Saturday, May 28, 2016

June Holiday Puzzles 2016

Here we go again! Puzzles never get boring, do they?

Puzzle 1: White to move and win

Puzzle 2: White to move and win

Puzzle 3: Black to move and win

As always, I love to throw in a more complicated endgame puzzle to finish things off:

Puzzle 4: White to move and win

Have fun!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Timman's Revenge: Hilversum 1985

In our previous article, we saw how Kasparov dominated his opponent Jan Timman under a withering kingside attack. By now, we should know that the 13th World Champion was one of the greatest chess players in history, renowned for his aggressive style of play.

But that doesn't mean Timman never got a chance to defeat him. Take a look at the puzzle below and see if you can find the game-winning combination:

Now that's one impressive ending position, with the forks and pins everywhere! Let us see how Timman turns the tables on Kasparov and defeats him in a sharp, tactical battle:

Timman, Jan H vs Garry Kasparov
Hilversum 1985

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. O-O Be7

If you're wondering about 5... Nxe4?, taking the pawn is not worth it: 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. Nxe5 (threatening Qf3 followed by Qxe4 or Qxf7#) Nf6 8. Re1 Be7 9. Qe2 {Black cannot castle due to the threat of Nxc6 attacking the bishop and winning a pawn.

6. Re1 b5
7. Bb3 d6
8. c3

A typical Ruy Lopez motif, which gives the light-squared bishop an escape square and prepares to push e4.

8... O-O
9. h3 Bb7

White's immediate priority is to catch up in development and stake his claim to the centre.

10. d4 Re8
11. Ng5

White should not capture in the centre: 11. dxe5?! Nxe5 This gives Black a strong knight on e5, and puts White's e4 pawn under pressure. If White trades knights he will give up one of his few developed pieces which makes his lag in tempo more significant.

11... Rf8
12. Nf3 Re8
13. Nbd2

13. Bg5 is another good option for White.

13... Bf8 (D)

Position after 13... Bf8

Kasparov's position is rather cramped, and he needs to open up the centre for his pieces. His last move prepares two ideas: Giving his rook access to the e-file, and relocating his bishop to the long diagonal via g7, where both pieces can participate in the fight for the centre.

14. a3 h6
15. Bc2

On the other hand, Timman's plan is to push b4 followed by c4, staking more space on the queenside and releasing his dark-squared bishop.

15... Nb8

Moving the knight to d7, where it has better use guarding c5 and e5.

16. b4 Nbd7
17. Bb2 g6

Can Black play 17... c5? Not good, because after 18. bxc5 dxc5 19. d5! White has a protected passed pawn in the centre.

18. c4 (D)

Position after 18. c4

Here he comes. White hits in the queenside and releases his bishop pair. However, this temporarily weakens his centre which Kasparov exploits, resulting in a series of exchanges.

18... exd4
19. cxb5 axb5
20. Nxd4 c6

White is slightly better since he has more space and his pieces are better coordinated. However, Black's position isn't too bad either; he has moves like b5 and Ne5 seeking counterplay.

21. a4 bxa4
22. Bxa4 Qb6
23. Nc2 Qc7
24. Bb3 Ba6

Aiming at d3.

25. Rc1

Setting up an indirect attack on the enemy queen. The resulting battle is very complicated.

25... Bg7
26. Ne3 Bb5
27. Nd5 Nxd5
28. Bxg7 Kxg7
29. exd5 Ne5!

Offense and defense in a single move: The knight protects c6 and eyes d3.

30. Ne4 Nd3

It seems that White is about to lose the exchange, but he has other plans: To attack the Black king, which is becoming rather exposed.

31. Qd2 Ra3?! (D)

Position after 31... Ra3

Honestly, I felt that Black should just have taken the direct path: 31... Nxe1 32. Qd4+ Re5 (32... Kg8? 33. Nf6+) 33. Rxe1 where he has better chances to fight it out with his material advantage. However, White threatens to push f4 and the resulting tactics are still dangerous for Black.

32. Nf6!!

Giving Kasparov a taste of his own medicine! Timman sacrifices his knight to lure out the enemy king.

32... Rxe1+
33. Rxe1 Kxf6

The knight had to be taken; 33... Nxe1 loses after 34. Ne8+

34. Qc3+ Ne5
35. f4 Ba4?

Black's king was too vulnerable, and it was necessary to bring him to safety first. 35... Kg7 would have held out longer: 36. fxe5 dxe5 37. Qb2 Qa7+ White still retains the advantage but at least Black has the means to defend.

36. fxe5+ dxe5

It seems White's bishop is in trouble. But Timman finds a game-winning combination:

37. d6!

Opening the diagonal for the bishop. Now White is simply winning.

37... Qxd6
38. Qf3+ Ke7
39. Qxf7+ Kd8
40. Rd1 Ra1

Being Garry Kasparov, he will not go down without a fight. But this latest threat falls to...

41. Qf6+ (D)

Black can no longer hang on to his queen.

Truly a crazy fighting game with impressive play by both sides. Great accomplishment by Timman for beating the 13th World Champion!


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Attacking the fianchettoed kingside: Timman vs Kasparov, Tilburg 1991

I'm sure many of you enjoy attacking chess. Recently, I came across an article featuring methods of attack against a kingside containing a fianchettoed bishop. Therefore, I will treat y'all to a nice game executed by one of the greatest attacking players of all time: Garry Kasparov. His opponent is Jan Timman, one of the world's strongest non-Soviet players from the 1970s to 1990s.

Timman, Jan H vs Kasparov, Garry
Tilburg 1991

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 g6
3. Nf3 Bg7
4. g3 O-O
5. Bg2 d6
6. O-O Nbd7
7. Nc3 e5
8. Qc2 c6
9. Rd1 Qe7
10. b3 exd4
11. Nxd4 Re8 (D)

Position after 11... Re8

Black has liquidated White's centre, and gained control of the semi-open e-file. He needs to get his light squared bishop in the game, and come up with a suitable middlegame plan. Kasparov first brings his d7 knight to e4, before using it to assist a kingside attack.

12. Bb2 Nc5
13. e3

White decides on a queenside advance, but first he solidifies his position. He could try 13. b4 immediately, but after 13... Nce4 it is not wise to exchange all the pieces: 14. Nxe4?! (14. e3 would be better, and play would be similar to the main line.) 14... Nxe4 15. Bxe4 Qxe4 16. Qxe4 Rxe4 and Black has the double threats of capturing the e2 pawn, or playing 17. .. c5 winning a minor piece. Notice that the pawn on e2 was weak, thus pushing it would be a better idea.

13... a5?!

Not the best move; probably played to delay White from pushing b4 and attacking the knight. However, Black had to move his knight to e4 anyway so a5 wasn't necessary. He could have saved time and commenced his attack: 13... h5 14. b4 Nce4 15. b5 Bd7 with h4 to follow.

14. a3 h5
15. b4 Nce4
16. b5!?

A courageous decision, ignoring the imminent threats and creating his own threats on the opposite wing. Black must defend c6. If White wanted to liquidate Black's attack he could trade safely on e4 now: 16. Nxe4 Nxe4 17. Bxe4 Qxe4 18. Qxe4 Rxe4 and Timman can play 19. c5! parrying Black's threats against his knight. Notice he doesn't have to worry about a weak pawn on e2 as compared to the previous variation. However, White still needs to be extra careful against the pin on the long diagonal, as well as Black's bishop pair.

16... Bd7
17. Rac1 (D)

Position after 17. Rac1

Both sides have employed ideas typical in the King's Indian Defense: White with his queenside advance, while Black has pushed his h-pawn to attack the kingside.

17... h4
18. a4?

Timman was hoping for an effective counterattack, but underestimates the power of Kasparov's h-pawn break. 18. Re1 {was necessary, indirectly pinning Black's knight to the queen.

18... hxg3
19. hxg3 Nxf2!

Sacrificing a knight to tear apart the pawn structure. It was likely Timman had missed this.

20. Qxf2

20. Kxf2? loses even faster: 20... Ng4+ 21. Kg1 (21. Kf1 Nxe3+ winning the queen) 21... Qxe3+ 22. Kh1 Qh6+ -+

20... Ng4
21. Qf3 Nxe3
22. Re1 Bxd4
23. Nd5 (D)

Position after 23. Nd5

It seems Black is in trouble. But Kasparov finds a deadly response:

23... Ng4+!!

Great calculation! The knight is very strong on g4, and the resulting discovered attacks ensure Black wins material.

It is very easy to go wrong here: 23... Nxd5+? 24. Bxd4 Qxe1+ 25. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 26. Kh2! (White cannot play this king retreat had the knight been on g4) (Not} 26. Bf1? Bh3 winning the bishop.) 26... Nb4 27. Qf6! and White has strong counterplay.

Another variation is 23... Nd1+ 24. Bxd4 Qxe1+ 25. Kh2 now the threat of Nf6+ forces Black to play 25... cxd5 26. Rxd1 Qe7 (D)

Position after 26... Qe7

White, despite being an exchange down, still has a fighting chance due to his bishop pair. This is what Kasparov wants to avoid as well.

24. Bxd4 Qxe1+
25. Rxe1 Rxe1+
26. Bf1

Black's powerful knight limits the White king's options. This is why Kasparov played the knight to g4.

26... cxd5
27. Qxd5 Rae8
28. Bf2 Be6

Even stronger was 28... Ne3! 29. Bxe3 Bh3 $1 30. Kf2 Rxf1+ 31. Ke2 Ra1 32. Qxb7 Ra3 -+)

29. Qxb7 Rc1
30. Qc6 Rc8

White has a passed pawn, but his material deficit and pawn weaknesses are too much to handle. Black is simply winning.

31. Qe4 R8xc4
32. Qa8+ Kh7
33. b6 Rb4
34. Qxa5 Rbb1
35. Kg2 Rc2 (D)

Position after 35... Rc2

The threat is Rxf2+ followed by Rxf1#.

So what can we learn from this game?

  1. It is good practice to eliminate weaknesses in your position before attacking (unless you are very confident that your attack will succeed). White got rid of his weakness on e2 before advancing on the queenside.
  2. When attacking an enemy kingside that has a fianchettoed bishop, pushing the h-pawn is a commonly used weapon. By exchanging it on the g-file it opens the h-file and weakens the enemy g and f pawns.
  3. As always, a good, tactical vision like Kasparov's helps you in calculation of variations!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Carlsen's Home Run: Norway Chess 2016 Round 9

Last week saw the culmination of another super-tournament, the Norway Chess 2016. For the first time, Magnus Carlsen has managed to clinch the championship on home territory. Having suffered a defeat against Aronian in Round 8, Carlsen recovered quickly to win his final game against Eljanov.

So what better time than now to go through this amazing game?

Carlsen vs Eljanov, Norway Chess 2016

Carlsen, Magnus vs Eljanov, Pavel
Norway Chess 2016

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nf3 Nf6
4. g3 Bb4+

Eljanov turns Carlsen's old weapon against him. Earlier this year in Wijk aan Zee, both players faced each other with this exact same variation while playing different colours!

"It was I who invented them - I, the half-blood prince!"

5. Bd2 Be7
6. Bg2 O-O
7. O-O c6

In Wijk aan Zee, Carlsen as Black continued 7... Nbd7 8. Qc2 Ne4! 9. Bf4 g5 10. Be3 Nd6 11. b3 Nf5 putting Eljanov's bishop in an awkward position. The game that ensued was a very interesting one that I would encourage y'all to look through (It has been annotated in detail in the following article).

8. Qc2 Nbd7
9. a4?!

On his video channel, GM Daniel King finds this move 9. a4 "slightly odd", as it gives up the b4 square. Other mainstream continuations include 9. Bf4 or 9. Rd1.

9... a5
10. Rc1 Ne4
11. Be1?!

Not the best place for a bishop, but at least it helps to guard the f2 square. Carlsen probably wanted to avoid the complications of 11. Bf4 g5 12. Be3 Nd6 with Nf5 to follow, reminiscent of the game in Wijk aan Zee.

11... f5 (D)

Position after 11... f5

Let's do a simple analysis of the posiiton. Black has taken on a Stonewall position with his pawns on c6, d5, e6 and f5, giving him good centre control. It does look like he is slightly better, due to his good knight on e4 and White's passive e1 bishop. However, Black's main drawback is his bad light-squared bishop trapped by his own pawns. He will need to find a way to free the bishop; either by Bd7-Be1-Bh5 or pushing b6 followed by Ba6.

12. Nbd2 Bd6

Can Black play 12... b6 straightaway? Not advisable, because after 13. cxd5 cxd5 14. Qc6! both a8 and e6 are under attack.

13. e3 Ra7?!

A dubious move disconnecting the rooks. Eljanov was probably trying to solve the problem of 13... b6 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. Qc6 hitting the rook and bishop. By playing Ra7 it does help to solve the problem. However, there was a better alternative: the simple developing move 13... Qe7 which protects the bishop, keeps the rooks connected and prepares b6.

14. Qd1 b6
15. cxd5 cxd5
16. Nb1! (D)

Position after 16. Nb1

Aiming for Na3/Nc3 followed by Nb5. Eljanov had missed this maneuver.

16... Ba6
17. Na3 Qa8

Giving the f1 rook access to the c-file. Black could also have tried 17... Bxa3 18. Rxa3 Rc7 with his light-squared bishop reactivated, while White's dark-squared bishop remains passive on e1.

18. Nb5 Bxb5
19. axb5

Note the potential outpost for White on c6.

19... Rc8
20. Bf1

Since the light-squared bishop wasn't doing much on g2, White relocates it to guard b6 and prepare for a future d3.

GM Daniel King points out this very interesting variation: 20. Rxc8+ Qxc8 21. b4 where Black cannot capture due to the pin. However, he has a way to fight back: 21... a4! 22. Rxa4 Rxa4 23. Qxa4 Qc1! with the queen entering the enemy posiion Black gets very strong counterplay, despite being a pawn down.

20... Rxc1
21. Rxc1 Rc7
22. Rxc7 Bxc7
23. Qa4

Threatening b4 exploiting the pin on Black's queen.

23... Qb8

Better might have been 23... Qf8 24. b4 axb4 25. Bxb4 Bd6 after which Black trades off his less active bishop for White's active one.

24. b4 axb4
25. Bxb4 h6
26. Qc2 Bd6
27. Qc6 (D)

Position after 27. Qc6

There is no doubt White has the advantage here; he has reactivated his dark-squared bishop, and his queen is able to exploit Black's pawn weaknesses on b6 and e6. Black's last chances for counterplay would lie in his active knight on e4.

27... Ndf6

Black had a good chance to fight back: 27... Qa7 and if White grabs the bishop with 28. Bxd6 then 28... Qa2! eyeing the f2 square.

28. Bxd6 Qxd6
29. Qc8+ Kh7
30. Ne5 Qe7
31. Qc6

Now White is simply winning; Black has too many weaknesses to put up a proper defense.

31... Ng4
32. Nxg4 fxg4
33. Bd3!

Preparing to remove Black's last active piece.

Don't be greedy: 33. Qxb6? botches the game with} Qf8! and all of a sudden White has no defense to the threats against f2!

33... g6
34. Bxe4 dxe4
35. Qxb6 (D)

Position after 35. Qxb6

And the passed b-pawn will decide matters. Impressive play by Magnus Carlsen!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pre-exam puzzlers 2016: Solutions

While you guys are enjoying a brief break from exams it is time for us to go through last week's puzzles:

Puzzle 1: White to move and win

This one is simple:

Puzzle 2: Black to move and mate in 2

This one requires a neat interference tactic: 1... Be5+! (preventing 2. Qh4, which would have blocked the check had Black played any other bishop move) after which Qh2# cannot be stopped.

Finally we come to the last one:

Puzzle 3: White to move and win

Our 3rd puzzle might look direct at first, but Black has a trick up his sleeve. To ensure a win, White must once again resort to underpromotion:

By now you should be able to see I love putting underpromotion puzzles among my articles (:

All the best for your remaining exams!