Monday, June 30, 2014

A Missed Hook and Ladder Trick

I visited the Kenilworth Chess Club on Thursday where I participated in round 4 of the Summer Tournament.  I have annotated my game with Dr. Richard Lewis, whom I have known since the 1980s when he was president of the Westfield Chess Club for many years.  Our game was played quickly and was not one of our best, but it had a very amusing ending as Dr. Lewis resigned in a position where he could have won material using a tactic that LM Dana Mackenzie has called "the hook and ladder trick" (see diagram).  The tactic was pointed out immediately after our game by Kevin Chen on the next board.

Lewis - Goeller after 27...Qd4??
White to play and win material.
The name "hook and ladder" describes the image that the tactic presents, as Black's Queen can be imagined as standing at the top of the precarious "ladder" of the Rook's support from d8.  White can use the "hook" of 28.Re8+! to pull the "ladder" out from under the Queen and win material (using a form of deflection).  If Black's f-pawn were at f7, then Re8+ would absolutely force 28...Rxe8 dropping the Queen to 29.Qxd4.  Here, though, Black can escape the check with 28...Kf7 but White still wins material after 29.Qxd4 Rxd4 30.Rxc8.  The game would be rather drawish after 30...Rxa4, but certainly White would have gone from resigning in an apparently lost position to having the only chances to win! 

In his 2006 video lecture titled "The Hook and Ladder Trick" at (members only), LM Mackenzie laid out the motif very thoroughly, beginning with the game Aronian - Svidler, Tal Memorial 2006, which offers a very high level illustration. Mackenzie later published his idea as an article in Chess Life (July 2007) and recently revisited the theme at his blog, discussing the end of one of the Kamsky - Akobian tie-break games from the recent US Championship.  Those original contributions have since been copied by others, including in an article for kids by Jessica Prescott at and a nice online video discussing the Aronian - Svidler game.

Missing that trick at the end of my game has made me want to spend a little more time on tactical training, so I was glad to see that LM Mackenzie recently came out with a series of video lessons, drawn from his videos, titled Tactical Motifs 1.  You can find extensive previews of this video online and it looks like a worthwhile investment.

Thursday night at the Kenilworth Chess Club was also of interest as I got to meet IM Leslie Leow, who has lived very near to the Kenilworth Chess Club for many years but never visited the club before.  He has very generously donated his collection of Informants 1-50 to the club, which we have very happily added to the club library.

The KCC library.
IM Leow played some remarkable games during his chess career (Chess Tempo seems to have the best collection), which stretched from the late 60s to early 90s and included winning the Singapore Chess Championship in 1979 and 1984.  He will represent Singapore at the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso as its non-playing team captain later this summer, after which he will soon be moving to the west coast.  On behalf of the club, I would like to thank him for his gift -- and personally thank him for the chance to play a few blitz games during his visit.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Yaacov's Deathmatch

I have annotated a selection of games from the Deathmatch between IM Yaacov Norowitz and GM Boris Avrukh (Replay, PGN), played Sunday, June 22 on the server. Commentator IM Daniel Rensch called it "The most exciting deathmatch in history," and he pointed out that it was also the biggest comeback in deathmatch history, with Yaacov overcoming a 5-point deficit to take the match based on his excellent performance in bullet.

The rules of the match were that the contestants would play a series of 5-minute, 3-minute, and 1-minute bullet for set periods (adding up to 3 hours), competing for $1,000, with the winner of each time category gaining $100 and the overall winner getting $500. As expected, GM Avrukh performed better at the "slower" time controls, winning the 5-minute by a score of 5-2 and the 3-minute by a score of 6.5-4.5, so that he was leading by 5 points going into the Bullet games. However, IM Norowitz won the Bullet games with a convincing 8-2 margin, thus winning the overall event by a point in the final game, taking the match 14.5 - 13.5.  It was a very exciting finish, with Norowitz winning the final three games.

GM Simon Williams interviews IM Yaacov Norowitz
Members of the Kenilworth Chess Club have followed Yaacov's chess career very closely, as he is a former club champion and played at the club as a young man (winning the under-1800 trophy in 1992-1993).  The games with GM Avrukh demonstrated some nice tactics, including the following two puzzles that feature tricky Knight moves (see my notes on the games for the solutions).

Avrukh - Norowitz
White to play and win.
Norowitz - Avrukh
White to play and win.

More on Yaacov Norowitz

Monday, June 16, 2014

Vienna Gambit Traps from the Alrick H. Man

I have annotated the game Rudolf Smirka - Carlos Torre, New York 1925 (Replay / Download PGN), from the Alrick H. Man Vienna Gambit Theme Tournament.  It nicely illustrates some important but nearly forgotten traps in the Vienna Gambit (C29).  The chief trap is one that should have been known already in 1925 from Euwe - Yates, The Hague 1921, but which either remained unknown or had already been forgotten, at least to judge from the game and from Torre's notes on it in the Brooklyn Eagle.  The diagram below shows the critical position, with White to play and win after 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5 4.fxe5 Nxe4 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Qe2! Nc6? 7.Nxe4 Nd4? 8.Qd3 Bxf3.

Smirka - Torre, New York 1925
White to play and win.

This trap arises very naturally as Black seeks to exploit the pin on the Nf3 and the placement of White's Queen at e2.  White's winning move, which involves a retreat without capture, is easily overlooked, as it was by both players and even by Torre in his notes. 

This series will continue in the coming weeks, and I will eventually post all nine known games from the tournament with the goal of offering a useful introduction to the Vienna Gambit.

See also:

Monday, June 09, 2014

Two Knights Caro-Kann Gets Tartakowered

Eleven players participated in the first round of the Summer tourney.
The Kenilworth Chess Club's annual Summer Tournament began this past Thursday.  I always try to play at least the first round of this event, which keeps the club active during the quiet summer months.  My opponent for the evening was NM Mark Kernighan, and I have annotated our game (Replay / PGN).  Though it was an embarrassing loss for me, it was useful for showing that the Tartakower Variation of the Caro-Kann works very well against the Two Knights. 

I have been reading Alexey Bozgodov's The Extreme Caro-Kann, and had brought it to the club where it sat by the board as play commenced.  The book is devoted to the Fantasy Variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3) -- a line sometimes named after early adopter Savielly Tartakower.  So when Kernighan played the Caro-Kann, I thought he expected me to follow "the book."  Out of my desire to never give my opponent what he wants, and my worries that I had not yet prepared the Fantasy Variation as deeply as I'd like, I went to my old standby: the Two Knights Variation with 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3.  To this Mark responded with the other Tartakower Variation: 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6.  I had commented on that line recently in annotating Hort - Pfleger, BBC Master Game 1980, where Hort played 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 O-O 8.Ne2!  It had occurred to me then that this standard and strong way of meeting the Tartakower would not work with the Two Knights, where White is already committed to Nf3.  I had done some preliminary research at the time for an Nf3 antidote to the Tartakower, but I could not figure out the best path.  I have to admit, I'm still at a loss.  So it looks like the Two Knights Variation has been Tartakowered!  Good thing I am studying the Fantasy Variation...  And there is always the Caveman, the Apocalypse, and the Panov-Botvinnik to fall back on.

As the game shows, the Tartakower Variation is a promising line for amateurs, so I append a bibliography.

Caro-Kann, Tartakower Variation Bibliography (B15 - 4...Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6)
The line is sometimes called the Forgacs, Nimzovich, or Korchnoi Variation, and sometimes lumped in with the Bronstein-Larsen (B16) with 5...gxf6.  You can find game collections at Chesstempo, 365, and Caro-Kann Bronstein-Larsen for White.  As always I welcome additions and corrections from readers.

"Caro-Kann Defense: Main line: Tartakower variation (McDonald)" by Kivielovich, (2014).  Presumably this follows games given by McDonald (2000 -- see below).

"Hort's Master Game" (blog / pgn) by Michael Goeller, Kenilworth CC (2014).
Analyzes the game Hort - Pfleger, BBC Master Game, that demonstrates White's best approach with 
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 O-O 8.Ne2! 

B15-16 Caro-Kann 5.Nf6, DiamondBase 171 by ChessInformant (2013).  Instant download with 171 games for $4.99 -- a great deal.

"Exploiting the Drawbacks" by Valeri Lilov, (2012).  A 17-minute video featuring the game Ragozin - Boleslavsky, Sverdlost 1942.

Caro-Kann Bronstein-Larsen by Jon Edwards, Chess is Fun (2011).  Focuses on gxf6 but covers exf6 main line.

"Caro-Kann, Tartakower Variation, Part 1" and "Part 2" by Boris Alterman, ICC (2009).  For ICC subscribers only.

"Epic Battles: Part V: Knocking Out a Solid System" by John-Paul Wallace, (2007). A 21-minute video featuring the game DeFirmian - Odendahl 1988.  By subscription only.

Opening for White according to Anand 1.e4, Volume 3 (Repertoire Books) by Alexander Khalifman, Chess Stars (2004).

Caro-Kann Defence Knight Variation 4: B15-16  by Maurizio Curtacci, S1 Editrice (2002).

Main-line Caro-Kann by Neil McDonald, Everyman Chess (2000): 127-141.

The Dynamic Caro-Kann by Jeremy Silman, Summit (1989).  Though focused more on the gxf6 lines, it also covers exf6.  This is one of the best sources on the line.

Play the Caro-Kann by Egon Varnusz, Pergamon (1982). Still a useful reference, if obviously dated.  There is a great games collection at of games from the book.

The Caro-Kann Defence: Bronstein-Larsen Varition ; Tartakower-Korchnoi Line by V. Ravi Kumar, Dansk Skakforlag (1981).  A 48 page pamphlet devoted to both 5...gxf6 and 5....exf6.  The most interesting suggestion here is 5.Ng3!? for White, side-stepping the exchange, which is not so easy.  Sample games include Karpov - Larsen, Tilburg 1979; Sax - Larsen, Tilburg 1979; Matulovic - Bhend, Zagreb 1955; Unzicker - Lein, South Africa 1979; Spielmann - Nimzovich, Match 1903; Schuster - Carls 1913; Kavalek - Anderson, Match 1978; Sznapik - Kostro, Poland 1980.

"Tartakower Variation" by Jack Peters, Understanding the Caro-Kann Defense, by Raymond Keene, et. al. RHM Press (1980): 39-57.
First published in 1980 (and so available used), this book makes for a great intro to the Caro-Kann, even if it is a bit dated.  The chapter by Peters on the Tartakower Variation is absolutely first rate and very valuable for amateurs interested in the line, especially with its discussion of the endgame implications of Black's structural "sacrifice."  Game references include Sax - Andersson, Wijk aan Zee 1981; Karpov - Korchnoi, WCh Match 1978;  Matulovic - Smyslov, Siegen 1970;  Kavalek - Andersson, Washington 1978; and Peters - Andersson, National chess League 1978.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Bibliography on 2.b3 vs the Sicilian and the French

An early b3 for White is gaining legitimacy, as witnessed by the recent high-level appearance of the Nimzo-Larsen Attack with 1.b3 (consider, for instance, the games of Baadur Jobava and Elisabeth Paehtz).  So it should hardly surprise us that an early b3 is being used with greater frequency against the Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.b3) and French Defense (1.e4 e6 2.b3), and analysis and experience show that it represents a fully legitimate system.  Those seeking an unusual way of meeting these two most common Black defenses to 1.e4 would do well to study 2.b3 against both lines due to the possible transpositions between them, as shown by the repertoire of IM/WGM Eva Repkova.  Dr. Richard Lewis of the Kenilworth Chess Club has been using this repertoire for over 40 years, and theory is just catching up with him...

The Sicilian with 2.b3 (Snyder Sicilian, Czerniak Attack, b3 Sicilian)
Most 1.e4 players these days accept that the Sicilian is a tough nut to crack, so they are happy just to reach an interesting position where they might feel more comfortable than their opponents.  The line 1.e4 c5 2.b3 (or 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3, sometimes called the Westerinen Variation) definitely serves that purpose and has been used occasionally by some very strong GMs, including Nigel Short, Boris Spassky, and Alexander Morozevich, and has been the main anti-Sicilian weapon of such strong players as GM Tamaz Gelashvili , IM Moshe Czerniak, and IM/WGM Eva Repkova.  It was first used in Cochrane - Staunton, London Match 2 1842 and tried out recently by current World Champion Magnus Carlsen.  I suggest that the name Czerniak Attack should take the place of Snyder Sicilian, especially given the reputation problems of the latter (see below).

Game collections can be found at 365chess, ChessTempo, Chess.comthe Snyder variation at Chessgames, and B20 Sicilian Snyder White at Chessgames.  What follows is a bibliography of sources I have in my possession or could find easily.  As always, I welcome reader additions and corrections.

An Anti-Sicilian Line: b3 before d4 by Dennis Monokroussos, (June 5, 2014).  A just-released 87-minute DVD available from, featuring games with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3.  You can also gain access to these videos by joining for at least a month, which is the better deal.

"An Anti-Sicilian Line: b3 before d4, Part 1" by Dennis Monokroussos, (June 5, 2013).  A 32 minute video featuring Carlsen - Svidler, World Blitz Championship (Moscow) 2009.  For subscribers only.

"An Anti-Sicilian Line: b3 before d4, Part 2" by Dennis Monokroussos, (June 12, 2013).  A 25 minute video featuring Kavalek - Hracek, Ceska Trebova 1998.  For subscribers only.

Experts on the Anti-Sicilian by Jacob Aagaard and John Shaw, Quality Chess (2011): 432-441.  Download PDF contents.  The last chapter features Peter Heine Nielsen's cheeky recommendation for Black of 2.b3 g6, with continuations like 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.Qf3 Bg7 5.e5 Ng8 6.e6 Nf6, or 4…Nc6 5.e5 Nh5, or 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.e5 Nh5.

 "Sicilian: The Czerniak Attack" by Arthur Kogan, Secrets of Opening Surprises #9 (2008): 123-136.  Makes an excellent case for calling the opening the "Czerniak Attack" after its most highly regarded early adopter.  Sample games include Czerniak - Cebalo, Zagreb 1969; Mamedyarov - van Wely, Wijk aan Zee 2008; Gelashvili - Gagunashvili, Batumi 2001; Short - Prasad, Mumbai 2004; Gelashvili - Reddmann, Hamburg 1999; and Short - Thorfinnsson, Reykjavik 2000.

Fighting the Anti-Sicilians by Richard Palliser, Everyman Chess (2007): 189-200.  Explores 2...d6 and 2...Nc6, though I think 2...e6 would have fit better with his overall repertoire.  Sample games in the notes include Buchnicek - Plachetka, Czech League 2005; Jiangchuan - Xu Jun, Shenzhen 1992; Rogers - Ostermeyer, Biel 1984; Dos Santos - Pedersen, Matinhos 1994; and Minasian - Aronian, Omsk 1996.

Estudio Casero Defensa Siciliana con 1.e4 c5 2.b3!? by Job Sepúlveda, Proletario (2007).

Anti-Sicilians by Jonathan Rowson, ChessPublishing (May 2006).  By subscription.  

Gold Medals, Opening Lanes #71 by Gary Lane, ChessCafe (2004).  Lane analyzes the game Short - Prasad, Mumbai 2004, which a reader sent suggesting the b3 Sicilian be renamed "the Short variation."  Personally, I think this is a great game, but there are enough Short Variations already.

"The Sicilian, Snyder Variation, Part One" and "Part Two" by Andrew Martin at Chessville (March 2004) -- via the Internet Archive.  Part One's "Nosher on the Ocher" discusses Short - Prasad, Mumbai 2004, while Part Two discusses Pessi - Miron, Romania 2003.  From the web archive.

"The Verdict, Part One" and Part Two by Andrew Martin at Jeremy Silman's website (March 2004) -- via the Internet Archive.
A Little different from the article Martin published at Chessville, but Part One features Arp - Zomer, NED 2004 and Part Two features Short - Prasad, Mumbai 2004.  From the web archive.

The Chess Advantage in Black and White by Larry Kaufman, Random House (2004): 115-117, 128-133.  Demonstrates a surprising interest in b3 lines, via a Rossolimo move order or via 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3.  Games include Akopian - Fominyh, Ubeda 2001; C. Horvath - Fogarasi, Budapest 2002; Anand - Leko, Bastia 2001; and Berzins - Meijers, Latvia 2002.

Schachtraining: Geheimwaffen in der Eroffnung by Stefan Kindermann (circa 2002-2003)
Features some excellent PGN downloads with analysis covering all major lines following 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3!? which is practically a cross-over variation. From the internet archive.

Anti-Sicilians, A Guide for Black by Dorian Rogozenko, Gambit (2003).  Recommends 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3 b6!? and 2.b3 b6!?

Black Repertoire, Sicilian, 2.b3 and Games by Eric Tangborn, Geocities (circa 1998)
Black's perspective from IM Tangborn.

Foxy Chess Openings, 149 (Vol. 2): White Repertoire Against the Sicilian, Center Counter & Pirc by Andrew Martin (no date).  "Volume Two continues Martin’s new 'Winning Repertoire Series for White – 1.e4', which outlines a complete repertoire system for the first player, built around the King’s Pawn opening. Here IM Martin covers how to answer the Sicilian, the Center Counter and the Pirc. After 1.e4 c5 White will continue 2.b3! and enter prepared territory; if 1.e4 d5 we follow with 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.Rb1!, and the Pirc meets with 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be2 Bg7 5.g4! and attack as shown."

Sicilian Unusual [B20] Survey, by Tamas Horvath, ChesssBase Encyclopedia (1993).  Covers 2...d6 (e.g.: Spassky - Huebner, Bueonos Aires 1978; Tschichowani-Lapenis, Belzy 1979) and 2...e6 (e.g.; Spassky-Hernandez, Buenos Aires 1978; Kanzler-Ionov, Daugavpils 1979).

Sicilian 2.b3, Snyder Sicilian: A Complete Opening System against the Sicilian with 2.b3 by Robert M. Snyder, Players Press (1984).  
A 125 page pamphlet by the notorious chess teacher and child molester, featured on "America's Most Wanted."  I have not seen this item.

De schaakopening. Siciliaans-flanksystemen: het 2. f2-f4 complex, het vleugelgambiet 2. b2-b4, de 2. b2-b3 variant by Paul Boersma, Andriessen (1983).  Thanks MNb.

The French with 2.b3 (Reti Gambit, Papa Gambit)
The line 1.e4 e6 2.b3, which can lead to the gambit 2...d5 3.Bb2 dxe4, is often attributed to Richard Reti, who played it in Reti - Maroczy, Gotheburg 1920.  Later, the opening was adopted by Rudolf Spielmann with some success, as in Spielmann - Mueller, Vienna 1928 and Spielmann - Grau, San Remo 1930, so his name is sometimes associated with the opening as well.  Mike Papa published a pamphlet on the line that generated interest, so his name has also gained some followers.  But the most thorough treatment of the variation has been by Thomas Johansson, who calls it "The Fascinating Reti Gambit" -- so that name seems best.  I will add some items from French repertoire books here in the coming week, and I welcome additions from readers.

Play the French 4th edition by John Watson, Everyman Chess (2012): 414-415.
Watson argues that "b3 and e4 do not mix well."  Sample games include Bury - Watson, Leominster 1977 (the main focus of earlier editions, with 2...b6 sidestepping White's main preparation); Arvola - Westerinen, Tromso 2008; Karasev - Farago, Polanica Zdroj 1974; and Rzayev - Tran Tuan Minh, Budapest 2011.

Attacking Chess: The French by Simon Williams, Everyman Chess (2011): 301-304. Williams writes: "I am not entirely sure what the name of this variation should be, but it is an interesting little move.  White figures that now that Black has played 1...e6, he can no longer block the a1-h8 diagonal with ...e5.  For that reason White wants to place his bishop on b2 as then it will be a good piece.  There is some logic to this way of thinking, but Black has a number of ways to gain equality."  This is a great book on the French for Black, and Williams's recommendation of 1.e4 e6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 fits well with his overall repertoire and may be Black's best.  Sample games include Paehtz - Zhukova, European Women's Ch Gotheburg 2005 (White's 9.d4?! does not fit the system); Houska - Levitt, London 2004; and Repkova - Boric, Sibenik 2008

"Reti's Line against the French" by Alexander Finkel, Secrets of Opening Surprises #9 (2008): 102-108.  Argues that the Reti Gambit leads to very interesting positions where familiarity will help.  Sample games include Maze - Vaisser, Val d'lsere 2004; Repkova - Macak, Slovokia tt 2004-2005; Totsky - Zakharov, Perm 1997; and Repkova - Rajlich, Biel 2004.  A very useful overview.

The Fascinating Reti Gambit by Thomas Johansson, (2006).  Previews available at Google Books.  I am always surprised to find complete and thoroughly researched books on obscure lines -- such as this fascinating study.  Johansson has previously contributed some great books on the King's Gambit.  I especially recommend The Fascinating King's Gambit, focused on the Bishop's Gambit, which seems not to have gotten as much attention as The King's Gambit for the Creative Aggressor from 1998.  Johansson naturally starts off with The Reti Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2 dxe4 4.Nc3) exploring first the greedy 4...f5?! when he focuses on the standard 5.f3 (which seems most promising) and the interesting alternative 5.d3!? which is definitely playable if not as clear.  He then devotes considerable attention to Reti's ow line 4...Nf6 5.Qe2 which can lead to fascinating positions involving an early g4-g5 thrust for White and opposite side castling.  He also examines Mike Papa's idea of 5.g4 immediately.  In the declined section, he covers a wide range of options for both players but devotes the most attention to "The Safe" 3...Nf6 4.e5 Nbd7 5.Qg4 c5 6.f4 Nc6 7.Nf3 -- which is likely the line you will see the most.  Transpositions to the Sicilian with 1.e4 e6 2.b3 c5 are also considered in detail.  Basically, if you are going to make this line part of your repertoire, this book is a must.  And, fortunately, it is not out of print nor likely to go out of print any time soon (since it is published "print on demand").

French: Advance and Other Lines by Steffen Pedersen, Gambit (2005): 135-136.  Merely mentions the main line with 2...d5 3.Bb2, giving the games Varga - Farago, Nagykanizsa 2003; Kapnisis - Berelovich, Kavala 2002; and Repkova - Cosma, Pula 2002.  The main focus is on the admittedly "non-theoretical" 2...b6 as seen in Bury - Watson, Leominster 1977; Gallinnis - Jackelen, Bundesliga 1998/1999; and Wisnewski - Meister, Hoeckendorf 2004.

"Terra Incognita" by Tim McGrew, The Gambit Cartel #14 at ChessCafe (2003)
Discusses the Reti Gambit with 1.e4 e6 2.b3 d5 3.Bb2!? in three games: McGrew - Balan, Kalamazoo, MI, September 2003, Karasev - Akopian, USSR Cup 1970, and Borkowski - Matlak, Correspondence 1979.

The Papa gambit vs. The French Defense: 1.e4 e6 2.b3!! by Michael Joseph Papa, Jr., MICH Publications (July 3, 1991).