Monday, December 28, 2015

A wild fox hunt: Lasker vs Thomas, London 1912

Edit: In the actual game Lasker actually checkmated with 18. Kd2. Sorry for the mistake.


Today we will look at a short but interesting game featuring the attack on the king. Some of you will find this game familiar, but there is no loss in looking at it again and appreciating the tactics behind Edward Lasker's (note: Edward Lasker, not the 2nd World Champion Emanuel Lasker!) queen sacrifice.

In this classic, White was able to obtain better piece coordination and control of the centre. Together with Black's lag in development, he lost no time in creating an attack on the enemy king, thus following one of the many fundamental chess principles as formulated by Wilhelm Steinitz:

"When a sufficient advantage has been obtained, a player must attack or the advantage will be dissipated."
-- Wilhelm Steinitz

So sit back and enjoy the game:

Lasker, Eduard vs Thomas, George
London 1912

1. d4 f5
2. Nf3 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Be7
5. Bxf6 Bxf6
6. e4 (D)

Position after 6. e4

White wants to open up the centre for an attack on the kingside.

6... fxe4
7. Nxe4 b6
8. Bd3 Bb7
9. Ne5

Allowing the Queen access to h5. Many of us would prefer the natural 9. O-O O-O 10. Qd2 where Black can consider 10... d6 followed by c5 attacking the centre. Notice that here Black has a slight edge due to his bishop pair, and the semi-open f-file for his rook.

9... O-O
10. Qh5! (D)

Position after 10. Qh5

10... Qe7?

Black saw the threat of 11. Ng5 and defends accordingly (11. Ng5? g6! forcing the enemy queen to retreat and winning the knight.). However, he missed another threat. The other variations are:

10... g6? which does not work due to 11. Nxg6! hxg6 12. Qxg6+ with Nxf6 to follow.

The best defence was 10... Bxe5! (removing the powerful knight on e5) 11. Nd2 (11. Ng5? h6; 11. dxe5? Rf5 12. Qg4 Rxe5) 11... g6 12. Qxe5 Nc6 13. Qg3 (D)

Position after 13. Qg3

Black has completed development and is ready to counterattack.

Returning to the position after 10... Qe7 (D): Can you spot the best move for White?

Find the best move for White

11. Qxh7+!!

A stunning queen sacrifice. White lures the king out from the safety of his base, and releases the hounds for a fox hunt.

11... Kxh7
12. Nxf6+ Kh6

12... Kh8 13. Ng6#

13. Neg4+ Kg5
14. h4+ Kf4
15. g3+ Kf3
16. Be2+ Kg2
17. Rh2+ Kg1
18. O-O-O# (D)

Position after 18. 0-0-0#

Of course Kd2 mates too, but it is not everyday you get to castle with checkmate!

David Hooper, Steinitz' Theory, British Chess Magazine Vol. 104, p.370 Sept 1984

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

What better way to spend your Christmas Eve with a present from Pal Benko? Can you solve his Christmas Tree composition?

Pal Benko
Chess Life, 1975
White to move and mate in 2

Have fun, and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fighting against the pawn centre

Today as I was browsing through a few articles, the following game caught my eye. It features a classic fight in the Gruenfeld Defense. To those who play hypermodern openings, this name will sound familiar to you. In such openings (including the King's Indian Defense, which we have already went through), Black typically allows White to build a large pawn centre, only to demolish it with his own pieces and pawns.

"Is this all you can conjure, Saruman?"

Korobov, Anton vs Nepomniachtchi, Ian
Russian Team Rapid Championships 2015

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 g6
3. Nc3 d5
4. cxd5 Nxd5
5. e4 Nxc3
6. bxc3 Bg7
7. Nf3 c5 (D)

Position after 7... c5

In the Gruenfeld Defense, Black allows White to build a pawn centre before attacking it with pawn breaks like c5. Notice White cannot capture because of the hanging pawn on c3.

8. Be2 O-O
9. Be3 Qa5
10. Bd2 Nd7
11. O-O e5
12. a4

12. d5 is playable, and with 12... Nf6 the game progresses somewhere similar to the main line.

12... Qc7
13. Rc1 b6

Black's plan is to put the bishop on b7 and attack e4.

14. Qb3 Bb7
15. d5 Nf6 (D)

Position after 15... Nf6

The passed pawn looks strong, but it can be easily blockaded. Black's plan is to do just that: Relocate the knight to d6 via Nf6-Ne8-Nd6. This also allows him to play f5 later on and attack White's centre.

16. Qc2 Ne8
17. c4 Nd6

Notice the weaknesses on c4 and e4. It will not be easy for White to protect the centre.

18. Bc3 Rae8
19. a5 Bc8
20. axb6 axb6
21. Nd2 f5! (D)

Position after 21... f5

22. f3 Bh6
23. Qd3 Ba6
24. Kh1 Qd8
25. Qc2 Be3
26. Ra1!

White is seeking counterplay on the Queenside.

26... Bc8
27. Qb2?!

I tried to see how White could press his chances on the Queenside: 27. Ra8 Qd7 28. Rfa1 Bxd2 29. Bxd2 fxe4 30. fxe4 (D)

Position after 30. fxe4

White has the bishop pair and good control of the a-file. His weaknesses are the f-file and the weak pawns on c4 and e4, which tie down his Queen. After 30... Bb7 (30... Rf2 31. Be3 and Black makes no progress.) 31. R8a7 Ra8 32. Rxa8 Rxa8 33. Rxa8+ Bxa8 things look better for White, as his minor pieces are more active.

Returning to the main line after 27. Qb2:

27... Bf4
28. g3 Bxd2

Removing a key defender of e4. After this exchange, Black can open the f-file to his advantage.

29. Qxd2 fxe4
30. Ra7 Re7
31. Ra8 Qd7
32. fxe4 Rxf1+
33. Bxf1 Nxe4 (D)

Position after 33. Nxe4

White's pawn centre begins to fall apart.

34. Qh6?

In his article "Struggle for the Centre", Yury Markushin suggested 34. Qe1 Nxc3 35. Qxc3 Qf5 36. Qe1 Rf7 37. Ra2 after which White Queen is still there to defend, making things more difficult for Black.

34... Qf5!

Now, the checkmate threat on f1 forces White to give up material. White was probably hoping for 34... Nxc3? 35. Bh3! Qd8 (35... Qc7 36. d6) 36. Rxc8 winning the Queen.

35. Rxc8+

35. Kg1 Rf7 36. Ra1 Qf2+ followed by Nxc3.

35... Qxc8
36. Bb2 Qf8
37. Qc1 Rf7
38. Be2 Rf2
39. Qe3 Rf1+
40. Kg2 Qf2+ (D)

Position after 40... Qf2

A very instructive game on the fight against the pawn centre.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Do or die: Thomson Chess Fiesta 2015

Today, we will analyze another of my games from last month's tournament at Thomson CC. This game was memorable because it was an interesting display of attacking chess; unfortunately, it was spoiled by my own carelessness.

In this game, you will see how White brings in all his pieces and pawns for the attack, compromising his own pawn structure and king safety in the process. Certainly a "Do or Die" strategy: Should his attack fail, his weaknesses will prove fatal in the endgame!

"Hold on, did we leave anyone behind to guard the flag?"

Checkerboard 5 vs Opponent
Thomson Chess Fiesta 2015 Round 8

1. c4 c5
2. Nc3 b6
3. g3 Bb7
4. Nf3 Nf6

4... Bxf3 5. exf3 with Bg2/Bh3 to follow, giving White a solid kingside.

5. Bg2 g6
6. e3 Bg7 
7. d4 d6
8. O-O O-O
9. Qd2

9. Qc2 controlling e4 was better.

9... Nbd7 (D)

Position after 9... Nbd7

If we analyze the position now, White looks slightly better due to his extra space in the centre. However, he lags in development due to his c1 bishop. Thus, I decided on a simple plan: Expand on the queenside with a3-b4, which at the same time helps me activate my dark-squared bishop.

10. a3 a6
11. b4 Ne4
12. Nxe4 Bxe4
13. Bb2 Qc7

Now the first part of my plan is complete: I have activated my dark-squared bishop. Now how to increase control over the centre and queenside?

14. d5

I could try 14. dxc5 dxc5 15. bxc5 but after Nxc5! I have a weak, blockaded isolated pawn.

14... Bxb2
15. Qxb2 Bxf3
16. Bxf3 (D)

Position after 16. Bxf3

Now I am left with a bishop against my opponent's knight. Naturally, I want to open up the position where the bishop fares better than the knight.

16... Ne5
17. Be2 Rab8
18. f4 Nd7
19. Rac1 a5
20. e4

My opponent suggested 20. b5 locking up the queenside, creating what he felt was a drawish game. Later on, I looked at two of Black's possible responses: e5 (The other response is to try and keep the position closed: 20... Nf6 21. Bf3 Qd7 22. e4 Qh3 23. e5 dxe5 24. fxe5 White has managed to open the centre and gain extra space, giving him an advantage in the endgame.) 21. dxe6 (Letting Black capture is bad: 21. Rce1? exf4 22. exf4 Rbe8 23. Bg4 f5 and Black's knight is superior to White's bishop.) 21... fxe6 22. Bg4 Rbe8 23. e4 Nf6 24. Bf3 (D)

Position after 24. Bf3

Although White's bishop is on an awkward square his position is still solid and neither side can make much progress; for example if Black tries e5 25. f5 gxf5 26. exf5 Nd7 27. Bg2 followed by Bh3 supporting the passed pawn.

Returning to the position after 20. e4:

20... f6
21. h4

Since I had already pushed f4 and e4, I saw the irresistible opportunity to go for a kingside pawnstorm. Even with two minor pieces traded off, I felt that my remaining material should still be sufficient to generate a strong attack against the king. So here I go!

21... Kg7
22. g4

Reaching a "do or die" stage: If White's attack fails, his king will be helplessly exposed to any counterattack.

22... Qc8
23. g5 Rf7
24. Bg4 (D)

Position after 24. Bg4

Taking control of the light squares. If you flip the board around, you can see that Black's position is becoming very cramped.

24... Qc7
25. Be6

After the game I looked at 25. f5 cxb4 (25... gxf5? 26. Rxf5 cxb4 27. Bh5 Rff8 28. Qg2 Qc5+ 29. Kh1 with the very strong threat of 30. gxf6+ followed by 31. Qg7#) 26. fxg6 hxg6 27. axb4 axb4 28. h5 but Black has the strong resource 28... Ne5! and after 29. Be6 Rff8 Black's defense is more solid.

25... Rff8
26. Rf3 axb4!

Black seeks counterplay on the Queenside. Notice that he cannot relieve the kingside tension with fxg5 due to the pin along the long diagonal.

27. axb4 cxb4 (D)

Position after 27... cxb4

Now recapturing with the Queen allows Black to play fxg5. However, the alternative I chose turned out to be an inexplicable blunder:

28. Rb3?

The best move here would be to press on the attack: 28. h5! gxh5 (28... Nc5 29. h6+ Kh8 30. Qxb4 Nxe4 31. Re3 Qc5) 29. gxf6+ Nxf6 30. Rg3+ Kh8 31. Kh1with the threat of 32. Rbg1 putting pressure on the kingside via the g-file.

28... Nc5!

Black can now trade pieces and relieve tension.

29. Re3 Nxe6
30. dxe6 Qc5 (D)

Position after 30... Qc5

The attack has withered off, leaving me with a shattered pawn structure, exposed king and uncoordinated pieces. Not surprisingly Black went on to win the game.The lesson here is simple: In attacking chess, precise calculation is always needed!

Picture: French 4th Hussar at the Battle of Friedland, 14 June 1807. "Vive l'Empereur!" by Édouard Detaille, 1891

Monday, November 30, 2015

Basic Rook vs Minor Piece Endgames: Part 3

It's about time I release the solutions to our earlier challenge. Trust me, they're really simple:

Position 1: White to move and win

The tricky part here is to trap Black's king in the same coloured square as his bishop -- in this case the corner a8. Once this is done, the rest is manageable so long as you have revised on Part 1. To trap the enemy king, a team effort by king and rook is necessary:

1. Rb6+ Ka7

Otherwise the bishop is left hanging.

2. Kc6 Bd3
3. Kc7 Bh7

Of course Black could move the bishop to any other square, but White still wins so long as he employs the same method: Driving the bishop to the a-file.

4. Rh6 Bg8
5. Rg6 Bh7
6. Rg7 Be4

Now the rest is easy, if you have studied Part 1.

7. Rg4 Bc2
8. Rg2 Bb3
9. Rg3 Ba4
10. Ra3

Winning the bishop and the game.

Position 2: Black to move and win

In Position 2 the knight is on the side of the board but not in the corner. Black's king guards one of the escape squares g4, so Black's rook must find a way to cut off the other 3 escape routes and trap the knight. With this in mind, finding the correct move becomes a piece of cake:

1. Rf8! Kd4
2. Kg5

And Black wins the knight and the game.


Easy, wasn't it? Of course, we are talking about basic rook vs minor piece endgames... games with more pieces and pawns won't be so straightforward! But at least we won't be talking about them over here... or will we? (:

Friday, November 27, 2015

Basic Rook vs Minor Piece Endgames: Part 2

In Part 1, we saw how the bishop was able to hold up against the rook in the endgame. Today, we will see how the knight fares. Welcome to the Rook vs Knight endgame.

Image from
Rook-Knight endgames might look tricky, as the knight does not possess the long range powers of either the bishop or the rook. However, there is a simple guideline to determine whether the battle ends in a win or draw. Take a look at the position below:

The guidelines are as follows:
  1. If the knight is in the corner of the board (Red Zone), the attacker can trap the knight with his rook and king to win the game
  2. If the knight is at the side of the board (Yellow Zone), the attacker only has some chances to trap the knight
  3. If the knight is in the centre of the board (Green Zone), the defender has good chances to draw with correct play

Let us see how this works. Take a look a position where the knight is in the corner (Red Zone):

A knight on the rim is dim

Black's knight has been driven to the corner, and the escape squares e7 and f6 are guarded by the king. All White need to do is to play 1. Rh5 taking away the last escape square h6, before moving in with 2. Kf7 to win the knight. Simple.

In the corner, the knight has few escape squares which makes it so easily trapped. Now let's see what happens when the knight is on the edge, but not the corner (Yellow Zone):

Still in hot soup

Although the knight has more escape squares, White's king is ideally placed to keep watch over c4 and c6. After 1. Rb1! the remaining escape points b3 and b7 are cut off, and the knight is trapped and won with 2 Rb5.

What if we shifted the king to d4 instead of d5? Then 1. Rb1 no longer works because Black's knight can run away with 1... Nc6. You can see that bringing the knight out of the corner makes it more difficult to trap, since the knight will have more avenues of flight.

Another way for the defender to save himself is to protect the knight with his king. In our previous position, the Black king was a mere spectator in the game; now, let us see what happens when the king is there to help:

A saving grace for the knight

1. Kc5

Hoping for 2. Ra1 pinning the knight. 1. Rb1 Nb7 and Black's knight escapes.

1... Nb7+!

Not 1... Ka7? 2. Ra1 pinning the knight and winning it after Ka6 3. Ra2

2. Kc6

Again trying for 3. Ra1+ Na5 4. Ra2 winning the knight.

2... Na5+!
3. Kc7 Nc4
4. Rb1 Na5
5. Ra1 Kb5

Now both king and knight can make their way to the centre of the board. Draw.


With more escape squares and the protection of the king, the knight cannot be trapped easily by the rook. Thus, it is no surprise that a knight in the centre (Green Zone) is nigh impossible to trap:

Catch me if you can

I guess the position needs no explanation. You are free to work it out yourself if you are not convinced (:

As you can see, the concept of a pure rook vs knight endgame is very simple. So long as the defender keeps his knight away from the corner and side of the board, and protects the knight with his king, he should be able to secure the draw with correct play. It is all about whether the knight can be trapped/forked.


Now that we know the basics of pure rook vs minor piece endgames, what better way to finish off with... another challenge?

Position 1: White to move and win

Position 2: Black to move and win

I will let you think about the positions over the weekend. Have fun! (:


"21 Days to SuperCharge your Chess - Endgame Package" by Yury Markushin

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Basic Rook vs Minor Piece Endgames: Part 1

And you thought I was finished with rook endgames! Like I once said, the breadth of rook endgame positions is so vast that many of us are far from mastering them.

Since we have managed to cover most of the basics of rook-pawn endgames (see database), I shall extend the discussion to basic rook vs minor piece positions. For today, we will be looking at a pure rook vs bishop endgame.

Let the showdown begin (Image from Dreamstime)

Many players, when encountered with this endgame, simply assume it is a draw and forget about it. They are right that it is usually a draw; but when faced with strong opposition, chances are they botch the defense and end up losing the game.

There is a simple rule to this. To defend successfully, the side with the bishop must stick his king in the opposite-coloured corner of the bishop.

Sounds weird? I will save on wordy explanation by throwing in a counter-example: When the defender has his king in the corner with the same coloured square as his bishop:

Position 1: White to move and win

Here, Black's bishop is dark-squared, and his king has been chased to a dark-squared corner (similar colour to the bishop). Now White can use a checkmate threat to win the bishop:

1. Rf1

Buying time for White to bring his rook into a suitable mating position. The immediate 1. Rc4? allows Black to escape with Kf8

1... Bh2

Or 1... Bd4 2. Rd1 Bb6 3. Rb1 Bc7 4. Rc1 Bd8 5. Rc8 winning with the same concept as the main line.

2. Rf2 Bg1
3. Rg2

Now Black's bishop is no longer safe on g2 and h2.

3... Bd4
4. Rd2!

A skewer: White is eyeing the d8 square where he can deliver mate.

4... Bb6

Black tries to defend.

5. Rb2 Bc7
6. Rc2

Now Black can no longer protect the light-coloured square c8.

6... Bd6

Or 6... Bd8 7. Rc8 winning.

7. Rc8+ Bf8

Blocking the check, but White simply plays a deadly waiting move:

8. Ra8!

The bishop is pinned, and Black is forced to step away.

8... Kh8
9. Rxf8#


So far so good... we know how the attacker can get a win by combining a mating threat with a pin. But that doesn't answer the question of why the defender can draw if he brings his king to the opposite-coloured corner?

What better explanation than another example:

Position 2: Either side to move draws

Now the defender has stuck his king in the right coloured corner. As usual White tries to chase out the bishop and employ his checkmate threat:

1. Rc2 Be5
2. Re2

Same old skewer, aiming for checkmate on e8.

2... Bf4!

Black keeps his bishop on the h2-b8 diagonal. You will see why.

3. Re8+

Of course 3. Re7 Bg3 4. Rf7 Be5 makes no progress.

3... Bb8
4. Kc6

The only way to continue if White wants to win.Now White cannot play the waiting move 4. Rf8?? because it'll be stalemate. Here, the Black king has no free square to go to. Take note of the difference between this and our previous example!

4... Ka7
5. Re7+ Ka8

But Black simply tucks his king back onto a8 and it's back to square one.


So here we have, a basic summary of how to play a pure rook vs bishop endgame:

  • As the defender, the safest way to draw will be to bring your king and bishop over to the corner with opposite-coloured square to the bishop. There, you can put your bishop on the correct diagonal to interpose any rook checks safely. The stalemate threat will save you.
  • As the attacker, your winning chances lie in luring the opponent's king to the same coloured corner square as the bishop, where you can use a checkmate threat to pin the bishop and win it.

In Part 2, we will move on to Rook vs Knight endgames.

"21 Days to Supercharge your Chess - Endgame Package" by Yury Markushin

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dancing with the King's Indian

Barely 3 months after Queenstown I am back at the chessboard again. With 6 out of 9 points I was more or less satisfied with my results. Nevertheless, it is still my draws and losses that I am more interested in analyzing, to find out what went wrong.

Here's one of my games from Day 1 of the tournament, featuring a classic (and botched) attack in the King's Indian:

Checkerboard 5 vs Opponent
Thomson Chess Fiesta Challengers 2015 Round 4

1. c4 Nf6
2. Nc3 g6
3. d4 Bg7
4. e4 d6
5. Nf3 O-O
6. Be2 Nc6
7. O-O e5
8. d5 Ne7 (D)

Position after 8... Ne7

In the King's Indian Defence Black allows White to build a pawn centre before trying to undermine it with breaks like ... f5 and ... c6. White will use his extra space and attack on the Queenside, while Black concentrates on the Kingside.

9. b4 Nd7
10. Nd2 f5
11. Nb3 Nf6

Or 11... fxe4 12. Nxe4 blockading the centre.

12. f3 c6
13. Bg5

White could also try 13. c5 cxd5 14. exd5 e4 (14... dxc5? 15. d6 creating a powerful passed pawn.) 15. Bg5 exf3 16. Bxf3 with a very nice position and plenty of space in the centre.

13... cxd5 (D)

Position after 13... cxd5

14. Bxf6

The bishop wasn't doing much on c1, while the f6 knight is an important defender.

14... Rxf6
15. Nxd5 Nxd5
16. Qxd5+

When playing with a pawn chain, one of the attacker's plans is to replace any traded central pawns with his pieces, thus extending his grasp on the centre (see Part 3 of my article on pawn chains)

16... Kh8
17. Rad1 (D)

Position after 17. Rad1

Moving away from the black dark-squared bishop's line of fire and reinforcing the centre. The threat of 18. c5 is now in the air.

17... Qc7
18. c5 dxc5
19. Nxc5?!

Better was 19. bxc5 Be6 20. Qd6 with the threat of creating a passed pawn after the exchange.

19... Rb8
20. Bc4 Rf8 (D)

Position after 20... Rf8

21. Ne6?

21. Qd6! Qxd6 22. Rxd6 with a dominating position.

21... Qb6+!

I totally missed this saving move. I had been hoping for 21... Bxe6 22. Qxe6 followed by 23... Re7.

22. Qc5 Qxc5+
23. bxc5 Bxe6
24. Bxe6 (D)

Position after 24. Bxe6

Now the position is more defendable for Black. All he has to do is trade rooks and simplify to an opposite-colour bishop endgame.


What can we learn from this game?

  1. When playing with a pawn chain, your goal is to use your spatial advantage to launch an attack.
  2. When the pawn chain falls, the attacker can replace the pawns with pieces to further reinforce his central advantage.
  3. Likewise, the defender should attack the pawn chain and try to advance his own pawns should the chain fall.
  4. When attacking, try to bring in as many pieces as possible to maximize your firepower.
  5. Calculate carefully in complex positions!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Exam Break: Part 2 (Solutions)

Alright that's enough time, so here are the solutions to our earlier challenge:

Position 1: White to move

If White can get his knight to the b3 square he can force at least a draw. Here, his passed pawn gives him winning chances.

1. Ne6+ Ke3

The other variations are 1... Ke4 2. Nc5+ (followed by Nb3) and 1... Kf3 2. Nd4+ (again followed by Nb3)

2. Nd4!

Forcing the Black king into a skewer.

2... Kxd4

Otherwise White plays 4. Nb3 stopping the pawn.

3. h7 a1=Q
4. h8=Q+ Ke4
5. Qxa1

Position 2: White to move

In any position the first variations to calculate are the most forcing ones: Threats, checks and captures. Here, the most forcing variation wins.

1. d7 Rd4
2. a7 Bf3

It seems that Black has stopped the pawns. But White has a hidden card to play.

3. Ng4+! Kh5

The bishop and rook are tied to watching the pawns: 3... Bxg4 4. a8=Q and 3... Rxg4 4. d8=Q both lose for Black.

4. Nf6+ Kxh4
5. Nd5!!

A deadly interference tactic. Whichever piece captures the knight gets in the way of the other piece.

5... Rxd5

Or 5... Bxd5 6. d8=Q+

6. a8=Q

All the best for your remaining exams!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Exam break: Part 2

By now most of your papers should have started. Here's two more interesting endgame puzzles to relive the stress:

Position 1: White to move

Position 2: White to move

Have fun!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Exam Break Part 1 (Solutions)

It's been a week since I last posted this, so let's get cracking:

Position 1: White to move

Black's Queen is in an awkward position, and White can trap it.

1. Rdxb4

If 1. Rbxb4? then 1... Bc6 defends the a4 square.

1... Bc6

Defending a4. The other variations also win for White:1... Qa5 2. Rxb7 or 1... Bc8 2. Ra4 Bg4 3. Rxa2 Bxd1 4. Rxd1

2. Ra1 Qxa1
3. Qxa1

White wins.

Position 2: White to move

Position 2 involves a simple fork together with the removal of a defender: 1. Nxd4 (1. Qa4+? hoping for 2. Qxa6 fails after 1... Bb5! and the bishop is protected by the knight. Hence, White must eliminate the defending knight). Qxd4 and now White can play 2. Qa4+! winning the bishop.

Position 3: Black to move and mate in 3

This one is easy; all Black needs to do is play 1... Qh1+ 2. Ke2 Nf4+ 3. exf4 with the deadly double check 3... Bc4#

I told you they were easy, weren't they?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Exam break: Part 1

While y'all are busy revising for your exams I will refrain from posting articles during this period. However, that doesn't mean I won't let you guys have some short breaks... here are 3 simple puzzles for you to try out:

Position 1: White to move

Position 2: White to move

Position 3: Black to move and mate in 3

As usual I will go through the solutions at the end of the week. Have fun! (:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Exploiting the backward pawn: Smyslov vs Timman, Moscow 1981

For today's article I will focus on simple game, seeing that most of you are preparing for your exams.In this game, Smyslov sacrificed a pawn to create a weakness in his opponent's camp: A backward pawn.

Smyslov, Vassily vs Timman, Jan H
Moscow 1981

1. d4 Nf6
2. Nf3 g6
3. g3 c5
4. Bg2 cxd4
5. Nxd4 Bg7
6. c4 Nc6
7. Nc3 Nxd4
8. Qxd4 O-O
9. O-O d6
10. Qd3 Bf5
11. e4 Be6
12. b3 a6
13. Bb2 Nd7
14. Qd2 (D)

Position after 14. Qd2

Staying clear of potential knight attacks, and protecting the dark-squared bishop at the same time.

14... Nc5
15. f4

White exploits his central space advantage to go for an f5 push.

15... Rc8
16. f5 Bd7
17. f6 (D)

Position after 17. f6

With this pawn sacrifice Black will be left with a backward pawn on d6. This will become the focus of White's plan.

17... exf6

If 17... Bxf6 18. Rxf6! exf6 19. Nd5 White threatens 20. Nxf6+ followed by a destructive windmill.

18. Nd5

When a pawn is backward, the square in front of it is usually weak. White wastes no time
in occupying the weak square. Of course White can recapture the pawn first, but after 18. Qxd6 f5 he cannot play 19. Nd5 straightaway due to his hanging b2 bishop.

18... f5
19. exf5 Bxf5
20. Bxg7 Kxg7
21. Qd4+ (D)

Position after 21. Qd4+

A simple analysis will show that White is better. He has a powerful knight on d5, good control of the dark squares (with his queen replacing the dark-squared bishop), while Black is left with a backward d6 pawn.

21... f6
22. g4

With his central dominance, White is able to go for the kingside attack. 22. Rae1 followed by 23. Re7 looks tempting, but after 23... Ne6! Black obtains some counterplay.

22... Be6
23. Nxf6! Rxf6
24. g5 (D)

Position after 24. g5

The pin is decisive.

24... Bf5
25. Rad1 b5

The last try for counterplay.

26. cxb5 axb5
27. gxf6+ Qxf6
28. Qxf6+ Kxf6
29. Rxd6+ Ne6
30. Rb6 Rc5

The more active 30... Rc2 31. Bd5 Re2 32. Bxe6 Rxe6 33. Rxb5 is still losing for Black.

31. Re1 (D)

Position after 31. Re1

Followed by 32. b5 and the backward pawn falls. In this game, notice now Smyslov exploited weaknesses in his opponent's pawn structure to gain central and dark-square control, before sacrificing his knight at the right moment to finish things off.


All the best for your exams!