Kenilworth Kibitzer

A blog for members of the Kenilworth Chess Club.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Top 5 Books, Any Suggestions?

In response to a request, here's my list of my top 5 favorite books.  Feel free to toss some in the comments section if you feel I missed out.  

1. Silman's Complete Endgame Course - Jeremy Silman

Some say you should start by learning the endgame first.  If you did then there is no better book I've seen to get you there.  The book is broken into chapters for class E, D, C, B, and A players, then Experts, Masters and beyond.  No matter what your level of expertise it's always good to brush up on material that's meant for people below you, and likewise a class C player with a class A player's endgame knowledge won't be class C for too long.  At the very least you will know how to draw or win simple rook and pawn endings, a talent that is surprisingly uncommon.  Silman's writing is fantastic, there are lots of pictures, and for 99% of us it's the only endgame book you need.

2. 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations - Fred Reinfeld

A fantastic puzzle book divided into different themes of combinations by chapter - forks, discovered check, double attack, etc.  Read it, solve the puzzles that you can, then read it again.  Then again.  A long time ago the Massachusetts Chess Federation (or whatever it was called) was hawking this book along with its companion 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate with the guarantee that if you read each book a few times and your rating didn't go up 200 points then they would refund your money.   Needless to say they are still on my shelf.

3. My System - Aron Nimzowitsch

One of the most accessible and memorable books in chess, My System is a master course in the fundamentals of positional thinking.  In this it is superior to any number of other such books in the wry sense of humor of the author along with the compelling imagery he uses to describe his ideas.  One I'm remembering offhand is a quote about favorable exchanges 'falling like ripe fruit into your lap' if you maximize your position rather than seeking exchanges specifically.  That thought alone has brought me some victories.

4. Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 - David Bronstein

Another timeless classic, this book details the 300 (!) games played at the candidates tournament in 1953 to determine who would face Botvinnik for the World Championship.  The games are of outstanding quality, the tournament itself was very tense with Reshevsky getting as close as anyone until Fischer would ever get to toppling the Soviet machine.  Bronstein annotates all games, and does so in a way that sadly does not get repeated much - with minimal mind-numbing variations, and commentary that is light but brings incredible insight to the positions with minimal effort.  Indeed, the game seem very easy, would that it were true.

5. The Nominees:
I really could not think of a fifth book that  matches the first four in the impact they've had for me, but here's a few that are worthy of consideration:

Understanding Chess Move by Move - John Nunn
Tal-Botvinnik 1960 - Mikhail Tal
Art of Attack - Vladimir Vukovic
Revolution in the 1970s - Garry Kasparov

Monday, June 22, 2009


Chess for insomniacs who don't respond to shock therapy

I was going to comment on the recent Carrelli-Pawlowski game from the Kenilworth CC summer tournament, but I don't have the score in front of me anywhere so that will have to wait.  The short version is that Don managed to sac two queens (!) in a brilliant win.  Given that we're proud of Don when he laces his shoes correctly, this was a stunner.  But back to the position from Portisch-Petrosian from earlier, after 47. Kxf3:

To answer the last question first, if the pawn were on the a-file, this is a dead draw, simply because Black's rook is placed excellently behind the passed pawn.  Black's rook can check White's king endlessly from this position because it will have nowhere to hide except in front of the pawn, which impedes its progress.  If the opposite were true and White's rook were behind the pawn, the position becomes winning for White because Black's rook is forced to be entirely passive, guarding the a-file while White's king runs rampant.  See for example Alekhine-Capablanca 34th game WC match (1927) 1-0.  Alternatively with the Black rook behi
nd the pawn see: Federowicz-Yermolinsky USA Ch (1997) 1/2-1/2.  

So what happens on the b-file?  It turns out to be quite tricky.  In fact, in this case, former world champion Petrosian lost the game, even though he had an overnight adjournment with helper monkeys to solve the puzzle.  First let's see what has since been determined to be Black's best approach to a draw (according to Kantorovich):

47....Kf6! 48. Ke3 Ke6 49. b5 b5 Ke5 50. b6 Ke6

It seems that White has made all the progress and Black
 is merely marking time.  However, after: 51. Kd4 Rb1 52. Rb8 Kd6 53. b7

It turns out the Black is completely safe with the paradoxical 53...Ke7!  
With the White rook on b8, this position is functionally identical to one in which the pawn is on the a-file, since Black's rook can check the White king at will, which has no shelter and no way to advance the pawn.  As long as Black's king stays away from cheap tricks (54...Ke6?? 55. Re8+ wins), there is no progress to be made.  Likewise, had White advanced his pawns earlier in this variation it makes no difference, all Black has to do is keep White's king away from his pawns.

Petrosian did not find this defense, but it is psychologically difficult to defend so passively so perhaps this is no surprise.  What he did find was an active plan, one that could have succeeded:

47....Kh6 ?! (Kasparov) ! (Emms)......!? (Mangion)

Until the above defense was found Black's idea seemed the most compelling - he intends to advance his pawns and create a weakness in White's position that can provide counterplay and shelter for his king.  There is a long series of analyses of the strength or weakness of this move in On My Great Predecessors Vol. 4 which I'll leave to the hard-core.  I like Black's idea because I think it would succeed against most opponents and is easiest to understand as well.

48. Ke3 f6 49. Rb6 Kg7 50. Rb7+ Kh6 51. Rb8 g5 52. b5 gxh4 53. gxh4 Kg6!

While White has temporized Black has made real progress toward his goal - White's kingside is now weak and Black threatens to enter on f5-g4, then taking the h-pawn.

54. b6 Kf5 55. Kd4 (hoping to queen faster than Black) Rxf2?

But here Black deviates from his own plan.  It turns out that 55.....Kg4! 56. Rg8+ Kxh4 57. Kc5 Rc2+!  can draw, as Black pushes White's kin
g in front of his own pawn so that ...Rxf2 comes with a gain of tempo, then the rook is sacrificed for the b-pawn, after which Black is just fast enough with his pawns to force White to sacrifice his rook back for the draw (it takes the computer quite awhile to spot this).

56. Ra8!  White uses the tempo he has been gifted to maneuver his rook to where it can both check the Black king and get behind his passed pawn.
56....Rb2 57. Kc5 Rc2+ 58. Kd4 Rb2 59. Ra5+ Ke6 60. Kc5 Rc2+ (it turns out that 61...f5 can lead to a drawing sequence for reasons I can barely understand.  Checkout Kasparov's analysis for details) 61. Kb5 Kd6
White has hit on a winning plan - under the cover of his rook, the White king can force the advance of the b-pawn, the rest is easy: 

62. Ka6 Kc6 63. Ra1 Rc4 64. b7 Rb4 68. Rc1+ Kd7 69. Rc8 1-0

'A famous endgame, which appeared in chess publications right around the world' - Kasparov

Friday, June 19, 2009


Rook endgames for GMs

As an exercise, try out the following position (Black to move), with these questions  in mind:
1.  Is this a win for White or a draw?
2. What plan gives White the best chances?
3. What plan gives Black the best chances?

For those who want to see the game continuation check out Portisch-Petrosian 1974, 12th match game.  I'll go over some ideas later on (before I do I'll comment on an unusual game at the club last night).   

As a bonus question, what if the pawn is on a4 instead, with the rooks on the a-file?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Keene-Miles, Hastings 1975/6

I came across Keene-Miles while reading the excellent Pawn Structure Chess by Soltis, and checked my otherwise unread Winning Pawn Structures by Baburin to find out that this game was included in that book as well.  Already a game worth noting, then.  
The most distinctive game by far I can think of on the subject of pawn structures is Nimzovich-Salwe:

But Keene-Miles from the Hastings tournament in 1975/6 might be stuck in my mind for awhile as the most distinctive isolated queen's pawn game.  Let's look:

1. Nf3 Nf6
2. c4 c5
3. Nc3 Nc6
4. e3 e6
5. d4 d5  (arriving at the Queen's gambit semi-Tarrasch defense)
6. cxd5 Nxd5
7. Bd3 cxd4
8. exd4 Be7
9. O-O O-O
10. Re1 Nf6
11. Ng5 Nb4
12. Bb1 b6
13. Ne5 Bb7        Looks normal - both sides are working on development and Black will bring the b-file knight to the blockading square of d5 at the appropriate time, meanwhile it is stopping the white queen from lining up a battery on the b2-h7 diagonal.
14. Re3!

But here White is pursuing a different plan....the classic h7 bishop sacrifice is now a real threat because White's Queen and Rook can combine on the h-file for mate unless Black takes immediate action.

14. ..... g6 (blocking the sacrifice)
15. Rg3  (planning a different sacrifice)  Rc8??   -  Baburin points this out as the losing move.  It turns out Black has no time for simple development, but rather has to challenge White in the center immediately with 15...Nc6, sacrificing the exchange after 16. Bh6 if necessary to get rid of the e5 knight.  
16. Bh6 Re8
17. a3 Nc6  (how to continue?  if you don't know don't worry - the computer finds this a hard problem)
18. Nxg6!! hxg6
19. Bxg6 fxg6
20. Qb1!  (the hard move to find that ties it all together - on d3 or c2 the queen is impaired by pins on the d or c files that gives Black tactical ways of defeating the attack.  The computer backs it up - without 20. Qb1 the rest of the of the sequence is worthless)
20. ....  Ne5 (desperation only, there's no defense now)
21. dxe5 Ne4
22. Nxe4 Kh7
23. Nf6+ Bxf6
24. Qxg6+ Kh8
25. Bg7+ Bxg7   (and Miles was sporting enough to allow...)
26. Qxg7 #

Another reminder to appreciate both sides of the isolated queen's pawn...and you thought it was easier for grandmasters.


Friday, June 5, 2009


Anti-Barry Attack

Barry Attack, after 5...Bg4!

There is a good piece today in the Spanish language InforChess titled "Teoría de Aperturas: Una jugada en el ataque Barry" by Jorge Luís Fernández that covers one of Black's better defenses against the Barry Attack: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 (no King's Indian's allowed!) 3...d5 (unless you play the Pirc, this makes the most sense) 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 Bg4! (first played in Lasker - Reti, Rotterdam 1923). This line was also recommended by IM Andrew Martin in an archived piece titled "Dodgy Games with Dodgy Names" (which I mention in a bibliography on the line), but Martin recommended meeting 6.Qd3!? (threatening Qb5+) with 6...c6 rather than Fernández's interesting 6...O-O!? 7.Ne5 Be6! Both seem fine.

It's important to note that White can also play the so-called Tarzan Attack with 5.Qd2!? which sidesteps the Bishop pin and threatens Bh6 at some point. Arthur Kogan has had success with this line and writes about it in SOS. But there is good discussion at the ChessPub forum suggesting that some of Kogan's analysis does not hold up and the classic game Yusupov - Kasparov, Belfort 1988 is still good theory.

Now I just have to figure out how to beat the Trompowsky, the Versesov, the Blackmar Diemer, and a bunch of other crap.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Neo-Classical Dragon

Inspired by Andrew Martin's copious coverage on the topic, I'm trying to evaluate a line in the Sicilian Dragon arising after:
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 PxP
4. NxP Nf6
5. Nc3 g6
6. Bc4

Martin (and others) tend to refer to this as the modern 6. Bc4 line, but I'll call it the Neo-Classical Dragon because that's how I roll.  All I need is ten other people to start calling it that and we'll have something going.

This variation was conceived as an improvement to the Classical Dragon (6. Be2) which has suffered over the years since its focus on quiet development and only then a kingside attack has not proven sufficient against the dynamic Dragon setup.  Consider the pawn skeleton below:

So long as the 'dragon' bishop resides at g7, this is a favorable structure for Black.  There is obvious pressure on White's queenside, with a possible exchange sacrifice on c3 on the horizon.  The added pieces highlight White's deficiencies - the c3 knight can be pinned to the b2 pawn, and the semi-open c-file is looking tasty for Black.  What White has going for him (if there are more pieces) is the possibility of an attack on Black's kingside with the f, g and h pawns being pushed with the help of White's heavy pieces.  This is double-edged, however, as it exposes the White king to counterattack.  

     What to do?  In recent years players looking for an alternative to the Yugoslav Attack have turned to 6. Bc4 (Neo-Classical!) as an improvement.  How does this change the evaluation?  The key difference is that White's light squared bishop finds more activity on the a2-f7 diagonal rather than picking its nose at e2, where its most important job seems to be guarding the g4 square.  The g4 square can instead be covered by White moving a pawn to h3, and the bishop now has the task of controlling the center (Nimzovich - centralization!).   And if Black gets it into his mind to exchange a knight for the light squared bishop (which is easier to do with the bishop on c4) he may find this a poor transaction because in the resulting positions White's knights can be stronger.  Indeed, White's strategy seems to be to aim for a positional squeeze using the d5 outpost as leverage for concessions.  Now for a typical line:

6 ....  Bg7        (it's easy to fall into a trap here - 6....Nc6? 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. e5! dxe5?? 9. Bxf7! +-)
7. O-O O-O
8. h3 Nc6      (h3 sets up 9. Be3 by preventing 9....Ng4)
9. Be3 Nd7    (the center fork trick with 9...Nxe4 is a thought here)
10. Bb3
arrives at a position that has scored a healthy 58% for White.  

The play that follows won't be to the taste of attacking players, but for the Lekos and Kramniks amongst us, consider how Szmetan (2268) - Schiller (2205) went in 1986:

10.... Na5
11. f4 Nxb3
12. axb3 a6
13. Qd3 Qc7
14. Nd5 Nxd5    (Soltis aficionados will recognize White's 14th as the positionally minded 'Marco hop', which in this case leads to a dynamic balance featuring Black's weakened center against White's diminished queenside)
15. exd5 e5
16. dxe6 fxe6
Though the game ended in a draw, it's easy to imagine interesting ideas for both sides.   This is just a cursory look, but I'm thinking this variation is a reasonable (but slightly inferior) alternative to the Yugoslav Attack.  All a matter of taste.  As the Brits say, it's worth a punt.


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