Friday, May 30, 2008

In the running for a seat at the WSOP

OK, I admit it...I'm just a little bit excited. As of the moment I am in the running for a sponsored $10,000 seat at the 2008 World Series of Poker.

Realistically, I have less than a 5% chance but, hey, that's better than no chance at all. PSO ( will be awarding as many as four seats to the main event between now and June 7th to its top players. With two days left for qualifying I am in 4th place in my league. I only need to finish in the top 50 to advance to the next level.

I will be back with the details later and will include links that will allow anyone interested to view the online qualifying tournaments while they are in progress. You don't have to be a member of PSO to watch.

You can look at the schedule of events for the World Series of Poker 2008 on The $10,000 main event starts July 3rd in Las Vegas. Please come back for updates.

Update #1: The 100-player qualifying event is Sunday, June 1st at noon central time (10 AM PDT). I was seeded into this event by virtue of my 4th place finish in the 207-member gold league. The top 50 from the gold league, top 30 from the silver league, and top 20 from the bronze league each recieved a seat in this event.

The top 20 finishers from today's (Sunday) event will advance to the Main Event Final next weekend (June 7th) where three WSOP $10,000 seats are up for grabs. The first and second place finishers today will be invited to the so-called Elite Final, where another $10,000 WSOP seat will be awarded.

You can observe the tournament while it is in progress by downloading the client software at either pokerpages, Bugsy's Club, or PokerSchoolOnline. It is not necessary to be a member of PSO to watch, but you will need to select a screen name and password. In fact, poker pages offers a very popular free play site (referred to as the "blue side" for reasons that will quickly become obvious). PSO is the "red side". Bugsy's Club (the real money affiliate) is the "gold side". You only need to click the tabs in the tournament lobby to navigate between the sites.

Once you are in the PSO section, look for the "Learn to Be A Champ" qualifying event and double click on it. That will bring up a tournament window. The tables will be listed in a white box on the lower left side of the tourament window. Select the table you want and click the tab "Observe Table" and you will be brought to the rail. You won't be able to use the chat feature unless you are a PSO member, but you can see the action at the table, chip stack sizes, read other people's chat comments, etc. and easily follow what is going on. My PSO screen name is, of course, ChessSafari.

Update #2: The tournament has started. 100 players on ten tables. 10,000 starting chips. My table number is #7492939. Next update at the break, or when I double up or bust out.

Update #3, Status at the First Break:
Players remaining = 89
Average Stack 11,236
My Stack 9,400
Largest Stack 39,800 (Sailor Moe - at my table)
Hands played = 102
Saw Flop = 18 (4 as BB, 5 as SB, 9 from other positions)
Hands Won = 13
Won at showdown = 2; uncontested = 11

Update #4: I am still at table #7492939, seat 4. My stack is now 11,250 (won a hand with AK). Avg. Stack = 11,363 with 88 remaining. Top 20 advance to next week's finals.

Update #5, Status at the second break:
Players remaining = 73
Average Stack 13,698
My Stack 7,300
Largest Stack 65,775 (hurricane - good player from UK)
Hands played = 179
Saw Flop = 29 (6 as BB, 8 as SB, 15 from other positions)
Hands Won = 18
Won at showdown = 3; uncontested = 15
I lost a couple of big pots just before the break.
Blinds going up to 200/400 with 50 ante.

Update #6: I busted out in 45th place. Lost with pocket 4's vs. AJ when my opponent hit his ace. 2009 will have to be my year. Thanks to those who stopped by to cheer me on. I appreciate it very much.

Update #7: These are the PSO players who will be competing at the 2008 WSOP main event:
Sailor Moe (Leon Morford)
NvFlag (Steven D'Argenio)
xxPiratexx (Jerry Garver)
SeekingPlumb (Christina Schroeder)
Dealmein (John Dobbs)
Runngunnin (Robert Reifendifer)
itpro800 (James Fisher)
AirborneDaddy (Jimmy Burgess)

In addition, YeahDonkey (Chris Davis) won a seat but has deferred until 2009. He has a new born and says he wants to utilize PSO and get his game even better!

I will be back with further updates regarding the results for my PSO friends, as well as my own progress towards a seat at the 2009 main event.

66-year-old Leon Morford from Chicago will lead a group of 8 PokerSchoolOnline members in this year's World Series of Poker Main event in Las Vegas beginning July 3rd.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Get your latest sports news at...

Quote of the Day: "While it seems everyone is complaining about the dumbing down of sports journalism these days, it is outstanding to see a site take an approach designed to step things up a level." --
Get your latest sports news at... The Wall Street Journal?? Apparently, the rumor is true. WSJ's sports menu has historically been quite limited. According to RotoNation, Fantasy Sports Blog (link in the next sentence), "WSJ runs a full-page of sports coverage in the Friday edition of the paper, and a golf page on Saturday. The WSJ has not heavily promoted its new sports offerings, but are doing some grass roots outreach to blogs and other influential sites online." Click here for the details.

Here's an example from today's paper: "China Leader Says Quake Won't Hinder Olympics" by Shai Oster.

While we're on the subject, the 2008 Summer Olympic games in Beijing begin 08-08-2008... just a little over two months away! also does a nice job with their online sports coverage. You can subscribe to daily updates. Here's today's: "Read it and weep, Detroit: Boston's 29-0 when leading 3-2" by Mike Freeman.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

McKay Tartan Books No. 4

Quote of the day: "Force is mobility: the more mobile the piece is, the more power it has." -- Reshevsky & Reinfeld, Learn Chess Fast, page 102This is a follow-up to my blog of April 17,2008. Please click here to view the first part.

Unlike the first three books in this series, book #4 is very much a beginner's book. Reshevsky & Reinfeld threw together the basics in 147 easily absorbed pages. Like the others, this book went through a number of editions before finding its way into the Tartan series.

I have four editions in my personal collection. The first is a red hardcover with black printing on the spine and no dust jacket (at least my copy doesn't have one -- see below). It was published by David McKay Company, copyright 1947, and printed & bound in the U.S. by Kingsport Press in Kingsport, Tennessee. 147 pages, English Descriptive Notation. A previous owner's signature is handwritten on the first inside page: "Eugene E. Kohlbecke" and is dated March 3, 1951.

The second copy of Learn Chess Fast in my collection was printed in Great Britain in 1952. The cover is cloth bound and more of a carmine red color with gold printing on the spine. As with the U.S. edition, it is 147 pages with English Descriptive notation. The original seller is listed as "Charles Wilson, bookseller, 46 Renshaw Street, Liverpool". The publisher is Hollis and Carter of London.The 1947 edition of LEARN CHESS FAST is pictured above. The 1952 edition, with its faded cover and light gold spine writing, is shown below.
The McKay Tartan softcover edition was printed at least 6 times that I am aware of, probably more, each time with a higher cover price. The one shown in the photo at the top is a first printing 1967 book with a cover price $1.25. Once again, it had 147 pages and was written in English Descriptive notation. It does not appear that the text changed in any substantial way, if at all, between 1947 and 1967.

The book shown in the upper right photo (with books #5 & #6) is the 6th softcover printing with a $3.95 cover price. At 147 pp with EDN and appears identical to the earlier versions. It does not appear that this particular book has been incorporated into the later McKay Chess series by Random House.

As for content, all the rules and basic principles are covered: setting up the pieces, how the chessmen move, basic mating patterns, relative value of the pieces, attack and defense, castling, capturing en passant, stalemate, and elementary tactics.

There are 282 diagrams, so the book is well done from that perspective. In other words, a lot of material can be internalized without setting up a board and pieces. There are five illustrative games, with light notes, spread throughout the book. That's plenty, in my opinion, in a true beginner's manual.

All in all, this was a good book for its time and purpose. However, there is so much more and better material available now, almost exclusively in algebraic notation, making Learn Chess Fast substantially obsolete. Nevertheless, it is a good nostalgic read and helpful refresher that can be read cover to cover in a weekend with no problem, as long as you don't mind the out-of-favor notation. Certainly the material presented remains timeless and fundamentally accurate.

Next time we will look at one of the all-time chess classics, My System by Aron Nimzovitch, #5 in the McKay Tartan series (and I will add a list of all the books in the series that I can locate.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Dr. Saidy

Quote of the Day: "Chess is not to him a means to an end, a subsidized sport, a forum for testing philosophic hypotheses, or an outlet for baser emotions. To Fischer, chess is an end in itself." -- Anthony Saidy
Dr. Anthony Saidy. Photo by James F. Perry from the 2002 US Championship in Seattle.

Dr. Anthony Saidy was born on May 16, 1937, so today is his 71st birthday. Happy birthday Tony!! I wish you many, many more.

Spending most of my career as a hospital administrator, I have met a lot of physician chess players during the past 38 years. The highest rated among them is probably Sofia Polgar's husband, GM Yona Kosashvili, an orthopedic surgeon now living in Canada. I met Yona in 2004 at a dinner hosted by GMs Boris Gulko, Susan Polgar and Lev Alburt at a kosher restaurant in New York City.

With a peak Elo rating of 2532 (in 1964), IM Anthony Saidy has to be the strongest American physician of the group. Even today, Dr. Saidy still carries a 2336 FIDE rating. GM Reuben Fine was most likely the strongest American GM/MD of all time, but he was a psychiatrist... and I never had the privilege of meeting him.

On more than one occasion I have made note of my amazement at how well many physicians play chess despite their busy occupation. One smartass, who will remain nameless, responded that many docs have learned how to be excellent golf players while maintaining a full medical practice, so why not chess? Hmmm...

In any case, Dr. Saidy is one of the best ever and not sufficiently recognized, in my opinion, for his strong play. He is perhaps best known for his two popular books; I grew up reading them both. The first was The Battle of Chess Ideas, published in 1972, and since translated into Spanish and French. The book reflects Saidy's understanding of and appreciation for the greatest living players, most of whom he faced over the board. The second is entitled The World of Chess (1974), a colorful work of art co-written with Norman Lessing, which sat on my coffee table for most of my adult life. The 72 extra-large pages are illustrated with more than 200 paintings, prints and photographs.

The amazing thing about Saidy's books is how well they have held their value or, in fact, appreciated in value. Despite the myriad of chess books from the early seventies that can be picked up on for a buck, The Battle of Chess Ideas goes from $8.50 for a heavily used paperback to $143.08 for a hardcover in very good condition. Last night, I saw a copy of The World of Chess on eBay with a starting bid of $50.00. To me, the current resale value of Dr. Saidy's books says everything about the the quality of his writing.

Dr. Saidy earned his International Master title in Italy in 1969. He played third board on the 1964 US Olympiad team in Tel Aviv and finished as high as second in the U.S. Championship (1967, Atlanta). He also finished tied for 4th in 1974. He won the Canadian Open (1960) and the American Open twice, 25 years apart (1967 and 1992)! He was captain/coach of the U.S. Women's Olympiad Team at Buenos Aires in 1978. Dr. Saidy attended Fordham University and is the son of playwright and screenwriter Fred Saidy.

He was a contemporary of Bobby Fischer and, of course, he played chess against him many times. More significantly, Dr. Saidy was a key figure in the mammoth effort necessary just to get Bobby Fischer to the chessboard against Boris Spassky for their World Championship match in 1972. Both Saidy and Fischer's second, GM William Lombardy, have recounted the story many times about Fischer hiding out in Saidy's place in Douglaston, New York (located where Queens meets Long Island). Dr. Saidy used all of his persuasive powers and bedside manner to get Fischer out of his house and onto a plane bound for Reykjavik, Iceland, where he was supposed to be playing his match.

Like me, Saidy is an avid book collector*. According to Jeremy Silman, Saidy "is a prodigious book collector and possesses an enormous library on many subjects, including one of the largest privately owned collections of chess books in the United States."

Click this link to play over one of his many wins against GMs, this one a 33-move Najdorf against Edmar Mednis in the 1963 U.S. Championship.

Dr. Saidy greeting the Polgar sisters in his hometown of Los Angeles, 2005. left to right, Susan, Judit, Sofia. Photo by Paul Truong.

It is my strong belief that Dr. Anthony Saidy should be on the short list of future inductees into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame, currently housed at the World Chess Hall of Fame & Sidney Samole Chess Museum in Miami.

Some more Games:
Saidy vs. Suttles, Tel Aviv 1964
Saidy vs. Goichberg, 1967 US Open
Saidy vs. Bisguier, 1970 USA
Janosevic vs. Saidy, Sarajevo 1971
Ree vs. Saidy, Las Palmas interzonal, 1973
Shirazi vs. Saidy, 1982 USADr. Anthony Saidy, 1969. Photo courtesy of the John G. White Collection, Cleveland Public Library.

*Subsequent note: As of June 12, I was able to add to Dr. Saidy's book collection by selling him one from my library. The proceeds from the sale will go to the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Education (S.P.I.C.E.) at Texas Tech University.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Congratulations Susan & Tommy

Quote of the day: "I like blogs. I like that the best ones are written in a voice I recognize, the voice my friends and I use when we're sitting around watching a game. Newspapers, magazines, they're in a different voice. There is nothing wrong with them either, and there is no reason they can't co-exist." -- Ryan White, The Oregonian. Congratulations to Women's World Chess Champian Susan Polgar (pictured above) on her 10,000th (!) blog entry. Susan started her blog on May 23, 2005 and has had multiple entries nearly every day since. Her blog was, in part, the inspiration for mine. I am in awe with how much material that she and her husband, Paul Truong, are able to share with chess fans all over the world. In many cases, she has the hot news before anyone else and is the source for media outlets everywhere.

Congrats also to Susan's son, Tommy, for finishing in a tie for first place in the K-3 section at the 2008 National Elementary Chess Championships with a score of 6.5 out of 7. This is already Tommy's second national championship. The more he wins, the less badly I feel about losing to him when he was 5.

To all the moms out there, belated Happy Mother's Day!
Susan & Tommy Polgar-Shutzman. Click here for results. Then click on "K-3 Championship" to see the crosstable for Tommy's section.

Speaking of moms, here's a photo of Susan's mom, Klara Polgar, with Boston Globe chess columnist Harold Dondis, taken in 1985 at the Boylston Chess Club in Boston, where Susan gave a simul on a visit from her native Hungary. The photo was taken by Stephen Stepak and originally appeared in Chess Horizons.Harold B. Dondis and Mrs. Klara Polgar, Boston MA, 1985

Friday, May 9, 2008

Tactics, Tactics, Tactics

Staff of Kopec's Chess Camp with GM Lubomir Ftacnik and Irina Krush (second and third from the left) after their match in Lawrenceville NJ, July 1999.

About nine years ago I had the privilege of being a staff member at Kopec’s Chess Camp in Lawrenceville, NJ. One of my responsibilities was to serve as Arbiter in the match between GM Lubomir Ftacnik (Slovakia) and 15-year-old rising star Irina Krush. I also provided chauffer services to the combatants, which included lunch at a local Chinese restaurant with Irina and a trip to Newark Airport with GM Ftacnik while he awaited his flight back to Prague.

We had a few hours to kill, so Lubo asked me to show him some of the sights along the way. I agreed to take him to Princeton in exchange for a brief chess lesson. After walking the university campus, he asked to stop somewhere we could get a good espresso. Coincidently, I knew exactly where to go….a place called Small World Café on Witherspoon Street in Princeton Village. As our conversation turned to chess, I probed for a time when I might get my lesson. “You can have it right now”, he said. “Study more tactics!”.

GM Lubomir Ftacnik-->

“That’s it? More tactics?” I asked. “Actually it’s tactics, tactics and more tactics,” he responded. He went on to say that, as with running, it is necessary to “work out” consistently to gain strength and remain sharp. “The most common deficiency among chess players below expert strength,” he explained, “especially those like you who play a lot of correspondence chess, is in the area of tactics.”

A year later we repeated the same drill and I was eager to show GM Ftacnik my intervening tournament draw against Senior Master Ron Burnett. “That’s a great result,” he said. “But if you had worked hard enough on your tactics during the past year, you would not have agreed to a draw in a winning position.” The game against Burnett has been published elsewhere (ChessCafé.com and one of GM Lev Alburt’s books), so I won’t deal with in in today’s blog.

Nevertheless, the lesson hit home and I have spent the last couple of years delving more deeply into games that I played in the past. Some of the results have been quite revealing…and humbling! Take, for example the contest presented below.

This game is from Round 1 of the 1991 World Open in Philadelphia. Originally, I was very pleased with this game. It was a win against one of the top rated players in my section (under 2000) and it started me off on the right foot in one of my better tournaments. I was playing well, or so I thought at the time.

I understand that this is a game between two class “A” players and, as such, should not be expected to contain much in the area of worthwhile instruction. But, trust me, careful study of the underlying tactics, especially the moves NOT seen by the players during the game, will reveal some of the tactical situations that separate the masters from the masses of tournament chess players. It is well worth your time to follow along with the mental gymnastics if you are serious about improving your game.

Niro (1883) vs. Deschamps (1984)
World Open, Philadelphia, PA
Round 1, Board 308 (!), July 4, 1991
Scandinavian Defense (by transposition) B02

1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.exd5 Nxd5 4.Nxd5

Regarding the opening, I have never been a fan of either side of Alekhine’s Defense. For a while after the Alburt-Short match (1985) I tried to follow the lines played by GM Nigel Short as White. Somehow I always seemed to come up against players who had memorized the book lines further than I had. Beyond that, the resulting positions were not the type where I felt comfortable. So I started transposing with 2.Nc3 to either the Four Knights (after 2…e5 3.Nf3 Nc6), Three Knights (after 2…e5 3.Nf3 Bb4), Philidor (after 2…e5 3.Nf3 d6), French (2...e6 3.d4 d5) or the Scandinavian (a/k/a The Center Counter Defense) as in this game.

Having said that, the move I usually play after 3…Nxd5 is 4.Bc4. If Black plays the usual 4…Nxc3, then 5.Qf3! forcing 5…e6 before taking the knight on c3 with the queen. It’s a position I have encountered dozens of times with good results over the years. See supplemental games 1-4 for some examples.

On 4.Bc4 Nb6, I always play 5.Bb3 hoping for Rozentalis-Mikenis, USSR 1981 or Vucinic-Djurovic, Yugosalvia 1984 (supplemental games 5 and 6). Curdo-Freeman, Cambridge MA 1957 (!) illustrates
the same line (game 7). The game Kurzdorfer-Men, Erie PA, 1993 is an interesting draw (game 8), White can also deviate a move earlier with 3.e5, Balashov-Alburt, USSR 1974, but that’s an entirely different approach (game 9).

In any case, I chose 4.Nxd5 here for two reasons. First, I wanted to get out the book as quickly as possible to avoid any memorized lines that my opponent might have in his arsenal. More importantly, this path seemed drawish and I was willing to accept a round 1 draw in a long tournament when paired against one of the top players in the section.

4…Qxd5 5.d4

I played 5.Nf3 in an old correspondence game which continued 5…Bg4 6.Be2 Nc6 7.0-0 0-0-0 8.d3 e5 9.h3 Bh5 10.Re1 Bc5 11.Be3 (11.Nxe5! Qxe5 12.Bxh5+) 11…Bxe3 12.fxe3 Qc5 (Niro-Grimsley, corr. 1984, 1/2-1/2, 33).

5…Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Be2 Rd8 8.Be3 e6 9.0-0 Bd6 10.c4 Qh5 11.h3 Bf5

Here’s the first tactical position. Black can have a quick draw if he wants by playing 11…Bxh3 12.gxh3 (12.Ne5 Qh4 13.Nf3 Qh5 etc.) 12…Qxh3 13.Re1 Qg4+ 14.Kh1 Qh3+ 15.Kg1 Qg4+ 16.Kf1 Qh3+ 17.Kg1 Qg4+ draw by repetition.
Position after 11...Bf5. Click on photo to enlarge the board and pieces.


Not the best. 12.c5! wins material. Black cannot retreat the bishop 12…Be7? because of the discovered attack on his queen. 13.Ng5 Qh4 (13…Qg6 14.Bh5 Qf6 15.Nxf7 +-) 14.g3 Qh6 15.Nxf7 +-. Therefore Black must capture the pawn. 12…Bxc5 13.Nd2! (attacking the queen and simultaneously removing the pin…the move I missed) 13…Qg6 (13…Qh4 14.dxc5 Bxh3? 15.gxh3 Qxh3 16.Qb3 +-) 14.Bh5 Qf6 15.dxc5 Qxb2 16.Qb3 Qxb3 (16…Rxd2 17.Bxd2 Qxd2 18.Qxb7 Nd8 19.Qxc7 +-) 17.axb3 Bd3 18.Rfd1 and White has a piece for the pawns, with the queens off the board.

By the way, 12.Ne5 is also better than the move I played. After 12…Qh4 13.Nxc6 bxc6 14.Qa4 (14.Qc1 is not as good after 14…0-0 15.Bg5 Qxd4 16.Bxd8 Rxd8 17.Rd1 Qe5 and Black has the attack, two bishops and a pawn, more than adequate compensation for the exchange) 14…0-0 15.Qxc6. White is a clear pawn ahead and his queen adds coverage to the castled king. As you might expect, the discovered attack on the queen is a powerful tactic.

The main problem with 12.d5? is that it still allows Black to force a draw by capturing on h3 if he chooses. 12…Bxh3 13.gxh3 (13.dxc6 Bxg2 14.Kxg2 Qg4+) 13…Qxh3 14.dxc6 Qg4+ 15.Kh1 Qh3+ 16.Kg1 =. Note that after 12.c5! the capture on h3 doesn’t work because the Black bishop is removed allowing the knight on f3 to interpose. So 12.c5! Bxh3 13.cxd6 Bxg2 14.Kxg2 Qg4+ 15.Kh1 Qh3+ 16.Nh2 Rxd6 17.Rg1 and White has a winning advantage.

12…exd5 13.cxd5 Nb4 (Position below is after Black's 13...Nb4. Click on photo to enlarge.) 14.a3!

Now White has the edge. First of all, 14…Bxh3 no longer works for Black but is still pretty messy. White must play 15.gxh3 because 15.axb4? Bxg2 16.Kxg2 Qg4+ is the same old perpetual. If 15.gxh3, Black plays 15…Nxd5 then 16.Ng5! is good enough for an advantage. The best follow-up to the capture on h3 for Black (and most complicated) is 14…Bxh3 15.gxh3 Qxh3 16.Qd4! (all other moves draw) 16…Nxd5! (decoy) 17.Qxg7! Nxe3 18.Qxh8+ Ke7 19.Qg7 Nxf1 20.Qg5+ Ke8 21.Bxf1 Qxf3 22.Re1+! Kd7 23.Bg2 and despite being two pawns down with opposite colored bishops on the board, White has a clear advantage. Check it out for yourself.

Also playable here, and tactically rich, was 14.Qd4 with a double attack on the a- and g-pawns. After 14...0-0 15.Nh4 c5! (15…Qxe2 16.Nxf5 f6 17.Nxd6 Nc2 18.Qc4 Qxc4 19.Nxc4 Nxa1 20.Rxa1 Rxd5 21.Bxa7 b6 and White is better because after 22.b4 Black can’t play 22…Ra8 due to 23.Bxb6 cxb6 24.Nxc6 forking the rooks) 16.Qxb4 (desperado!) 16…Qxe2 17.Bxc5 Bxc5 18.Qxc5 Be4 19.Rfe1 Qxb2 20.Rad1 b6 (20…Qxa2 21.Rxe4) 21.Qc4 and White is better. Sad to admit it, I don’t remember seeing any of this stuff during the game.

The position has also adopted a profound strategical theme: the isolated queen pawn. Despite the myriad of tactical opportunities, the outcome will revolve around whether Black can capture the isolani before it can advance and wreak havoc.


14…Nc2?! 15.Nd4! Qg6 16.Bh5! Qf6 17.Nxc2 Bxc2 18.Qxc2 +-


15.Nd4!? Qg6 16.Nxf5 Qf5 17.Qa4+ Kf8 18.Bxa6 bxa6 (18…Qe5 19.Bf4 Qxf4 20.Qxf4 Bxf4 21.Bxb7) 19.Qxa6 Qxd5 20.Qxa7 Qe5 21.g3 Qxb2 22.Bc5! with advantage for White.

15.Ng5! may have been even better 15…Qh4 16.Rc1 0-0 17.Rc4 Qh6 18.Ne4 g5 (18…Qg6 19.Bh5+-) 19.Bxg5 Qg7 20.Bxd8 Rxd8 21.Nxd6 Rxd6 22.Qd4 Qxd4 23.Rxd4 +-

15…Bd7 16.Qe4+ Kf8 17.Qh4?!

Releasing the pressure. Better was 17.Bxa7 Re8 (17…b6 18.Bxa6) 18.Qc4 b5 19.Qd3 Nc5 20.Bxc5 Bxc5 21.Rac1

17…Qxh4 18.Nxh4 Nc5 19.b4

Position after 19.b4. Click on the photo to enlarge.

With the queens gone, play will revolve around White’s isolated queen pawn. Strength or weakness? This will decide the game (with a few tactical skirmishes remaining to muddy the water). Objectively speaking, the game is dynamically equal at this point.

19…Ne4 20.Bd3 Nc3 21.Bc4 b6 22.Rfe1 Be5 23.Rac1

23.Bxb6!? Ne2+ 24.Rxe2 (24.Bxe2 axb6 {24…Bxa1? 25.Bc5+ Kg8 [25…Ke8 26.Bb5+ Be5 27.Rxe5#] 26.Rxa1+-} 25.Rac1+) 24…Bxa1 25.Bxc7 Rc8 26.d6 and the isolani arrives on the 6th rank. It’s progress, but not a win yet.


23…Bf6! was correct removing the discovery opportunity.


Right idea. Wrong direction. 24.Bg5! was the preferred choice. Then after 24…Re8 25.Nf3! is clealry winning.

24…bxc5 25.Rxe5 f6 26.Re6 cxb4

If 26...Nxd5 instead of 26...cxb4, snagging the pawn costs too much after 27.Ra6! Be8 28.Rd1 c6 29.bxc5! +-

Position after 26...cxb4. Click on photo to enlarge.


Bishops move backwards, of course. I wasn’t alert enough to see Black’s bishop covering e8. The way to maintain the advantage was to let the isolani go in exchange for a pawn plus in the endgame. 27.axb4 Nxd5 28.Bxd5 Rxd5 29.Rxc7 Rd7 30.Rxd7 Bxd7 31.Ra6 Ke7 32.Rxa7.


27…bxa3 wiping out the may have been better. Then 28.Re7 Nxd5 29.Bxd5 Rxd5 30.Rxc7 leaves Black with the only winning chances in the endame. Maybe I should give my opponent credit for setting a trap.
Position after 27...b3. Click on photo to enlarge.


A tactical blunder. The only excuse for the last few errors by both players was the clock. According to the notes on my scoresheet, I had 9 minutes left to make 12 moves and my opponent had 4 minutes left for 13 moves. Still, rooks belong on the seventh rank. Instead I took time to get my knight back in play. This mistake should have cost me the game. My opponent’s time pressure was even worse than mine and it saved me. The right way to go here was 28.Re7! Nxd5 29.Bxd5 Rxd5 30.Rxc7 Rg8 31.Rxa7 Bd7 32.Rb7 Rd3 and be content with a draw.

28…b2! 29.Nd2 Bc2

Black may be objectively winning but his flag is hanging. Another reason for practicing tactics is obvious from this game: you will learn to calculate faster, thus saving time on the clock. Besides the move played, Black has some other good paths at his disposal. 29…Nxd5!? 30.Bxd5 Rxd5 31.Nc4 Rb5 32.Re8+ Kf7 33.Rxh8 b1=Q 34.Rxb1 Rxb1+ 35.Kh2 Rc1 36.Ne3 with a healthy extra passed pawn in the endgame. Or, he could have tried 29…Rb8 30.Ra6 Rb7 31.Re3 b1=Q+ (31…Bb5 32.Rxc3 b1=Q+ 33.Nxb1 Bxa6 34.Bxa6 Rxb1+ 35.Kh2 Ke7 36.Rxc7+ Kd6 37.Rxg7 Ra8 38.Bb7 Rb8 39.Bc6 Black is up the exchange but he failed to eradicate the isolani. So a win in this position will be difficult for either player.) 32.Nxb1 Rxb1+ 33.Kh2 Rc1 34.Rxa7 Nd1 35.Re2 Rxc4 36.Ra8+ Kf7 37.Rxh8 Nc3 38.Rd2 h6 39.d6 cxd6 40.Rxd6 Ne4 reaching a position where Black is ahead the exchange but, more importantly, time trouble would no longer be a factor in trying to maneuver for a win.


30.Rc6 b1=Q (30…Bg6 31.Rxc7 a5 32.d6=) 31.Nxb1 Nxb1 32.Ba2 Nxa3 33.Rc3 Nb5 34.Rxc2=


Black must take the isolani off the board here. 30…Nxd5! 31.Bxd5 Rxd5 32.Re8+ (32.Nb1 Rd1) 32…Kf7 33.Rxh8 Rxd2 34.Rb8 Bd3 35.Kh2 c5 36.Kg3 c4 37.Kf3 c3 38.Ke3 Re2+ 39.Rxe2 Bxe2 40.Kxe2 c2 41.Rxb2 c1=Q 42.Rb7+ Kg6 and Black’s queen should outdual White’s rook. If White captures the a7 pawn he will be vulnerable to double attacks from the queen because the king has no place to hide. Especially bad would be 43.Rxa7 Qc2+ 44.Kf1? Qd1 mate.
Position after 30...b1=Q? Click on photo to enlarge.

31.Nxb1 Bxb1 32.d6!

The pawn finally advances a square and now White is winning. He needs to beat the clock to move 40 (5 minutes vs. 1 minute for Black). 32.Rxc7? is a blunder after 32…Bg6 33.Rxa7 Bf7. For example, 34.Ree7 Bg8 35.Rxg7 Nxd5 36.Rgb7 Rc8 37.Bxd5 Bxd5 38.Rd7 Ra8 39.Rxa8+ Bax8 40.Rd8+ Kg7 41.Rxh8 Kxh8 42.Kf1 Bc6 43.g4 Kg7 44.f4 h5 and it is unlikely that White can hold a draw.


32…Ba4 also loses to 33.Rf7+ Ke8 34.dxc7. On 32…Bg6 White wins with 33.dxc7.

33.Rf7+ Kg8 34.Rd7+ Bxc4 35.Rd8+ Kf7 36.Re7+ Kg6 37.dxc7 Nd5

37…Ba6 38.Rxh8 is hopeless.

38.c8=Q Nxe7 39.Qg4+ Kh6 40.Rxh8 1-0

White made time control and Black resigned.

As I stated earlier, I was pleased with this game when it was played. After studying the tactics in detail, I have enjoyed it even more all these years later. I hope you will enjoy it as well. If you really want to improve, it’s all about tactics, tactics and more tactics.


Game 1
F. Niro vs. H.Best, CCLA Section I00131 (corr.), 2000. 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.exd5 Nxd5 4.Bc4 Nxe3 5.Qf3 e6 6.Qxc3 Nc6 7.Nf3 Bd7 8.a3!? Qe7 9.d3 Nf6 10.Qxf6 gxf6 11.Bf4 0-0-0 12.0-0-0 Rg8 13.Rhg1 Be8 14.h3 Bc5 15.Be3 Bxe3+ 16.fxe3 Na5 17.Ba2 Nc6 18.g4 Ne7 19.Rfd1 Nd5 20.Bxd5 Rxd5 21.Nh4 Re5 22.Kd2 Rb5 23.b4 a5 24.c4 Rb6 25.b5 c5 26.Rxf6 h5 27.g5 Kd8 28.Rh6 Rd6 29.Rxh5 f6 30.g6 e5 31.Nf5 Rb6 32.Rh6 Bd7 33.e4 Bxf5 34.exf5 Rd6 35.Rh7 b6 36.h4 Kc8 37.Kc3 1-0

Game 2
Akopian-Yermolinsky, 1994 (link coming - brb)

Game 3
Weiss-Shields, Chicago, 1989. 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nxd5 4.Bc4 Nxe3 5.Qf3 e6 6.Qxc3 Nc6 7.Nf3 Qd6 8.a3 Bd7 9.0-0 0-0-0 10.d4 Be7 11.Be3 Bf6 12.Rad1 Ne7 13.Ne5 Be8 14.Bf4 Nf5 15.Ng6 e5 16.dxe5 Qxd1 17.exf6 Bc6 18.Qe5 Rd7 19.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 20.Bf1 Nd6 21. Nxh8 Bb5 22.Qxb5 Nxb5 23.fxg7 1-0

Game 4
1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.exd5 Nxd5 4.Bc4 Nxe3 5.Qf3 e6 6.Qxc3 (additional link coming – brb)

Game 5
Rozentalis vs. Mikenas, USSR, 1981. 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.exd5 Nxd5 4.Bc4 Nb6 5.Bb3 Nc6 6.Nf3 e5?! (6…Bf5 7.d4 e6 is preferable, keeping the dangerous a2-g8 diagonal closed) 7.d3 Bg4?! 8.h3 Bh5? 9.Nxe5! (A version of “Legall’s Legacy” that has been played at least three times) Bxd1 10.Bxf7+! Ke7 11.Bg5+ Kd6 12.Ne4+ (12.Bxd8? Nxd8!) Kxe5 13.f4+ Kd4 (13…Kf5 14.Ng3#) 14.Rxg1 Nxb4 15.c3+ Ke3 16.0-0! Nxd3 17.Ng3 1-0

Game 6
P.Vucinic vs. D. Djurovic, Yugoslavoia, 1984. 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.exd5 Nxd5 4.Bc4 Nb6 5.Bb3 Nc6 6.Nf3 e5?! 7.d3 Bg4?! 8.h3 Bh5? 9.Nxe5! Bxd1 10.Bxf7+! Ke7 11.Bg5+ Kd6 12.Ne4+ (12.Bxd8? Nxd8!) Kxe5 13.f4+ Kd4 (13…Kf5 14.Ng3#) 14.Rxg1 Qxg5 15.c3+! Ke3 16.0-0! Qh4 (16…Qc5 17.Ng3 Nd4 18.Rf2 Ne2+ 19.Nxe2 Na4 20.Kf1, 1-0, Jacks-Pientsch, corr. 1974) 17.Rf3+ Ke2 18.Rd2+ Ke1 19.Rf1#

Game 7
J. Curdo vs. A. Freeman, Cambridge, MA, 1957. 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.exd5 Nxd5 4.Bc4 Nb6 5.Bb3 e5? 6.Qf3 Qe7 7.Nge2 Nc6 8.0-0 Be6 9.d4! exd4 10.Nb5 0-0-0 11.Bf4 Bd5? 12.Qg4+ Qd7 13.Qg3 Bxb3 14.axb3 a6 15.Bxc7 axb5 16.Bxb6 Bd6 17.Ra8+ Nb8 18.Qd3 Bxh2+ 19.Kxh2 Qd6+ 20.Qg3 1-0

Game 8
P.Kurzdorfer vs. B.Men, Erie, PA, 1993. 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.exd5 Nxd5 4.Bc4 Nb6 5.Bb3 Nc6 6.Nf3 e5 (6…Bf5!) 7.d3 Bg4 8.h3 Bh5 9.Qe2 Bd6 10.g4 bg6 11.Bg5 f6 12.Be3 Qd7 13.0-0-0 h5 14.d4 hxg4 15.hxg4 Rxh1 16.Rxh1 0-0-0 (16…Qxg4?! 17.Rh4 Qf5 18.Rh8+ Ke7 19.Nh4 Rxh8 20.Nxf5+ Bxf5 21.Qf3 looks strong for White) 17.dxe5 Nxe5 18.Nxe5 Bxe5 19.Rd1 Qe8 20.Rxd8+ Kxd8 21.Qd2+ Qd7 22.Qxd7+ Kxd7 23.Nd5 Be4 24.Nxb6+ axb6 25.c3 g5 26.Bc2 Bg5 27.Bf5+ Kd6 28. Kc2 ½-½

Game 9
Balshov-Alburt USSR, 1974 (link coming - brb)

Game 10
J.Curdo vs. J. Penta, 1997. 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e5 Nfd7 4.d4 e6 5.f5 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Bd3 cxd4 8.Ne2 Nc5 9.0-0 Be7 10.Nexd4 Nxd4 11.Nxd4 g6 12.c3 0-0 13.Bc2 a5 14.Qf3 Kh8 15.Bd2 Bd7 16.Rae1 Na6 17.g4 Bc5 18.Kh1 Bxd4 19.cxd4 f5 20.exf6 (e.p.) Rxf6 21.f5 Rf8 22.Bh6 Rc8 23.Bb1 Rf7 24.fxg6 Rxf3 25.g7+ Kg8 26.Rxf3 Qe7 27.Ref1 1-0

Here’s another way to get out of the book vs. Alekhine’s Defense (whatever works!?):
Game 11
F. Niro (1721) vs. T. Weideman (1990), Fitchburg, MA, 1982. 1.e4 Nf6 2.d3 g6 3.b3 Bg7 4.Bb2 0-0 5.Nf3 d6 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.c3 Ne7 9.Qc2 Nh5 10.Re1 Nf4 11.Bf1 f5 12.Nbd2 fxe4 13.dxe4 Bg4 14.h3? Nxh3+ 15.gxh3 Bxf3 16.Nxf3 Rxf3 17.Bg2 Rf7 18.Re3 Bh6 19.Re2 Qd7 20.Rd1 Raf8 21.Bc1 Bf4 22.Bxf4 Rxf4 23.Rd3 g5 24.Rg3 g4 25.f3 h5 26.hxg4 hxg4 27.Bh3! Qb5 28.Bxg4 Qc5+ 29.Kf1 R8f6 30.Rh2 Ng6 31.Bf5 Qe3 32.Qe2 Qxc3 33.Qc4+ Qxc4 34.bxc4 Kf7 35.Rh7+ Kf8 36.Rxg6 Rxg6 37.Bxg6 Rxf3+ 38.Kg2 Ra3 39.Rxc7 Rxa2+ 40.Kf3 Rb2 41.Kg4 a4 42.Rf7+ (Time: White has less than 5 minutes to make 8 more moves.) Kg8 43.Rd7 a4 44.Rxd6 (Better was 44.Kg5!) a3 45.Rd1 a2 46.Ra1 Rg2+ 47.Kf5 Kg7 48.Be8 Rc2 49.Bb4 Kf7 50.Kxe5 Ke7 (Time control has been reached. The rest is easy.) 51.Kd5 Rd2+ 52.Kc5 Ke6 53.Ba4 Ke5 54.Bb3 Rb2 55.Kb4 Kxe4 56.Rxa2 Rxa2 57.Bxa2 Kd4 58.Kb5 1-0