Category: Annotated Games

2 missed chances against IM: Part 1

Recently, I’ve noticed two large failings in my chess play:

1. My opening knowledge, while possibly getting wider and/or deeper, has become inaccurate. Even in openings I am familiar with, I have started inserting moves from other variations or otherwise inaccurate or inapposite moves.

2. Some form of tactical blindness. I’ve always felt that tactics were a weak spot for me, and although I try to remedy that, I am not sure if improvement has been seen.

An example of both can be found in the game against IM Ilya Figler below. An inaccurately played opening, and then a missed tactical opportunity that should have been obvious.

To be continued.

Critical moments.

Hello to all the readers of this blog, this is a new contributor Simon. We have known each other with Greg for a while now from plenty of games at the blitz meetup at the Tea Lounge  that I organize and from the tournaments at the Marshall that he directs and I play in. It’s been one of my favorite blogs for a long time, which makes me even happier to be one of the writers of. I will follow the general formula here of “thinking out loud” on all things chess, whether it’s a super-GM tournament kibitzing, online blitz madness, chess literature reviews or reflection on hopeless positions from my own games (will try to spare you these). I hope you enjoy my writing and appreciate all the comments.

For today’s article I chose to focus on the critical game of my favorite tournament of the year, London Chess Classic, which finished last week. It’s just a wonderful event to follow online, with a streaming live video commentary of all the games. Maybe it’s a good spoken English that does it for me? Or the British humor perhaps? And the games themselves somehow are always very entertaining (with Sofia rules encouraging players to fight).  As every chess player not living under the rock knows by now, Magnus Carlsen won it yet again, and by doing so, his live rating has reached a stratospheric 2861 level, which beats Garry Kasparov’s old record.


How does he do it ? One of the factors may be what Magnus said with a smile during one of the interviews in London: “I pride myself to be an unforgiving player”. He said it with a smile on his face, but he was serious. Playing against him even the slightest inaccuracy will put a strong grandmaster in trouble. We’ll see it in our featured game. In the final tournament standings Magnus was ahead just two points (or half a point in traditional scoring) of Vladimir Kramnik, who also had a fantastic tournament, elevating his rating over 2800 again. Upon closer look, you will find that this small difference between numbers one and two in the final standings was made in their games against Michael Adams (who himself had a very good tournament, finishing in the 3rd shared place). They both had Black pieces against Adams, they both even started with 1.e4 e5, but Kramnik drew and Carlsen won. So that was  the critical game. The thing is, Carlsen was for a long time worse in that game, but he managed to capitalize on Adams’ inaccuracies and win. We start with this position:




White is up a pawn, but he gives it up by playing 29.Nf3. Instead, Nc6 would have maintained his advantage and he shouldn’t be in any danger of losing. It is impressive to observe Carlsen’s technique, how he goes from a worse position to a winning one. One may argue that these were the mistakes of his opponent which allowed him to do that, but this is where he is so efficient like no one else- over the course of the next 11 moves needed to make the time control he just “improves his pieces” (these chess cliches really mean something, just compare the position of his queen to the one from the previous diagram) and it’s White to play with 3 seconds left on the clock:




Now, it’s very easy to understand that White didn’t want to play the computer move 40.Nd2, putting himself in a pin along the second rank, but this was his best defence here. Instead, 40.e4 loses a pawn (it’s a good tactical exercise- try to visualize the sequence that follows before checking the game below). What really is amazing for me to watch here is how Carlsen has everything under control and never loosens his grip- one thing leads to another – and he achieves a winning queen and pawn endgame where one would think there generally is a high ratio of draws, but not here- he methodically advances his queen and passed e-pawn without giving White any chance for counterplay. Finally, we come to a position where Black has to decide whether the time is right to exchange queens. Serious calculation is required- he will remain up a pawn, but is it still winning. He just has to see the pawn endgame position 14 moves ahead, including the king opposition battle dance and evaluation of the pawn race. Very exact calculation, and you’re not allowed to make a mistake because there’s no way back. So, when he’s looking at the position in the diagram on the left( Black to move), he sees its outcome 14 moves later in the diagram on the right, just like that:


Carlsen’s games (especially the ones from the last two years or so, since he has been winning almost everything) are full of examples like this- him being unforgiving. They are a great material to study for everyone who wants to learn the magical winning technique.

Please check the game annotations and variations below. Before writing this post, I saw commentary from the Chess Evolution weekly newsletter, which covers this endgame in much more depth than I do here- I certainly recommend it for its high quality material sent to my inbox every week.

NPR’s Radiolab Chats with Frank Brady

A friend of mine sent me a link to an episode of Radiolab about “games,” and a ten minute portion of the show is about chess and the concept of the theoretical novelty. Naturally, the show is made by non-chess players, and so their version of the novelty is a bit…. let’s say abstract and philosophical. In any case, it’s an interesting show. Listen to it here. It’s from Aug. 23rd, so if you’re a regular Radiolab listener you’ve likely already heard it, but if you’re not familiar with the show this might be a good introduction. My favorite part of the show was the host’s description of the Marshall Chess Club: spot. on.

In the show, Frank Brady discuses Fischer’s famous game of the century. In the office at the Marshall Chess Club, there is a large poster of the orignal scoresheet from that game that I stare at blankly occasionally, trying to wrap my mind around what it must have been like to play a move like 17…Be6.

I don’t think I’ve ever put this game up on the blog before…so I suppose I should have it up here somewhere. (Notes from

Listening to Radiolab reminded me that I hadn’t listened to the Full English Breakfast in a while. This show, their 14th, is their one year anniversary and in it they cover some great stuff in their usual snarky tone. You can hear it here.

Simon Williams: Attacking with the French

As anyone who has picked up one knows, the new “Attacking Chess” series of books by everyman are fantastic repertoire manuals filled with interesting ideas and analysis. Hopefully, there will be more coming out soon. As readers of this blog know, Simon Williams is a bit of a hero of mine, so when I saw that he had written a book on the French I snapped up a copy posthaste. (His book on the Classical Dutch blew my mind. Also, for those of you who are interested, GM Williams has a blog! And from perusing it, I found out that he is working on two dvd’s on the Sicilian Dragon!!- can. not. wait.)

In any case, his book on the French has a few interesting ideas. Against the 3.Nd2 he gives 3 chapters worth of lines after 3…Nf6. However, since I prefer to play 3…c5, I skipped that portion of the book. His chapter on the exchange has some great games that I dare say make me excited to face the exchange. Typically, the French exchange leads to either symmetrical or mostly lifeless positions, where one side is merely waiting for the other to make a gross blunder. Naturally, for this exact reason it is wildly popular at the sub 2200 level.

The formula presented in this game is predicated on the awesome idea 9…Bf4. Once black controls so many squares on the kingside of the board, he is able to play 0-0-0 without much worry and launch a pawn avalanche. For anyone who is looking to play the French, this idea is worth its weight in gold! The exchange variation is common among players who don’t wish to take any risks and are hoping for a simple game of chess- this attacking formula is anything but, and is sound enough to work against the likes of Kasparov…

In the chapter on the Advance Variation, which is the first chapter in the book, Williams builds his repertoire around the less common 5…Bd7 instead of the mainline 5…Qb6. While I am not fully convinced by some of his double edged recommendations in this chapter, there are many ideas that did convince that 5…Bd7 offers interesting alternatives to the mainlines. Almost always, this move is played with the plan of opening the position with the break f6.

In the following game, white attempts a Milner-Barry gambit, only to find that it is black who be the one to gambit- and a knight at that.

Highly recommended! here.

Irina Krush’s Lecture at the Marshall Chess Club

So this evening I stopped by the Marshy to see a lecture by IM Krush (I can’t help but think of Big Punisher’s hit “I’m not a player I just Krush a lot.”) She covered a few games from the current European Team Championship with aplomb, nicely fitting in the recent games to the theme of the lecture: Unusual Positional Decisions.

In the first game Irina reviewed, Topalov shocked Svidler with an interesting move. In the following diagram, it is white to play. If you look at the position, you can see that black is happy with his pieces. The bishops are very well placed, and the queen is applying pressure to the kingside.

What would you play for white and why?

At a certain point in the lecture I realized there was someone sitting in the back who was being very quiet and not answering any of Irina’s questions… Kamsky?

Actually, when i first walked in I recognized him immediately and had to stop myself from saying all the gushing things any chess fan would want to say in the presence of a legend. Instead, I just got a cup of coffee and sat down across the room pondering why on earth an elite GM of his caliber would attend a run-of-the-mill chess lecture at the Marshall…

Oh right… because Irina Krush is giving the lecture… (swoon you chess nerds!)

Another game she covered involved the amazing move 20.b3! sacking the exchange. Mitch Fitsko saw this move immediately. As it turns out, the position after this sacrifice is equal, as white is able to secure his queenside and stifle black’s counter-play. However, between two human beings it goes without saying that white’s game was much easier to play. Later in the game, black missed his chance to simplify with 21…Bd7. Instead, the immediate 21…Qa5 was better. White doesn’t want to capture black’s queen and rid himself of his only weakness (the b-pawn,) and so black is able to use the a5 square to re-route the queen to h5, where she will defend against Bh6 and pressure the kingside pawns enough for an equal game. The move 21…Bd7 then was too slow, as after 22.Qc3 Qa5 23.Be2 the h5 square is covered. White when on to win in a rather straightforward way.

Taking Down the French

Here are a couple miniatures against the French defense that I found amusing. The first one is against the legend, Mednis, who surprisingly fell into a mating attack very early in a French-Winawer. The game is taken from Asa Hoffmann’s book, Chess Gladiator which is full of such sporting miniatures and highly creative play reflective of Asa’s signature madman style.

The second game is also by Hoffmann, though this one is not in his book and is one that he shared with me one night at the Marshall Chess Club. It’s an Alekhine-Chatard attack, a variation of the French I often play against players I’m certain that they will not immediately respond with 4…dxe4, entering the morozevich-burn variation as advocated by creative madman Dzindzashvili. The Alekhine-Chatard attack is just too good to be true. White’s attack really plays itself and there are an inconceivable number of “natural” looking moves that black can play that lead to his destruction (such as an early c5 allowing Nb5! to only name one.)

In any case, the following game contains a painfully long king march that Asa claims to have spotted from move 10 on through it’s conclusion. The move 10…Nf8 is an obviously blunder. While the knight often ends up on this square in the Alekhine-Chatard, in this exact position where the tactical shot Nxd5 is available, it is clearly not correct. From move 11 on, mate is inevitable.

An Interesting Attacking Plan in the Scandinavian

This last weekend I played a small round robbin in Greenpoint under the auspices of Brooklyn64, and played the following game with my friend Paul Munson. He knew that I liked to play the Scandinavian with 3…Qd6, and so avoided this variaiton by delaying Nc3. I showed the game to Mitch Fitsko, who suggested an interesting attacking idea. The attacking idea is so quick and deadly it reminds me of the Finnish sniper Simo Hayha- a.k.a. “White Death,” who single handedly killed 542 Russian Soldiers during the “Winter War” with the Soviet Union. He supposedly kept snow in his moth to hide his breath from other snipers, and has to have been one of the most deadly snipers in history. In any case-this quick trigger plan in the scando is just as deadly…

The idea involves a quick queenside castle and all out assault on white after the passive Nf3, and Be2 response to the scando- an example would be after the moves- 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Be3 Nc6 5.d4 0-0-0… giving us the following position:

Following is my game with Paul Munson, in which both of us played remarkably passively, yet I luckily still managed to win as paul made a mistake in time trouble. It seemed to me as though he should have played Ne5 sometime early in the middle game, and follow up with f4 clamping down on the center of the board.

Another theme in the game is the battle for control over the d5 square. Naturally, in the e6, c6 Caro-Kann pawn structure, if white can attack by simply pushing d5, then black is likely in trouble.

Upsets at the World Cup

(left: Polgar sisters as child prodigies playing 3D Risk)

In the Sunday NYTimes, FM Dylan Loeb McClain has a column where he covers the hot novelties and interesting chess tidbits that addicted chess fanatics such as myself crave. This last Sunday, while at Variety coffee shop slamming a stumptown ‘spro at 8a.m. before biking to the Marshall Chess Club, I picked up his column and saw this article. Sam Shankland upset Peter Leko at the World Cup- who could have seen that coming. It goes without saying that at No. 19 in the World, Leko is an elite GM. Thus, beating him with the black pieces is a major achievement for our own S. Shankland. The game is a Semi-Slav, which arrives at a curious position where Black’s pieces shuffle on the 3 ranks while white appears to have a better position for most of the game. Then, like an avalanche, Black’s kingside pawns start rolling forward and block out white’s dark square bishop, leaving black with a golden knight that is centrally placed. The game is nothing short of a positional masterpiece from the young American.

In my last post I think I lamented how most GM’s don’t have their own websites in an era where shameless self-promotion has become more than socially acceptable – almost mandated- but it turns out I spoke too soon. Sam Shankland has a site of his own here, and it’s not bad actually! Granted it isn’t a 20 thousand Euro website the way that Jan Gustafsson’s appears to be, but it isn’t an early 1990’s GeoCities looking chess website either, so kudos Sam.

Another upset which caught my eye was Judit Polgar eliminating the top seeded Karjakin in the World Cup. The masterful endgame is nicely analyzed over at ChessVibes (for no charge- believe it or not!)

Apparently, after having some babies Judit is back in action and gunning for an elite top spot again. How amazing would it be to see her in the candidates next time around? Having a female World Champion could give a lot of good publicity to chess and perhaps entice more women to play in general- like a gender specific Bobby Fischer effect. There’s no question that if any woman on the planet has a shot it’s Judit.

ok chess geeks -swoon-

If that game was juicy enough- in their second game Judit whipped out the Ruy Lopez Open as black to drawn (Swoon again!).

As those of you who follow this blog know, we have a bit of a love affair with the Ruy Lopez Open- check it out- I have all three Chess Informant Monographs on the subject by the hero of line himself!!

Naturally, the following game demonstrates Polgar’s ability to control the position and hold the draw.

I have to admit- despite all of the shenanigans her sister has been involved with here concerning the USCF (and I won’t mention specifics as I don’t want to be sued for defamation – ugh- ) i’m still a fan of Judit and wish her well.

ein Geshenk von Nikola

So this summer I was stuck in New York while most of my friends went to far away places, returning with stories of long distance bike touring, late night parties and proof that everywhere else is better than here. While I battled hurricanes and earthquakes, they were drinking strong beer on the continent and bronzing themselves on far away beaches.

Luckily, one of my friends took pity on me and brought me back an awesome chess journal from abroad: Schach: deutsch schachzeitung 8.

This little ‘zine is packed with interviews, games, articles, and – I daresay – journalism. I’m going to see if I can get a subscription somehow here in the states. One interesting article was an interview with the awesome Jan Gustafsson, who runs one of the best chess blogs on the internet. As an aside, it’s strange that more GM’s don’t have websites with commentary.

In any case, one whacky game that caught my eye from the magazine (perhaps a bad example as most of the games analyzed in the ‘zine were of a very high quality) was the following one.

The move from this game which caught my eye was not the early h4, h5 (where was this played, Washington Square Park?) but rather the push by white c5! It’s an idea which isn’t new at all, but which is new to me. I first encountered it in Wojo’s Weapons Volume 2, in which Dean Ippolito gives a number of fantastic lines for white against the Kings Indian Defense. One such line was the following: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0-0 5.d4 d6 6.0-0 Nc6 7.Nc3 e5 8.d5 Ne7 9.c5!? giving the following position:

the idea behind this early pawn push is in its most cursory explanation to attack black on the queenside before black has time for kingside expansion and a straightforward KID style attack. If dxc5 is simply terrible- it goes without saying- after 9…Ne8 10.cxd6 cxd6 white has the ability to seize control of the c-file, and gain space on the queenside quickly with plans like Qd1-Qb3, and a4,a5 etc. This plan is nastier than it looks and is so simple that it’s almost scandalous how well it works in practice. Naturally, black should try 10.Nxd6, but the resulting position is hardly the straightforward KID that most practitioners of this line had envisioned. That little kernel of chess knowledge brought to you by Dean Ippolito’s Wojo’s weapons- two books that I highly recommend for the Catalan player.

Interestingly, today I met a gentleman at the Marshall chess club who was from Poland and claimed to have worked with Wojo a long time ago- and also to be the programmer behind “swiss perfect,” the main competitor of Swiss Sys, the tournament pairing software commonly used in the U.S. to run major tournaments. He had a handful of interesting anecdotes to share- one which I did not know was that Wojo himself was a second to Tal at a young age.

Back to Schach-

another game from Schach: Deutschland Zeitung which caught my eye was the following gem between two Americans- Lenderman and Kamsky.

Grand Prix d’Echecs

Late at night, there are a few regular characters who haunt the Marshall Chess Club, (other than Bobby Fishcer’s ghost, which I can sometimes faintly hear cursing Israel over near the water cooler.) Perhaps the most Legendary is William Lombardy, who usually shows up right when I’m closing. Recently, Lombardy stopped by the club and asked for me to make a copy of an article for him- naturally I made a copy for myself as well- and chatted with me about his dislike for Raymond Keene.

In any case, the article was about a contest from Monte Carlo, 1967, in which top GM’s at that time were invited to play by the Prince himself, and more money was made available in prize funds than had ever been up for grabs at an international event at that time before. The article contained an interesting game between Lombardy and Fischer, in which Lombardy had an edge out of the opening, and should have had a draw but for a strategic error in a long positional battle. Of interest to me is how often there are knight retreats on both sides in the following game. I’m a sucker for these long maneuvering battles.

An Instructive Loss

An Interesting Slav

The following game was given to me by Rudy Blumenfeld, who requested that I help him submit it to Informant. I’m still figuring out how to add the informant symbols to a document, but in the meantime I thought I would share it with you my dear readers. It’s in a very popular system against the slav with g3 a la catalan. Admittedly, Black goes terribly wrong, early, but the game is extremely instructive in my opinion for how white can maximize his use of the light squares in this topical line.


Accelerated Dragon with 7…Ng4

I recently attended a lecture by IM Ilye Figler on the accelerated dragon, which inspired me to purchase a few books on the subject. It’s a much more positional opening than it’s fire breathing counter-part, and in general seems safer, more solid, and less risky. So basically, it’s nothing like the main line dragon even though the middle games can sometimes appear very similar, the main difference being black’s refusal to commit his d pawn early, perhaps hoping to play d5 in one go. In the past, I had usually played the maroczy bind against it with white, as this seemed the most straightforward approach. Most of the lecture I attended though focused more on the far more interesting mainlines, where white plays 7.Bc4 instead of the Maroczy, which contain a lot of cute traps. The lecture convinced me that the accelerated dragon may be a good fit for me, but before I decided to play it myself I needed some ideas against the bind in order to be confident. Here is my favorite idea of the several I have come across. It’s a set up that was first introduced by Larsen in the very popular 7…Ng4 variation, or “the exchange variation.” The ideas sketched out in the notation to the following game give the basic concepts for the setup.

The Pribyl Defense

The following game is amusing for a number of reasons. First of all, it is the only time that my fellow Marshall Chess Club compatriot Ed Frumkin has defeated FM Asa Hoffmann in tournament chess, and he did it with Hoffmann’s favorite opening, 1.Nc3. Secondly, we see the Pribyl tackled head on with a king-side pawn avalanche that effortlessly opens lines and decimates black’s position.

Having said that, I rather like the Prybil. First of all, no one has heard of it, and most people will immediately take it as an inferior Pirc, which it probably is. However, the benefit of the Prybil lies not so much in its surprise value, but in its ability to transpose into other favorable systems, often into a kind of French with the light square bishop outside the pawn-chain. The following game-annotations are by Mr. Frumkin himself. Enjoy!

My Friend’s First Tango with a GM

My Friend Szymon, who a lot of my readers probably know from the Tea Lounge in Park Slope or as the captain of our New York Commercial Chess League Team, recently played in the 4 rated games tournament on thursday nights at the Marshall, and had the luck of being paired with GM Kekelidze. The game is actually very interesting, and certainly instructive for any KID players out there. I’m including Szymon’s notes and his pgn below:

My First Game Ever With a Grandmaster
Yesterday I went to the Marshall Chess Club for their G30 (actually this is 25min with 5sec delay) tournament, which they always have on Thursdays and I started to play in these once a month this year. They run them in the Swiss system, which means that in the first round, being rated in provisional 1800’s, I’m always paired up, and this time was no different- I had to play grandmaster (!) Mikheil Kekelidze, rated 2460 FIDE and 2536 USCF. I expected to be wiped off the board and proceed to the next round, but anyway I just wanted to play him like I would anyone else, that’s my approach- play the board, not the man. And it turned out to be a King’s Indian, where we both didn’t play the Classical Variation in the best fashion, but entering the middlegame, he was better, having deprived me of my light-squared bishop. And that was the point where I started playing better and better and making him think (probably at that point he could already think about the game going downhill), and the resistance I put forced concessions from him, which, after the queen exchange, amazingly, brought me a position which is really good, shame that I didn’t hold it longer and started thinking what to do to REALLY draw this game, because that’s where the advantage was lost. I should have been a little bit bolder and not have played 42…fxg3 for example. With both of us very low on the clock, he saw a beautiful tactic in the end and the inevitable happened. But managing to play a 49-move game against a grandmaster is something that I would never think I’m able to pull off. Please check the game for my comments and variations.