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A Summer´s Chess Tale

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What would you play here? .- The position is from Karpov – Timman, Brussels 1988.  One of the problems in Chess is that all of us have heard or read a lot of things said by “very important experts” and these things remain there, stuck in our memory forever. Then we believe those “decrees” are permanent and perennial and we tend to repeat them like a mantram to show how much we know about  Chess. Yes, I’ve done it, you’ve done it, everybody has done it… one time or another. But GM Rowson strongly recommends to avoid this sort thinking out of inertia, to avoid taking anything from granted, to try always to look at things from fresh new approaches. (Of late I have been reading a lot about  “cognitive/social biases” / “fallacies”, etc,  and perhaps one day I will write about the ones affecting Chess and Chess thinking). The one I am speaking about here may fall into different biases/tendencies, for instance the “bandwagon effect” : the tendency to do or believe things because many other people do or believe the same”,but there are other biases implied because I can see a sort of “anchoring” and an overestimation of the opinion of supposed experts who may be or may be not such “experts” (“empty suits” in the words of N. Taleb)

Well, Karpov is unjustly considered a boring positional player, and so on. I defend he has been one of the deepest thinker in the history of Chess, a player who preferred strategical play, dry manoeuvring, positional plans, zugzwang strategy and control to uncertain tactical blazes. BUT, he was a daring tactician too. In the above position he unleashes a tactical whirlwind sweeping away his opponent not in a Tal-like approach, but in a rather controlled,scientifical explosion (if such a thing does exist…) :

17. dxc6!!, Rxd1/ 18. cxb7, Kb8 /19. Rfxd1, Bc5/ 20.Bxc5, Qxc5/ 21. Rd7, f5/ 22. Rad1, Nc6/ 23. Na4, Qb5/ 24. Rdc1! (exchanging pieces does not diminish the strength of the attack, and this is one of the most difficult things to realize in advance)  24… , Qxa4/ 25. Rxc6, Qxa5/ 26. Rxe6, Ka7/ 27. g3, g5/ 28. Rxh7!! , Rb8 (the point is that if now 28…, Rxh7, then 29. b8Q!!, Kxb8/ 30. Re8, Ke7/ 31. Ra8, Kb6/ 32. Rb8, Ka7 33. Rb7! winning)  29. h3, g4/ 30. hxg4, fxg4/ 31. Bg2, Qa1/ 32. Kh2, Qxb2/ 33. Rh-h6, Qa2/ 34. Re-f6, c5/ 35. Rf4, Qd2/ 36. Bf1, Rxb7/ 37. Rxa6, Kb8/ 38, Rf8, Kc7/ 39. Bg2, Qd7/ 40. Rh8, c4/ 41. Be4, Black resigned. 

(Perhaps many of you are on holidays , basking by the seaside, perhaps in the golden California, Italy, Greece, Spain… Well, it is winter time in the southern hemisphere too and there perhaps you are imagining your next holiday but with time to devote to Chess…  For all of you, here is a problem to test your tactical ability:


White to move, Mate in four moves. Shinkman 1872.)



Written by QChess

August 16, 2013 at 7:01 am

To Learn Chess, Study Chess, Not “About” Chess…

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Many Chess handbooks have been written trying to explain how Chess is/should be played. All of us have read a lot of general precepts like “…the best action against a flank attack is to counter it with an action in the center”, and so on. These are the sort of popular advice like “you should eat/drink less of this or that and more of this or that and you will live a hundred years”. Really?. To how many flank attacks have you succumbed because you do not have a damned d-Pawn to play on the center????. “To play against/with an isolated QP you should…” But then you get the damned isolani and try to follow the advice but the position is not the same as in that book and your opponent finishes you off with a mating attack… “If you have an inferior position you must create as many problems as possible to your opponent; see how Petrosian , Tal and Karpov do it…”  (Several beautiful games follow suit).  And then you lose one time after another because you fall in one inferior position after another and there are no those damned threats to conjure up because every time your stupid pieces are scattered threatening nothing or you need a Knight not that fat Bishop and your King is on h8 instead of e8 as in that Petrosian game and so on…  “Forget studying openings, you must study endgames, as Capablanca said and did”… And you buy all the Averbach endgame volumes and spend months studying them (those ideal but irreal positions with pure Knight or Bishop endgames, etc) simply to lose all your games in the first tournament you play because your opponents catch you on the hop in the very opening and you beat a record by being the only player to lose all his games before the 15th move… And then you start to believe Chess is not for you because it is an arcane game only understood by super-humans who can calculate tens of moves in advance, learn millions of opening variations and keep them updated day after day, and so on.  FAR FROM IT. If you are feeling very ill with these symptoms,my simple advice is :

1.- Don’t get nervous or anxious.

2.- Chess is a difficult game, even for professional players.

3.- Buy or get a copy of the following books: Rowson: “Chess for Zebras”  . Rowson : ” The Seven Deadly Chess Sins” and Hendricks “Move First,Think Later”  and read them very carefully .

After that, you can continue studying your favourite authors, your opening books, etc. 

The tale of all this is easy to understand: to learn Chess, study games and positions. Most of us have read tens of books on general principles. It is time to devote ourselves to dissect the games played by the great and to work on positions. Take for instance the following game by Tal:

W.: Rohde (0)

B.: Tal (1)

New York 1990

1. d4, Nf6/ 2. c4, e6/ 3. Nf3, d5/ 4. Nc3, c6/5. e3, Nbd7/ 6. Be2, Be7 (Apparently this Bishop belongs to  d6…I would like to explain something :I don’t know how they -the super GMs- do it, but they always manage to reach positions full of possibilities. Unless they make an opening mistake, they never fall in “dead” positions without active possibilities. Nor even Karpov when playing the ultrasolid Caro-Kann. This is the type of details you have to study, I guess. I suppose it has to do with the famous concept known as “insight”...) / 7. 0-0 , 0-0/ 8. Qc2, b6/ 9. e4, dxe4/ 10. Nxe4, Qc7/ 11. g5, c5/ 12. d5 (Rohde is out for blood against an attacking genius. Tal will have to withstand the attack and find a way to start a counterattack) 12…, exd5/ 13. cxd5, Nxd5/ 14. Bc4, N7f6/ 15. Rfe1, Bg4/ 16. Bxf6 (The American has spotted a sacrificial combination on f7. Well, now Tal would have spent a lot of time assessing it and trying to decide whether there is a way to counter the attack. In these moments you have to consider at least two types of possibilities: 1)The combination takes place but I can find a defence to level the game; 2) I can find not only intermediate moves to deactivate the attack, but also aggressive continuations to make the attack rebound on my opponent. What happened here was:)

16.., Nxf6/ 17. Nf3-g5, Nxe4 18. Nxf7!?, Nf6! (18. … Rxf7/ 19.Qe4)19. Qb3, b5!/ 20. Nh6+ , Kh8/ 21. Nf7+, Rxf7/ 22. Bxf7, Rf8/ 23. h3, c4!/ 24. Qxb5, Rxf7/ 25. hxg4, Nxg4 (and now it is Tal who is posing threats)/ 26. Qh5, Qf4/ 27. Re2, g6/ 28. Qh3, Bc5/ 29. Rf1, Nxf2!! / 30. Re8+ , Kg7/ And White resigned.

Now you should try to solve the following three positions. They have been taken from Karpov’s games (yes, Karpov also played beautiful combinations and I must say they may be even more complicated to spot than those by players with a combinative style!)  :

Karpov -Ungureanu

1.- Karpov-Ungureanu, Skopje (Ol) 1972

Karpov-van der Wiel

2.- Karpov-van der Wiel, Amsterdam, 1980.

Alvarez-Karpov   (Position from the Black side)

3.- Alvarez-Karpov, Skopje (Ol) 1972


1)  1. Be3! , Bxe4/ 2. Bxe4, Qxe5/ 3. Qxh7, Kf8/ 4. Bxa8, Ke7/ 5. Qe4, Qc7/ 6. Qb7 Black resigned.

2)  1. Rxe6!, Qxa6/ 2. Rxf7!, Kxf7/ 3. e8Q, Rbxe8/ 4. g6, Kg8/ 5. Rxe8, Bf8/ 6. Qe6 , Black resigned.

3) 1…, Rxg3!/ 2. hxg3, Neg4/ 3. Rde1, Rxe1/ 4. Rxe1, Nf2/ 5. Kh2, N6g4/ 6. Kg1, Ne4 / White resigned.


Written by QChess

January 31, 2013 at 7:55 am

Chess Training with Keres et alii .

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One of the books I have in my Chess library is a little-known gem written by Paul Keres. The title translated into  English  is   “The Art of Analysis” and has 67 pages. It is devoted to help to develop the players’ skills in the art of analysing adjourned positions. Yes, you may say there are no adjourned games these days… But please remember Chess can be seen as a whole in which the sum of the parts are bigger than the whole itself, and that the great Chess trainer “guru” Dvoretsky devoted nearly an entire book to teach tactics by using the analysis of adjourned positions. So it is not today’s practical use but the benefits we can obtain in the development of our tactical and analytical skills. Nearly every  Soviet trainer has strongly recommended the analysis of adjourned games as one of the best way to develop those analytical skills.

Keres presents the reader with 5 positions from his practice, and proceed to tell us the history around that position and how he tried to discover the hidden secrets they contain. At the end of the book, Keres explains his aim is not composing a systematic guide but to show the reader the problems every Chess Master has to deal with when he goes back home with an adjourned game to be played. Some of the positions are beautiful and invite the reader to try to analyse them and then compare the findings with the great GM’s ideas. For instance:

(I will give the moves played in the games at the end of the post in case you want to work on them on your own.)

W.: Rejfir (0)

B.: Keres (1)

Moscow  (Ol) 1956

W.: Rejfir

rejf Black : Keres

The position  (I have put it from the Black side of the board so Black plays upwards) was adjourned here and White sealed his 41st move. Although Keres has a Pawn about to reach the queening square, the position still has to be analysed. Remember that we are in top-level Chess, with players ready to fight and find very hidden resources.

Another of the examples is:

W.: M.Tal

tal B.: P. Keres

Again the position is shown from the Black side. The game was played in Beograd in 1959.Keres sealed his 41st move, which was 41. …, Nd3/

Another Soviet Chess  “heavyweight”  , the late A. Suetin, also devote chapters in his books to recommend these types of exercises. He said they were excellent training grounds because they imply two types of Chess thinking: one using abstract thinking  (without calculation of variations)  to determine which pieces to change, which to preserve, how to place ones pieces, etc. , and another tactical one  because most of the positions are full of tactical variations with hidden possibilities and tricks.

This is the way they worked in the “golden age”  of the Soviet Chess . These were the methods they use in their Chess schools, Pioneers’ Palaces, Chess training camps. Remember that in those days, even World, ex-World Champions had to devote time to training sessions with the young promises.

The last example is mentioned by Suetin. After the game, Botvinnik acknowledged that  this game helped him to improve his analytical skills:

W.: Ragozin

  BotvB.: Botvinnik

(Position from the Black side again)

This game was played in Leningrad in 1930. Botvinnik managed to win after his opponent missed a drawish line on move 50th. But this was pure Chess!: a tug-of-war between two outstanding minds. In those years, Ragozin was Botvinnik’s trainer and they played scores of secret games which helped Botvinnik to become one of the best chessplayers in the history of the game.

The game proceeded  38 …, Rxf3  39. b6, cb6  40. cb6   Rd8! 41. Kc4, Re3  42. Nc6, Re4 43. Nd4, f3  44. Ra2, Rc8  45. Kb4!, Re1 46. c4, Re4  47. Kc3, Re3  48. Kb4, Re4  49. Kc3, Rd8!  50. Nc6? , Re3  51. Kb4 , Re2  52. Ra1, f2 53. Nxd8 Re1 54. Ra8, f1=Q  55. Nc6, Kg7 and Black finally won the game.

Rejfir- Keres continued:

41. Qd3 (sealed),  Rxg6/ 42. hg6, Qd4! 43. Qe2, Kh7  44. Qd1, Qd3!  45. b3, f6! 46. gf6 , Kxh6  47. f7, Kg7  48. Kg1, Kxf7 49.  Kg2   (Here Keres analyses 8 different possibilities depending where the two Kings can be placed on.He determined that all of them were winning for him) , 49…, Kg6  50. Kg1, Kh6  51. Kg2?   (51. a3)  ,  Kg5  52. Kg1, a5!  53. Kg2, a4  54. ba4 , Qe4  55. Kf1, Qxc4  56. Kg2, Qg4 / And White resigned.

The magnificent struggle in Tal – Keres continued as follows:

41. …, Nd3  (sealed)  42. Qc8, Kg7  43. Qf5! , Qd2  44. Nd4!  ,Qe1 45. Kg2, Qe3!  46. Qd5!, Qf2  47. Kh3, Qf1  48. Kg4, Nf2!  49. Kf5, Qd3  50. Ke5, Ng4  51. Kd6  Qxa3  52. Kc7, Qe7  53. Kc8, Ne3 (end of home analysis according to Keres)  54. Qb5, Qe4  55. Qb2, Kg6  56. Qb6, f6  57. Ne6 ,Nc4  58. Qa6, Ne5  59. Nc7, Qc2  60. Qd6, Qxh2  61. Nd5, Qf2  62. Kb7, Qxg3!  63. Qxf6, Kh5  64. Qe6, Ng4  65. Ne7, Qf3  66. Kc8, Kh4  67. Nf5, Kh3  68. Kd8, h5  69. Qg6, Ne5  70. Qe6, Ng4  71. Qg6, Ne5  72. Qe6 , Qd3  73. Nd4, Ng4  74. Qd5, Nf2!  75. Kc8, h4  76. Qe5, Qe4  77. Qf6, Qf4  78. Nf5, Ne4  79. Qe6 , Qg4 / and Tal resigned.


Written by QChess

December 20, 2012 at 8:22 am

Horizon Effect

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How long do top chessplayers calculate?. Non players believe that the best chesslayers are  able to calculate many many moves in advance. This is but a “cliché”  (in the same way that many people believe that if you, a chessplayer, plays against a less-skilled or ocassional opponent you have to win in a few moves…).

Steinitz declared that the matter depended on the level of his rival. Kasparov said that in positions with forced lines he could calculate around ten even fifteen moves. In other cases -complicated positions- he said that one has to rely upon his/her intuition + the positional understanding and in these case perhaps only from 5 to seven moves can be calculated. Some experts warn of the famous “two move principle” (the name is mine).

Well, the mind of a professional does not work so strictly  (I mean they do not care about these “scholastical” matters…) .They have a position in front of them and , generally speaking, know the plans associated to the opening played. Then,  in an unconscious way, they begin to apply their knowledge of the position, the pattern recognition, their intuition, their ability to perceive immediate tactical nuances , their strategical knowledge and their positional insight. They are able to use a sort of goal-oriented thinking to take advantage of the assets or to determine that the opponent’s threats are more dangerous than his own and consequently he has to define a plan of defence.

The term “horizon effect” appears related to artificial intelligence. In short: when evaluating possible future positions and decide where to stop the calculation, what would happen if the engine stops on move 10 and on move 11th there is a mate in one?. This tries to be avoided introducing what is known as “quiescence search”.

In OTB Chess there are hundreds of  examples where both players reach an opening position where both parties believe the advantage is on their respective sides. The ensuing play and the post-mortem analysis will prove who was right. In other cases  one of the players has a better vision, calculates one step ahead ad is able to beat his opponent who had stopped calculating one or more steps behind his rival.

Chess is  very complicated, with many absolutely different factors intervening (even top GMs and World Champions have been defeated in less than 20 moves, for instance).

Abrahams wrote that “the very best players very rarely make any perceptible tactical error. They lose by choosing a bad strategical line and persisting in it. They lose, in effect, by trying to do too much (or too little).” .- “The Chess Mind”  (Of course all this under normal circumstances I add).

Kotov wrote that you could find that some leading players might overlook a combination, but that you would never find one who calculated variations badly.

W.: E. Geller (1)

B.: Y. Anikaev (o)

Minks 1979

1. e4 c5  2. Nf3 e6  3. d4 cd4  4. Nd4: Nf6  5. Nc3 d6  6. Be2 Be7  7. 0-0 0-0  8. f4 Nc6  9. Be3 a6  10. a4 Bd7  11. Bf3 Na5  12. Qe2  Qc7  13. g4 Rfc8  14. g5 Ne8  15. f5 Nc4  16. Bh5 g6  17. fg6  fg6  18. Qf2! Ne5  19. Nf3!  Ng7  20. Ne5: Rf8  21. Nf7! Nh5:  22. Nd5!! ed5  23. Nh6 Kg7 24. Qf7! Rf7:: 25. Rf7: Kh8  26. Bd4 Bf6  27. Rf6!  and Black resigned.  What a thrashing!

W.: L. Portisch (0)

B.: J. Pinter (1)

Hungarian Chess Championship 1984

1. d4 Nf6  2.c4 e6  3. Nf3 d5  4. Nc3 c5  5. cd5 Nd5:  6. e4 Nc3:  7. bc3 cd4  8. cd4 Nc6  9. Bc4 b5 10. Be2 Bb4  11. Bd2 Qa5  12. Bb4: Qb4:  13. Qd2 Bb7  14. a3 Qd2: 15. Kd2: a6  16. a4 b4  17. a5?! Rd8  18. Ke3 f5!  19. ef5 ef5  20. Bc4 Ke7  21. d5  Kf6!  22. dc6 Rhe8  23. Kf4 Re4  24. Kg3 Bc8!  25. Rac1  Rg4  26. Kh3  f4  27 Ne5? (The losing move. It was necessary 27 Ba5:) 27. … , Kg5  28. Nf7  Kh5  29.Be2 Rd3  30. g3  f3  31. Rc5  Rg5  32. g4  Bg4:  33. Kg3  fe2  and White resigned.


Written by QChess

May 8, 2012 at 7:28 am

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