Sunday, August 16, 2015

Capablanca vs Euwe, Nottingham 1936

Today we will look at a simple game between two chess titans: Capablanca and Euwe. Although the game ended in a draw, it didn't end without a fight: Both sides fought actively for the advantage, making sure that every move they made had as much purpose as possible.

I have included some of Alekhine's annotations in this game:

Capablanca, Jose Raul vs Euwe, Max
Nottingham 1936

1. d4 d5
2. c4 c6
3. Nf3 Nf6
4. Nc3 dxc4
5. a4 Bf5
6. e3 e6
7. Bxc4 Bb4
8. O-O O-O
9. Ne5 (D)

Position after 9. Ne5

Alekhine: "If White hopes to get an advantage with this move, in conjunction with the following, he was mistaken. But also 9. Qe2 Ne4 (not 9... c5 10. Na2 Ba5 11. dxc5 Nc6 12. Rd1 Qe7 13. Nd4 Rfd8 14. b4! , as in Ragozin-Flohr, Moscow, 1936.) 10. Nxe4 Bxe4 11. Rd1 Nd7 as in the sixth round game Lasker-Capablanca, seems to give White no appreciable pull."

9... c5!

Alekhine: "This move had to be very carefully calculated (or analysed beforehand) as it involves a temporary pawn sacrifice."

10. Na2

After 10. dxc5? Bxc3 11. bxc3 White wins the pawn immediately but is left with a damaged pawn structure.

10... Ba5

Alekhine: "To allow this bishop to be exchanged would give White without a fight a distinct positional advantage."

11. dxc5 Qxd1
12. Rxd1 Bc2! (D)

Position after 12... Bc2

The key to Black's defence lies in piece activity. The two bishops are very strong in this position.

13. Rd4

Much better than 13. Rf1 Bc7 after which 14... Bxa4 follows.

13... Bc7
14. Nf3

Alekhine: " 14. f4 Bxe5 15. fxe5 Nfd7 16. Nb4 Bg6 would yield White no profit"

14... Nc6

Development with threat! Now 14... Bxa4? doesn't work because of 15. Bxe6 winning back the material.

15. Rd2 Bg6

Alekhine: "Black's minor pieces are now very harmoniously posted, and the recovery of the pawn can only
be a question of very little time."

16. b4! (D)

Position after 16. b4

A multipurpose move, freeing the dark-squared bishop and gaining space on the queenside.

16... a5
17. b5 Ne5
18. Nxe5 Bxe5
19. Bb2 Ne4

By now you should realize that every move counts. Both sides constantly improve their position while making threats at the same time.

20. Re2 Bxb2
21. Rxb2 Nxc5

Retaking the pawn. The postion is now equal.

22. Nc1 (D)

Position after 22. Nc1

Alekhine: "Black's positional advantage is only apparent, and would soon disappear after 22... Rfd8 23. Nb3 Nxb3 24. Bxb3 etc. "

What can we learn from this game?

  1. Make every move count: Develop and improve your pieces, while making threats at the same time to gain tempo.
  2. The two bishops are very effective in attacking enemy positions.
  3.  Sometimes it is worth giving up a pawn to damage the opponent's pawn structure, or disrupt his piece coordination.
All the best for your training! (:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Golden Jubilee Presents: Solution

No dallying around on the last day of the long weekend; here goes:

Position 1: White to move and win

This is a simple tactical combination of a deflection + discovered check. After 1. Qh8+ Ke7 (deflecting the king onto the e7 square for the killer move) 2. Bd2+! Kd7 3. Qh3+ White wins the Queen.

Position 2: White to move and draw

At first glance it seems that White is losing: He is too far from Black's pawn while Black is only two squares away from capturing White's pawn. However, he can create some magic using a familiar incantation that we have gone through not long ago: Reti's Tightrope Motif.

By approaching both pawns at the same time, the draw is quickly sealed:

1... h5
2. Kb4!

Reti's Motif: White approaches both pawns at the same time, threatening to either catch Black's pawn or escort his own pawn to promotion.

2... Kb6

2... h4 and White goes over to escort his own pawn: 3. Kc5 h3 4. Kd6 h2 5. c7 Kb7 6. Kd7 and White's pawn promotes.

3. Kc4 h4

If 3... Kxc6 then 4. Kd4 stepping into the square of the pawn.

4. Kd5 Kc7

Once again 4... h3 5. Kd6 h2 6. c7 draws.

5. Ke4 h3
6. Kf3

Catching the enemy pawn. Draw.

Position 3: Black to move and draw

This is a slightly tricky position, because mixing up the order of moves can make the difference between draw and defeat! Black can create a stalemate trap here but he must be careful:

1... b2!

Forcing White's bishop onto the long diagonal, cutting off more squares from the Black king. Mixing up the order of moves can be deadly: White wins after 1... Nf4+? 2. Qxf4 b2 3. Qe5! (Black was hoping for 3. Bxb2? g6+ with stalemate on next move.) 3... bxc1=Q?? 4. Qe8#)

2. Bxb2

If 2. Qe8+ Black draws with 2... Nf8 3. Qxf8+ (3. Bxb2 g6+ 4. Kh6 Stalemate.) 3... Kxf8 4. Bxb2 Kf7 and White cannot make any progress so long as Black keeps his king on f7 and his bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal.

2... Nf4+
3. Qxf4

3. Kh4? Ng2+ and suddenly White is the one in trouble!

3... g6+
4. Kh6



With the tourneys at Rulang and Queenstown coming up, I suppose your CCA training will be ratched up tenfold. In that case, all the best, guys!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Golden Jubilee Presents!

I know all of you are enjoying the start of the long weekend, but how can we spend our National Day break without throwing in a few presents? Here's your customized fun-pack for the weekend:

Position 1: White to move and win

Position 2: White to move and draw

Position 3: Black to move and draw

I will discuss the solutions at the end of the long weekend. Have fun! (:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Kasparov's Sicilian Sacrifice

I'm sure many of you will be familiar with a few Sicilian variations such as Najdorf and Dragon, and understand the basic plans behind them (if you're not, someone's been sleeping during training). Today, we will go through a Sicilian themed game, where our hero of the day is Garry Kasparov himself.

FIDE politics aside, Kasparov is a household name that every chess player will know, and his dominance of the board is unquestionable. In the following game, he uses an exchange sacrifice to launch a strong queenside attack against his opponent, as is recommended when playing the Sicilian Najdorf as Black.

Maybe that's why he was such a good player

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 a6
6. Be3 e6
7. f3

Black employs the classic Najdorf-Scheveningen setup in the Sicilian Defense. Here, both sides usually castle on opposite wings, with White seeking play on the kingside while Black goes for a queenside minority attack.

7... b5
8. Qd2 Nbd7
9. O-O-O Bb7
10. g4 Nb6
11. Qf2 Nfd7
12. Kb1 Rc8
13. Bd3 (D)

Position after 13. Bd3

We can already see both sides preparing their attacks on opposite wings. With his next move, Black sacrifices the exchange to kickstart his Queenside attack.

13... Rxc3!

Black opens up the b-file and destroys White's pawn cover. Another way to continue the attack would be 13... b4 14. Nce2 Nc5 hitting the bishop, and preparing to stack the major pieces on the c-file.

14. bxc3 Qc7
15. Ne2 Be7
16. g5 O-O

Now Kasparov can bring his rook into the attack.

17. h4 Na4

Black's assault revolves around the weak c3 pawn and the semi open b and c files.

18. Bc1 Ne5

Of course Black could win a pawn with 18... Nxc3+?! 19. Nxc3 Qxc3 but after 20. Bb2! Qc7 21. Qg3 White regains the intiative.

19. h5

19. f4 is met by 19... Nxd3 20. cxd3 d5! 21. exd5 (21. e5 d4 hitting c3 and h1.) 21... Bxd5 with the threat of Qa5 followed by Nxc3+

19... d5
20. Qh2 Bd6! (D)

Position after 20... Bd6

Threatening a discovered attack on White's Queen. While Black continues with his plans he must also be on the watch for White's kingside counterplay.

21. Qh3?!

Kasparov gave the strong reply 21. Bf4! b4 22. cxb4 Rc8 23. Rc1 d4 24. g6 with an unclear position.

21... Nxd3
22. cxd3 b4!

Position after 22... b4

With his earlier move Kasparov removed an important defender on the queenside; now he opens up more lines for the attack.

23. cxb4

23. c4 dxc4 24. dxc4 Be5 25. g6 (25. f4 $2 Bxe4+) 25... Qxc4 26. gxh7+ Kh8 and White's position is about to fall apart.

23... Rc8
24. Ka1 dxe4
25. fxe4 Bxe4!
26. g6!

Movesesian wisely avoids 26. dxe4 Be5+

26... Bxh1
27. Qxh1 Bxb4
28. gxf7+ Kf8 (D)

Position after 28... Kf8

White tears down Black's kingside pawns, but Black can afford to parry the blow since his own attack is already so strong.

29. Qg2 Rb8
30. Bb2 Nxb2
31. Nd4

31. Kxb2 leads to mate: Bd2+ 32. Ka1 Bc3+ 33. Nxc3 Qxc3+ 34. Qb2 Qxb2#

31... Nxd1
32. Nxe6+

It seems that White has regained the momentum, but Kasparov calmly fends off the counterblow.

32... Kxf7! (D)

Position after 32... Kxf7

Movesesian resigned in view of the following line: 33. Qxg7+ Kxe6 34. Qxc7 Bc3+ and White is forced to give up the Queen.


From this game we have seen how Kasparov kickstarted the queenside attack with an exchange sacrifice, combined with a central pawn break. Although his opponent counterattacked on the opposite wing, Kasparov eventually won the race. These are just a few of the many classic ideas which you can use when handling the Sicilian in your future games (: