Kenilworth Kibitzer

A blog for members of the Kenilworth Chess Club.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Endgame Humor

One last before we consign Zurich 1953 back to history...

20. Kotov-Najdorf  (click here to view on

White to move....any predictable course of moves would have Black win the d5-pawn, arrange to push his own pawn to d4, and start making dinner plans.  

22.  axb4!?

When a loss appears inevitable, reject the assumption!  Black must recalibrate to a new 
position and new strategy.

22. ....   Rxa1
23. bxc5  dxc5
24. Bxc5  Rd8       (Black may be hanging on to his dark-squared bishop too long - now ...Bxc3 and ... Qxd5 may be enough to bring it home)
25. d6     Ne8
26. Kg2  Bf8
27. N1e2  Nxd6
28. Qd5   Nb7
29. Qxf7+   Kxf7
30. Bxf8    Rxf8
31. Ng3    Nd6
32. Rd2   Ke6
33. Rd5   Rb8

All foreshadowing aside, all seems to be going to plan... soon the b-pawn will fall and Black will roll up White's position.

Bronstein:  ...but as the Eastern proverb has it: "If it weren't for the wolves, our goat could make it to Mecca."  But now to howling wolves appear, in the form of a pair of white knights...

34. Rxd6+!
Again, reject the assumption!   A second exchange tossed to the fire.

34. ......    Kxd6
35. Nxf5+  Kc6
36. Nxe4   Rxb2+
37. Kf3     Rb4
38. Nfg3   Raa4
39. h5       
Black is fortunate that he realizes in time that he can only, and must play for a draw.
39. .....    Ra3+
40. Kg4    Kd7
41. g6       hxg6
42. hxg6   Ke7
43. Nf5+   Ke6
44. Ng7+  Ke7
45. Nf5+   Ke6
46. g7       Ra8
47. Neg3  Rg8
48. Nh5   Rxf4+!
49. Kxf4   Rxg7!
50. Nhxg7+
1/2-1/2  (!)

Bronstein: This game might better belong in an adventure magazine than a tournament book.

And a possibly anachronistic story, consume with caution:

'As we can see, instead of simply offering a draw Najdorf decided to end the game with the joke moves given above, and after Kotov took the second rook he said "draw".

Kotov then looked up at Najdorf with a puzzled expression: "why?"

"Because it's a book draw." 

"Ah yes," responded Kotov "that used to be true". He then went on to explain to a horrified Najdorf about the old man in Tbilisi who had recently solved the problem about how to to mate the lone king with two knights. It took a few seconds before it dawned on Najdorf that Russians know how to tell jokes too.'

Nimzovich:  And so I close my book and bid a friendly, I hope, farewell to you, my readers.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Die Blockade

#19 Kotov-Gligoric (click here to view on

Perhaps my favorite game in the whole tournament - one can only admire its artistry. Gligoric plays out a complex blockading strategy that I think would have shocked and impressed Nimzovich himself.

An odd side note - of my 20 favorite games of this tournament, the most represented players were Kotov (5 games) and Gligoric (5 games), including both games they played against each other. Despite the lack of significance this late game had to the standings of this long tournament, these two came to play, as they did for all 30 rounds.

Black to move and deal with that unpleasant b1-h7 diagonal...

11. .... e4! Blockade! (e4) Clearance! (e5)
12. fxe4 f4
13. Bf2 Nd7

Bronstein: The black knight wants to get to e5, and White has to get it out of there at any cost, which explains his knight's retreat to its original square.

14. Ng1 Qg5
15. Bf1 Ne5
16. Nf3 Qe7
17. Nxe5 Qxe5
18. O-O-O Nf6
19. h3 Bd7
Black is hewing to a dark-squared blockade on the kingside which White must break, otherwise Black's attack on the queenside will prevail. Who will win?

20. Bd3 a6
21. Nb1!
The knight threatens to jump to f3, breaking the blockade by supporting an inevitable e4-e5.

21. .... f3!!
And now the exclamation point - if the white knight wants to get to f3, Black prevents this and maintains the blockade, even at the cost of another pawn!
22. gxf3 Nh5
23. Nd2 Nf4

Bronstein: A classic example of a blockaded position. The blockade's immediate effect embraces four white pawns, but its influence penetrates much deeper: the lightsquare bishop has been turned into a pawn, the knight's own pawns occupy all of its best squares, and even so mobile a piece as White's queen is almost totally blockaded as well.

24. Bf1 b5
25. h4 Kh8
26. Rg1 Bf6
27. Nb3 Rb8? (slowing the pace of attack - Bronstein recommends ...b4 and perhaps ...bxc is a thought)
28. Be1 b4
29. Kb1 Ra8
30. Bg3 Rg8 (White aims at the base of the blockade, but Black has a tactical response)
31. Qh2
31. .... Rxg3!
32. Rxg3 Ne2
33. Qxe2 Qxg3
34. Nc1 a5
35. Nd3 Bd4
36. h5 Qh4
White is still two pawns up, but his light-squared bishop is not a match for its opposite number, so Black can still maintain by mixing the continued dark-squared blockade with queenside counterplay.

37. Bg2 Rg8
38. Rh1 Qg3
39. Bf1 a4
40. Kc2 a3
41. b3

A symmetrical blockade, now spanning both sides of the board. With no prospect to improve either position, a draw was agreed, a fitting credit to both players.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Tears of a Clown

#18  Reshevsky-Geller  (click here to view on

Before there was Fischer, there was Reshevsky, the first American to threaten the Soviet machine.  The 1953 Candidates tournament was as close as he came to a world championship match, and indeed how close he came.  This game was as important as Keres-Smyslov in determining the final standings.  An endgame approached, and Reshevsky had every reason for optimism...

31. b6   Rb8?

Bronstein gives the amazing 31. ... Rxa3!  32. b7  Rb4  33. Rd8+   Kh7  34. b8=Q  Rxb8  35. Rxb8  Rd3  36. Rf1  Rc3!  with a likely drawn 4v3 rook endgame.  Tragically easy for us humans to miss...
Analysis diagram after 36. .... Rc3!

Instead the game heads down more prosaic channels...for now.

32. Rd6  Ra4
33. Rxc2  Rxa3
34. h3    Rb3
35. Rcc6  Rb2
36. e4      h5
37. e5      h4
38. Rd4?!   

Bronstein: And here it might seem that nothing can save Black.  Nevertheless, I would not have traded my b-pawn for the insignificant h-pawn.  Couldn't White have relocated his rook along the seventh rank?  
Bronstein gives 38. e6  f6  39. Rc7! Rxb6  40. R6d7 as winning, as indeed it is.

38. ....     R2xb6
39. Rxb6  Rxb6
40. Rxh4  Rb1+
41. Kh2    Re1

Averbakh:  Reshevsky did not conceal his surprise that Geller decided to play on. With an ironic smile he sat down at the board, ordered a cup of coffee and began slowly stirring it with his spoon. There was indeed no reason to hurry: the two extra pawns were a sure guarantee of victory.

Bronstein: In order to understand what follows, keep in mind that there are some rook endings in which two extra pawns are not enough to win...sometimes it is impossible to win the ending with rook and f- and h-pawns against rook, or rook and two connected passed pawns against rook, if the pawns can be blockaded.  Geller is hoping to transpose into one of these endgames.  

What follows is a series of suboptimal moves, each of which is individually insignificant but which lead collectively to a truly poor move.

42. f4      Re3
43. Rg4  Kh7
44. Rg3   Re2
45. h4     Re4
46. Rf3   f6
47. exf6  gxf6
48. Kg3?!  Kg6     (48. g4!)
49. Ra3  f5
50. Ra6+ Kh5

51. Rf6??   Re3+       (51.  Ra8 is still sufficient to win)
52. Kf2   Ra3        (Now the problem with Rf6 - stalemate is in the air!)
53. g3    Rf3+!!         (See below for analysis of 53. Rxg5+)

Averbakh: It can be imagined with what pleasure Geller made this move, and how triumphantly he looked at his opponent. And Reshevsky? In the seconds remaining to the time control he began thinking intensively. At that moment Geller summoned a waiter, deliberately loudly ordered a glass of tea, and the unhurriedly began stirring in some sugar.

54. Ke2  Rxg3
55. Rxf5+ Kxh4
56. Kf2    Ra3
57. Rg5   Rb3
58. Rg1  Kh5
59. Ke2  Ra3
60. f5     Ra5

A tragedy for Reshevsky....but what about the simple 53. Rxg5+  Kxh4, going into a 2v0 rook endgame?
But this too is drawn!  An unusual case, but with White's king cut off below the third rank, his pawns cannot advance unchallenged.   If the f-pawn advances the Black king chases it, and the combination of king and rook will blockade the g-pawn.   An unusual draw, requiring key conditions - connected pawns with the black king in front, an active Black rook and a mostly inactive White rook (in its worst position in front).    

Try this against Fritz - it's oddly frustrating.

Monday, January 25, 2010


The Original Board on Fire

#17  Keres-Smyslov  (click here to view on

In the late rounds of the 1953 Candidates tournament, the outcome was still in doubt with Bronstein, Reshevsky, Keres and Smyslov all fighting for the top spot.  In this game, Keres decided to play for the win at all costs.  At what must have been an incredibly tense moment at the height of his career, Smyslov proved equal to the challenge.  

From an equal position, Keres designs a quick attack on Black's kingside, using the superior mobility of his rooks.

16. Ne5   Nxe5
17. Rxe5  Bf6
18. Rh5   g6    (Bronstein cites the threat of 19. Rxh7!  followed by Qh5+ and Rh3 as the cause for 18... g6)

19. Rch3?!?  dxc4!!     

A surprise rook sacrifice, equally surprisingly declined!
Bronstein: Smyslov's intuition did not deceive him: as later analysis was to show, he made the best move here....Did Smyslov reason it out, or did he simply guess, as one might do in a lottery, pulling out a winning number?

Of course the text move resulted from a deep study of the position.  First of all, Black is opening his bishop's diagonal, creating the possibility of transferring that piece via e4 to f5 or g6.  Secondly, the d-file is opened......and thirdly, a passed c-pawn temporarily makes its appearance; it may go to c3, closing the diagonal of the dangerous white bishop....Meanwhile, the white rook is still en prise...

What ends up being of fantastic importance is a c3-pawn push giving Black control of d4, and thereby h8, what would otherwise be a mating square.   I don't have Kasparov's undoubtedly definitive analysis of this position, but Bronstein gives the following alternative if the sacrifice is accepted....   
19. ....      gxh5
20. Qxh5  Re8  (opening an escape for the king)
21. a4!!               (closing it with a subsequent Ba3!)

Only when fed this move manually did my computer find that the position is in fact winning for White!  Since some of its analysis disagrees with Bronstein's, I'll leave it out for now (see the discussion thread at for more, or On My Great Predecessors II), but the key recognition for White is that Black's escape can be cut off after all, justifying the rook sacrifice.  It may be impossible to know how much of this Smyslov or Keres saw, but it suffices to say that Smyslov chose wisely.

20. Rxh7  c3!
21. Qc1    Qxd4
Now there is complete coverage of the kingside, and Black can start to dream of bigger things.
22. Qh6  Rfd8
23. Bc1   Bg7
24. Qg5  Qf6
25. Qg4  c2!

The threat of Black's passed pawn and White's lack of counterplay led him to resign in just another 3 moves (26. Be2 Rd4  27. f4 Rd1+  28. Bxd1  Qd4+).  A brilliant game, and a demonstration of accurate counterplay defeating a hasty attack.


Saturday, January 23, 2010


More Rook Endgames? You're Welcome

#16  Gligoric-Euwe  (click here to view on

Bronstein: The reader who immerses himself in this battle's fine points, who examines the techniques used here, and who familiarizes himself with the basic ideas behind this type of ending, will have made a great stride forward in positional play.

Here is a game that could have been taken straight out of Baburin's "Winning Pawn Structures" - first White gangs up on Black's IQP, tortures him with various threats, then finally trades down into a drawn 4v3 rook endgame...and proceeds to win it.  It takes imagination to fool a veteran player in that situation, let's see how it's done...

10. a3  a6

Bronstein: It is Black's task to rid himself of the isolated pawn - that is, to push it to d4 and trade it off.  This, however, is impossible for the moment, due to 11. Na4.  The natural thing is for Black to prepare this advance with ...a7-a6 and ...Ba7.  It is White's task to use these two tempi to bring out another piece to control the d4 square, intending to occupy it later on with a knight.  Following this plan, one must consider 10. b3!  a6 11. Na4  Ba7  12. Bb2 more logical; if then 12. ... b5 13. Rc1!, followed by 14. Nc5.  The square d4 would have remained under White's control, a strategic accomplishment of no small importance.

It is far too early to talk about one side or another winning or losi
ng this game on account of the 10th move, but Bronstein's amazingly insightful comments lay out the strategic developments of the game that follow - Black is given a temporary opportunity to liquidate his IQP and get a good game; failing to do so, he must prepare a long defense.

11. b4  Bd6?!  (Likely an inferior alternative to ...Ba7, giving up the fight for d4)
12. Bb2  Bg4
13. Rc1   Bc7
14. Na4  Qd6

With the d-pawn set in cement, Black turns to attack as a means of liberation, but White defends accurately, and through exchanges goes toward the theoretically advantageous IQP endgame.

15. g3  Ne4
16. Nc5  Nxc5    (With each piece exchange, the IQP weakens, and White exchanged his knight on a4 for Black's on e4, no small feat for a single move)
17. Rxc5  Rad8
18. Nd4!  Bxe2
19. Qxe2  Nxd4
20. Bxd4  Bb6

21. Rd1!    (The key.   If say 21. R5c1 then 22. Bxd4  exd4 = )
21. ....     Bxc5
22. Bxc5  Qe5
23. Bxf8  Kxf8

White now has an exceptionally favorable IQP endgame, with just heavy pieces left.  His pieces will be more mobile, mixing attack on the weak d5 pawn with attack elsewhere on the board.  There can be only two results, White winning or a draw....but despite all his advantages it is not clear that White can force a win yet.

24. Rd4  g6
25. b5?!  axb5
26. Qxb5  Qc7

Bronstein (regarding White's 25th): understand what follows, one must keep in mind that rook endings with four pawns versus three, all on one side, generally cannot be won.  So if all the queenside pawns were to disappear, Black would be risking very little even if he does lose the isolate d-pawn.  With this in mind, 25. not a very good move: 25. Qd2 would be more consistent, threatening 26. e4 and forcing 25. ...f5

27. Qb2  Kg8
28. Qd2  Qc5
29. a4    Qa3!
30. a5    Rc8
31. Rxd5?!  Qc1+       (Bronstein suggests 31. Kg2 keeping the queens on)
32. Qxc1   Rxc1+
33. Kg2  Rb1
And indeed Black accomplishes his goal - he is about to simplify to the aforementioned 4v3 rook endgame, and can have very good expectation of a draw.

34. g4    Kg7
35. h4    b6
36. h5    bxa5
37. Rxa5  Rb2

38. g5!?    
No fool, Gligoric knows he is up against endgame theory trying to win here, so he changes the equation...with 38. .... h6!  Black can exchange off two pawns and almost guarantee the draw.  But Black chooses a different path, one that still leads toward the sunlight but hews closer to the precipice...

38. ....   gxh5
39. Ra6!  Rb3?!      
40. Rh6  Ra3

Note: a full appreciation of this endgame is beyond my pay grade - Bronstein devotes 4 pages of analysis to the following 37 moves, borrowing from the work of several masters whose combined efforts indicated the possibilities for drawing that existed at several points.  However, I will try to highlight a couple key moments to give a flavor of the text.   On move 39, Bronstein recommends ...Re7 with the intention of ...Re6 instead, the point being the pawn endgame is drawn.

41. Kg3  Ra1
42. e4    Rg1+
43. Kf4  Rh1
44. e5   h4?

The adjourned move, and one Bronstein identifies as the key mistake - until now, the game was still drawn.  Now, however, Black's lead h-pawn becomes a much easier target, and if White can win this pawn without exchanging rooks he has winning chances.
45. Kg4  Rg1+
46. Kf5  Rh1
47. Kg4  Rg1+
48. Kf5   Rh1
49. f4    h3
50. Kg4  Rg1+
51. Kf3   Rf1+
52. Kg3  Rg1+
53. Kf2   Rh1
54. Rf6   Ra1
55. Kg3  Rh1
56. Kg4   Kg8

It's worth replaying the game with the link on the top of this page to see how White cleverly uses zugzwang to force Black's king to take a step back - now he can play 57. Rh6 to win the h-pawn, because a rook trade no longer leads to a drawn pawn endgame (as it would if the king were still on g7).
57. Rh6   h2
58. Kg3   Rg1+
59. Kxh2  Rg4     (White cashes in, regaining his extra pawn - Black holds onto his rook of course)
60. Rf6   Kg7
61. Kh3   Rg1
62. Kh4  Rh1+
63. Kg4  Rg1+
64. Kf5   Rf1
65. Rc6  
65. ....   Kf8

How can White progress?  The Black rook ties his king to his f-pawn, preventing a winning pawn breakthrough.  Gligoric finds the answer is, yet again, zugzwang.

66. Rc8+  Kg7
67. Rd8!   Rf2   (forced)
68. Rd1!  Rf3
69. Ke4  Rf2
70. Ke3  Ra2    (now Black's rook is forced off the f-file, and White's pawns head for the endzone)
71. f5!     Rg2
72. Rd7!  Rxg5
73. Kf4   Rg1
74. e6    Rf1+
75. Ke5  Re1+
76. Kd6  h5
77. Rxf7+  Kg8
78. Ke7

A beautiful endgame, twice White gave up his pawn advantage to improve his position, and came up with a coherent plan to which he adhered perfectly.  

Friday, January 22, 2010


Gary's Review

Gary Kasparov reviews Chess Metaphors: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind by Diego Rasskin-Gutman.

Gary gives a recap of his own personal history of playing chess computers and believes that these machines are far from solving our ancient game. Gary writes, “Chess is far too complex to be definitively solved with any technology we can conceive of today.” He uses one of the metaphors presented in Chess Metaphors to explain why; “Diego Rasskin-Gutman points out that a player looking eight moves ahead is already presented with as many possible games as there are stars in the galaxy.” The one thing computers presently do is give people access to a strong player and a huge database. Kids are playing chess younger and younger with the help of computers. And being able to absorb even more of it. Earlier this month Time interviewed Magnus Carlsen who said himself that he isn’t sure if he even has an actual chess board at home! Bobby Fisher’s record of youngest GM has been broken only once in 1991. Since then the record has been broken twenty times. Gary credits computers for this.

The fight against computers have passed and machine now can easily draw or win against GMs. But what about poker? Gary questions, “Perhaps chess is the wrong game for the times…. while chess is a 100 percent information game—both players are aware of all the data all the time—and therefore directly susceptible to computing power, poker has hidden cards and variable stakes, creating critical roles for chance, bluffing, and risk management.” This is where humans have an edge. Gary has faith! “Perhaps the current trend of many chess professionals taking up the more lucrative pastime of poker is not a wholly negative one. It may not be too late for humans to relearn how to take risks in order to innovate and thereby maintain the advanced lifestyles we enjoy. And if it takes a poker-playing supercomputer to remind us that we can't enjoy the rewards without taking the risks, so be it.”

The review gets lengthy (especially on if you play chess, you must be intelligent), but if you are interested you can read it in its entirety here. One factoid mentioned that I never knew is the Kasparov match vs Topalov where it was “Man and Machine”. Both were allowed to use Fritz 5 and Chessbase 7.0. It is an interesting read found here. Gary’s tactical genius could be held in check by Topalov using Fritz and the two tied the match with 3 points apiece. Enjoy!

PS Where are the keys at?!


Why Do In One Move What You Can Do In Ten?

#15  Najdorf-Averbakh  (click here to view on

The title line is a paraphrase from Silman's Complete Endgame Course, the idea being that when you have a lasting positional advantage in the endgame, slow maneuvering can be at least as effective as going for the quick kill - sometimes your opponent will crack under the pressure.  Or, as in this case, you're just savoring the experience.

Here White has committed the positional 'sin' of allowing doubled c-pawns in the Queen's Indian.  This disadvantage is offset to some extent by his strong center and open lines.  The real mistake, as Bronstein points out, is allowing his queen to become the primary defender of the c4-pawn...

10. Ne5   Na5
11. Bxb7  Nxb7
12. Qa4   d6
13. Nd3  Na5
14. c5 ?   Qe8    (14. e4 looks more reasonable.  Averbakh steers toward an endgame...)

Bronstein: ...Here, by moves 12-15 [Averbakh] had already visualized the coming knight vs bishop endgame, and did everything possible thereafter to assure his knight of the best working conditions for its struggle against the bishop. We know the knight is strong: a) when the pawns are fixed, b) when it has points of support, and c) when the enemy pawns are on squares of the same color as his bishop.

15. Qxe8 Rfxe8
16. Rb1  Rec8
17. h4    d5
18. Bf4  f6
19. Nb4  a6
20. cxb6  cxb6
21. Bd2   

Black has crafted the sort of position that any endgame enthusiast would be willing to kill for.  Bronstein's comments here are as instructive as any in the entire book:

Bronstein: White has an unenviable position - but why?
1) Above all, because his a2- and c3-pawns are clearly weaker than their opposite numbers at a6 and b6; the c-pawn especially needs constant defense;
2) White's position contains a gaping hole at c4, which Black will find perfectly fitted to his knight, and perhaps to his rook as well.
3) the darksquare bishop is passively placed - compare it to Black's!
...of course, Black cannot hold onto all the advantages his position contains, but he doesn't need them all in order to win.  Shortly White eliminates his weakness at c3, but only by entering precisely the sort of endgame Averbakh has been striving for.

21. .....  Nc4
22. Be1   Bxb4!   (Getting rid of White's better piece, and while alleviating the c3 weakness, allowing a direct path into the white position via the c-file)
23. cxb4 Na3!   (maneuvering to allow Black's rooks into the White camp)
24. Rb3  Nb5  
25. e3    Rc2  
26. a4    Nd6
27. a5     b5
28. Rc3   Rc8
29. Rxc8+ Nxc8     (It already feels like White can resign, but Black takes his time and doesn't let any opportunity slip)
30. f3     Ne7  (Black could have saved two tempi by going straight to d6 instead, but what's the rush?  He may have toyed with the idea of Nc6 to pressure the b- and d-pawns)
31. Bf2   Kf7
32. Rb1  Nf5
33. Kf1   Nd6   (there at last)
34. Rb3  Nc4    (now and only now his rook is free to roam and pick up pawns where possible - notice that Black never gave up the c-file to go pawn hunting and give his opponent counterplay)
35. Kg2   f5
36. Rb1  Nxe3+
37. Kg1  f4
38. gxf4  Nf5
39. Kf1    g6
40. Rb3  Ke7
41. Rb1   Kd7

More pawns were soon to drop.  Najdorf did not enjoy his stay in Averbakh's sweatbox.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


A Tale of Two Bishops

#14  Taimanov-Petrosian  (click here to view on

Taimanov comes up with an original plan to try to crack the Nimzo-Indian, which had served Black very well in this tournament.  To free his bishops White clearly wants to play f3 and e4 (as he virtually always does in the Nimzo-Indian), at which point he would stand better because of the bishop pair and open lines.  Here one crimp to that plan is the knight on c6, which White spends time to eliminate.

11. Ne5   Qc7
12. Nxc6 Qxc6
13. f3    Be6
14. Qe1  Nd7
15. e4

Bronstein: In no other Nimzo-Indian was White able to get in e3-e4 so quickly and effectively, opening diagonals for both his bishops at once.  The slightest misstep from Black could result in his king's falling under a powerful attack - Qh4 is already threatened. 

15. ....  c4?
Bronstein points out 15. .... f5!  as a remedy, a difficult but necessary and indeed good move to make.  In response to White's aggression Black should counter in the center and try to put his transient lead in development to use.  Bronstein supports his analysis with several variations, but more importantly what is the alternative?  The move played seeks to shut down lines and create a defensive wall, but surely Yaacov would cringe at the sight of the forlorn Black bishop - Black is playing a piece down already.

16. Bc2  f5   
17. e5    Rf7
18. a4   a5
19. f4    b5?!

Bronstein: White has a clear plan of attack: h3, Kh2, Rg1, g4, Qg3 or Qh4....Petrosian's attempt to divert his opponent with his extra queenside pawn is understandable, but now a breach appears in his fortress.....

20. axb   Qxb5
21. Ba3   Nb6     (White's 'bad' bishop is sitting pretty)
22. Qh4  Qe8
23. Rf3   Nc8
24. Ba4!  Rd7     (24. ... Bd7  25. e6! Qxe6  26. Qd8+ [Bronstein]; now Petrosian tries his patent exchange sacrifice)
25. Rb1   Qd8    
26. Bxd7!

White is so dominant he can even sacrifice his queen here, getting rook, bishop, pawn and connected passers for his trouble.

26. ....  Qxd7
27. Rg3  Na7
28. Be7  Bf7
29. Qg5  Bg6
30.  h4  Nc6
31. Ba3  Nd8
32.  h5  Ne6
33. Qh4  Bf7
34.  h6  g6
35. Qf6  Qd8
36. Be7  Qc7

and finally the moment we've been waiting for...
37. Rxg6+!  hxg6
38. h7+    Kxh7
39. Qxf7+  Ng7
40. Kf2      1-0

It's probably not so often a defensive master like Petrosian gets punk'd, but there it is.  

Monday, January 18, 2010


Seek And Destroy

#13  Kotov-Boleslavsky (click here to view on

After some non-optimal opening play by his opponent, Boleslavsky hears the ever-present battle cry of the King's Indian player, 'Forward!', and prepares to assault the center.

12. ....   bxc4
13. Nxc4  Nxc4
14. Qxc4  Ne8
An interesting moment - Bronstein suggested 14. bxc4 followed by exchanges of heavy pieces on the b-file as the best way for White, leading to a likely draw.  White maintains dynamic chances for both sides, choosing instead a pawn structure that orients White toward a center and kingside expansion.  Black now has room to operate on the queenside, and he leverages this to put pressure on the center.  The knight will go to c7 to put pressure on d4 and prepare ...e6 while the rook works the b-file.

15. Bb2   Nc7
16. Nd1   Rb4
17. Qc2  Bxb2
18. Nxb2  Bf5   (trying to provoke 19. e4 to gain a target to attack)
19. e4     Bd7

The battle rages in the center - Black has the d4 square under increasing control, whereas White's possibilities have to lie in a dynamic pawn break.
20. Nd3   Rd4!?
21. Re1    e5!      (trying to seal control of d4)
22. dxe6  Nxe6  (re-supporting d4)
23. Rd1    Bb5
24. Nc1    Qa5     (the activity of Black's pieces is becoming critical.  Though Bronstein does not comment here, the computer suggests 25. a4, turning back the tide of Black's pieces and focusing pressure on d6 with a later Ne2.  Instead White tries to trade bishops, which loses time and weakens e4, which Black targets with vigor)

25. Bf1   Re8
26. Bxb5 axb5

Bronstein: The most cursory inspection of the position will show that Black's pieces hang like clouds over White's position.  But how to turn this to account?  Boleslavsky wants the key to the white fortress: the e-pawn.

27. Ne2  Rxd1
28. Rxd1  Ng5!   (29. Rxd6 is suicide)
29. Kg2   Nxe4   (Shredder likes 29...Rxe4 much better for interesting tactical reasons: 30. h4?  Qa8!  31. Kf1 Rxh4!?  32. gxh4  Qh1+ and ...Nh3 as one possibility.  However, this move would have been hard to calculate, at least for me).
30. f3    Ng5
31. Rxd6  Qa8!

Bronstein: Kotov has won his pawn back, but Boleslavsky relentlessly turns to attack the next pawn on the diagonal, at f3.  What happens if this pawn falls, or moves on?  Behind the pawn on f3 stands the king, which Black has marked down as the next and final target of his attack.

32. Rd3  Ne6
33. Qd2  b4     (this move does so much - fixes a2 as a weakness, claims the c3 square and hems in the white knight.  It leaves a backward pawn, yes, but if I can borrow Bronstein's logic from other games it seems to me that the weak c5 and a2 pawns are not equivalent - the c5 pawn can be supported by a centralized knight which itself has an excellent outpost supported by f6.  The a2 pawn will need the attention of the White army).
34. Kf2  Qb8
35. Re3  Qa7
36. f4   Rd8
37. Qc2  Qd7
38. Ke1  Qd5
39. Ng1  Qd4
Black has consistently applied pressure on White's various weaknesses to force his way toward the back ranks.  And as so often happens when under pressure, the tragedy of the 40th move...

40. Qe2?  Qa1+
41.  Kf2    Ra8

And the a-pawn falls; with the White king so exposed his position starts to collapse, though commendably White held out for another 26 moves before resigning.

What I love about this game is that, in retrospect, Black follows one plan consistently and without deviation.  A few careless moves put White in a bad situation.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Good Dog, Bad Dog, Sausages For All

#12  Stahlberg-Kotov (click here to view on

In this game Stahlberg, who ended up as the 1953 Interzonal dead-ender (no shame given the company), is very close to the better side of a draw.  But Kotov finds a way to swindle him, and after the game it didn't matter whether he won by way of consummate skill or blatant blind luck (just like I did the other night in the club championship).  

Bronstein: might seem that the maneuver ...Nd7-e5-f3+ could not be prevented.  Stahlberg dissipates that illusion by means of a forcing variation.

33. Nf4   Re8
34. Ne6+ Rxe6
35. dxe   Bxc3
36. exd7  Qxd7

So White has won the exchange but elects to immediately return it.  This was surprising to me, but looking at possible continuations should convince us that this is a case where the bishop is no worse than a rook.  Black's bishops have outstanding support points in the center, and the congestion of White's pieces combined with the exposure of his King make the exchange hard to keep.  A variation I made up to try to push the pawns and get room for the rooks illustrates this: 37. Rd1  Bd4  38. Kh2  Bf7  39. f3?!  Bh5  40. Qg2  exf3  41. Rxf3 Bxf3  =

37. h5     Bxe1
38. hxg6?!  Bc3    (38. Rxe1 looks better to me, but Stahlberg may have been playing to win)
39. gxh7  Rh8!
Bronstein: The game is about even here, and after 40. Kg2 and 41. Rh1, the draw would have been quite obvious.  But with his last move in tome-pressure, Stahlberg trustingly attacks the bishop, no doubt expecting that Black would find nothing better than 40. .... Bf6

40. Qe3?  Kg6!!  (A tragedy of the back rank, wherein the security of the king is worth more than a piece)
41. Rd1   Bd4
42. Qf4   Qxh7
43. Kf1    Qh1+
44. Ke2   Qh5+!   (provoking 45. g4 to head to a better endgame - 45. Kf1 is met by Qf3!)
45. g4     Qxg4+
46. Qxg4+ fxg4
47. Bxe4+  Kg5
Bronstein: Here's the rub: despite the bishops of opposite color, White has a lost game.  Let's see why: 
1. Black's bishop is well supported, and stands very well at d4, while the same cannot be said for the bishop at e4.
2. Black's king is far more active than its white counterpart, and in fact assumes a leading role in the fight.
3. Nor are the pawns on f2 and g4 equivalent: where the pawn on f2 is weak and needs protection, the pawn on g4 stands ready to assist its pieces in their assault on the pawn on f2.

All of these advantages would lose their importance if White could just manage to get the rooks traded off, but he can't.  The game's concluding phase is most instructive. 

48. Rh1  Re8   (48. Bxb7?  Rb8  or  Rh2)
49. f3    b5!?    (Black creates an entry point for his rook, and only then pushes the g-pawn)
50. Kf1  bxc4
51. bxc4  g3
52. Rh7  Rb8!
53.  Bb7  Be5   

Bronstein:  Stahlberg...denies the black rook entry into his camp.  Were it not for the passed g-pawn, that might have been enough to save the game.

54. Kg2  Kf4
55. Rf7+  Ke3   (The decisive inroad by the black king).
56. f4     Bxf4
57. Re7+  Be5
58. Rf7  a5
59. a4   Kd4
60. Bd5  Rb2+
61. Kf1  Ra2       0-1

A high-class, creative swindle.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Rook Endgames Are Drawn, Except When They're Not

# 11  Euwe-Stahlberg (click here to view on

An interesting game on many levels, its analysis occupies a full five pages of Bronstein's book.  Here we'll focus on the endgame, which is about as instructive as they come.

Bronstein: ....this endgame, played with a high degree of skill, certainly belongs among the best [rook endgames].  Black's task is a most difficult one: he has to cope with an outside passed pawn.  He does have counterchances, however: the possibility of quickly creating a matching passed pawn on the h-file, and the fact that there is so little material left on the board.  This latter circumstance sometimes allows one to trade off all his pawns, give up the rook for the last of the enemy pawns, and then force one's opponent to repay his debt in the same coin.

38. ....    Kf8
39. Kg2  Ke7
40. Kf3  Kd7
41. Ke4   Ra7
42. Kd5   h5        Both sides have moved their kings toward the weak d-pawn and the crucial a-pawn.  Now Black hopes to create counterplay by creating a passed pawn of his own.  White moves to establish control of f5 as compensation.
43. f4  Ra6?!

Here Bronstein (echoing Euwe's own analysis) recommends starting counterplay immediately with 43. ... f6!  44. a6 g5  45. f5  h4  46. gxh  gxh  and then:
a) 47. Rxh4  Rxa6  48.  Rh7+  Ke8  49. Ke6 d5+  50. Kxd5  Ra5+ with a draw:

b) 47. Ke4  Kc6  48. Kf4  Kb5  49. Ra3  Rxa6  50. Rxa6  Kxa6  51. Kg4  Kb5  52. Kxh4  Kc5  with a draw:

44. e4?!  f6   (Euwe points out that his natural move takes away the e4 square from his king, meaning the king is no loner 'in the square' of the black h-pawn in certain variations)
45. Ra2  g5
46. f5  h4
47. gxh  gxh
48. Kc4  
Black has done his work very well, and is very close to a draw.  But here he makes the most human move....

48. ..... Ra8?      
Euwe exhaustively proves that the counterintuitive 48. .... Ra7!  is the drawing move.  Why?  (Buy the book!)  The short version is that the White pawn advances only to a6, and in variations where the passed pawns are 'exchanged' there is a draw, but now the pawn goes to a7, and if the white rook is on the h-file and black plays ...Rxa7 then Rh7+ will win the rook.  Not easy stuff, missed by a GM at the board.  But how does White win?

49. a6   Kc6
50. a7   h3     (...Kb7 takes the Black king too far from his pawns and loses)
51. Kd4  Kc7
52. Kd5  Kd7
53. Ra3  h2
54. Ra1  Re8      (and the disadvantages for Black of having allowed the pawn to a7 are clear - as above, there is the hanging threat of an eventual Rh7+ winning the rook.  With Black pinned down White nicely transitions to a won 2 v 1 R+P endgame.)

55. Rh1  Re5+
56. Kd4  Ra5
57. Rxh2  Kc6    (still the 7th rank problem - with one extra tempo for Black this is a draw)
58. Rh7   Ra4+

And black resigned in a further 9 moves - the f-pawn is doomed and White's protected passer goes for the endzone.

A beautiful endgame, and one with subtlety.


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