An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Review – Khalifman’s Opening For White Series

If you are are looking into buying a chess opening book these days, many books lack depth. This is clearly not the case with Alexander Khalifman’s “Opening for White according to Anand”! I have a copy of volume two – about the mainline Spanish Opening, and I must say the book provides the necessary combination of depth and detail. A few more good points on the book:

  • Specific moves are in most cases presented in the context of strategic plans
  • Most of the theory is up to date – at the time of the writing
  • The book is a solid foundation for a full repertoire
  • Transpositions are generally explained
  • Final positions are given evaluations
  • If necessary to illustrate the ideas of the middlegame – entire games are provided
  • The author is a reliable authority on opening theory
  • The entire mainline Spanish is covered – which must have been a ton of work for the author(s)


If you play the mainline Spanish as White (or even as Black), and have no coach to walk you through it, this book is a “must have” in your chess library!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Meditation and Chess

Recently I have been looking into the benefits of meditation, as well as trying to understand as general purpose.  One of the key aspects of successful meditation is supposedly being able to focus on the current moment rather than worrying about the past and the future. World chess champion Garry Kasparov has pointed out that being able to concentrate at the important moment is perhaps one of the most overlooked and important keys to becoming a successful chess player. I recall Canadian Chess Champion Kevin Spraggett has also indicated that he used meditation for his chess growth.

In our society there are so many distractions coming from the media, technology and pressures of everyday life that being able to focus on a chess position is a skill that I would guess can be improved with meditation.  I consider difficulty with focusing is one of the main obstacles for my successful studying of chess and better tournament results, so I am getting curious if meditation can help me with that ...


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

King Race in Pawn Endgame

This endgame occurred in my game almost 15 years ago.

Jiganchine – Verkhovskaya, Alushta 1997

image Black to move.

There are two legitimate questions associated with this position:

  1. What move should Black play?
  2. With best play from both sides, how should the game end?

Hint: Black stands no chance in the king race, so he must play correctly with his pawns!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

with PGN 4WEB Manually Added

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Mr. Darcy has proposed test to me!

He is the last man on earth I would ever desire to test.

Whatever shall I do?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Crazy Rook Stalemate At the World Cup

One of the most dramatic moments of this year’s World Cup happened early on, in the first rapid playoff game in Felgaer – Malakhov match. The Russian grandmaster is known as an endgame expert, but and here he found a miraculous defensive resource in what kept looking like a hopeless endgame.

image Black to move. His position looks completely hopeless, but since the king is stalemated, he can try to play for a draw with 116. ... Rb5+!? Of course White does not accept the sacrifice, which would have lead to immediate draw.
117. Kc7 Rd5!
image  White to move
118. Rh7 ?? One move before victory, Felgaer crumbles under immense pressure. The rook is unprotected on ‘h7’ and this makes all the difference. Correct was 118. Re7! Rd7+ 119. Kb6!, and White wins.
118... Rd7+ !
image White is forced to take the rook, since otherwise his own rook on h7 falls. But now this is stalemate.
119. Kxd7 1/2-1/2

image Malakhov just played Re7+, and you can see that GM Alekseev is the first one of the spectators to react with a grin, all others are still trying to figure out what’s going on for another couple of seconds.

A few seconds later – Felgaer can’t believe that 120 moves into this game, victory just escaped!image 
The shock of this draw had an interesting effect on the two players, as in the second game Malakhov lost quickly as White and was eliminated.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Solving Simple Tactics – Part 4

White to move and win in all positions

image  image

image  image

Starting off with the World Championship game, another collection of queen sacrifices!

Monday, November 14, 2011

“Think and Grow Rich” – Get Better at Chess

I have already written about motivational books such as Getting Things Done and How Life Imitates Chess and using their guidelines to increase one’s discipline and chess motivation. As I was reading the book “Think and grow rich”, I came across several principles that should drive a person whose goal is to make a lot of money:

  1. Be definite as to the amount. (There is a psychological reason for definiteness which will be described in a subsequent chapter).
  2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as "something for nothing.)
  3. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
  4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
  5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
  6. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. AS YOU READ-SEE AND FEEL AND BELIEVE YOURSELF ALREADY IN POSSESSION OF THE MONEY.


These principles are good motivational guidelines in general, and can be applied to any goal, including achieving success at chess. To translate them into chess goals is not too hard:

  1. Be definite about your chess goal – rating, title, tournament victory
  2. Determine exactly what you need to improve to achieve that goal. What is the difference between my current level, and that of an IM, skillwise?
  3. Establish a date, for example - 5 years from now. Make it realistic!
  4. Establish a plan for achieving the chess goal, including a training (opening, middlegame, endgame) and tournament schedule
  5. Keep reviewing your goal on a regular basis (daily!), encourage yourself

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Solving Chess Tactics - Queen sacrifices

White to move and win in all positions:

image  image

image  image

Watch me struggling to find answers to these and other positions:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Combinations by Keres, Timman, Andersson

Simple chess tactics of the day, White to move in all positions:

image  Timman – Polugaevsky, 1973. Can White Trap Black’s queen?

image Andersson – Kostro, Can White take on e4, or Bf5 will trap the queen?

image Keres – Alekhine, the game between the two greats ended dramatically. 1. ?

The video shows me solving these and other puzzles:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tactical Themes in Sicilian Defence

DDT3000 – perikitosax, ICC, 2009, 15 minutes per game

image Black to Move. Can Black take on ‘e4’ with the pawn?

I posted several days ago a great game by Tiviakov, where the rook sacrifice on the ‘f’ file was the winning idea after White played ‘f4-f5’ in Sicilian Scheveningen. I then remembered having played something similar myself on ICC not that long ago. Well, such games do stay in the chess player’s memory and warm his heart at night, so that’s indeed what has happened, and I was easily able to find that game.

Black made a similar mistake in my game, underestimated White’s initiative and captured with 23…fxe4?? (23…Nc2!? 24. Rxc2 Qc4! was correct). After 24. Rxf7! he had to resign on the next move.

image White won after 24… Kxf7 25. Qxh7 1-0 with mate to follow.

Black really has to watch out for this theme in this line of the Sicilian, if it works, it is usually quite deadly!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Solving Simple Chess Tactics – Part 1

To improve your tactical vision, there is no need to buy expensive chess software, it can be done with free copy of ChessBase Light and database that can be downloaded from this page – the one under “Over 3500 tactical training positions from actual games”.

In the video I then follow these steps:

  1. Load a game and change board to use “Training mode”
  2. guess which move should be played, hit “forward” key
  3. If my guess is correct, mark the game in the database as “deleted”
  4. Load next game with “F10” shortcut

Here are few simple positions for you to solve. It is White to move in all of them.

image    image 

image    image 

The video shows the setup and solutions:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tiviakov’s crushing attack against Van Wely

Tiviakov – Van Wely, 1995

image White to move.

In this typical Sicilian Scheveningen, White has developed pressure on the kingside, and had just opened up the ‘f’ file via f4-f5-fxg6. But then Black also has some threats, and his knight has just grabbed on ‘c2’ (which actually was a mistake). How can White unleash his potential on the ‘f’ file in the most aggressive manner?

Click Here to replay the whole game. Or watch the youtube video from my channel:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tarrasch Rule in Rook endgames

The Tarrasch Rule says that that rooks should be placed behind passed pawns – either yours or your opponent's. It was in part this rule that I had in mind when I wrote my last blog entry. 

 [image%255B5%255D.png] I wrote about the diagram: “This type of positions is considered to be a theoretical draw because the Black rook is behind the ‘a’ pawn.” Well, I forgot about the entire chapter on this type of positions that I had read in Mark Dvoretsky’s “Endgame Manual” . Apparently in 2003 a few very important ideas were found for White, that give him many additional winning chances. Wikipedia describes the plan as follows:

Recent theoretical analysis of this position shows that White has a strong manoeuvre:

  1. advance the pawn to the sixth rank
  2. move the king towards the queenside
  3. when the black rook takes a kingside pawn, switch the rook to guarding the pawn from the c-file, i.e. Rc7 then advance the pawn to a7.
  4. Switch the white rook to the a-file with gain of tempo. Thus Black is forced to sacrifice his rook for the pawn without White having to move his king all the way to a7. These many extra tempos make the difference between winning and drawing or even losing.

The point of White’s play is that when the Black king advances – White threatens to give a check and block the ‘a’ file with the rook:
image  Black to move. White threatens with Rc5+, followed by Rc4-a4, or Rc6-a6, all with tempo.

In Bacrot – Robson, White had a good chance to play for a win in this position:
image White to move.

Bacrot played 60. Ra8?, but better was 60. Kd4!, giving up the pawn with the rook on a7 (where it attacks the pawn on f7).

The position in Wikipedia article is the exact one as in Bacrot – Robson, and it is given as winning! So Bacrot missed his win first, before Robson blundered in the clearly drawn position in the very end. It appears from the way Bacrot played this endgame, he had not known or remembered about this endgame research by Dvoretsky!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Drama in the Rook endgame – Bacrot – Robson

Bacrot – Robson, World Cup 2011, Third Rapid game, replay the game here

image This type of positions is considered to be a theoretical draw because the Black rook is behind the ‘a’ pawn. Black conducted precise defence from this position, using the following plan:

  1. When the White king marches to the queenside to support the ‘a’ pawn, Black wins one of the kingside pawns (most likely – the f2 pawn)
     image Position after 68. Kc5 Rxf2
  2. Black then advances his pawns on the kingside, and creates his own passed pawn
    image After 77. Rb6 g5
  3. Black gives up the rook for the White ‘a’ pawn
    image image (Robson about to give up the rook for the pawn)
    Black plays 80… Rxa7, because White had already threatened with Ra6
  4. White is forced to sacrifice his own rook for the White pawn on the kingside, resulting in a draw
    image Black to Move
    This is where Ray Robson faltered, after playing this long and gruelling endgame, with 10 seconds of increment per move. Black cannot afford for his king to be pushed off to the ‘h’ file, so he must play 87… Kg2! 88. Rg6+ Kf1! with a draw. Instead he quickly played 87… h2?? and after 88. Rg6+ Kh3 89. Kf2!
    image Black to move, White is winning.
    it turned out that Black can’t promote the pawn into a queen because of Rh6+. Instead Robson promoted the pawn into the knight, and after 89… h1N+ 90. Kf3 Kh2 Rg6 Black resigned due to zugzwang. At the press conference after the game Robson pointed out exactly where he went wrong, so it would be wrong to accuse the GM of not being familiar with basic rook and pawn endings. But this shows how putting pressure and playing to the end pays off in these time controls with only 10 seconds per move. Mark Dvoretsky refers to such incidents as tragecomedies, but if you ever watched Bacrot and Robson battle it out, the word comedy would be far down on the list of terms to describe it!

image Game is over, Robson still seems in disbelief about what just happened.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kamsky’s Rook Endgame – Zugzwang

Gata Kamsky is famous for his excellent endgame technique, and he demonstrated it to win the first game of his match against the young Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi:

Kamsky – Nepomniachtchi, 2011 World Cup

image White to move
Black is down a pawn, but he appears to maintain some sort of equilibrium because he defends both kingside pawns with the king, and the rook attacks the pawn on g2, making it more difficult for White to advance the king. But it turns out that because the position of the Black rook is passive - White wins rather easily.

40. Kg3 Zugzwang! Either Black king or his rook have to move. Kg7 This abandons the e6 square, so White can attack e5 pawn from the 6th rank.
(Moving the rook does not help either 40... Ra1 (no longer attacking g2) 41. Kg4! a2 42. Kg5 Ke7 43. Ra7+ Ke6 44. Kxg6 Rg1 45. Rxa2 +-)
41. Re6! Re2 42. Rxe5 a2 43. Ra5

Up two pawns, White wins easily:
43… Kf6 44. f4 Rxe4 45. Rxa2 Kg7 46. Kg4 Rb4 47. Ra5 1-0
image Black Resigned

After some move by Black, White can play h5 (if gxh5, then Rxh5), and with two connected pawns, the win is trivial:
For example 47… Kf6  48. h5 gxh5+ 49. Rxh5

image This is a win according to tablebase:

Replay the game here:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Play Like Grischuk – Chess World Cup Fragments

Grischuk – Genba, 2011
image White to Move. Does White’s attack succeed after 21. Bf6 gxf6 22. exf6 Rg8?

In the end of the above variation Black is able to cover up g7 with the rook – but is that sufficient?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fritz 13 Let’s Check Feature

Fritz 13 is adding a new feature that is called “Let’s check”. The feature allows to share engine analysis with other users and upload it to the “cloud”. Such analysis would be easy to look at in one of the Fritz panels:


The benefits of this kind of feature seem very exciting:

  • it will allow fast access to all previously made engine analysis
  • reduce the need to redundantly run engine on positions that someone else has analysed
  • encourage sharing between chess players on an unprecedented scale
  • it actually has a UI that is easy to understand. Convekta’s IDea still seems very complicated to me when I read explanations of how it works

The Video tutorials are brief and to the point:

But the scary aspects of the feature seem a lot more obvious:

  • spying on each other – sounds like the option is on by default!
  • in perspective, this takes us much closer to chess being completely solved
  • ChessBase may control data contributed by many chess players, many engines and so on. While games are now being shared in databases produced by more than one vendor, ChessBase having billions of extra positions stored in their private databases will give them a monopoly over most of chess data, data contributed by their own users, who would now have to pay yearly membership fees to access that data.
  • focus is on engine analysis, although I think this kind of system should have put emphasis on people’s verbal commentaries (Comments Network feature does seem to go in that direction though, although why not instead use existing GM comments that are spread out through their MegaBase already?)

Yes, this is just a tool to help players with what they do – use best engines to solve mysteries of various chess positions. Some would argue that this is inevitable anyway, but I find this tool more disturbing than anything else.

The biggest question I have though – for how long are they going to have enough storage space to maintain trillions of possible chess positions??

Friday, September 30, 2011

Unzicker – Fischer – Triumph of Black’s Strategy in Najdorf Sicilian

Unzicker – Fischer, 1962
image Black to Move. Young Bobby Fischer has outplayed his opponent strategically. White’s king is weakened, the knight on ‘b3’ has no useful squares. However the "bad" bishop on g5 is placed not badly at all. Also Black’s rooks are very active. How to wrap up the game?

Too see the solution – watch the full game video from my youtube channel:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Play Like Vassily Ivanchuk – Exploiting Weakness of Dark Squares

Vassily Ivanchuk is one of the greatest players of our time, and in this position he found a way to increase his advantage against another great player.

Ivanchuk – Kortchnoi, 1994
image White to move. He has setup a nice blocked on Black’s center, but how to break through this wall of Black pawns?

See the entire game for the solution.

Hint: remember Bronstein’s explanation: the weakness of the dark squares is also the weakness of light squares because opponent’s pieces can occupy key dark squares and attack your pieces that are placed on light squares! This rule applies perfectly in this position.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fischer’s Strategic Decision – Endgame masterpiece

Fischer – Euwe, 1960

image White to move. Fischer’s move was based on the deep strategic understanding of the role of pieces in this position. He identified that among Black’s pieces, only one is serving a useful defensive purpose, and only one of White’s pieces has not yet joined the battle. As a result of this observation, Fischer immediately traded off that pair of pieces, that left Black pieces tied up, and his ‘a7’ pawn – even more vulnerable.

For the solution, and brief overview of the entire game (taken from the “Mastering the Endgame” book by Shereshevsky) - watch the YouTube video:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Karpov – Miles, Combination in the Endgame

Karpov – Miles, 1982

image White to move. Black had just captured on ‘d5’ with the knight, and Karpov has prepared a refutation. What is it?

Note: the first move of the combination is pretty obvious, but White’s second move is more difficult to find, and without it White would be in trouble.

For the solution, and brief overview of the entire game (taken from the “Mastering the Endgame” book by Shereshevsky) - watch the YouTube video from my YouTube channel:

A different blog post talks about the same endgame: Sicilian Dragon - from the opening into the endgame.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Botvinnik’s 100 anniversary

Mikhail Botvinnik was born exactly 100 years ago today, on August 17, 1911. There are quite a few events this year to celebrate this. I probably studied more Botvinnik’s games than the games of any other chess player, so recently I also made a series of videos for my youtube channel to share some of the lessons I learned from his books – you can watch them below.

The themes that percolate through Botvinnik’s 3 volume collection of best games are very wide spread, but the following immediately come to mind:

  • creating and exploiting weak squares in opponent’s position
  • the importance of correctly evaluating exchanging of pieces
  • fight for initiative in the opening from the very first moves, both with White and Black
  • deep preparation of home-made opening systems
  • playing training games to study typical positions
  • learning from the analysis of your own games, and applying those ideas in future games
  • psychology of chess as a sport
  • professional attitude to chess preparation and competitions
  • impact of chess on personality and vice versa
  • good understanding of weaknesses and strengths of your opponents

The list could go on and on. My blog also has a series of posts about Botvinnik.


Chess Strategy - Bovinnik attacks against the strong center

 Chess Strategy - Botvinnik Attacks in Isolated Pawn position

Attacking Chess - Botvinnik Finds a New Plan in the Opening

The art of chess planning from Mikhail Botvinnik

Chess Preparation - key improvement in Panov-Botvinnik attack

Chess Strategy - Botvinnik exploits a key weak square

Chess Strategy - Central Domination illustrated by Botvinnik

A typical Botvinnik game, according to Fischer

 Chess Strategy - Exploiting weak isolated pawn (Botvinnik - Zagoryansky)

Botvinnik - Ragozin - an overlooked counter attack

Botvinnik - Ragozin - gaining opening advantage in a chess game

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