Sunday, 29 September 2019

056. Computer Says Yes

Black: K.J. Bowyer - C&DCCC Ward-Higgs Trophy, 2000

Another main line Ruy Lopez, another sideline defence by Black, this time 10...Qd7!? in the Zaitsev Variation.

Searching MegaBase shows that Averbakh played this first (in 1962) and won, and Geller later won twice, albeit all against weaker opposition. More recently, GM Igor Kovalenko has tried it a couple of times, both winning and losing.

Objectively, it probably isn't very good. I say that because, facing this line as White, I just played natural, obvious moves and won very smoothly indeed. For instance: 15 d5, 17 a4, 19 Bf4, 20 e5, 26 Nc6, 27 a5, etc. I'm sure Ken saw all these coming and yet was unable to do anything about them.

Which is perhaps the definition of a dubious opening. You play something "unusual", your opponent replies with natural, obvious moves, and you lose without ever having any chances at all. All very depressing.

But what does Stockfish have to say about it?

Computer says yes.

And that's a total yes. Stockfish would have played every single one of my moves. It did stall for a moment over two or three but quickly came round. In other words, the engine says it was a perfect game.

Well, that's really quite gratifying :)

Monday, 26 August 2019

055. Computer Says No

White: M. Poppe - 1st North Sea Team Tournament, 1998

Searching my games by ECO code, looking for one that hasn't featured here before, brought up (along with numerous others) three examples of C96. This code covers lesser lines of the Closed Ruy Lopez, Chigorin System (9...Na5). All three games continued 10 Bc2 c5 11 d4 Bb7 12 Nbd2 cxd4 13 cxd4 exd4 14 Nxd4 Re8.

Yes, it's a bit loose for Black in that the d6-pawn is left as a weakness, backward and isolated. On the other hand, there's little prospect of being cramped under the Spanish Torture. Black has open lines and active pieces and can look to strike back in the centre with a timely ...d6-d5.

GM Oleg Romanishin (see Game 29) played this way on 24 occasions in 1988-97, for a plus three score. My own score was plus one: two draws and the win below.

It seems I was pleased with the win, since exclamation marks are strewn enthusiastically through my notes: 19...d5 “!”, 20...Bc5 “!”, 21...Nh5 “!”. Okay, I'll just check those with Stockfish now...

Tap, tap, tap.

Computer says no.

And that's no to all of them. In particular, the engine bangs out 21 Ngf5! instantaneously, assessing the position as winning for White; e.g. 21...gxf5 22 Nxf5 Bxf2+ 23 Kh2 Bxe1 24 Qxe1 and Black's extra rook is useless against the white queen coming to the kingside. Yurk. My notes don't mention 21 Ngf5 at all.

To be fair (to me) 23...Rxe2 “!” was good, and the idea of trapping the h6-bishop with 28...g5 “!” was good too. Computer says yes. But as for my earlier moves...

Computer says no :/

Saturday, 10 August 2019

054. Playing On ’Til Checkmate

White: rgs56 - all-play-all tournament,, 2018

There are always a few players who don't or won't resign in utterly lost positions but carry on ’til checkmate. Or, very often, the move just before checkmate. And that's fine.

In correspondence chess, back when we played by post, it was annoying because you were forced to waste money on stamps sending unnecessary moves back and forth. Your opponents might thus consider themselves slightly revenged on having been beaten, albeit at the cost of their own stamps and reputation.

In online server games pecuniary penalties do not apply, so the only effect of playing on is to postpone an inevitable result for as long as possible – a strategy which can, if desired, be further extended by not replying until the very end of the time limit for each move.

Take the game below, for instance. At move 22, Black's extra bishop and knight are better than White's extra rook and pawn. At move 46, I assessed my position as winning. And by move 65 I thought it was time for Black to resign. My opponent opted to play on for another nineteen moves, ’til just before checkmate.

No worries. I got to look at my happily won position for significantly longer, make an aesthetically pleasing bishop retreat to the far corner, with zugzwang, and deliver mate with a pawn. Or nearly.

And sometimes I'll carry on in losing positions myself – if I want the game to resolve in a particular way to my own satisfaction. And I like my opponents to do likewise. I prefer some things to be played out rather than "left in the notes". Sometimes I'll play on ’til mate too – if it's going to be a nice one, say, and will happen soon. Such as in Game 35. Anyone can play any position on if they want to, and for whatever reason.

As it happens, another of my games (against the same opponent) is going the same way. I'm currently a rook up with a passed f-pawn one square from promotion. At one move per week (I usually reply straight away), if the game runs its full course we'll be enjoying it for three months yet. One of us will anyway.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

053. Grandmaster

White: M.L. Nicholson - Koshnitsky Memorial, 2002


I'm not a CC grandmaster. The best I can say – and indeed have already said – is that I once got a GM norm. This came from a joint second place (on 10½/14) in the CCLA's Gary Koshnitsky Memorial.

I also managed to win against a proper, OTB GM (Colin McNab) by copying the moves of another, stronger GM (Evgeny Gleizerov). Colin's improvement, when it came, wasn't much of one and I won relatively easily. But this was a Modern Defence and hence not blog relevant.

Instead, here's another King's Gambit. For some reason I discarded my usual 3...h5!? as Black and opted for 3...g5 “!” and a Kieseritzky, the only one I've ever played in a serious offline game. The subsequent 6 d4 and 9 Be2 was analysed by GM Joe Gallagher in Winning with the King's Gambit (Batsford 1992), with the open-ended conclusion that “practical tests are awaited”.

Practical tests duly came and went and the line was more or less abandoned. In particular, Gallagher's 9...Nc6 10 c3 Bf5 11 d5 Nb8 12 0-0 Qxh4 13 Nd2 g3 14 Nf3 Qh5 15 Qa4+ Nd7 16 Rae1 is well met by 16...Bg7! 17 Bc1 0-0 18 Nf4 Qg4, as in C.Santagata-S.Sabaev, ICCF EM/M/A071 1999, when White is struggling to show the slightest compensation.

My game saw 12 Na3 Bg7 13 Nc4 and then 13...Bxc3+. That was the threat behind ...Bg7, with the idea 14 bxc3? Nxc3 15 Qd2 Nxe2 16 Qxe2 Bxd3 and wins, so I went ahead and played it. My various engines (Stockfish, Houdini, Deep Fritz, Deep Rybka) now all go for 13...h5 “-+”. I guess I was dubious about the significance of Black's extra f7-pawn in the typical Kieseritzky structure.

It didn't matter. It doesn't matter. 6 Bc4 is regarded as the critical continuation nowadays, though Black has a plus score there too.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

052. Senior International Master

Black: Bj. Laursen - 6th European Team Ch., Preliminaries, 1999

The Senior International Master title was, if I remember correctly, created so that CC-IMs would have something else to play for, at a time when there were limited opportunities to make GM norms. I was a beneficiary of this myself. Even if, as with the IM title, I can't remember exactly how I qualified. Searching my databases I see I did have three further decent results in the years 1998-2002.

These were:
For a total score of +12 from 31 games, and without a single loss.

Previous posts already feature the North Sea Tournament (Game 28 and Game 31) and the Olympiad (Game 4), so here's a game from the European Teams. It has me on the White side of a Petroff.

I can't remember anything about this game. My notes have various “+= Nunn” assessments in the opening, from where I'm not sure. Possibly NCO, if it was out by then. There's also an obscure reference to E.Mnatsakanian-V.Maslov, USSR Spartakiad, Moscow 1963.

The natural 11 h5 was a novelty, against which my opponent enterprisingly castled short. It's not actually as bad as it looks, at least not with Stockfish in charge of the black pieces. Fortunately, Bjørn didn't have a rating of 3400+, and his queenside counterattack was ultimately unsuccessful.

Playing it through again now prompts no recollection either. My memory is not what it was. I had a game in the Sheffield Summer League a week or so ago which followed the same path as one against the same opponent three weeks earlier. Presumably he'd prepared something for me. If so, he was probably disappointed when I deviated early. But that wasn't due to any foresight or caution on my part. I'd simply forgotten what we'd played before and inadvertently went a different way on move eight.

Amnesia does have some advantages. Regrets, I've had a few, but then again...
I've forgotten what they were.

Monday, 1 July 2019

051. International Master

White: P. Sváĉek - 21st World Championship, semi-final 2, 1995

I can't remember what the criteria were for the CC-IM title back in 1995, but it was a performance of 8/14 in WC21/SF02 that clinched it for me.

Really? 8/14? Is that all? And in the Open Games I only managed 2/6, with four draws and two losses. It was 3/3 with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bb5+! that got me over the line.

The game below is a Scotch Four Knights with the slightly unusual 12 c4!?.

This seems to have been a pet line of Czech correspondence players around that time, including my opponent, who has another three games with it in the databases. It's not particularly testing, and I made an easy draw. In fact, Stockfish gives me the edge in the final position. Magnus Carlsen would probably play this on with the two bishops.

My best was against his homophonous namesake, CC-GM Anders Ingvar Carlsson. Everything just worked for me, and the way I was able to creep into his position on three half-lines (b3-b6, c3-f6, g3-g6) was very enjoyable. I think this is an IM-worthy game.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

050. The Transvestite Attack

Black: Jarolim - Unrated game,, 2004

If you've ever clicked on my profile, you'll have read the words: “genderqueer femme”. In short, that means my gender is “queer” in some unspecified way, qualified by the placement “femme” within the butch/femme spectrum. To explain that in long would mean a conversation and likely some more reading on your part.

And what does it have to do with chess anyway? Not very much. Neither gender, nor sex, is a serious indicator of inherent chess ability. (Nuts to Nigel Short.)

But there is one instance where chess and non-normative gender collide, and that's the Transvestite Attack. This was an invention of US player Jack Young, and involves the moves 1 e3, 2 Ke2, 3 Qe1, 4 Kd1, whereupon White's king and queen are on each other's squares, wearing each other's clothes, as it were.

For instance: 1 e3 e5 2 Ke2 d5 3 Qe1 Bc5 4 Kd1 f5 5 Nf3 e4 6 Ng1 Nf6 7 b3 0-0 8 Bb2 c6 9 Ne2 Nbd7 10 f3 Qe7 11 Qh4 Bd6 12 h3 Be5 13 Nbc3 a6 14 f4 Bd6 15 g4 Nc5 16 gxf5 Bxf5 17 Nd4 Qd7 18 Nxf5 Qxf5 19 Be2 Ne6 20 Bg4 Nxg4 21 hxg4 1-0 was J.Young-D.Sarkisiam, USA 1988. This appeared in Rainer Schlenker's offbeat openings magazine Rand Springer, issue #46 (1989).

Obviously White's set-up has no merit whatsoever. On completing the manoeuvre White is clearly worse, having wasted three tempi with the royalty, and is now unable to castle. But it seems Jack's thing was to see what he could get away with. Hence a few characteristically silly moves, given a name for posterity, and start the game from there. It helped that he was (is?) quite a decent player, rated USCF 2261 in 1988.

I've never tried 1 e3 e5 2 Ke2 myself. Even if I had, it wouldn't be blog-relevant, and trying a similar thing in an Open Game (e.g. 1 e4 e5 2 Qe2 Nc6 3 Kd1 Nf6 4 Qe1) would probably lose by force. However, there is one opening in which it can arise naturally: 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nc3 (the Mason Gambit) and now 3...Qh4+ 4 Ke2.

In this sequence the white king has to go to e2, and is going to have to move again; challenging queens with Qe1 is then often useful for White; and retreating the king to d1 frees the light-squared bishop. This situation has occurred several times in my praxis. Each time, Qe1 and Kd1 were actually correct and led to an advantage for me (even if I didn't always follow them up correctly). The game below is one example. (I've included another, more recent one in the notes.)

Here 9 Kd1 has uncovered an attack on the a6-knight, which is defending the c7-pawn. A further threat is 10 d4, regaining the f4-pawn with advantage. Black has no satisfactory way to solve these problems. Captain Transvestite strikes again!