Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Importance of Castling

Castling is one of the basic and important concepts in the game of chess that instantly enhances the dynamic potential of a chess player.  The objective of castling is to provide safety to the King from the threat and at the same time, bring the rook, occupying the flanks, for better play in the initial stages.

Tarrasch was the second best player of his day.  This game effectively illustrates the importance of castling and the security of the f pawn.

Nuremberg, 1893
French Defense

1. e4, e6

In the French Defense, Black allows White to get a pawn center, only to contest it later.  Very sound but leads to slow positional game.  Not recommended for beginners.

2. d4, d5
3. Bd3 .....

The Bishop is in a position to attack both sides of the board.

3. ..... Nf6
4. e5, Nfd7
5. Nf3, c5

The move is often played by Black in the French Defense, with the idea of undermining d4, and further weaken White's central pawn structure.

6. c3, Nc6
7. 0-0, f6?!

Pushing the f pawn is not advised.  This exposes the King too early in the game.

8. Re1 .....

Controlling the e-file.

8. ..... f5

Black spends another move to close the e-file.

9. Be3, c4

Black decides to close the center. This leads to a positional struggle.

10. Bc2, Be7
11. b3!! .....

White tries to break apart the pawn structure.

11. ..... b5
12. a4, bxa4
13. bxc4 .....

This takes a critical pawn off the center.

13. ..... dxc4
14. d5 .....

Cracking the position wide open.

14. ..... N6xe5
15. dxe6!! .....

Now White's central pawn has become extremely dangerous.

15. ..... Nxf3
16. Qxf3, Nb6
17. Qxf5 .....

Threatening Qf7 mate.

17. ..... Bf6

If 17.....Rf8, then 18. Qh5+ g6, 19. Bxg6 hxg6, 20. Qxg6 and mate next move.

18. Bc5!! .....

Locking the enemy King in, prevents it from castling.

18. .... Bb7
19. Qg6!!! .....

A Queen sacrifice taking advantage of the missing f pawn.

19. ..... hxg6
20. Bxg6 mate.

The moral of this chess game is not to push the f pawn without good reason....Castle!....and center pawns are deadly.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Back Rank Mate

The following game is one of the best illustrations of back rank mate threats there is. Torre waves his queen in Adam's face but he can't take it...

New Orleans, 1920
Philidor Defense

1. e4, e5
2. Nf3, d6
3. d4! .....

This move originated from Paul Morphy.

3. ..... exd4
4. Qxd4 .....

Although White is bringing his queen out early, in this position, as you shall see, Black has a hard time extinguishing the queen from the center.

4. ..... Nc6
5. Bb5, Bd7
6. Bxc6 .....

White opts to trade his bishop for a knight and retain the queen's strong position in the middle.

6. ..... Bxc6
7. Nc3, Nf6
8. 0-0, Be7
9. Nd5, Bxd5
10. exd5 .....

Opening the e-file. Since White has better development he will be able to capture and control the file first. This file is what will lead to Black's quick death.

10. ..... 0-0
11. Bg5, c6
12. c4, cxd5
13. cxd5, Re8

Black tries to control the e-file. The only problem is the awkward Bishop (the result of 2. d6 prevents  lack from ownership of the file quickly.

14. Rfe1, a5?

A weak unnecessary pawn move.

15. Re2 .....

Preparing to double on the open file.

15. ..... Rc8

Claiming the c-file. In this position, ownership of the e-file is more important.

16. Rae1, Qd7

Developing the queen to a more active square.

17. Bxf6 .....

Forcing the Black Bishop off the e-file so that White can take advantage of some back-rank threats.

17. ..... Bxf6
18. Qg5 !! .....

White plays to DEFLECT a defender from the bank rank.

18. ..... Qb5
19. Qc4 !!! .....

A beautiful move that dares the Black rook or queen to take the queen off course. Both moves would leave one less defender on the square e8, and would lead to checkmate in 2 starting with Rxe8.

It is a blunder for White to move 19. a4 at once because of 19.....Qxe2, 20. Rxe2 Rc1+ and White loses the game.

19. ..... Qd7
20. Qc7!!!, Qb5
21. a4!! .....

A tempo-gaining move.

21. ..... Qxa4


22. Re4!!, Qb5
23. Qxb7!!, Resigns

Now Black has nowhere safe to move his queen and protect the square e8. Faced with either losing his queen or Back Rank Mate, Black resigns.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chess Strategies and Tactics

Chess strategies and tactics cannot be discussed in one posting.  This author advices chess players to download a free PDF book that contains the original book Chess Strategies and Tactics, which contains fifty master games selected and annotated by Fred Reinfeld and Irving Chernev.

The book is dedicated to the memory of former world chess champion William Steinitz

If you have a problem with downloading, I may just send a copy to you. Please e-mail me at

If you want other FREE CHESS eBOOKS, you may visit my blog at Free Education Books.

If you want to master chess tactics and techniques, you may visit Chess Tempo,  one of the best chess tutors in the Internet.   Learn how to make the right move combinations. Choose the best move in a given problem set.  Learn while having fun. 

The Smothered Mate

The Smothered Mate is the jewel of chess tactics.  In chess, a smothered mate is a checkmate delivered by a knight in which the mated king is unable to move because he is surrounded (or smothered) by his own pieces.  It is usually necessary to sacrifice material to compel pieces to smother the king.  In the following game, Capablanca, playing White, takes advantage of his opponent's poor development to brew a subtle but amazing attack.

Carlsbad, Spain, 1929
Queen's Pawn Opening

1. d4, Nf6
2. c4, e6
3. Nc3, Bb4
4. Qc2, c5

Normal move in this type of opening; attempts to undermine White's strong center.

5. dxc5 .....

The move opens the d file to White's benefit.

5. ..... Nc6
6. Nf3, Bxc5
7. Bf4 .....

Developing the Bishop to a strong square where it attacks key central squares.

7. ..... d5?!

8. e3 .....

White protects the d4 square and provides support for the c-pawn.

8. ..... Qa5
9. Be2, Bb4
10. 0-0, Bxc3
11. bxc3, 0-0
12. Rab1 .....

This is an elegant move. Develops the rook to a file where it PINS the black bishop to holding onto b7. Later, black will have to waste a move to protect this pawn so that he can develop his c8 bishop.

12. .....  Qa3
13. Rfd1, b6

Necessary for Black in order to develop his c8 Bishop.

14. cxd5, Nxd5
15. Ng5! .....

With the Knight no longer protecting h7, White moves his Knight into an attacking position.

15. ..... f5
16. Bf3, Qc5
17. c4, Ndb4
18. Qb3, e5
19. a3 .....

Now,  Black loses two pieces if he plays 19. ..... exf4, 20. axb4 Qe7, 21. Bxc6.

19. ..... Na6
20. Bxc6, Qxc6
21. c5+!!, Kh8
22. Nf7+, Kg8
23. Nh6+, Kh8
24. Qg8+ !!!, Rxg8
25. Nf7 mate.

The smothered mate.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Attacking a Castled King

Capablanca, known for his elegant and brilliant style, transforms a lead in development into a brutal attack on a castled king. Capablanca manages to crush Reti, one of the strongest grandmasters of the day, in just 18 moves.

Berlin Tageblatt, 1950
Ruy Lopez Opening

1. e4, e5
2. Nf3, Nc6
3. Bb5, d6
4. c3 .....

This creates a pawn lever as preparation to d4.

4. ..... a6
5. Ba4, f5

An aggressive move.  Black must be careful now since his King is opened a bit.

6. d4 .....

Reti grabs the center, but leaves the e-pawn hanging.

6. ..... fxe4
7. Ng5, exd4
8. Nxe4, Nf6

Black continues to develop and pressures the center.

9. Bg5, Be7
10. Qxd4 ?! .....

A fancy move that takes advantage of the pinned knight. This move is still extremely dangerous.

10. ..... b5!

Black breaks the pin and attacks the White Queen.

11. Nxf6+, gxf6
12. Qd5!, bxa4
13. Bh6 .....

White could have captured the Knight, but thought it best to prevent Black from castling.

13. ..... Qd7

Since he cannot castle on the king-side, Black prepares to castle on the other side.

14. 0-0, Bb7
15. Bg7! .....

Black's rook is trapped!

15. ..... 0-0-0
16. Bxh8, Ne5

A discovered attack on the Queen.

17. Qd1, Bf3!!

An unstoppable attack.  Now the White Queen can no longer protect the queen side.

18. gxf3, Qh3!
19. Resigns

White cannot stop Nxf3 threatening mate, and Rg8 with mate in a few moves.

To view the game in PGN format, you may visit Reti vs. Capablanca.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Henry Bird

The creator of the Bird's Opening, Henry Bird was one of the great players of his day and a true chess enthusiast.  He loved the game because he thought of it as a "free fight".  Henry Bird also authored many great chess books.

In the following game, Bird relentlessly pushes his f pawn down his opponent's world champion's throat.

New Orleans, 1866
Ruy Lopez Opening

1. e4, e5
2. Nf3, Nc6
3. Bb5 ......

So far, standard Ruy Lopez opening.

3. ..... Nf6

Usually this move comes later in the Ruy Lopez, but it is completely playable now.

4. d4 .....

This move is so sharp it drifted the game into unclear territory.

4. ..... exd4
5. e5, Ne4
6. Nxd4 .....

A centralized Knight so powerful it cannot be driven away by pawns.

6. ..... Be7
7. 0-0, Nxd4

This move hastens White's development.  Black would have been wise to castle instead.

8. Qxd4, Nc5
9. f4, b6
10. f5, Nb3

The reason for Black's 9th move.  In addition to the fork, he threatens a pin on White's Queen.

11. Qe4, Nxa1
12. f6!, Bc5+
13. Kh1, Rb8

Black defends his Rook and plans to develop his Bishop at b7.

14. e6!! .....

A brilliant move that takes advantage of the pinned Black's d pawn.

14. ..... Rg8
15. Qxh7, Rf8
16. exf7+, Rxf7
17. Re1+, Be7

Forced, it is the only move that does not result in immediate checkmate.

18. Qg8+, Rf8
19. f7 mate.

A beautiful finish.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

William Steinitz

William Steinitz was the very first world champion of chess from 1886 to 1894.  He was an Austrian-American chess player. Steinitz lost his title to Emanuel Lasker in 1894 and also lost a rematch in 1897.

Statistical rating systems give Steinitz a rather low ranking among world champions, mainly because he took several long breaks from competitive play. However, an analysis based on one of these rating systems shows that he was one of the most dominant players in the history of the game.  Although Steinitz became "world number one" by winning in the all-out attacking style that was common in the 1860s, he unveiled in 1873 a new positional style of play and demonstrated that it was superior to the previous style. His new style was controversial and some even branded it as "cowardly", but many of Steinitz's games showed that it could also set up attacks as ferocious as those of the old school. Steinitz was also a prolific writer on chess, and defended his new ideas vigorously. The debate was so bitter and sometimes abusive that it became known as the "Ink War". By the early 1890s, Steinitz' approach was widely accepted and the next generation of top players acknowledged their debt to him, most notably his successor as world champion, Emanuel Lasker.

Traditional accounts of Steinitz' character depict him as ill-tempered and aggressive; but more recent research shows that he had long and friendly relationships with some players and chess organizations. Most notably from 1888 to 1889 he co-operated with the American Chess Congress in a project to define rules for the future conduct of contests for the world championship title that he held. Steinitz was unskilled at managing money and lived in poverty all his life.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Here is one of Steinitz' games.  This is one of the most brilliant fast attacks on f7 ever. Steinitz sacrifices a queen for a forced checkmate in 7 moves! The final checkmate is done by a pawn.

London, 1898
Evans Gambit

1. e4, e5
2. Nf3, Nc6
3. Bc4, Bc5
4. b4 .....

The Evans Gambit, the purpose of which is to gain a tempo while aiming for control of d4.

4. ..... Bxb4
5. c3, Ba5

Black keeps the pressure on c3. Now if White plays the intended d4, the c3 lever will be pinned.

6. 0-0, Nf6
7. Ba3 .....

Ignoring the hanging e4 pawn.  Taking the e-pawn would be problematic for black because it would open the e-file for the White Rook to pin and probably win back the pawn.  By playing Ba3, White keeps the Black King stuck in the middle.

7. ..... Bb6
8. d4, exd4
9. Qb3 .....

Attacking f7, the wimpy pawn!

9. ..... d5
10. exd5, Na5

11. Re1+  .....

White controls the e-file, attacking the uncastled King.

11. ..... Be6

Black had no choice.  If 11…..Kd7, 12. Ne5+ Ke8, 13.  Qb5+ c6, 14. Nxc6+ Kd7 … and Black’s Queen is lost.

12. dxe6, Nxb3

White sacrifices his Queen in order to pursue a relentless attack.

13. exf7, Kd7
14. Be6+, Kc6
15. Ne5+, Kb5
16. Bc4+, Ka5
17. Bb4+, Ka4
18. axb3 mate.

A beautiful finish.  Moral of the chess game:  Castle!  And if your opponent does not castle, look for weakness on f7 or f2.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit is an opening where White offers some pawns for free but gets a DANGEROUS attack in return! The first few moves are 1.e4 e5, 2.d4 .... Is this a good move? Yes, even some of the best players in the world play this move. Moving the pawn into the center opens up lines for the rest of the pieces. White is also threatening 3. dxe5!

2...exd4 Black usually takes.

3.c3 The Danish Gambit. It was called that since most of the players that first tried it were from Denmark.

The main line goes 3...dxc3, 4.Bc4 cxb2, 5.Bxb2 .... This is the start position.

Have a look at it carefully. White has been very generous giving away two pawns, but Black must be VERY careful. The plan is to develop his pieces like so Nc3, Nge2, 0-0, Qb3, Rad1, etc. Blacks main choices are: 5...Nf6?!, 5....d5!!, 5...d6 and 5...Bb4+.

Let us have a look at one of the most brilliant games ever played using the Danish Gambit.

Kaschau, 1893

1. e4, e5
2. d4, exd4
3. c3, dxc3
4. Bc4, Nf6

Black can also capture the third pawn, then  5. Bxb2 c6, 6. Nf3 d6, 7. 0-0 Nd7, followed by 8. .....Nc5.

5. Nf3, Bc5

Not 5.....Nxe4 because of 6. Bxf7+ Kxf7, 7. Qd5+ ....

6. Nxc3, d6
7. 0-0, 0-0
8. Ng5 .....

White has a good play for the sacrificed pawn.

8. ..... h6?

Driving White to do what he wants to do anyway.

9. Nxf7!, Rxf7
10. e5 .....

This is possible because the d6 pawn is pinned.

10. ..... Ng4

After 10. ..... Ne8, 11. Be3! Bb6, 12. Qd5 Qe7, 13. Bxb6 axb6, 14. Rae1.... White has a winning attack.

11. e6! .....

A crushing stroke which simultaneously attacks Black's King Rook and King Knight.

Black has no really good move.  If he plays 11. ..... Rxf2?! there follows 12. e7+ Rf7+, 13. Kh1 and White must win.  Of course 11. ..... Re7 is futile because of 12. Qxg4.  Finally, after 11. ... Bxe6, 12. Bxe6.... White wins easily.

11. ..... Qh4!?
12. exf7+, Kf8
13. Bf4!, Nxf2
14. Qe2, Ng4+
15. Kh1 .....

White threatens Qe8 mate.

15. ..... Bd7
16. Rae1! .....

With a subtle threat against which Black is powerless.

16. ..... Nc6
17. Qe8!!, Rxe8
18. fxe8=Q+, Bxe8
19. Bxd6 mate.

A very delightful finish!  Black's inept defense contributed to the artistic conclusion.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The King's Gambit, Kieseritzky Variation

The King's Gambit was one of the most popular openings for over 300 years, and has been played by many of the strongest players. The opening starts with 1. e4, e5; 2. f4 .... If Black takes the f4 pawn with 2. ... exf4, the opening becomes King's Gambit Accepted.

The Cunningham Defence (3. Nf3 Be7) is Black's most aggressive option; it can permanently prevent White from castling after 4.Bc4 Bh4+ 5.Kf1 (else the wild Bertin Gambit, or Three Pawns' Gambit, 5.g3 fxg3 6.0-0 gxh2+ 7.Kh1, played in the nineteenth century). In modern practice, it is more common for Black to simply play 4. ..Nf6 5.e5 Ng4, known as the Modern Cunningham.

The Classical Variation arises after 3.Nf3 g5, when there are two main continuations, 4.h4 (the Paris Attack), and 4.Bc4. After 4.h4 g4 White can choose between 5.Ng5 or 5.Ne5. 5.Ng5 is the Allgaier Gambit, intending 5...h6 6.Nxf7, but is considered dubious by modern theory. Stronger is 5.Ne5, the Kieseritzky Gambit, which is relatively positional in nature. It was used very successfully by Wilhelm Steinitz, and was used by Boris Spassky to beat Bobby Fischer in a famous game at Mar del Plata during the year 1960.

Instead of 4.h4, the extremely sharp Muzio Gambit arises after 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0!? gxf3 6.Qxf3, where White has gambited a knight but has three pieces bearing down on f7. Such wild play is rare in modern chess, but Black must exercise care in consolidating his position. Black can avoid the Muzio by meeting 4.Bc4 with 4...Bg7 and ...h6.

Vienna, 1853
Kieseritzky Gambit

1. e4, e5
2. f4, exf4
3. Nf3, g5
4. h4, g4
5. Ne5, Nf6

White's best course is now 6. Bc4, keeping Black occupied with the threat to his King Bishop Pawn.  Instead, White plays an inconsequential developing move which allows the initiative to pass to Black.

6. Nc3, d6
7. Nc4, Be7
8. d4, Nh5

Black protects his advanced King Bishop Pawn and opens a line of attack on White's weak King Rook Pawn.

9. Be2, Bxh4+
10. Kd2, Qg5

Threatening to win a piece by 11. ..... f3+, 12. Kd3 fxe2, 13. Bxg5 exd1=Q+, etc.

11. Kd3, Nc6

And now Black has 12. .... Nb4+, 13. Kd2 f3+ in view.

12. a3, Bf2!
13. Nd5, Bxd4?!

Black is carried away by his enthusiasm.  Apparently he is ashamed to play the more levelheaded 13. .....Kd8.

14. Nxc7, Kd8
15. Nd5? .....

He might just as well have captured the Rook, since otherwise the Knight's expedition is labeled as futile.

15. ..... f5!
16. Nxd6, fxe4+
17. Kc4 .....

On 17, Kxe4 Black can play 17. .....Re8+!, 18. Nxe8 Bf5 mate.  Nor is this the only winning method.  But after 17. Kc4 Black announced a forced mate in nine!

17. ..... Qxd5+!!
18. Kxd5, Nf6+
19. Kc4, Be6+
20. Kb5, a6+
21. Ka4, b5+
22. Nxb5, axb5+
23. Kxb5, Ra5+
24. Kxc6, Bd5+
25. Kd6, Ne8 mate.

A picture-perfect mate!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Transposed Moves

Transposed moves -- changing the order of a series of moves -- has lost games and won them.  Here is an impressive case in point.

Amsterdam, 1933
Ruy Lopez Opening

1. e4, e5
2. Nf3, Nc6
3. Bb5, d6
4. d4, exd4
5. Qxd4 .....

This gets the Queen strongly into play and prepares for Queen-side castling.

5. ..... Bd7
6. Bxc6, Bxc6
7. Nc3, Nf6
8. Bg5, Be7
9. 0-0-0, 0-0
10. h4!, h6

11. Nd5 .....

This clever sacrifice of a piece is based on White's expectation of making good use of the resulting open h file.

11. ..... hxg5?
12. Nxe7+!, Qxe7
13. hxg5, Nxe4

After 13. .....Qxe4, 14. gxf6 Qxd4, 15. Rxd4 the threat of Rg4 is decisive.

14. Rh5 .....

White wants to double Rooks on the open file with a view to Rh8 mate.  This means that Black must play up his King Bishop Pawn sooner or later in order to open an escape hatch for his King.

14. ..... Qe6

After 14......f5, 15. g6! (nailing down the Black King) we get the same finish as in the game.

15. R1h1, f5

It seems that Black is safe after all, because after 16. g6 Qxg6, 17. Qc4+, he has 17. ..... d5.

16. Ne5!! .....

Threatens 17. Rh8 mate.

16. ..... dxe5

Or 16. .....Qxe5, 17. Qxe5 dxe5, 18. g6  forcing mate.

17. g6!, Resigns

For Black realizes that after 17. ..... Qxg6 White forces mate beginning with 18. Qc4+.  Thus we see that White's win was made possible by transposing g6 and Ne5.  A logical strategic play!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

King's Safety First

The objective of chess is to checkmate the opponent's king.  It is but imperative to castle into safety behind a wall of pawns, and keep you pawns in front of your king unmoved if possible.

If your opponent's king is not safely protected, your plan could be to attack it!

The following game emphasizes this basic principle in chess.

Vienna, 1934
Ruy Lopez Opening

1. e4, e5
2. Nf3, Nc6
3. Bb5, N8e7
4. 0-0, g6

The logical sequel to Black's previous move, which has blocked the Bishop's natural development.

5. d4, Bg7
6. dxe5, Nxe5
7. Nxe5, Bxe5
8. Bh6!? .....

A very enterprising speculation.  He offers a Pawn and the Exchange in order to get rid of Black's King Bishop.

8. ..... Bxb2
9. Nd2 .....

In the event of 9. .....Bxa1, 10. Qxa1 Rg8, 11. Bg5.  White's mastery of the black squares will  give Black a hard time.  Avoiding this, Black stumbles into something just as bad.

9. ..... c6
10. Rb1, Bd4?
11. Nc4! .....

White threatens 12. Nd6 mate.

11. ..... Bc5

12. Qd4!!, Resigns

If 12......Bxd4, 13. Nd6 mate  If 12. .....Rg8, 13. Qxc5 and White's Bishop is immune because of the renewed threat of Nd6 mate.  A sparkling miniature.
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