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!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pre-exam presents: Solutions

I suppose I have given y'all enough time to look through our pre-exam challenge. So here goes:

Position 1: Black to move and draw

Solving this requires a keen eye for tactics. Take a look at the highlighted squares::

You can see that White's knights and king take away the c4, e4, d2 e2, and e3 squares from the Black king. If White's Queen is lured onto b2, it would deny Black's king the remaining squares around him, thus creating stalemate. Black does this by throwing in a decoy: 1... Re2+ 2. Kd1 Rb2! (with the dual threat of Rxb8 and Rb1#) 3.. Qxb2 stalemate.

With this in mind, we move on to the 2nd position:

Troitzky Endgame Study
Position 2: White to move and win
The first couple moves should be simple enough to figure out: 1. b7 Bb6 2. Nf5 and White wins the bishop. What happens afterwards is the tricky part!

1... Bxf8 2. b7!

Not} 2. Nf5+? Kd3 3. b7 Bb4+ 4. Kd1 (4. Kf2 Bc5+ 5. Kf3 Ba7) 4... Rxa2 5. Kc1 Ba3+ with mate to follow.

2... Bd6

We reach a position similar to the main line after 2... Bb4+ 3. Kd1 Bd6 4. Nf5+

3. Nf5+

Removing the defender of the b8 square.

3... Kd3!

Setting up a stalemate trap. On the other hand Black is toast after 3... Kd5 4. Nxd6 Kxd6 5. b8=Q+

4. Nxd6 Rxa2
5. b8=R!

White wins in this position, but it leaves many heads scratching: Why not promote to a queen? Let's take a look at what happens after 5. b8=Q?? (D)

Looks familiar?

And we reach the same position as our first puzzle! From there we already know that Black forces a draw with Re2+ 6. Kd1 Rb2! 7. Qxb2 stalemate.


Position 3: Black to move and win

If it were White to move, he would be in zugzwang: 1. Kc2 Kc4 and White's king must give up the b3 square. Thus, Black needs to lose a tempo to get the same position with White to move.

1... Kc5!

Exploiting White's lack of space to employ a triangulation technique. The immediate 1... Kc4? makes no progress after 2. Kc2

2. Kb1 Kd5!

Once again Black achieves nothing after 2... Kc4? 3. Kc2

3. Kc1

Or 3. Kc2 Kc4 4. Kc1 Kb3 winning.

3... Kd4

We have reached the original position but with White to move. Now White is in zugzwang.

4. Kc2

4. Kb1 Kd3 -+

4... Kc4
5. Kc1 Kb3

The a3 pawn falls and Black will promote his pawns.


All the best for your exams!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pre-exam presents

With the end of the school year coming, I will leave a final brain teaser for y'all to try out before your mind gets burnt out by exam mugging. Today's set of presents will focus mainly on the endgame:

Position 1: Black to move and draw

Position 2: White to move and win

Position 3: Black to move and win

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

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A memorable battle of knight vs pawn

Today we will look at another of my games from the Queenstown Tournament. Although it was a defeat for me, the resulting positions were worth analyzing. One part worth highlighting would be the endgame, where I ended up with two passed pawns faced against an enemy knight.

Which, unfortunately, didn't end well for me.

Opponent vs Checkerboard 5
44th Queenstown CC Open Chess Championships 2015

1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. exd5 cxd5
4. Nf3 Bf5
5. Bd3 Bxd3
6. Qxd3 Nf6
7. c3 e6
8. Bf4 Be7
9. Nbd2 O-O
10. O-O Nc6
11. Rfe1 Rc8
12. Qb5 (D)

Position after 12... Qb5

12... Na5!?

Steering the game into sharp, tactical territory. The alternative was 12... b6 13. b4 (Preventing Na4-Nc4. Black is in a very cramped position, so he needs to exchange off a couple of pieces.) 13... Bd6 14. Bxd6 Qxd6 15. a4 Nd7 16. a5 bxa5 17. bxa5 Rb8 18. Qa4 e5 and Black has a nice position, with plans to occupy the b and d files after the pawn break.

13. b4 Nc4
14. Nxc4 Rxc4
15. Qxb7 Rxc3
16. Rac1 Ne4?!

Better was 16... Qc8 17. Qxa7 Bxb4 where my position is more solid.

17. Nd2 Rxc1

Black needs to exchange pieces to liquidate the dangers and free up his position.

18. Rxc1 Nd6
19. Bxd6 Bxd6
20. Nb3 Qb8

20... Bxb4? 21. Rc7 and White is much better here.

21. Qxb8 Rxb8
22. a3 Kf8! (D)

Position after 22... Kf8

Always activate the king early to get an edge in the endgame. Here, White has a strong outpost on c5, but his isolated d4 pawn can become a potential weakness.

23. Na5?!

23. Nc5! White actually gains the edge here since his knight cannot be chased away. However that does not prevent Black from playing 23... Rc8 24. Kf1 Be7 followed by ... Bf6 attacking d4. Once he gets his king to d6 there is also the option of the central break via ... e5.

23... Ke8
24. Rc6 Rb6

24... Be7 25. Rc7 Bf6 26. Rxa7 Bxd4 and it's a race between White's Queenside pawn majority and Black's central pawns.

25. Rxb6 axb6 (D)

With the rooks off the board the advantage of my centralized king becomes more significant. Now Black is better.

26. Nb3 Kd7
27. Nc1 Kc6
28. Nd3 Kb5
29. Nb2 e5?

Throwing away my advantage! The correct move was 29... Be7! followed by 30... Bf6, and Black's double threats of capturing on d4 and invading via c4 will be too much for White to handle.

30. dxe5 Bxe5

Now White has one less weakness (the d4 pawn) to worry about.

31. a4+ Kxb4!?

Trying to retain some advantage, I made a critical decision to simplify the position.

32. Nd3+ Kxa4
33. Nxe5 (D)

Position after 33... Nxe5

Now we have a very interesting knight vs 2 passed pawns endgame. White will bring his king over to help his knight blockade both pawns. If Black wishes to win, close support by the king is crucial.

33... f6
34. Nd3 b5
35. Kf1 Kb3
36. Ke2 Kc3
37. Nf4 d4
38. Kd1 d3?

The trick is not to let your pawns advance too far without king support: 38... b4 39. Nd5+ Kc4 40. Nb6+ Kc3 41. Nd5+ Kc4 and White must force a draw by repetition to save himself.

39. Nd5+ Kd4
40. Ne3 b4?

40... Kc3 could still save the game; Once again White must repeat moves with 41. Nd5+ Kd4 42. Ne3

41. Kd2 b3
42. Nd1 Kc4
43. Nb2+ Kb4
44. Nxd3+ Ka3
45. Kc3 (D)

Position after 45. Kc3

What can we learn from this game?

  1. When in a cramped position, try to simplify by exchanging pieces.
  2. Activate the king early in the endgame.
  3. Watch for pawn weaknesses on both sides in the endgame and play them to your advantage.
  4. When advancing passed pawns in the endgame, king (and piece) support is important!