Thursday, January 22, 2015

Three Times A Lady

In the B Group at the Tata Steel (Wijk aan Zee) tournament, the world's current youngest grandmaster, 14-year-old Samuel Sevian, performed a feat that has surely occurred very rarely in chess history. He sacrificed three queens on three consecutive moves! He thereby achieved an easily winning rook versus pawns ending, which his opponent promptly resigned. Very cool.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A trap in Larsen's Opening

The following game illustrates what happens if White tries to grab a pawn in Larsen's Opening with 6.fxe5 fxe5 7.Bxc6+? bxc6 8.Bxe5?? Black wins by force. Instead, White should play 6.Qh5+ g6 7.Qh4 exf4 8.exf4 Bd7 9.Nf3 Nb4 10.Bxd7+ Qxd7 11.Na3 O-O-O or 6.fxe5 fxe5 7.Nf3 Bg4 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Nf6 10.Nc3 a6, in either case with approximate equality. Note that in the game continuation, 14...Bf5!, staying in the middlegame, was even better than allowing White to go into a lost endgame.

Note also that 10...Qxh1!, as played, was much better the tempting 10...Bg4?! I think that I once had the White side of this many years ago against James Fagan in a blitz tournament at the Elbo Room. White survives after 11.Nc3!, and now (a) 11...Qg6 12.Bxh8! Bxd1 13.Nxd1!, when White is only a little worse, or (b) 11...Qxh1 12.Qxg4 Qxg1+ 13.Ke2 Qxa1 14.Nxd5 Qh1 15.Qe6+ Be7 [15...Kd8 16.Nf6 (16.Bf6+ also draws) 16...Qg2+ 17.Kd3 Qf1+ 18.Ke4 Qh1+ 19.Kd3 with a draw by perpetual check] 16.Nxc7+ Kd8 17.Nxa8.

ADDENDUM: White can also grab the pawn immediately on move 7 without first playing Bxc6+. It turns out that this is a better try, although still weak. After 7.Bxe5 Qh4+ 8.g3 Qe4 9.Bxg7 Qxh1 10.Qh5+ Ke7 11.Qh4+ Kf7 12.Bxh8 Qxg1+ 13.Bf1 Bf5 14.Nc3 Nge7 15.Ne2 Qh1 16.Bc3 Ne5 17.O-O-O Qe4 18.Qxe4 dxe4 Black is up a piece for two pawns. The alternative 11.Kf1 is clearly winning for Black after 11...Be6 12.Be2 Be5 13.Bxh8 [or 13.Bxe5 Nxe5 14.Qxe5 Rf8+ 15.Bf3 Rxf3+ 16.Ke2 Qxg1 17.Qxc7+ (17.Nc3 Qg2+ 18.Kd3 Nf6) 17... Kf6] 13...Rf8+ 14.Bf3 Bxh8.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mate by castling

Over four years ago, I published a game where I administered checkmate by capturing en passant. Here I deliver another very rare form of checkmate: mate by castling. This appears to be comparable in rarity to mate by en passant. The only other examples of it that I've been able to find are P. Morphy-A. Morphy, New Orleans 1850, and Kvicala-NN, Prague 1875. The famous game Ed. Lasker-Thomas, London 1912 is not an instance of this, since Edward Lasker in that game chose to play 18.Kd2# rather than 18.0-0-0#. Nor, it appears, is Prins-Day, Lugano (ol) 1968, despite the score of that game given at, which shows the game ending with 31...0-0-0#. According to Day, the winner of the game, who should know, the game actually ended after 28...Qe4+. He writes, "And my opponent resigned, unwilling to investigate 29.K-B6 Q-B4+ 30.K-N7 Q-N3+ 31.K-R8 and Black has a choice of absurd mates." Raymond D. Keene (ed.), Learn from the Grandmasters, p. 108. Mate by castling is thus sufficiently rare that I have been unable to find an example of it occurring in the entire 20th century!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A trap in the Caro-Kann Defense, Exchange Variation

I found this trap in Amatzia Avni's excellent book Danger in Chess: How to Avoid Making Blunders. The identical trap can arise by transposition from other openings, such as the London System (1.d4 d5 2.Bf4). The winning idea is sufficiently unusual that most White players missed it - ChessBase shows that in the position after Black's 12th move, only 5 out of 31 players found the winning move! All six masters and experts that reached the position played 13.Nxe5??, scoring only 3-3.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A trap in the Quaade Gambit

What on earth is the Quaade Gambit, you ask? It's a line of the King's Gambit that begins 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Nc3!?, deviating from the usual Kieseritzky prescription of 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5. The line is named for a 19th-century Dutch sea captain (not to be confused with Captain Evans, a Welshman). The natural response is 4...g4 5.Ne5 Qh4+, when White responds with the surprising 6.g3! fxg3 7.Qxg4! Now Black can and should trade queens, when Black will be a pawn up but White's lead in development and better pawn structure give him sufficient compensation.

But who can resist the temptation to win a rook with 7...g2+ 8.Qxh4 gxh1=Q? Not many, according to the databases. But resist Black should, for after 9.Qh5! he is in big trouble. According to John Shaw in his magnum opus on the King's Gambit, Black's best chance is 9...Nh6! 10.d4 d6 11.Bxh6 dxe5 12.Qxe5+ Be6 13.Qxh8 Nd7 14.Bxf8 0-0-0 15.Qxh7 Nxf8 16.Qh6 Ng6 17.0-0-0 Rh8 18.Qd2 Qxh2 19.Qxh2 Rxh2 20.Bd3, when White is a pawn up in the endgame with good winning chances. In the game below, Black instead went down in flames, as he usually does in this line. White won a once-in-a-lifetime beauty of a game:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Another trap in the Caro-Kann, Two Knights Variation

Bobby Fischer wrote in My 60 Memorable Games that the purpose of the Two Knights Variation against the Caro-Kann Defense (1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3) "is to exclude the possibility of" ...Bf5. As I've showed previously, Black indeed gets in big trouble if he proceeds in stereotyped fashion with 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5?! 5.Ng3 Bg6?! But the Two Knights Variation is no one-trick pony. The following game shows another, much less-known trap in the 3...Bg4 line, which is considered Black's best. As the game and notes show, after 4.d4!?, Black gets in hot water if he tries to win a pawn with the natural 4...dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bxf3 6.Qxf3 Qxd4. Better is the solid 4...e6!, which gives Black a plus score in the databases. Scott Thomson ("keypusher" on sets the stage for the game:
I don't have the score, but as our Secretary of State might say it is seared -- seared! in my memory. . . . It was when I lived in England in the early 90s, and for some reason -- perhaps a cholera epidemic -- I was playing first board for Wood Green in a team match. There was a pub next door, to which my opponent repaired after each move (which he took about five seconds on).
Deceived by his opponent's alcohol consumption and seemingly reckless play, Scott proceeded to lose a miniature in humiliating fashion. We've all been there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hello world 2.0 - July 2014

*Wakes up from 6½-month hibernation*

Kindly check out the Chicago Chess Center Blog: I'll be hanging out there for the foreseeable future. As with all new web spaces, it may take us a little time to get up to speed....

Jim Froelich's Chicago Area Chess usergroup on Facebook is a great place to chat and gossip, and the Illinois Chess Association's tournament calendar, maintained by the indefatigable Maret Thorpe, keeps you up-to-date on where to play. It's because of these two great resources that I didn't feel guilty about a sabbatical.

I'll certainly keep this blog up, and I may occasionally post things over here that are incompatible with the CCC's nonprofit mission. And of course, my very nice co-editors are always welcome to continute to use this space for anything of interest to the Chicago chess community or to woodpushers in general.  Thanks to Keith Ammann, Vince Hart, Matt Pullin, Tom Panelas, and especially NM Frederick Rhine for their contributions. 

And thanks to you folks for visiting this site and giving us useful feedback! Your thoughts are always welcome: my personal email is and my Chicago Chess Center email is