Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Linares: Round 6 Recap

They are consistent, aren't they? Once again, the round's results consisted in one decisive game and two draws, and the players were even consistent in terms of who did what.

First, Peter Leko forced Rustam "Brick Wall" Kasimdzhanov to defend for a long time, but the game wound up drawn just the same - the Spassky approach to the Marshall Gambit is continuing to hold up:

Leko,P (2749) - Kasimdzhanov,R (2678) [C89]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (6), 28.02.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Be3 Bg4 16.Qd3 Rae8 17.Nd2 Qh5 18.a4 Re6 19.axb5 axb5 20.Qf1 Rfe8 21.Bxd5 Qxd5 22.h3 Bf5 23.Qg2 Qxg2+ 24.Kxg2

Of course White has an edge due to the extra pawn, but Black has the two bishops and no weaknesses, so his drawing chances are excellent. 24...R6e7 25.b3 f6 26.Ra2 Be6 27.c4 Bb4 28.Rc1 Bf5 29.g4 Bd3 30.Nf1 Be4+ 31.Kg1 f5 32.Ng3 fxg4 33.Nxe4 Rxe4 34.hxg4 Rxg4+ 35.Kf1 Bd6 36.Ra6 Bf4 37.Bxf4 Rxf4 38.Rxc6 Rxd4 39.cxb5 Rb4 40.Rb6 h5 41.Rc7 Re5 42.Rg6 Rexb5 43.Rgxg7+ Kh8 44.Rgd7 Rb8 45.Rh7+ Kg8 46.Rxh5 Rxb3

And now it's a theoretically drawn position, but as White can poke and prod indefinitely without any risk, the game continues for another 30 moves, though without any real danger to Kasimdzhanov. 47.Rg5+ Kf8 48.Rf5+ Kg8 49.Rff7 Rh3 50.Rg7+ Kh8 51.Kg2 Rh6 52.Rgf7 Rg6+ 53.Kf1 Kg8 54.Rfe7 Rf8 55.Rcd7 Rg5 56.Rd3 Rf7 57.Re8+ Kg7 58.f3 Ra5 59.Kf2 Ra2+ 60.Kg3 Ra1 61.Re4 Rg1+ 62.Kf2 Rg5 63.f4 Rg4 64.Rdd4 Rh4 65.Kg3 Rh1 66.Re5 Rg1+ 67.Kf2 Rg4 68.Kf3 Rg1 69.Re2 Rf1+ 70.Kg3 Rg1+ 71.Kf2 Rg4 72.Kf3 Rg1 73.Rf2 Ra7 74.Rd5 Kf6 75.Rd6+ Kf5 76.Rd5+ 1/2-1/2

Next, Veselin Topalov continued his roller-coaster ride, this time peaking against official tournament tailender Francisco Vallejo Pons, for whom this event probably can't end soon enough.

Topalov,V (2757) - Vallejo Pons,F (2686) [B90]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (6), 28.02.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.f3 Be6 9.Qd2 0-0 10.0-0-0 Nbd7 11.g4 b5 12.g5 b4 13.Ne2 Ne8 14.f4 a5 15.f5 a4 16.fxe6 axb3 17.exf7+N [17.cxb3 occurred in the game Ivanovic-Djukanovic, Bijelo Polje 2004 (0-1, 53).] 17...Rxf7 18.Kb1 A very dramatic move, but the idea is clear: White wants to preserve as much pawn cover as he can for his king and only then turn his attention to the loose Black kingside. 18...bxc2+

[18...Qa5 19.Nc1 keeps the lines closed.] 19.Kxc2 [19.Qxc2 is the obvious, "safe" move, but giving up the g5 pawn makes Black's eventual kingside defense a lot easier - the bishop can be active, the knights have access to f6, there's never the fear of a g6 spike from White, etc. But isn't White's choice insane? Is the g5 pawn really worth that much?] 19...Nb6 [19...Rxa2 appears to be the most testing move - not so much to grab a pawn but to prevent White from retreating into a cozy bunker with Kb1 and Nc1. I don't know what Topalov had planned here, but the following might be helpful to start the analytical process: 20.Bh3 (20.Nc1 Qc7+ 21.Kb1 Ra8 22.Qd5 Ra5 (22...Rc8 23.Bd3+/-) 23.Qc4 Nc5=) 20...Nf8 21.g6 hxg6 22.Qxb4 Qc7+ 23.Nc3 Ra8 (23...d5 24.Qb3+/-) 24.Rhf1 Rb8 (24...d5 25.Rxf7 Kxf7 26.Qb3+-) 25.Qa4=] 20.Nc1 d5 21.exd5 Nd6 22.Kb1 Rf3 This threatens ...Nc4 - or rather, seems to - but it also exposes the rook. [22...Nbc4 23.Bxc4 Nxc4 24.Qe2 Nxe3 25.g6 Nxd1 26.gxf7+ Kxf7 27.Rxd1 Bd6=] 23.h4 Na4 [23...Nbc4 24.Bxc4 Nxc4 25.Qe2 Rxe3 (25...Nxe3 26.Qxf3 Nxd1 27.Rxd1+/-) 26.Qxc4 Bd6 27.Qg4+/-] 24.Qe2 [24.Bd3!?] 24...Rg3 Black's position was difficult, but this seems to lose material without gaining sufficient compensation in return. 25.Bf2 Rc3

Fancy, but remember: this is chess, not checkers - White doesn't need to capture! 26.Qxe5! Nxb2 27.Bd4! [27.Kxb2? Qa5 28.Kb1 Qa3-+ 29.Qxe7? Rxc1+ 30.Rxc1 Qxa2#] 27...Bf8 28.Kxb2 Rf3 [28...Qa5 is pointless here due to 29.Bxc3] 29.Bd3 Kh8 30.Qe2 Rf4 31.Qh5 Nf5 32.g6 [32.g6 h6 33.Bxf5 leaves White up two pieces and a pawn and threatening 34.Qxh6+ to boot.] 1-0

Finally, the marquee match of the day: Anand-Kasparov. Kasparov put aside his signature Najdorf variation for the day and essayed one of the current fads, the Sveshnikov Sicilian. Anand chose the more positional approach with 9.Nd5 (9.Bxf6 gxf6 leads to a messy position where Black has some kingside weaknesses, but the extra f-pawn gives Black more central play than occurs after 9.Nd5) and sprung a new move on move 19. A typical Sveshnikov situation arose, where White's control over d5 and queenside advantage were challenged by Black's possession of the bishop pair and kingside counterplay. Perhaps Anand had an edge for a while, but Kasparov's typically active play sufficed for the draw.

Anand,V (2786) - Kasparov,G (2804) [B33]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (6), 28.02.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 0-0 12.Nc2 Bg5 13.a4 bxa4 14.Rxa4 a5 15.Bc4 Rb8 16.Ra2 Kh8 17.Nce3 g6 18.0-0 f5 19.Qa4N

[19.exf5; 19.Re1 and; 19.Qd3 were already known to theory.] 19...Bd7 20.Bb5 Rxb5 [20...Nb4 forces White to sac the exchange, but apparently both players felt that White would have sufficient compensation after 21.Bxd7 Nxa2 22.exf5 However, I'm not sure what Anand's deep idea was, as Black seems to have at least a small edge after the following: 22...Rxb2 23.Nc4 Nxc3 24.Nxc3 Rb4 25.Qc6 Rxc4 26.Qxc4 Qxd7 27.fxg6 hxg6=/+] 21.Qxb5 Nb4 22.Qxa5 Nxa2 23.Qxa2 fxe4 24.b4

Now White is definitely better, but it's not easy to see how White can convert his edge - the only passer is the b-pawn, the knights look good but may be semi-frozen, and f2 could become weak if too many White pieces start to stray. So it's a lot of work for White to try to win this. 24...Be6 25.c4 Qc8 26.Qb3 Kg7 27.Rb1 [27.Qc2 Bxe3 (27...Qb7 28.Qxe4 Bxe3 29.fxe3 Rxf1+ 30.Kxf1 Bxd5 31.cxd5 Qa6+ 32.Kf2 Qa2+ 33.Kg3 Qe2 34.h3 Qe1+ 35.Kh2 Qe2 and just sitting might be Black's best defensive try.) 28.Nxe3 d5 holds the pawn, but White's in great shape after 29.cxd5 Qxc2 30.Nxc2 Bxd5 31.Ne3+/-] 27...Rf7! 28.Rd1 h5 29.Qc2 Qa8 30.h3 [30.Qxe4 Bxe3 31.Qxe3 Bxd5 32.cxd5 Qa4 33.Qd2 Qb3 34.h3 Rb7 35.Rc1 Qxb4 36.Qxb4 Rxb4 37.Rc6 Kf6 38.Rxd6+ Kf5 is drawing - I think.] 30...Bh4 31.Rf1 Qf8 32.b5 Bc8 33.Nc3 Bb7 34.Ned5 Qc8 35.Qe2 Bxd5 36.Nxd5 Qc5 It's amazing how Kasparov always manages to coordinate his pieces so well! 37.b6 Qd4 38.Qc2 Kh7 39.Kh2 Rxf2 40.Rxf2 Bxf2

41.Qc1 [41.b7 Bg1+ 42.Kh1? (42.Kg3 Bf2+! 43.Kh2 (43.Qxf2 h4+ 44.Kh2 Qxf2 45.b8Q Qg3+ 46.Kg1 Qe1+=) 43...Bg1+) 42...Qa1 not only holds but probably wins: 43.Nc3 Ba7+ 44.Nd1 (44.Kh2 Qg1+ 45.Kg3 Qe1+ 46.Kh2 Bg1+ 47.Kh1 Bf2+ 48.Kh2 Qg1# is a mating pattern everyone should be familiar with.) 44...Qd4 45.c5 dxc5 46.Nc3 Qb4 47.Nxe4 Qxb7 and Black should win the ending.] 41...e3 42.b7 Qa7 43.Qb1 e2 44.Ne7 Bg3+ [44...Bg3+ 45.Kxg3 Qe3+ 46.Kh2 Qf4+ 47.Kg1 Qd4+ 48.Kh2 Qf4+ etc.] 1/2-1/2

Standings after Round 6:

Kasparov 3.5/5
Anand, Topalov 3/5
Kasimdzhanov 3/6
Leko 2.5/5
Adams 2/5
Vallejo Pons 1/5

Pairings for Round 7:

Vallejo Pons-Leko
Kasimdzhanov - bye

Sunday, February 27, 2005

World Championship News

Since 1993, there have been two independent world championship titles, and despite reunification rumblings since 1996, the titles have remained divided. The Prague Agreement in 2002 offered some hope for a while, but with the apparent collapse of the Kasparov-Kasimdzhanov match a few weeks ago, it was back to square one. (See this post for details and links.)

But now, something new. According to the 2/28 issue of Chess Today, relaying information from Russian chess sites like this one, FIDE has proposed a double-round robin event with the following eight players: Kasimdzhanov, Adams, Kramnik, Leko, Kasparov, Anand, Topalov and Morozevich. The event, IF it happens, is scheduled to occur in October of 2005 in a country yet to be determined.

I like many aspects of the idea, but I suspect Kramnik won't, for at least three reasons. First, I think Kramnik's style is best suited to matches, not tournaments, so this probably hurts his chances for success. Second, while Kasimdzhanov (or Kasparov, were he to play and defeat Kasimdzhanov) as the FIDE champion would be plausibly seeded to face Kramnik on an even playing field, it's not as clear that the other players deserve such a privilege. Third, Kramnik, like Kasparov before him, has expressed a desire to maintain the classical world championship in its traditional form - qualifiers leading to a final match with the champion. If the follow-up to this event is going to be more knock-out events, then that too will serve as a deterrent to his participation.

In sum, we have reason for some optimism - but it's best to keep the bubbly on hold.

Linares: Round 5 Recap

In a dramatic change from previous rounds, each featuring 1 win and 2 draws, today's just-completed round featured 2 draws and 1 win. Oh, wait a moment...

Okay, it's not really that bad. Sure, it would be nice to have more blood on the board, but all three games went 40 moves or more, and at least two of the games had some real fight.

The least interesting game and the first to finish was Vallejo Pons-Anand. After getting nothing from the opening, Vallejo decided simply to restrict Anand's possibilities - successfully. If his tournament had been going more successfully, my guess is that he'd have played with more ambition. After two straight losses, though, a quick time-out against the number 2 seed was probably a wise move.

Vallejo Pons,F (2686) - Anand,V (2786) [E15]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (5), 27.02.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qa4 Bb7 6.Bg2 c5 7.dxc5 bxc5 8.0-0 Be7 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Rd1 d6 11.Bf4 Qb6 12.Qb3 Rd8 13.Qxb6 axb6 14.Nb5 Ne8 15.a3 h6 16.Rac1 Nc6 17.Ne1 Na5 18.Bd2 Bxg2 19.Kxg2 Nc6 20.e4 Na7 21.Nc3 Nc7 22.a4 Nc6 23.b3 Bf6 24.Nc2 Kf8 25.h4 h5 26.Rb1 Ke7 27.Re1 Nd4 28.Nxd4 Bxd4 29.Ne2 e5 30.f4 f6 31.Rh1 g6 32.Rbf1 Ne6 33.g4 exf4 34.Nxf4 Nxf4+ 35.Bxf4 hxg4 36.Kg3 Rh8 37.Kxg4 Rh5 38.Rh3 Rah8 39.Rfh1 Ke6 40.Bd2 Be5 41.Be3 R8h7 1/2-1/2

Next to finish was Kasimdzhanov-Topalov, a King's Indian in which the players took turns having very small advantages, culminating in a position where, fittingly enough, White could force perpetual check or allow Black to. In short, a nice, clean game with some fight.

Kasimdzhanov,R (2678) - Topalov,V (2757) [E94]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (5), 27.02.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Na6 8.Re1 Qe8 9.Bf1 Bg4 10.d5 Nb4 11.Be2 a5 12.Rb1 Na6 13.Bg5 Bd7 14.Nd2 Kh8 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Bg4 Bg5 17.Bxd7 Qxd7 18.Nf3 Bh6 19.a3 Nc5 20.b4 axb4 21.axb4 Na4 22.Qd3 Nxc3 23.Qxc3 f5 24.c5 Qb5 25.h4 fxe4 26.Rxe4 Ra2 27.Rbe1 Qa4 28.cxd6 cxd6 29.Qc7 Qc2 30.Qb6 Bg7 31.Qe3 b5 32.Rc1 Qb2 33.Rf1 Ra1 34.Rxa1 Qxa1+ 35.Kh2 Qb1 36.Qe2 h6 37.Rg4 h5 38.Re4 Bh6 39.Ng5 Bxg5 40.hxg5 Rxf2 [40...Rxf2 41.Qxf2 Qxe4 42.Qf8+ Kh7 43.Qf7+= (43.Qxd6 Qh4+ 44.Kg1 Qe1+=) ] 1/2-1/2

Finally, there's the Kasparov-Adams game. Despite Kasparov's relative inactivity, book and DVD projects, political engagements, age (41 - from 6.5 years older than Anand to 19 years older than Vallejo Pons), family responsibilities and high blood pressure (See New in Chess 2004/3, p. 14), he is still quite possibly the hardest working player at the board on the super-GM circuit.

Adams tried his 7...e5 line again against the 4.Qc2 Nimzo (see Topalov-Adams from my round 1 recap), but unsurprisingly, Kasparov was ready with an improvement. Unlike Topalov, Kasparov was able to successfully solve the king-safety problem, after which White could start to utilize the advantage of the bishop pair. Accordingly, Adams opened up the position with 15...f5, hoping to generate some initiative before White finished his kingside development, but this only led to a position where Kasparov had an extra pawn in a queen and rook ending.

This ending, starting on move 23, showed Kasparov's chess and fighting qualities in their best light. Such an ending isn't easy for either side, because heavy pieces on an open board have virtually unlimited scope. That makes it very difficult - and exhausting - to keep calculating move after move after move. Difficult or not, Kasparov was up to the job, and won an ending which, I suspect, will repay careful study.

Kasparov,G (2804) - Adams,Mi (2741) [E37]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (5), 27.02.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2 e5 8.cxd5 Qxd5 9.f3 Nd6 [9...Nf6 was played by...Kasparov(!), successfully, albeit in a blitz game - and no doubt he would have been well-prepared for his old weapon had Adams the temerity to try it. 10.e4 Qxd4 11.Qxc7 Nc6 12.Ne2 Qc5 13.b4 Nxb4 14.Qxc5 Nd3+ 15.Kd2 Nxc5 16.Rb1 0-0 17.Ke3 Be6 18.Bb2 Rfd8 19.Bxe5 Rd3+ 20.Kf2 Ncxe4+ 21.Kg1 Nd2 22.Ra1 Nxf1 23.Nf4 Rd2 24.Rxf1 Bc4 25.Rc1 Nd7 26.Bc3 Ra2 27.h4 b5 28.Rh3 f6 29.Rd1 Ne5 30.Rg3 Bf7 31.Rd6 Rxa3 32.Bd4 Ra4 33.h5 h6 34.Bxe5 fxe5 35.Nd3 Rd4 36.Rxd4 exd4 37.Rg4 a5 38.Rxd4 a4 39.Rb4 a3 40.Nc1 Bc4 41.Rb1 a2 0-1 Kramnik,V-Kasparov,G/Moscow 1998/CBM 067 ext] 10.dxe5 Qxe5 11.e4 Nc6 12.Ne2 Be6 13.Bf4 Qa5+ 14.Nc3 0-0-0 15.0-0-0

Unlike Topalov in round 1, Kasparov has found a secure location for his king, and the threat of 16.Bxd6 leaves White a comfortable edge here. 15...f5 [15...Nc4 looks obvious, with the goal of avoiding a sickly isolani on d6, but 16.Nd5! is practically winning. White's threatening to take on c4 and to take on c7, and Black has no good response. For example: 16...Bxd5 (16...Nd6 17.Bd2+- - oops!) 17.exd5 Nxa3 18.bxa3 Qxa3+ 19.Qb2 Qc5+ 20.Kb1 Rxd5 21.Rc1 Qa5 22.Bc4 Rhd8 23.Be3+/- and White's two bishops overmatch Black's knight and three pawns.] 16.Bxd6 Rxd6 17.Rxd6 cxd6 18.Bb5 Nd4 19.Qd3 Nxb5 20.Nxb5 fxe4 21.Qxd6 Qxb5 22.Qxe6+ Kb8 23.Qxe4+/-

23...Re8 24.Qf4+ Ka8 25.Kb1 g5 26.Qf7 h6 27.h4 a6 28.hxg5 hxg5 29.Qf6 Qd3+ 30.Ka1 Qd2 31.Qf7 Re5 32.Qc7 Re8 33.Qf7 Re5 34.Qf6 Re8 35.g4 Ka7 36.Qf5 Ka8 37.Kb1! An excellent idea whose point is to get the White rook into the action. 37...Rd8 38.Rc1 Rd5 39.Qe4 Ka7 40.Rc3 Qd1+ 41.Ka2 Qd2 42.Rc2 Qd3 43.Re2 Rd4 [43...Qxe4 44.fxe4 (44.Rxe4 Rd3 45.Re5 Rxf3 46.Rxg5 Rg3 isn't as clear.) 44...Re5 45.Kb3 Kb6 46.Kc4 Kc6 47.Kd4 Kd6 48.Rf2+-] 44.Qe3 a5 [44...Qxe3 45.Rxe3 Rf4 46.Kb3 Kb6 47.Kc3 Kc6 48.Kd3 Kd5 49.Ke2 Rf7 50.Kf2 followed by Kg3 and whatever else is needed to force f4 should be winning.] 45.Re1 [45.Qxg5?? Qc4+!-+ (45...Qxe2?? 46.Qc5++-) ] 45...Ka6 46.Qxg5 Qxf3 47.Qg6+ Ka7 48.Re5 Ra4 49.Qh5 b6 [49...Rxa3+ won't lead to a perpetual: 50.bxa3 Qf2+ 51.Kb3 Qf3+ 52.Kc4 Qc6+ 53.Kd3 Qf3+ 54.Re3 Qf1+ 55.Ke4 Qc4+ 56.Kf5 Qc5+ 57.Kf6 Qd6+ (57...Qxe3 58.Qxa5+ Kb8 59.Qe5++-) 58.Kg7 Qc7+ 59.Qf7 and it's over.] 50.Qe8 Rc4 51.g5 Rc7 52.Qe6 a4 53.Re4 Qd1 54.Rb4

Black is completely tied down now and the g-pawn is ready to keep advancing, so Adams resigned. Nevertheless, Black could have tried one last, neat little cheapo suggested by former FIDE World Champ Ruslan Ponomariov: [54.Rb4 Ka8!? 55.Qxb6?? (55.Qe4+ wins easily.) 55...Qa1+ (Unfortunately, just a normal checking sequence draws as well, which undermines the cheapo's "suckerability quotient". (SQ? SUQ? Have I created a monster!) 55...Qd5+ ) 56.Kxa1 Rc1+ 57.Ka2 Ra1+ 58.Kxa1 Stalemate!] 1-0

Current Standings:

Kasparov: 3/4
Anand: 2.5/4
Kasimdzhanov: 2.5/5
Leko, Topalov: 2/4
Adams: 2/5
Vallejo Pons: 1/4

Round 6 Pairings:

Anand-Kasparov (the big game!)
Topalov-Vallejo Pons
Adams - bye

Saturday, February 26, 2005

This Week's ChessBase Show

After several weeks of featuring completely crazy games, we'll take a brief respite into sanity. This week's game is a masterpiece of the aggressive positional chess that made Anatoly Karpov the World Champion for 10 years (and in the top 2 for nearly a quarter of a century).

In our game, Dutch legend Jan Timman essays the Pirc Defense, an opening that typically generates serious counterplay for the second player. Typically, but not always - Karpov absolutely strangles the Black position into submission without allowing so much as a whiff of play from Timman's side of the board. How did he do it? We'll figure out the details this Monday; for now, to whet your appetite, here is the game:

Karpov,Anatoly (2705) - Timman,Jan H (2625) [B07]
Montreal Montreal (2), 1979

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 0-0 6.Nge2 e5 7.0-0 Na6 8.Re1 c6 9.h3 Re8 10.Bg5 h6 11.Be3 Qc7 12.Qd2 Kh7 13.Rad1 Bd7 14.g4 Rad8 15.Ng3 Bc8 16.f4 b5 17.a3 b4 18.axb4 Nxb4 19.Nce2 exd4 20.Nxd4 a5 21.c3 Na6 22.Qc2 Bd7 23.Nf3 Re7 24.Bf2 Be8 25.Qd3 Qb7 26.Ra1 Nc7 27.Rxa5 Rdd7 28.b4 Ne6 29.Be3 c5 30.f5 Nd8 31.b5 Kh8 32.Bf2 Qc7 33.Ra4 Qb8 34.c4 Ra7 35.Rxa7 Rxa7 36.e5 dxe5 37.Nxe5 Ra2 38.Bxc5 1-0

[For details on how to watch the show, click here; for a list of previous shows, try this link.]

Linares: Round 4 Recap

Today's round was far more interesting than its immediate predecessor, but as if by fate this round, like all three before it, concluded with one win and two draws.

Anand-Kasimdzhanov was the first game to finish, drawn in a relatively brief 33 moves - but not for want of effort! Anand maintained a real initiative from early on and even managed to win a pawn, but Kasimdzhanov, who is rapidly developing a reputation as a defensive genius, capitalized on an Anand error to achieve a position in which all his pieces were active, White's pawn majorities were blockaded and in which his passed a-pawn was the most dominant feature of the position. Incredibly, it seems that if anyone was better in the final position, it was Kasimdzhanov.

Anand,V (2786) - Kasimdzhanov,R (2678) [C88]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (4), 26.02.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.a4 Na5 11.Ba2 c5 12.Nbd2 Nc6N 13.Nf1 Nd7 14.Ne3 Nb6 15.Nf5 Bc8 16.Nxe7+ Qxe7 17.Bg5 Qc7 18.Nh4 Be6 19.Nf5 c4 [The knight is annoying, but capturing is bad, as after 19...Bxf5 20.exf5 White will follow up with f6.] 20.dxc4 Nxc4 21.b3 Nb6 22.c4 bxc4 23.bxc4 Nd7 24.Qxd6 Qxd6 25.Nxd6 Nc5 White has won a pawn, but his queenside structure and Ba2 are less than impressive. If he can safeguard the queenside and get the light-squared bishop into the game, he will have good winning chances. 26.Be3 Nd4 [26...Nxa4 27.Bb3 Nb2 28.Re2 Nd3 29.Rd2 Ndb4 30.Ba4+/- transforms the position: Black has restored material equality, but White's pieces completely dominate.] 27.Rad1 Rab8 28.Bb1 Nxa4 29.Bxd4 exd4 30.Rxd4 Rb2 31.e5 Nc5

32.Bf5? [Black has done a good job the last few moves: he has managed to restrain White's pieces to some degree while activating his own, but 32.f4 - getting the kingside majority rolling - leaves White with a clear advantage. Anand's move impedes that idea and wastes time, immediately allowing Black to equalize.] 32...a5 33.Bxe6 [33.Bxe6 fxe6 34.f3 a4 35.Nb5 Ra8 and now White has just as much need to be careful as Black does.] 1/2-1/2

The next game to finish was Adams-Vallejo. Vallejo is the second-lowest rated player in the tournament, and now, with two consecutive losses, is in danger of becoming the event's official punching bag. In today's game, he was in trouble very early with a loose kingside, and although Adams may have missed some easier wins, Black's chronic weaknesses made the loss a matter of time against a player of Adams' caliber.

Adams,Mi (2741) - Vallejo Pons,F (2686) [B90]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (4), 26.02.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Ng4 This move is less popular than 6...e6 and 6...e5, but it's also important and creates positions of a radically different sort than the English Attacker generally hopes for. 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 Bg7 10.h3 [10.Be2 is the most common move.] 10...Ne5 11.Be2 This is much less common than 11.Nf5 or 11.f3, and not particularly testing according to Sammalvuo. Of course, Adams is a little stronger than Sammalvuo... 11...Nbc6 12.Nb3 b5N However, we won't get to discover what Adams had in mind, as Vallejo is the first to offer a new move. 12...Be6 is the usual move, and the results have been good for Black. 13.Nd5 Nc4 14.Bxc4 bxc4 15.Nd2 Bxb2 16.Rb1 Be5 [16...Bg7 17.Nxc4 Be6 18.0-0 Rb8 looks safer, keeping the f-file closed and the kingside dark square situation under control.] 17.Nxc4 Bxg3 18.fxg3

Okay, White has a pawn structure only a mother could love, it's true. But let's ask ourselves some questions here: (1) How is Black going to attack any of these White pawns? (2) How is Black going to achieve any activity at all? And (3), where is Black's king going to reside? Black isn't losing yet, but just six moves after his novelty, his position is unpleasant at best. 18...Be6 19.0-0 Rb8 20.Rb3 A nice move, giving White the option of swinging along the third rank (to f3 or even a3), of possibly doubling on the b-file. Further, if Black wants to exchange the rook, it fixes White's queenside pawn structure and opens the a-file to a possible massaging operation on the Black a-pawn. 20...Rb5 21.Kh2 0-0 Looks suicidal, but again, the king wasn't going to be safe anywhere. 22.Nce3 Ne5 23.c4 Rc5 [23...Rxb3 24.axb3 Bxd5 25.exd5 e6 Trades off a couple of pieces, thereby increasing his king's safety, but at the cost of fixing White's structure. Here White still has a big advantage: Black's king isn't completely safe yet and his position is riddled with pawn weaknesses.] 24.Qh5 Kh7 25.Rb7 Re8

26.Nf5 [26.Rf5 was a very interesting idea recommended by an online kibitzer. The threat is to capture on g5, and most of Black's defenses lose immediately: 26...Bxf5 27.Nxf5 and the threat of Qxh6+ followed by Qg7# decides. Or if 26...Rg8, White plays 27.Nxe7, winning. 26...f6 hangs the f-pawn due to the pin: 27.Rxf6 or 27.Nxf6+ are both lethal. 26...Kg7 is best, but here too White's attack is very powerful after 27.Rxe5 dxe5 28.Nf5+ Bxf5 29.exf5 and now White is threatening 30.f6+, when a king retreat hangs either h6 or f7, while 30...exf6 allows 31.Qxf7+ and mate next move. Black has two choices here, and White is winning in either case. 29...Rxd5 (29...Rf8 30.Rxe7 Rc6 31.Rxe5 leaves Black in a lost but at least not yet resignable position.) 30.f6+! Kxf6 31.Qxh6+ Kf5 32.cxd5+- Qxd5 33.g4+ Kf4 34.Qxa6 and the remainder will resemble the culmination of a a nature program's chase scene, where the rapid cheetah tracks down and kills the defenseless deer. In the interests of not traumatizing any small children who may be playing through this game, I'll stop the variation here.] 26...Bxf5 27.exf5 Once again, 28.f6 is the threat, and Black can't prevent it with 28...f6 because of 29.Nxf6+, exploiting the pin. 27...Rf8 28.Nxe7 Qa8 29.Rfb1 [29.f6 with the idea of 30.Nf5 might look like an easy winner, but it's not quite: 29...Qxb7 30.Nf5 Ng4+ 31.hxg4 Rxf5 32.gxf5 Qe4 and Black can still resist.] 29...Rb5 30.cxb5 Qxb7 31.f6 threatening 32.Nf5 31...Qe4 32.Rf1 Rh8 33.Nf5 [33.Rf5 looks even more efficient - threatening both 34.Rxe5 (34...Q/dxe5 35.Qxf7#) and 34.Rxg5, and Black can't prevent both threats. Even so, Adams' move is more than sufficient.] 33...Kg8 34.bxa6 1-0

Finally, Topalov-Leko. In a Sveshnikov Sicilian - one of the hottest opening lines in contemporary chess - Topalov offered an interesting pawn sac with the dual purpose of opening the h-file and gaining a tempo for kingside expansion. Normally sacrificing something against Leko is a nice way to ensure a losing endgame against him, but Topalov's judgment was correct.

Sure enough, Topalov eventually regained the pawn and took another for good measure, finding himself with a completely winning position, no time trouble...and at the end of the day, only half a point for his troubles.

Topalov,V (2757) - Leko,P (2749) [B33]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (4), 26.02.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 0-0 12.Nc2 Bg5 13.a4 bxa4 14.Rxa4 a5 15.Bc4 Rb8 16.b3 Kh8 17.Nce3 g6 18.h4 Not a novelty, but rare. 18...Bxh4 19.g3 Bg5 20.f4N exf4 21.gxf4 Bh4+ 22.Kd2 Ne7 23.Kc1 Nxd5 24.Nxd5 Be6 25.Qd4+ Kg8 26.Ra2 Bxd5 27.Qxd5 Qf6 28.Qd2 Bg3 29.Rf1

So far, Black has played quite well, and White has at best adequate compensation for the pawn but nothing more. 29...h5 [29...d5!?=/+] 30.Rxa5+/= Ra8 31.e5 Qf5 [31...dxe5 32.Rxa8 (32.fxe5?? Qxf1+ 33.Bxf1 Rxa5-+) 32...Rxa8 33.fxe5 Qe7 (33...Ra1+ 34.Kb2+-) 34.Rxf7 Ra1+ 35.Kc2 (35.Kb2? Qa3+) 35...Ra2+ 36.Kb1 Rxd2 37.Rxe7++/-] 32.Rxa8 Rxa8 33.Kb2 h4 34.Qxd6 Re8 [34...Bxf4 35.Qe7 h3 36.e6] 35.Bb5 Rf8 36.Bd3 Qe6 37.Qd4 Qe7 38.Bc4 Kh7 39.b4 h3 40.Qd3 Qh4 41.f5 Bf4 [41...Bxe5 42.fxg6+ Kg7 43.gxf7 h2 44.Qe2 Qg3 45.Rf3! Qg5 46.Rh3+-] 42.e6 fxe6 43.Qd7+ Kh6

Now comes the first in a series of bad moves for Topalov - tragically, considering that he has a completely winning position and has made the time control. 44.fxe6? [44.fxg6 is completely crushing. For example, if 44...Kxg6 45.Bd3+ Kf6 46.Qd4+ Ke7 47.Qc5+ Kf7 48.Qc7+ wins everything after 48...Kf6 (48...Kg8 49.Rg1+ Bg5 50.Rxg5+ Qxg5 51.Qh7#; 48...Ke8 49.Bb5#; 48...Qe7 49.Rxf4+) 49.Rxf4+] 44...Bc1+ A very high-class bluff! Simply 45.Rxc1?? [45.Kxc1 Rxf1+ (45...Qxc4 46.Rxf8 Qxc3+ 47.Kd1 and there is no perpetual.) 46.Bxf1 h2 47.Bg2 h1Q+ 48.Bxh1 Qxh1+ 49.Kb2 Qg2+ 50.Kb3 and White wins easily: White will promote a pawn and Black has no chances for a perpetual.] 45...Qxc4 46.e7? [46.Qd2+ Kh7 47.Qe3 h2 48.Ra1 still seems to keep White in the driver's seat, though it's nowhere near as clear as it was before White's 45th move.] 46...Ra8 47.Qxh3+ Kg7 and now the threats of Ra2+ and better still, Qa2# mean that White's advantage is almost entirely gone. 48.e8N+ Kg8 49.Nf6+ Kf7 50.Qd7+ Kxf6

Now White faces a fundamental choice: go for a queen ending or a rook ending? Neither is clearly winning nor completely clearly drawn; it's just a matter of practical judgment. 51.Qd4+ [51.Rf1+ Qxf1 52.Qc6+ Kf5 53.Qxa8 Qe2+ 54.Ka3 Qc4 might be the place to start looking for the truth here.] 51...Qxd4 52.cxd4 g5 Is this ending a draw? Probably, but there's not even a question about it after White's next move. 53.Rc6+ This move is just incomprehensible: it aids the Black king in becoming active, doesn't help advance the queenside pawns and places the rook where it's less able to combat the g-pawn. (Note White's "apology" on move 56.) The problem, as I'm sure all of us have experienced, is that once a player realizes he or she has blown a win, the psychological momentum starts to carry one ever further down the hill. So there's at least some good news for Topalov here: his position is unloseable! 53...Kf5 54.b5 g4 55.Kb3 g3 56.Rc1 Ke4 57.Rg1 [57.Rg1 Kxd4 58.Rxg3 Kc5 59.Rg5+ Kb6 60.Kb4 Ra1 61.Rg6+ Kb7 is a trivially easy draw for Black, who will just check the White king until it either costs him the b-pawn or until White blocks with the rook, when it's a standard king and pawn ending draw. Here's how that might go, for the sake of those for whom this isn't all obvious: 62.Rg4 (62.Rh6 Rb1+ 63.Kc5 Rc1+ 64.Kd4 Rb1 65.Kc4 Rc1+ 66.Kb3 Rb1+ 67.Ka4 Ra1+ etc.) 62...Rb1+ 63.Kc5 Rc1+ 64.Rc4 Rxc4+ 65.Kxc4 Kb6 66.Kb4 Kb7 67.Kc5 Kc7 68.b6+ Kb7 69.Kb5 Kb8 (69...Ka8?? 70.Ka6 Kb8 71.b7 Kc7 72.Ka7+-) 70.Ka6 Ka8 71.b7+ Kb8 72.Kb6 stalemate.] 1/2-1/2

Standings after Round 4:

Anand, Kasparov: 2/3
Leko, Kasimdzhanov, Adams: 2/4
Topalov: 1.5/3
Vallejo Pons: .5/3

Round 5 Pairings:

Vallejo Pons-Anand
Leko - bye

How Long Can a Game Go?

For those who have checked out the mammoth game referred to here, one question that might have come to mind (aside from "Why?") is just how long, in terms of the number of moves, a game could possibly go.

In trying to answer this, we will assume two parameters. First, of course, full cooperation by the players; second, the 50-move rule must be obeyed - a game will count as automatically drawn if both players make 50 moves without either moving a pawn or making a capture.

A first attempt:

The most obvious approach goes like this:

Both sides move their knights around (without falling into a 3-time repetition), and move 50 Black plays 50...h6. We continue as follows - assume meaningless piece moves in the intervals:

100...h5, 150...h4, 200...h3, and then the same 200 move sequences for all of the pawns: 400...g3, 600...f3, 800...e3, 1000...d3, 1200...c3, 1400...b3, 1600...a3.

For our next stage, White will capture these pawns on his 50th move: 1650.Nxh3, 1700.Nxg3, 1750.Nxf3, 1800.Nxe3, 1850.Nxd3, 1900.Nxc3, 1950.Nxb3 and 2000.Nxa3.

Next, capturing all the Black pieces will use another 350 moves, bringing us to move 2350. At move 2400, let's have White push a pawn - say e3 - and eventually force the Black king to shuttle between a8 and b8 with the White queen on d7 and White king on d8 (just to make visualizing the position convenient). Then we'll have 2450.d3, 2500.c3, 2550.b3, 2600.a3, 2650.f3, 2700.g3, 2750.h3. Repeat in 400 move increments to bring the pawns to the fifth rank (culminating, say, with 3550.h5), and now we'll just take care of the kingside pawns:

3600.h6, 3650.h7, 3700.h8Q, and then 3750.Qa8+ Kxa8 (or 3750.Qb8+ Kxb8, depending on where Black's king is). Repeat with the g, f and e-pawns, and we're up to 4350...Kxa8.

Next, we'll get rid of both rooks, both knights and one of the bishops (if we're assuming Black's 4350th move is ...Kxa8, it will be the light-squared bishop), taking us to 4600...Kxa8. At this point we'll drive the Black king to the h8 corner (clearing the way for the queenside pawns) and there give up the remaining bishop: 4650...Kxh8. Pushing and promoting the pawns and then sacrificing the promoted queens gets us another 800 moves (5450...Kxh8), and now all that remains is to mate the king on the 50th move: 5500.Qg7#.

A second try:

Of course, one normally doesn't want to combine captures with pawn moves, as that would throw away 50 moves. However, there's reason to do so here - 50 moves are lost, but 100 moves are gained by a Black pawn's being able to go two ranks further, for a net gain of 50 moves per eligible pawn.

I believe we can do this with every Black pawn - sometimes by that pawn's capturing a White piece, and sometimes by a White pawn's capturing a Black piece. Thus:

50...h6, 100...h5, 150...h4, 200...h3, 250.g3, 250.Bg2 hxg2, 300.Nf1 g1(Q), 350.Rxg1. One Black pawn down, seven to go.

400.g4, 450.g5, 500.g6, 549...Rh7 550.gxh7, 600.h8(Q), 650...Nxh8, 700...g6, 750...g5, 800...g4, 850...g3, 900...g2, 950.Rh1 g1(Q), 1000.Rxg1. Two Black pawns down, six to go.

1050.h3, 1100.h4, 1150.h5, 1200.h6, 1250.h7, 1299...Ng6 1300.h8(Q), 1350...Nxh8. (Just clearing out the superfluous debris.)

1400.Rg6 fxg6, 1450...g5, 1500...g4, 1550...g3, 1600...g2, 1650...g1(Q) 1700.Nxg1. Three Black pawns down, five to go.

During this next stage, move the Black king out of the way (to a6, say) and the Bf8 to b6, and now: 1750.f3, 1800.f4...2000.f8(Q) 2050...Qxf8, 2100.e3, 2150.e4, 2200.e5, 2250.e6, 2299...Qf7 2300.exf7, 2350.f8(Q), 2400...Nxf8.

Now let's get White's king out of the way - h8 looks convenient, and continue: 2450...e6...2700...e1(Q), 2750.Qxe1. Four down, four to go.

2800.d3...2950.d6, 2999...Ne7 3000.dxe7, 3050.e8(Q), 3100...Nxe8.

3150...d6...3400...d1(Q), 3450.Qxd1. Five down, three to go.

3500.c3, 3650.c6, 3699...Bd7 3700.cxd7, 3750.d8(Q), 3800...Rxd8.

At this point we have more pieces than we need, so let's get rid of some clutter before finishing the pawns off: 3850.Qxd8, 3900...Bxg1, 3950.Ne3 Bxe3, 4000...Bxc1, 4050.Rxc1. We're down now to this: White: queen, rook and two pawns; Black: knight and three pawns.


4100.Rh1 c6, 4150...c5...4350...c1(Q), 4400.Rxc1 (six down), 4450.Rc6+ bxc6...4700...c1(Q), 4750.Qxc1. (Seven down.)

At this point, for convenience' sake, let's remaneuver things so that the Black king is on h8, the White king on e8, the White queen on e7 and the Black knight is hopping along elsewhere. Now:

4800.b3...5050.b8(Q), 5100...Nxb8, 5149...Nb3 5200.axb3...5450.b8(Q)...5750...a1(Q), 5799...Qa8 5800.Qxa8 (mission accomplished!), 5850.Qh8+ (or Qg8+, again depending on where the Black king is) Kxh8, and finally, at long, long last: 5900.Qg7#

Is there some further trick that enables the move count to increase even further? Can the magic 6000 move barrier be broken? Readers who like puzzles of this sort, or with more time than they know what to do with are encouraged to try.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Linares: Round 3 Recap

"The fact that a player is very short of time is, to my mind, as little to be considered an excuse as, for instance, the statement of the law-breaker that he was drunk at the time he committed the crime." – Alexander Alekhine

Round 3 of Linares was looking like an audition for the Nobel Peace Prize, with two quick draws in the books and the players in the third game preparing to beat their swords into plowshares. But then...time pressure happened.

Let's start with the least interesting game, a Marshall Gambit between Kasimdzhanov and Adams. While the Gambit can lead to wild, complex play, it is just as often used as a drawing weapon (this goes back to Spassky in the 60s - check his 1965 Candidates' Match with Tal and a couple of his games with Fischer in that decade), and that's just what happened in this game, as Black's two bishops, active position and White's frozen queenside equalized the chances.

Kasimdzhanov,Rustam (2678) - Adams,Michael (2741) [C89]
Linares Spain (3), 25.02.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d3 Bd6 13.Re1 Bf5 14.Qf3 Qh4 15.g3 Qh3 16.Bxd5 cxd5 17.Be3 Bxd3 18.Qxd5 Rad8 19.Qf3 Bf5 20.Nd2 Be6 21.Bd4 h6N 22.a3 Bb8 23.Qg2 Qf5 24.f3 Rfe8 25.Ne4 Bd5 26.Re2 Re6 27.Rae1 1/2-1/2

Next, we turn to the shorter but richer draw between Leko and Anand. It's funny that the overtly aggressive Marshall often peters out fairly quickly, while Petroff's Defense, long scorned as a shameless drawing weapon, often leads to very sharp and imbalanced positions.

Leko,Peter (2749) - Anand,Viswanathan (2786) [C42]
Linares Spain (3), 25.02.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Re1 Bg4 9.c3 f5 10.Qb3 0-0 11.Nbd2 Na5 12.Qc2 Bd6 13.Ne5N Bh5 14.b4 Nc6 15.Ndf3 Re8 16.Bb2 Qf6 17.Qb3 Kh8 18.Be2

[18.Qxd5 is a sharp alternative, but Black has resources here, too: 18...Rad8 19.Bxe4 fxe4 20.Qxe4 Bxf3 21.Qxf3 Bxe5 22.dxe5 Qxf3 23.gxf3 Nxe5 24.Kf1 Nxf3 25.Rxe8+ Rxe8 26.Rd1 Nxh2+ 27.Kg2 Ng4 28.Rd7 Rc8 29.c4 Nf6 30.Re7 Ne8 31.b5 Kg8 and although White has enough compensation for the pawn, Black should hold.] 18...Rxe5! A strong exchange sacrifice, after which White has nothing better than to accede to perpetual check. [18...Nxe5 19.dxe5 Bxe5 20.Nxe5 Bxe2 21.Rxe2 Rxe5 (21...Qxe5 22.f3+/-) 22.c4+/-] 19.dxe5 Nxe5 20.Nxe5 [20.Qxd5 Nxf3+ 21.Bxf3 Bxh2+ 22.Kf1 (22.Kh1 Bxf3 23.gxf3 Qh4 24.Rxe4 fxe4 25.Kg2 e3 26.fxe3 Rd8-+; 22.Kxh2 Qh4+ 23.Kg1 Qxf2+ followed by ...Bxf3 forces mate.) 22...Bf7 23.Qd4 Bc4+ 24.Re2 (24.Be2 Qxd4 25.cxd4 Nd2#) 24...Bxe2+ 25.Kxe2 Be5-+; 20.Nd4 Nd3! (20...Ng4 21.g3 f4 might even be better for Black.) 21.Bxd3 Bxh2+ 22.Kxh2 Qh4+ 23.Kg1 Qxf2+=] 20...Bxe5 21.Bxh5

21...Bxh2+ 22.Kxh2 Qh4+ 23.Kg1 Qxf2+ 24.Kh2 1/2-1/2

Finally, Vallejo Pons-Kasparov. Kasparov played a relatively uncommon line best known from the massacre Anand-Karpov (1-0, 36). Vallejo deviated first, got nothing, and was on the slightly less comfortable side of what looked to me a relatively routine draw.

Unfortunately, Vallejo was in time trouble (as always), with about 3 minutes for 14 moves. In such situations, there's always a strong temptation to find clear, simple solutions, and that's what 27.Ra5 seemed to offer: the Bc5 is pinned, the knight can come to a6, Black loses the two bishops - all is well. All very nice and tidy, and 27...Bxf2+ 28.Qxf2 Qxa5 is met by 29.Nxe6, grabbing a pawn and attacking the Rf8, which can't move because of 30.Qxf7+ followed by 31.Qxg7#.

Of course, there was a hole in his analysis, to put it mildly: 29...Bxg2! wins immediately. I have no doubt that if Vallejo had Black after 27.Ra5, he would have found that combination 100 times out of 100, and likewise, had he not been in time trouble, he'd have found it with White 100% of the time too - and the calculation wouldn't have taken him very long, either. In time trouble, bad things are likely to happen, and as Alekhine wrote, time trouble is not an excuse. Avoid it!

Vallejo Pons,Francisco (2686) - Kasparov,Garry (2804) [D21]
Linares Spain (3), 25.02.2005

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 e6 3.c4 dxc4 4.e4 b5 5.a4 c6 6.axb5 cxb5 7.b3 Bb7 8.bxc4 Bxe4 9.cxb5 White scores well in this variation, but Kasparov knows best! 9...Nf6 10.Be2 Be7 11.0-0 0-0 12.Nc3 Bb7 13.Bf4 [13.Ne5 a6 (13...Nd5 may improve.) 14.Bf3 Nd5 15.Nxd5 exd5 16.Rb1 Qb6 17.Be2 axb5 18.Rxb5 Qc7 19.Bf4 Bd6 20.Bd3 Ba6 21.Bxh7+ Kxh7 22.Qh5+ Kg8 23.Rb3 Bxe5 24.Rh3 f6 25.dxe5 Qe7 26.Qh7+ Kf7 27.Rg3 Ke8 28.Rxg7 Qe6 29.exf6 Nc6 30.Ra1 Kd8 31.h4 Bb7 32.Rd1 Ba6 33.Ra1 Bb7 34.Rd1 Ba6 35.Qb1 Rxf6 36.Bg5 1-0, Anand-Karpov, Las Palmas 1996] 13...Bb4 14.Na4 Nbd7 15.Qb3 Nd5 16.Bg5 Be7 17.Bd2 a6 18.b6?! [18.bxa6 Bxa6 19.Bxa6 Rxa6 leads safely to a draw] 18...Bc6= 19.Ne5 Nxe5 20.dxe5 Nxb6 21.Nxb6 Qxd2 22.Nxa8 Qxe2 23.Nc7 Qxe5 24.Qg3 Qf5 25.Rxa6 [25.Nxa6 is better, preventing the Black bishop from reaching c5 and starting to bring the knight back to civilization.] 25...Be4 [25...Qe4!-/+] 26.Ra7 Bc5

27.Ra5?? Bxf2+ 28.Qxf2 Qxa5 29.Nxe6 Bxg2! [29...Bxg2-+ 30.Qxg2 (30.Kxg2 Qd5+; 30.Nxf8 Bxf1) 30...Qb6+] 0-1

And Now, For Something Completely Different...

In an earlier post, I mentioned, among other things, some of the silly games guests will play with each other. Some players never bother to resign, and that approach to sportsmanship has inspired a wide range of counter-measures, from adding time to the opponent's clock to letting one's own clock run almost all the way down before winning, to offering a draw an instant before giving checkmate. (The idea is to mate them before they succeed in accepting. My countermeasure on those occasions when I'm in the victim role and suspect my opponent is going to do that: hit the draw button when they're down to about half a second - it often works!)

As I mentioned in that previous post, ICC no longer lets guests add time to their opponents' clocks, while the other two options are ones I never found particularly attractive. As I like to play "bullet" chess (roughly, chess at a time control faster than three minutes per side for the whole game, with one minute per side the preferred form) as a way to unwind at the end of the day, I had to find an alternative solution, another way to make a statement in response to the never-resigners.

My solution was to take up 0 1 chess, in which the players begin with 10 seconds and are awarded an extra second after every move. This takes care of the adding-time problem, and I don't have to worry about my own clock running down while extending the entertainment experience. My goal was to keep the game going as long as possible, and after a while, I had it down to a fine art.

Indeed (are you reading this, Dave?), it became a quest. Just how many moves could I make a game last? To see my best - and most likely last - effort turned out (against a cooperative opponent - he had been on the receiving end before and decided to let me have my way from the start), you'll have to take a look at game 30 in my library on the Internet Chess Club. (Once you log in, whether on a registered account or as a guest, type "examine Initiative %30" [without the quotation marks] and start replaying the moves. Quickly.) It's not that I'm trying to be coy by not posting the game; rather, it's that reproducing it here would chase all my other posts into the archives!

I eagerly await reader reactions on this one.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Linares: Round 2 Recap

Today's round was a lot like yesterday's: White won game, two games were drawn - one without any real fight, and two of the games featured late errors costing their perpetrators at least half a point each.

First, the non-game:

Adams,Mi (2741) - Leko,P (2749) [C88]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (2), 24.02.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.a4 b4 9.d3 d6 10.Nbd2 Na5 11.Ba2 Be6 12.Bxe6 fxe6 13.c3 bxc3 14.bxc3 Rb8 15.Qe2 Nh5 16.g3 Qe8 17.Ba3 Nb3 18.Ra2 Nxd2 1/2-1/2

Second, "game 1" of the match that never was (and probably never will be). Garry Kasparov had White against FIDE knockout champ Rustam Kasimdzhanov, gained a significant advantage in the opening and reached a winning endgame an exchange ahead. However, Kasimdzhanov is a remarkably feisty defender (as he proved repeatedly in the FIDE knockout in Tripoli last summer), and Kasparov failed to bring home the full point.

(12) Kasparov,Garry (2804) - Kasimdzhanov,Rustam (2678) [C42]
Linares Spain (2), 24.02.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.c4 Nb4 9.Be2 0-0 10.a3 Nc6 11.cxd5 Qxd5 12.Nc3 Nxc3 13.bxc3 Bf5 14.Re1 Bf6 15.Bf4 Na5 16.Bf1

Nothing new so far, but now Kasimdzhanov makes a new move that looks like an error. 16...c5N [16...b6 17.Ne5 Rad8 18.g4 Be4 19.Qe2 Bxe5 20.Bxe5 Nb3 21.Ra2 Bf3 22.Qe3 Na5 23.Rc2 f6 24.Bxc7 Rd7 25.Bg3 Bxg4 26.Bg2 Qb3 27.Rcc1 Qf7 28.d5 Qh5 29.c4 Nb7 30.a4 g5 31.Rc3 Qg6 32.Qd4 Bf5 33.Rce3 Nc5 34.a5 h5 35.axb6 axb6 36.h4 gxh4 37.Bxh4 Rg7 38.Rg3 Qf7 39.d6 Rxg3 40.Bxg3 Qg6 41.Re7 Nd7 42.Kh2 Kh8 43.Bc6 Rf7 44.Qd5 Rg7 45.Qd4 Qg5 46.Rxg7 Kxg7 47.Bd5 Qg4 48.Qe3 Ne5 49.Bxe5 fxe5 50.Qxe5+ Kg6 51.Qe8+ Kg5 52.Qe5 h4 53.Qg7+ Bg6 54.Qe5+ Qf5 55.Qe3+ Kg4 56.Be6 1-0, Anand(2769)-Sokolov(2637), Chess@Iceland-B rapid (4) 2000] 17.Be5! Black's problem is that he can't swap on e5, as it hangs the c-pawn after 17...cxd4 [17...Bxe5 18.Rxe5 Qd7 19.Rxc5 Note that this tactical possibility wouldn't have been available on 16...b6.] 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.Nxd4 Now White's simply in great shape: Black's kingside structure is fractured and his active-looking pieces are in fact somewhat vulnerable. 19...Bg6 20.h4 [20.Qa4 Nc6 21.Rad1+/-] 20...Rad8 21.Qa4 Qc5 22.Qb4+/- Rd5 23.g4+-

23...h5 24.Bg2 hxg4 25.Bxd5 Qxd5 26.Qe7 Qd8 27.Qb4 Qd5 28.Qe7 Qd8 29.Qxd8 Rxd8 30.Re7 Rc8 31.Rc1 Kg7 32.Rd1 f5 [32...Rxc3 33.Ne6+ Kh6 (33...Kh7 34.h5+- Bxh5? 35.Rd5) 34.Rd8 Rc1+ 35.Kh2 Kh7 36.h5+-] 33.Ne6+ Kf6 34.Rc7 Rh8

35.Nf4 [35.Nd8 may be better, as White's winning chances may require winning a queenside pawn to get a passer as soon as possible. For example: 35...Rxh4 36.Rd6+ Kg5 (36...Ke5 37.Rd4+- threatens both Rc5+ and Nxb7) 37.Nxb7] 35...Rxh4 36.Kg2 Kg5 37.Nxg6 fxg6

38.Rh1?= [38.Rd5+/- improves. First, it wins a queenside pawn immediately; second, it allows White to retain the ability to create various threats with the active rook pair. White's aim with 38.Rh1 was to eliminate Black's most active piece, but the loss of time allowed Kasimdzhanov to save the game.] 38...Rxh1 39.Kxh1 Kf4 40.Kg2 Ke4 41.Kg3 b5! giving up the pawn, but with the idea of ...Nc4 followed by ...Kd3. 42.Rxa7 Nc4 43.Ra6 [43.a4 bxa4 44.Rxa4 Kd3 45.Ra6 Nd2! (45...Kxc3 46.Rxg6 Nd2 47.Kf4 Ne4 48.Ke3+/- Kc4? 49.Rxg4! fxg4? 50.Kxe4+-) 46.Rxg6 Ne4+ 47.Kg2 Nxc3 draws.] 43...Kd3 44.Kf4 Kxc3 45.Rxg6 Nxa3 46.Kxf5 Nc4 47.Ke4 Nd2+ 48.Ke3 Nc4+ 49.Ke2 b4 50.Rxg4 b3 51.Kd1 Nb2+ 1/2-1/2 Kasparov,G-Kasimdzhanov,R/Linares ESP 2005 [51...Nb2+ 52.Ke2 (52.Kc1 Nd3+ 53.Kb1 Nxf2 is a dead draw, while) 52...Nc4 repeats]

Finally, the world's number two player (Viswanathan Anand) took on the world's number three (Veselin Topalov), and won a seesaw struggle.

(10) Anand,Viswanathan (2786) - Topalov,Veselin (2757) [C42]
Linares Spain (2), 24.02.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 8.g4 h6 9.Qd2 b4 10.Na4 Nbd7 11.0-0-0 Ne5

Topalov repeats the important novelty he introduced against world champ Vladimir Kramnik in the recently completed Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee. 12.b3 [The Kramnik-Topalov game concluded with perhaps the shortest slow chess loss of Kramnik's super-GM career: 12.Qxb4 Bd7 13.Nb3?! (13.Nc3 may be better, according to GM Scherbakov in Chess Today.) 13...Rb8 14.Qa3? Nxf3 15.h3 Nxe4 16.Be2 Ne5 17.Rhe1 Qc7 18.Bd4 Nc6 19.Bc3 d5 20.Nbc5 Qa7 0-1, Kramnik-Topalov, Corus 2005] 12...d5 13.Bf4 Bd6 14.Bxe5 Bxe5 15.Nc6 Qc7 16.Nxe5 Qxe5 17.Qxb4 dxe4 [17...Rb8!?] 18.Nb6 Rb8 19.Kb1 [Anand could have forced perpetual with 19.Qa4+ Ke7 20.Qb4+ Ke8=] 19...Qc7 20.Qa4+ Kf8 21.Nxc8 Rxc8 22.Qc4 Qxc4 [22...Qb8 23.Qd4 exf3 24.Bxa6 e5 25.Qa4= S9] 23.Bxc4 a5 [23...exf3 24.Bxa6 Rb8 25.Rdf1=] 24.Ba6 Rb8

leaves us with a very interesting ending. White might have a slight pull due to the bishop vs. knight advantage, but Black's central and kingside pawn mass is just about enough to equalize. 25.fxe4 h5! 26.gxh5 Nxe4= [26...Rxh5 27.Rd4+/-] 27.Rd4 Nf6 28.Be2 Nxh5 29.Rh4 g6 30.Rg1 Ke7 31.Ra4 Ra8 [31...Ng7 32.Rg2 Ra8 33.Bf3 Ra7= 34.b4 Nf5 35.Be2 (35.Rxa5 Rxa5 36.bxa5 Nh4-/+) 35...Ne3 36.Rf2 Rc8 37.Rxa5 Rxa5 38.bxa5 Nxc2=/+] 32.Bf3 Ra7 33.Rg5 f5 [33...Ng7 34.Rgxa5 Rxa5 35.Rxa5 f5 36.Ra7+ Kf6 37.b4+/-] 34.Rxg6+- White seems to be in control now, but it's still a mess - enough so that just a few imprecise moves sufficed to let Black equalize! 34...Kf7 35.Rg2 Nf6 36.Re2 Rh3 37.Bh1 Ng4 38.Kb2 Kf6 39.Bg2 Rxh2 40.Bf3 Rxe2 41.Bxe2=/+ Ne3 42.c4 e5 43.c5 e4 44.b4

The next two moves are key. Black can either go for a counterattack, as in the note, or can employ the clever switchback idea offered in the next note. Both should suffice to draw, but Topalov, recipient of a gift yesterday, was destined to be the Santa du jour. 44...Rc7 [44...Rd7 45.bxa5 Rd2+ 46.Kb3 Rxe2 47.a6 Nd5 48.a7 Re3+ 49.Kc4 Nc7 50.a8Q Nxa8 51.Rxa8 Re1 and I'm not sure what's going on here, but I think Black is okay: White's c-pawn may be a move ahead in the race, but Black's connected pawns are probably sufficient compensation.] 45.bxa5 Rxc5?? [The switchback with 45...Ra7 looks good for Black - now White's pawns are all pretty miserable and easily blockaded, and Black should draw routinely.] 46.a6+- Nd5 47.a7 Nc7 48.a8Q Nxa8 49.Rxa8 f4 50.Rf8+ Ke5 51.Bg4 f3 52.Rf5+ Kd4 53.Rxc5 Kxc5 54.Kc3 Kb5 55.Kd2 f2 56.Be2+ Kb4 57.Kc2 Ka3 58.Kb1 e3 59.Ka1 White simply pushes the a-pawn up the board, mating the Black king in the corner if it tries to prevent queening from a8. 1-0

Reppert on the Dragon, and You Can't Always Believe What You Read

Fellow blogger Victor Reppert has started a series on his old Dragon, and the first entry is anything to judge by, it will be well worth following. One point of special interest to me doesn't concern Dragon theory, however, but the trustworthiness of theoretical sources. He presents a game in which he followed the advice given him by the Informant, but it turned out to be bad advice, leading to a forced loss. Nice.

Now, to be fair, theory develops, and what really looked safe and sound at one time may turn out otherwise. Chess is to we limited and fallible human beings as good as infinite in its riches, so we have to discover things a bit at a time. Many - hopefully most theoretical errors in books reflect nothing more than the limits of our abilities even after we've tried our best.

But not all, unfortunately. Here's one particularly odious example, from Alexei Shirov's generally magnificent book Fire on Board (note: many of the annotations in the book are based on notes first given in various publications shortly after the games were played). In game 26, Shirov-Kozul, Biel 1991, Black played 15...b5. Shirov gives this move the dubious sign ('?!') and writes this: "Preferable was 15...Bb5 16.Bxb5 Qxb5 17.Kf2 Rxc1 18.Qxc1 Nc6 19.Qb1 Qa6 20.hxg6 hxg6 21.e5 Rd8 22.Qe4 Qxa2 23.Qh4 Kf8, as in Shirov-I. Gurevich, World Junior Championship, Santiago 1990)."

However, just a few weeks later in the Lloyds Bank tournament in London, Shirov-Ernst continued with the same first 21 moves as Shirov-Gurevich, but then White sprang 22.a4!, winning five moves later (though Black could have reached an acceptable but inferior position with best play).

Did Shirov just discover this improvement between the time of his published notes to the first game and his playing the second one? Unfortunately not. In Shirov's comments for the book, he admits that the note with his suggested "improvement" on move 15 of game 26 was "just a trick." Professionals are probably all fully aware that this sort of thing takes place, but amateurs, beware!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Linares: Round 1 Recap

The yearly tournament in Linares, Spain (also the home of the late, great Andres Segovia) - the "world championship of tournaments," as Kasparov once put it - is underway. Round 1 is in the books, and while there will be more thorough commentary available on the web soon, here are at least some first comments to tide you over until then.

Round 1:

Kasimdzhanov-Vallejo Pons, 1/2-1/2, 26 moves
Topalov-Adams, 1-0, 41 moves
Leko-Kasparov, 1/2-1/2, 26 moves
Anand - bye

Kasimdzhanov (the current FIDE knockout champion) - Vallejo Pons never got too interesting to start with, and when the players started repeating the position that was excuse enough to call it a day. The moves:

Kasimdzhanov(GM) (2678) - VallejoPons(GM) (2686) [E52]
Linares Linares, Spain, 23.02.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 b6 7.0-0 Bb7 8.cxd5 exd5 9.a3 Bd6 10.b4 Nbd7 11.Qb3 a6 12.a4 Qe7 13.Rb1 Rfd8N 14.b5 Nf8 15.Bb2 Ne6 16.Rbc1 axb5 17.axb5 Ne4 18.Qc2 N6g5 19.Nxg5 Nxg5 20.Rfe1 h5 21.f4 Ne4 22.Nxe4 dxe4 23.Bc4 Ra5 24.Bc3 Ra3 25.Bb2 Ra5 26.Bc3 Ra3 1/2-1/2

Topalov-Adams was a wholly different affair.

Topalov(GM) (2757) - Adams(GM) (2741) [E37]
Linares Linares, Spain, 23.02.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2

7...e5 8.e3 [8.dxe5 Nc6 9.Nf3 Bf5=/+] 8...exd4 9.cxd5 Qxd5 10.Nf3 Nd6 11.Nxd4 Bd7 12.f3 Nc6 13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.a4 [14.Be2 was seen in an earlier game and looks like a healthier choice in light of the game continuation.] 14...Qh5 15.Be2 Qh4+-/+ 16.g3 Qh3 17.Kf2 0-0-0 [17...0-0 is safer and also good, but White's king will be less vulnerable in this case too.] 18.Ra3 Rhe8

19.Bf1 Qe6 [19...Qh5 is what came to mind while watching this, with good prospects after 20.Bg2 Re6 (or 20...g5 ) ] 20.Be2 g5 Threatening ...g4, puncturing White's light square defenses. 21.Rf1 g4 22.fxg4 Qh6 [22...Qd5 23.Ke1 (23.Rg1 Ne4+-+ 24.Kg2 (24.Kf1 Qd6 with the threat of ...Qf6+ 25.Rg2 Nd2+-+) 24...Ng5+ 25.Kf1 Nh3 26.Qf5+ Qxf5+ 27.gxf5 Re5 is completely winning) 23...Qg2 leaves Black with a big advantage; 22...h5 is also quite strong] 23.Kg1 Qh3 24.Bd3 Black is still better, but White has consolidated quite a bit and covered most of the open lines. 24...Ne4 25.Rf4 Nxg3

Looks impressive, but the bad news is that White doesn't have to take the knight. 26.Rc3! [26.hxg3?? Rxd3 wins 27.Rxd3 (27.Qxd3 Qg2#) 27...Qh1+ 28.Kf2 Qg2+ 29.Ke1 Qxc2] 26...Re6?? [26...Rxd3 was forced 27.Rxd3 Rg8 28.e4 Bxe4 29.Rxg3 Qxg3+ 30.hxg3 Bxc2 31.Rxf7 Bg6 32.Re7 Re8 else White plays Bf4 and is at least equal (32...Kd8 doesn't help, due to 33.Bg5) 33.Rxe8+ Bxe8 34.a5 and White draws.] 27.e4 Suddenly, White is winning! 27...Nh5 28.Bc4 Qh4 29.Bxe6+ fxe6 30.gxh5 Qxh5 31.Rd3 Rg8+ 32.Rg3 Rd8 33.Be3 e5 34.Rf1 h6 35.b4 a6 36.b5 axb5 37.axb5 Bxb5 38.Rg7 c6 39.Qa2 Ba6 40.Qe6+ Kb8 41.Qd6+!


A tragedy for Adams, but it shows the level of resistance one must expect at the super-GM level.

Finally, we turn to the marquee matchup of the day, Leko-Kasparov:

Leko(GM) (2749) - Kasparov(GM) (2804) [B90]
Linares Linares, Spain, 23.02.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f3 e6 7.Be3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 Nb6 10.a4 Nc4 11.Bxc4 bxc4 12.a5 Bb7 13.Na4N Rc8 14.Qc3 Nd7 15.0-0-0 Be7 16.h4 Bxh4

[17.Qb4 Rb8 18.Qxd6 Be7 19.Nc6 (19.Nxe6 fxe6 20.Qxe6 Qc7 21.Nb6 Nxb6 22.axb6 Qc6 23.Qe5 Kf7 24.Bd4 Rbg8 25.Qf5+ Ke8 and White certainly has good compensation here.) 19...Bxd6 20.Nxd8 Be7 21.Nxb7 Rxb7 22.Nb6 c3+/=; 17.Nb6 Nxb6 18.Nxe6 fxe6 19.Qxg7 a) 19.Bxb6 Bg5+-+; b) 19.Rxh4 0-0-+ (but 19...Qxh4 20.Qxg7 keeps things fun.) ; 19...Bf6 20.Qxb7 was a fun idea I was looking at during the game, but Black has one (more than) sufficient resource: 20...Na4 21.Rxd6 Qxd6 22.Qxc8+ Ke7 23.Qb7+ Qd7 24.Qb4+ Kf7-+] 17...Bf6 18.Bd4 [18.Qb4] 18...e5 19.Be3 Be7 20.Kb1 [20.Ng3 g6] 20...Qc7 21.Nb6 Nxb6 22.axb6 Qd7 White's fine here, but his next few moves seem to just waste time and, if anything, leave the queenside more vulnerable. 23.Rh5 f6 24.Ng3 g6 25.Rh2 0-0 26.Rhd2

[26.Rhd2 Qb5 seems to leave White in big trouble! 27.f4 d5 28.Rxd5 Bxd5 29.Rxd5 Bb4 The point. 30.Rxb5 Bxc3 31.Rd5 Be1

seems to be winning for Black - the only question is if White's b-pawn can bother Black enough to create some drawing chances.] 1/2-1/2

Pairings for round 2:

Vallejo Pons - bye

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Chess and Music

In the last few days, I've come across a couple of sites featuring music dedicated to chess, (accessible here and here). But when it comes to sheer cornball fun, follow this link and take a listen. If you can make it through the song without cracking up, you should first seek immediate medical attention and then consider a career as a poker player or a secret service agent.

My Favorite Strategy!?

Sometimes non- and casual chess players will ask me: "What's your favorite strategy?" I've always heard this question as something like asking a philosopher to name her favorite law of logic; a question that makes sense to those whose exposure to the game is mostly limited to the Scholar's Mate but not to the SERIOUS [here one pulls his lapels] chess player. The problem is that only very cooperative opponents will allow "strategies" like the four-move checkmate to work, so we quickly learn to adapt - a process that will lead to our mastering hundreds, even thousands of mini-strategies, each applying to some positions but not to others.

But upon reflecting on a game I won a few days ago, one of countless blitz and bullet games won using essentially the same, cookbook-like approach, I've come to reconsider.

Here's the game, played with 1 minute per side:


1. d4 c5 2. d5 e5 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4

Be7 5. f4 exf4 6. Bxf4 a6 7. Nf3

Bg4 8. a4 Bxf3 9. Qxf3

Bg5 10. Be2 Bxf4 11. Qxf4 Qf6 12. O-O Qxf4 13. Rxf4 Nd7 14.Raf1 Ne5

15. Bd3 Ne7 16. Ne2 N7g6 17. Rf5 O-O 18. Nf4 Nxf4 19. R5xf4 f6 20.g4 c4 21. Be2 b5 22. axb5 axb5 23. b3 cxb3 24. cxb3 b4 25. Bd1 Ra2 26. g5 Rd2 27. gxf6 Rxf6 28. Rxf6 gxf6 29. h4 Kg7 30. h5 h6 31. Bf3 Rd3 32. Bd1 Re3 33. Rf4 Re1+ 34. Rf1 Rxf1+ 35. Kxf1 f5 36. exf5 Kf6

37. Bc2 Ng4 38. Ke2 Ke5 39. Kd3 Kxd5 40. Bb1 Nf6 41. Bc2 Nxh5 42. Bd1 Nf6 {White forfeits on time} 0-1

Black's plan was very simple and can be delineated in four steps:

1. Create the locked pawn formation which renders Black's dark-squared and White's light-squared bishops bad. (See the position after White's 5th move.)

2. Trade off the dark-squared bishops. (Thus Black's 9th move.)

3. Trade off the light-squared bishop for a knight. (Sometimes 3 must be done before 2, as in the game - see Black's 7th move.)

4. Maximize the good knight vs. bad bishop advantage, fixing the opponent's pawns on light squares. (This occurs, roughly, from moves 14-36 of the above game.)

With steps 1-4 complete, all that's left is to devour all the light-squared goodies - bon appetit!

Of course, White can stop this plan from succeeding, though its relative sophistication makes it (much) more likely to be effective even against reasonably strong opponents. But okay, really: is my "4-step win" different in kind from the 4-move checkmate?

Maybe I have an answer for the casual chess player!

Here and There

(1) We've certainly spent quite a bit of time and space looking at IM Andrew Martin's earlier contributions to TWIC Theory; this week, I'll merely note the presence of his third installment, which offers an unusual Black response to the Trompowsky.

(2) I've always loved studies, and like all my readers (I hope!) I have a sense of humor, too. So what could be better than a tournament combining the two? I'm not sure if all the entries to the Humor Study Composing Tournament are or are going to be available to the general public, but the amazing second prize-winning entry can be found and replayed in Tim Krabbé's outstanding Open Chess Diary (see entry 276).

(3) Finally, the Linares super-tournament is about to start (see here for TWIC's news item and here for the tournament website [in Spanish]). There will be several good places to see it live (ChessBase's server, for example, which will almost surely have plenty of informal GM and computer commentary), but where do we go to see high-quality analysis after the fact? If you can read Russian, you're in luck: the Chess pro website has lots of great material.

If you're like me and can't, however, you (and I) may still be in luck: Jim Marfia has opened a site with his own translations of some of the best recent material from the Chess pro site, and I'm hoping he'll have the time, inclination and permission to continue doing so with their coverage of Linares. I know I'll be checking, and if you do too, please send him a thank-you note - Marfia's many translations over the years have contributed greatly to English-speakers' chess literature.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Chess Isn't a Sport, Revisited

The ever-active Boylston Chess Club blog has taken on Howard Goldowsky as a guest blogger. Welcome aboard!

Mr. Goldowsky's opening post challenges my earlier argument that chess is not a sport, based, appropriately enough, on his rejection of my definition of sport. On my view, it's a necessary condition of some activity's being a sport that it has an irreducibly physical component, while Goldowsky thinks it's a sufficient condition that its practitioner relies on timing and pattern recognition.

It's clear that the pattern recognition condition fits chess, but it seems to fit universally acceptted sports as well: in football offensive players need to recognize defensive alignments and defensive players various offensive schemes; in basketball, there's the pick-and-roll and the zone defense; in baseball, the batter looks for characteristic arm movements, leg kick and ball rotation patterns from the pitcher, and so on. And certainly timing is important in those sports as well, as the reader can readily confirm for him or herself.

[A brief aside: the meaning of "timing" is pretty clear when it comes to sports, but it may be equivocal when applied to chess. There isn't some physical movement requiring excellence in timing; rather, timing in chess has to do, broadly, with the way in which one attempts to execute some idea - with the order of moves. Thus it's a conceptual sense of timing rather than a physical sense, and one might think that it's the latter sense of timing rather than the former that's appropriate to an activity's being a sport. I'm congenial to this objection, but will let it pass for the remainder of this post.]

That's a bit of the positive case, but now let's turn to critique. Goldowsky says that timing and pattern recognition are sufficient - presumably he means jointly sufficient - for some activity's being a sport, which means that any activity requiring those two conditions will automatically be a sport.

So here's a very partial list of new sports:

(1) Driving. Of course auto racing is a sport, but Goldowsky's definition makes all ordinary driving a sport as well. Clearly there's pattern recognition involved - one learns how to negotiate the roadways without getting into accidents, and preferably without getting into situations in which accidents are reasonably likely to occur. And certainly driving involves timing, too; ergo, driving is a sport.

(2) Poetry. Language use involves tons of pattern recognition - indeed, words are patterns of a certain sort - and timing (including but not limited to meter) is involved too. So, poetry is a sport.

(3) Making music. Recognizing key structures, chord progressions and so on are all clear cases of pattern recognition, and the role of timing in music is obvious. Music is a sport!

Without elaborating the details, we can also include (4) walking, (5) cooking and (6) brushing one's teeth as sports, too. But clearly, I think, a definition of sport that includes (1)-(6) as instances is an overly liberal definition.

Perhaps Goldowsky's definition can be improved by adding some further conditions - a competition condition, for example. That would plausibly render (1), (4) and even (6) as sports, though even then I remain skeptical about (2), (3) and (5).

Even if this is waived for the sake of argument, I think there is another problem. Even if we suppose that it's sufficient for something's being a sport that it involve pattern recognition and timing, that won't show that chess is a sport. The reason is that it's possible for someone or some thing to play chess without recognizing any pattern at all; say, by using a purely brute force approach. God, for example, or some sort of idealized computer [assuming, as I don't, that a computer plays chess at all] is the sort of being who could figure chess out from move 1 through the end without recognizing any patterns at all (beyond those required to involve and interpret the rules of the game).

It might be objected that even if God or some super-powerful intellect could play without relying on pattern recognition, we humans can't. True enough, but I claimed that chess isn't a sport, because the game doesn't necessarily have the conditions required of a sport. Likewise, even if chess sometimes fits Goldowsky's definition, it doesn't always - doesn't necessarily.

In sum, Goldowsky's definition of a sport is too liberal, letting in many activities that clearly are not sports . The definition also fails to include chess per se. So I conclude that while chess has many characteristics of a sport - it's sports-like - it is nevertheless not a sport, strictly speaking.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Follow-up (2) on TWIC Theory II: Return of the Dragon

In my previous post I addressed some background issues concerning Martin's latest contribution to TWIC Theory; in this post I will briefly address some of Victor Reppert's suggestions to rehabilitate Black's fortunes against Martin's (and Rogozenko's) critiques.

We start with the position after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.O-O-O Qa5 11.Bb3 Rfc8 12.Kb1 Ne5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.h4 Re8 15.h5 Nxh5 16.Bh6.

Martin is following the game Movsesian (2624)-Bergez (2370), Cappelle op 2002 which concluded rather brutally for Black after 16...Bxh6 17.Qxh6 Rxc3 18.bxc3

18...Rc8 19.g4 Nf6 20.g5 Nh5 21.Rxh5 gxh5 22.Nf5 Bxf5 23.exf5 (threatening 24.f6) Kh8 24.Rh1 Qd8 25.g6 Nxg6 26.Qxh5 Qg8 27.fxg6 fxg6 28.Qh3 1-0

Dragon fan and fellow blogger Victor Reppert offers two improvements, one for each diagram above.

(I) 16...Bh8 instead of 16...Bxh6.
(II) 18...Nf6 instead of 18...Rc8, with the key point that 19.g4 Bxg4! gives Black good compensation.

I offer the following not as anything remotely resembling the final truth of the matter, but as a start for future analysis:

(I) 16...Bh8 17.g4 Nf6 18.Qh2 and now three lines:

(IA) 18...Bxg4? 19.fxg4 Nexg4 (19...Rxc3 20.Bd2+-) 20.Qg2 Nxh6 21.Rxh6+-
(IB) 18...Nc4 19.Bxc4 Rxc4 20.Nd5 and Black is in trouble, e.g. 20...e6 (20...Nxd5 21.Bd2+-) 21.Nxf6+ Bxf6 22.Bf4 h5 23.Nb3+-
(IC) 18...Bc6 looks reasonable, not rushing to commit and helping shore up the d5 square. White has lots of possibilities here; I'll just present one: 19.Qh3 (with the idea of 20.Bg5; 19.Bg5? failed due to 20...Nexg4-+) e6 20.Qh4+=, or 20.Bg5 Nexg4 21.Bh4 Ne3 22.Nxc6 bxc6 23.Bxf6 Rh5 24.Qxh5 gxh5 25.Rdg1+ Ng4 26.Bxh8 Kxh8 27.fxg4 hxg4 28.Rxg4 Rg8+=.

(II) 18...Nf6 19.Ne2 and now two ideas come to mind, both with the idea of advancing Black's queenside counterplay with ...Nc4:

(IIA) 19...Bb5 20.Nf4 (threatening 21.Nd5) and now

(IIA1) 20...Nc4 21.Nd5 Qa3 22.Nxf6+ exf6 23.Qxh7+ Kf8 24.Qh6+ Ke7 25.Qc1 and Black's compensation seems inadequate.
(IIA2) 20...e6 21.Qg5 (preventing ...Nc4 because of the horizontal pin - 21...Nc4?? 22.Bxc4 Bxc4?? 23.Qxa5) Qd8 (21...Nfd7 22.Rxh7! Kxh7 23.Rh1+ Kg7 24.Nh5+ Kf8 25.Nf6+-) 22.Rd4 +-

(IIB) 19...b5 20.Nf4 (the prophylactic 20.Ka1 might be best, preparing Rb1 in case of emergency) Bc6 and now there are lots of possibilities, like 21.Nd3, 21.Rh3 and 21.Rd4, and just for fun, 21.Rd5!? Bxd5 22.Nxd5 Ned7 (22...Nc4!?) 23.f4 e6 24.Nxf6+ Nxf6 25.e5 Ne4 26.Qxh7+ Kf8 27.exd6 Nxd6 28.Qh6+ Ke7 29.Qg5+ Kd7 30.Rd1 Rd8 31.Qe5 Qb6 32.g4 with some initiative.

I'm sure much more can be said about this, but Reppert is right that Black can at the very least put up much more of a fight. Perhaps St. George hasn't slain the 10...Qa5 Dragon just yet!

Follow-up (1) on TWIC Theory II: Return of the Dragon

This week's TWIC Theory features Andrew Martin taking on 10...Qa5 in the Sicilian Dragon, focusing on 11.O-O-O Rfc8 12.Kb1 Ne5 13.Bg5 as more or less refuting the variation.

[Position after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 O-O 8.Bb3 d6 9.f3 Bd7 10.Qd2 Qa5 11.O-O-O Rfc8 12.Kb1 Ne5 13.Bg5]

My initial impression as a non-Dragon player was that Martin was offering something new or at least little-known (which he often does in his theoretical articles), but it turns out that he's reporting what looks like the consensus: in PowerBook 2004, White's score after 13.Bg5 (sometimes called the "Moles Variation") is a garish (from Black's perspective) 73%, Golubev praises the move and gives line after line leading to a clear White advantage, and Rogozenko's ChessBase work on the Dragon praises 13.Bg5 as well as "a very attractive line for White, which offers multiple possibilities both in the middlegame and the endgame." Thus while I don't have Ward's latest Dragon book or the new Gambit volume, there seems to be widespread agreement in both theory and practice as to the virtues of the Moles Variation.

As 12.h4 is viewed as the main line, however, Martin is performing a useful service for the White player by letting him or her avoid much potentially superfluous theory, so even if he's simply repeating what others have already written, publicizing that information has value.

Unfortunately, Martin's repetition of others' work is taken to an extreme. Compare the following:

On move 15 of the game Arizmendi-Etchegaray, White played 15.Nb3. Martin offers this note:

"15.Bxf6 brings nothing, here is a recent example: Bxf6 16.Nd5 Qxd2 17.Nxf6+ Kg7! 18.Nh5+ Kh6! A well-known motif - Black isn't forced to break the pawn structure. 19.Rxd2 Kxh5 20.Ne2 1/2-1/2, Lobron, E-Cebalo M/Wijk aan Zee 2003"

Rogozenko annotated this same Arizmendi-Etchegaray game for ChessBase long before Martin's TWIC Theory column came out; here's what he had to say about this variation:

"15.Bxf6 brings nothing, here is a recent example: Bxf6 16.Nd5 Qxd2 17.Nxf6+ Kg7! 18.Nh5+ Kh6! A well-known motif - Black isn't forced to break the pawn structure. 19.Rxd2 Kxh5 20.Ne2 1/2-1/2, Lobron, E-Cebalo M/Wijk aan Zee 2003"

Hmm, I'm getting a sense of deja vu. Continuing along, after 15.Nb3 Black plays 15...Qd8. Here's Martin:

"After 15...Qd8? we will see Black fall victim to one of the typical traps in this line where he gets wiped out in the center."

Now Rogozenko:

"There are so many opening traps in the modern theory of chess openings, that it is hardly possible even for a GM to remember all of them. However, if one plays [the] Dragon, one should know certain typical dangers."

Not so bad; but what do they have to say Black should have done?

Martin: "15...Qe5 is practically the only move, although I am not sure that the resulting positions are satisfactory for Black at all: [line follows]"

Rogozenko writes this: "15...Qe5 is correct [Note: the word "correct" appears in his first set of notes for ChessBase - presumably for some issue of ChessBase Magazine, but drops out in his notes to the game on his Dragon CD] and practically the only move, although I am not sure that the resulting positions are completely satisfactory for Black."

Then, after 15...Qd8? 16.e5!, Martin writes: "Of course. The idea is as old as Dragon itself [sic]. This was the initial main idea behind the move Be3-g5 (although in different variations)." This passage can be found verbatim in Rogozenko's analysis.

Martin's second game (Hernandez-Amura) isn't annotated in any of my sources, so I can't do any comparing with that one. Still, it is clear that Martin repeatedly lifted Rogozenko's notes without quotation or attribution, though unless one is aware of a pattern in his work, the charitable interpretation is that he imported Rogozenko's annotations for the sake of his research (something I do when preparing my weekly audio lectures for ChessBase) but neglected to make a note in the game file as to whose notes were whose (something I'm careful to do, for precisely this reason).

All that is by way of background discussion; next I'll turn to a brief discussion of some Victor Reppert's suggestions.

More on the Anti-French Line - and a New Question

Two very interesting comments have come in on the Anti-French Line starting 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3, and its skeletons are starting to come out of the closet.

Rick Kennedy's comment addresses some of the divergences between the work I've independently done (some of which I've presented here) and that of the gambit's originator, Stefan Bücker. For instance, after 4...Nf6, I considered and played 5.e5 for a while before moving on to 5.Nc3, but Bücker (at least in 1983) was advocating 5.e5 Ne4 6.Nf3. Second, in the gambit accepted with 4...dxe4 5.Bc4 Qe7 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.d3 exd3+, Bücker prefers 8.Be3 to the 8.Kf1 advocated in my initial Anti-French post.

Bucker is right on both counts, although I'm ambivalent about the first case, as the positions after 4...Nf6 5.e5 Ne4 6.Nf3 are rather flat and allow Black several ways to keep the balance. (For problems with 5.Nc3, see Dragon's comment here. My view is that unless Black is a strong player who has worked things out in advance with the computer, White has nothing to fear, but the chess truth is in Black's favor there, as far as I can tell.)

The second case is more interesting and entertaining. Dragon's line, which I also discovered some time ago as well (as did Bücker, I'm sure), refutes 8.Kf1, but 8.Be3 is more robust. Ironically, when I was figuring out the line for myself, years ago, 8.Be3 was the first move I came up with, but since 8...d2+ in reply can force the king to move anyway and I'd rather have the bishop on g5, I moved on to 8.Kf1.

It turns out that 8...d2+ isn't such a big deal, but Black can get an edge if he threads the needle very carefully: 9.Kxd2 Nc6! 10.Re1 Ne5! 11.Bf1 (not the most forceful move, obviously, but allowing 12...Nxc4+ 13.Qxc4 Be6 gives Black an easier life) Qd6!

(11...c6 is less clear: 12.Bd4 Nfg4 (12...Be6 13.Rxe5 Bxb3 14.Rxe7+ Bxe7 15.Bxf6 Rd8+ 16.Kc1 Bxf6 17.axb3 is similar) 13.Bxe5 Nxe5 14.f4 Be6 15.Rxe5 O-O-O+ 16.Kb1 Bxb3 17.Rxe7+ Bxe7 18.axb3 results in an imbalanced ending which is probably slightly in Black's favor, but it's not unusual to find the two minors coming into their own against the rook.)

12.Kc1 Be7 13.Nb5 Qc6+ 14.Qc3 Qxc3+ 15.bxc3 and now Nd5 gives Black some pull, though I believe White can hold.

In sum, the improvements are there for Black, but finding them OTB is an arduous task, and in most cases White's disadvantage is at worst a slight one.

Here's a new question (discuss amongst yourselves...I'll give you a topic): is it somehow improper to play such variations; that is, to play a line one knows to be unsound? Reasons one might think so include disrespecting the game, disrespecting one's opponent, placing competitive ends over the sorts of noble motives like self-improvement and creating beauty one might think necessary to ethically justify playing chess, etc.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

A Game and a Puzzle, Revisited

Just over two weeks ago, I presented an attractive little game by the late 19th/early 20th century British great Joseph Henry Blackburne, expressing not just my appreciation for the game but my perplexity that the move 10.Qd8! (instead of 10.c3? as in the game) leaves Black needing to scrap a bit just to save a draw.

(Position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ g6 7.Qxe5 d6 8.Qxh8 Qh4 9.O-O Nf6 10.Qd8)

Rick Kennedy has offered a very useful comment, helpfully providing notes from several other sources. In reply, I'd first like to express my gratitude to Mr. Kennedy for taking the time to write, and I look forward to investigating the links he has included.

As for the analysis, most of it repeats what I presented, but three lines are worth mentioning.

(1) 7...Qe7! I hadn't explicitly said it, but I certainly implied that Blackburne's 6...g6 was objectively a mistake, played for the sake of "coffeehousing" his opponent when the simple 6...Kf8 7.Qxe5 d6 leaves White without any real compensation for the material. I still think 6...Kf8 is a good move, but I didn't even consider 7...Qe7 (after 6...g6 7.Qxe5). If White doesn't take the rook, then the situation is essentially the same as it is after 6...Kf8, while if White does take the rook, it's pretty easy to prove that Black wins.

(2) In my main line, Kennedy, citing analysis by Geoff Chandler and Todor Dimitrov, varies from my 12.Qxb7 with 12.gxh3, showing that it likewise draws after 12...Qxh3 13.Qxb7 Qg4+ 14.Kh1 Qf3+ etc. or 13...Ng4 14.Qxa8+ etc. (Note that Black can't escape the checks with 14...Ke7 15.Qb7+! Kf6?? [15...Kd8/e8/f8=] because of 16.e5+ followed by 17.Qg2.)

(3) Chandler & Dimitrov also mention 12.Qxb7 and suggest it loses, but the culprit is not 12.Qxb7 but their 14.e5?, after which Black has a forced mate.

Very interesting and I'm grateful to Kennedy for his comment...but my dream remains unfulfilled - can't Black win after 10.Qd8, somehow?

The Ongoing Tragedy of New York Chess

New York City is the richest city in the world. It's also, I think, the strongest single chess city in the world, too - home to grandmasters and international masters from all over the world. Paul Morphy made his shining debut there in 1857. Steinitz, Lasker and Capablanca all lived in New York for part of their lives. It was home to Frank Marshall, Sammy Reshevsky and of course, Bobby Fischer.

Further, New York chess wasn't just about the people; it was about the institutions as well. There's the Marshall Chess Club, the Manhattan Chess Club, the New York Open, the New York Masters, and the list goes on and on.

Yet while money and talent remain in abundance in the Big Apple, the institutions have not. Jose Cuchi's great series of New York Open tournaments ceased in the late 90s, the venerable Manhattan Chess Club closed its doors in 2002, and now the New York Masters is gone, too.

The New York Masters was a weekly rapid event open to players with ratings of 2200 and above (with some minor allowances for juniors), and from its onset in 2002 until its cessation a couple of weeks ago, it was an important part of the American chess calendar. Titled players from Central America, Africa, Europe and Asia all participated in this event, to say nothing of players from around the U.S. and of course New York. It offered GMs a chance to get in some practice between larger events and make some money, and it offered the rest of us a chance to play the GMs.

The event had plenty of sponsors, was generally pretty well-attended both at the top end (there were usually about 4 GMs each week) and, most encouragingly, at the lower end by hungry young players making their brisk climb up the ladder. It had a well-established site (the Marshall Chess Club every Tuesday evening), a web presence (not just its own web site but very well-attended live broadcasts on the Internet Chess Club), and was such a good idea that it has since found imitators in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

So what happened? Why did it stop? As far as I can tell, there were no scandals, no problems with sponsors or the Marshall club - nothing unseemly or otherwise untoward. Rather, the two individuals (John Fernandez and IM Greg Shahade) who both originated the event and kept it alive every week decided to move on to other projects.

I certainly can't blame them. American chess in general and especially the New York chess community owes them both a real debt of gratitude. Both John and Greg spent a great deal of their time every week making it happen, and without collecting a cent in return, as far as I'm aware.

Let's do better than owe a debt of gratitude, however. I spoke to John for a few minutes earlier tonight, and as far as he knows, the sponsors would still be on board if the series was somehow to continue, and I'm sure chess players and internet spectators would gladly resume their Tuesday night participation as well. What's needed is for someone in New York to step up to the plate and make it happen.

If you live in that area, can afford to give a few hours of your time each week in support of a great chess tradition - one which has helped foster the development of some very talented American juniors over the past three years - then I hope you'll consider doing your part to get the New York Masters back up and running. (Those who are interested can leave comments here and/or utilize the contact information on the New York Masters web site.) And more generally, the moral for all of us is to support our local chess clubs!

Friday, February 18, 2005

This Monday's ChessBase Show

Most of the time, my show presents old games, in part because chess players coming of age in this internet, primarily post-book generation are far less likely to be aware of these masterpieces. Why then am I presenting a game from the ongoing 18th World Correspondence Championship?

The answer is twofold: first, while my focus is on older games, my eyes are open to rich, beautiful games, no matter when they were played. But second, and in keeping with the motivation stated above, correspondence chess is badly neglected by over-the-board (OTB) players, so I'm motivated to help bring some of its jewels to the attention of the broader chess world.

And this week's game is indeed a jewel, a heavyweight battle between the newly crowned 18th World Correspondence Champion Joop van Oosterom and Manfred Nimtz. The game as a whole is really impressive, and starts off with a bang, featuring one of the hottest lines in contemporary chess, the English Attack in the Sicilian Najdorf. After

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 8.g4 h6 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.O-O-O Bb7 11.h4 b4 12.Na4 Qa5 13.b3 Rc8 14.Rg1 Nc5 15.g5, the following ultra-sharp position arises:

Previous games saw 15...Nxa4 and Nimtz tried 15...hxg5, but what's really going on? I'm not completely sure myself, but I'll do my best to provide as much clarity as I can. And even if we can't figure everything out (who can?), we'll still have seen a beautiful game and come to know more about the Najdorf - a must for most serious tourament players.

I hope to see you Monday night (click here for information about viewing the show)!

Junk Openings and "My" Anti-French Line

In two posts so far (here and here - and more to come), I have presented an objectively dubious but practically dangerous line against the French (1.e4 e6 2.c4!? d5 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Qb3?!), and Rick Kennedy and DG each have an important question.

Kennedy asks if I learned of this line through the work of eccentric openings theorist Stefan Bücker. (I add that that "eccentric" modifies "openings," though his ideas are so unusual one might start to wonder!) The answer is yes: I read an article about him in an issue of New In Chess back in the mid-to-late 1980s. The majority of the article's chess content, as I recall, presented the alleged virtues of his most famous invention, the Vulture (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 Ne4?!), while only mentioning the four moves in the first paragraph's parentheses, without comment.

It seemed interesting, and there wasn't any theory on it in the traditional sources (and no databases to look up Bücker's games or anyone else's in the variation), so I worked out what I could and started to play it from time to time. I would be interested to know what conclusions he's drawn about the line, but at this point, what I'm writing about this variation is solely the product of my games and analysis.

DG's query is of a very different sort - he wants to know if I'm going to tell the beleagured French player how to defend! My first inclination was to encourage him to work out a good response for himself, and that was my second inclination, too. But here are four thoughts to help him (and others in his shoes) as they do.

First, think about it this way: if this line isn't mentioned in the usual sources (even the recent third edition of John Watson's excellent Play the French doesn't mention it) and there aren't any real players trotting it out, then it must be pretty bad! So if I were in your shoes, I'd cultivate an attitude of offense: I'm going to find a way to destroy this garbage.

Second, you might want to re-read my early post on responding to junk openings. White's goal is to sac a pawn or two in return for a raging initiative, so one counter-approach is to look for a way to turn the tables - especially considering that White hasn't done much to develop by move four.

Third, help will come in due course. I will eventually address some of the problems with the variation, but having spent so much time on it over the years I'm not in a hurry to send it to the grave. And I'd like other players to enjoy it for a while too!

Finally, let me reassure you that the French is safe. In fact, I'm willing to make an informal bet with my readers that there are at least a dozen ways, starting from move 2, that Black can achieve rough equality or better. (I haven't counted anything up - it's just my strong suspicion.) That's yet to come, however; for now, I'll continue to present White's trumps and leave French players with the opportunity to develop their own contributions to the theory of this variation.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dragon Resources

For those who are interested in keeping up with the latest and greatest in Sicilian Dragon theory, you might want to check out's opening-specific bulletin board. To receive the GM's analysis requires paying, but the bulletin board is free to browse (and perhaps to post, too). (Hat tip to Victor Reppert for the BB's URL.)

Another suggestion: TWIC has an item about a "Rest of the World" match, with the ongoing, featured game a typically wild Yugoslav Dragon. Interested readers can try to track everything down - I suspect there will be a place where all the team discussions on the opening-to-date have been logged, but I don't know that for certain.

I hope these references are of use to the Dragon fans out there, but I'd like to remind all members of that often very loyal tribe of devotees that there are other openings worthy of your efforts and attention as well!

King and Pawn Endings, Part Six

A few days ago, I offered this amazing position as a challenge to the readers:

Laveryd-Wikstrom, Umea 1997. Black to move; what should the result be?

On the queenside, the two kings are in a mutual zugzwang, so it would certainly appear to come down to tempo play on the kingside. If it were just a matter of the g- and h-pawns, White would simply copy Black's play, Black would run out of moves, and that would apparently be that. However, the f- and especially the mutual doubled e-pawns make things far more complicated and interesting, as we will see.

Line 1: 1...f6/1...f5

If 1...f5 (1...f6 is the same, obviously) 2.exf6 gxf6 3.g4, Black's king will run out of moves: 3...h6 4.h4 e5 (4...f5 5.g5) 5.h5 and Black loses.

Line 2: 1...g6

This move allows White to use the copycat strategy to run Black out of moves: 1...g6 2.g3 h6 3.h3 h5 (3...g5 4.g4) 4.h4 and again, Black is in a losing zugzwang.

Line 3: 1...g5

This works the same way: White copies and wins.

1...g5 2.g4 h6 3.h3 and it's over.

Line 4: The tricky 1...h6

Now things get interesting. It would seem that there isn't any difference at all between pushing the g-pawn and pushing the h-pawn: copycatting should lead to the same problem. Let's see:

1...h6 and now

(A) 2.h3 h5 3.h4 (all other moves lose, as White will rapidly fall into a fatal zugzwang, as the reader can confirm for him or herself) g5!!

Now White has three options, but amazingly, all three lose:

(A1) 4.g3 g4 and White is in a losing zugzwang position. (This was the continuation in the game, and White resigned here.)
(A2) 4.f3/4 exf3 4.gxf3 gxh4 and Black queens.
(A3) 4.hxg5 h4 and White is in a fatal zugzwang: pushing any kingside pawn leads to Black queening (5.g3 h3; 5.f3/4 exf3 6.gxf3 h3 etc.) while retreating the king loses the c-pawn and gives Black an easy win.

So 2.h3 loses!

(B) 2.g4! wins, however: if 2...g5 3.h3 is zugzwang; 2...f5/6 3.exf6 gxf6 4.h4 wins (transposing to line 1, above); finally, 2...g6 3.h4 and 3...h5 4.g5 or 3...g5 4.h5 lead to the winning zugzwang again.

By process of elimination, it's time to look at our last pawn move:

Line 5: The correct 1...h5!

Again, let's begin with a look at the copycat strategy:

(A) 2.h4? g5! and Black wins - we have transposed to the position after 3...g5 in line 4A.
(B) 2.f3/4? exf3 3.gxf3 h4! and White runs out of pawn moves first: 4.h3 f6 (or 4...f5) 5.exf6 gxf6 6.e4 (or 6.f4 f5) e5: zugzwang.
(C) 2.h3! Incredibly, only this move keeps White alive, but now things are tricky for Black again!

(C1) 2...h4 might seem best, grabbing space, but after 3.g3 Black is lost: 3...g5 4.g4, or 3...hxg3 4.fxg3 g6 (other pawn moves ensure that White gets a passed h-pawn) 5.h4 and wins.
(C2) 2...g5 3.g3 and White wins (3...g4 4.h4; 3...h4 4.g4).
(C3) 2...f5 3.h4 g6 4.g3 and once again, Black is in zugzwang and loses. This just leaves us with
(C4) 2...f6!

Now, once again, White has to be careful - all moves but one lose!

(C4a) 3.exf6 gxf6 4.f3/4 (4.h4 f5 5.g3 e5 and White is in zugzwang) exf3 5.gxf3 h4-+ and by now I'm sure the reader can fill out the details.
(C4b) 3.g3 fxe5 4.h4 g6-+
(C4c) 3.f3/4 exf3 4.gxf3 h4-+ (5.exf6 gxf6 - see C4a; 5.f4 f5; 5.e4 fxe5)
(C4d) 3.h4!

Now Black has two choices: push or capture.

(C4di) 3...f5 4.f4! (forced) exf3 (4...g6 5.g3+-) 5.gxf3 and all three pawn moves lose (as do king moves), two of them interestingly:

(C4di.1) 5...g6 6.f4 is easy.
(C4di.2) 5...g5 6.hxg5 h4 7.g6 h3 8.g7 h2 9.g8Q h1Q 10.Qc8+ Kb6 11.Qxe6+ and White wins this ending routinely.
(C4di.3) 5...f4 6.exf4 g6 looks like it puts White in zugzwang, but by sacrificing the pawn back White wins: 7.f5 gxf5 8.f4 and wins.

So, again by a process of elimination, we have the best move:

(C4dii) 3...fxe5!

Now both 4.g3 g6 and 4.f3/4 exf3 5.gxf3 e4! 6.f4 g6 win for Black, so White must try

4.g4!, when both 4...hxg4 5.h5 and 4...g6! 5.g5 look like the end of the line. It's true in both cases that Black must give up the b-pawn, but in the second variation Black has a wonderful resource:

Here Black must choose correctly, and just as in the Durham-Monokroussos ending, sometimes grabbing the opposition isn't the best way to proceed. Black's best is not 5...Kc6 when 6.Kb4 Kb6 7.c5+ Kc6 8.Kc4 Kc7 9.Kb5 Kb7 10.c6+ Kc8! 11.Kb4! Kb8 12.Kc4! Kc8 13.Kb5! (triangulation - again as in the Durham-Monokroussos ending) Kc7 14.Kc5 and White's king will have breakfast, lunch and dinner on the e-file, with two scoops for dessert if he so chooses.

The right defense is 5...Kb6! (or 5...Kd6!), when after 6.Kxb4 Kc6 White has nothing better than 7.c5. Black has one move left to find, as we've already seen that retreating will lose to triangulation, the best and only move is 7...Kd5!, when White either loses the pawn or stalemates the Black king after 8.Kxb5 - incredible!

A word on sources. First of all, it was shown to me by the famous trainer Mark Dvoretsky in a chess camp in New York in July or August of 2001, and I've since seen it published in Jacob Aagaard's Excelling in Chess Calculation - two authors whose works I can recommend for the serious chess student (for the very serious in Dvoretsky's case, and then only if you're over 2000 or incredibly dedicated). This was a very difficult ending, but Dvoretsky showed it to us (the group had an average rating of 2350-2400 or so) as a little joke, a small warm-up to the real work! But don't worry if you didn't get it; after all, the first two half-moves by the players themselves were blunders. Live and learn, and enjoy the beauty as you go along - it may not be a fully adequate motto for life, but it's not a bad attitude to carry towards the game of chess.