Category: Annotated Games

Interesting Rook and Pawn Ending

I once read that “all rook and pawn endings are draws” in some russian manual on the topic. This weekend I was working as the TD in a tournament at the Marshall, and had the pleasure of being a spectator to the conclusion of a 5 hour game- (time control was 30/90, 1SD.) This was the position with black to move:

Black had approx. 30 minutes left on his clock, while white had only 5. Black then sank into deep thought for nearly 27 minutes, before deciding on a move which should have drawn, but didn’t… Naturally in such a position there was a modicum of kibitzing in the skittles room…as TD I kept my mouth shut until the game was over, but my mind was racing to find the answer for black to hold.

As it turns out, many moves in this position should hold the draw. I recommended 1…Ra6, which IM Jay Bonin immediately dismissed, saying white’s king activity meant he should have a win in all lines, (however 1…Ra6 does hold a draw.) While the computer prefers 1…Kf3, the text move Kf4 should have held as well. The game continued…

Asa Hoffmann Lecture at Spectacle, Tuesday March 22nd @ 8 p.m.

Brooklyn 64 is sponsoring a lecture by legend Asa Hoffmann this month at Spectacle. The event space is suggesting at 5 to 10 dollar donation per guest, and the topic will most likely be uncommon opening ideas. I expect Asa will go over some of his own games in his signature witty style, quizzing the audience for ideas and variations.

Asa is a cornerstone of the New York City chess scene. He is at the Marshall Chess Club almost every evening, where he teaches, plays in tournaments regularly, occasionally lectures, and is an active member of the board. He was also formerly the vice president of the Manhattan Chess Club. To give a taste of his tactical brilliance, behold the following masterpiece in which he trounces Bobby Fischer:

Spectacle is an independent, not-for-profit theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY that screens hard to find and out of print films, silent movies, and hosts symposiums and presentations. It’s located at 124 South 3rd Street, Brooklyn, New York; between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street.


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A Counter-Punch Sveshnikov Line

As a sveshnikov player I value piece activity over everything else- structure, material, pish posh- give me an attack. The following game follows a not too uncommon line in the Sveshnikov, where on move 12 black really lays down the gauntlet with a gambit. In theory, white should be ok but the traps that lay in wait are far from obvious.

Take My Rooks

Most of our readers will have come across the book by Seirawan and Minev by this Title at some point in their studies. It’s filled with many examples of one side passively sacrificing both rooks, and using the tempo gained to attack on the opposite side of the board. The following game was a blitz game, and it is accordingly a blunder fest. I could have had a simple advantage out of the opening, but decided to allow a rook to be captured for the heck of it, thinking that black’s knight was his most active piece and my rook was misplaced anyway, so let him take it and then I’ll still have an edge.

The second passive rook sac was not at all sound. I should have played the simply Qd1 instead of lifting my king and giving away the second rook, but here I was hopefull (even if incorrectly so) that I might be able to do something on the dark squares, and it was a blitz game after all.

In any case, I did manage to pull of a swindle on the dark squares despite being down both rooks. Again, it’s an absolute blunder fest, but a fun game nonetheless.

1.Nc3, The Van Geet Attack

Recently, I came across of the newly translated Manual by Harald Keilhack on 1.Nc3 titled “Knight on the Left,” which is well reviewed here. I’ve been inspired by Asa Hoffmann to look more deeply into this terribly neglected first move, and my readers will likely remember my recent post on this line against the caro-kann. It’s odd that it isn’t played more often, considering it is not only sound but also in line with classical opening principals. By developing a knight, white hits central squares, places a knight on a good square, and leaves options open as to the direction the game may take. And yet, if you look for top players who play this, there really aren’t any. Morozevich has tried it on for size, though this shouldn’t surprise anyone, and the Danish Correspondence GM Ove Ekebjaerg played 1.Nc3 exclusively, nearly becoming the Correspondence world champion with this move. And yet, there is a paucity of material on it.

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A Surprising Sortie in a Sveshnikov Sideline…

This Sunday while most people were focused on the Super Bowl, I was at the Marshall Chess Club looking at a different kind of sideline, 7.Nd5 against the Sveshnikov. There are some sidelines that are very popular against the Svesh that I see on FICS all the time, but among them the simplifying 7.Nd5 is without a doubt the most popular. It’s probably the choice of many club players because it side steps the ocean of theory and gives white a simple straightforward game. In blitz it just leaves white with basically nothing to worry about, however, this can also be said for black. Sidelines that are chosen for their simplicity are rarely testing either. In any case, after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Nbd5 d6 7.Nd5 the following position is reached.

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The Dunst: Attacking the Caro-Kann with an Early Queen Sortie

Usually, surprising sidelines tend to be objectively dubious, but the following is totally sound according to several sources (I’m keeping some of them under my hat.) The idea I have in mind is similar to the Caro-Kann “two-knights,” which occurs after 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3. Here, white holds back the d-pawn at least for a while and simply develops. This line was a favorite of Fischer’s, but it doesn’t cause black any immediate trouble and his plans are straight forward and in keeping with the themes of the Caro-Kann. However, after the move 3.Qf3!? instead of 3.Nf3, we have the following eye popping position, which may occur through several move orders but properly belongs to the 1.Nc3 Dunst opening more than any other.

I hope to show that this position is more than playable for white- it is sound- and moreover black has no clear path to equality. This may be reached through a number of different move orders, including the Scandinavian 1.e4 d5 2.Nc3 c6 3.Qf3, as well as through the Dunst via 1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 c6 3.Qf3. Here, there a number of moves that look playable for black. There are: d4, e6, Nf6, e5 and dxe4. Black is immediately confronted in the center and must decide on a plan early. This position will almost certainly be a surprise to your opponent, who will no doubt think that the queen sortie is incorrect and therefore try to “punish” you. The upside to this is getting out of book and playing chess. The queen sortie is perfectly sound and supported by some theory, and this idea was first pointed out to me by Asa Hoffman who uses it regularly. He said he got it from a book on 1.Nc3 by Keilhack, titled “Der Linksspringer.” Since then, I have seen it in a few different places, and even had a brief conversation with Yaacov Norowitz (who plays the caro-kann exclusively) about it. Norowitz seemed to think it wasn’t that frightening for black, but admitted that he had wrestled with how to meet it and decided upon the straightforward move 3…e5, but seemed a little uncertain still.

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QGD: The Cambridge Springs

The Cambridge Springs variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined takes its name from a small town in rural Pennsylvania (population 2,363), and is characterized by the daring move 6…Qa5, which breaks the pin on black’s knight and pins the white knight in a single move. The early Queen sortie also seeks to pressure white’s center immediately. This variation is known for being replete with traps and zaps, and for this reason it’s the kind of defense which appeals to class-level patzers like myself. Having said that, the opening does make an occasional appearance in top level chess now and then, though many GMs do not attempt to play it because of its major flaw: that white can enter an exchange variation of the QGD. For this reason, it is usually employed via the semi-slav move order, however, in order to do this you must be prepared to play main line meran positions as well as face sharp anti-merans etc. The QGD move order is reached after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Nd7 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Qa5, giving us the following position which is the beginning of the Cambridge Springs variation.

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The Czech Benoni: An Incredibly Instructive Game

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Asa Hoffman at the Marshall Chess Club on “unorthodox openings.” Since Asa plays exclusively off-beat openings, the lecture was really a selection of his games which he thought were particularly instructive. One such game was the following, which I begged him for a copy of and he surprisingly allowed me to have. The game is instructive for a few reasons, but if nothing else it is an amazing introduction to the Czech Benoni with annotated ideas that give enough material to even start playing the opening immediately. Another reason I love this game is because of the interesting plans that Asa finds. The most aesthetically interesting one involves the geometric pattern he traces with his bishop in order to arrive at an ideal square.

An Interesting Idea in the King’s Indian Defense: Gallagher’s Gambit

I’ve heard it said that if black is willing to give up a pawn in the opening than he should have no problems. Last night, while going over some instructive games in John Watson’s eye-opening manual entitled “Chess Strategy in Action,” I came across the following idea. In a chapter entitled “Surrendering the Center,” Watson demonstrates how black breaks classical chess rules by giving up the center, as well as a center pawn in exchange for incredibly fast piece coordination and development. The plan involves black exchanging off his e pawn for white’s d pawn, and later blasting away at white’s position with a gambit. Gallagher’s idea is to exchange on d4 in the following diagram, then following up with Re8, a6, Rb8, b5, c5 and hitting white’s center with everything he’s got.

Naturally, this leaves the d6 pawn weak, but black plans on gaining a tempo off the queen if she captures it with the rook lift to b6, then doubling rooks by shifting it along the third rank to e6. This attacking scheme is so straightforward that any King’s Indian Defense player should have it in his back pocket for the next time he faces the ubiquitous fianchetto variation.

In the following game, Watson declares that black is winning easily after move 23. A quick glance at the position demonstrates just how much activity he got in return for his d-pawn.

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Losing to a Legend: an interesting c3 Sicilian

This evening at the Marshall Chess Club, I had the pleasure of playing chess with IM Renato Naranja, former Champion of The Philippines, Pan-Asian Champion, World Championship candidate, 10 time Chess Olympian, and who drew Bobby Fischer in Palma de Mallorca.

For a while, he chatted with me amiably while I studied games from John Watson’s “Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy.” Playing through variations and discussing ideas, he illuminated concepts I would not have otherwise noticed, much less grasped. Many strong players refuse to play friendly games of chess, demanding money for their valuable time. This was not the case with Renato. He was as genial as he was genius, basically giving me a friendly chess lesson in exchange for nothing more than pleasant conversation.

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An interesting idea in the Alapin Sicilian: Releasing the Tension with dxc5

There is an idea which I think is a wonderful bit of knowledge to have for the c3 player. It is advocated by both Rosentalis and Hartley in their tome on the c3 sicilian, as well as Sveshnikov in his recently released manual on the c3 Sicilian. It has been my experience that of the two most common replies to 2.c3, 2…Nf6 and 2…d5, the latter is by far the most common. The idea involves offering an early exchange of queens with dxc5. One line which I have seen in practice is 1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 and now 6.cxd5!? giving us the following position.

Here, if black accepts the exchange of queens, then he seemingly enters an ending down a pawn. However, this ending is actually the most testing, since after Qxc5, white will win tempo off the queen to develop rapidly and bring pressure to black’s queenside immediately. One miniature, which I played in a tournament recently, followed this pattern to a quick conclusion.

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The Anatomy of the French Advance

I have always played the advance against the French, and as a French player myself I have faced the advance many times. Naturally, there is no substitute for learning theory, however, the french advance is a forgiving opening in which an understanding of general principals can help you find the right ideas, even deep into the middle game.

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Claude Frizzell Bloodgood

The life of Claude Frizzel Bloodgood would make a fantastic hollywood script, complete with murder, intrigue, escape from prison, and …. chess.

As a player, he preferred offbeat openings such as the Grob, the Blackburne gambit, and the Nimzo-Larsen, and even authored books on those variations. He was sentenced to death in 1970 for strangling his stepmother in a fight about inheritance. While awaiting death, he played thousands of correspondance chess games simultaneously, with the state of Virginia picking up the postage tab.

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Black is Still OK, by Adorjan-Book Review

Recently I picked up a copy of Adorjan’s second book on his theory that “Black is OK” from Fred Wilson’s chess book store, and I have to say I was immediately sucked in by the hyperbolic claims in the introduction. The basic idea of his first book “Black is OK!,” is that the commonly held belief that white is entitled to an opening advantage is a fiction. Adorjan tells us “The tale of White’s advantage is a delusion, belief in it is based on mass psychosis.” He goes on to claim that the prevailing philosophy of winning with white and drawing with black is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that many players could push for full points with black but quickly resign themselves to a draw, even against weaker players, because of their entrenched beliefs in the relative value of white’s claim to advantage.

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