Monday, July 28, 2014

Torre and Marshall Victories over the Vienna

I have annotated G. Gustafson's games against Carlos Torre and Frank Marshall (PGN) from the Alrick H. Man Vienna Gambit Theme Tournament of 1924-1925.  The games demonstrate that Arthur Kaufmann's concept of playing Qe2 against most of Black's defenses following 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5 4.fxe5 Nxe4 5.Nf3 is probably most accurate, as shown in Torre - Norwood, Smirka - Torre, and Torre - Marshall (to be annotated soon) from the same event. Gustafson's less challenging 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.d3 against Carlos Torre and 5.Nf3 Bc5 6.d4 against Frank Marshall proved completely unsatisfactory.

Gustafson - Torre after 31.Rxf1
Black to play and mate in two.

Gustafson - Marshall after 8.Qe2
Black to play and win material.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Teaching Chess to Kids, Yet Again

Pawn Battle position
White to play and win.
Every year, about this time, I teach chess to rising-9th grade students as part of the Rutgers Future Scholars summer program.  It's a fun class and gives me a chance to think about teaching chess to beginners, about which I have written some things over the years.  There are many benefits of learning chess and it is a valuable tool for helping kids develop "self control" and the ability to "learn how to learn" (as Josh Waitzkin argues in The Art of Learning).  It also gives a teacher a chance to talk about how to make decisions after examining multiple variables, which is one of my main themes.

I have developed most of my techniques teaching chess to groups of young people. But I do not think a group setting is the best place to learn chess deeply, even if it does have the advantage of  providing motivation through friendly competition, which drives some kids to pay attention and study.  But to get the most benefit from chess, it has to be studied independently, and kids who do that will gain more confidence for when they finally go to a serious chess club or begin to play in tournaments.  I generally think it is a mistake for young people to play any rated chess until they have studied a bit on their own or with a coach. 

With groups of kids just learning the game (or who only have a basic familiarity with the rules), I generally use the "one piece at a time" method of instruction, using mini-games to accompany each lesson.  This way kids don't get bored and I can create an active, experiential learning environment where everyone can play as equals.  The first lesson is always on pawns and ends with "Pawn Battle" (handout / blog), where the first player to reach the other side of the board to make a Queen wins.  I learned the basic game from Lev Alburt's Comprehensive Chess Course (where he says it is an old Russian teaching game), but I modified it so that if either player has no moves it is stalemate, which is a great way to teach kids the stalemate concept.  I also use the game to teach them the power of zugzwang and all sorts of pawn theory (from pawn majorities to backward pawns), as you can see described in my handout.  The big advantage of starting with pawns, if you do it right, is they can learn some tough rules like en passant and stalemate and concepts like zugzwang and passed pawns right from the get-go.  I find it especially useful for teaching en passant in a way that sticks with them.

Our first lesson was on Friday, when I saw one of the games reach the position in the diagram at the top of the page after 1.d4 d6 2.d5 e6 3.e4 c5(?).  The player of the White pieces quickly showed off his new knowledge of en passant by capturing with 4.dxc6(?) -- and I was glad to see someone had fully understood en passant on day one!  But I noticed something else and later used the game to illustrate the power of the "breakthrough sacrifice."  I think this might be the quickest way you can win at Pawn Battle, with the powerhouse move 4.e5! (not something I'd expect a student to find on day one).  No matter what Black does, White is going to get a pawn to the queening square at d8 and win the game, e.g.: 4.e5! dxe5 5.d6 etc. or 4...exd5 5.exd6 etc.  It made for a nice lesson -- including a reminder about how en passant works and how you are not required to capture (like in checkers).

Later today, in our second meeting, I will follow up pawn battle with a game I call "Anteater" (download PDF), which teaches the relative value of the pieces and the concept of time vs. material, and another I call "Magnetic Sumo Kings" (download PDF), which teaches the opposition.  By Tuesday or Wednesday, though, I expect these older kids will lose patience with focusing on one piece at a time, so I will have to introduce the other pieces, teach them about checkmate, and then just let them play "real chess" -- following up by looking at a master game each day with them.  They will play and I will have them record their games so we can look at them too.  All along the way, I will also use their games to teach them lessons, trying to address their "patterns of error."  I have written about my first year of teaching like this on my blog:
Those looking to employ some of these techniques to teach chess to their own children might check out the book Chess Is Child's Play: Teaching Techniques that Work, which also uses an "active learning" approach with similar mini-games.  This would be the ideal book for a parent relatively new to chess who wants to get his or her child interested in playing.  It would make a good guide for those rainy summer days, which are ideal for getting young kids started with chess.

You can also find free online lesson plans, including Teaching Chess the Easy and Fun Way with Mini-Games, which looks especially appropriate for early elementary kids and features some creative mini-games that are new to me.  

Technology has definitely sped up the process by which kids can learn the game and practice getting better at it, and computer chess instruction has put the mini-games approach to good use.  Over the past eight years, my own children have tried out practically every chess instruction software I could find -- beginning with ChessBase's Fritz & Chesster (all three volumes, now combined), which does the best job of using the mini-game concept to help kids master the pieces and basic tactics.  Other programs my kids tried include Lego Chess (probably discontinued -- and a bit repetitive), Dinosaur Chess (excellent and the one my daughter liked best), and Majestic Chess (which my son liked best since it creates a mysterious medieval atmosphere). When the kids were using a DS (which they have since abandoned), I picked up Learn Chess for that, which is very good and has a story featuring ghosts and pirates.  I think Fritz and Chesster made it to DS eventually, but we never tried it and I cannot find a good link (maybe it was discontinued).  All of the programs use the mini-games technique to some extent to give kids practice in using the pieces and learning chess concepts.

Though modern technology has made it more accessible, the mini-game concept is really the classic way of teaching the game, beginning with "The Knight's Tour" puzzle, which is sort of the Rubik's Cube of chess.  In the 19th Century, masters used to give exhibitions that would include a demonstration of the Knight's Tour from whatever square the audience named.  It is an excellent exercise for young people to practice, and some used to play it with 64 pennies by the side of the board, laying a penny on each square that has already been traversed.  You could practice by giving yourself 80 pennies and work to reduce the number of pennies you "spend" each time.  However, this classic puzzle works most efficiently online and I found a couple fun versions:
  • Renegade Knight -- the most fun version of the puzzle that I came across.  
  • Free Chess Game - Chess Knight -- this version allows you to cross over the same squares with the goal of reducing the number of turns it takes you to cover every square.
In searching for those Knight's Tour games, I also stumbled upon the Troyis Online Puzzle Game, which also looks like a fun resource for helping kids get better at using the Knight.
There are a tremendous number of great online tools for learning chess, and a kid who is looking for some amusement might be directed to videos on YouTube,,, and many other sites -- and to playing over master games at  The kids I am teaching now, though, prefer the social aspects of the game and are not likely to become serious students or spend time looking at chess online (though many of my former students definitely play online).  I think the game still has a lot to teach even those who try it out casually.  And you never know: once they learn, and know how to read chess notation, they might just end up reading a chess book some day.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Makagonov King's Indian with h3

The Classical King's Indian with h3  has gained a wide following, mostly because of its flexibility. It is commonly called the Makagonov System (E71) when White plays 5.h3 and the Krasenkow System when White plays 5.Nf3 followed by 6.h3 (though that was actually Vladimir Makagonov's preferred move order!) -- but I have not made a distinction between the two here as transpositions are common.    It is worth noting that when Martin Breutigam produced his ChessBase CD in 2002, he complained about having a paucity of source material to draw upon.  Times have certainly changed, for it seems that the line is now completely mainstream and much has been written about it.

I think the lines with h3 for White are very worth exploring, with a lot of room for creativity.  In some ways, h3 seems like a "high class waiting move," with White waiting for Black to commit himself before deciding on his plan.  I am most interested in the line from the Black perspective, where I tend to favor an early Na6, which is Black's most flexible rejoinder.  An interesting option against the 5.h3 move order, though, is a Byrne approach with a6, c6, and b5, as seen in the game Suba - Golubev, Predeal 1997, though this idea is not much discussed in the literature.  

You can find many videos with the line on YouTube, most from kingscrusher (as Black) and ChessExplained (typically as White).  Below I offer only a sample of their countless videos with the line, along with those of other players.  Game collections can be found at, 365Chess, Chess.comRed Hot Pawn, and Chess Age.   Selective game collections by DHW and MadBishop are also useful.  

The following materials are listed in reverse chronological order.  As always, I welcome additions and suggestions from readers.

Modernized: The King's Indian by Dejan Bojkov, Metropolitan Chess Publishing (2014): 237-271. See my complete review of this book in an earlier post.  Chapter 5 focuses on what Bojkov calls the "Bagirov Line," with 5.Nf3 and 6.h3, which others call the Krasenkow.  Bojkov recommends lines with Na6 followed by e5.  Sample games include Parligras - Fressinet, Plovdiv 2012; Avrukh - Milov, Gibraltar 2009; and Milanovic - Bojkov, Kraljevo 2011.

"Full Board War!" by David Vigorito, (Feb. 14, 2014). An 18-minute video featuring P. Svidler vs. H. Nakamuraplaying the King's Indian: Makagonov System (E71). By subscription only.

Winning with the King's Indian by GM Simon Williams, OnlineChessLessons (2014).
The video is previewed below -- part of the "crash test chess" series.  Features the Krasenkow variation in the game Korchnoi - Williams 2009, which opened with 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. h3 e5 7. d5 a5 8. Bg5 h6 9. Be3 Na6.

King's Indian h3+Bg5 Averbakh Variant-TWIC 958 by Michael Yip, d4ChessNews (2013).  Analyzes the game Kozul - Posedaru, Karpos Open - Skopje 2013 with a nice White victory.

A Strategic Chess Opening Repertoire for White by John Watson, Gambit (2012): 148-177. 

"Aggressive Queen Pawn Games, Part 1" by IM Bill Paschall, (August 27, 2012).  A 27-minute video that discusses the game Alexander Beliavsky vs. Aleksa Strikovich and the King's Indian Defense: Makagonov Variation (E71).  By subscription only.

Dejan Bojkov, A Modern Way to Play the King's Indian ChessBase DVD (2011).  A really excellent video, which does not stop at covering Na6 against the Classical but covers this modern, flexible approach against most lines that White can throw at you, from the Four Pawn Attack to h3 lines.  Among the games discussed are Avrukh - Milov, Gibraltar 2009.

"King's Indian Defence E90, Part 3," by Mikhail Krasenkow, ChessBase Magazine 134 (2009).  Examines the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.h3 e5 7.d5 a5.

"King's Indian Defence E90, Part 2," by Mikhail Krasenkow, ChessBase Magazine 133 (2009).  Examines the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.h3 e5 7.d5.

"King's Indian Defence E90, Part 1," by Mikhail Krasenkow, ChessBase Magazine 132 (2009).  Introduces the Krasenkow Variation, with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.h3.

"Magnus Madness; Part II; Avoiding Main Lines in China" by David Vigorito, (Oct. 5, 2009).  A 25-minute video presentation on Magnus Carlsen vs. Veselin Topalov (2009)  featuring the King's Indian Defense: Normal Variation, Rare Defenses (E90).

The King's Indian: A Complete Black Repertoire by Victor Bologan Chess Stars (2009).  This is a solid opening repertoire book.  Available online?  Sample games mentioned in the analysis include Bareev - Gelfand, Linares 1994; Guigonis - Degraeve, Montpellier 1997; Dinstuhl - Sieglen, Bad Godesberg 1991; Hansen - Kasparov, Svendborg 1990; Akopian - Hernandez, Linares 1996; Karpov - Golubev, Odessa 2008; Karpov - Kasimdzhanov, Spain 2007; Markus - Kotronias, Vrnjacka Banja 2006; Lutsko - Golubev, Odessa 2008; Gyimesi - Ivanov, Andorra 2001; Jansen - Reinderman, Hilversum 2008; Beliavsky - Kozul, Portoroz 1997Kasparov - Kramnik, Las Palmas 1996; Andreikin - Cabezas, Kallithea 2008; San Segundo - Shirov, Madrid 1997 and others.

Beat the KID: Three Lines against the King's Indian by Jan Markos, Quality Chess (2009).
Excerpt at the Quality Chess site.  Reviewed by Carsten Hansen, Calls the line with 5.Nf3 and 6.h3 the Krasenkow System.  Some games collected at  

"Ideas in the King's Indian for Black, Lines with 5.h3" by IM David Vigorito, (July 16, 2007).  A 22-minute video featuring the Advanced King's Indian (E71).  By subscription only.

Beating the Fianchetto Defences by Efstratios Grivas, Gambit (2006): 139-188.  Reviewed by Carsten Hansen, and see publishers website for info and sample.  Recommends the Krasenkow line with 5.Nf3 and 6.h3.

King's Indian Battle Plans by Andrew Martin, Thinker's Press (2004): 217-229.  A very useful book, which offers a wide range of ideas for Black against each White system.  It features a whole chapter devoted to the Makagonov System, with ten sample games, including Krasenkow - Sutovsky, Pamplona 1998; Barsov - Sutovsky, York 1999; Krasenkow - Smirin, Belgrade 1999; Antic - Velimirovic, Subotica 2000; Gelfand - Gdanski, Belgrade 1999; Babula - Kiik, Istanbul 2000; Epishin - Bischoff, Bundesliga 2002; Barsov - Gallagher, Calcutta 2001; Divljan - Sahovic, Belgrade 2001; and Krasenkow - Antoniewski, Glogow POL 2001.

Offbeat King's Indian by Krzysztoff Panczyk and Jacek Ilczuk, Everyman (2004): 70-102. Focuses on the Makogonov System, where White plays 5.h3 and delays deployment of the Ng1, which typically develops by Nge2. The authors cover a wide range of approaches for Black, and in doing so presents a good overview of the Makagonov System for White as well in some fairly balanced coverage.  Games include Nikolaidis - Kotronias, Peristeri 1996; Akopian - Temirbaev, Uzbgorod 1988; Knaak - Piket, Hamburg 1991; Mikhaevski - Timoschenko, Paris 2000; Rogozenko - Ardeleanu, Brasov 1998; Suba - Nunn, Dubai 1986; Yermolinsky - Barcenilla, Chicago 2000; Chernin - Cebalo, Bled 1999; Gyimesi - Ilia Botvinnik, Tel Aviv 2001; Suba - Motylev, Eforie Nord 2000; Psakhis - Hrbolka, Pardubice 2002; Yermolinsky - Radjabov, Hyderabad 2002; Ivanchuk - Kasparov, Novgorod 1994; Bazhin - Fedorov, Kstovo 1994; and Kasparov - Kramnik, Las Palmas 1996.

King's Indian with h3 CD by Martin Breutigam, ChessBase (2002).
Reviewed by John Watson, Seagaard, and Carsten Hansen and generally well received.  More from the White perspective and a little dated now, especially because the CD seems to have encouraged a lot more games with the line.

"Replete with Ideas: King's Indian Romanian Variation 5.h3" by Leon Pliester, New in Chess Yearbook 60 (2001).

"KI Romanian Variation 5.h3" by Alexander Beliavsky, New in Chess Yearbook 43 (1997) .

The Unconventional King's Indian by John Watson, Hypermodern Press (1997): 47-90.  This book is available as a reprint from Hardinge Simpole.  The chapter on h3 systems was quite groundbreaking, and clearly Watson considered lines with h3 among the most complex and interesting in the King's Indian due to their flexibility for both players.  Watson outlines the many options and mentions many games, including Greenshpun - Yurtaev 1988;  Simic - Cvitan, Yugoslavia 1981; Sokolov - van Wely, Groningen 1994Knaak - Piket, Hamburg 1991; Minev - Watson, Las Vegas 1984; Paunovic - Kupreichik, Yugoslavia 1992; Soln - Shaked, Biel 1995; Averbach - Bondarevsky, USSR 1951Hansen - Kasparov, Svendborg 1990; and Ibragimov - Kruppa, USSR 1991 among many others in this very detailed and rich chapter.

Beating the Anti-King's Indians by Joe Gallagher, ICE / Batsford (1996): 31-52.  Recommends a system build around an early Na6 followed by e5, with some exceptions.  Main annotated games include Paunovic - Kupreichik, Yugoslavia 1992; Chernin - Polgar, New Delhi 1990; Raetsky - Gallagher, Hastings 1992-1993; and Alexandrov - Zakharevich, St. Petersburg 1994.

"Romanian Variation 5.h3" by Igor Glek, New in Chess Yearbook 36 (1995).

"KI Romanian Variation 5.h3" by Mihail Marin, New in Chess Yearbook 34 (1994).

Kasparov on the King's Indian by Gary Kasparov with Raymond Keene, Owl / Henry Holt / Batsford (1993): 72-78.  Gives many of Kasparov's games vs. this system, up until 1992, but focuses on the games Kavalek - Kasparov, Bugojno 1982 (annotated by Kavalek in 2005 and 2013) and Hansen - Kasparov, Svendborg 1990.

The King's Indian for the Attacking Player by Graham Burgess, Owl / Henry Holt / Batsford (1993): 21-30.  This is a classic repertoire book, which was quite cutting edge at the time for recommending lines with Na6.  The recommendations against h3 are no exception.  Sample games include Knaak - Piket, Hamburg 1991; Bronstein - Nijboer, Wijk aan Zee 1992; and Hansen - Kasparov, Svendborg 1990.

As always, I welcome additions and corrections from readers.

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Monday, July 07, 2014


"If you want new ideas, read old books..." -- Ivan Pavlov

I have been unconsciously devoted to cryptochessanalysis for many years.  Only recently did I recognize the depths of my delusion.  Like cryptanalysis, the goal of cryptochessanalysis is to crack a code to reveal hidden knowledge -- only instead of revealing secret information, it is directed specifically at understanding the secrets of chess openings.  Crytochessanalysis often begins by trying to decipher the hidden intentions and ideas of GMs and other strong players, but its true motive is more quixotic: to crack the code of chess itself by examining hints from those who have most deeply plumbed its mysteries -- those imagined to be, like the Priory of Sion, the keepers of the Grail.  I admit it is a crazy notion, at least once you carefully examine it, knowing full well that even GMs can fumble their way through theory, or construct elaborate magic acts to perform at the board which are revealed as hollow once you know the trick.  But I would not be surprised if there were others like me who have gotten caught up in a similar quest for truth in the opening.  

Cryptochessanalysis is unconsciously motivated by a fancifully Gothic story about chess, one that imagines our immortal game to be like The Da Vinci Code, where "the truth" about a particular opening line might be discovered through the close observation and study of games by its high priests.  Or, in true Gothic fashion, "the truth" is uncovered by studying games or analysis unearthed from the crypt of forgotten chess ideas, which sometimes come back to life like the Mummy released from its tomb.

Torre - Santasiere, Dimock Theme 1924
White to play after 11...O-O
I think it was my study of the Urusov Gambit that started me down the cryptochessanalytic path.   Tracking down the games of the Dimock Theme Tournament of 1924 in old newspapers, I felt like I was on the trail of true knowledge about the opening.  For example, when I first played over the game Torre-Santasiere (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 9, 1924), with its exciting Exchange sac 12.Rxe7, I knew this was a key tactic in the position. Torre's exact move order did not quite hold up to silicon-supported scrutiny, but he was definitely onto something.  One possible improvement on the line begins with 12.Qh4!? to be followed by Rxe7. Later, correspondence player Max Burkett tried 12.h4!? -- one idea being 12...h6?! 13.Rxe7! hxg5?! 14.hxg5!! with a winning attack for White.  I was amused when Tim Harding, in reviewing my analysis, wondered why Gabriel Velasco had overlooked this fascinating game in his book on Torre.  But the game had been completely forgotten until I dug it up.  And it was this game from the crypt, previously unknown to modern chess analysts, that pointed the way for future exploration.

Similar revelations came from an old piece of analysis by Al Horowitz, which led to my article on The Modern Horowitz Variation of the Max Lange Attack (blog/games/pgn).

This piece attracted significant attention, getting mentioned in Kaissiber #22 and in Dangerous Weapons 1.e4 e5.  But all I did was use Fritz to take a close look at an old article, and provide the world with a PGN file so they could carry the analysis further themselves.  Other adventures spelunking through the crypt of chess history have led me to explore The Panther and The Big Clamp.  In every case, it was my unconscious belief that new ideas were to be found in old books and old games that motivated my inquiries.

Not all cryptochessanalysis seeks its ideas in the past.  Sometimes my explorations begin with a puzzling game by a strong player, whom I suspect has done significant analysis before revealing his novel idea.  Back in 2006, I stumbled upon a fascinating game in the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann that began 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bg5 Qb6 6.Bd3! Bxd3 7.Qxd3 Qxb2 8.e6!!

Position after 8.e6!!
I knew instantly that I had found my latest subject for cryptochessanalysis. After some study, I finally wrote about the game in early 2007 in an article titled The Caveman Caro-Kann: Advance Variation with 4.h4 (blog/game/pgn). I played and analyzed the line for several years after that, collecting every published game with it.  There were clearly other cryptochessanalysts who had been drawn to the idea.  Eventually I put together all of my analysis in The Complete Caveman Caro-Kann (blog/game/pgn).  Even as I published that article, however, I wondered if I had not brought an end to the line in doing so.  Sometimes it is the complete mystery of an opening that makes it most interesting for new explorers.

One of my most elaborate adventures in cryptochessanalysis was in writing about what I called the "Guseinov Gambit," following the games of Gad Guseinov in two articles: Guseinov's Anti-Paulsen (blog/game/pgn) and Guseinov's Gambit Refuted? (blog/game/pgn).  These explorations were inspired by Guseinov's discussion of his ideas in an interview with Misha Savinov at ChessCafe.  After many hours of deep analysis, it was I who most doubted the line in the end, especially after I tracked down GM Guseinov's games on ICC (played as "GGuseinov") and found that he did not have a good answer to opponents playing the remedy suggested by Richard Palliser in Fighting the Anti-Sicilians (Everyman 2007).  The veil had begun to slip.  However, even though I came to a rather negative conclusion in the second article, I continued to play the line with great success and have yet to have an opponent play the critical line revealed by my analysis. 

If I ever do, I have something prepared....

Other cryptochessanalytic explorations inspired by mysterious novelties led to The Left Hook Grand Prix and The Werewolf (blog/game/pgn), both of which began with mere curiosity as to why strong players were playing strange moves.  It often turns out that these lines do not completely hold water -- there is always a leak somewhere.  But that does not mean they cannot lead to interesting chess!

In 2008, I analyzed the game Weeramantry--Bisguier, US Amateur Team 2008, which showed me that it was possible to play a fianchetto system in the open games. After all, if Bisguier could get away with it against strong opposition, then I certainly could against weaker players. This led to articles on A Black Fianchetto System in the Open Games, Part I and Part II.  It remains an unfinished project.  But now I know that the most interesting ciphers are the ones we have not solved.