Random Posts

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Evans Gambit Accepted

      The gambit is named after the Welsh sea Captain William Davies Evans, the first player known to have employed it. The first game with the opening is considered to be Evans–McDonnell, London 1827. The gambit became very popular shortly after that, being employed a number of times in the series of games between McDonnell and Louis de la Bourdonnais in 1834. Players such as Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy and Mikhail Chigorin subsequently took it up.
      After Emanuel Lasker's simplifying defense to the opening in a tournament in 1895, it was out of favor for much of the 20th century, although John Nunn and Jan Timman played some games with it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in the 1990s Garry Kasparov used it in a few of his games which prompted a brief revival of interest in it.
      The idea behind the move 4.b4 is to give up a pawn in order to secure a strong centre and bear down on Black's weak-point, f7. Ideas based on Ba3, preventing Black from castling, are also often seen. According to Reuben Fine, the Evans poses a challenge for Black since the usual defenses (play ...d6 and/or give back the gambit pawn) are more difficult to pull off than with other gambits.
      The most obvious way for Black to meet the gambit is to accept it with 4...Bxb4. After 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 the common retreats are:

5...Ba5 According to Chessgames.com, this is Black's most popular retreat. It gets out of the way of White's centre pawns, and pins the c3 pawn if White plays 6.d4, but it has the disadvantage of removing the a5-square for the black king's knight. Black usually subsequently retreats the bishop to b6 to facilitate ...Na5, which is particularly strong when White opts for the Bc4, Qb3 approach.
5...Bc5 According to Chessgames.com, this is the second most popular retreat, with White scoring better than after 5...Ba5. This is often played by people unfamiliar with the Evans Gambit, but is arguably not as good as 5...Ba5, because 6.d4 attacks the bishop and narrows down Black's options as compared with 5...Ba5 6.d4. It is the variation seen in this game.
5...Be7 This is considered the safest retreat and has been played by Anand. CJS Purdy recommended this move if you are unfamiliar with all the nuances of this opening because he believed it was the safest and easiest to play without knowing reams of analysis.After 6.d4 Na5, White can attempt to maintain an initiative with 7.Be2 as played by Kasparov, or immediately recapture the pawn with 7.Nxe5.
5...Bd6 This is called the Stone–Ware Defense after Henry Stone and Preston Ware. The move reinforces the e5-pawn and has been played by several grandmasters such as Andrei Volokitin, Alexander Grischuk and Loek van Wely.

Chessdotcom offers an excellent 5-part series by IM Jacek Stopa on The Evans Gambit HERE.

In the following game Correspondence IM Keith Rodriquez demonstrates that it’s quite playable even in correspondence chess. My personal Correspondence Opening Book which is made up of games played at LSS and ICCF with at least one player rated over 2300 has 65 games with the Evans Gambit. Somewhat surprisingly, White’s score with the Evans is 57.7%. On the other hand, the more ‘solid’ moves 4.c3 only scores 47.4% and 4.d3 scores 45.8%!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Correspondence Chess with an Engine

      Sounds easy…just let the engine run for a while then play its top choice. But, like I said in the past, there’s more to it than just playing whatever your engine suggests. If that wasn’t so, I’d be rated 2600, have a correspondence title and be advertising myself as a world correspondence championship contender on this blog. Here are two recent examples.
      Some players complain that the finding of opening innovations by human players is a dying art because engines are coming up with theoretical novelties. Others counterclaim engines are useful to find traps and tactics but are not considered as good as strong GM’s because engines can't see strategic ideas until the position is well-established. For example, in many cases if you pick a line in a King’s Indian or a Benoni in which the GM’s claim is “even” you will find engines will evaluate it in White's favor. Even so, many opening novelties these days are engine generated with the GM giving the final evaluation.

     In this position from one of my CC games the Fritz 12 opening book has only one move for Black: 20…Rae8 with Black winning by means of a R-lift (...Re6 and ...Rg6, using the R in an attack against the White K) . This was Aronin’s move against Anand at Linares, 2009 and since Aronin won the game, it would appear that the move is a good choice.
     However, when analyzing the game with an engine it suggests that White’s position is slightly better. In fact, the engines show White keeping his slight advantage up until move 33 when Anand apparently missed the best move and the advantage abruptly swung over to his opponent. Therefore, this might be a good time to look for an improvement over Aronin’s 20…Rae8.
     20…Rad8 Houdini 2 suggests this move. Stockfish 4 initially suggested 20...Rfe8 but H2 thought one of the R's, preferably the a8R should go to the d-file. Indeed, upon deeper investigation there was an improvement for White in SF’s main line and so H2’s move of 20…Rad8 seems the best choice. Also, further investigation of 20...Rad8 with SF seemed to confirm Houdini’s evaluation. It’s likely that blindly following the opening book in this case would lead to a loss.
     Some time back I was White and was following an opening line played by two 2500 CC players in which White was given a slight plus and eventually won. I figured this was safe because I assumed both sides had checked the line with engines. That was the real problem: how many times have we been told never to assume anything? So, late in the opening I noticed what appeared to be an improvement for Black that left me in a difficult position. Of course my opponent found it too and I was left struggling for many moves; forget the engine; if a move looked like it might be good, I checked it out…all to no avail; I lost to an improvement suggested by a newer, stronger engine.

     In the above position I had Black and it appears that White is winning. However…and it’s a BIG however, my engines at the time (which I think included Houdini 1.5) recommended something like 45…Rg5. Instead, I played 45…Rg6! Why? Because after 45…Rg6 even Houdini 2 wants to play 46.Rxg6?? and shows White has an advantage of between 1.5 – 2.0 Pawns. Stockfish 4 puts White’s advantage at over 3P’s; in either case, an easy win for White. But…and it’s a BIG but, those evaluations are wrong! 
    Eliminate the minor pieces and White wins.  Eliminate the R's and it's a draw. To be fair though, if I had endgame tablebases installed on my computer, the evaluation might be different. I don’t know because I’ve never used them.
     So, the point of my playing 45...Rg6 was that if White relied solely on his engine, he'd jump at the chance to trade R's and thereby be left with nothing more than a draw. Fortunately, that's exactly what he did and it took him another 32 moves when we reached the following position…

…to realize that he couldn’t win even though Houdini 2 is still evaluating the position at over a one Pawn advantage for White.
     Sorting through all these kinds of things is what makes engine-assisted chess difficult and so labor intensive. I guess that’s why one top level CC player wrote that he couldn’t imagine playing a move with only three days’ reflection time. When the championship sections have 17 players and you need a week or more to do your research, it takes a LOT of time!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Sometimes it’s fun to play over your old games. Of course most of the time it’s also pretty painful because all those brilliancies and well played positional games can turn out to be really, really badly played by the time Houdini gets done analyzing them. My opponent in this game is still around, but he doesn’t play chess any more, preferring instead to collect old records and books and observe wildlife. The position below is worth looking at because it contains some little tactical points that we both missed.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Chess Collector

Great website for browsing! The Chess Collector specializes in rare, antiquarian and collectable chess literature. From chess books to manuscripts and periodicals in many different languages. VISIT

Salzburg 1942

     The main organizer of Salzburg 1942, Ehrhardt Post, the Chief Executive of Nazi Grossdeutscher Schachbund, intended to bring together the six strongest players of Germany, the occupied and neutral European countries. They were: world champion Alexander Alekhine, former champion Max Euwe, challenger Paul Keres, former challenger Efim Bogoljubov, winner of European tournament at Munich 1941 Gösta Stoltz, and German champion Paul Schmidt. 
     Euwe withdrew due to "illness". Actually, Euwe refused to participate because Alekhine was invited (Alekhine had written about the "Jewish clique" around Euwe in World Chess Championship 1935). His place was taken by eighteen-year-old Klaus Junge. The event took place in the Mirabell Palace in from 9th to 18 June 1942. The players had to make 32 moves in two hours; the second control was 16 moves per hour.
     Klaus Junge was a lieutenant of the 12th SS Battalion defending Hamburg. Refusing to surrender, he died – shouted "Sieg Heil!" – in combat against Allied troops on 17 April 1945 in the battle of Welle on the Lüneburger Heide. The first Junge Memorial was held in Regensburg in 1946 (Fedor Bohatirchuk won). According to GM Robert Hübner, Junge was the greatest German chess talent in the 20th century.
     In 1941 Alekhine published anti-Semitic articles in Germany and those articles were not forgotten by the chess world after the war and organizers refused to invite him to tournaments. Negotiations with Botvinnik for a world title match were proceeding in 1946 when Alekhine died in Estoril, Portugal. His death remains a controversial mystery even today. The “official” version was that he choked to death on a piece of meat in his hotel room. Other versions are he was murdered by a French "Death Squad" but a few years later, Alekhine's son, Alexander Alekhine Jr., said that the hand of Moscow reached his father. Incidentally, Alekhine, Jr. maintained an interest in chess but never played because his father never taught him.
     Bogoljubov lived in West Germany and remained active in the German chess world until his death. He died from a heart attack in Triberg in 1952.
Bogoljubow - Stoltz scoresheet

     Paul Keres travelled to Spain in 1943 and moved to Sweden in 1944. At the end of World War II, he returned to Estonia in Autumn 1944. He was harassed by the Soviet authorities (KGB) and feared for his life. Keres managed to avoid deportation to Siberia or any worse but his return to the international chess scene was delayed. He returned to international play in World Chess Championship 1948 but, as some historians argue, had to lose to Mikhail Botvinnik. Keres died from a heart attack in Helsinki in 1975.
     Stoltz returned to Sweden in 1942. He died in 1963.
     Paul Schmidt remained active in the German chess and was awarded the International Master title in 1950. Schmidt earned a PhD in chemistry from Heidelberg University in 1951, moved to Canada, then to the United States. He lived in Philadelphia where he was a college professor. He died in Allentown in 1984.

1 Alexander Alekhine xx 11 11 01 01 ½1            7.5
2 Paul Keres                 00 xx ½½ 1½ ½1 11     6
3-4 Paul Schmidt        00 ½½ xx ½½ 01 11     5
3-4 Klaus Junge          10 0½ ½½ xx 01 ½1     5
5 Efim Bogoljubov      10 ½0 10 10 xx 00          3.5
6 Gösta Stoltz               ½0 00 00 ½0 11 xx       3

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dr. Julius Perlis

     Dr. Julius Perlis (19 January 1880, Białystok (Poland, then Russian Empire) – 11 September 1913, Ennstal) was a Master, Doctor of Laws, and avid mountaineer; he perished under tragic circumstances in the Styrian Alps. On the morning of 10 September Dr. Perlis commenced a day's excursion on the Hochtor, traversing the mountain without companion or guide and apparently lost his way. In the evening his cries for help were heard by two tourists who were unable to reach him owing to approaching darkness and the onset of a snowstorm. Dr. Perlis' body was found by a rescue team two days later, on 12 September, the absence of visible injuries leading to a verdict of death by exposure.
      Perlis was born in 1880 in Bialystok, but when still quite young migrated to Vienna with the purpose of studying law. He earned the Master title at Barmen in 1905, and competed with distinction in many of the great tournaments of his time, finishing 9th at Ostend, 1906; 7th at St. Petersburg, 1909; 13th at Carlsbad, 1911; and 5th at San Sebastian, 1912, perhaps his best result. At the Vienna Chess Club Jubilee event held earlier in 1913, Dr. Perlis took 5th place in a field of 8. Perlis was a feared opponent, capable of defeating any of the world's top players. The following game is a slugfest with one of the world’s best tacticians.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Forrest Gump Played a Good Game of Chess

My name's Forrest Gump.
 People call me Forrest Gump.
Did you know that in addition to being a great ping pong player, Forrest was a chess master? No, it wasn’t in the movie, but in the original book. He learned to play chess in the jungle after his spacecraft crashed. Later, he participated in tournament chess…see chapter 10! Forrest Gump, Chess Player

Friday, September 20, 2013

Smyslov – Botvinnik

     The 1948 World Championship was played to determine a new World Champion following the death of Alekhine in 1946. The tournament also marked the passing of control of the championship title to FIDE which had been formed in 1924. Botvinnik won the five-player tournament, beginning the era of Soviet domination of international chess that would last over twenty years.

Mikhail Botvinnik (USSR) 14
Vasily Smyslov (USSR) 11
 Paul Keres (USSR) 10½
 Samuel Reshevsky (USA) 10½
 Max Euwe (NED) 4

The tournament also began a controversy involving Keres and Botvinnik. Because Keres lost his first four games against Botvinnik, suspicions have been raised that Keres was forced to throw games to allow Botvinnik to win the Championship. Chess historian Taylor Kingston investigated all the available evidence and arguments, and concluded that Soviet chess officials gave Keres strong hints that he should not hinder Botvinnik's attempt to win the World Championship. Botvinnik claimed he discovered this about half-way through the tournament and protested so strongly that he angered Soviet officials. If it means anything, Samuel Reshevaky once stated he did not think Keres was strong enough to ever become world champion.  Keres-Botvinnik Controversy

     Botvinnik's domination of the chess world began with this tournament. Older readers will remember when Botvinnik was The Man. His books were highly influential on most young masters back in the 50s and 60s. I remember a lot of players, including myself, who played the French Defense, Winawer Variation or the Dutch Defense just because Botvinnik did. From the 1930s to the 1960s, he was the standard by which players measured themselves. In an attempt to appear modest, Botvinnik claimed he was only “first among equals.”
      In match play things weren’t quite so clear. He played in seven world championship matches: first against Bronstein in 1951, drawing 12-12. There is also some argument that Bronstein was influenced to throw the match. Next came Vassily Smyslov, one of the greatest players in history.
      The Botvinnik- Smsylov encounters produced tremendous chess. Botvinnik drew his first match with Smyslov (who had won the Zurich 1953 candidates tournament), thus retaining his title. Smyslov was back in 1957 and beat Botvinnik decisively, +6 -3 =13. Under the rematch rules, Botvinnik was entitled to a return match which he won +7 -5 =11 in 1958. So, over the three-game match, Smyslov was actually plus one.
      Then in 1960 Mikhail Tal soundly defeated The Man by +6 – 2 =13. Botvinnik easily won the rematch with +10 -5 =6.
      All of these matches can only be described as “brawls,” especially the one with Tahl. Generally Botvinnik was considered the ultimate positional player and Tahl the ultimate tactician. Play over those games and you’ll see both players hammering away at each other with every weapon available regardless of their style: positional chess, tactical chess and endings.
      Botvinnik lost his last match to Petrosian in 1963 with a +2 -5 =15. There was no rematch clause and Botvinnik knew better than to, at the age of 52, try and slog through the candidates to play another match. He was done. His match record for the world championships was 36 wins, 39 losses and 82 draws. Botvinnik’s last tournament win was at Beverwijk in 1969. He died in 1995. Here’s an exciting game from the 1948 tournament.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reshevsky Simul Game

Few people are aware that Reshevsky kept a winter home in Sunrise, Florida (Sunrise is situated in the heart of South Florida's tourist region) and over the years, on occasion, he gave simuls at the local club. In this simul he scored +23 -0 =3 and after the 4-1/2 hour exhibition, someone asked the 79 year old Reshevsky if he was tired to which he replied, "Not particularly."  Reshevsky's draw with 1800-rated Wayne Meyerson (who played very well)  was the first game to finish. Meyerson decided to force the perpetual check with 23...Nxg4 24. fxg4 Qxg4+. He was hoping Reshevsky would fall for 26. Qg2??, which would have allowed the win a piece with 26...Qxg2+.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Nifty Capa Win

      Capa's opponent in this game was Juan Corzo y Principe (June 24, 1873–September 27, 1941).  Corzo was a Spanish–Cuban master, and champion of Cuba immediately preceding Capablanca.
      Born in Madrid, Corzo emigrated to Cuba in 1887. He studied under Pichardo and became Champion of the Havana Chess Club. He is best known for losing to Capa (4–3, 6 draws) in 1901 when Capablanca had just turned 13. But Corzo was a force in Cuban chess in his own right. Along with Capablanca, he founded the National Chess Federation of Cuba, and was a longtime editor of Capablanca's Chess Magazine. He won the championshipof Cuba 5 times: 1898, 1902, 1907, 1912, and 1918
      This game features the Hamppe-Allgaier Gambit named after Carl Hamppe (born 1814, Switzerland– died 17 May 1876). Hamppe was a senior government official in Vienna as well as a Swiss–Austrian master and theoretician. He played matches with Lowenthal (lost 4-5) in 1846 and edged Falkbeer (16-15) in 1850. He was badly beaten by Daniel Harrwits (2-5) in 1852 an again in 1860 (0.5-3.5) in 1860. Hamppe twice won the Vienna championship (1859 and 1860), both times ahead of Steinitz. He made contributions to two opening variations: 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ng5), and 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.Nf3 g5 5.Bc4 g4 6.O-O gxf3 7.Qxf3.

What Is Success?

      What are the factors that define success? How does one become successful in life in general and in chess in particular? Peter Zhdanov explains KPIs (key performance indicators) used to measure success and seeks to apply them to the game we all love. By objectively evaluating all the components described in his article, you can create your own plan of becoming a successful person. Read the interesting article by Peter Zhdanov titled Theory of Success in Life Applied to Chess at Chessdotcom HERE.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chess Database

Chess DB is a new site, still in Beta, that allows you to search for players - biography, games, playing style, tournaments, etc.

According to the site: The main purpose of chess-db.com is to offer you a wide choice of chess tools and services which support you in studying and improving your chess skills as well as preparing for chess tournaments. Our goal is to give an access to high quality, unique and innovative chess services which support you doing things you couldn't do before and studying chess in ways you weren't able to.

The database of indexed players is compiled from various sources and updated frequently to reflect the lateest changes in players' status, ELO rating, games, history and statistics. Currently the player database contains 1,195,639 chess profiles in total. Out of those 398,009 are FIDE registered players (both rated players and such not yet having ELO rating), and additionally 797,630 active players registered only in their national chess federations (details and drill down to come soon).

I did a search on myself and found that some of the information is inaccurate. e.g. one game was not played by me, but someone with the same name. When you register the plan is for you to be able to: By helping us to improve Chess-DB you can become supporting, premium or fellow member. Those members have access to more tools and options on the website. To upgrade your status you will need to collect enough points, which you can do by maintaining your profile information, writing quality comments, submitting links, editing articles, helping us translate the website and so forth. Supporting and additional Premium member only tools coming soon.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Chess Engine “Styles”

      After prowling forums dealing with chess engines, I have come up with a general consensus of the strengths and weaknesses of various engines which are summarized below.
      As that great teacher C.J.S. Purdy used to emphasize, a position either contains a sound tactic or it doesn’t and contrary to what a lot of players seem to think, you can’t play (sound) “tactical” chess if the position doesn’t warrant it. And when it comes to tactics all engines will quickly spot them.
      Another thing to keep in mind is analyzing games at different time limits will give different results. That’s why I don’t really trust online engine ratings too much because the rating lists are based on blitz games. Anyway, in regards to engine “styles” engines are so unlike human play that we often can’t understand their choices in some positions. Unless you are a titled correspondence player trying to find the absolute truth in a position what we are looking for is an evaluation of a given position at a reasonable depth and most all engines will accomplish that.
      Please note that these are not my opinions, but those of others.

Stockfish: Quickly finds profound ideas but upon going deeper its ideas may turn out to be not so good. Poor endgame knowledge. As I have pointed out in previous posts, it’s evaluations are usually much more optimistic/pessimistic than Houdini’s.
Komodo: Described as boring and unimaginative. Reasonably solid in all phases of the game. One player commented that when going through Spielmann's Art of Sacrifice in Chess he was surprised how many times Komodo liked the sacrifice more than other engines did. I’m not sure how that translates to the opinion that it’s boring or unimaginative unless it will not choose a sacrifice and has to have it shown to it. I’ve heard this engine plays human-like.
Houdini: Poor understanding of initiative/tempo, strong in endgame and leading up to endgame. Tactically solid. Sometimes flops around when there is no clear cut “best” line.
Shredder: Very refined understanding of tempo especially in early opening, greater understanding of many types of positions especially endgames but somewhat slow. This can result in it blowing won games.
Fritz: Sometimes heads for sharp positions it should avoid. Objective about types of openings. Can be predictable.
Critter: Tactically strong, good in the openings. Likes making pawn moves in the opening, somewhat ignorant of hypermodern strategy, good at middlegame planning, reasonably good endgame. Good at seeing options.
Rybka: No comprehension of early pawn structures or tempo. Slow ply progression, great at middlegame planning, decent endgame. In some early positions with many pieces on the board it can hit the search horizon and not progress. This can result in it falling into tactical traps. Not as good in the ending as Houdini. It’s programmer said he specifically worked on improving its understanding of attacks on the King in later versions. Versions up to Rybka 2.3.2 were relatively weak tactically compared to other top programs.
Junior: Very good at handling the Q. Too bold and too sacrificial to end up with good endgames. Sometimes sacrifices for no good reason. Understands hypermodern openings better than most engines. Not too useful for analysis because it’s too aggressive in pruning in long games. Often gives the most troublesome line (for the opponent) with regards to OTB play.
Naum: Only engine to have a reasonable grasp of fortress positions.
Spike: Does not gain much strength with extra time.
Vitruvius: One player didn’t think it is aggressive enough and its play was conservative.
Chess Tiger: Organizes attacks on a king very aggressively but burns its bridges by creating positional weaknesses.
WChess: plays like a human grandmaster. Games are virtually indistinguishable.

      I can’t be sure of the validity of this information because I don’t have a lot of experience with most of them, but, hopefully, the comments will serve as a guide in deciding which engine to use. For OTB players who are looking for human-like play, it appears that good choices would be WChess, Chess Tiger, Vitruvius, Naum, Junior and Critter. 

      If you are looking for an engine that plays most like Bobby Fischer who wasn’t too shabby a player, in my post Which Engine Plays Most Like Bobby Fischer? I reference a link to a site where the author tested a lot of engines against the games in Fischer’s 60 Memorable Games and came up with Gandalf 6 which came in with a 69% matchup. Others were Chiron 1.5, IvanHoe 9.46h and Fritz 11. Shredder 12, Stockfish 2.3.1 and Rybka 3 came in 7th to 9th.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tartajubow Defense?

I recently played a 5 minute game on Playchess and it served as a reminder why I don’t play blitz; I need three days to select a move, not 3 seconds. I call this defense the “Tartajubow Defense” because my database doesn’t have a single game with the defense. There must be a good reason. Anyway I thought I might try it in an anonymous blitz game because what’s there to lose besides the game? Actually I was doing pretty good, winning even, until I missed several mates.

Recent Results with Stockfish

      For the past several months now I have been using the latest version of Stockfish on Lechenicher SchachServer instead of Houdini (both the free version and H2) and was curious to see how my results compared in the last 33 games where I’ve used SF vs. the last 33 using Houdini.
Houdini +9 -8 =16 (51.5%)
Stockfish +7 -4 =22 (54.5%)
      Percentage-wise Stockfish didn’t make a lot of difference, but I went from +1 to +3 and that is, I think, an improvement.
      However, of late I have been using both engines, relying on H2 in closed positions plus I have tried to spend more time analyzing different ideas in closed positions that are not suggested by the engines. SF tends to be considerably more optimistic/pessimistic in its evaluations and I notice that in closed positions when the engines start aimlessly shifting pieces around (especially Rooks) and don’t seem to be doing anything then it is time to start looking for a human inspired plan. Sometimes many moves later you will find out the evaluation will change one way or the other. Since I have been taking this approach the results improved considerably: +4 -0 =11 (86.4%)! I wanted to enter another tournament last week because one of the players was titled: an ICCF Master. But I messed around and missed the chance.
      What made the following game rather difficult was that at points both SF and H2 couldn’t seem to offer any clear advice: several moves of nearly equal worth, different top suggestions for the engines and different evaluations. The result was that several times I had to forget the engines and rely on my own judgment. Just selecting the engine’s top move doesn’t guarantee a win. They may smash us OTB because they spot tactical errors, but eliminate the tactics and sometimes engines begin to have their ‘doubts’ about what the best move is just like we humans do.