Friday, December 26, 2014

Children's Day Chess Challenge 2014 (Round 5)

Today I will go through yet another game from the tourney in November (yeah that was quite some time ago, but the games never get old!). This was also a very interesting one with many missed opportunities by both sides.

Checkerboard 5 vs Opponent
Children's Day Chess Challenge, Round 5

1. c4 e5
2. Nc3 Nf6
3. g3 Nc6
4. Bg2 g6
5. b3 Bg7
6. Bb2 O-O
7. e3 d6
8. Nge2 Bg4
9. O-O Rb8 (D)

Position after 9. Rb8

The idea behind the e3 variation of the English is to prepare for a d4 break and keep the long diagonal open for the light-squared bishop. The main weaknesses are: Well, that annoying pin on the d1-h5 diagonal, and the possibility of the d2 pawn becoming backward if not advanced at the right time.

10. Re1

An alternative was the immediate break 10. d4 Bxe2 (10... exd4 11. exd4 Re8 12. Re1 Qd7 13. Qd2 is similar to the mainline) 11. Nxe2 exd4 12. exd4 and after the game, I looked at the risky variation 12... Ng4!? (the safer route was 12... Nh5 13. Qd2) 13. Nf4 Qd7 14. Bh3 (D)

Position after 14. Bh3

With a position rich in tactics (just look at those pins!). But going further with 14... f5 15. Qd2 Rbe8 16. d5 Bxb2 17. Qxb2 Nce5 18. Ne6 Rf7 19. f4 Nd3 20. Qd4 the position looks better for White, because his knight's outpost gives a strong advantage.

Returning to the mainline after 10. Be1:

10... a6
11. d4 exd4
12. exd4 Re8
13. Qd2

The simplest plan is to improve the position of your pieces.

13... Bf5
14. Nd5 Nxd5

After 14... Ne4 15. Bxe4 Bxe4 16. Nef4 g5 17. Nh5 Bxd5 18. cxd5 Rxe1+ 19. Rxe1 Na7 20. a4 Nc8 White has managed to temporarily deactivate Black's knight in exchange for his awkward pawn structure; I would perhaps be able to try something like 21. Re4 eyeing Black's weakened kingside.

15. Bxd5 Ne7
16. Bg2 b5!? (D)

Position after 16... b5!?

17. Rad1

Or 17. Rac1 bxc4 18. Rxc4 d5 19. Rc5 Rb5 20. Rec1 Rxc5 21. Rxc5 Qd6 where Black's c7 pawn might be a weakness, but his pieces are slightly better placed.

17... bxc4
18. bxc4 c5
19. Ba1

Better not to create any potential hanging pieces.

19... cxd4

Or 19... Bg4 20. Qg5 where White is still ok.

20. Nxd4 Bd7
21. Nf3 Bxa1
22. Rxa1 (D)

Position after 22. Rxa1

Hold on tight, because from here onwards you're going to see lots of question marks on both sides! (:

22... Nc6?

Dropping a pawn, better would have been 22... Qc7 23. Rac1

23. Qxd6 Rxe1+
24. Rxe1 Na5
25. Re7?

Throwing away a winning position! The idea of the seventh-rank rook was too tempting over the board, and I did not realize that 25. Rd1! Rb7 26. Ne5 would have been totally winning for me.

25... Be6

I had been hoping for 25... Rb7? 26. Nd2 (stopping 26... Rb1+) where I would have picked up my opponent's bishop. Another way for Black to save the game would have been 25... Rb1+ 26. Re1 (not 26. Bf1? Rxf1+ 27. Kxf1 Bh3+ which wins the Queen).

26. Qxd8+ Rxd8
27. Ne5?? (D)

Black to move and mate in 5

27. c5 was Fritz's preferred choice. Now spot the mate in 5!
27... Rd1+ 28. Bf1 Bh3 29. Re8+ Kg7 30. Rg8+ Kxg8 31. f4 Rxf1#. The pin on my back rank would have been crushing.

But funny things always happen in rapid chess, and here my opponent also threw away his win:

27... Nxc4??

I guess he was too desperate to win back his pawn.

28. Nxc4??

Another blunder on my behalf! 28. Rxe6 fxe6 29. Nxc4 would have been winning for me (two minor pieces vs rook). Now, all my opponent needs to do is to exploit my back rank weakness again: 28... Rd1+ 29. Bf1 Bxc4 and although this time there is no checkmate, I would be a piece down.

But once again, mutual blindness starts to set in:

28... Bxc4?? (D)

Position after 28... Bxc4

Well I told you there would be a lot of question marks! After 29. Bb7 my king has an escape square, and there would be no hope of either side winning.

So here's yet another example of how important tactics are in actual gameplay! Fortunately this time I was let off the hook, simply because my opponent was as blind as I was. Till date I have yet to contact him over this game, but I would love to see the expression on his face once I show him my analysis! (:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Day Presents (Part 3): Test your trivia!

Today is Christmas Eve, and as usual all the kids are waiting for Santa's gifts. Now let's check what he sent me... Oh look! It's not the usual puzzles, but 20 questions to test your chess trivia coupled with a bonus puzzle!

So you think your chess knowledge is really good? C'mon then, let's see how well you know all the bits and pieces that have been going on in the history of chess. As a chessplayer, I suppose it'll be embarrassing if someone asked you who the World Champion is and you can't answer, right?

All ready? Let's get started:

Question 1: Which of these chessplayers was never a World Champion?

  • A: Magnus Carlsen
  • B: Viswanathan Anand
  • C: Lau Yan Han
  • D: Garry Kasparov
(P.S. If you can't answer this question, don't bother looking at the rest)

Question 2: Refer to Question 1. Out of the 3 incorrect options, which of these chessplayers is the current World Champion?

(P.S. I'd be mind blown if you don't know the answer to this either)

Question 3: The Hypermodern school of chess emerged shortly after World War II, and introduced many critical ideas into modern chess theory. Which of these was not an idea introduced by the Hypermodern theory?

  • A: The Nimzo-Indian Defence
  • B: Control the centre by occupying it with pawns
  • C: Making a move based on prophylaxis
  • D: Undermining a pawn chain

Question 4: In the recent Sinquefield Cup 2014, GM Fabiano Caruana achieved an incredible feat by winning __ games in a row

  • A: 5
  • B: 6
  • C: 7
  • D: 8

Question 5: In 1993, Kasparov was ejected from FIDE for creating a rival chess organization known as ___

  • A: Professional Chess Association
  • B: Kasparov Chess Federation
  • C: World Chess Association
  • D: League of International Chess

Question 6: This same organization was dissolved in which year?

  • A: 1995
  • B: 1996
  • C: 2000
  • D: 2006

Question 7: In 2006, a reunification match was organized between the Classical and FIDE World Champions. They were (in no particular order): ___ and ___

  • A: Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik
  • B: Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov
  • C: Viswanathan Anand and Nigel Short
  • D: Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik

Question 8: "Pawns are the soul of chess." I wonder who said that?

  • A: Siegbert Tarrasch
  • B: André Philidor
  • C: Aaron Nimzowitsch
  • D: Ruy López De Segura

Question 9: Out of the 4 options in Question 8, which of them would be the oldest if they were all still alive today?

Question 10: Who is the handsome guy in this photo?

  • A: Alexander Alekhine
  • B: Anatoly Karpov
  • C: Emanuel Lasker
  • D: Mikhail Chigorin

Question 11: The longest ever World Championship match in history lasted __ games

  • A: 22
  • B: 36
  • C: 48
  • D: 50

Question 12: During the stated match in Question 11, who was FIDE president at that time?

  • A: Max Euwe
  • B: Friðrik Ólafsson
  • C: Florencio Campomanes
  • D: Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

Question 13: The shortest ever game in a World Championship Match was played in the year __

  • A: 1924
  • B: 1960
  • B: 1984
  • D: 2012

Question 14: Anyone remembers which famous game did this position originate from (Try solving the puzzle!)?

White to move
  • A: Anderssen vs Kieseritzky, 1851
  • B: Morphy vs Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard, 1857
  • C: R. Byrne vs Fischer, 1963
  • D: Kasparov vs Topalov, 1999

Question 15: In the World Chess Championship 2014, Carlsen defended his title against Anand with a lead of how many points?

  • A: 1
  • B: 2
  • C: 3
  • D: He won on tiebreakers

Question 16: Mikhail Botvinnik, three-time World Champion, was considered one of the strongest players from the Soviet Union. Apart from playing chess, he also achieved a successful career as a __

  • A: Engineer
  • B: Doctor
  • C: Politician
  • D: Lawyer

Question 17: Tigran Petrosian, the ninth World Champion, was best known for his ___

  • A: Superior Opening Preparation
  • B: Aggressive and sacrificial style
  • C: Inpenetrable defensive style
  • D: Defection from the Soviet Union

Question 18: After his US passport was revoked, Fischer sought asylum in __, where he lived until his death

  • A: Russia
  • B: North Korea
  • C: Norway
  • D: Iceland

Question 19: The 2014 FIDE World Chess Olympiad was held in Tromso, Norway from 1st to 14th of August 2014. Which country emerged as the champion in the Open Category?

  • A: China
  • B: Russia
  • C: Armenia
  • D: United States

Question 20: Jose Raul Capablanca, the third World Champion, dominated the chess world with his exceptional endgame skills and positional play. Which country was he born in?

  • A: United States
  • B: Switzerland
  • C: Australia
  • D: Cuba

Question 21 (Bonus): Here's a bonus puzzle for you to try out for fun. Once you see the answer... prepare to be mind-blown.

White to move and mate in... 1


Well so perhaps next time you will be able to impress all your friends with these knowledge. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Presents! (Part 2)

Hi guys sorry for the recent inactivity, am tied up in my new job so I can only write on weekends. Anyways, since Christmas is round the corner, I may as well give the presents early:

Position 1: Black to move

Position 2: White to move and mate in 3

Position 3: White to move

Position 4: Black to move and mate in 4

Position 5: Black to move and mate in 3

Position 6: White to move and mate in 2

Position 7: White to move

Finally here's an interesting endgame position where White threatens checkmate in 1 (I assume you CAN see it!), and Black must find a tactical blow in order to survive.

Position 8: Find the best move for Black

Have fun! (:

Part 1:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rook endgame practice 2

Yes it's the middle of the holidays, but I hope you're all not drunk yet! Let's go through the 3 positions I left off on Tuesday:

Position 1: White to play and draw

This one is dead easy. White uses a stalemate threat to force Black's king into the open, before employing the back-rank defense.

1. Rf2+!

Not 1. Rb8?? Ra3#

1... Ke4

1... exf2 is stalemate

2. Rf8!

Black cannot escape the barrage of back-rank checks, while 2... Ra1+ 3. Kf2 and White will just shuffle along the 1st and 2nd ranks.


Our 2nd position:

Position 2: Black to play, can he save the game?

At first glance 1... Ke8? seems to draw, because after 2. Kf6 Kd7 Black has what looks like an Inverse Philidor. However, this is not the case because Black's king is on the long side of the board: 3. Rh7+ (better than 3. Kf7 Re7+) 3.  Ke8 4. Rh8+ Kd7 5. Ra8 Rb1 6. Kf7! (Black can no longer employ the side-rank defense because his king gets into the way) 6... Rf1 7. Ra7+ Kc6 8. f6 and White is on his way to creating a Lucena Position.

Instead, Black saves the game by denying White access to the f6 square (which allows him to shelter from checks):

1... Ke7!
2. f6+

No better is 2. Kg6 Rf1 where Black has an Inverse Philidor: 3. Ra3 Rf2 4. Ra7+ Kf8 5. f6 Rg2+ and White can't hope to win.

2... Kf7
3. Rh7+ Kf8

Now repeated checks make no progress since Black can just shuffle his king along the 7th and 8th ranks.

4. Kg6 Rg1+


Our 3rd position is the most interesting:

Position 3: White to move, can he win?

The position arose in Ponomariov vs Polgar, Sofia 2005 after Black's 35th move. Both sides have their rooks tying the enemy king down to defending the pawns, but Black has another important defensive asset. The pawn on h5 denies White of too much central space, and discourages him from pushing g4 (which would lead to a pawn exchange favourable for Black). As such, this position should be a draw no matter which side to play.

36. h4!

As the stronger side White wants to gain as much centre space as possible. Black's defense is long and tedious, but don't worry: What matters here is that we understand the basic concepts.

36... g6

If Black plays 36... f6, White's best chance will be to play 37. Rb5 (hitting the undefended pawn), but after 37... g6 38. Rb7 Rd2 39. Kh2 Rc2 (note how Black's rook ties the enemy king to the g-pawn) 40. Kg3 Rd2 41. Rb5 Kg7 42. Rd5 Rb2 (Not 42... Rxd5?? 43. exd5 +-) 43. Rd7+ Kg8 (43... Kh6? 44. Rf7 Rb6 45. Kf4 and White stands much better) the position is very much similar to the main line: As long as Black's rook remains on the 2nd rank, it will continue tying down White's king to the backward pawn.

37. Kh2 Kg7
38. Kg3 Re2

The basic idea is to keep the rook on the 2nd rank and make White's king babysit his pawn.

39. Rb6 Kf8
40. Rb1 Kg7
41. Rg1 (D)

Position after 41. Rg1

Freeing the White king, but Black has other plans.

41... Ra2
42. Kf4 Rb2
43. g3 Rb4

Once again, the concept of active rook play is very important.

44. Rd1 Ra4
45. Ke3 Ra2
46. Rd4 Rg2!

It turns out White's g-pawn still needs protection after all!

47. Kf4 Rg1
48. e5 Re1
49. Re4

Hoping to entice Black into 49... Rxe4+?? 50. Kxe4 where the resulting king-pawn endgame is much better for White.

49... Rg1

No way that a GM like Judit Polgar would fall for this!

50. Re3 Rg2
51. Re1 Rf2
52. g4

White doesn't want to do a pawn trade favourable for his opponent, but there is no other plan; 52. Ke4 Rg2 is not going to help at all.

52... hxg4
53. Kxg4 (D)

Position after 53. Kxg4

We now have a three vs two position.

53... Rg2+
54. Kh3 Rf2
55. Kg3 Ra2
56. Rd1 Re2
57. Rd5 Re1
58. Kf2 Rh1!

With the g-pawn gone, Black now turns her attention to... the h-pawn!

59. Rd4 Rh2+
60. Kg3 Re2
61. Re4 Ra2
62. Re3 Ra1
63. Rd3 Re1
64. f4 Rg1+

Another strong line is 64... Ra1 65. Kf3 Rh1 66. Rd7 Kf8 (wisely avoiding 66... Rxh4? 67. e6! where the pin causes problems for Black) 67. Kg4 Rg1+ and White can't do much.

65. Kf3 Rh1
66. Kg4 f5+
67. Kg3 Rg1+

Just look at how Black's rook dances around in enemy territory. As I repeat: Active play!

68. Kf3 Rh1
69. Rd7+ Kg8
70. Ke3

70. Kg3 Rg1+ 71. Kh2 Rg4 72. e6 Kf8 and White has too many weak pawns to defend.

70... Rxh4
71. e6 Kf8
72. Kd4 g5
73. Ke5 gxf4
74. Rf7+ Ke8
75. Rxf5 Rh1
76. Rxf4 Ke7

Position after 76... Ke7

Looks like an upcoming Philidor Position? Only here it is easier, because Black can use a simple tactic to win back the pawn.

77. Rf2 Re1+
78. Kd5 Rxe6

In tedious and seemingly complicated positions like this, what matters is no longer memorization, but the understanding of concepts. I'll leave this link here for you to revise what we've covered:

Hopefully I will be able to post up more positions for y'all to challenge yourselves further in the future!


"Chess Endgame Training" by Bernd Rosen
"Silman's Complete Endgame Course" by Jeremy Silman

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rook endgame practice 1

Let's get started on the two positions I have shown y'all on Sunday. Here is the first one:

Black to play and draw

This one is quite obvious: Even though Black will lose his pawn, he gets an Inverse Philidor position which is a draw with correct play. Just remember: Don't panic and blunder with something like 1... Rd8? 2. Kxe6 Rb8 3. Kf6 Rd8 4. e6 Rb8 (or 4... Rd1 5. Ra8+ Rd8 6. Rxd8+ Kxd8 7. Kf7 with a losing king-pawn endgame) 5. Ra7 Rc8 6. Rh7 where Black loses due to his passive rook.

1... Re4!

Putting the rook behind the pawn. Although we prefer having the rook on e1 (with lots of checking distance), it still works here. Another good move is 1... Rh4! and after 2. Kg5 (2. Ra8+ Kd7 3. Ra7+ Ke8 4. Kxe6 Rh6+ 5. Kf5 Rb6 with an easy Philidor position) 2... Rh1 3. Rxe6+ Kd7 4. Rd6+ Ke8 5. Kf6 Ra1 Black has another Inverse Philidor and threatens to check White from the long side of the board.

(Note: It is interesting to see that if the entire position were shifted to the right by one square, i.e. White king on g6 instead of f6, then the 1... Rh4 defense won't work.)

2. Kxe6 Kf8

Moving the king to the short side of the board; it gives Black's rook sufficient checking distance along the long side.

3. Ra8+ Kg7
4. Kd6 Kf7

For the rest of the variations you can refer to the link:


Our 2nd position:

White to move; can he win?

Once again the basic theme here is easy to identify: White has a passive rook position with the pawn on the 7th rank, similar to the one shown here:

In this position, however, Black's king is not sitting on g7 or h7; White can try using the Rh8-Rh7+ trick to promote his pawn or skewer Black's rook if it captures the pawn. If only Black's f7 pawn were not not in the way...

1. f5!

White wins by decoying Black's pawns away, stripping their king of cover.


Other variations are 1... Kd7 2. Rf8 (threatening 2. Rxf7) which lose immediately, and 1... Ra3+ 2. Ke4 leading to similar variations in our main line.

2. g6! fxg6

After 2... Ra3+ 3. Kf4 Ra4+ 4. Kxf5 fxg6+ 5. Kxg6 Black cannot do much to stop 6. Rg8/6. Rh8

3. Rg8

And the familiar trick comes to play; White threatens to promote his pawn or play Rg8+ should Black capture.

3... Ra3+
4. Kf4

The White king will slowly destroy Black's checking distance.

4... Ra4+
5. Ke5 (D)

Position after 5. Ke5

Watch out for drawing traps: After 5. Kg5 Kf7! 6. a8=Q? Rg4!7. Kh6 Rh4+ Black saves the game with a perpetual check.

5... Ra5+

5... f4 6. a8=Q Rxa8 7. Rxa8 and White will win the resulting Rook vs Connected Pawns endgame, since the pawns have yet to cross the 6th rank and White's king is close by.

6. Kd4 Ra4+
7. Kc5 Ra5+

Or 7... Rxa7 8. Rg7+

8. Kb6


Simple? Let's end off with three more positions for y'all to challenge yourselves again:

Position 1: White to move and draw

Position 2: Black to move, can he save the game?

Position 3: White to move, can he win? What if it were Black to move?

Have fun! (:

"Chess Endgame Training" by Bernd Rosen
"Silman's Complete Endgame Course" by Jeremy Silman

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Challenge yourselves: Rook endgame practice 1

At this level of study I want to make sure that we are firmly grounded in our basics, thus over the next few articles I will be posting some rook endgame positions for y'all to challenge yourselves. While some of these may seem complicated, they can be solved by utilizing the basic positions which we have been learning throughout the year; Philidor, Lucena, Pawn on 7th rank, Rook vs Lone pawn... these are just a few of the basics which you should all know by heart now. All that matters now is knowing where and when to apply it.

So let's get started with two simple positions:

Position 1: Black to play and draw

Position 2: White to play, can he win?

If you need some help recalling key positions, here is the "database" for you to access:

I will go through the positions in my next article. Have fun!

"Silman's Complete Endgame Course" by Jeremy Silman

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rook endgames: The journey so far (Part 2)

If you've been following me all these while in our study of rook endgames, then congratulations: You have truly come a long way. From starting out with the simple Lucena/Philidor positions before moving all the way to the concept of active play in our most recent article, we have managed to amass a sizeable amount of basics that will aid us well in our gameplay.

Let us wrap up what we have been learning so far:


Lucena and Philidor Positions:

File denial and Tarrasch's Rule:

Active vs Passive rooks:

Lucena and Philidor variants

"Lucena" with a rook pawn:

Pawn on the 5th rank:

Pawn on the 4th rank Part 1:

Pawn on the 4th rank Part 2:

Pawn on the 4th rank Part 3:

The Inverse Philidor:

Vancura , 7th rank pawn, and related variants

The Vancura Position:

Passive rook + Pawn on 7th rank (Part 1):

Passive rook + Pawn on 6th rank:

Passive rook + Pawn on 7th rank (Part 2):

Passive rook + Pawn on 7th rank (Part 3):

Rook vs Lone Pawn/Connected Pawns

Rook vs Lone Pawn (Part 1):

Rook vs Lone Pawn (Part 2):

Rook vs Lone Pawn (Pawn 3, Saavedra Position):

Rook vs Lone Pawn (Part 4):

Rook vs Connected Passed Pawns (Part 1):

Rook vs Connected Passed Pawns (Part 2):

Rook vs Connected Passed Pawns (Part 3):

Rook endgames with more than one pawn

Rook vs Rook + Connected Passed Pawns:

Two vs One:

Three vs Two (Part 1):

Three vs Two (Part 2):

Four vs Three:


Well it is amazing to see how far we've come! But of course, simply memorizing all these positions isn't enough. Chess is very much like science: You've got to be able to apply your knowledge in a variety of situations.

Know, but can you apply?

That means that I will be posting even more rook endgame positions in future articles so that y'all can learn how to apply your basics. So hold on tight, because our journey is going to get even more exciting!

"Silman's Complete Endgame Course" by Jeremy Silman
"Chess Endgame Training" by Bernd Rosen
"A Guide to Chess Endings" by Max Euwe