quickly transfer the rook to g6.
34. ... Kh8 35. Bd6
White is preparing to play e5-e6 and Be5 with pressure on g7 at the right time.
35. ... Qf7 36. Rc3 Qe8 37. Qf2 Ra7 38. Qh4 Ra8 39. Rg3 Qf7 40. Rc3 Bd7 41. Qg5 Qg6
42. Qe7
( 42. Qxg6 hxg6 would only give small winning chances, for example - opposite colour bishop endgame has some promise if white brings king on b6 and takes on g7 with bishop, and creates passed pawn on kingside - but there is only a remote chance of that happening. )
42. ... Qe8 43. Qh4 Rc8 44. Rg3 Qf7 45. Qg5 Re8 46. b3
Going back to the idea of generating play on the queenside. It is essential in the Spanish opening to play on both sides of the board, especially if White wants to convert his spacial advantage into a win.
46. ... axb3 47. axb3
47. ... Kg8
( It would be logical for Black to take over the 'a' file, but then I was hoping to generate enough pressure on kingside: After 47. ... Ra8 there was a brilliant (but predictable ) sacrifice: 48. e6!! Bxe6 49. Be5 Rg8 ( 49. ... Ra7 50. Bxg7+ Qxg7 51. Qd8+ Bg8 52. Rxg7 Rxg7 53. Qf6 +- ) 50. h4!! 28and Black is completely helpless against h4-h5-h6 50. ... Qg6 ( 50. ... Bd7 51. h5 and Qg6 is no longer an option ) 51. Qxg6 hxg6 52. Rxg6 with double threat Rxe6 and Rh6 mate! 52. ... Kh7 53. Rxe6 +- )
48. b4 Kh8 49. Ra3 Qe6 50. Ra7 Kg8 51. h4 h6 52. Qg3 h5 53. Qg5 Qf7 54. Kh3 Kh7
55. Bc5 Re6
56. Kh2?!
( White was winning immediately after 56. Bf8! Qxf8 57. Rxd7 Rh6 58. g3 with zugzwang! 58. ... Rg6 59. Qxh5+ Rh6 60. Rf7! Rxh5 61. Rxf8 with a completely winning rook endgame for White. )
56. ... Re8
57. e6!?
White gives up the pawn to free up the e5 square for his bishop and to disrupt the coordination of the black pieces.
57. ... Qxe6
( 57. ... Rxe6? 58. Qd8 +- )
58. Qxh5+ Kg8 59. Qg5 Kh7 60. h5 Kh8 61. Rc7 Rc8 62. Ra7 Rg8
63. Qg6 Rc8?
( 63. ... Qe1! +/- was the best chance. )
64. Qxe6 Bxe6 65. Re7 Bg8 66. h6! Rd8
Black tries to prevent Bd6
( 66. ... gxh6? 67. Bd6 Bh7 68. Be5+ Kg8 69. Rg7+ Kf8 70. Rxh7 +- )
67. Rxg7 +-
With the king in the corner, Black clearly has no chance to save this endgame. Opposite colours of the bishops do not help Black because there are still rooks present on the board.
67. ... Bh7 68. Rc7 Rg8 69. Rxc6 Rg6
70. Rc8+ Bg8 71. Bf8 Re6 72. Rb8 Re4 73. Bg7+ Kh7 74. Be5 Be6 75. Rb6
It took a lot of moves for White to win the game, but the entire course of the game gave Black very little hope of escaping from the strategic bind.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Blast from the past - Carlsen outplays Karjakin in a tricky endgame - video

As Carlsen and Karjakin are battling out in New York this month, here is a good reminder of why Carlsen is considered the favourite - a game from 2013 that he won in good style:

This game and analysis is taken from my E-book about endgames with bishops of opposite color.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Finding the only path to victory

Leonidov – Jiganchine, 1997 (variation from the game)
image Black to move

If you guessed the first few moves correctly, then there is another sequence of “only moves” that needs to be found:
imageBlack to move
There are plenty of candidate moves to consider – …Rf2, Bxh3, Ng3, Nf4, etc, but only one leads to the win. Can you find it?
Interestingly, when I made a video about this game – I had thought that Black only has a draw here.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Building Chess Opening Repertoire - Video Tutorial

This is a 3-part tutorial for building a chess database with all your openings. The process is also described in my book "How to Study Chess Openings".

If you intend to store your opening preparation in a computer database, this method will save you a lot of time with a well tested approach.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to Study Chess Openings – Guide Ebook

I have just published a new ebook that summarizes many of the writings on this blog, with many additions and revisions. It covers many aspects of opening preparation that I think are largely missing in current chess literature and I had to struggle to discover on my own, of course with great help from my mentors over the years. It is available on Amazon and Kobo.

From the introduction:

There is an interesting paradox in the chess community - many coaches and teachers warn players of all levels against the excessive obsession with opening theory and yet the vast majority of chess materials in digital or printed form are dedicated to specific opening variations or positions. While everyone admits that memorizing variations will never guarantee success in over the board or online encounters, there is clearly a demand for products that help chess players of all levels to successfully navigate through the first stage of the game. At the same time, there is a lack of detailed discussion regarding how seasoned players (expert level and above) structure their work on chess openings, store their analysis, come up with new ideas, prepare for tournament games and so on. Rather than provide another set of variations, key positions and critical games in a specific opening area, this book is meant to fill this gap and help the reader to make sense from all the information that is out there and save as much time and energy as possible, while still building a bulletproof opening repertoire. The book is aimed at any chess player who wants to improve their opening play and is looking for some guidance in that area.

Despite the large proliferation of computer chess software, there is a lack of explanation for how to tie to it effectively to one's study of openings. In the most advanced book on the subject, 'Opening Preparation', published in 1990s, the renowned coach Mark Dvoretsky, while giving great coverage for other topics, described the system for storing opening analysis on paper cards, with a side note that this was outdated and software should be used instead and that this was a large topic deserving a separate discussion. Since then there was a deafening silence on the subject in chess books, at least partially inspiring this publication, which outlines the system for storing opening analysis that served the author well for almost a decade.

Good opening preparation is all about picking the right direction for opening research and investing time into fine-tuning the understanding of favourable positions that are most likely to occur in our games. The basic premise throughout the book is to base one's opening preparation on 3 E's:

  • Enjoyable - the positions that you analyze during opening preparation should appeal to your chess taste, and the process itself should feel pleasant and creative. See the section on 'Creativity' for more details.
  • Effective - ultimately it should bring good results during tournament games, and be targeted at the positions that are most likely to occur on the board. This is covered under sections on Cutting Opponent's Options, Transpositions, and so on. Our choice of opening variations is more likely to make our work effective than anything else.
  • Efficient - this not as important as effectiveness, but we still don't want to waste time and analysis, so various computer tools are suggested to optimize the 'how' of opening analysis, save our work, and efficiently retrieve it.

While it has plenty of examples and annotated games, this book deals with opening preparation in general. For books on specific openings, the reader might want to explore other books in the "Opening Preparation" Series:

1. Introduction
2. Building a Repertoire - Motivation and General Principles
2.1. Opening Preparation - Therapeutic?
2.2. Gaining Advantage on the Clock
2.3. Acceleration of Play - How Faster Time Controls Affect Preparation
3. Building a Repertoire - How to Do This
3.1. Developing repertoire - Write it Down!
3.2. How To Make a Tree in Digital format
3.2.1. Step 1 - Obtain and Format the Database with ECO list of Openings
3.2.2. Step 2 - Select and Tag Openings that Belong to your Repertoire
3.2.3. Step 3 - Add Custom Analysis in a Separate Database that Contains only Repertoire Openings
3.3. Example of a Specific Opening Preparation - Two Knights Defence for Black
3.4. Building Repertoire - Cutting out Opponent's Options
3.5. Reducing Material to Learn - Transpositions to the Rescue
4. Creativity
4.1. Ideas That Work Across Openings
4.2. Noticing Patterns - Seeing the Forest for the Trees
5. Learning from the Grandmasters
5.1. Jonny Hector's wins against 4.Ng5 in the Two Knights Defence
5.2. Short approach against the Scandinavian
5.3. Pavasovic attacks with Isolated pawn
5.4. Nadezhda Kosintseva plays with Isolated Pawn to beat the French
5.5. Ilya Smirin's games Vs The French, Delayed Castling, attacking Pawn Chain, etc ...
5.6. Studying the Classics
5.7. How to Find New Chess Ideas
6. Common Mistakes During Opening Preparation
6.1. Trusting your Sources without Applying your Intuition
6.2. The Impact of Computers on Opening Preparation
6.3. Overestimating Opponent's Preparation
7. Opening Duels - Specific Opponent and Opening Preparation
7.1. Alapin Sicilian - How Dangerous is the Kingside Attack?
7.2. Central Gambit - Move Order Tricks
7.3. Najdorf Sicilian - Avoiding Time Trouble
7.4. Queen's Gambit Accepted - Opening Advantage does not Guarantee Success
7.5. Queen's Gambit Accepted - Choosing a Pawn Structure
7.6. Repairing the Repertoire
7.7. Following the Middlegame plan
8. Memorizing Openings
8.1. Information Overload
8.2. Memorizing Chess Openings
8.3. Why Less Is More When it Comes to Opening Repertoire
8.4. Anand on Studying Chess with Computers and Memory
9. Summary - Checklists
9.1. 10 steps to a Better Chess Opening Repertoire
9.2. Checklist for Maintaining Opening Repertoire in Digital Form
9.3. 10 Additional Reasons to Build an Opening Repertoire
10. About the Author
11. Symbols and Abbreviations Used in the Book
11.1. Position Evaluation
11.2. Move Evaluation

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