31 October 2006

Endgame: Tarrasch - Lasker, Hastings 1895

Continuing with Lasker's Moves that Matter, this is again Tarrasch - Lasker, Hastings 1895. I presented some background to the game in The Lasker - Tarrasch rivalry; the Berlin Defense. Soltis analyzed the entire game, while Kasparov only mentioned the opening and started his analysis from an endgame position.

After a tense middle game, the players reached the position shown in the diagram. The game is unclear. Tarrasch played 35.Rd2, which Soltis gives a '!'. I'm not sure this is merited, because after Lasker's next move, 35...Kb5, Soltis assigns a '?'. He then says, 'Instead of advancing the King immediately he should start pushing Pawns 35...Kc6 36.h4 b5 37.h5 b4 38.g5 c3', followed by some analysis that ends in a win for Black. Black's last move in that variation, 38...c3, shows the downside to 35.Rd2; it leaves the Rook in the path of the advancing Pawn.

Instead of 35.Rd2, why not 35.Rc2? If 35...Kb5, then 36.h4. Or if 35...Kc6, then 36.Rxc4+ Kd5 37.Nd2. This needs a more thorough look.

Hastings 1895
Lasker, Emanuel

Tarrasch, Siegbert
(After 34...Bb2-d4)
[FEN "3r4/pp6/1k6/8/2pbN1P1/8/P4RKP/8 w - - 0 35"]

After 35...Kb5, White continued 36.Nc3+. Here Soltis gives another '?' and says, 'White would draw after 36.h4', without any analysis.

The game continued 36...Kb4 37.Ne2 Bf6 38.Rxd8 Bxd8 39.Kf3 c3 40.Ke4 Kc4, when it reached the position where Kasparov starts annotating. I'll look at that position next time.

To play through the complete game see...

Siegbert Tarrasch vs Emanuel Lasker, Hastings 1895

...on Chessgames.com.

29 October 2006

2012 Chess Olympiad in London?

In July 2005, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge announced that London will host the 2012 Olympic Games. Will the 2012 Chess Olympiad be held in the same city?...

London Chess Olympiad looks like a killer move

...Despite some typical rube comments about chess ('I assumed [Mark Hogarth from the English Chess Federation] wanted to hire a conference room at a Travelodge off the A46 so a couple of Americans and Russians could get it on for a few hours'), writer John Inverdale managed to present a few compelling arguments for hosting the two events in the same city during the same year.

The 2006 Olympics and the Chess Olympiad were both held in Turin, Italy. Ditto for the 1924 events in Paris, although that Olympiad, the first in the series, is not counted as an 'official' Chess Olympiad. What other cities hosted Olympics and Olympiads in the same year?

P.S. Don't overlook the Comments in the Telegraph article.

27 October 2006

Google News Archive Search

This popped up on the radar this week...

Google News Archive Search - chess

...'Results about 123,000 for chess'. The first article is 'Why They Play: The Psychology of Chess' by Gilbert Cant, TIME Magazine - Time Inc. - Sep 4, 1972.

Another ground breaking idea from Google, it needs more investigation.

25 October 2006

The Lasker - Tarrasch rivalry; the Berlin Defense

The next game in the series on Lasker's Moves that Matter is Tarrasch - Lasker, from the 19th round of the great Hastings 1895 tournament. In 'Predecessors I' Kasparov mentions that this was the first game between the great rivals.

On ChessLab.com I found 30 games between the two players. They were played in the years shown in the following table.

1895 - 1
1896 - 1
1908 - 16
1914 - 3
1916 - 6
1918 - 2
1923 - 1

I didn't check ChessLab's list against another source, so there might be errors. ChessLab had five more Tarrasch - Lasker games from the period 1880-1882. Three of these were between Tarrasch and Berthold Lasker, the second World Champion's older brother. The two other games were between 'Tarrasch & allies' and 'Lasker & allies'; these are undoubtedly Berthold Lasker as well.


The Hastings 1895 game began with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 (Berlin Defense, C67) 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8, reaching the position shown in the following diagram.

(After 8...Ke8-d8(xQ))

I've played the 5...Be7 line in the Berlin Defense where Black's King Knight ends up on b7, but I've never played the 5...Nd6 variation. I watched a game with this line at the Biel 1985 Interzonal between Sax and Torre. Torre needed only a draw for an almost certain qualification into the Candidate matches, played 5...Nd6, and lost. I've shied away from it ever since.

The same line was played four times in the Kasparov - Kramnik match, London 2000, where Kramnik drew each game with Black. Kasparov played 9.Nc3 in each game, just as Tarrasch played, and Kramnik played 9...h6 in two games, just as Lasker did. Where Tarrasch played 10.Bd2, Kasparov continued 10.Rd1+ in one game, and 10.h3 in the other. He analyzed the variation in his notes to Harmonist - Tarrasch, Breslau 1889, another game in 'Predecessors I' (p.148).

I had never noticed the similarities between this variation of the Berlin Defense and the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez, which Lasker played as White, and which was adopted years later by Fischer. In both lines Black has a crippled Queenside Pawn majority offset by the two Bishops . Although he is given little credit for it, Lasker was ahead of his time in understanding the openings.

23 October 2006

Olivier Verroken (1955-2006)

'Le bonheur pour une abeille ou un dauphin est d'exister... pour l'homme, de le savoir et de s'en émerveiller.' - Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Adieu, mon ami!

21 October 2006

Combination: Lasker - Bauer, Amsterdam 1889

'What? Where is Lasker - Bauer? You know, the two Bishop sacrifice. Almost every collection of Lasker games begins with that, doesn't it?' - Andrew Soltis, 'Why Lasker Matters', introduction to game no.1 (Tietz - Lasker 1889).

Unlike GM Soltis [SOL hereafter], I will adhere to tradition and begin this new series on Lasker's Moves that Matter with the famous Lasker - Bauer game.

Soltis used the game as no.3, introducing it with, 'Okay, it can't be delayed any longer. This is the brilliancy that made Lasker famous. But it was for the wrong reasons. Thanks to it, he became known for his originality in combinational play. But his combination had been played before. What is generally overlooked is that White's victory is based on a well-grounded plan that was designed to create a huge mismatch on the Kingside.'

True to tradition, Kasparov [KAS] included the game as the first in his 108 page chapter on Lasker in 'Predecessors I'. My third collection of Lasker games, 'Lasker's Greatest Chess Games 1889-1914' by Reinfeld and Fine, uses the game as no.2.

Amsterdam 1889
Bauer, Johann Hermann

Lasker, Emanuel
(After 13...Qc7-c6)
[FEN "r4rk1/pb2bppp/1pq1pn2/2ppB3/5P2/1P1BP1N1/P1PP2PP/R2Q1RK1 w - - 0 13"]

Lasker played 13.Qe2. Both KAS and SOL gave this the move '!', the first such award in the game.

SOL: 'Kasparov called this a psychological trap. White seems to be threatening 14.Bb5, but his real goal is to play 14.Nh5, which is stronger now that g2 is protected.'

KAS:'A psychologically subtle move: both prophylactically defending g2, and threatening Bb5, which in fact is a sham -- the Bishop is looking in quite the opposite direction! After 13.Nh5 13...d4!, no win for White is apparent'. He gives two long variations, starting 14.Rf2 and 14.Nxf6+ to prove his point.

SOL: ??; 'It is easy to find improvements: 13...Ne4 and 14...f6, and even 13...g6.'

KAS: ?; 'Bauer falls into the trap set for him, although he had a reasonable choice between 13...Ne4 and 13...Nd7 with equal chances in each instance.' As usual, he gives substantial analysis to back his claim.'

14.Nh5. SOL: '!'; KAS: !; 'It is amazing that Black's position is practically hopeless.' 14...Nxh5. KAS gives four alternatives, concluding that 14...Rfd8 is the strongest. SOL also considers it best. 15.Bxh7+. SOL: '!!'; KAS: '!'. 15...Kxh7 16.Qxh5+ Kg8 17.Bxg7
SOL: !; 'The two Bishop sac [Soltis uses "sack" throughout the book] has been copied dozens of times and dubbed "Lasker's Combination", the title of a 1998 book devoted to it. He then goes into a long discussion about whether the combination is original and whether its originality is importnat.

KAS: !!; 'The double Bishop sacrifice is Lasker's patent'; he mentions that it was played in Tarrasch - Nimzowitsch, St.Petersburg 1914 (no.51 in his book).

Black resigned about 20 moves later. To play through the complete game see...

Emanuel Lasker vs Johann Hermann Bauer, Amsterdam 1889

...on Chessgames.com.

19 October 2006

GM Analysis and GM Evaluation

I encountered this position while working on the Slav. It was featured in the October 1983 Chess Life (p.26), in an 'Opening Forum' column by GM Leonid Shamkovich.

White played 15.Nd2, threatening to trap the Queen with Nd2-c4. Black countered with 15...a6, but White achieved a won game with 16.Bxc6 Bxc6 17.Nc4 Qf5 18.Bd6 e3 19.Nxe3 Qxb1+ 20.Qxb1 Bxd6 21.Qxb6. The players on first board were the national champions of their respective countries.

Radio Match USA-USSR (Game 2) 1945
Denker, Arnold

Botvinnik, Mikhail
(After 14.Bc8-d7)
[FEN "r3k2r/p2b1ppp/1pn1p3/qB6/3PpB2/bQP2N2/P4PPP/1R2K2R w Kkq - 0 15"]

Shamkovich proposed 15...O-O, and if 16.Nc4, then 16...Nxd4! wins. He gave several alternatives for White.

  • 16.Qc4 a6 17.Bxc6 b5, and

  • 16.Be3 Rfc8 17.Nc4 Nxd4 18.Bxd4 Qxb5. Now there are again two main lines.

    • 19.Nxa3 Qg5 20.O-O e5 21.Be3 Qg6 22.Kh1 Be6

    • 19.Qxb5 Bxb5 20.Nxa3 Bd3 21.Rc1 f6

    Here Shamkovich remarked, 'In both cases, I believe Black has adequate compensation for the piece. He has two strong Pawns, he can attack White's weak c-Pawn, and he won't be challenged by White's misplaced Knight at a3 for a while.'

I confirmed the GM's nice analysis, which was prepared before computers were available for tactical checking. It is useful to note that the GM and modern chess software arrive at the main variations. The GM's evaluation was another matter. With only two Pawns for a piece, the computer values the position at a Pawn down. Who is right, the GM or the computer?

To play through the complete game see...

Mikhail Botvinnik vs Arnold Denker, Radio Match USA-USSR (2) 1945

...on Chessgames.com.

17 October 2006

NAO Is No More

Europe Echecs for October 2006 reported (p.5 & 68) that the NAO chess club of Paris lost the sponsorship of Nahed Ojjeh and closed its doors. According to Wikipedia (French version)...

N.A.O. Chess Club

...the club twice won the European Club Cup (2003 and 2004), among other honors.

Ojjeh also had an impact on the World Chess Championship between 2002 and 2004...

Madame Ojjeh say NAO to Einstein
[15 January 2003]

Madame Ojjeh blasts the FIDE championship
[22 June 2004]

...I haven't seen the news reported outside of France. It is bad news for French chess players.

15 October 2006

World Championship Tiebreak

While working on an article for the Kramnik - Topalov unification match, I started thinking about tiebreak. There haven't been many other World Championship events where tiebreak was an issue. It was used in the FIDE knockout tournaments, the final round following the same principles as for all preceding rounds.

I can think of only one other occasion where it would have resolved a tie : the 1948 match tournament with Botvinnik, Smyslov, Reshevsky, Keres, and Euwe. What sort of playoff was foreseen for that event?

13 October 2006

Kramnik Wins World Championship Unification Match!

Friday the 13th had to be bad luck for Vladimir Kramnik or for Veselin Topalov. After four tense tiebreak games, the odd man out was Topalov. Congratulations to GM Kramnik and thanks to both players for the most exciting match I can remember.

11 October 2006

Lasker's Moves that Matter

Dr. Emanuel Lasker, second World Champion, had a style that was difficult to fathom. Two books exploring his play and ideas have appeared in recent years. 'My Great Predecessors, Part I' by Garry Kasparov was published in 2003. 'Why Lasker Matters' by Andrew Soltis was published in 2005. Both writers are grandmasters and both have a special interest in chess history.

I thought it would be instructive to see which Lasker games have been annotated by both players, to determine whether there was significant difference in opinion on specific moves or positions, and to study the differences. Here is a list of Lasker's games found in both books.

1889 Amsterdam, Lasker - Bauer
1895 Hastings, Tarrasch - Lasker
1895 St. Petersburg, Pillsbury - Lasker (Rd.1)
1895 St. Petersburg, Chigorin - Lasker (Rd.3)
1907 New York, Marshall - Lasker (WCC Gm.1)
1908 Dusseldorf/Munich, Tarrasch - Lasker (WCC Gm.4)
1910 Berlin/Vienna, Lasker - Schlechter (WCC Gm.10)
1914 St. Petersburg, Lasker - Tarrasch (prelim)
1914 St. Petersburg, Lasker - Capablanca (final)
1914 St. Petersburg, Lasker - Marshall (final)
1924 New York, Reti - Lasker
1925 Moscow, Iljin-Genevsky - Lasker
1934 Zurich, Euwe - Lasker

I'll tackle them one by one in subsequent posts. It is entirely possible that some games have more than one move worth studying.

07 October 2006

Combination: Capablanca - Molina and Ruiz, Buenos Aires 1914

This is the last game in this series on Capablanca's games 'to be studied'. The future World Champion introduced the game with:

During this second visit [to Buenos Aires] I played several games of the so-called brilliant kind. The inexperience of my opponents made it possible for me to obtain positions where a win could be best secured through the sacrifice of one or more pieces. I give below an example, which I feel sure will please both the dilettante and the connoisseur.

In the diagrammed position Capablanca played 23.Nxh7!, and wrote,

Better than 23.Rh3 when would follow 23...h6 24.Nxf7+ Nxf7 25.Bxc4 d5. I daresay very few masters would have made this sacrifice. It requires not only very great power of combination, but what is still more, exceedingly accurate judgement. A very careful analysis will demonstrate that the sacrifice is absolutely sound.

Buenos Aires 1914
L.Molina and E.Ruiz

Capablanca, Jose Raul
(After 23...b5-c4(xP))
[FEN "r2nqr1k/1p3bpp/3p1n2/2p1pPN1/2p1P2Q/P2P1R2/BP1B3P/R5K1 w - - 0 23"]

The game continued 23...Nxh7 24.Rh3 Bg8. Capablanca:

24...Bh5 was no better. White could play 25.Qxh5 with advantage, but still better might be 25.Bxc4.

25.Bxc4 Rf7 Capablanca:

No doubt 25...Nf7 looks like the right move. White, however, could continue with 26.Kh1 in order to play 27.Rg1, and could also carry the game quickly by assault as follows: 26.f6! g5 27.Qh5 Nd8 28.Qh6! Rf7 29.Bxg5 Qf8 30.Kh1! Qxh6 31.Bxh6 Rxf6 (31...Nxf6 32.Rg1) 32.Rg1.

26.Kh1 b5 27.Bd5 Raa7 28.Rg1 Rf6 29.Bg5 Raf7 30.b3! Capablanca:

Now that the Black pieces are pinned, White proceeds to obtain a passed Pawn with which to win the game.

The allies resigned around the 40th move. To play through the complete game see...

Jose Raul Capablanca vs R Molina, Buenos Aries cg 1914

...on Chessgames.com. How many errors can you spot in the game's heading?

05 October 2006

Planning: Nimzowitsch - Capablanca, St.Petersburg 1914

Continuing with Capablanca's games 'to be studied', this next game shows how a good plan can overcome a material deficit. The game was also no.81 in Kasparov's 'My Great Predecessors, Vol.1'.

The first thing is to note is the similarity between the diagrammed position and the Benko Gambit; 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 is a straightforward example of the Benko. White has an extra a-Pawn, but is subject to pressure on the a- and b-files. The Bishop on g7 plays an important role in limiting White's options.

Capablanca played 13...O-O and commented,

Black is a Pawn behind, but all his forces are now deployed and ready for maneuvering, while White, who had to make three moves with his Queen in order to win a Pawn, is therefore very backward in his development. Nimzowitch, it is true, does not make the best moves now, but I believe he has been unjustly criticized for losing this game, although none of the critics have given a satisfactory line of procedure. They have all suggested moves here and there; but the games of the great masters are not played by single moves, but must be played by concerted plans of attack and defense, and these they have not given.

St.Petersburg 1914
Capablanca, Jose Raul

Nimzowitsch, Aron
(After 13.0-0)
[FEN "2r1k2r/Q1pq1pbp/2pp1np1/8/4P3/2N5/PPP2PPP/R1B2RK1 b k - 0 13"]

Nimzowitsch played 14.Qa6. The first question is 'to what purpose'? Is the Queen better positioned on the a6-f1 diagonal than on the a7-g1 diagonal?

Kasparov criticized the move with, 'A waste of a tempo. Tarrasch suggested 14.Bd2 to answer 14...Rfe8 or 14...Qe6 with 15.f3 and when convenient 16.Qf2, and he doubted whether Black had compensation for the Pawn.' After quoting the whole of Capablanca's note to 13...0-0, he continued, 'Let's support Tarrasch's idea (14.Bd2) with a concrete plan: b2-b3, a2-a4, and Rad1; if ...c5 then the Queen escapes via a6 and the Black Knight has to guard the d5-square.'

Computers are incapable of formulating a plan. When I asked mine to analyze the position, it gave 14.f3, 14.Qe3, 14.Qa6, 14.Rd1, and 14.Qa4, as its first five suggestions. The move 14.Bd2 was not among the first ten suggestions. All of the top moves were valued in a very narrow range. The game continued 14...Rfe8 15.Qd3. Capablanca:

This makes the sixth move with the Queen out of fifteen played so far. Evidently White's plan is to consolidate his position and finally win with the extra Pawn. He fails, however, to take the best measures against Black's plan, which consists in placing his Rooks in the open lines, bringing his Knight around to c4, if possible, and through the combined pressure of the Bishop, the two Rooks and Knight, and the Queen if necessary against the a- and b-Pawn, to regain his material, keeping the upper hand at the same time. The plan is masked by the direct attack against the e-Pawn.

That correctly describes the strategy behind the Benko Gambit. After 15...Qe6 16.f3 Nd7, Capablanca noted,

Now the Bishop's line is open and the Knight threatens to come to the Queenside for the attack against the a- and b-Pawn. It is doubtful if White has any longer a good line of defense. At any rate, I believe that the best he can hope for is a draw.

Later in the game he remarked,

I have chosen this game as an example of position play. The apparently simple moves are in reality of a very complicated nature, and they all obey a preconceived plan. Such games are in fact of the highest and most difficult type, and only the connoisseur can fully appreciate them.

That is why I included the game with the others 'to be studied'. To play through the complete game see...

Aron Nimzowitsch vs Jose Raul Capablanca, St Petersburg 1914

...on Chessgames.com.

03 October 2006

Rubinstein played the Rubinstein

A paragraph from 'Chess Memoirs' by Dr. Joseph Platz (p.51):

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4. The Rubinstein Defense. The first time it was ever played against me, in a simultaneous exhibition when I was a youngster, was by the great Akiba Rubinstein himself. I was almost trembling with excitement, but I gave a good account of myself. When he made an unsound combination -- a very rare occurrence -- I refuted it and came out a full Rook ahead. Gracefully, silently, without even looking at me he turned over his King in surrender. It was the first and only time I ever saw Rubinstein.

The full game score isn't given. 'In 1933, when Hitler came to power I had to leave Germany in a hurry and fled across the border into Switzerland.' Dr. Platz told me once that when he saw the swastika adorning the hospital where he worked, he knew it was time to leave. Much of his chess memorabilia was left behind.

01 October 2006

A lesson in the Lopez from Capablanca and Kasparov

While preparing the next game in Capablanca's games 'to be studied', which is Nimzowitsch - Capablanca, St.Petersburg 1914, I learned something new about the opening. It starts with the position shown in the diagram.

I usually open 1.e4, and sometimes answer 1.e4 with 1...e5, so I have played the diagrammed position countless times. What could I possibly learn about it, which arises after the further moves 2.Nf3 Nc6? Nimzowitsch - Capablanca continued 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 (ECO C48-49) 4...d6. For some reason, I had never considered Black's fourth move. As Black, I usually play 4...Bb4 (C49), and I once analyzed 4...Nd4 (C48, the Rubinstein Variation) with Dr. Joseph Platz, my first and only chess teacher.

Why hadn't I ever considered 4...d6? Was it because of some Tarrasch dictum warning against shutting in the King's Bishop voluntarily with ...d6? Whatever the reason, if it was good enough for Capablanca, it is certainly good enough for me. I decided to investigate further.

I found the game in Kasparov's 'My Great Predecessors, Vol.1' as no.81, where he assigned the opening to ECO C62. Now I was really confused. I thought the opening was a Four Knights Game, but the 13th World Champion said it was a Ruy Lopez. The Capablanca game continued 5.d4 Bd7 6.Bxc6. Here Kasparov noted, '6.O-O exd4 7.Nxd4 Be7 leads to a tabiya of the variation, for example' 8.Re1, 8.b3, and 8.Nf5?!.

I checked my old copy of ECO and found under C62 (written by Keres) 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 exd4 6.Nxd4 Nf6 and now ECO gave only 7.Bxc6. To reach the Kasparov tabiya 7.O-O Be7, is required. After 5...Nf6, ECO gave only 6.Bxc6!, with a note that 6.O-O is C66, the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez, 3...Nf6.

Under C66 (also written by Keres) I found 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O d6 5.d4 Bd7 6.Nc3, and now 6...exd4 7.Nxd4 Be7 is Kasparov's tabiya. Incidentally, if 6...Be7 7.Re1, then 7...exd4 is best. The move 7...O-O? is an old trap: 8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Rfxd8 11.Nxe5 Bxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Nd3 f5 14.f3 Bc5+ 15.Kf1 +-, as documented by Tarrasch.

Did Kasparov classify the opening as C62 erroneously? Perhaps. In any case, I had learned something new about an opening I had played many times.