An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Opposite Coloured Bishops – part 16 - Conclusion

This is the last post on the subject of endgames with bishops of opposite colours – all examples are from my article on the same subject published in Canadian chess magazine “En Passant” almost 10 years ago.

There is an attitude to endings with opposite coloured bishops that 'they are all drawn'. There is certainly a good reason for this. And yet almost all examples that I showed had a decisive result. Partly this is because in most of them one side had a material advantage. But some endings shown had even material in the starting position. Therefore, in a position with rooks on the board, it is often possible to outplay your opponent. If you are playing for a win, there might also exist a psychological effect that would help you: when seeing opposite coloured bishops, even strong players may relax and expect that even with second rate moves they will get their draw. Not necessarily!

I also hope that the readers’ thinking about types of endings will expand from "pawn endings" and "rook endings" to more complex combinations of material, such as “rooks + bishops of opposite colour”, “rooks + knights”. These are what Dvoretsky calls “simple positions” – not quite endgames, but nor middlegames either.  Studying ideas typical for each type of these simple positions will lead to a better understanding of chess.

To wrap up the series, here is the analysis/solution for the puzzle from the last post.

Topalov Veselin - Shirov Alexei, Linares (10), 1998
opposite_bishop_143 Black to move

47...Bh3 !! An amazing move, which initially does not seem to make any sense. The point is that Black's king needs to support the 'd' and 'a' pawns as soon as possible. The bishop on e4 was on his way. By going to h3, Black attacks the 'g2' pawn, so he wins a tempo. The reason why he is not afraid to lose the bishop, is because this bishop would not help him to advance the queenside pawns anyways. 48.gxh3 Kf5 49.Kf2 Ke4 50.Bxf6 d4 Diagram


51.Be7 Kd3 52.Bc5 Kc4 53.Be7 Kb3 Diagram


The Black king comes to c2. 0-1

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Opposite Coloured Bishops – part 15

I am now wrapping up the series on endgames with opposite coloured bishops, with a couple of positions for you to solve.

Spraggett Kevin - Hartman Brian, Hamilton m (4), 1993

opposite_bishop_142  White to move.

For the solution and to see the whole game go to

Hint: One of the characteristics of endgames with opposite coloured bishops and rooks, is that when the weaker side tries to setup the blockade, the stronger side’s rook can be sacrificed for the blockading bishop.

Topalov Veselin  - Shirov Alexei, Linares 1998

image  Black to move

The next post will include the full solution to this famous position, but if you can’t wait – the game is available here:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Opposite Coloured Bishops – part 14

I found this example in one of the books by Mark Dvoretsky, in the chapter written by Gregory Kaidanov. The game shows the power of making far reaching long term strategic plans, in positions where your opponent is completely tied up. In endgames with opposite coloured bishops, fortresses are very common; to break through such defensive schemes you have to think in terms of plans, rather than follow “move-by-move, let’s see what happens next” style.
Psakhis Lev (ISR) (2580) - Hebden Mark (ENG) (2435)
Ch World (team) (under 26) Chicago (USA), 1983

opposite_bishop_139 White to move – find the winning plan.
Black pieces are completely tied up to the defence of 'f7'. And yet it takes a very original plan from Lev Psakhis to win this game.
43.Kf1 Ba7 44.Ke2 Bb6 45.Kd3 Ba7 46.Kc4 Qc7+ 47.Kb3 Qe7 48.g4 Bb6 49.Kc4 Ba7 50.Kb5 Diagram


What is the king doing? 50...Qe8+ 51.Bc6 Qd8 52.Kc4 Qe7 53.Qd7! This is the point! After the exchange of queens the White king will support the advance of the 'b' pawn. 53...Qe6+ 54.Qxe6 fxe6 55.Rxf8 Kxf8 56.Kb5 Diagram


56...Ke7 57.Ka6 Bxf2 58.c4 Kd8 59.Kb7 Be1 60.b5 Bf2 61.b6 Bd4 62.Ba4 d5 63.cxd5 exd5 64.exd5 e4 65.Kc6 Kc8 66.d6 e3 67.Bb5 Bf6 68.Ba6+ Kb8 69.Kd7 1-0

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bluff in chess - refuting opponent’s opening play

When your opponent is playing the opening of a chess game almost without thinking, it is hard to imagine that he is making severe blunders and that his play should be refuted. Most likely everything had been checked on a computer and has been played before either by him, or by other players in the database. But here is an example where my opponent “was just playing too fast”. I think after playing 2 games a day for 4 days in a row, he simply did not want to spend too long on this last round game.

Jiganchine – McLaren, BC Championship, 2008

image White to move. Find the most promising continuation.s

Black has been playing very fast so far in this tournament game, and even though I was pleased with having a centralized knight on e4, I did not look too far for a tactical refutation as well. Yet after 17. Nd6! Qc7 (I was incorrectly concerned about 17… e4, but that is just wasting time since the knight wants to come to g5 anyway) 18. Nfg5 Nd8 Qe1!? – Black’s position has too many weaknesses, and White is going to win at least a pawn – Black can’t guard the e5 pawn, while also trying to cover up f7. Black’s pieces are also too passive to provide any real compensation for it.

image Black to move. White is practically winning

Instead I wanted to keep a positional advantage and blockade on e4, and lost all of my advantage after 17 Nfg5? Nxe4 18. Nxe4 f3! with unclear position. The game ended well for me, but this was definitely a mistake on my part early out of the opening. Had my opponent been making his moves a bit slower, I would actually try to play more aggressively. Instead, I wanted to play solid moves and just blockade e4,which gave me nothing special. So in that sense, his “bluff” actually worked quite well for him! I go over the entire game in this video.

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