Saturday, February 27, 2016

How to lose tempo: Hong Bao Rapids 2016 Round 1

With the closure of another tournament last Sunday I have a fresh set of games for analysis. I shall start with a simple one in Round 1. Once again, it's me with my favourite Caro-Kann as Black (:

In this game, my inaccuracies in the opening gave the opponent a developmental advantage. However, my opponent lost valuable time making unnecessary moves, allowing me to equalize in the middlegame and eventually gain the advantage.

Opponent vs Checkerboard 5
Hong Bao Rapids 2016 Round 1

1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. exd5 cxd5
4. Nf3 Bf5
5. Nc3 e6?!

The more accurate 5... Nf6 allows Black to castle earlier, evading any threats along the a4-e8 diagonal: 6. Bg5 e6 7. Bb5+ Nc6 8. Ne5 Rc8 9. O-O Be7 10. Bxf6 (White wants to play Qh5 so he gets rid of the defender) 10... Bxf6 11. Qh5 O-O But Black simply castles to safety, and equalizes.

6. Be2?!

White fails to exploit Black's inaccuracy. Better was 6. Bb5+ Nc6 7. Ne5 Qb6 {and now with no knight defending h5, White can play 8. Qh5! g6 putting Black's bishop in an awkward position.

6... h6
7. O-O Bd6
8. Bd2 a6
9. Re1 Nf6 (D)

Position after 9... Nf6

Let us do a simple analysis. White is ahead in development,, but Black is close to catching up. Logically, White should start an attack before his developmental advantage disappears. He decides to attack on the kingside:

10. Nh4 Bh7
11. Bf3?!

Increasing protection over e4 and e5, but cutting off f3 from the knight.

11... O-O

Castling to safety. Now Black threatens g5 winning the knight.

I looked at 11... g5 winning a piece, but White has the strong response 12. Nxd5! gxh4 13. Ba5 Qxa5 14. Nxf6+ Ke7 15. Nxh7 Rxh7 16. Bxb7 (D)

Position after 16. Bxb7

White's safer king, better pawn structure and two extra pawns offer good compensation for the lost piece.

Returning to the main line after 11... O-O:

12. Bh5?

White needs to vacate the f3 square for his knight. With 12. Bh5 he hopes for an exchange on h5 to bring his queen into the game, but this causes him to lose even more tempo. It was better to simply play 12. Be2 retreating the bishop.

12... Nbd7

Black simply ignores the "threat" and continues development, letting White waste his tempo. If Black accepts the exchange: 12... Nxh5 13. Qxh5 Nd7 14. Re3 lifting the rook onto the kingside.

13. Be2 (D)

White has moved his bishop thrice in a row, allowing Black to catch up in development. Now Black is the one in the driving seat.

13... Ne4

Position after 14. Nf3

14. Nf3

Of course not 14. Nxe4? Qxh4 threatening Qxh7# and Qxe4.

14... Nxd2
15. Qxd2 b5

Restricting the motion of White's queenside pieces. Black's plan is to occupy the c-file and support an advance on the queenside.

16. Bd3

White wants to get rid of his bad bishop.

16... Bxd3
17. Qxd3 Rc8
18. Ne5?

18. Re3 protecting c3 and preparing to double the rooks was stronger.

18... Nxe5
19. dxe5 Bb4! (D)

Position after 19... Bh4

Giving Black a lasting advantage in the endgame. The line continues: 20. a3 Bxc3 21. bxc3 (Creating doubled pawns on the c-file. White's weak pawn structure is an endgame liability.) Rc4 22. Re3 Qc7 23. Rb1 Rc8 24. Rb3 Ra4 followed by Qe7 winning at least a pawn.


While White was ahead in development in the opening, his unneccessary bishop moves made him lose valuable time that proved to be his downfall. So remember: In chess, make sure every move counts!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Valentine's Day Presents: Solutions

I have given enough time for these puzzles, so let's get started:

Puzzle 1: White to move

White is two rooks up. Black, however, can threaten perpetual check with Qb5+ and Qg1+. White can only keep his king on g1 and f1, otherwise he faces checkmate on e2/g2.

However, White can sacrifice a rook to lure Black's queen away from b5. After 1. Rc4! Qxc4+ 2. Kg1 there is no more check, with 3. Qg1 to follow. White can win easily since he is still a rook up.


Puzzle 2: Black to move and win

Black has a discovered attack on White's queen, while White's king is hemmed in by his pawns. This gives rise to mating opportunities for Black:


Faragó, Pál
Pesti Napló 1899
Puzzle 3: White to move and mate in 3

White is clearly down in material, and promoting to an queen with 1. g8=Q? fails to 1... Be6+. However, he can promote to a knight with check!

1. g8N+ Kh5

1... Kh7 2. Ng5+ Kh8 3. Ng6#

2. Ngf6+ Kh4

2. ...Kh6 3. Neg8#

3. Ng6#


And if you thought promoting to a knight was mind-blowing enough, wait till you see the solution to the final problem:

Puzzle 4: White to move and win


Not everyday that you get to underpromote to a minor piece, eh?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day Presents!

Oh... do you feel the love in the air? Forget the chocolates and roses, let's try something new here...

Puzzle 1: White to move

Puzzle 1: White is two rooks up, but Black threatens to give perpetual check or checkmate on e2/g2. How can White stop it?

Puzzle 2: Black to move and win

Puzzle 3: White to move and mate in 3

Finally, here is a slightly more challenging one:

Puzzle 4: White to move and win

Have fun!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Two Rooks vs Rook + Pawn: Discussion

Hope the CNY holidays were a good break for all of you! Sorry for the delay in this post, for I have been trying to analyze the position with the limited time I have. Let us look at the puzzle again:

White to move

Can White win in this position? The answer is yes, though of course it is far from easy! Before we see the variations, it is important to note the key points of this position:

  • Black's king is in a poor position. He is trapped at the side of the board, and blocks his own pawn. If White's king can safely reach f2 and/or get rid of the h pawn he possesses a strong checkmate threats on the h-file
  • If we remove one rook from both sides, the resulting rook vs pawn endgame is a win for White because his king is close enough to the main action. Conversely, it would be a draw if White's king were lured away from the battle.
  • In an attempt to draw, Black must keep his rook active, raining checks on the enemy king from afar whenever possible.
  • Another trick that Black can try will be to advance his pawn to h2 and stick the king on h1, creating stalemating opportunities. White must watch out for this.

Attempts at quick checkmates don't work: 1. Rg4 (threatening 2. Rxh4#) is met with 1... h3/Kh3, while after 1. Rg2 Kh3 2. Ke2 (preparing Kf2 followed by Rh1#) Black can play 2... Ra3! and rain checks from the side.

Having eliminated any chances of a quick mate, White is left with two possibilities: Simplify into a winning rook vs pawn endgame (with his king close enough to participate in the battle), or win the h-pawn.

Let us look at a variation which I analyzed, and see how White executes his plans:

It is clear that White can win in this position. But that leaves us with another question: Why would White relocate his rooks with 8. Rd7 to attack the pawn from the side? Wouldn't it be better to put the rooks behind the pawn, as according to Tarrasch's Rule?

One reason I can give is that with White's king currently sitting at the side of the board, relocating the rooks to the side gives him chances to protect his king from any rook checks. For example, this is what could happen if White had attacked the pawn from behind:

Although it is recommended to place rooks behind a passed pawn, this endgame is one such exception to the rule, where king safety turns out to be more important. So be careful in such situations!


Overall, what can we learn from this endgame?

  1. Sometimes, when a quick mate is not imminent, you need to be patient and look for other winning plans.
  2. A king stuck in the corner offers mating threats for the opponent.
  3. Keep your rooks active! This is how Black was able to prolong the struggle.
  4. The king is a powerful endgame piece. White needs his king to be close to the action in order to have winning chances in a rook vs pawn endgame.

There are of course other variations which White can try (e.g. Ke2), but I will leave them for you to explore. Hope you have learned much from this endgame, and happy CNY!