Friday, December 30, 2011

Kavalek Annotates His Masterpiece

Kavalanche!  Black to play.
In his article on The World Chess Hall of Fame at the Huffington Post, Lubomir Kavalek analyzes his own "hall of fame" game against Eduard Gufeld, featuring its famous pawn avalanche (or "Kavalanche" as some have called it).  I looked briefly at the game when examining a similar Pawn Steamroller by a local player, and it has been very widely annotated.  But, according to Kavalek, this is the first time he himself has ever annotated his "Mona Lisa."  Even if you have played it over before, it is worth another look with notes by the master himself.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Xtreme Chess Is Cool

Who said chess is not cool enough for TV?  I really enjoyed the first episode of the Xtreme Chess Championship on video.  Afterward, I didn't feel too bad about having lost to Justus myself in last year's USATE.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Bryntse-Faj Gambit

1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5 3.Nf3 dxe4 4.Ne5!?

I have posted an article on the Bryntse-Faj Gambit: 1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5 3.Nf3 dxe4 4.Ne5!?  (download PGN here).  It is a very rare but interesting variant on the more familiar Bryntse Gambit with 4.Ng5 and might be considered a reversed Budapest Fajarowicz (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ne4, which I treated in a webliography): hence my calling it "Bryntse-Faj."  The similarity with the Faj is especially highlighted where Black plays an eventual ...f5 in that opening, and I conclude my game collection with a couple of Faj games where this happens.  

I started looking at this line when I developed an anti-Sicilian and anti-French repertoire built around the Grand Prix with 1.e4 c5 2.f4!? (see Grand Prix with Na3 for example) and the line 1.e4 e6 2.f4!? d5 3.e5 against the French (see The Labourdonais McDonnell Attack).  Of course, the main problem with this repertoire is that Black can immediately equalize against the 2.f4 Grand Prix with 2....d5!  The Bryntse-Faj offers at least an opening surprise for even the most booked-up opponent who plays this way.

Giving this opening a name has been difficult for me, and I've chosen "Bryntse-Faj" simply because it most succinctly communicates the idea, which is to play the traditional Bryntse Gambit more like a reversed Fajarowicz.  Of course, it is hard to give a name to an opening that so few strong players have tried and almost no one else discusses in print.  In his discussion of the Bryntse Gambit (2004), Thomas Johansson mentions that GM Henrik Danielsen had tried this reversed Faj idea on ICC, and I found two of his games (played as H-Danielsen) as evidence.  But a couple games on ICC hardly constitute a strong argument for naming it the "Danielsen Gambit."  I thought of naming it after Dana Mackenzie, who has played it on several occasions and was kind enough to annotate and share those games with me (they are the centerpiece of the article).  But Dana is much better known for his play of the main line Bryntse with 5.Ng5, with which he famously beat a GM in Mackenzie - Pruess, Western States Open 2006 (a topic he has covered in a great video, a great Chess Life article, and on his blog, as I mention in The Nuclear Option in the Sicilian Grand Prix.)  Calling 4.Ne5 "the Mackenzie Gambit" would be confusing to anyone familiar with his current preference for 5.Ng5.  Dana himself had suggested the "Sicili-pest" (after the Budapest) and the "Sicili-wicz." But both names sound too si-silly to take seriously. Bryntse-Faj gets to the same idea and seems a little clearer.

In sharing his games, Dana explained that he mainly ended up preferring 4.Ng5 over 4.Ne5 because he "got seduced by the Bryntse Gambit queen sacrifice."  He then elaborated: "There are two reasons I didn't stick with 4. Ne5. One, as I said, was the Bryntse Gambit [with 4.Ng5]. The other was that, playing against Fritz 7 set at its highest level, I found myself constantly fighting for a draw with 4. Ne5, but when I started playing the Bryntse Gambit [with 4.Ng5], all of a sudden I could *beat* Fritz 7 at its highest level. (And Fritz 9, too, after I upgraded.) You can imagine how intoxicating that was! So I switched to the Bryntse [with 4.Ng5] and never looked back."  Food for thought.  And if I revisit this repertoire, I may take a closer look at the 4.Ng5 line myself.

Like Dana, I have also moved on to other approaches against the Sicilian, but I welcome any reader games played with the line, which I would be glad to publish here.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Google vs. Brooklyn Castle

Justus Williams vs. Don Carrelli

On December 1st, Google NYC hosted the PS 318 chess team featured in the upcoming documentary Brooklyn Castle. At least 8 "Googlers" came and went, attracted to the chess boards and these exuberant kids. Highest rated on the Google team was our own Don Carrelli, former president of the Kenilworth Chess Club, who also sent me the picture above showing his game against NM Justus Williams.  The kids, who included at least two masters, won almost all of the games.  Don included the following comments:

"Justus and James went undefeated, even in bughouse! Seemed like all the games were 10 minutes or less. After skittles, we took lunch then a tour of the office. Followed by more skittles!" 

"The kids had a blast, and so did I. It was fun to have everyone want to play against me. They probably just wanted to beat me....which for the most part, they did. Even their 1200 rated players gave me tough times in blitz. 2 wins 15 losses (give or take) and a draw. Justus even gave me 3-5 time odds."

A recent article in the NY Daily News emphasized the economic plight of this national championship team, which is greatly in need of your support.  I hope some people at Google were reading that.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Nona Gaprindashvili's Epic Battles

There is an interesting ChessBase interview with Nona Gaprindashvili (see original here) at the recently completed Senior Championship.  In it she discusses or alludes to several of her most memorable games, all slugfests:  

I am sure you can find many more "epic battles of the chessboard" if you play through her games.  Worth a look.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Fred Wilson Lectures at DoCA

Renowned chess author, bookseller, and trainer Fred Wilson will give a lecture titled “Simple Attacking Plans” at Dean of Chess Academy on December 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm.  The lecture will showcase several unknown attacking “gems” from Nicholas Rossolimo and Peter Biyiasis.  The games are featured in Fred’s forthcoming book entitled Simple Attacking Plans.  Fred’s lectures are interactive and last for 90 minutes.  Every attendee will receive a handout covering the material presented.  The cost is $20.  Please email or call 908-595-0066 for more information.

 Dean of Chess Academy is located at 3150 Route 22 West in Branchburg, NJ  08876.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Steinitz - Sveshnikov Attack Revisited

I have posted The Steinitz - Sveshnikov Attack, Part Two (download PGN), which revisits the topic of my earlier article on this interesting variation of the Giuoco Piano.  This new installment focuses on the most challenging line Black can play, which is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6! (see diagram).

A recent win by Gawain Jones over David Howell in the 2011 British Championship in Sheffield, England, inspired me to put together my notes on this line, which remains rather complex and double edged.  I have been very impressed by Jones's play of late, especially in the Commonwealth and South Africa Open Tournament earlier this year, where Jones, Nigel Short, and David Smerdon (who finished in the top spots) all had success with the Modern Variation of the Two Knights.  Food for thought for those interested in constructing a Urusov Gambit or Scotch Gambit repertoire with these lines.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lasker's Defense in Informant 111

Black to play.
"The Most Important Novelty of Informant 110" by Josip Asik in Informant 111 and at ChessCafe analyzes the game Topalov - Anand, Nanjing 2010 (discussed here last year), which featured a very interesting novelty in Lasker's Defense to the Queen's Gambit.  It also includes a very thorough treatment of the 12...Be6 line (traditionally called the Cotlar Counter-Attack) in classic Informant style.  There are now enough resources online to develop a GM-level knowledge of the Lasker:

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Alter Ego (1972)

"Alter Ego" is a freaky episode of the television series Ghost Story, which modeled itself after The Twilight Zone, with Sebastian Cabot in the Rod Serling role of host and a focus on  the supernatural.  Broadcast in 1972, this sixth episode clearly intends to capitalize on Fischer's recent triumph in Reykjavik.  The title character is named "Bobby" and naturally plays chess.  Who does he play with?  Himself, of course -- or an evil version of himself who becomes hell bent on taking over his life.  The story-line involving his social studies teacher, Miss Gilden (played by the incomparable Helen Hayes), is every educator's worst nightmare. Dated but mildly diverting, in three 15-minute installments.

Friday, November 04, 2011

West Orange CC Fall Swiss Starts November 8

The West Orange Chess Club's Late Fall Swiss tournament starts next week.  Here is the information:

Nov. 8, 15, 22, 29, Dec. 13, 20   West Orange CC Late Fall Swiss   GPP: 6   New Jersey 6 rds., G/100, Reg. 7-7:30 P.M., rds. start at 8:00. EF: $30.00, members $25. Prizes: 1st $150, 2nd $100, 3rd $75 guaranteed; Best under 1900, $60, 1700, $50, 1500, $35 guaranteed. Details: and Byes: Two 1/2 pt. byes available in any rd; must know by the end of rd. 4. Address: Toby Katz Community Center, 650 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange, NJ 07052. Chess Magnet School JGP.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Fluxus Chess Game

I went to the Fluxus Art Show at the Zimmerli Art Museum today to play some chess.  It was a fun experience and an interesting challenge to play a game using fruits and vegetables in place of pieces.  I played an interesting game against Lev Zilbermintz, which I have reconstructed and annotated.  Though not a lot of chess players showed up, it was a fun event and definitely representative of the Fluxus art philosophy, which often incorporates audience members into a spontaneous performance of art made up of found objects.  It was a very relaxed atmosphere and one of the most fun games I have played in a long time.  Though my opponent got confused by the crazy board and dropped a piece early in the game, he battled as best he could until I was able to put together a deadly mating net (see diagram below).

Black to play and win most quickly.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Zimmerli Art Museum at 71 Hamilton Street in New Brunswick, NJ (right next door to my office) is hosting a "fruits and vegetables themed chess tournament in [the] style of the Fluxus art movement" on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 from 4:00 - 7:00 pm. According to their Facebook page, "The tournament starts at 4:00 pm and games will be played first until 6:00 pm, when a free play period will begin, and then resumes at 8:00 pm when finalists play their last games and a winner is declared. This tournament is in knockout format. Come to play, to watch, and enjoy the art! Rutgers students get in free, $6 for non-students. This event is run in conjunction with the Rutgers chess team, and we appreciate your support in attending this event. If you have any interest in chess, recreationally, competitively, or aesthetically, please join our Facebook group Rutgers Chess Club and join us for meetings at the times and places specified on that page."  Due to a prior commitment, I will not be able to attend myself but might catch the end of it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Endings with Bishops of the Same Color

FM Steve Stoyko gave a wonderful lecture on Bishop Endings at the Kenilworth Chess Club on Thursday, September 22nd, which I have finally written up based on my notes (with additional analysis).  His focus was bishops of the same color, where the superior side often has winning chances.  Though Steve would have liked to have given dozens of other examples, I think the ones he focused on went very far in laying out the principles. I have chosen to focus on only about half of the examples Steve presented, organizing them according to several critical themes: exploiting the short diagonal, needing "two weaknesses" to win, using the more active king, fixing targets on both sides of the board, deflection, and zugzwang.  For those who want even more examples, I have compiled a bibliography of sources, including multiple videos.

Though Steve discussed several pure B v B+P endings, I have chosen to focus only on the classic position analyzed by Nimzovich since all of these endings have been well covered in several YouTube videos (see above).  Pure B v B+P endings are fascinating, but they are nowhere near as stunning as the themes Steve covered in Bishop endings with multiple pawns where one side has a positional advantage.  Here the theme of "two weaknesses" (typically two pawns on the same color as the Bishops, which can become targets) is very much worth remembering as it occurs frequently in practical play.  In all of the positions, an untrained player could easily agree to a draw without recognizing the winning advantage that one side holds.  Meanwhile, a player who knows how to fix his opponent's pawns on the right color square can steer the game toward a winning Bishop ending.

I look forward to Steve's next lecture, when he promises to do something on Rook endings.

Same-Colored Bishop Endings Webliography

Mark Dvoretsky, The Process of Elimination, Part Two (ChessCafe, September 2011)
Dvoretsky's article begins with discussion of a wonderful Bishop ending composition that is practically a tour de force of every Bishop ending theme.

Karsten Müller, The Overgrown Pawn (ChessBase, October 2011)
Examines a position where the defender's Bishop is trapped behind its pawns on the same color.

_______.  The Eternal Hunt (Chess Cafe, June 2011)
Uses several practical examples to illustrate the problem-like theme of the "Bishop hunt," where a Bishop trying to stop a pawn along a short diagonal can be "hunted" by the King to force a draw.

_______.  Capablanca's Concept (Chess Cafe, October 2010)
Discusses Capablanca's principle that you should try to keep your pawns on the opposite color of your Bishop, especially in Bishop endings of the same color.

_______.  Small Advantages in Bishop Endings (Chess Cafe, October 2009)

_______.  Same-colored Bishops (Chess Cafe, May 2009)

_______.  Bishops and Overgrown Pawns (Chess Cafe, September 2004)

_______.  Bishops at Work, Part Three (Chess Cafe, September 2002)

_______.  Bishops at Work, Part Two (Chess Cafe, August 2002)

_______.  Bishops at Work, Part One (Chess Cafe, July 2002)
Sets forth some useful principles of Bishop endings, which the series goes on to illustrate.

_______.  Ponomariov's Tecnnique, Part One (Chess Cafe, March 2002)
Examines an interesting Bishop ending where Ponomariov used his king position to achieve a draw.

_______.  Brains in Bahrain Game 3 and Brains in Bahrain Game 1 (ChessBase 2002)
Two Bishop endings from the Deep Fritz - Kramnik match.

George Orlov.  Bishop Endings II (Jeremy Silman website)
A very useful overview of Bishop ending themes and principles.

_______.  Bishop Endings I (Jeremy Silman website)

Brooklyn 64.  Bishops of same color endings: Bishop v Bishop+pawn.
A useful quick overview of Bishop ending themes.

Armis.  Bishop Endings video (
A useful overview of Bishop of the same color themes.  This video could not be embedded.

Friday, September 23, 2011

NJKO Needs Fourth Board

A message from the New Jersey Knockouts:

"Help!  Your local US Chess League team, the New Jersey Knockouts, needs you!

"We have some personnel issues this week, and may need an under-2000 (1800-1999 on the August 2011 list) rated player for fourth board, for this week only.  You would be playing in Lincoln Park, on Monday September 26 at 7pm.  You need to indicate your interest to me ASAP, as the lineup must be turned into the league by tomorrow (Friday Sep 23) by 9pm.  There's no guarantee that you will play, but I need to have some options.  Please indicate your interest by emailing me at:"

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Niche Market: Chess Shop

A few days ago, the Village Chess Shop was featured in WNYC's Niche Market blog.  I had been waiting to see it there.  The article reminds me that I have not updated my Chess Tourist in New York City in many years...  I wonder if other people have done so or if there are chess tourist guides to other cities.  Here are some of my previous posts:

Review of David Rudel's Koltanowski Phoenix Attack

I recently received a copy of David Rudel's Koltanowski Phoenix Attack: The Future of the c3 Colle (Thinker Press 2011), which continues his excellent work with Zuke 'em (reviewed here in 2009) and The Moment of Zuke exploring and explaining the Colle - Zukertort systems.  

The main focus of the Koltanowski Phoenix Attack is the line 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3 (rather than 5.b3 in the earlier volume), and Rudel has an important contribution to make to the theory of the main line with 5...Nc6 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.O-O O-O 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.b4!  This move is very interesting and was actually first tried by Edgar Colle himself in Colle - Euwe, Zutphen match 1924, so it's odd that it was thereafter generally ignored by theory. For example, in his otherwise excellent book Colle Plays the Colle System, Adam Harvey notes that 9.b4 was "An early experiment by Colle before he settled on the more usual 9.e4" and "dubious ... as it slightly weakens the queenside" (31).  Harvey renders this judgment, it should be noted, despite not pointing to any errors on Euwe's part on the way to losing that game.  Of course, 9.e4 has been the standard move and it is the only one mentioned in many texts on the Colle (including Andy Soltis's Colle System: Koltanowski Variaiton 5.c3), so there is bound to be some skepticism and prejudice.  Rudel does an excellent job of laying that prejudice aside by showing from the outset that the more traditional 9.e4 does not yield any advantage against best play by Black and may even put White at some risk.  If you are as convinced as I am that White needs something else here, then you will be quickly persuaded that 9.b4! is it.  

I think anyone who spends time with Rudel's excellent book will want to give 9.b4 a try, and the book itself does an excellent job of teaching you how to make use of it.  Those who need more convincing should check out the game Miltner - Appel, Bundesliga 2004-2005, which shows the 9.b4! idea in action.  And there is no question that 9.b4 scores much better than 9.e4 in practice (though with many fewer games to go by at the moment).  Highly recommended.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Review of No Passion for Chess Fashion

I recently purchased No Passion for Chess Fashion: Fierce Openings for Your New Repertoire by GM Alex Raetsky and IM Maxim Chetverik.  It resembles in some ways the Secrets of Opening Surprises series from New in Chess that I so much enjoy, and like SOS it presents some "unfashionable" lines which have nonetheless been played with success by titled players and would serve amateurs quite well.  In the end I think its contents just do not measure up to the articles in SOS, which are usually much more thorough in their treatment of critical variations.  But there is still some material of interest.

At first I thought the volume focused only on Black defenses, and it almost does so, with the sole exception of an odd chapter on Nimzovich's eccentric 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Qg4, which even the authors have to admit "has turned out to be not as durable as his strategic principles."  Though it might be worth a punt in blitz, I think the chapter on 4.Qg4 is unfortunate and should have been replaced with a piece on a line for Black so that the whole volume could have been subtitled "Fierce Black Counters for Your Repertoire."  That said, the collection is like a typical SOS volume in that there will likely be only a couple lines you're actually going to adopt.  

You can find the table of contents and sample pages at the publisher's website.  Here is the breakdown of the chapters:

  • King's Gambit (2...exf4 3.Nf3 d6 4.d4 g5 5.h4 g4 6.Ng1 f5!?), 5-14
  • Petroff Defense (3.d4 Nxe4 4.dxe5 Bc5), 15-23
  • Ruy Lopez (Alapin's 3...Bb4), 24-44
  • The Scandinavian (2…Nf6 3.d4 Nxd5 4.c4 Nb4), 44-56
  • Alekhine's Defense (2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4 g5), 57-64
  • The French Defense (Nimzovich's 3.e5 c5 4.Qg4) 65-81
  • The St. George (1.e4 a6) 82-129
  • Sicilian Defense (The Cobra 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Ndb5 Bc5), 130-148
  • The Albin Countergambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 survey), 149-194
  • Chigorin Defense (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3 Bg4 4.Bg2 Qd7), 195-220
  • English Opening (1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Bb4 3.Nd5 Ba5!?), 221-234

It is a somewhat motley collection, yet it almost represents a complete repertoire for Black: The St. George (1...a6), the Scandinavian, or the "Cobra system" in the Sicilian could take you pretty far toward complete antidotes to 1.e4, and the sections on the Albin, Chigorin, and English could go pretty far toward supplying the rest (though you'd need to supplement with some online sources).  

As a 1.e4 e5 player, I was most interested in their surprising twist on Fischer's famous "Bust to the King's Gambit" with 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d6.  Here the authors recommend  4.d4 g5 5.h4 g4 6.Ng1 f5!? (instead of Fischer's idea of 6....Bh6, which is most popular).  The 6...f5!? thrust, which was originated to some extent by Raetsky himself, is very interesting and has received some high level trials. After 7.exf5 Qe7+! 8.Qe2 I like best now 8...Bh6!? to hold onto the f-pawn, as in Metz - Held 1980, though I suppose Black is fine after their recommendation of 8...Bxf5 9.Bxf4 Nc6! (better than the time wasting 9...Bxc2?!) followed by O-O-O and rapid development for Black.  This is a promising line and really worth a closer look, especially since my favorite Adelaide Counter-Gambit (which also features an early ...f5) has become boring with so many White players continuing 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Nc6 3.Nf3 f5 4.d3! as in Ivanchuk - Nakamura.

I must say I am too prejudiced against Alapin's 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bb4 to give that a try any time soon.  But I do like the Petroff line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.dxe5 Bc5! which I examined in my article on an "Anti-Petroff Repertoire with 3.d4" as the chief reason White should not play 4.dxe5?!  Of course, you would really need to know a lot more theory as Black in order to make use of their analysis of 4...Bc5, which White usually avoids by 4.Bd3 followed by Nxe5 or dxe5 (the latter of which is the focus of my article, albeit from the White perspective).  The same is true of their analysis of specific lines in the Scandinavian and Alekhine (both good on what they cover), where it would have been nice to at least have some discussion of what a complete repertoire in these lines would look like.  Perhaps if they had dropped the inconsistent chapter on the French they'd have had space to do that.

I have found Raetsky and Chetverik's 1998 book on the Albin helpful to my studies (as mentioned in my article on the Mengarini-Morozevich line), so I was most interested in seeing that chapter.   I found the coverage here rather mixed with good and bad.  I was impressed that Chetverik seems to repeat no games from their earlier work and focuses mostly on much more recent games.  And he also offers the type of survey of the Albin that could be as useful from either side of the board, covering all of the major 5th moves for both White and Black following 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6, when most common is 5.g3 (5.a3 and 5.Nbd2 are also treated) and now 5...Nge7 has gone far to rehabilitate the Albin, but Chetverik also gives games with 5...Bc5, 5...Bg4 (the old main line), and 5...Be6.  His treatment here is rather fair and balanced, but much too superficial for my tastes.  For example, I was pleased to see him begin with the critical line 5.Nbd2! (where "white is guaranteed a slight advantage" he later concludes) 5...Nge7 (most everything else is nearly refuted, as covered nicely in The Albin Countergambit by Dorian Rogozenco from CBM 134, as I discuss in The Albin Counter-Gambit in Question) 6.Nb3! Nf5 and now the absolutely most critical lines receive only brief treatment in a note:'s worth starting to think about how to reply to 7.e4!?, and your mood immediately sours.... 7...Nh4 has been tried, with the confused knights off in the distance.  An exchange of queens, 7...dxe3 8.Qxd8+ Nxd8 9.Bxe3 Nxe3 10.fxe3, was encountered back in von Bilguer's day.  Later a stable advantage was held without exchanging off the bishop so soon.  A fragment from Pena Riasco - Fluvia (Spain 2007) is instructive: 9. fxe3 Bb4+ 10. Kf2 O-O 11. Bd3 Nh6 12. h3 Ne6 13. Bd2 Bxd2 14. Nbxd2 Nc5 15. Bc2 Bf5 16. e4 Be6 17. b4 Na6 18. Rhb1 c5 19. a3 Rad8 20. Ke3 -- those knights wouldn't have appealed to Tarrasch!
This "fragment" (which may improve slightly on Rogozenco's analysis) concluded: 20...Kh8 21. Ba4 Ng8 22. Bb5 Nb8 23. bxc5 Rc8 24. Ba4 Rc7 25. Rb2 Na6 26. c6 bxc6 27. Rab1 Nc5 28. Bc2 Ne7 29. Kd4 Nd7 30. Rb7 c5+ 31. Kc3 Rfc8 32. Nf1 Ng6 33. Ne3 Ngxe5 34. Nxe5 Nxe5 35. Nd5 Rxb7 36. Rxb7 a6 37. Ra7 h5 38. Rxa6 h4 39. a4 g5 40. a5 Kg7 41. Ba4 g4 42. hxg4 Bxg4 43. Rb6 Be2 44. Bb5 Bd3 45. Nf6 Bf1 46. Nh5+ Kh7 47. Nf4 Bxg2 48. Ba6 Ra8 49. Bb7 Rxa5 50. Nxg2 h3 51. Nf4 Ra3+ 52. Kc2 Ra2+ 53. Kc3 Ra3+ 54. Kc2 Nxc4 55. Rf6 h2 56. e5 Nxe5 57. Rf5 Nf3 58. Rh5+ Kg7 59. Kb2 Re3 60. Rh3 c4 61. Nh5+ Kf8 62. Bxf3 h1=Q 63. Rxh1 Rxf3 64. Rc1 1/2-1/2  A very difficult and interesting game for both players, though White seems to have had the better of it up until Black's interesting piece sac. 

Obviously, this is nowhere near the level of analysis you can find on the web for free, and it seems almost criminal to just mention 7...Nh4 in passing when, as Rogozenco suggests, it may well be the best hope of rehabilitating this critical variation for Black.  Surely Chetverik, who plays the Albin himself, has more thoughts on this critical line than he is sharing.  The book went up on my shelf at that point.

Probably the most useful chapters to me personally are the last two.  I was amused to find that just moments before the book arrived at my door, I had been playing a game with the Chigorin line 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3 Bg4 4.Bg2 Qd7 (though I have also experimented with 3...Bf5!? with some success).  It is surprising how often this line seems to arise in my games of late, perhaps because so many White players are using the Catalan and other lines from "Wojo's Weapons."  Meanwhile, I have long been intrigued by 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Bb4!? -- especially because I typically play 2...Nc6 here with an eventual Bb4 only later.  Yet I do not care much for the looks of 3.Nd5 Be7(?) given as the main line by many books.  Raetsky's 3....Ba5!? seems much more my thing, and I like the "irrational position" that arises after 4.b4 c6 5.bxa5 cxd5 6.cxd5 when Black can choose between 6...Nf6 or 6...Qxa5 with a very interesting game.  These chapters made me take the book back down again and look more closely.

Overall, I'd say that I'd recommend this book to amateurs intrigued by any of the lines presented.  While you cannot expect a complete repertoire or deep analysis, you will definitely learn something about some very interesting lines which you can then go research further with your computer or with web sources.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Scotch Four Knights (C47) Bibliography

A solid opening for amateurs is the Scotch Four Knights (C47), which generally arises via the Scotch move order 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 but can also come out of a Four Knights (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4) or Vienna move order (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d4).  I personally use the Vienna move order to avoid the annoying Petroff Defense and to meet a Philidor set-up with an f4 advance, though you need to be aware that after 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d4 Black has the interesting gambit 4...Bb4!? (originated in Paulsen - Morphy, New York 1857) which is not available in the Scotch move order.

The long main line of the Scotch Four Knights goes 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 (in this move order, White has to know various anti-Scotch ideas, including Steinitz's 4...Qh4!?) 5.Nc3 (5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 is the more popular Mieses Variation) 5...Bb4 (5...Bc5!? is also playable) 6.Nxc6 (White also has the strange 6.Bb5!? 6...bxc6 7.Bd3 (7.Qd4!? Qe7 8.f3 is playable) 7...d5 (Black can also delay this advance and play 7...O-O 8.O-O with perhaps ...Re8 or ...d6) 8.exd5 cxd5 9.O-O O-O 10.Bg5 c6 reaching the standard tabiya, when White can consider 11.Qf3, 11.Na4, or 11.Ne2, all of which are considered roughly equal.

Though considered equal by theory, the Scotch Four Knights is quite interesting and can be safely played for advantage, especially at the amateur  level.  White gets a wide-open game with lots of piece play, and thanks to his slight initiative can generally get some concession from Black, typically in damaged pawns (following Nxc6) and the two Bishops (if Black plays Bxc3), which makes this a great line for positionally minded players who like to exploit endgame advantages.  It is also possible to play for a kingside attack, as demonstrated by Berg - Sokolov, Malmo 2001 and Rasmussen - Jessen, Denmark 2002.  The line was employed by many strong players, including:

Because the Mieses Variation popularized by Kasparov is all the rage, many books on the Scotch (notably Barsky, Dembo & Palliser, and Wells) skip over the Scotch Four Knights, perhaps on the logic that it is really a variation of the Four Knights Game; meanwhile you will occasionally find good coverage in books on the Four Knights (see especially Pinski's below).  But books have become less necessary these days to learning such a popular system, and most players can probably find all that they need on the web.  The following bibliography, presented in reverse chronological order, features many online sources which are an ideal starting point.


A great collection on the Scotch Four Knights and related lines (including Belgrade Gambit and 4...Bb4).  I often recommend that those seeking to learn a new opening simply play over as many high-level games as possible with the line. also has a good page to help you develop your pattern recognition.  This is a good place for most players to start, though for more serious students of the game these databases are a bit limited.  

Scotch Four Knights Game: A System for White by "Hogeye" Bill Orton (2011)
An excellent PDF download that is easy to print and covers the whole line for the club player.  Argues that "The Scotch Four Knights generally gives a slight edge and almost no losing chances. If you want to exploit small advantages such as the two bishops and better pawn structure in the endgame with little risk, this opening should be considered."  Another great opening resource from the excellent Fayetteville Chess Club website.

The Openings Explained: The Scotch Four Knights [C47] by Abby Marshall at ChessCafe (2010)
This is an excellent article, with lots of commentary on minor side-lines that usually escape the notice of analysts but which you're likely to see at the amateur level.  Clearly written by a player with lots of scholastic experience playing this line herself. 

C44-C59: Scotch, Four Knights, Italian by various (2010)
A black repertoire in the open games, with the Scotch Four Knights chapter following Svidler - Malaniuk, St. Petersburg 1993-94, which ended quickly after a shocking Svidler blunder.

The Scotch Game (DVD) by Nigel Davies (ChessBase 2009) Running time: 5 hours.
This DVD provides a surprising amount of coverage of the Scotch Four Knights, which Davies recommends as the easiest variation of the Scotch to learn for beginners and amateurs.

Refuting 5...Nxe4 in the Scotch Four Knights by Michael Goeller
Analyzes the game Sevillano - Tamburro, US Open 2007, which offers a very clean and simple way for White to gain the edge against a potentially messy Knight sacrifice.  While I still like Sevillano's 7.Be2, White might get a little more edge with 7.f3 as advocated by Abby Marshall and John Emms.

Starting Out: The Scotch Game by John Emms (Everyman 2005), pp. 9-57.
With nearly 50 pages devoted to the Scotch Four Knights, all presented at the amateur level and with no obvious bias for either White or Black, this is probably the book to get if you are looking to limit purchases (especially with so much good material freely available online).   Also available as an e-book.  Many of the games analyzed are over a decade old, but that is mainly an indication of how little theory has changed in the Scotch Four Knights since the popularization of the Mieses Variation.  Main games include Bezman - Varavin 1997, Reinderman - Sokolov 1995, Tzermiadianos - Frendzas 1996, Radulov - Pinter 1978, Oppici - Miotto 1990, Ivanov - Liss 1995, Kobalija - Ivanov 1996, Berg - Leko 1995, Ardelean - Vajda 1999 (see NIC), Krutko - Dzhambulatov 2004, Adla - Muniz 2000, and Miles - Sorin 1995

The Scotch Game Explained by Gary Lane (Batsford 2005)
Though presented as a repertoire book, this does a great job of covering the whole Scotch.  For our purposes, it is especially admirable that the longest chapter in the book is devoted to the Scotch Four Knights Game and offers an excellent overview for amateur players.  

The Four Knights by Jan Pinski (Everyman 2003), pp. 40-101.
Good coverage of the line for a general reader without Pinski's usual pro-Black bias.  I especially like the quality of the games he chooses, most of which conclude in the endgame stages.  Games featured include Bykhovsky - Howell 1995Kountz - Van den Doel 2000, Nunn - Sulskis 1994Berg - Sokolov 2001, Pavasovic - Beliavsky 1999, Lutz - Yusupov 1992, Christiansen - Gelfand 1992, and Lautier - Sokolov 1992, Malakhov - Pinter 1995, Golubev - Malaniuk 1994, and Pedersen - Khruschiov 2002.

A Drawing Sacrifice by A.C Van der Tak NIC Yearbook 60 (2001)

Play the Open Games as Black by John Emms (Gambit 2000)
An excellent repertoire book for Black after 1.e4 e5.  Emms covers both 5...Bb4 and 5...Bc5!? from the Black perspective.

An Opening Repertoire for the Positional Player by Eduard Gufeld and Nikolai Kalinichenko (Everyman 1998), pp. 27-40. 
I have to credit this book for getting me to consider the Scotch Four Knights as a practical weapon for White, though its coverage of the opening is not very deep.  I was also influenced by their recommendation of a 2.Nc3 move order to simplify White's preparation. 

4.d4 im Vierspringerspiel by Lev Gutman (Erste Auflage 1993)
This book is out of print but is worth tracking down for correspondence players and other serious students as it offers Gutman's typically exhaustive analysis.  This volume has an introduction by Victor Korchnoi and focuses on the Scotch Four Knights via a Four Knights move order, dealing with 4...Bb4, the Belgrade Gambit with 5.Nd5, and the Scotch Four Knights.

Winning with the Scotch by Gary Lane (Batsford / Henry Holt 1993), pp. 64-81.
A bit dated but widely available for free download in PDF (not that I advocate that sort of thing).  Lane completely redid and vastly improved his presentation for The Scotch Game Explained (see above), greatly expanding his coverage.  One advantage of older books like this one, though, is they cover lines that drop out of future discussions, including the crazy 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. Nxd4 Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d5 8. e5 Ng4 9. Bf4 d4 10. Qf3 dxc3 11. O-O-O as in Popelyshev - Grischuk, Moscow Open 1995.

New Ideas in the Four Knights by John Nunn (Batsford / Henry Holt 1993), pp. 37-47.
This book is a bit dated and, surprisingly, does not cover the Scotch Four Knights, though it does offer ten pages of analysis on the 4...Bb4 gambit.

Gewinnen mit Schottisch by Lev Gutman (Erste Auflage 1992)
This book is out of print but is worth tracking down for correspondence players and other serious students of the Scotch as it offers Gutman's typically exhaustive analysis.  This volume has an introduction by Garry Kasparov and is focused on the Mieses Variation but includes good coverage of early move alternatives, including 4...Qh4, 4...Qf6 and 4...Bc5, important for those using a Scotch move order.

Scotch Four Knights by Alexei Shirov NIC Yearbook 27 (1992)

Scotch Four Knights by René Olthof NIC Yearbook 25 (1992)

An Unbeatable White Repertoire after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 by Larry Evans and Ken Smith (Chess Digest 1988)
This book has held up remarkably well despite its age, mostly thanks to the smart recommendations of the late GM Evans.  It also offers a good and basic Four Knights repertoire for White.  However, while it covers the Belgrade Gambit and 4...Bb4 line, it does not cover the Scotch Four Knights.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Addled Adelaide

Position after 4.d4?!

I have analyzed the game Carrelli - Goeller, KCC Summer Tourney 2011, played this past Thursday night at the Kenilworth Chess Club.  It was a wild game and featured the Adelaide Counter Gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Nc6 3.Nf3 (3.Nc3 can be met by 3...Bb4!? -- my patented Anti-Pierce line) 3...f5! when White tried 4.d4?! leading to an odd looking position (see diagram above).  Both sides played inexactly, we ended up going down a rather confusing path...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bird Defense Fishing Pole

Black to play
What's the best move to continue the attack?
I have annotated the game Balakrishnan - Goeller, KCC Summer Tourney 2011, from which comes the diagram above. 

On Thursday night I played young Praveen Balakrishnan in Round 6 of the Kenilworth Chess Club summer tourney, employing my favorite Bird Defense to the Ruy Lopez. For the second week in a row, I found myself sacrificing material for a direct attack on my opponent's king. In this case, I employed what Brian Wall likes to call "the fishing pole" theme: dangling my Knight at g4 for capture in order to open the h-file. My young opponent, who obviously had never been hooked before, gobbled the Knight and went down to speedy defeat. At least it is very unlikely he will ever fall for that trap again.

Brian Wall plays the Fishing Pole via the Berlin Defense with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Ng4!? trying to provoke 5.h3 h5! and the bait has been set and is hard to resist.  See Lee - Wall, Kansas Open 2007 for a nice illustration.  Wall has posted endless examples of his "Fishing Pole" online and in the Unorthodox Openings Yahoo group. If you have a spare 15 minutes or so, it's worth checking out his Fishing Pole: First Blood Part 1 and Part 2 on Youtube, which examine a game where GM Walter Browne lost to the Fishing Pole in a simul, intercutting scenes from Rambo for dramatic effect.  If nothing else, it will definitely help you to resist the bait yourself!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

John Cox on Lasker's Defense

I was very interested to see Lasker's Defense featured prominently in John Cox's just released Declining the Queen's Gambit (Everyman 2011), available from New in Chess.  I don't think there has been a good book on the Lasker in over a decade, and certainly none from the Black perspective.  Based on the excellent sample pages (in PDF or Zipped PDF files), which give the entire Lasker Defense chapter (thanks, Katar, for pointing that out), I'd say it looks like a great book and one which, together with Cox's earlier Dealing with d4 Deviations, offers a complete repertoire for Black against 1.d4.  I look forward to reading it more closely.

Check out some posts in these pages related to Lasker's Defense:

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Kernighan Experience

Goeller - Kernighan
White to play.
I have annotated Goeller - Kernighan, KCC Summer Tourney 2011, from Thursday night.   As often happens in my games with Mark, I sacrificed material to drive his King into the open and had a great attack going until I lost on time.  I call this "the Kernighan experience."  You might prefer to call it "repetition compulsion." But I found the experience very enjoyable despite the potentially traumatic result.  Always in my games with Mark I am reaching toward Tal-like artistry, but that perfect game remains always just outside my grasp.  I came pretty close this time to grabbing it, which was satisfaction enough for me.

Before we started, Ian Mangion (seated at the next board) joked that I should definitely play for a sac at f7 as he had done in a recent win over Mark.  At that point, I decided to try the Cochrane Gambit if Mark went in for his usual Petroff. When Mark played the Caro-Kann, however, I said to Ian, "Oh well, no f7 sac." But the idea was definitely planted in my head and likely influenced my play in the game.  In the diagrammed position above, I began my attack by playing 12.f5! exf5 13.Nxf5 gxf5 14.Nxf7!!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

John Bryant's Tactics

Bryant - Shen, Round One
White to play
Bryant - Sturt, Round Three
White to play
Bryant - Ding, Round Four
White to play
Troff - Bryant, Round Seven
Black to play
Bryant - Naroditsky, Round Eight
White to play
I have posted tactical puzzles from the games of FM John Bryant from the recent 2011 US Junior Championship in Saint Louis.  Though he finished 7th out of 10, Bryant's games were always tactically interesting, and it is telling that he was one of the only players with no draws (5 wins and 4 losses).  Bryant's swashbuckling attacking play was not always sound, but it produced some very nice finishes, represented above.  Most of the puzzles are fairly easy, except for the last which requires some judgment of the resulting ending.  More about the championship, won by Andrew Young (who finished two points ahead of the field), can be found online:

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Chess Wars

Fredb1978 has posted all of the cut scenes from Chess Wars: A Medieval Fantasy (DOS 1996).  It is rather disturbing to watch all of the possible "murders" that can be committed on the chessboard. And you have to wonder if medieval combat to the death is the most compelling storyline that can get mapped onto this abstract game.  But it is an interesting historical example of how designers have tried to jazz up chess for digital game play.  I have previously only seen the opening sequence from the game (see second video above).  The concept of having scenes to accompany each capture clearly inspired Lego Chess, though the latter has a much more fun attitude (more appropriate for children).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Too Many Good Choices

Black to play: what are the best options?
I have annotated the game Tomkovich - Goeller, KCC Summer Tournament 2011, which illustrates the problem of having too many good choices, especially at Game-60 with no time delay.  In the diagrammed position above, it is Black to play after 7.c4?  What are the best options?  And how do you decide which to choose?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk (1927 - 2011), Chess Fan

Peter Falk kibitzes with GM Yasser Seirawan
Peter Falk, best known for playing the disheveled Los Angeles detective "Columbo" on television, and less well known for playing chess, has died.  He was 83.  My mother will be very sad, as she loved Columbo.  Edward Winter has posted several pictures of Falk as a chess spectator (including the one above with a young Yasser Seirwan).  Obituaries are widely available, including in the New York Times.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chess and Expert Perception

Sanjoy Mahajan's "What Chess Tells Us about the Value of Perception" at the ever-interesting Freakonomics blog discusses how GM chess intuition offers insight into the way truly gifted performers are able to grasp their subjects.  His main reference is a study of Kasparov's ability in simultaneous play, where researchers discovered surprisingly little loss of playing strength even at the high speeds of simul play: 

At 20 seconds per move, Kasparov mostly used his perception and judgment of chess positions rather than his ability to calculate chess variations (the “I take, he takes, I take, etc.” kind of thinking). Thus, simultaneous chess is a real-life laboratory for measuring the value of perception. How well did Kasparov play, in comparison to his normal strength when playing at the usual tournament rate of 3 minutes per move? His normal strength at the time was 2750 on the Elo scale of chess skill. (To give a feel for the Elo scale, a beginner would be rated about 1000, an average tournament player is rated about 1600, a master is rated at 2200 or above, and a grandmaster is usually above 2400.)
The amazing result: At the rapid “simul” pace, Kasparov performed at a rating of 2650: higher than all but half a dozen players in the world! In other words, most of his world-class expertise comes from how he sees and looks at the chess board, not from his calculation ability.
In many ways this explains the decision-making power of all experts and managers, who have a broad range of intuitive knowledge to draw upon to help them quickly analyze a situation and decide.