Monday, 30 July 2007

British Chess Championship

The British Chess Championships gets underway in Great Yarmouth today. Top seed is defending champion Jonathan Rowson, who at 2599 outgrades the next highest competitor by some 50 points.

Unfortunately, I won't be taking up my qualifying place this year. So, my next event is likely to be either the Isle of Man or an event in Mallorca that caught my eye on IM Georgios Souleidis's blog.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 16

This week's Friday chess puzzle is from Van Scheltinga vs Stahlberg, Amsterdam 1950.

White has just played Bd5, apparently catching Black's knight on e6 in a pair of deadly pins.

Unfortunately for Van Scheltinga, appearances can be deceptive.

Can you see how Stahlberg, one of the strongest players in the world at the time, turned the tables, and forced a win for Black from this position?

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

La question people du mercredi

Philippe Dornbusch has another excellent picture teaser,
La question people du mercredi, on his Chess and Strategy blog... I'm struggling this week, can you name the film?

Friday chess puzzle 15: the solution

This Friday's Chess puzzle was a miniature in which Black delivered the final blow after just 8 moves.

It was Leonhardt playing Black against 'an amateur', and I asked you to find the winning move after

1 e4 e5; 2 d4 ed; 3 Qxd4 Nc6; 4 Qe3 Nf6; 5 Bc4 Ne5; 6 Bb3 Bb4+; 7 c3 Bc5 (see diagram); 8 Qg3?

Congratulations to Ryan Emmett, Paul Dargan, Chris Wardle, all of whom spotted the winner:

8 ... Bxf2+!!

and whether White recaptures with king or queen, there is a knight fork (e4 or d3) winning the queen to follow.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 15

This week's Friday Chess puzzle is from Leipzig in 1903. It's Leonhardt playing Black against 'an amateur'.

One of the first things we learn as chess players is not to develop our queens too early. This game is a fine case in point:

1 e4 e5; 2 d4 ed; 3 Qxd4 Nc6; 4 Qe3 Nf6; 5 Bc4 Ne5; 6 Bb3 Bb4+; 7 c3 Bc5

reaching the position above. White cannot capture the bishop, so instead played 8 Qg3 and attacked the exposed knight on e5.

Can you see how Black forced an immediate win after 8 Qg3?

Answers to Chess Tales. I'll publish the solution next Wednesday.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 14: the solution

Friday chess puzzle 14

Last week's chess puzzle was from 1893 and Tarrasch's match with Tchigorin.

From the position above (after 20 moves), Tarrasch found the following mating finish:

21 Rxf6!! Kxf6; 22 Bg5+ Kg7; 23 Qh6+ Kg8; 24 Rf1 Rf8 (... Rb7 holds off the mate, at the cost of the rook); 25 Bf6 Qxf6; 26 Rxf6 resigns (the threat is 27 Rxg6+ hg; 28 Qxg6 mate)

Congratulations to Chris Wardle, Karlheinz Vogel and Paul Dargan, all of whom found the initial move.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Nimzo Indian strategic dream

Apologies that there have been no posts for a couple of days. I ended up in hospital on Sunday, but a raging temperature, two saline drips, and some awful headaches later, I'm finally starting to recover (I hope!).

Two weeks ago, I showed you one of my best games, where Black ventured an unusual move order in the Nimzo Indian to try and establish a strong knight on c4, but the idea was torn apart by immediate energetic play from White.

The game below, a strategic dream for any Nimzo Indian player, shows how strong the Black knights can become, especially if White plays negatively. It was played at Carlsbad in 1929 by the great Aron Nimzowitsch (who the defence was named after). White's play is insipid at best, but Nimzowitsch's handling of the Black side is exemplary:

Mattison - Aron Nimzowitsch, Carlsbad 1929
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 d6 6. Qc2 Qe7 7. Ba3 c5 8.g3 b6 9. Bg2 Bb7 10. O-O O-O 11. Nh4 Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Qb7+ 13. Kg1 Qa6 14. Qb3 Nc6 15. Rfd1 Na5 16. Qb5 Qxb5 17. cxb5 Nc4

Mattison - Nimzowitsch Carlsbad Chess 1929

18. Bc1 a6 19. bxa6 Rxa6 20. dxc5 bxc5 21. Ng2 Nd5 22. Rd3 Rfa8 23. e4 Ne5 0-1

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 13: the solution

Boris Spassky v Marszalek, Chess 1958

Somewhat overdue, but here's the solution to our 13th Friday chess puzzle (8 days ago)

It was Boris Spassky about to win against Marszalek, and there were two questions:

1. Which move did Boris, White, play (it forces mate in 5)?

A lot of you spotted the winner 1. Qh6! ... so, congratulations!

2. Does anyone know Mr Marszalek's first name?

Two of you also made a great effort on this one. Winand Simons and Christophe Kriegstumpf (aka. the Haymarket Sage) both suggested Rafal, although after some further research the Sage then suggested it might actually be Josef.

Any further suggestions on this one welcome.

Don't forget to check out yesterday's Friday Chess Puzzle as well.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 14

Friday chess puzzle 14

Our chess puzzle this week is from 1893 and Tarrasch's match with Tchigorin.

Tchigorin played a couple of poor moves in the opening (... Bb4 and ... Ba5), allowing Tarrasch to tear into his position.

Having reached the position above after 20 moves, Tarrasch found a very energetic way to finish off his opponent, can you find the move?

Answers to Chess Tales. I'll publish the solution next Wednesday.

As the game is so impressive, I thought I would give you the first 20 moves as well:

Tarrasch - Tchigorin, Match 1893
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Nd5 Ba5 7. O-O b5 8. Bb3 d6 9. d3 Bg4 10. c3 Ne7 11. Nxe5!! dxe5 12. Nxf6+ gxf6 13. Qxg4 Ng6 14. Bd5 Rb8 15. f4 c6 16. Bxc6+ Ke7 17. Bd5 b4 18. fxe5 Qb6+ 19. Kh1 Nxe5 20. Qh5 Ng6...

Apologies for the lateness of today's post. I was in a tribunal all day; I won the case, but it was a long day.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Revisiting the French

Spassky Korchnoi 1977
Position after 10 ... f6

Paul Dargan and I were discussing openings the other day, and briefly exchanged a few thoughts on French Defence.

The French has a reputation as a solid but un-adventurous defence, and I must admit that when I played it as a junior the games typically fitted that description. I would win by exchanging off pieces down the c-file and gradually exploiting weaknesses in White's pawn structure. As my opponents got better and this simplistic approach stopped working, I dropped the French from my repertoire and sought adventure in the Sicilian.

However, in reality, the French, and in particular the Winawer variation, can lead to some very dynamic and unbalanced positions where wild attacks rage. This game played in 1977 Candidates final match is a perfect illustration.

Boris Spassky - Viktor Korchnoi, Game 4, Candidates 1977
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. a4 Bd7 8. Nf3 Qa5 9. Bd2 Nbc6 10. Be2 f6

Here's where the fun really begins. Black had been getting into difficulties with 10 ... c4, so in the mid 70's Korchnoi started adopting the double edged 10 ... f6.

11. c4 Qc7 12. exf6 gxf6 13. cxd5 Nxd5 14. c3 O-O-O 15. O-O Rhg8 16. Re1 e5 17. c4 Bh3

Spassky Korchnoi 1977

18. Bf1 Nb6 19. d5 Nxc4! 20. dxc6 Qxc6 21. g3 Bxf1 22. Rxf1 e4 23. Qb3 Qd5 24. Rac1 Nxd2

Here, 24... Ne5 looks strong and is Fritz's recommendation. After 25. Rxc5+ Qxc5 26. Rc1 Nxf3+ 27. Kg2 Qxc1 28. Bxc1, Fritz considers Black is better, although both Keene and Timman consider White's co-ordinated Queen and Bishop give him the upper hand.

25. Nxd2 Qxd2 26. Rxc5+ Kb8 27. Rb1 Rg7 28. Rb5 Rdd7 29. Qe6 e3 30. fxe3 Rge7 31. Qg8+ Rd8 32. Qb3 Rdd7 33. Qg8+ Rd8 34. Qb3 1/2 - 1/2

Check out Jan Timman's excellent 'Art of Chess Analysis'for a thorough study of this game.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

La question people du mercredi

blonde chess WGM

Phil Dornbusch's latest picture quiz La question people du mercredi is available on Chess & Strategy.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Great sleep; great chess

I've talked in the past about how important physical fitness can be for top level chess. Of course a good diet goes hand in hand with this, but for me the most crucial immediate factor can be how well I've slept the night before. My plummeting Internet blitz rating after a bad night bears testimony to this.

This is particularly on my mind because one of my current Internet projects is for a new healthcare company whose products include a range of mattresses for sports people. The mattresses have a special polymer core that improves sleep and recovery amongst other things, and are attracting interest in Premier League football and with elite athletes.

I'm wondering how long it will be before our elite chess Grandmasters start to demand healthcare as part of their tournament conditions.

The only bad thing about this project is that it's not leaving me anytime for the blitz chess, which is probably all well and good considering the amount of sleep I've not been getting!

Monday, 9 July 2007

In the chess blogosphere

Inna Iasman at the Paris Championships

I've begun work on a really interesting web project, so time to write today has been a little scarce.

I have had chance to peruse the chess blogosphere though, and found some stories of interest:

International Master Georgios Souleidos always presents instructive chess analysis, and today is no exception as he examines a pair of good knight vs. bad bishop endings, including a Karpov win against Kasparov, and a lovely knight sacrifice of his own to leave 2 passed pawns that overpower the bishop.

Over on Chess Vibes, Peter Dogger is continuing to report on his 'grand tour', whilst Philippe Dornbusch's Chess & Strategy has coverage of Anand's victory in Leon, and is keeping a close eye on the Paris International Championships. I have fond memories of playing in Paris, so will be following the stories with interest.

Finally, my friends in Buenos Aires at Solo Ajedrez are way too busy watching the Copa America to be writing about chess at the moment: apparently, it was 4-0 against Peru last time out with goals for Riquelme (2), the fantastic Mascherano, and Messi.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Book of the week

Can you spare a couple of hours a day for a week?

Then our next Chess Tales 'book of the week' might be just the thing for you. It's the latest offering from International Master Gary Lane.

Gary is a profilic author, famous for his opening repertoire works and chess help columns. He also beat yours truly in an indecently small number of moves (but I won't hold that against him).

His new book, "Improve your chess in 7 days", is a break from the opening treatises and, judging from the title, is the perfect chess book for our modern hectic lifestyles.

From the synopsis, it's:

"... packed with practical tips, hints on how to improve, learn from the champions and find out how to beat them - in just a week. With one short chapter for each day of the week, the book is ideal for social chess players and includes a sprinkling of chess cartoons to keep you smiling as you read: Day 1 - So You Want to be Good? Day 2 - Understanding the Openings; Day 3 - Strategy versus Tactics; Day 4 - Creating the Attack; Day 5 - Avoiding Blunders; Day 6 - Mastering the Ending; and, Day 7 - The Art of Swindling. With comments and advice after each move, this is as clear a guide to improving your chess as you will ever need."

It's currently on offer (30% off) on Amazon:

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Speelman's Best Games

On Friday I confessed to being rather ignorant with regard to Jon Speelman's games. Fortunately, it seems there are plenty of people out there who are not, and that not only does he play fascinating chess, but he also writes tremendously.

When I posted my list of 'must have books' over on Chess Forums, a number of readers were quick to suggest that Speelman's work Best Chess Games, 1970-80 should be on the there

"Speelman's book is great, it 'tells you a story': when playing through his games, you feel as you were really there, living the drama." Chamaco, Chess Forums

It seems his seductive style extends to his own games' collection, Jon Speelman's Best Games, as well:

"This book is hugely instructive from the practical player's point of view, because it gives insights into how chess games are really decided at the highest level. None of your crystal-clear strategic crushes here, consistent from first move to last. Speelman is breathtakingly candid about his thought processes and the sometimes apparently random factors that make the difference. A study of his games is bound to make anyone's play more resilient and resourceful - as well as being great fun and, occasionally, awe-inspiring." TD Welsh, Amazon Review

Friday, 6 July 2007

Echecs gourmands

WGM Natalia Zhukova
WGM Natalia Zhukova. Photo: Fred Lucas, Momentoo

Last week, I introduced a couple of alternative chess sets.

Now Natalia Zhukova is advising on a novel set as part of the coaching regime. I suspect her "echecs gourmands" has a shorter lifespan: Le conseil de Natalia pour ce week-end

Friday chess puzzle 13

Boris Spassky v Marszalek, Chess 1958

Our position today is from the World Students' Team Championship 1958, and future World Champion Boris Spassky about to win against Marszalek.

There are two questions:

1. Which move did Boris, White, play (it forces mate in 5)?


2. Does anyone know Mr Marszalek's first name?

Send your solutions to Chess Tales. I'll publish the answer next Wednesday.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Speelman's Schliemann

Position after 12 ... Qh3

I have to admit I wanted to shout it to the rooftops the other day when I found out about Jon Speelman's coverage of my game against Colin Crouch (My head's subsequently reduced a little in size, although give it a while longer before normality returns). After all, Jon's one of England's greatest players, he qualifed twice for the Candidates matches, and as I posted previously on Chess Tales, he was once ranked number 4 in the world.

Despite this, I also have to admit to a shocking lack of knowledge of his games and results. One game that I do remember well though was in his Candidates 1/4 final match with Jan Timman in 1989. If my memory serves me right, it was the final game and Jon needed a win with the Black pieces to force the match into a play-off.

His choice of opening for the game was the Schliemann Defence (1 e4 e5; 2 Nf3 Nc6; 3 Bb5 f5!?), one of the wildest lines Black can adopt against the Ruy Lopez. Originating in the 1840's, and truly at home with the romantic gambit play of the 19th Century, it's certainly not something you'd have expected to see in a modern Candidates Match.

Play went down one of the main lines, where White hopes to prove that Black's queen is offside and to gradually pick off the weak Black pawns. As compensation Black has active play for his pieces, and as happened in the game, the Queen can actually prove to be well posted to support an attack.

I was so impressed with the game line, that I twice foresook my Sicilian and adopted it as a surprise weapon. The results were good: a win and a draw against strong opposition.

Jan Timman - Jon Speelman, Candidates 1/4 Final 1989
1 e4 e5; 2 Nf3 Nc6; 3 Bb5 f5; 4 Nc3 fe; 5 Nxe4 d5; 6 Nxe5 de; 7 Nxc6 Qg5; 8 Qe2 Nf6; 9 f4 Qxf4; 10 Ne5+ c6; 11 d4 Qh4+; 12 g3 Qh3 (see diagram); 13 Bc4 Be6; 14 Bg5 0-0-0; 15 0-0-0 Bd6; 16 Nf7 Bxf7; 17 Bxf7 Rhf8; 18 Bc4 Rde8; 19 d5 c5; 20 Rhf1 Kb8; 21 Bf4 Rd8; 22 Bg5 a6; 23 Bxf6 gf; 24 Qxe4 Qxh2; 25 Rh1 Qxg3; 26 Rxh7 Rfe8; 27 Qf5 b5; 28 Bf1 Re1; 29 Qh5 Qf4+; 30 Kb1 Qxf1 0-1

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

What chance the British?

I had renowned chess tactician Charlie Storey on the phone earlier, asking if I would be interested in sharing an apartment with Danny Gormally and himself at the British Championships.

Having previously decided not to play, I'd taken on an exciting Internet contract, but if Charlie can find somewhere decent to stay I might be tempted to change my mind (and work my socks off to get the contract out before the tournament starts).

I'll keep you updated.

Friday chess puzzle 12: the solution

Lukin Shirov Chess Daugavpils 1989

Last week's chess puzzle proved rather difficult.

It was Alexei Shirov on the wrong end of a super move from Lukin at Daugavpils 1989.

The move that Lukin found was the 'bayonet thrust' 1 g6!! creating a very pretty picture with the 5 pawns adjacent to each other.

The main threat now is simply to play 2 Bxe6 winning. Black has no good defence, for example:

1 ... hg; 2 Bxe6 fe; 2 Rxf8+ Kxf8; 30 h7


1 ... gh; 2 Bxh6

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A best game

Coathup v Crouch Durham Chess 2000
Position after 15 Bg5!

Yesterday, I put out an appeal to find the game score for one of my best chess performances. Big thanks are due to Paul Runnacles, who not only found the score, but also an article by Grandmaster Jon Speelman about the game. I didn't know it had been covered nationally, so Paul's discovery was a real treat.

I was going to annotate the game for you, a thematic Nimzo Indian Saemisch Variation where Black tried an unusual sequence to counter White's standard plans, but instead will give Jon Speelman's analysis and a little background to the game.

It was played in the final round of the Durham Open 2000, and I had the White pieces against International Master Colin Crouch. Colin led the event, but a win would allow me to catch him. To be honest, I shouldn't have been in the running: I'd lost badly in round 1, won in 2, and had a draw with Alan Grant (a 2240 player) in round 3. Amazingly, despite my 50% score I received a full point bye in round 4 (it was a very small field) to set up the encounter with Colin Crouch. I'll let Jon Speelman pick up the story:

The decisive action took place in the last round when Coathup, who is only rated 2130, unexpectedly defeated Crouch in the game below: while Grant won against Yugoslav Dusan Zdjelar, to share the spoils.

In a Nimzo-Indian, White's mobile pawn centre gave him some advantage after a dozen moves but Crouch's 12...h5 and 13...h4 and 14...g6, while thematic, simply didn't work and after 15.Bg5! Black is very close to, if not entirely, lost.

If 15...dxe4 16.fxe4 gxf5 17.e5 Nxe5 (17...Qd5 18.Bxf6 Qxg2 19.0- 0-0 is a better try but still foul for Black) 18.Qe2! White wins a piece. 19.g4! ripped open the kingside after which the admirably calm 22.Rh5 and 23.Qxf5 removed a vital pawn.

With 25.Bg5!, Coathup got the bishop out of the way prior to advancing the f pawn. An impressively smooth and unharried performance against an opponent who is not only a grandmaster but also rated nearly 300 points more than the winner.

Grandmaster Jon Speelman, The Independent, 20 April 2000

Thanks Jon!

Roger Coathup - Colin Crouch, Durham Open 2000
1 d4 Nf6; 2 c4 e6; 3 Nc3 Bb4; 4 a3 Bxc3+; 5 bc d5; 6 cd ed; 7 e3 Nc6

An unusual move. Normally Black plays c7-c5 to pressure the White centre, but Crouch had an interesting plan in mind to swap off the light squared bishops and manouevre this knight via a5 to a strong point on c4.

8 Bd3 Bg4; 9 f3 Bh5; 10 Ne2 Bg6; 11 Ng3 Bxd3; 12 Qxd3 h5; 13 e4!

For me this was the key move in the game. Black's play, albeit at the cost of several tempi, has all been directing at stopping it. If White doesn't play e4 now, Black will follow up with h4 driving back the g3 knight, and move the c6 knight to c4 dominating White's bishop. 13 e4 needed a lot of calculation though, in particular envisaging 15 Bg5 and analysing the variations (as given by Speelman) that follow.

13 ... h4; 14 Nf5 g6; 15 Bg5! (see diagram above) gf; 16 e5 Qd7; 17 Bxf6 Rh7; 18 Kf2 Qe6; 19 g4!

Coathup v Crouch Durham Chess 2000

19 ... hg+; 20 hg Rxh1; 21 Rxh1 Kd7; 22 Rh5 a6; 23 Qxf5 Qxf5; 24 Rxf5 b5; 25 Bg5! Ke8; 26 Rf6 Na5; 27 Rh6 Kd7; 28 Rh7 Ke6; 29 g4 Na5; 30 f4 Nxa3; 31 f5+ 1-0

This was my maiden Open Tournament first place at standard time limits.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Botvinnik book update

Mikhail Botvinnik Chess Player

The autographed book by Mikhail Botvinnik finished on eBay on Sunday evening.

It was a popular auction with some frantic bidding in the last 20 minutes that doubled the final price to £77.

I'm really pleased with the way it went: I've had the pleasure of having Botvinnik's autograph on my bookshelf for a year, and made a decent profit on the deal. Whilst, the buyer has managed to pick up a wonderful book at what is still a very good price. I'm also reassured to know that the book is going to a 'good chess home' and to a real fan of Botvinnik.

This week I'm going to auction one of the most unusual but nonetheless fascinating chess books ever published. I'll tell you more later, but for now I'll give you a clue: the book, written by one of the strongest players of the 20th Century, only contains one game of chess. Can you guess which book it is?

Game score appeal!

I was going to annotate one of my best games for you, a win against International Master Colin Crouch from the Durham Open in 2000. Unfortunately, I've misplaced the game score.

I've scanned online, but am struggling to find it. If anyone knows where I can pick up the pgn, please let me know.

British Championships deadline

The deadline for my entry to the British Chess Championships is drawing near and it's starting to look increasingly likely that I won't play.

The tournament is 2 weeks long in a distant seaside town (Great Yarmouth) in the height of the summer holidays; finding accommodation is proving very difficult. I'd love to play in the event, but want to be comfortable. I don't want to be cooped up in a small B&B for so long.

The ideal would be a cottage with Internet connection, but, even if one were available, the accommodation combined with the high entry fee would take the cost to take part in the tournament to over £1500 (US $3000). That's just way too much.

The Scottish Championships, 9 rounds in Edinburgh in July, looks far more enticing. Failing that, it will be the Isle of Man at the end of September and the chance to battle against some big names.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Chess in the Attic: Tilburg 1989

Starting at the age of 16 with a victory by 2 clear points in Banja Luka from a field that included Petrosian, Andersson, Adorjan and Browne, Garry Kasparov's chess career delivered a never ending string of spectacular tournament performances.

When I was in the attic last week, flicking through some old copies of the German magazine Schach Report, I came across the tournament report for his victory at Tilburg 1989:

Tilburg Chess 1989
The statistics are incredible, in this 8 player double round event Garry Kasparov only conceded 4 draws, winning the event by 3.5 points from Viktor Korchnoi. The field wasn't weak either, along with the two leaders there was Vassily Ivanchuk, Lubomir Ljubojevic, Candidates Gyula Sax, Johann Hjartarson, and Simen Agdestein, and the dangerous local Grandmaster Jeroen Piket.

The event is memorable not just for the margin of victory, nor for the destructive power of Garry Kasparov (many of the games were won in 30 moves or less), but also for the fact that this is the event that propelled Garry Kasparov past Bobby Fischer's ELO rating record of 2780.

We've already covered his superb King's Indian victory over Jeroen Piket at Tilburg, so instead let's look at his quick dismissal of Norwegian Grandmaster and sometime international footballer Simen Agdestein.

Simen Agdestein - Garry Kasparov, Tilburg 1989
1 c4 g6; 2 Nc3 c5; 3 g3 Bg7; 4 Bg2 Nc6; 5 e3 d6; 6 Nge2 Nf6; 7 0-0 0-0; 8 d3 Bd7; 9 h3 a6; 10 b3 Rb8; 11 Bb2 b5; 12 Qd2 Nb4!?; 13 Rfd1 Re8; 14 e4?! Nc6; 15 Nd5 e5; 16 Kh2 h5; 17 f4 bc; 18 dc Nd5; 19 Qd5? Nd4!; 20 Nd4 cd; 21 Qd6 h4!; 22 g4 Bf8; 23 Qa6 Re6; 24 Qa7 Ra8 0-1


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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.