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Are We What We Have Been Influenced By?

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Have you ever thought about the past influences you show in the way you play Chess?. Think about it for a while.

My early Chess influences were , in this order, Karpov-Petrosian-Nimzowitsch (and the Hypermodern movement)-Botvinnik-Fischer and Spassky . I have learnt many things from all of them. If I reduce the list it would read: Karpov-Nimzowitsch et alii-Fischer-Spassky. Now you may say: “So what? Different chessplayers,different styles, etc.” Well, let’s try to find the common denominator. In fact when we speak of “influences” in Chess I immediately think of  openings and   certain middlegame recurrent positions. 

1.- Openings: Karpov (from his beginnings till around 1986), Fischer, Spassky and Nimzowitsch have had 1. e4 as their main opening as White. As Black Karpov ,Fischer and Spassky have played the Sicilian (my main weapon). The four have played Hypermodern defences : the Nimzoindian, the Queen´s Indian, the Grünfeld, the King’s Indian, the Benoni. I have played all of them + the Orthodox (Spassky’s weapon for many years too). 

2.- Middlegames: I have studied many books on strategy, middlegame Pawn constellations, etc. Books written by GMs from the Soviet Chess School and other GMs. like Pachman, Soltis, Grau (Argentina),Marovic, etc. I have studied Tarrasch´s and Steinitz´s games… BUT the greatest influence of all came from around 1979-80, when I came across my first copies of Nimzowitsch’s “Chess Praxis” and “My System” (the latter is a curious extended edition including different appendix with Nimzo’s articles which do not appear in the original and editions made after it (I suppose the editor decided to include them for the sake of completeness…). Then I managed to get a copy from “Blockade” published in the United States. And afterwards , I have tried to obtain anything on Nimzowitsch. For instance I have a copy from “Aron Nimzowitsch 100 Partier Forsynet med Stormensterens egne Kommentarer Og Skakcauserier” by Bjorn Nielsen in Danish (!!). And Nimzowitsch led me to Reti, Tartakower, Breyer,…

The Hypermodern reaction to the “classicism” represented by Tarrasch is known by everybody. I began to play Hypermodern Defences and typical middlegame set-ups avoiding the invasion of the centre with Pawns but trying to control and attack it from the wings. In my early years I used the English, the Reti or the Barcza System as White. I even tried bizarre systems like 1. c4, e5 2. e4 or 1. e4, c5 or …e5 / 2. c4. Or the Dresden Variation of the English, a most cherished  set-up of Nimzowitsch’s.

In Chess we could distinguish several periods (Chess writers call them “Schools”): Morphy, Anderssen et alii belonged to the Romantic School. Then came the Classical School with Tarrasch and contemporaries. One step forward and we have the Hypermodern School (curiously both Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch claimed they were trying to explain Steinitz’s ideas … to reach conclusions poles apart…). Afterwards, the Soviet Chess School, comprising everything, re-formulating many concepts,discovering new ones, etc. Today’s chessplayers follow an eclectic path (I guess). In a period of ultra-dynamism you can still find positional masterpieces in a classical or a hypermodern style be those what they may. I have written that certain school of thought has proclaimed that there is no strategy these days because the opening stage has been so extended that modern “tabiyas” may place the game between the 20th and the 30th move. (You can notice it at top-level Chess and in CC). But nearly everybody has a favourite idol : you may like Capablanca’s classical approach or Tal’s romantic one. Etc.

Perhaps knowing about all this may help us to improve because by insisting upon those features we have subconsciously acquired since our beginnings we may play within” our true style” or at least avoid repeating past mistakes, when perhaps we mixed things… (after all , one cannot play the Alekhine (1. e4, Nf6/ with the idea of invading the whole board with our Pawns… Get it?)

(In a different post I will write about Richard Reti (1889-1929) but I would like to include one of his compositions -No, it is not the famous  King/Pawn-race one…): 


This study was published by Reti and Mandler in 1924. White to move wins.  Instructions:

1.- This is not a mate problem.

2.- Study the position and try to imagine how White can proceed and how Black can defend his position.

3.- You can do it without moving the pieces. Then, try to find a solution by moving the pieces if necessary.

4.- You can cover the solution and try to find the first move and so on checking your election against the solution as if it were a game. White must play for the win, Black will try to , at least, get a draw. This is an exercise of threats/defences ,threats/counterthreats.

Remember that ,  in Chess, all the work you do always pays off, always reward.

1.- Ng1, Kd2! / 2. Nf3+ , Kd3! /3. Ke1, Ke3 / 4. Ne5, Ke4 /5. Nc4, Kd3 6. Nd2, Ke3/ 7. Nf3, Kd3 /8. Kf1! Ke3 / 9. Ne1, Kd2/ 10. Nc2!, Kd1 / 11. Nb4, Kd2 / 12. Nd5 winning.



Written by QChess

March 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm

The System

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Nimzowitsch wrote three books: “My System”, “Chess Praxis” ( a.k.a. “My System in Practice”) and “Die Blockade”. Much has been writen about them and they have become a sort of  milestones for every chessplayer. But the whole thing can be very obscure, especially pre-conceptions concerning “My System” and “Chess Praxis”. What is that of a “system”? Are there “systems” to play Chess?. Is the system first and the games derive from it or were the games first and he derived the system from them?. Well, let’s assume a system, in short, is but a set of  organised and related concepts. In this respect, what Nimzo did was to reasses Steinitz’s theories, add  new ideas he and others had found concerning the openings, increase the number of playable positions and start playing new openings. We are dealing with new strategical concepts a broader understanding of Chess positions and openings and a fight against Tarrasch’s dogmatic points of view.  Nimzowitsch, Reti, Breyer et alii studied the games and ideas played/used by their predecessors, broadened them , start playing new openings and changed the assessment of different strategical concepts . If their predecessors defended the occupation of the centre with Pawns and the use of openings leading to that, they advocated an indirect approach and proved it can be as valid as the opposite point of view. To control the centre was not necessary to play e4-d4-Nf3-Nc3-Bc4-Bf4 and so on. You could play ,for instance, c4-g3-Bg2-Nf3-Nc3 and exert pressure on it attacking from the wings. This gave rise to a number of new openings for White and for Black: the English,  fianchetto openings, the so-called Indian Defences including the Nimzoindian, etc. These new ideas changed Chess and after applying  them in his own games, Nimzowitsch could later speak of a system (Larsen somewhat was of the same opinion). In this same respect Soviet trainers could do the same after working very hard on the strategical aspect of Chess mainly after WW2 (They did not do it speak of a “system”- though everybody knows the meaning of the term “Soviet Chess School”.)   

One of my first Chess books was Nimzo’s “Chess Praxis”. I have  re-read it tens of times and it has always been a source of inspiration. (Of course the first times I studied it -starting around 1979- I understand little… This usually happens when you learn Chess by yourself.) The games there always offer something new to me and I enjoy reading Nimzo’s prose. Sometimes I simply open it and without looking at the chapter the games belong to I represent them on the board. The advantage of such an approach is that you are not influenced by the main topic the game features and you get more benefit from it. Some weeks ago , while doing this, I came across two games which made me enjoy myself on a depressing Sunday afternoon  :

W.: Yates (0)

B.: Nimzowitsch (1)

London 1927

A typical game … even for today’s standars.

1. e4, c5/ 2. Nf3 , Nf6 (one of Nimzowitsch’s pet variations. It pursues the same idea as the Alekhine Defence: to provoke the advance of the enemy’s Pawns overextending the centre and try to destroy it from the wings.)/  3. e5, Nd5/ 4. Nc3, Nxc3/ 5. bxc3 (today 5. dxc3  is considered better) , 5…, Qa5 (Also the typical Nimzo’s bizarre move) / 6. Bc4, e6/ 7. Qe2, Be7/ 8. 0-0, Nc6 (Nimzowitsch proposed …b6 instead) / 9. Rd1, 0-0/ 10. Rb1, a6/ 11. d4 (White has no problems. Nimzo gives a variation showing that now 11…, Qxc3 is not possible but computer analysis may give a second opinion: this is your work for today) 11…, b5/ 12. Bd3 (Nimzo says nothing, but here 12.d5 must strongly be taken into consideration .Work it out by yourselves) ,…, c4/ 13. Be4, f5/ 14. exf6 ep, Bxf6/ 15. Ne5, Bxe5/ 16. dxe5, Rf7/17. Qh5! (and  Nimzowitsch has managed to create an attacking position … for White. White reaches the King’s side ,creates threats and destroys Black defences there) 17…, g6/ 18. Bxg6, hxg6/ 19. Qxg6, Rg7/ 20. Qe8, Kh7/ 21. Qh5, Kg8/ 22. Bh6, Qxa2 (only move) 23. Bxg7, Kxg7/ 24. Qg5, Kf7/ 25. Rbc1, Qa3/ 26. Re1, Ke8 / (Now Nimzowitsch writes that White, instead of trying to chase Black’s King he should have remembered he had a passed Pawn – h2-. Yates lets victory slip trhough his fingers…) 27. Re4, Qe7/ 28. Qh6, Kd8/ 29. Rd1, Kc7/ 30. Rg4, Qc5/ 31. Re4 , Ne7/ 32. Qd2, Nd5/ 33. h4 (too late), Bb7/ 34. Rd4, Rh8 (Bishop and Rook work as a deadly team) / 35. Qe1, Bc6/ 36. g3, Qf8/ 37. f4, Qf5/ 38. Qf2, Qh3/ 39. Qh2, Qg4/ 40. Qf2, Rxh4/ 41. f5, Nf6 /42. Qe3, Qxe4!/ 43. Rxd4, Rh1/44. Kf2, Ng4/45. Ke2, Rh2/ 46.Ke1, Nxe3 / White resigned.

W.: Kmoch (0)

B.: Nimzowitsch (1)

Niendorf, 1927

A typical game with some imprecissions and an excellent example of tournament Chess.

1. e4, Nc6 (Nimzo’s trade mark again) / 2. Nc3, e6/ 3. d4, Bb4/ 4. Nge2, d5/ 5. e5, h5 (Again typical in Nimzowitsch and his (extreme) “prophylaxis theory” though he says 5…, Nge7 was better) 6.Nf4, g6/ 7. Be3, Bxc3?!  (again …Nge7) / 8. bxc3, Na5/ 9. Bd3, Ne7/ 10. Nh3, c5/ 11. Bg5, c4/ 12. Be2, Nac6/ 13. Bf6, Rg8/ 14. 0-0 (Nimzowitsch recommends 14.Ng5),…, Qa5/ 15. Qd2, Nf5 / 16. Rfd1, Kd7/ 17. Ng5, Rf8 /18. h3, Kc7/ 19. g4, hxg4/ 20. hxg4, Nfe7/ 21. Kg2, Ng8 (Nimzowitsch labels this as an error and proposes 21…, Bd7/ 22. Rh1, Rae8/ 23. Rh7, Nd8 ) / 22.Bg7, Re8/ 23. Rh1, (Nxf7 – Nimzo), Bd7/ 24. Rh3, Nd8/ 25. Rf3, Rc8/ 26. Rh1?! (26 Nxf7 or 26. Qc1 -Nimzo-), … Qxa2 27. Rh7 , Kb8/ 28. Nxf7, Nxf7/ 29. Rxf7, Bc6/ 30. Bf6, a5/ 31. Rh1, Qb2/ 32. Bg5, Rf8/ 33. R7-h7, Rc7/ 34. Rxc7, Kxc7/ 35. Qc1!, Qxc3/ 36. Qa1, Qxa1/ 37. Rxa1, Ra8 (Black has managed to disentangle himself taking advantage of defensive subtleties, intermediate moves his opponent inacuracies and  his typical defensive technique. The process is worth a study. The game enters a new stage : manoeuvres to break White’s position whose Bishop pair offers good defensive perspectives ) 38. Bd2, b6 /39. Kg3, Ne7/ 40. Bd1, Bd7/ 41. Bb4, Nc6/ 42. Bd6, Kb7/ 43.c3, b5/ 44. Rb1,b4/ 45. Ba4, b3/ 46. Bxc6, Kxc6 (Like Steinitz, Nimzowitsch saw the King as a strong piece, and used it accordingly: it is not a piece to be hidden in safety: he must play with the other fellow companions. In this respect, we can say both Masters … played a piece up!.) 47. g5, Ra7/ 48. Rb2, Rb7/ 49. Kf4,Bc8/ 50.Kg3, Rb4! 51. cxb4, a4 / 52. b5, Kxb5/ 53. Ba3, c3/ 54.Rb1, Kc4/ 55. f4, Kxd4/ 56. Kf2,Kc4/ 57. Ke1, d4/ 58. Ke2, Kd5/ 59. Kf3, Bb7/ 60. Re1,Kc4/ 61. Kf2, b2/ 62. f5, exf5/ 63. e6, Bc6/ White resigned.  

(By the way, Nimzowitsch games are very good to study the topic of piece exchanges and the transition from one postion to another, especially because he preferred closed positions and complicated strategical decisions. This can be done with many other players, of course.)  

(Possible idea for a future post: perhaps in some of your games you have hesitated  between, say, 1. e4 or trying 1. d4… Or as Black between 1. d4 d5 or 1. d4, Nf6. This is normal especially if you are a CC player: doubts about playing one’s pet opening or have a try at something new and perhaps more exciting…  But , what about “the second move”???. The answer in a future post.)


Written by QChess

October 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Quest (Chess)-tions?

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pos1  Mate in  3 moves. ( Bergstrom)


There are 4 questions I try to answer to myself with different degrees of success ( in fact no success since they seem to be always there…):

1.- Why am I still playing correspondence Chess since everybody uses programs to find/check his / her moves?

2.- Why do I so much like Nimzowitsch  and the Hypermodern period around him (1910-1935)?

3.- Why do I like the Soviet Chess School and the Chess between 1940 and 2000 .

4- Why am I writing this blog?

Since writing may constitute a sort of cathartic experience, let’s deal with them.

Q1.: The use of strong Chess programs has changed the way CC is played. When you win you are happy, when you lose you wonder what use all this is… I learn the game around 1971 and began to devote nearly all my spare  time to Chess in 1978.  In the past I did some sport: swimming and cycling. Only swimming remains. So I devote my spare time to reading (10%), other activities (10%)  and to Chess (80%). Of course this is an average calculations: while on holidays “other activities” are the 90%!

Well, if I gave up Chess, what more could I do?. On one occasion, Bobby Fischer accepted a draw in one game. Later he regretted it : “I should have adjourned the game. What should I do with myself tomorrow?” Bobby has no life outside Chess. It is not my case, but try to ask (and answer) yourself the same question…

Q2.: This is easy. Freud and Jung would be delighted: my first Chess book was O’ Kelly’s book on Petrosian. The second was Nimzowitsch “Chess Praxis” and the third a small book with all Reti´s compositions. So my “Chess infancy” marked my “Chess adulthood”. Psychoanalysis at its best.

Q3.: In 1978 , when I began to seriously study Chess the most important event was the Baguio match between the Anatoly Karpov (USSR) and the Soviet dissident Viktor Korchnoi. The impact on the media was enormous. The Soviet Union had been the driving Chess force since WW2, everybody admired the Soviets, everybody tried to get Russian Chess literature, etc. In 2000 in my opinion the world and the world of Chess were suffering complicated changes.The Soviet Union was slowly disappearing, Karpov one of my all-time idols began to decline. To me it was as if everything had changed forever. Perhaps it was me who changed…In any case, I see it as a turning point in my life. The period 2000-2005 was a terrible personal period for me.

Q4.: This is the worst one… When I began to write this blog I did it because I wanted to  keep a  record of my Chess experiences mainly a sort of “Diary of an ex Chess Deputy Arbiter”, etc. Also, I wanted to write about Chess as I see it in a sort of attempt to show my gratitude to Chess. After the first few posts, the blog seemed to acquire a sort of own independent life. Now I do not know what to do. 64 is a magical number ( Mercury’s magical square has this number of squares, as the chessboard, and so on.) So, perhaps when I reach the number of 64 posts I will have to decide what to do. But so far, nothing is decided yet…

Perusing other Chess blogs one can find interesting ideas, byassed analyis of this and that matter, etc. One of my defects is trying to be objective from a subjective vision… One of the recurring topics is that of “The Ten Best Chessplayers in the History of Chess”. One can find as  many list as writers.I have nothing against it. In fact I think you can always found a lot of interesting explanations concerning why / why not this or that player is or is not in the list. The only problem I find is how to compare players from different periods of time…

I am going to tell you one of my biggest doubts:  Period 1930 – 1972. Events: Soviet Union  Championships  – USA Championships : which of the two were the strongest?????? 

I guess I will have to devote some more space to this particular question…In a future post.

W.: A. Karpov (1)

B.: T. Petrosian (0)

Tilburg 1982

1. e4  c6  2. d4 d5  3. Nd2  de4  4. Ne4  Nd7  5. Bc4   Ngf6  6. Ng5  e6  7. Qe2  Nb6  8. Bb3  a5  9. a3  a4  10.   Ba2  h6  11. N5f3  c5  12. c3  Bd7  13.  Ne5  cd4  14. cd4  Be7  15.  Ngf3  0-0  16. 0-0  Be8  17. Bd2  Nbd5  18. Rfc1  Qb6  19. Bc4  Bc6  20. Re1  Nc7  21. Nc6  bc6  22. Bf4  Ncd5  23. Be5  Rfd8  24. Rad1  Bd6  25. Rd2  Be5  26. de5  Nd7  27. g3!   Nf8  28. Red1  Rd7  29. Qe4  Rb7  30. Rc2  Rab8  31. Rdd2  Ne7  32. Kg2  Qa5  33. h4  Rd7  34. Be2  Rd5  35. Rd4  Rd4  36. Qd4  Nd5?   37.Rc6  Qa8  38. Rc4  Qb7  39. Rc2!  Nb6  40. Bb5  Ng6  41. Qd6  Qa8  42.  Bc6 , Black resigned.


Written by QChess

December 6, 2012 at 6:57 am

Nimzowitsch:The Crown Prince of Chess.

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My second chess book was Nimzowitsch’s “Chess Praxis”. It became one of the most important books I have ever read.

Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) was born in Riga, Latvia, moved to Denmark where he lived until his untimely death. He, together with R. Reti and R. Breyer ,is considered one of the fathers of the so-called “Hypermodern movement” aka “Neo-romanticism”).Essentially, it was a reaction against the too dogmatic and rigid interpretations of Steinitz’s strategical ideas made by S. Tarrasch -also one of the most important chessplayers in the history of Chess and one of those “greats” who never managed to become Champion of the World.

Nimzowitsch has been one of the deepest thinkers in the history of Chess.His three books:”My System”, “Chess Praxis” and Blockade have been studied by generations of chessplayers and the new set of strategical concepts have passed the test of time -with the necessary readjustements-. The new ideas on the control of the centre, the prophylaxis, the blockade, the play on squares of the same colour, etc. are fundamental to understand and play most of today´s openings (Bobby Fischer is said to have studied Nimzo’s ideas in depth for the 1972 match, and some authors pointed out that one of Spassky’s drawbacks was that he did not understand the hypermodern ideas…)

The neo-romantics introduced a whole set of new openings focusing on the new ideas on the centre and its control. Occupation does not implies control, so they started to cede the centre to their opponents and attack it from the flanks.This is the basis of openings/defences like the Nimzoindian,King’s Indian, Queen’s Indian,BogoIndian,Grünfeld,Reti, Catalan,Bird, Benoni,Larsen/Nimzowitsch,etc. Nimzowitsch also played 1…Nc6 against 1.e4 and devoted a lot of effort to 1.e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5.  and introduced the Dresden variation. He als studied and played the Hanham V. of the Philidor Defence.As you can see, most of them are played today and have  passed the test of time (and analysis)  as I said before.Chess was never the same,  though a reassessment had to be done for the sake of progress.

Nimzowitsch also advocated the “small centre”. This is the type of centre which appears in many Sicilians (Pawns in e6-d6 by Black) and was the seed for the famous “hedgehog” systems. These set-ups can be seen in a number of well-known and much-played openings.

One of the most important concepts he started to develop is that of “prophylaxis”, which today is applied as “prophylactic thinking” (you can find this subject treated by super-trainers like Dvoretsky, and players like Karpov -who made of it the centre of his strartegical ideas- , to mention only two of them).Nimzowitsch defined it as the prevention of undesired posibilities on your opponent’s part.Today, in an age of dynamism, it has nothing to do with passive or defensive play. In my opinion, today’s expanded concept of prophylaxis is one of the secrets to play good Chess, and must be studied accordingly.

(Note: in these first t I am mainly dealing with Chess personalities. Later I will try to write about concepts and ideas alone.)

Nimzowistch never played for the World Championship. First Capablanca never accepted such a match (in those years the Champion imposed the playing conditions and the money.The challenger had to accept the conditions and find the financial support). Later, Alekhine avoided it too, perhaps fearing a defeat.). About our man a lot of stories have been told. He is said to be a fanatic or/and an ill-tempered man. He suffered a lot -like many others- due to the miserable conditions the I World War left behind… But I would strongly recommend his books. You can find wonderful manoeuvres, you can start to grasp the rudiments of most of the openings in fashion today.You will start to learn Chess.

I like the following effort:

White: E. Cohn

Black A. Nimzowitsch

Carlsbad 1911

1.d4 d5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 c5 4. e3 Nf6 5. Bd3 Bd6 6. 0-0 0-0 7. a3 cd4: 8.ed4: dc4:  9.Bc4: Nc6 10. Nc3 b6 11. Bg5 Bb7 12. Qe2 h6 13. Be3 Ne7 14. Ne5 Ned5 15.Nd5: Nd5: 16. Qh5 Be5: 17.Qe5: Nf6 18.Rfe1 Bd5 19. Bd3 Rc8 20. Rac1 Ng4 21.Qg3 Ne3: 22.fe3: Qd7 23.Ba6 Rc1: 24.Rc1: Qa4 25.Bf1 Qb3 26.Qf2 f5 27.Qd2 Rf7 28.Qc3 Qa4 29.g3 Kh7 30.Bg2 Qb5 31.Bd5: ed5: 32.Qd2 Qb3 33.Qc3 Qb5 34.Qd2 Qb3 35.Qc3 Qb5 36.Qd2 Re7 37.Qc2 Qd7 38.Qd3 Re4 39.Kf2 Qe6 40.Rf1 Qg6 41.Kg2 Qe6 42.Kf2 Qg6 43.Kg2 Qe6 44.Kf2 Kg6 45.Rc1 Kh7 46.Rc2 Qg6 47.Kg2 Qg5 48.Rf2 Qg6 49.Qe2 Qe6 50. Qf3 Kg6 51.Re2 Kh7 52.Kf2 Qc8 53.Kg2 Qe6 54.Kf2 Qg6 55.Kg2 Qg5 56.Kf2 Qf6 57.Kg2 Qg5 58. Kf2 Qg6 59.Kg2 Qe6 60.Kf2 Qc8 61.Kg2 Qe6 62.Kf2 Qc8 63.Kg2 a5 64.h4 Kg6 65.Kh2 h5 66.Kg2 Kh6 67.Rf2 g6 68.Rf1 Kg7 69.Rf2 Kf7 70.Kh2 Ke7 71.Re2 Qc1 72.Qf2 Kd7 73.Rel Qc6 74.Kg2 Rg4 75.Rf1 Qc7 76.Qf3 Kc8 77.Qf2 Kb8 78.Kh3 Ka7 79.Rg1 Qd7 80.Kh2 Qd6 81.Kh3 Qc6 82.Re1 Qe6 83.Kh2 Qe4 84.Kh3 Qe6 85.Kh2 Qe7 86.Kh3 Qe4 87.Rg1 Qe6 88.Kh2 Re4 89.Rc1 Re3: 90.Qf4 Re2 91. Kh3 Ka6 92.b4 ab4: 93.ab4: Kb5 94.Rc7 Qe4 95.Qe4: Re4: 96. Rg7 Re6 97.Rd7 Kc4 98.Kg2 Kd4: 99.Kf3 Kc4 100.b5 d4 101.White resigns.

(The final part is annotated by Nimzowitsch in “Chess Praxis”)

I would also like to strongly recommend R.Keene’s masterwork on Aron Nimzowitsch and the book (in Danish) by B. Nielsen . “Nimzowitsch Danmarks Skakklaerer”.Exceptional.


Written by QChess

March 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm

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