Saturday, June 27, 2015

Anand vs Vachier-Lagrave, Norway Chess Round 6

By now, half of you are probably emo-ing about how the holidays is about to end soon. The other half are busy rushing all their holiday projects on the last day.

Take a break! (: Let's sit back and go through a game from the recent Norway Chess 2015. It was a dramatic tournament that saw several ups and downs, culminating in Topalov's well deserved victory on Thursday.

The following game we will analyze occured in Round 6 of the tournament between Vishy Anand and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (also fondly known as MVL). Anand unleashed a well-know sacrifice in a fine attacking game; while MVL defended well, it was unfortunately not enough for him to survive the attack.

Anand vs MVL, Norway Chess 2015

Anand, Viswanathan vs Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
Norway Chess 2015 Round 6

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 a6
6. h3 e6
7. g4 h6
8. Bg2 Nc6
9. Be3 Be7
10. f4 (D)

Position after 10. f4

Already in the opening Anand is massing his forces on the kingside.

10... Nd7

The intention here is to use ... Bh4+ as a tempo gaining move if White isn't careful.

11. O-O

In his game against Mamedyarov in the Candidates Tournament 2014 Anand continued 11. Qd2 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 e5 13. fxe5 Bh4+ 14. Bf2 Nxe5 15. O-O-O Bxf2 16. Qxf2 Be6. White has a space advantage but Black is compensated with a very well placed knight on e5. The game ended in a draw on the 30th move.

11... Nxd4
12. Qxd4 O-O
13. Qd2 (D)

Position after 13. Qd2

White now has a Queen-Bishop battery aimed at h6. Black must be careful in his defense.

13... Rb8
14. Ne2

Escaping from Black's potential Queenside advance, and adding more firepower to the kingside.

14... b5
15. Rad1 Qc7

A prophylactic move to guard against the threat of 16. e5. Black would love to activate his bishop with 15... Bb7, but after 16. e5 White creates trouble in the centre.

16. f5

Weakening e5 but opening the c1-h6 diagonal.

16... Nf6
17. Ng3

Attacking straightaway on h6 doesn't work: 17. Bxh6 gxh6 18. Qxh6 and now Black has a classic defensive maneuver with 17... Nh7! covering g5 and f6. After 19. f6 Nxf6 White has no more attack, and can only hope to draw after 20. Qg5+ Kh8 21. Rxf6 Bxf6 22. Qxf6+ Kg8 23. Qg5+ with perpetual check.

17... Bb7
18. Kh1 (D)

18. Position after 18. Kh1

So that Black cannot sneak in a check on the g1-h8 diagonal when White commences his attack.

18... Rbd8?

Many analysts felt that a strong defense for Black would have been 18... Kh7! which might seem weird, but after 19. g5 hxg5 20. Bxg5 Rh8 Black is surprisingly ok, and even threatens White along the open-h file.

19. Bxh6!

"I completely missed 19.Bxh6. I thought I was defending [against this threat] and suddenly I wasn't defending at all. I felt during the game I should be OK." - MVL

19... gxh6
20. Qxh6 d5! (D)

Position after 20... d5

Black defends logically: When being attacked on one wing, try to counterattack with a central break.

21. g5

Anand must proceed carefully if he wants his attack to succeed. 21. Nh5 looks strong, but after 21... Nxh5 22. gxh5 Qg3 23. f6 Bd6 White suddenly has no more attack, and even risks mate on h2!

21... Qxg3
22. Rd3

Not 22. gxf6? Bd6 when White is forced to give up the attack with 23. Qg7+ Qxg7 24. fxg7 Kxg7 -+

22... Nh5! (D)

Position after 22... Nh5

Strong defence that sacrifices the Queen; if White takes on g3 Black recaptures with check. If 22... Qe5? 23. gxf6 Bxf6 24. Rf4 and Black is in deep trouble.

It seems that MVL has found sufficient counterplay... or has he?

23. g6!

"It's amazing. He just has to drop the whole queen!" - Anand

23... fxg6
24. fxg6 Rxf1+
25. Bxf1

Black is forced to choose between losing the queen or getting checkmated.

25... Nf6
26. Rxg3 dxe4
27. Be2 e3+
28. Kg1 Bc5
29. Kf1 (D)

Position after 29. Kf1

Anand threatens moves like Rg5, or g7 followed by Qh8+. With this in mind MVL saw no reason to continue the struggle. Truly an exciting attack game with brilliant play by both sides!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Rook Endgame Practice 6

After looking at the (simple) challenge you should have solved most of the positions by now. So let us take a look at them again:

Position 1: White to move and win

This is a simple active vs passive rook position, where Black's rook is in a terrible position. White wins by getting his king to the other side of the pawn to support its advance. However, he must watch out for potential stalemate traps.

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

Looks familiar? Yes: That bloody Philidor Position, which has been giving you so much misery, has returned.

Didn't I warn you the other time?

But if you are well versed in your rook endgame foundations you should have no problem finding the draw for Black. All he has to do is to play 1.... Kb8! moving his king to the short side of the board. The rest of the drawing technique can be found in the Inverse Philidor link.

With that in mind, we move on to the next position:

Position 3: How about this?

Here, Black would love to draw by moving his king to the short side of the board. He just needs to play 1... Ka8 2. Rh8+ and ... whoops! It seems the short side is too short (!) for Black, so he has no choice but to play his king onto the long side of the board. This means that Black's king will get in the way if his rook tries to check White's king from the long side of the board. Hence, White wins as follows:

Position 4: White just played 1. g3. Can Black win?

This is a peculiar position that seems to have nothing in relation to what we have learned so far. However, one would realize that White can simplify to a basic pawn-on-7th-rank position, with Black's pawns on the g or h-files. This, as shown in the following link, is a simple draw for White.

From the above positions (especially Position 4!) we can see how important our "building blocks" are in forming our endgame foundations. The chessplayer who knows the ins and outs of the Philidor or pawn-on-7th-rank positions can quickly find the solution to these puzzles, while the freshman would find it challenging. So do take more time to look back onto the "Rook Endgame Database" we have built so far!

Practice 1:
Practice 2:
Practice 3:
Practice 4:
Practice 5:

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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Challenge yourselves: Rook endgame practice 6

Enjoying your holidays? Well, time for me to throw y'all another rook endgame challenge. By now, some of you might have forgotten about Lucena, Vancura, and all the other details we have discussed, so do look through them again from time to time by visiting this link. In the meantime, this challenge might help to refresh some memories and further add to your rook endgame prowess.

Position 1: White to move and win

Note: Positions 2 and 3 are related.

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

Position 3: How about this?

Finally a slightly more challenging one:

Position 4: White just played 1. g3. Can Black win?

As usual, I will go through the positions next week. Have fun! (:

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A simple plan of file control

For today we will analyze a simple game where the strategic plan is clear: Controlling an open file with eventual occupation of the 7th rank. As you look through the analysis, do keep in mind the mistakes made by both sides too and learn from them.

Checkerboard 5 vs Opponent
Correspondence Chess 2015

1. d4 d5
2. c4 Nf6
3. Nc3 Bf5
4. e3 e6
5. Bd3 Bxd3
6. Qxd3 Bb4
7. Nge2 O-O
8. O-O Nc6
9. cxd5 exd5
10. a3 Bd6
11. b4 (D)

Position after 11. b4

11... Re8

Black seemed to have the possibility of a classic bishop sac: 11... Bxh2+ 12. Kxh2 Ng4+ but after 13. Kg1 Qh4 14. Rd1 Qh2+ (14... Qxf2+ 15. Kh1 Qh4+ 16. Kg1 Qf2+ is perpetual check.) 15. Kf1 Qh1+ 16. Ng1 Black cannot make further progress in the attack and is down a bishop.

12. Bd2

White's main challenges here are to free his dark-squared bishop, and watch out for a potential bishop sac on h2.

12... Ne7
13. Rac1 Ng6
14. Ng3?!

I wanted to prevent the sac. However, the same could also have been achieved by 14. h3 after which my e2 knight could be used to add firepower to the Queenside.

14... Qd7 (D)

Position after 14... Qd7

Let's do a quick positional analysis. Material is equal, and both sides have completed development. Black has most of his pieces positioned on the kingside, suggesting an attack on that wing. For White, his assets are the open c-file, and potential outpost on c5. Thus from here my plan is simple: Place my major pieces on the open c-file to support a Queenside attack. At the same time, I must also watch out for potential enemy outposts on e4 and c4.

15. Nb5 Bxg3?!

This gives White doubled pawns, but also removes a critical defender of the c7 square. An alternative would be 15... Rac8 16. Nxd6 Qxd6 17. Rc2 Ne4 keeping close watch on c5. White could consider pushing b6 followed by c5 to wrestle back control of the Queenside.

16. hxg3 Ne4?

Losing a pawn. 16... c6 should have been played, stalling White's advance. After 17. Nc3 Ne4 Black can either play b6 followed by c5, or bring his knight onto the c4 outpost via Ne4-Nd6-Nc4. White's best continuation would be to trade knights and re-open the c-file. 18. Nxe4 Rxe4 19. a4 Rc8 with an unclear position.

17. Rxc7 Qe6
18. Rxb7 Qc6
19. Rc7 Qb6
20. Rfc1?!

Position after 20. Rfc1

My inaccuracy gave Black the chance to regain some material. 20. Rc5 was better.

20... Nxd2!
21. R1c6

The only way to retain the material. The knight was a decoy: 21. Qxd2? Qxb5 and White is the one who's a pawn down!

21... Qb8
22. Nd6 Ne4
23. Nxe8 Qxe8
24. Qc2 (D)

Position after 24. Qc2

Fortunately for me, my occupation of the c-file ensures that I still have the advantage. The next stage of my plan is to use the file to tie down my opponent's pieces, and support the advance of my Queenside pawn majority. Eventually, the weight of the c-file should crush Black.

24... Ne7
25. Ra6 Nc8
26. Qc6 Qd8
27. Qd7

"The main objective of any operation in an open file is the eventual occupation of the 7th or 8th Rank." -- Aron Nimzowitsch

27... Qxd7
28. Rxd7 Nb6
29. Rdxa7 Rxa7
30. Rxa7 g6
31. a4

For the rest of the game I simply advanced my Queenside pawns to tie down my opponent's knights, before bringing my king into the fight. This, coupled with a few more mistakes by my opponent, allowed me to win the game. There will be no more analysis for the remaining moves.

31... Nd6
32. a5 Nbc8
33. Rc7 Kg7
34. a6 Nb6
35. Kf1 Kf6
36. Ke2 Na8
37. Rd7 Ke6
38. Rd8 Nb6
39. a7 Ke7
40. a8=Q Nxa8
41. Rxa8 Kd7
42. Kd3 Kc7
43. f3 Kb7
44. Ra5 Kc6
45. e4 Nc4
46. Rxd5 Nd6
47. Rxd6+ Kxd6
48. Kc4 Kc6
49. d5+ (D)

Position after 49. d5

A long but conclusive struggle. While both of us made several mistakes during the battle, it was certainly instructive for me to analyze.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Capablanca vs Lasker, World Chess Championship 1921 (Round 11)

Unit has been quite busy recently, so I couldn't really find time to continue writing articles. Nevertheless, I shall squeeze in a game from the 1921 World Chess Championship for your own viewing.

The 1921 World Championship was held in Havana, Cuba between Jose Raul Capablanca and Emanuel Lasker. Lasker had been the reigning champion for 27 years (!) after defeating Wilhelm Steinitz in 1894. In 1920, while finalizing the conditions of his match with Capablanca, Lasker suddenly resigned his title over a dispute in match conditions. However, he agreed to play as the challenger in the upcoming match. Now that's something we don't see everyday in the chess world!

Previously, we had witnessed a demonstration of fine endgame technique by Capablanca. Today, let us marvel again at how the Cuban master executes his plans against his opponent's weak pawn structure in the following game.

Thankfully, the game as been annotated in great detail by Capablanca himself, and I will use his annotations over here.

Capablanca, Jose Raul vs Lasker, Emanuel
Havana World Chess Championship 1921 (Game 11)

1. d4 d5
2. Nf3 e6
3. c4 Nf6
4. Bg5 Nbd7
5. e3 Be7
6. Nc3 O-O
7. Rc1 Re8
8. Qc2 c6
9. Bd3 dxc4
10. Bxc4 Nd5
11. Bxe7 Rxe7
12. O-O Nf8
13. Rfd1 Bd7

Capablanca: "I do not consider the system adopted by Dr. Lasker in this game to be any good."

14. e4 Nb6

Capablanca: "...Nxc3 would have simplified matters somewhat, but it would have left Black in a very awkward position. The text move, by driving back the bishop, gains time for the defense."

15. Bf1 Rc8
16. b4 (D)

Position after 16. b4

Capablanca: "To prevent c5, either now or a later stage. There is no (dark-squared) Black bishop and White's whole plan is based on that fact. He will attempt, in due time, to place a knight on d6.

16... Be8
17. Qb3

Capablanca: "White might have played a4 at once, but wanted at first to prevent the Black Queen from coming out via d6 an f4."

17... Rec7
18. a4 Ng6
19. a5 Nd7
20. e5 b6
21. Ne4 Rb8 (D)

Position after 21... Rb8

22. Qc3

Capablanca: "22. Qa3 at once was best. The text move gives Black a chance to gain time."

22... Nf4
23. Nd6 Nd5

Capablanca: "Had the White Queen been at a3 Black could not have gained this very important tempo."

24. Qa3 f6
25. Nxe8

Capablanca: "This Bishop had to be taken, since it threatened to go to h5, pinning the Knight."

25... Qxe8
26. exf6 gxf6

Capablanca: "To retake with either Knight would have left the e Pawn extremely weak."

27. b5 (D)

Position after 27.

Capablanca: "With this move White gets rid of his Queen's side Pawns."

27... Rbc8
28. bxc6 Rxc6
29. Rxc6 Rxc6
30. axb6 axb6
31. Re1

Capablanca: "31. Bb5 was better."

31... Qc8
32. Nd2

Capablanca: "This was my sealed move and unquestionably the only move to keep the initiative."

32... Nf8

Capablanca: "32... Rc3 would have been met by 33. Qa1."

33. Ne4 (D)

Position after 33. Ne4

Capablanca: "The White Knight stands now in a very commanding position. Black's game is far more difficult than appears at first glance and I believe that the only good system of defense would have to be based on ...f5, after ...h6, driving back the White Knight."

33... Qd8
34. h4 Rc7

Capablanca: "This might be said to be the losing move. Black had to play 34... h6 in order to be ready to continue with ... f5, forcing the White Knight to withdraw."

35. Qb3

Capablanca: "White's plan consists in getting rid of Black's powerfully posted Knight at d5, which is the key to Black's defense.

35... Rg7
36. g3 Ra7
37. Bc4 Ra5
38. Nc3 Nxc3
39. Qxc3 Kf7
40. Qe3 Qd6
41. Qe4 Ra4

Capablanca: "Neither one of us had very much time left at this stage of the game. Black's alternative was 41... Ra7 which would have been met by 42. d5 leaving Black with what in my opinion is a lost position.

42. Qb7+ Kg6

Capablanca: "If 42... Qe7 43. Qc6 wins.

43. Qc8 Qb4
44. Rc1 (D)

Position after 44. Rc1

44... Qe7

Capablanca: "Black's game was now hopeless; for instance 44... Qa3 45. Bd3+ f5 (45... Qxd3 46. Qe8+ +-) 46. Qe8+ Kh6 47. Re1 Ra8 48. Rxe6+ Nxe6 49. Qxe6+ Kg7 50. Qe5+ etc. In practically all the other variations the check with the Bishop at d3 wins."

45. Bd3+ Kh6

Capablanca: "45... f5 would have prolonged the game a few moves only. 46. Rc7 would always win."

46. Rc7 Ra1+
47. Kg2 Qd6
48. Qxf8+ (D)

Position after 48. Qxf8+

If 48... Qxf8 then 49. Rxh7#.


Another epic battle between two chess legends! After Capablanca won his 4th game in Game 14, Lasker resigned and ceded the World Title to his Cuban opponent.