Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reykjavik Open

The Reykjavik Open just ended with a three way tie for first between GMs Pavel Eljanov, Wesley So and Bassem Amin. The first two of those three players achieved the result by agreeing to a draw after the first three moves of the Gruenfeld! Maybe there is a reason for anti-draw rules after all.

My favorite game of the tournament is an instructive last round crush by Super GM David Navara. His opponent was in the running for a Grandmaster Norm right until his 17th move. See if you can spot black's 17th move, which wins material and the game. In the end white resigned because white will capture on f1 then, play c5 to win the pinned knight.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stalemate Trick?

I was preparing a lesson on stalemate recently and ran across a game from a couple of years ago between two strong Grandmasters. White went up a second pawn by playing Rgxg7. Before scrolling through the game, try to figure out if this is a good move, or if black can force a stalemate. I think that this game has one of the most spectacular finishes I've seen.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

All Rook Endgames Drawn.

When I was a kid my coach emphasized that we practice endgames, rook endgames in particular. Although I haven't actually had a lot of them in tournaments, this advice pays off handsomely on the internet, where my strategy for blitz games used to be "Get into a bad rook endgame and then win." Today, I wasn't able to win, but I managed to survive a terribly played game by reaching this endgame down three pawns! 

The general way to survive any of these material down positions is to have as much activity as possible. Which is why I pitched my useless h-pawn to let my king reach g4. Then I was fortunate that my opponent played the normal-looking but mistaken move, g6. This got us to the position below.

Can you figure out how black saves the game? Please leave your solution in the comments.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Coach Rob - Slayer of the Sicilian

Rob expressed concern that I had hid his name when posting about our recent correspondence game (since edited). To show that he can play well, here's another game of his, which has been published in the Virginia Chess Quarterly. It makes me feel lucky to have survived our encounter.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hook and Ladder

Hook and Ladder is the name used sometimes to describe remove the guard tactics that draw off a defender by checking on the back rank. I have lost two somewhat painful tournament games to this tactic in the past, once in high school against sometimes blog reader Matthew Waller.

White to move and win

I don't often get to use this tactic myself, so it was nice that after blundering a piece in a recent blitz game my opponent was kind enough to grab my pawn on b6, leading to the position below.

Rd8+ wins either a queen for a rook, or just a rook. My opponent chose Kh7 and lost material after Qxb6 Rxb6 and Rxa8.

Despite my refusal to learn it in the past, this is a good tactic to know.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tactical Salvation

I played in the DC Chess League last night and won an interesting, but very shaky game. In my previous game against this opponent, he got a good position by playing the rare and slightly unsound Blackmar-Deimer Gambit (1. d4 d5 2. e4?!). This time, shortly before the round, I decided that I could trick him by playing 1. d4 Nf6 and after 2. Nc3 d5 I was going to play Nxe4 and reach positions where black scores very well in my database.

As is usually the case for me, once I decided to try an opening outside of my normal opening preparation, the opponent played something unexpected and I found myself on my own early in the game. I had the black side of the Trompowsky (2.Bg5), an opening with which the vast majority of my experience was on the white side. I thought that my opponent was moving too many pawns in the opening, so I played very aggressively for the first dozen moves only to realize five moves later that he had rebuffed my attack and I was worse. I fell into time pressure and my opponent mostly played well, leading to the following critical position where white could gain a large advantage with the right 29th move. How would you continue the attack? Please decide on your own and then you can scroll down for the answer.

White can gain a large advantage with 29. Qe5! Black has no satisfactory defense to the combined threats of  an exchange sacrifice on d5 and the d6 pawn moving down the board with discovered check. Maybe best would be 29... Rh5 30. Ng5 f6 31. Qxf6 and white is up a pawn with a serious advantage.

Instead of the winning line my opponent chose the tempting 29. Rxd5, planning on 29... Qxd5 30. Nc5, seemingly winning material. See if you can spot the flaw in that plan. It may help to scroll to the diagram below.

The game ended immediately after 30... Rh1+! White is mated after 31. Bxh1 Rxh1+ 31. Kf2 Qf3#.

More spectacularly, black also wins after 31. Kf2 Qxg2!! 32. Kxg2 R8h2#.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why I Shouldn't Play Correspondence Games

Chess has a long history of people playing by mail, or in the present day, email. I've generally avoided these games because I don't have the patience. However, when challenged by a friend I couldn't say no and ended up a in a mess. I played a bad opening, went on a sacrifice binge and still somehow won. White was probably winning until the last two moves and equal until his final move blunder. After Rd8 white is getting mated or losing substantial material in all lines.