Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gelfand-Markowski, Polanica Zdroj 1998

As I mentioned before, I wanted to present some memorable and/or instructive positions from Joe Gallagher's excellent Play the King's Indian. This time, no directive clues...

I'll post the continuation in a few days.

White to play:

ADDED 1/29/09 - Now that there are comments I recommend you decide on your move before you read them.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Off-hand Games

In target rifle shooting "off-hand" shooting refers to what is more formally known as the standing position. In chess, "off-hand" games are fun games, unrated and usually without a clock. I suppose "skittles" are the same, unless they're candy.

Last Monday at the Juneau Chess Club there were just two of us, Tom and me. Tom is a guy I played a few tournament games against 15-18 years ago, and though I won them all he was a pretty tough opponent, rated in the 1400-1500 range.

On this night we played off-hand games, as he didn't want to use a clock, and I decided after the first game to record them in case any interesting positions arose. Tom wasn't having a good night, and I won most of the games in short order. The following was no exception, but something about this short game appealed to me, so here it is. I am White:

1. g3 e5 2. d3 d6 3. Bg7 c6 4. e4 (this position has actually been reached by masters; Black played 4. ... f5) Na3 5. Ne2 f5

6. 0-0 g5? (Black should know better) 7. Nec3 (moving the same piece twice in the opening!) Bh6 8. Qh5+ Kf8 9. exf5 Bxf5 10. Ne4 Bxe4 11. Bxe4 d5 12. f4!

Qd6 13. fxe5+ 1-0

Obviously Black made some blunders, but for me there was a certain charm to this brief game. I've rarely played without a clock in the last 25 years, and this little game refreshed my appreciation of the "off-hand" game that was the staple of Philidor, LaBourdonnais and Morphy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Nice Tactic (Redux)

At the bottom of the last post, I gave a position and asked if anyone could find the "killah" for Black, and nobody, but nobody rose to the bait...since I liked it so much, here it is again. Come on people, you know you love this stuff:

Black to play:

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What is a "Better" Position?

(UPDATED 01/05/09 with correction and additional material)

I've written previously about Jonathon Rowson's book Chess for Zebras, and one of the things that I recall him stating there is something like, "All positions are either won for White, won for Black or drawn." While this may seem like the merest tautology, his point is that, objectively, there is really no such thing in a chess game as being "better."

And yet, and yet...all of us feel like we're better, or worse, or have an "edge," or a "pull," etc. all the time. This is because we're human beings, we're never fully objective about our positions, and as Rowson also notes and explores, our feelings and emotions affect our decisions continuously.

Here's a position that I think illustrates what being "better" is all about, from Joe Gallagher's excellent book Play the King's Indian:

A superficial look might lead one to think that White has the advantage because of Black's weak pawns, but as Gallagher writes: "The white knights are passive and it is much easier for Black to improve his position than White. For example, he can move his queen to e7 or e6, double rooks on the f-file, advance his h-pawn, activate his bishop on g7 and bring his knight on a6 to the tasty outposts in the centre and on the kingside. White, meanwhile, has no easy plan."

Seven moves later, after 24. Rd7, (NOTE: 01/05/08 - diagram fixed):

Gallagher missed 24. ...Re8!, playing instead Bxc5+? when he says that 25. Nbxc5! Nxc5 26. b3 Qc1+ 27. Rd1 Qc2 28. Rf1! "leads to a roughly level game." But after 25. Naxc5? he went on to win (0-1, 36).

(In the comments, tanc says 25. Naxc5 Nxc5 If 26. Nxc5 Qxc5+. If not Black threatens to knock out the central pawn with 27.... Nxe4 or Qxe4. Position to me looks very unclear and appears equal. The problem is, I originally had the diagram wrong [Black K at h8. Sorry, tanc!]). In the real game position, Black had 26. ...Rf8! ("the point"):

with a won game (27. Qd1 Qxc5+ 28. Kh1 Qc2!).

One more line worth looking at, not easy for us class players to see all the way through, is the one Gallagher gives after his suggestion 24. Re8! in the second diagram above: 25. Qg4 Qxa4 26. Qe6+ Kf8 27. Qxe5...

Now, find the killah for Black!

Play the King's Indian is one of the few chess books I have on my shelf right now; the rest are in storage until May. I will be posting some other intriguing positions from it as time permits.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Updates, Changes and "Stuff"

And the New Year rang in--I was the only member of the family awake. I was playing a game on FICS! So I rang it in right, with explosions going off outside and me kicking somebody's butt...well, that's the way I remember it.

I've finally taken the time to update the blogroll a bit, added some fine blogs like Chess Skills, Chesstiger and Rolling Pawns. A few good men, like Chess Tyro and my old friend and foe Eric Shoemaker (of the Reno Chess Club) are apparently off the air for good, blogs deleted, so their links are gone, too. A few moved off the rolls of "On Hiatus" since they posted something. Regular maintenance and occasionally refurbishing like this is necessary if a blog is to avoid becoming irrelevant.

Someone who never was and never will be irrelevant is chessloser, who after splitting with the lovely Mrs. chessloser wandered south through Mexico until he ended up in Guatemala, then announced his resignation from blogging.

How big a force is/was chessloser? Some scheisskopf posted a fake death rumor under the handle "Mrs Chessloser." A man as substantive as the Reassembler wished that he would return. And now it's time for me to admit that, proud as I am of this blog and the number of visitors I have had, of the 41,206 showing right this minute on my Sitemeter I estimate that approximately 12,000 of them only came because I once linked to chessloser's Wordpress avatar, which happens to be the hottest chess photo of all time. He bestrode the chess blogging world like a Colossus. He will be missed.

ADDED: Another blog that really deserves your attention, full of good insights, is The Endgame Tactician (by Likesforests). I should have added it to the sidebar ages ago.

One of chessloser's commentors turned out to be one of the proprietors of Endgame, the Original Chess Apparel, which I just visited for the first time and enjoyed browsing. Why do they do it?:

Things are not easy for a chess player. We live in a time when activities such as bowling and competitive eating are regarded as more prestigious sporting events than chess. The majority of our top players cannot earn a living from the sport they have dedicated their lives to. Yet these players continue to push forward, fueled by their passion for the game. They stand in opposition to a society that celebrates stupidity and persecutes intellectualism.

Endgame believes that intellectual passions, like chess, are at the very core of being human. Passion of the body is nothing without passion of the mind. It is our body that engages in the act, but it is our mind that provides us with the lasting joy of it.

Well said! Let us not forget, though, that the excellent Blunderprone also has a line of chess clothing worthy of your consideration:

I'll tell you what Morphy would do--he would greet you in the most courtly and gentlemanly manner, kick your ass over the board, then bid you good day in the most courtly and gentlemanly manner.

If you insist on some kind of New Year's Resolution, ask yourself "What would Morphy do?" more often. Then do it.