Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chess Tactic of the Day #55

White to move and mate in 2.

Chess Endgame Problem of the Week #3

Black to move.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chess Tactic of the Day #54

Black to move.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chess Tactic of the Day #53

Black to move.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chess Tactic of the Day #52

White to move.

US Chess Championship 2010: Alex Yermolinsky v Jaan Ehlvest Part 2



Black aims to undermine White's Queen side defenders.

16. Bd2

The capture Nxa4 looks good initially but fails to some tactics.

16. Nxa4 Qxa4 17. Qxa4 Rxa4 18. Nc3 Ng4+ 19. hxg4 Bxc3 and White's b1 rook is pinned, preventing capture of Black's bishop. Black is not up material at the end of this line, but he has a very good position. Notice how White's Queen side defense has been completely undermined.

White's move 16. Bd2 connects his rooks, so the pin down the b file is not as severe. It also gives up a little defense to the b2 pawn. These are typical problems White has to face in the Benko Gambit, which is why it is most likely the most popular top level gambit.


Black trades off one of White's key Queen side defenders.

17. Nxc3

Any other recapture loses the a2 pawn.


Black now reroutes his other Knight to the Queen side. This gives an extra umph to Black's previous trade. Black has in effect traded off one of White's key defenders for nothing. Black's Knight wasnt doing a whole lot on the King side, and was actually just getting in the way of Black's powerful dark squared bishop! With Black's other Knight out of the way, however, he can now reroute this under utilized knight to the Queen side.

I mention this especially because it appears that White is the one who trades off a knight for nothing. After all, White simply recaptured on c3 with his other knight. Usually in these types of situations, it is inadvisable to trade off the piece. Usually, White's defensive position would remain the same. This is a key type of thing to think about, and is where creativity is critical in chess.

18. f3

White solidifies e4.


Black gets his Queen out of the line of fire of White's Bishop. This move also gives Black some nice control over the a6-f1 diaganol.

19. b3

White commits to a Queen side pawn structure. Generally, the plan is b3-a4 and put a Knight on b5. This plan works pretty well, but it works much better if White can put a Knight on c4. I dont want to beat a dead horse, but rarely is an exchange of knights so productive!


Black's Knight is now attacking the critical Queen side square c4. If Black is able to push c4 he should be able to exchange on b3 and leave White with an isolated a2 pawn or b3 pawn. Coupled with Black's Queen side pressure, Black will have a good position.

20. a4

It is very difficult for White to deal with a c4 pawn push. This isnt an ideal move for White, but he has few ideal options.


White's Queen side collapses.

21. Nb5 cxb3
22. Qxb3 Qxa4
23. Qxa4 Rxa4

After a series of exchanges, material is now even. Black has better piece activity. The pawn structure makes a draw very possible, though.

24. Nc3 Raa8
25. Rxb8+ Rxb8
26. Rb1

Black's Rook will have more to do in case of an invasion than White's Rook.


So Black avoids the trade.

27. Nd1

This rerouting of the Knight may have cost White the loss. Maybe rerouting his Bishop first would have been better. These types of endgames are very tough to play and assess.


Black attacks White's pawn chain.

28. Nf2

White defends the e4 pawn.


Black's Rook invades. The pressure is increasing on White in this facially simple endgame.

29. Be1

White gets the bishop out of harms way and defends the Knight.


Black threatens Be3, which creates a variety of threats against White's position. The most obvious is that it threatens to win a piece by Bxf2. Also in the cards is Nxf3+ if the Knight moves somewhere. Notice that the g2 pawn would be pinned to the White King.

30. Kg1

So White moves his King out of the line of fire of Black's Rook.


Black moves his King towards the action.

31. h4

Well, this move is a bit cryptic. I think that Black was threatening Kf6-Kg5 and then some sort of King invasion. This would be bad for White, but h4 gives weakens his pawn structure a bit.


Black pins the Knight to White's King. The pressure on White's position is still mounting.

32. Kf1

Otherwise Black's Nd3 would be very bad for White.


I am not too sure about this one. I think the idea is that Black vacates the e3 square, which can then be used by Black's Knight. Nc4-Ne3 becomes a good threat. The Bishop does pretty much the same stuff on c5 as it would do on e3.

33. Rb7

Maybe the pawn exchange exf5 would have been better here.


This exchange allows Black to win a pawn.

34. Bxf2 fxe4
35. fxe4 Rc4

White cannot defend the e4 pawn.

36. Bg3 Rxe4
37. Bxe5 Rxe5

Black is up a pawn and has a good position. White's d5 pawn is weak and will be White's downfall.

38. Rb5

White defends his d5 pawn.


Black blockades White's h4 pawn.

39. Kf2 Kf6

Here White resigns. Black will be able to use White's weak d5 pawn to hold down White's Rook. The win is not obvious to me, but I wont go into all the variations on this post. Maybe in the future!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

US Chess Championship 2010: Alex Yermolinsky v Jaan Ehlvest Analysis Part 1

Alex Yermolinsky v Jaan Ehlvest

1. d4 Nf6

This can lead to Queen's Gambit/Slav positions as well as Indian Defense positions.

2. c4 c5

Here is something a little different than Queen's Gambit/Slav or Indian Defense positions!

This can lead to the Benoni. In that opening, White usually obtains a nice pawn center while Black focuses on Queen side counterplay. To facilitate his play, Black fianchettos his Dark Squared Bishop to put pressure on d4-c3-b2-a1. He then plays for c5, b5, c4 b4, maybe a5 and a4. He can sometimes simply counter attack White's pawn center as well, particularly a pawn on e4.

Another option is what is known as the Hedgehog. In that position, Black plays somewhat passively, but gets a fairly solid position. He often plays pawns to a6, b6, e6, g6, and h6. All those pawns on the 6th rank can lead to a fatal weakening of his position, but at the same time, White is going to have a very difficult time taking advantage of these weaknesses. After all, White can barely use the 5th rank!

Another possibility is the Maroczy Bind, which is sort of like a Sicilian with c4. White plays pawns to e4, d4 and c4. Black exchanges his c5 pawn for the d4 pawn, and usually has to cope with a backward or weak d pawn. White's c4 and e4 pawns restrict it. Once again, Black can get counterplay on the Queen side, most frequently by playing a6 and then b5. Black has other counter attacking possibilities as well, and can try for a central break d5.

Finally, there is the very interesting opening that happens in the game!

3. d5 b5

This is called the Benko Gambit. Pal Benko, who this gambit is named after, is a pretty cool guy, and he emigrated to the US and became a fairly big name in US Chess. He has a book that I have not read but encourage others to read!

In this opening, Black gambits a pawn or two and in exchange gets near crippling counterplay against White's Queen side. White also usually has a good deal of difficulty developing his pieces as well. An interesting thing about this Gambit, is that simplification to an endgame often favors Black even though he is down material! For lower level players, this is a very compelling example of the importance of piece activity in the endgame. Attacking chess starts from the very first move and continues to the very last move.

4. cxb5 a6

White takes the b5 pawn which is almost certainly his best move. Declining the pawn sacrifice at this stage usually just leaves White with a clunky position and even material. If you are going to have a miserable game, you at least may as well be up material!

For Black he hopes White takes on a6, so he can play Bxa6. This puts pressure on White's e2 pawn and f1 Bishop. White would like to play Nc3, e4, Bd3 or a similar move, Nf3, 0-0, and he can try and get his Rooks to protect his Queen side and win with his extra pawn. If Black can play Bxf1 forcing Kxf1, though, White will have significant difficulties getting his h1 Rook in to play. White's King can also be in a bit of danger in the center.

For myself, I like to play b6 in this position. This isnt that great of a move for White though, and if I am feeling up to the challenge accepting the gambit is probably the best way to go.

5. bxa6

White accepts the Gambit pawn.


This is the other key to the Benko Gambit. Black's Dark Squared Bishp is going to exert a lot of pressure on the long diagonal, especially the b2 pawn. The d4, c3, and a1 squares can be problems for White as well, though, and occasionally the Dark Squared Bishop can move to e5 with nice effect.

6. Nc3

White develops his Queen Side Knight, and now it protects the d5 pawn, the a2 pawn, the e2 pawn, as well as the a4, b5, and most critically e4 squares. White aims to play e4, after which he can move his Light Squared Bishop and avoid the annoying Bxf1.


If Black doesnt do this now, it will not have nearly the desired effect. Black can play the Gambit without playing Bxf1, but he should probably have a good idea for not doing so.

7. e4

White makes this push anyway. There really isnt much he can do. 7. g3, 8. Bg2, 9. Nf3, 10. 0-0 is a bit slow and leaves White's King side a little vulnerable. The Light Squared Bishop isnt doing a whole lot on g2 anyway. On the other hand, Black really doesnt want to have a Light Squared Bishop on the a6 square, where it gets in the way of his Rooks and Queen.


Watch how many moves White must waste on manually castling his King.

8. Kxf1

White has to take the Bishop.


Black gives his c5 pawn some support, and prevents any d6 ideas from White. The d6 idea is not possible now, but if Black plays Bg7, which he wants to, then d6 can be very annoying.

9. Nge2

White develops his other Knight. Moving it to f3 is also possible, but it would block the f pawn and not give any extra support to the c3 Knight. As I play 1. Nf3, I usually have my Knight on f3 anyway, and it is handy to be able to play Nd2, Nc4 or Nb3. Sometimes Nd2 and then playing the other Knight to a4 or b5 is helpful. The Knight on d2 takes over the defense of e4. From f3, the Knight also supports an e5 pawn push which can be very handy sometimes.

From e2, the c3 Knight is supported which should help alleviate some of Black's Dark Squared Bishop pressure down the long diagonal. The Knight also helps guard the d4 square, and if Black ever pushes his pawn to c4, White can play Nd4 to Nc6 where it is usually very well placed.


The Bishop almost has to go here, so Black may as well play it now.

10. h3

White wants to give his King a home that doesnt block his h1 Rook. This move also prevents Ng4. If White played g3, his Light Squares around his King would be fairly weak.


Black gets his King out of the center. He is almost ready to begin a Queen side attack.

11. Kg1

White gets his King to the h2 square.


The Knight would be in the way on a6, and is in the way on b8. The Knight is also well placed from d7 to move to either c5 or b6 attacking White's Light Squares. It can also move to a4 where it works nicely with Black's Dark Squared Bishop to put pressure on White's b2 pawn.

Notice how White is in a bind as to how to defend his Queen side pawns. If he plays something like Rb1 and b3, he alleviates the pressure on his b2 pawn, but his a2 pawn becomes very weak.

If he plays a3, his b2 pawn will be weak for a long time. I like to play b3 and then a4, which can be followed up by Nb5 and Nc4. This structure may be fairly solid, but it is also fairly passive.

Leaving the Rook on a1 is decent for defensive purposes, but Black can create a lot of tactical threats based around the Bxa1 idea.

12. Kh2

White's King is finally at its home. White's development is seriously lagging, though.


Black exerts a lot of pressure down the a file. The Queen also makes way for the f8 Rook, who will move to b8.

13. Qc2

White gives the b2 pawn, c3 Knight, and e4 pawn some extra protection. The Queen also gets out of the way of the h1 Rook, and does not block in the Dark Squared Bishop like she would after Qd2. Qd3 isnt so good because of Ne5.


One of the best things about the Benko Gambit for lower level players is that the correct moves are pretty obvious. Black's development has been very easy, and White is the one who has had to ponder over all the various problems of his position. Slowly and steadily Black is building up the pressure on the a2 and b2 pawns.

14. Rd1

I am not too sure about this move. White's Rook wasnt doing much on h1, but it isnt doing a whole lot on d1. Time is critical for White at this point, especially because he has spent so many moves on his King. Bd2 and Be3 might be worth looking at. Both moves connect White's Rooks. The pressure on the b2 pawn is tolerable at the moment, and White may have enough time to re organize his pieces so as to minimize Black's pressure.


Black plans to move his least active piece to a more active square. Once again, Black's game is pretty easy.

15. Rb1

White defends the b2 pawn with his Rook, and also gets his a1 Rook out of the line of fire from the Black's Dark Squared Bishop. The a2 pawn is weakened by this move, though.

For the rest of the game, read Yermolinsky v Ehlvest Part 2!

Chess Tactic of the Day #51

White to move.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chess Tactic of the Day Answers #21-25

Tactic #21:

This game was played at the First American Chess Congress in New York in 1857. Paul Morphy ended up winning this Congress.

Tactic #22:

This was the third game in the 1886 World Championship Match between Steinitz and Zukertort. This was the second loss for Steinitz in a row. He would lose two more after this! To top it off, his losses looked fairly pathetic. This is a nice tactic by Zukertort, but it is not something you would necessarily expect a World Champion Candidate to miss. Stranger things have happened though! If you feel I am being to hard on Steinitz, dont feel too bad. He won the match, despite his poor showing in the early stages.

Tactic #23:

And here is the Second round game from the 1886 World Championship Match.

Tactic #24:

1. Rc8 Rxc8 2. Qxc8 Qe7# or 1. Rc8 Bxc8 2. Qxd8# or 1. Rc8 Rxc8 2. Rxc8 Kd7 3. Rxd8+ Rxd8 4. Qxd8+ and Black is way behind in material.

Tactic #25:

1. Qxg4+ Kxg4 2. Be2#

US Chess Championship 2010: Alex Yermolinsky v Jaan Ehlvest

Well, These US Chess Championship 2010 Posts are a little slow to load. Hopefully, they wont be as slow if I split them up. For Part 1 and 2 of the analysis of this game, go to Yermolinsky v Elhvest Part 1 and Yermolinsky v Elhvest Part 2. As always, if you have any suggestions about the presentation of this material leave a comment!

Chess Tactic of the Day #50

White to move.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chess Tactic of the Day #49

Black to move.