Sunday, January 31, 2021

Curious Chess Facts - and a Lesson in General Piece Placement


Chess is a big pastime between takes during movie scenes.

Here are some interesting chess happenings in the past:

·       The shortest tournament game ever played occurred between Gibaud and F. Lazard in the Championship of France. The moves were; 1. d4, Nf6  2. Nd2, e5  3. dxe, Ng4  4. h3, Ne3   White resigns

·       The longest game was played between O. Duras and D. Janowsky in the San Sabastian Tournament in 1911 and consisted of 161 moves.

·       In January 1922, F. J. Marshall played 155 games simultaneously winning 126, drawing 21 and losing only 8 – in only 7 hours and 15 minutes! What was really remarkable was that he could recall the player’s names and the score he had against them in all but 2 games.

·       In the game Tarrasch vs Gottschall in Nuremburg, 1888, Tarrasch kept all of his pawns until the 96th move.

·       In the Bad Kissingen Tournament in 1928, Spielmann won only one game – but it was against Capablanca!

·       In a game played in 1858 between Franz vs Maylt, Franz finished with 2 queens versus his opponent’s none. But he lost.

·       In a match between Richard Reti and Max Euwe, Reti sacrificed two rooks in one game and then the next game, did it again. He won both games!

·       In a match between Schlechter and Tarrasch in Cologne in 1911, Schlechter won game 9 in 106 moves but lost game 10 in 109 moves.

·       In 1929 the US Civil Services in the south of England, played a match on 500 boards.

·       In a cable match between England and the USA in 1900, Bellingham sent his message “Resign” at the exact moment his opponent sent his “Draw?”.

·       In Vienna 1873 in a double round robin tournament, William Steinitz won 16 straight games.

·       At Monte Carlo in 1902, Tchigorin took 144 moves to beat Mason. But in the same tournament he lost to Marshall in 8 moves.

·       Dr. Tarrasch was the only player in the field to oppose F. D. Yates as an entry into the tournament on the grounds he was not a strong enough player. F. D. Yates did in fact win only one game the entire tournament….against Dr. Tarrasch.

·       Besides your humble scribe, Carl Schlechter was considered the player that drew the most tournament and match games in the history of chess. Needing only a draw in the last game of the match to wrestle the World Championship crown away from Dr. Lasker….he lost!

Now for a typical blunder-fest by non-grandmasters. But some lessons are contained within:

The position and material is even after the capture of the bishop on e2.

24. Rxe2          Rc1+?!

A less than worthless check as it wastes a move (a tempo). It drives the White King to a square he wanted to move to anyway - Kf2. Better was 24. ...... Rc5, putting pressure on White's strong center pawns. White takes a move advantage (+.3) of a pawn.

25. Kh2?         .........

Wrong square! Back to even. =

25. ........          Kf8?

A waste of time (another tempo) and allowing 26. Nf3 for nothing, that solidifies White's center advantage (+.8). See how the waste of moves adds up as an advantage for your opponent?

26. exd6?         ........

"To take is a mistake" - an old chess adage. In this case here, its true. White isolates his d and f pawns for no gain at all. Nf3 as a prep move was still correct. The knight is useless where it sits. The position is even = again after the next move.

26. .........          Bxd6

27. Nc4??         .........

Wrong square, as previously mentioned. White had a blind spot against placing that knight on what usually is one of the best squares on the board for a knight. White's position collapses now (-5).

27. ........           Bxf4+

28. g3               Qxd5

29. gxf4            Qh1+

30. Kg3             Rg1+

31. Kf2              Rg2+

32. Ke3              Rg3+

White resigns

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Improving Your Tactical Skills – Advice from a Teaching Master

WFM Elizabeth Spiegel is not only a chess master in her own right, but she is a NY public school chess instructor. She graciously decided to share her key teaching thoughts with Chess Life….and us, from the November 2020 magazine.

If you are not a member of the USCF and getting their magazine monthly, you are missing out. The value completely outweighs the cost. And with tournaments on suspension, your national chess federation needs your support.

Now on to the article.

FM Spiegel asked herself “what is the most efficient way to teach how to improve calculating abilities?” My answer was always “be born as Morphy or Fischer”, but that is probably why your humble scribe is not the chess instructor FM Spiegel is.

“To put it differently, what does a strong player think about when they try and solve a tactics problem?

Strong players look first to every forcing move on every turn. Checks, captures, and moves attacking pieces or the King. That is a lot of work, but its what is done. Here are some questions to ask yourself when analyzing a position:

1.     What enemy pieces and pawns are not protected or not protected well? These are potential targets.

2.     What enemy pieces are on the same line as my pieces? This will help you discover pins, skewers and forks.

3.      What is your dream move or where is your dream square for your dream piece? A question such as, “If I could drop my (insert piece here) anywhere on the board, where would it be?” This dream placement is the ‘plan’ to make happen if it can be done safely."

Your scribe has started using #3 in his games and practice and you would be surprised how many times your dram could be made a reality! And sometimes your opponent unknowingly follows your dream too. You now see it, he does not.

I hope this helps your chess prowess.

Now for an interesting finish in the famous Gibraltar Chess Festival in 2006. English GM Nigel Short versus India’s WGM Dronavalli Harika. Another lady that knows how to play chess.

As the opening turns into the middlegame, White begins to inexplicably drift. Harika spots her opportunity to turn her positional advantage into a tangible one.

26. …….          A3!

27. bxa3         Qa5

This move puts pressure on the weak a3 and c3 pawns and prepares Bb5 then Ba4.

28. Bh3?!        …….

Better was 28. Bd2 as Black’s advantage goes from (-.9) to (-1.4).

28. …….          Bb5

29. Rxd5??     ……..

A sensational idea, that doesn’t quite work. This move deteriorates the position further. (-3.3)

29. …….           Ba4

30. Qd2          Qxd5

31. Qxd5        Bc2


Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Few Questions with the English Chess Chief Executive Mike Truran

 And one of his best games!

 Q: Where do you live?

A: Witney, Oxfordshire, England


Q: Where do you vacation?

A: New Zealand, where we have a house I don’t spend enough time at.


Q: Favorite movie?

A: Shawshank Redemption


Q: Best thing about playing chess?

A: Playing an occasional good game and meeting with friends and chess colleagues.


Q: Most memorable opponent?

A: GM Nigel Short in a simul. I managed to win and he was very gracious after the game.


Q: Favorite game of all time?

A: Pillsbury – Tarrasch, Hastings, 1895


Q: Best three chess books?

A: Fischer’s My 60 Most Memorable Games, Bronstein’s Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953, Tiller’s Chess Treasury of Air.


Q: Tip for the club player?

A: Win or lose, be nice to your opponent.

 Here is a nice finish by Mike Truran as Black against N. Davies in 1991.


26. …..            Qxd4!!

27. Bxd4         Bxd4

28. Rfc1?        Nf5+?

A little slip but it hardly matters. White is in a bad way. Better was 28. Rc2. The difference between up 6 pawns with the actual move and 10 pawns with Igor3000’s analysis.


29. Kf1           Rxa1

30. Rxa1         Bxa1

31. Qd7?         ……..

The last chance for counterplay was 31. Ke1


31. …….         Rc1+

32. Ke2           Rc2+

33. Ke1           Bc3+

34. Kf1            Bg2+

35. Kg1           Bd4+

White resigns