An unexamined life is not worth living.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Endgame with bishops of opposite colour – video

image White to move. Can he save the game?

Watch the video to see the solution. White’s worse (objectively – he’s losing) and my only chance is to capture on f4 with the bishop, so that I can stop the `h` pawn, and so that `f` pawn does not become too dangerous as well.
However, that does not work immediately: 47. Bxf4? Kxf4 48. g6 Bxf3 49. g7 Bd5 -+ blocking the pawn. But White has a study-like way to make this idea work, and in the game I managed to find the right move order.
Black, an International Master, did not find the way around the position, and the game ended as a draw. Looking at it now, 7 years later, I realized that Black was still winning, but this draw is still nonetheless one of my better efforts when it comes to saving lost positions. This was somewhat inspired by my article about endgames with bishops of opposite colour, and in particular – the Kotov-Botvinnik game.

PS. This is likely my last blog post for the 2009. Happy new year and best wishes for 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Opening disaster video

If you ever studied Riga variation of the Open variation of the Spanish opening (quite a mouthful!), you’d have known this position and know the right move immediately. My brain, however malfunctioned, and I played the wrong king move.

image White to move. Black just played Bxh2+, and White has to respond correctly to fight for the advantage.

Watch the video if you want to see the gory details:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Passed pawns in the endgame – video

I blogged recently about this game where I played a grandmaster, now posted my comments as a youtube video as well:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sacrifices in the Sicilian – with video

I recorded a video about an online 15 minute game I played. Over the course of the game, I played a nice sacrifice, but also missed several tactical shots that would have won the game on a spot. You can try to solve the positions below for White, there are two bishop sacrifices, one exchange sac (that was the one I found during the game), and a rook sac! The video will contain the answers.

image White to move. Black’s g7-g6 was very risky, how can White prove that?

image White to move. Black’s king has very few defenders – how to exploit that?

image White to move. The rook is guarding e6, how can we distract it?

image White to move. Two bishops are on fire, but the king is about to escape.

Replay through the video to actually see the solution and the entire game:

I also posted it on youtube: part 1 and part 2.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chessbase Light 2009 – create custom shortcuts

I use Chessbase Light for creating diagrams for this blog. Certain operations, such as copying a diagram to later paste it into Windows Live Writer, need to be done a repeatedly. Just yesterday I learned how to create custom shortcuts for operations that currently don’t have any shortcuts assigned to them. Once you have a game window open, pick Tools->Customize menu item (not a very good label since shortcuts is the only thing it lets you customize, calling it “Custom Shortcuts” would make it more discoverable…).


The UI looks self explanatory, but you need to put the cursor into the “Input new shortcut” before it lets you assign a new shortcut – something that drove me a bit crazy before I realized it. The list of commands is a bit different if you do this in the “Database Window”.

Anyway, this is cool because this can save me time for creating blog entries. Also, there are some features in this long list (look at the scrollbar!)  that I never realized exist. Again, so much for the discoverability. Turns out you can “Generate Repertoire – Scan the database for games of your repertoire and generate the report”, a feature for which I have never seen a menu item in the UI! You do have an opening repertoire database, don’t you?

Unexpected queen sacrifice

I overlooked the following neat idea while playing a blitz game today:

image White to move
In this typical Spanish structure, I erred with 27. Rxa8 Rxa8 28. Qf7 which brought me nothing after Qd8. Disappointed, I lost the game. Instead I had the brilliant queen sac:
27. Qf7!!

image  White threatens Qg8 with mate, and otherwise Black has to give up two rooks for the queen:
27… Rxf7 28. Nxf7+ Kg8 29. Nh6+ (the point) Kf8 30. Rxa8+ Ne8 31. Rea1 White is much better:
image Bishop will be transferred to g4, White controls the only open file and Black’s kingside pawn structure is damaged. It won’t be easy…

Karpov – Kortchnoi, 1981 match game video

I uploaded another video to my Youtube channel. With these videos I want to motivate myself to select some games that I would like to remember - either to enhance my opening repertoire, to improve my strategic understanding of the game, and so on.
This game features a novelty by Karpov (13.a4!?), against Black has not found a good defence – neither in this game, nor in opening theory in general up to this day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blog structure - reorganizing the labels

After realizing that labels, the way I use them, are not helping viewers to find things on the blog, I went through some effort to reorganize them and make better use of the blogger ‘labels’ widget. Blogger makes it difficult to rename labels, so I regretted a little bit that I had not put more effort into this earlier, but now what’s done is done. As of today have major label categories for
- openings
- players
- endgames
- other categories that don’t fall under any of the above


Now, what labels do I need to attach to this post...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Opposite Coloured Bishops – part 12

(14) Moore Harry - Herder D
1994 BC Closed (6), 1994


How are the opposite coloured bishop endgames affected when also one pair of rooks is on the board? A very important idea is that the stronger side can sacrifice the exchange in order to break through the blockade. This is very logical, as by giving up a rook for a bishop, we eliminate the drawish factor of the position - opposite colour bishops. 33...Bd5 White is suffering from weakness of light squares around his king, with potential back rank problems. This, in addition to Black's extra pawn is more than decisive. 34.exf6 Kxf6 35.a3 a4 36.h3 [36.Rc1 ! ? 36...Bc4 37.f3 -1.22 37...b5 38.Ba5 Rc6 39.Rd1 Be2] 36...Rc2 37.Bb4 h5 38.Ba5 Kf5 39.Bb4 Rb2 Diagram


40.Re3? Of course, it was necessary to prevent Rxb4. Then Black would have to transfer his king to b3 or a2, with the idea of still sacrificing the exchange on a3. The complex of weak light squares on the kingside would make it very hard for the White king or rook to prevent this invasion. [40.Bd6 ! ? 40...g4 -1.22 (40...Be4 ? 41.g4+; 40...Kf6 ? 41.Be5+) ] 40...g4 41.h4 Rb1+ Diagram


! probably White missed this intermediate check. 42.Re1 Rxb4 ! 43.axb4 a3 Diagram


now the pawn gets to a2 44.Kf1 Bc4+ 45.Kg2 a2 46.Rc1 b6 47.Ra1 Bd5+ 48.Kf1 Ke4 49.Ke2 Bc4+ 50.Kd2 Kf3 51.Ke1 [51.Kc3 Bd5 52.Rf1 Ke2] 51...b5 52.Rd1 Diagram


White does not let the black king to 'b2'. Dave Herder opens the 'second front'. 52...e5 53.Ra1 e4! 54.Rc1 Bd3 Threatening Bb1 55.Ra1 Bb1 56.Kf1 e3 Diagram


Very elegant play by the BC master! 0-1

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Open in New Westminster, BC

Information from, the organizers would like to spread the word out:
December Open
Dec 5-6, 2009 - Sat.-Sun.

Location: Sprott Shaw College, (map)
1176 8th Ave. New Westminster, BC (Second floor)
Prizes: $250 Guaranteed first place. Rest based on entries.
Time Control: G90 Total game time 3 hours.
Format: 5 Round Swiss.
Round Times: Saturday 9:30, 1:00 and 5:00 or ASAP, Sunday 9:30 and 1:00
Half Point byes are available by request before the close of registration.
Entry Fee: $35 includes BCCF membership fee CFC Regular rated. CFC membership required.
Preregister Online or by emailing the information on entry form to, then check in on site Saturday between 8:30 to 9:00 am.
On site registration closes at 9:00 am. If you arrive onsite after 9:00 go to the late registration desk.
Tournament Flyer
Register Online

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Video of Mamedyarov – Morozevich

Another wonderful video posted by Sergei Sorokhtin on youtube. This time the database had incorrect moves, so I reconstructed them from the video so that you can replay through the moves!

Now, little puzzle for you,
image Black to move
Does 26… Nd2 work in this position? Ok, does it work in blitz? What if you are Alexander Morozevich?

Opposite Coloured Bishops – part 11

I am continuing the series of annotated games with endgames with bishops of opposite colours. More examples are here. This example illustrates that weak pawns are vulnerable in this type of endgame just like in any other. A rook is particularly good at picking up weak pawns, while the bishop can help to protect your own pawns.
Chiburdanidze Maia (GM) (GEO) (2500) - Hoffmann Michael (GER) (2485)
It Lippstadt (Germany) (1), 1995


31.Kg2 White has an advantage, as the Black bishop is in a cage of white and black pawns. As Black tries to free up the bishop with 'g6-g5', his pawns are going to become weak. [31.Kf1 !? planning Kf1-e2-d3, then if 31...Bf6 32.Ke2 Bh4] 31...Bf6 32.Kg3 h6 ? ! [32...a4 !? A much better way to activate the bishop was: 33.Rc2 ! ? (33.a3 ? 33...c2 -0.48) 33...a3 34.Kf3 Kd7 35.Ke2 Bd8 36.Kd3 Ba5 37.f3 Rb8 38.Bb3 0.00] 33.Bb3 g5 34.Bc2 Ke6 35.Rb1 Diagram


35...gxf4+ ? [35...Bd8 36.Rb7 Bc7 +0.48] 36.Kxf4 Notice how many 'pawn islands' Black has. 36...Bg5+ 37.Kf3 Bd8 38.Rb5 d5 39.Ke2 Rc4 40.Kd3 a4 41.Rb8 Be7 42.Rh8 Diagram


All 5 Black's weak pawns start to fall down like leaves from a tree in fall. 42...f4 43.Rxh6+ Bf6 44.Rh7 a3 45.Bb3 c2 46.Bxc2 Rb4 47.Bb3 f3 48.Ra7 Diagram



Kramnik – Grachev – rook endgame in a blitz game

I enjoyed watching the video while following the moves from the database in a separate window, you can do that too!

If you are curious how Grachev lost the endgame that was drawn all along, here is the culprit move/position:

image Black to move.
Grachev blundered with 51… Kc8? and later the pawn advanced with a decisive tempo.
As pointed out by computer - correct was 51... Kd8! 52. Kb6 Rh2 53. Rg8+ Ke7 54. c6 Rb2+ 55. Kxa5 Rc2 56. Kb6 f3 =
When you are playing against Kramnik – any position is full of tricks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Checkmate in the rook endgame

In the endgame a king is supposed to play an active role, so it is easy to miss cases where suddenly the king ends up in grave danger. In one of the variations of the Panov attack – an endgame arises where Black has to have a subtle feeling for whether his king should be active, or safe. I’ve already written a post called “Breakthrough in a rook endgame” where the Black king was playing an active role, so now – a couple of examples where the king comes under massive fire of White’s two rooks and potentially gets mated.

Charbonneau – Jiganchine, Edmonton, 2000, analysis

image Black to move r7/p5pp/1k3p2/3R4/7r/P4P2/1P3P1P/1KR5 b - - 0 29
Question:is it safe for Black to take on h2 with 29… Rxh2 ?
Answer: No! White plays a4 and Black has no good defence against Rb5+ and Rc6 #, say after 30. a4 Rxf2 31. Rb5+ Ka6 32. Rc6 #

image Game over

After 30. a4!, there is no other good defence, e.g. 30... a6 31. a5+ Kb7 32. Rd7+ Kb8 33. Re1 Kc8 34. Rxg7

image White is just winning r1k5/6Rp/p4p2/P7/8/5P2/1P3P1r/1K2R3 b - - 0 34
e.g. 34… Rd8 35. Rg8+ Kd7 36. Rxa8 +-

You’d say – who would fall for this type of trick? A grandmaster could, here is an example from the same Caro-Kann endgame:
Meier – Saltaev, 2006
(Click here to replay the entire game)

image Black to move 8/p2R4/8/3p1R1p/KP1k3r/P2r1P2/5P2/8 b - - 0 33
Black played 33… Kc4? (33… Kc3 was better) and resigned after 34. Rc7 Kd4 35. Rc5! 1-0

imageThere is no good defence against Rfxd5 with potential checkmate.
8/p7/8/2Rp1R1p/KP1k3r/P2r1P2/5P2/8 b - - 0 35

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Opposite Coloured Bishops – part 10

I am continuing the series of annotated games with endgames with bishops of opposite colours. More examples are here.
(12) Suetin Alexey S (RUS) - Botvinnik Mikhail (RUS)
Ch URS Moscow (Russia), 1952


45...Bxe4 ?! with two bishops and an extra pawn Black is clearly winning; now things become more complicated. After being removed from the USSR Olympic team in 1952 ''for poor results", the WC, Mikhail Botvinnik was anxious to win the 1952 USSR Championship, to prove that "he could still play chess". In the final round he needed a win to catch up with Mark Taimanov; as a result, this endgame becomes the struggle of nerves. [45...Rf3-/+] 46.Bxe4 d5 47.Bd3 Be5 ? ! [47...e5 Botvinnik recommends: 48.Rb6 e4 49.Rxb7+ Kd6 50.Bxa6 Rxc2 -1.22 in positions with rooks + bishops of opposite colours, it is important to have a strong pawn center that would reduce the scope of opponent's pieces, bishop in particular (note a similar idea in Alexander-Smyslov) . Even though the material gets reduced, White's pieces are disorganized. 51.b4 ?! For example: (51.Rb6+ !? seems to be better) 51...e3 52.Kb3 ? ! (52.a5 Rc4 ! 53.Rb6+ Ke7 54.Bxc4 dxc4 55.Rb7+ Kf6 -5.50) 52...e2 !] 48.Rg8 Kd7 49.b4 Bf6 50.Rg1 Diagram


50...Rh2 again, Botvinnik notes that the 'e5' pawn must be pushed as soon as possible [50...e5 !] 51.Kb3 Kd6 52.Rd1 Ke7 53.c4 Rb2+ 54.Ka3 dxc4 55.Bxc4 Rc2 56.Bb3 Bb2+ 57.Ka2 Rf2 58.Bc4 a5 59.bxa5 Bc3+ 60.Kb3 Bxa5 61.Bb5 b6 Diagram


now the position has simplified too much, and most spectators expected a draw to be the result 62.Kc4 Kf6 63.Kd4 Rf4+ 64.Ke3 Ke5 65.Rh1 Re4+ 66.Kd3 Rg4 67.Rh5+ Kd6 68.Rh8 Ke5 69.Rh5+ Kf4 70.Rh3 Rg8 71.Rh4+ Ke5 72.Rh5+ Kd6 73.Rh4 Rg3+ 74.Ke4 [74.Kd4 ! 0.00] 74...Bd2 Diagram


75.Bd3 ? now a small miracle happens. 75...Bg5 ! 76.Rh5 Kc5 Diagram


White has to give up material to avoid mate. Probably inspired by such a finish, Botvinnik went to on to win his 7th national title in the tie-break match against Taimanov. 0-1

Replay game in the viewer:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Opposite Coloured bishops – Part 9

Aron Kapstan recently won 2009 Manitoba Seniors Championship. Here is a game of his that I annotated for one of my older articles. He nicely outplayed a less experienced opponent in the complicated endgame.
(11) Tootoosis Harvey - Kaptsan Aron
CAN-op (2), 09.07.2000


37...Bxc3 38.b3 e6 39.Bc4 White is up two pawns and should win. 39...Kg7 40.Kc2 Bb4 41.Rd7 Kf6 Diagram


42.f5 ?! This 'tactical' shot just helps Black. 42...exf5 43.Rxf7+ Ke5 44.Kd3 ? [44.Bd3+-] 44...Rh8 Now the position becomes unclear. Black gets his own passer, which is supported by the king, rook, and bishop. To stop this pawn White sends his king. Seems to be a bit risky, does not it? 45.Rb7 Rxh3+ 46.Ke2 Bc3 Diagram


47.a5 !? White keeps finding tactical resources... 47...Ke4 [47...Bxa5 48.Rb5+] 48.a6 Rh2+ 49.Kf1 Diagram


49...f4 ? I think that Black is playing just using his intuition in this entire endgame. [49...Kf3 !? More precise was 50.Bd5+ Kg3 51.Rb8 (51.a7 ? 51...Rf2+ 52.Kg1 Rf4 -5.50) 51...Rf2+ 52.Kg1 Bd4 53.Rg8+ Kh3 and Black seems to be getting a draw: 54.Bc4 Rg2+ 55.Kf1 Rxg8 56.Bxg8 Kg3 57.Ke2 Kf4 0.00] 50.Rd7 f3 Diagram


51.a7 ?? Missing something very important... [51.Bd5+ White had some winning chances after 51...Ke3 52.Re7+ Kd3 53.Bxf3 Bd4 54.Be4+ (54.a7 ? 54...Rf2+ 55.Ke1 Rxf3-/+ !) 54...Kc3 55.Bd5 Ra2 56.Rc7+] 51...Rh1+ 52.Kf2 Be1# Diagram

opposite_bishop_119 0-1

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Internet Blitz Chess – it’s all about concentration

A few years ago I got a great deal for a set of wireless mouse and keyboard (less than $40 CAD in total). And it’s been serving me great because cables annoy me (there is already too many of them around my desk). The only times the wireless mouse bothered me was when replacing batteries, and when playing blitz games: the control over the cursor is just not as tight as with a regular mouse. Recently I played a few games with a different mouse and noticed that my blitz EXPERIENCE is dramatically better. I feel a lot more confident and in the last game – I managed to outplay an opponent from a completely hopeless position and win on time. That got me thinking. With a bad mouse, I surely play moves  a bit slower, but I rarely drop a queen. A better mouse may gain me 10-20 seconds per game, but is that really what makes such a difference? Sometimes it does, but I realized that the level of concentration I am able to achieve – is what really loses or wins 3 minute online games. I have not read Hikaru Nakamura and Bruce Harper’s recent book Bullet Chess: One Minute To Mate, but I am sure it talks about this. This also is true for regular games. Garry Kasparov in his foreword to Secrets of Chess Training by Dvoretsky, mentioned that ability to concentrate is one of the most important factors for success in chess.

When I win blitz games online
- The pieces and the board are convenient to see, the user interface is quick and responsive (I don’t need to think about it)
- The mouse is not there, the moves come from my brain, not from my fingers
- There is nobody talking to me while I am playing. TV is turned off

When I lose blitz games online
- I am tired before the game even begins
- I need to keep resizing the board to get it to be convenient
- I keep banging the mouse against whatever surface it’s on, because the surface is crap, and every move costs me mental energy that’s being wasted on getting the mouse to do what I want (move that darn pawn one square forward, not two, will you?)
- Someone starts talking to me to right when me and my opponent are down to the last 30 seconds

Cordless Mouse? Thanks, but no thanks!


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Missed chance to beat a grandmaster

I faced a grandmaster in a 15 minute game on ICC yesterday, probably for the first time after playing there on and off for about 10 years. After making a blunder in the middlegame, I was forced to give up a piece for only a pawn. However, in the endgame, my opponent played a couple of inaccurate moves, and suddenly my pawns were rolling:

Mr-Pattaya – DDT3000

image  White to move. 1R6/1P4k1/8/5p2/1r4p1/3P3p/4KN2/8 w - - 0 50
Apparently Black’s pawns are too strong, and White’s are not going anywhere yet, so White decided to bail out and sacrifice both b7 pawn and the knight: 50. Rc8 Rxb7 51. Rc1 Kf6 52. Nxh3 gxh3 53. Kf3

image Black to move. 8/1r6/5k2/5p2/8/3P1K1p/8/2R5 b - - 0 53
The rook endgame is likely winning for Black, but we were down to about 1 minute SD, with 1 second increments, so as usual, a comedy of errors ensued. A few moves later, however, I got my chance for glory, after White played 66. d6??

image Black to move. 8/7r/3P1R2/8/8/4k2p/5p1K/8 b - - 0 66
66… Rh6!! would have won the game, as after 67. Rf8 Rxd6 I should be able to get to the Lucena position. Allowing me to queen the ‘f’ pawn after 67. Rxh6 f1Q should not save White either.
Instead I played 66… Ke2?? and White gave me a perpetual check with the rook, resulting in a DRAW. Perhaps – a fair result?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Improving Chess Analysis Skills – Bishop against Knight endgame

I am a believer in the approach of analyzing one’s games as a major tool for chess improvement, and already wrote a post about it. I keep a database of all games I played, and as I am bored – look back at my old endgames from many years ago. Most of them are more complicated than they appear on the first sight, but what I find even more interesting is that my old annotations from around 1999-2001 often contain more mistakes than the actual games. Mark Dvoretsky pointed out the phenomena that players are more relaxed during analysis than during the actual games, so annotations contain even the most obvious errors. He used Shirov’s games, but then also went on to give an example of how Kasparov missed mate in one while annotating Lasker-Steinitz game. I suspect in a lot of cases, including my own – the process of finding mistakes in old analysis has to do with

  • computer engines having become stronger by the time you get around to double check your analysis
  • having more time to focus on a position (Alexei Shirov is probably a bit more busy playing in tournaments than Mark Dvoretsky, I also don’t play as much now as I used to)

Medalen – Jiganchine, 2000

image Black to move. Does 73… Bb8 win?

I played 73…g3!?, and after 74. Nd6 Bxd6 we both promoted our pawns, I got a drawn queen endgame with an extra pawn (which my opponent quickly lost). During and after the game in my analysis I was convinced that Bb8 wins on a spot. But actually – it leads to an even more forced draw. This must be some kind of optical illusion that makes you think that a bishop is doing a superior job to a knight in blocking a pawn, but they are actually equivalent as the next diagram shows.

74. Kb5! g3 75. Ne3 h5 76. Kxa5 h4 77. Kb6
image Black to move. There is no win.
77… g2 78. Nxg2 Kxg2 79. a5 h3 80. a6 h2 81. a7 Bxa7+ 82. Kxa7 h1=Q 83. b8=Q = with a dead draw


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fortress in a pawn endgame

This position could have appeared in one of my old games, had I played 33. Bf2-e1!?

image Black to move. Can he win by going into pawn endgame with 33…Nxc3?

I would be forced to take on c3, and we’d need to see if White has a good response here after 34. Bxc3 bxc3
image White to move. How to create a fortress?

I blogged about another pawn endgame a couple of days ago, it was all pawn races and calculation. Here instead we need to think strategically – what plans does Black have, and how can we prevent them? Looking for the answer, you will see that Black’s protected passed pawn on c4 is going to keep White king tied up. Black king may then break through either on the kingside or on the queenside. We can keep queenside closed by playing a2-a4, but what about kingside?

35 . h6!! is the only way to create a fortress. 35… gxh6 (otherwise White would play 36. h7!) 36. h4 Kd7 37. a4 f6 38. exf6 Ke6 39. h5

image Black cannot break through. Draw! Notice that if Black did not have his own a5 pawn, he would be winning – this actually happened a bit later in that same game.

Instead of allowing such a fortress, Black should play 33… b3! 34.axb3 cxb3 35. Kd1 Na3 36.Kc1 Nc4 –+

image Full domination of knight over bishop.

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