Saturday, January 31, 2009

Don't Touch The h-Pawn

Have you ever played a game where you know you're just basically asking for trouble?

Take a look at this position. I admit this position was very easy to see. I am White.

Black in attempting to drive my Queen away made things worse with this provocative move.

1... h6?

As White, how would you continue? Of course, I played

2. Rxf6

Now after

2.... Qxf6 (the only move)
3. Qxh5 Re6? (But Black's position is in dire straits already)
4. Rf2

Now with a Rook, Queen and Knight targetting the weak f7 pawn, Black's position collapses in a heap.

4.... Qg5?? (Black was close to being out of time now and panicked)
5. Qxf7+ and the Black Rook on e6 drops.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Evaluation Of Position

Black had just played 1... Qxc3.

I arrived at this position as White. Things are quite hairy on the board.

The questions to ask are:

1. How would you evaluate this position?

2. What are Black's general plans?

3. What should White's general plans be?

4. What should White play?

Note that in this position here, there is no right nor wrong answer.

I do not have a definite answer here.

All I do know is this:

1. White is definitely going to lose the d4-pawn as it cannot be defended.

A couple of things went through my mind.

2. In the end, I thought for a while and played 2. Qb1 (This was objectively not the best move).

My idea was to play Rc1 on the next move (utilising the pin on the King) but after 2... Qxd4. The position was still tedious and I still had a bit of a long fight ahead of me.

FEN position listed below.
[ 2kr3r/R5pp/1p6/1P3p2/3Pp3/2q2P1P/6P1/3Q1R1K w - - 0 28 ]

What would you do?

Find out what would you play then run this through Fritz/Rybka/your fav chess engine.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Forced Recaptures

This game was played a couple of days ago and I admit it's not easy to see the idea behind it.

I am White.

I am down a whole Rook for 2 connected passed pawns on the g-file and h-file and now Black had just played 1.... Nxf2 forking my Rook and Bishop.

It's definitely not easy to spot this but I had actually planned it to tempt the Knight to play Nxf2 (a juicy fork is always tempting especially when you're a piece ahead).

And this time Black fell into a very nasty trap I laid for him.

Can you see White's response?

If you want to puzzle this over before looking at the answer (with diagram), please do stop here now.

White to play and win.

------------- Answer ------------

Have you seen my idea? If you haven't, don't worry. Ready?

The idea is to play

2. Bg2!!

If the Knight does not capture the Rook nor block the h-pawn (I'll give the continuation after 2.... Rh8 later) then

3. h8=Q Rxh8
4. Rxh8+ followed by
5. g8=Q gives me a new Queen

So Black played

2... Nxh1

And now comes the shocker

3. Bxb7! (see 2nd diagram)

and now it's game over.

If 3... Kxb7
4. g7 and one of my connected pawns will be traded for the Rook and the other pawn will Queen easily.

If 3... Rh8
4. Bxh1 with Be4 to follow and then g7 and there's no stopping any of the pawns to queen and the Rook will still be lost in the process.

Oh if 2.... Rh8 then I would win transpose into the lines mentioned above after 3. Bxb7 and either .... Nxh1 4. Bxh1 or ... Kxb7 4. g7

Black chose the continuation after 3... Rh8 and resigned a few moves later.

This brings to mind an important rule: You are not always forced to recapture a piece that has just been captured. Always be on the lookout for tactics and combinations.

PS: I'll be away on holiday for the next couple of weeks, so till then, cheerios, everyone and take care.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Calculating Forcing Moves

GM Larry Christiansen (of ICC's Attack With LarryC column) is a renowned fierce attacker.

Here's what he once said about tactics and combinations.

He quotes,"One extremely important point I wish to emphasize is to always look at forcing moves.... As a player, I tended to calculate fairly deeply but I would often abandon a tactical possibility just when it seemed to lose its feel."

What Larry Christiansen means is that when you're about to embark on a dangerous combination, you should always try to calculate it to its very end.

Here's a game I played recently on FICS.

White in order to get over the misfortune, tried to castle his king into safety with the move 13. O-O and of course, this meant that this move was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.

It's Black to play.

a. Can you calculate how to take advantage of this situation?
b. How far did you calculate? Where did you stop?
c. What are White's responses to your possible moves?

In this case here, I calculated the above to its natural conclusion. So if you feel like giving this a go, Please stop reading now if you want to work this out for yourself.

----------- Answer below ---------------

I'm sure most of you would have found the immediate move
13.... Nxe3
14. fxe3 Qxe3+

Now here's the trick. What are White's responses?

A quick calculation reveals that
15. Kh1 loses a piece after
15.... Qxe2
16. Qxe2 Bxe2 so this line can be quickly discarded by White since Black will win.

But are there any possible responses?

15. Rf2 was the only other option.

Okay, the Rook defends e2 and blocks the check. The phrase "blocks the check" should now stir something in your head.

How do you make use of this pin?

15... Bc5! is the killer move. The rook is only defended once by the King so putting additional pressure on the pin makes sense.

Can White defend it? The only move left is:

16. Qe1 (White Queen has to defend the d2 Knight, e2 Knight and f2 Rook) (See 2nd diagram on right)

If you've calculated this far, can you now apply the correct combination?

16.... Bxe2 and now it's over. The rest of the game as follows and this is what happened:
17. c4 (White is paralyzsed as any other moves does not affect the outcome) Qxf2+
18. Qxf2 Bxf2+
19. Kxf2 Bh5 winning with a whole Rook up
White resigns

Surprising, all these moves are forced. And if you found this line (like I did), it's kind of amazing that you had actually calculated some 12 ply moves in all.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Australian Open 2009 Photos

Here are a few photos of the Australian Open that I took on Thursday. I apologise for some of the bad shots because they had to be taken without using the flash and although the lighting in the playing hall was good, it was not sufficient for my small little camera to take photographs.

I am most impressed by the professionalism and the way the competition has been organised.

Everything was near flawless and was running extremely smoothly. Live games were constantly put up on the website with the gamescores collected (including those in the U1600 event) and entered manually into the computer and uploaded everyday to the website (The official website for the Australian Open is here).

No Monrois are in use here, people. When you consider that nearly 1,100 games have been uploaded manually so far since the start of the tournament a week ago, this is no easy task. Making sure that the game scores were correct, checking and counter-checking the results, ensuring the next game schedule have been printed and put up promptly is a monumental task.

They also had to check that the DGT boards for the top 3 boards were functional before the start of each round so that it can be viewed live on the web as well. The tables for the games were also spaciously arranged with a good amount of walking space. They were also thoughtful enough to have a cordon barrier put up to separate the U1600 section and the Australian Open.

Players do not have to look far for refreshments as well.

There is also a small back room for players to conduct post-mortem analysis, away from the playing hall without posing any disturbance to the players. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into organising this tournament.

The organising committee comprising Fred Schuetz, Norman Greenwood, Martin van Elmpt and Jonathan Adams have no doubt worked tirelessly and I've nothing but high praises for the way this tournament has been run and I applaud them for their hard work without which this tournament would not have been such a success.

Everything has so far run like clockwork. I cannot imagine the amount of hard work, stress that they had to undergo to organise a national tournament like this. 3 weeks ago, the tournament were in the red to the tune of some $10,000 (gulp!) and they must have a lot of sleepless nights over this but thankfully, as more players took part, I'm happy to learn that they have managed to make the tournament pay for itself and a bit more.

Well done!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Scandal In Australian Open (U1600) Event

A scandal has rocked the Australian Open event.

In the U1600 competition (called the Norths Chess Club Centenary Year Under 1600 Tournament - which is running concurrently in the same venue as the Australian Open Championships at Manly-Warringah Leagues club), a player was found to have cheated and was expelled today.

The 14 year old player was caught red handed with a hand held computer in the toilet cubicle.

Suspicions were first aroused when he was seen visiting the toilet no less than 6 times in 20 moves.

The Arbiter was later notified and he was subsequently "tailed" by the Deputy Arbiter the next time he went to the bathroom. It was moments later when he was then caught red-handed with the hand-held computer (Chess Master) . The Arbiter subsequently expelled him from the tournament.

The player appealed against the severity of the punishment but the Appeals Committee rejected his appeal and supported the expulsion with a 3-0 vote.

I cannot help but feel very disappointed with this whole situation.

Chess after all, is only a game. It is not a life and death matter. As he is still very young, I sincerely hope he takes stock of this and learns from this. I understand sometimes the pressure to win can be overwhelming but unfortunately that was the wrong way to go about it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Going Through Games

The idea that I'm now in the year 2009 has not yet hit me.

Today, I found out about something, rather than sitting in the study where the desktop computer is, I setup my laptop on the dining table instead and started to key in moves (and feeding in the book annotations) from a master game. I found that a quiet time is good for a bit of self-study, even if it only lasted for something like 15 minutes. Every little bit helps I guess.

I didn't realise just how hard this effort turns out to be, constantly having to translate moves and variations from book to computer. At this rate, I figure that I'll probably take about 1 week just to go through 1 game and at this rate, it'll take me over a year to go through just one book.

I noticed my memory and concentration is getting a bit poor of late. The coupling of work (I work till 7pm these days) and household chores only seem to make my concentration worse. Nevertheless, I hope to go back to chess and relearn everything again. *sigh*.

I'm particularly interested in how not to just make moves but how to make good moves. Take for example the following position (see image on right) in this game.

In this position, it is White to play (I was White).

How would you evaluate this position? And what should be White's next move and what kind of plans should White develop?

Surprisingly, I played a move which 6 months ago I would not even consider and I got quite a bit of shock that the computer too thought it to be the strongest move. In fact, this was the critical moment of the game.

Once you've calculated it out, you can highlight between the brackets to see what I played.

[The strongest move was 1. a4! Breaking Black's position. Now Black is in a terrible mess. The beauty of White's position is that all of its pieces are on very good squares. I shan't bore you with the rest of the game but suffice it to say, Black didn't last very long. One continuation was 1... b4 2. Qd3 Kb7 3. cxb4 Nxb4 4. Rab1 and Black is in terrible danger and close to collapsing. Taking with 1.... bxa4 2. Rxa4 and White simply doubles up on the a-file and Black's King is in terrible mortal danger.]

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!!

(photo taken from

Happy New Year, everyone!