It’s Greco, not Greco-Roman!

Greco-Roman [adj. of or having both ancient Greek and Roman characteristics.]

Many players refer to the traditional Bxh7+ sacrifice against Black’s castled position as “The Greek Gift”.

This, they proudly claim, pays homage to the giant wooden horse left at outside of the city of Troy. When the Trojans pulled it inside their gates, the Greek soldiers inside the wooden horse remained hidden until nightfall. They then emerged during the night and massacred the inhabitants.

They also opened the gates so more Greek soldiers could take part in the slaughter. Not a pinnacle of military might, but an underhanded and shrewd tactic.

Others point out the term Greco-Roman also pays homage to the ancient civilizations.

Both explanations are wrong. First, the sacrificial material left at the city of Troy, was a horse, not a bishop. And “Greco” refers to the Italian player/promoter, who was born about 3,000 years after the fall of Troy.

I prefer to call the underhanded and shred tactic, the “Greco sacrifice” or simply the “Bxh7+ tactic”.

Let’s go to the first example of this sacrifice. First of all, it does seem to be a manufactured game, or rather study material, as there are subtleties involved that would seem out of place during Greco’s time (the game was more of either that of a slow crawl, or attacking like a demon.)

Rome, 1619?
1.e4 e6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Bd3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.h4
(Here’s where the subtly occurs. White is not castling to make eventual use of the h-file. Most players then, as now, would castle in this position. How do we know that White can castle in a time a time when castling was not widely known? Well, Black castles the next move. So we know White could also castle, if he wanted to do so.) 5…O-O (To make the Bxh7+ sacrifice possible, or at least playable, the knight on f6 needs to move. So…)

6.e5! Nd5 7.Bxh7+ Kxh7 8.Ng5+ Bxg5 9.hxg5+ Kg8 10.Qh5 f5 11.g6 Re8 12.Qh8mate 1-0

Here is are two more typical examples, without the h-pawn push. :

Phoenix, 1972
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.Bd3 O-O 9.Bxh7+ Kxh7 10.Ng5+ Kg8
(10…Kg6 11.h4 f5 12.h5+ Kh6 13.Nxe6) 11.Qh5 Re8 12.Qxf7+ Kh8 13.Qh5+ Kg8 14.Qh7+ 1-0

“erikido23” (1728)-“april1973” (1671)
10 minute game, July 17 2015
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nf3 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5
(This move I consider suspect as the bishop seems better placed on e7. To make matters worse, Black’s pawn grab on b2 by his queen loses valuable tempi.) 7.Bd3 Nc6 8.Bf4 Qb6 (This move forces White to castle. But it also forces Black to justify this queen move. For after White castles, his knight threatens to move to a4. Another possibility is 8…f6?!, as in Curdo-Tabell, corres., 1959. That game continued as 8.Bf4 f6 9.Qe2 a6 10.O-O-O Ndxe5 11.Nxe5 fxe5 12.Qh5+ g6 13.Bxg6+ Kd7 14.Nxd5 Bd6 15.Nb6+! Qxb6 16.Rxd6+ Kxd6 17.Rd1+ 1-0) 9.O-O Qxb2 10.Nb5 (The knight goes to a better square and threatens to invade Black’s defences.) 10…O-O 11.Rb1 Qxa2

12.Bxh7+ Kh8

[Of course not 12…Kxh7? 13.Ng5+ Kg6 14.Qg4 f5 15.Qg3, and White wins.

Here are some lines.

12…Kxh7 13.Ng5+ Kg6 14.Qg4 f5 15.Qg3;

(A) 15…Rh8 16.Ne4+ Kf7 17.Ned6+ Ke7 (17…Bxd6 18.Nxd6+ Ke7 19.Qg5+ Nf6 20.Qxg7+ Kd8 21.Qxf6+ Kc7 22.Qxh8 +-) 18.Qxg7+ Kd8 19.Bg5+ and mate next move.

(B) 15…Nf6 16.Ne4+ Kh7 17.Qh4+ Kg8 18.exf6 dxe4 19.fxg7 Kxg7 20.Bh6+ Kg8 (20…Kf7 21.Qh5+ Ke7 22.Bg5+ Kd7 23.Rfd1+ Bd4 24.Qh7+ and mate next move) 21.Qg5+ and mate next move. Even worse, at least for Black, is 12…Kxh7 13.Ng5+ Kh6 14.Qd3 f5 15.Qh3+ Kg6 16.Qh7#.]

13.Ng5 Ncxe5 14.Qh5 Nf6 15.Qh3 Nc6 16.Nc7 [Another possibility is 16.Nd6! Bxd6 (16…Rg8? 17.Ndxf7#) 17.Bxd6 Rd8 18.Nxf7#] 16…Rb8 17.Ne8 e5 18.Bf5+ 1-0

Since Greco’s time the theory of this tactical theme has been greatly enhanced. White, to achieve his goal of mating the enemy king, would sometimes have to sacrifice, trade, or give additional material to make this tactic work.

Emil Schallopp-George H. Gossip
Manchester, England, 1900
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5 4.fxe5 Nxe4 5.Nf3 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Be7 7.d4 O-O 8.Bd3 Bg4? !9.Rb1 b6 10.O-O c5 11.h3 Bh5 12.Bxh7+! Kxh7 13.Ng5+ Bxg5 14.Qxh5+ Bh6

15.Bxh6 [Even stronger is 15.Rf6!! Nd7 (15…gxf6 16.Qxh6+ Kg8 17.exf6) 16.Rxh6+ gxh6 17.Bxh6 Rh8 (17…Rg8 18.Bf8#) 18.Rf1 Qe8 19.Rxf7+ Qxf7 20.Qxf7+ Kxh6 21.Qe6+ +-.] 15…gxh6 16.Rf6 Kg7 17.Qxh6+ Kg8 18.Qg5+ Kh7 19.Rh6mate 1-0

Kurt Pahl-C. Deiszner
Berlin, 1920
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5 4.fxe5 Nxe4 5.Nf3 Nxc3 6.bxc3 c5 7.d4 Nc6 8.Be2 Be7 9.O-O O-O 10.Qe1 Be6 11.Qg3 Kh8 12.Bd3 c4 13.Bxh7
(Not a check, but Black is more or less forced to take the Greek bishop.) 13…Kxh7 14.Ng5+ Bxg5 15.Bxg5 Qd7 16.Bf6 gxf6 17.Rf4 Bg4 18.Qh4+ Kg7 19.Rxg4+ Qxg4 20.Qxg4+ Kh6 21.Rf1 Rg8 22.Qh4+ 1-0

Skaperdas (2197)-Hatzileonidas
Korinthos Open
Greece, July 25 2000
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nce2 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.f4 Be7 8.Nf3 O-O 9.a3 c4 10.Ng3 Nb6 11.h4 Bd7 12.b4 cxb3 13.Bd3 Qc8

14.Bxh7+ Kxh7 15.Ng5+ Kg8 16.Qh5 Bxg5 17.hxg5 1-0 (White mates on the h-file.)

BRD, 1971
[Black forgets that most of the time in the French …Nc6 is a mistake. This game also illustrates that point as it leads to a disaster.]
1.d4 Nf6 2.f3 d5 3.e4 dxe4 4.Nc3 e6 5.fxe4 Bb4 6.Bd3 Nc6? 7.Nf3 O-O?
(11…e5 would prevent the catastrophe that is about to unfold.)

8.e5! Nd5 9.Bxh7+ Kh8 10.Ng5 g6 11.Qd3 (While 11.Qg4 would also work, it is also a bit slower.) 11…Kg7 12.O-O f5 13.Qh3 Qe8 14.Nxd5!? (14.Nxe6, with the idea of Qh6 seems better.) 14…exd5 15.c3 Ba5 16.Ne4 f4 17.Qh4 dxe4 18.Bxf4 Rxf4 19.Rxf4 Qd8 20.Rf6! Bf5 21.Rf1 Nxd4 22.cxd4 Bb6 23.Kh1 Qxd4 (Better is 23…Qd7.But White still wins after 24.Bxg6! Rh825.Qg5 +-.) 24.Rf7+ 1-0

Not all Bxh7+ tactics need to end in mate. Winning back the material, with interest, or simply having an overwhelming attack, can also win the game.

Stopa (2462)-Vanloon
US Open
Irvine, CA, Aug. 5 2010
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 cxd4 6.axb4 dxc3 7.bxc3 Qc7 8.Nf3 Qxc3+ 9.Bd2 Qc7 10.Bd3 Nc6
(This certainly invites the Bxh7+ sacrifice. But White wants to improve his position and gain a few tempi before attacking the h7-pawn.) 11.Qe2 Nge7 12.b5 Nb8 13.O-O O-O 14.Bb4 Re8 15.Bd6 Qb6 16.Bxh7+! (There we go! ) 16…Kxh7 17.Ng5+ Kg6 18.Qg4 Nf5

19.Ra3! (The threat is strong, and Black will find it impossible to stop all the threats.) 19…Qd4 (19… Nxd6? 20.Ne4+ Kh7 21.Nf6+ mates.) 20.Ne4+ Kh7 21.Rh3+ Nh6 22.Ng5+ (If not the king, then the queen with an overwhelming position!) 1-0


Queen versus Three 3 Connected Pawns

Most of you know how to win a Queen versus a single pawn in the endgame. Some of you may also know how to do the same if your opponent has, not one, but two pawns in the endgame.

White to Play and Win
[Berger, 1922]

1.Qg8+ Kf2
(1…Kh1 2.Qg3 a3 3.Qf2 a2 4.Qf1#) 2.Qh7 Kg3 3.Qg6+ Kf2 4.Qe4 Kg3 (4…a3 5.Qh1 ; 4…Kg1 5.Qg4+ Kf2 6.Qh3 Kg1 7.Qg3+ Kh1 8.Qf2 +-) 5.Kc5 (5.Qh1 +-) 5…a3 6.Kd4 a2 7.Qh1 a1=Q+ 8.Qxa1 Kg2 9.Qb2+ Kg1 (9…Kg3 10.Qb7 +-) 10.Ke3 h1=Q 11.Qf2mate

And a few of you may know what to do if your opponent has these two pawns connected.

Rahman (2269)-Haque (2206)
United Insurance
Dhaka, 2007
1.Nf3 d6 2.g3 e5 3.c4 Bg4 4.Bg2 c6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.d3 Nbd7 7.h3 Bh5 8.Nh4 Be7 9.O-O O-O 10.Rb1 a5 11.a3 Re8 12.b4 axb4 13.axb4 Bf8 14.b5 Qc7 15.Be3 Ra3 16.Rb3 Rea8 17.Qc2 d5 18.bxc6 bxc6 19.Bc1 Rxb3 20.Qxb3 d4 21.g4 Nc5 22.Qc2 dxc3 23.gxh5 Nxh5 24.Qxc3 Ra2 25.Be3 Ne6 26.Qb3 Ra3 27.Qb2 Nhf4 28.Rb1 Qa5 29.c5 Qc3 30.Qb8 Nxe2+ 31.Kh2 Ra1 32.Rb3 Qe1 33.Nf3 Qd1 34.Qxe5 Qxb3 35.Qxa1 Qxd3 36.Bf1 Qc3 37.Qa4 N2f4 38.Qxc6 Ng6 39.Qd5 Bxc5 40.Bxc5 Qxc5 41.Qxc5 Nxc5 42.Bc4 Ne4 43.Kg1 Kf8 44.Bd3 Nc5 45.Bc2 Nf4 46.Kh2 h6 47.Nd4 g6 48.Kg3 Nce6 49.Nc6 Ne2+ 50.Kg2 N2d4 51.Nxd4 Nxd4 52.Be4 f5 53.Bd3 g5 54.h4 Kg7 55.Kg3 g4 56.Kf4 Kf6 57.Bc4 Ne6+ 58.Kg3 Ke5 59.f3 h5 60.fxg4 hxg4 61.h5 Nf4 62.h6 Nh5+ 63.Kh4 Nf6 64.Bd3 Kf4 65.Bb5 Ke3 66.Kg5 g3 67.Bf1 f4 68.Kxf6 f3 69.h7 Kf2 70.h8=Q Kxf1

71.Qh3+ Kf2 72.Qh4 Kg2 73.Qe4 Kf2 74.Qc2+ Kf1 75.Qd3+ Kf2 76.Qd2+ Kf1 77.Qe3 Kg2 78.Qe4 Kf2 79.Qh4 Kg2 80.Qe4 Kf2 81.Kf5 g2 82.Kf4 g1=Q 83.Qc2+ Kf1 84.Qd1+ Kf2 85.Qd2+ Kf1 86.Kxf3 Qh1+ 87.Kg3 Qg1+ 1/2-1/2

(Well, maybe it’s not a win in all cases!)

But I assume no one has faced, with his sole queen, an endgame where your opponent has three pawns, all connected. It is extremely rare endgame and not too much research has been done on it.

Nevertheless, we can adopt some strategies and good ideas from other endings.

1) Do not expect an easy ending. While it is true that a queen versus three connected pawns has the advantage, maybe even a winning one, it does not always mean the victory will be an easy one.

2) Stalemates and draws are possible, and sometimes unavoidable. Still this is better than losing.

3) The win for the single Queen side is much easier when the pawns are not passed the fourth rank. The win, if still possible, is much harder when pawns are on the fifth to the seventh rank.

4) Keep, or get, your queen to position herself in front of the pawns.

5) Try to get your king close to the pawns. He can always pick up the stragglers.

6) The corollary of the above strategy is to keep the enemy king away from his own pawns. He can protect them or use his pawns to block a check.

7) If you are going to check, make sure your check moves the enemy king away from his pawn or your queen closer to the front of the pawns.

8) Assuming everything else is equal, try to win the middle pawn first. That way, the remaining pawns are now isolated.

Here, Black has is ready to promote. White uses a staircase sequence to get his queen in front of the pawns. Note that all three pawns are on or past the fourth rank.

Ziatdinov (2467)-Blatny (2563)
World Open, 2003
1.e4 g6 2.d4 c6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Nbd2 d5 5.c3 a5 6.Bd3 Na6
(Other moves in this crazy opening are 6…Nh6 and 6…e6.) 7.O-O Nc7 8.Re1 e6 9.Nf1 Ne7 10.h4 h6 11.Ng3 b6 12.Bf4 Ba6 13.Bxa6 Rxa6 14.Be5 O-O 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Qd2 Ne8 17.Rad1 Ra7 18.Ne5 Nf6 19.h5 gxh5 20.Qe2 dxe4 21.c4 Qe8 22.Nxe4 Nxe4 23.Qxe4 f5 24.Qf3 Kh7 25.Nd3 Ng6 26.Qxh5 Rd7 27.Re3 Qf7 28.Rh3 Qg7 29.Rg3 Rxd4 30.Nf4 Rxf4 31.Rxg6 Qxg6 32.Rd7+ Qg7 33.Rxg7+ Kxg7 34.Qh2 e5 35.Qg3+ Kf6 36.Qe3 Rxc4 37.Qxh6+ Kf7 38.Qh7+ Ke6 39.Qg6+ Kd5 40.Qg7 Rd8 41.Qf7+ Kd4 42.Qxf5 Rd5 43.Qf3 Kc5 44.Qe3+ Rcd4 45.g4 Kb5 46.Qe2+ Rd3 47.Kf1 Kc5 48.g5 e4 49.Qxe4 Rd1+ 50.Ke2 R1d2+ 51.Ke3 Rxb2 52.g6 Rb4 53.Qe7+ Kb5 54.f3 Rb1 55.Kf4 a4 56.Qe3 Rb2 57.Kg3 Rdd2 58.Qe5+ Kb4 59.Qxb2+ Rxb2 60.g7 Rb1 61.Kg2 Rb2+ 62.Kh3 Rxa2 63.g8=Q Rc2 64.Qd8 b5 65.Qd1 Kb3 66.Qb1+ Kc3 67.f4 a3 68.f5 a2 69.Qa1+ Kb3 70.f6 Rd2 71.Kg3 c5 72.f7 Rd8 73.Kf4 Rf8 74.Qg7 Rxf7+ 75.Qxf7+ Kb2

76.Qf6+ Kb1 77.Qf5+ Kb2 78.Qe5+ Kb1 79.Qe1+ Kb2 80.Qe2+ Kb1 81.Qxb5+ 1/2-1/2

Black’s pawns are too far advanced for White to win. But Black is also in a bind, which means he can’t win either.

Karbitz, Aug. 18 1924

68…f1=Q! 69.Qxf1 h1=Q! 70.Qxh1=

And what is the result if all three pawns are on the seventh rank? The one with the Queen has to be careful, and lucky!

White to Play and Draw

1.Qh3 d1=Q
(1…f1=Q 2.Qh4+ Qf2 3.Qh1+ Qf1 4.Qh4+ Kd1 5.Qa4+ =; 1…d1=N 2.Qg3 Ne3 3.Qxe3 f1=Q 4.Qc1+ Kf2 5.Qf4+ =) 2.Qc3+ Qd2 3.Qa1+ Qd1 4.Qc3+ Kf1 5.Qh3+ =

A Brilliant End (almost)

It has been said that high ranking (say, Expert and above), resign too soon. This means that the high-ranking player (H-RP), finding that he is two pawns down (and sometimes even less than that), realizes that he cannot save his game against another H-RP and rather than waste two hours trying to save the game, or be the object of embarrassment or ridicule, he gently tips his king over, shakes the hand of his opponent, and gracefully resigns.

But there are times when the spectators want to see the rest of the game. They may have paid to see the tournament or match and they want the full value for their money.

Some want to root for the underdog, the one would not give up. After all, there is some romantic aspect about a fighter who refuses to give up.

Some spectators want to see blood spilled. They want the winner to effect the eventual mate by the most forceful, brutal way.

Finally, in case of a potentially brilliant game, many spectators they want to see the full display of sparking moves and crafty play from beginning to end. And maybe tell their grandchildren about it.

To be sure, these resignations, where spectators might reasonably want the game to continue, happen more than you might think. Let me give you an example.


Blitz game, Sept. 9 2020
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4

[Of course, White has other moves he can try.

I. Palacio (2172)-IM D. Charochkina (2356)
Titled Tuesday, Aug. 4 2020
4.c3 Bd7 5.d4 a6 6.Ba4 b5 7.Bb3 Na5 8.Bc2 Qe7 9.O-O g6 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Bg5 (>11.a4) 11…Nf6 12.Nbd2 Bg7 13.Qe2 O-O 14.Rad1 Rfe8 15.Rfe1 Rad8 16.Nf1 Nc4 17.b3 Nb6 18.Ne3 Bc6 19.Rxd8 Qxd8 20.Rd1 Qc8 21.Bxf6 Bxf6 22.h3 h5 23.Nd5 Bxd5 24.exd5 e4 25.Bxe4 Bxc3 26.Qc2 Bg7 27.Bd3 Qd7 28.Qc6 Rd8 29.Be4?? (29.Qb7!) 29…Qxc6 (And 30.dxc6 Rxd1+ 31.Kh2 f5.) 0-1.

But I prefer 4.d4, which is more simple and direct. It’s a personal preference.]

4…Bd7 5.O-O Nge7

[ECO give this game: Grohotov-Balashov, USSR, 1968, 5.O-O exd4 6.Nxd4 g6!? 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.f4 c5 9.Ne2 f5 10.exf5 gxf5 11.Ng3 Qf6 12.Bd2 Bg7 13.Bc3 Qf7 14.Bxg7 Qxg7 15.Re1+ Ne7 16.Qe2 +/=]

6.d5 Nb8 7.Qe2 f5?! (This move creates a weakness after the bishops are traded.) 8.Bxd7+ Nxd7 9.c4 Nf6 10.Nc3 Rc8 11.Bg5 (11.Ng5! is quicker in disrupting Black’s position and plans.) 11…Ng6 12.exf5 Ne7 13.Bxf6 (13.Rae1 is another strong plan. But as mentioned before, I prefer direct and simple moves.) 13…gxf6 14.Nh4 (14.Nxe5!? should be analyzed more.) 14…h5 15.f4 Qd7 16.fxe5 dxe5 (16…fxe5? and now 17.Ne4! is much stronger.) 17.Ne4 Bg7 18.Ng6 (The immediate 18.Rae1 is stronger.) 18…Rh6 19.Nc5! (After causing chaos on the kingside, White attacks on the queenside and center.) 19…Qd6 20.Ne6 Bh8 21.Nxe7 (21.Qd2!) 21…Qxe7 22.c5! Kd7? (> 22…Bg7) 23.Rad1 (While the text move is good, 23.Qb5+! is decisive. But I wanted to push my d5-pawn.) 23…Qf7 24.Qb5+ c6 25.dxc6+ Ke8 26.cxb7+ Ke7

1-0 (Black resigned before White could play 27.bxc8=N#!!. This is a move I would be proud to show off. And not just to any future grandkids.)

Renaming Your Files

Recently GM Simon Williams recently wrote an article for titled, “Name Your Pawns”, in which he provided proper names for the files of his chess board.

And I thought …what a great ‎idea!

Here are my submissions to this theme.

Let’s start with the divine.

If I were a fundamentalist Christian (I am not – just go with idea),

I would first rename my files from White’s side.

c = CHRIST (or CAIN, CHOIR, or CHORUS – the last two referring a collection of ANGELS)
d=DAVID, DANIEL, DECALOG (the Ten Commandments.)
f=FAITH (and the FLOOD)

And if we were to play on a 10 x 10 board, then ISIAH and JESUS.

But that only takes care of the files on the White side. Here are the newly named files for the Dark side.

a=ARCHFIEND (another name for the Devil)
c=CALLICANTZAROS (Greek vampires that would feed on children born around Christmas time.)

d=DEMON, DEVIL, DEMONESS, and DELILAH (she’s the one who had a servant cut off Samson’s hair, rendering him vulnerable.)
f=(the) FALL (of Adam and Eve, mankind, and Satan)
g=GOLGOTHA (hill where Christ was supposedly crucified) and GAGA (a minor Babylonian deity.)

And if we were to play on a 10 x 10 board, then INCUBUS and JUDAS.

Of course, one may also choose other themes for renaming their files. For example, Baseball!

b= BRAVES, BREWERS (one could also consider the BOSTON Red Sox and BROOKLYN Dodgers)
d=DODGERS (this time, the Los Angeles team) or the DRAGONS (it is both the name of Japanese major league team and a minor league team of Dayton, Ohio.)
f=FIREFLIES (a minor league team of Columbia, South Carolina)
h=HOUSTON Astros

And, of course, the Indians and the (Blue) Jays would follow.

So, be creative. Find what interests you might (other than chess) and see if you are willing to change names of the files on your board!

We Need a Chess Historian

We have historians for war, fine art, films, mathematics, astronomy, and of nations. But we don’t, as far as I know, have an expert, who specialty is chess history.

Most of the history we can find on Internet is a brief overview of the game.

Here is an example, from The History Guy, who certainly knows his stuff and usually provides a well-rounded and complete video on many historical subjects.

A little more of Queen Isabella of Spain that is referenced in the video. These notes help complete the profile of the noble Queen.

She took the throne in 1474 and instituted many legal, economic, and political reforms. She is also the one who financed Christopher Columbus to find an alternate route to China (he failed of course).

By most accounts, she was a capable queen and more of a reformer and leader than King Ferdinand (her husband).

Chess was known in the kingdom of Ferdinand and Isabella.

In fact, Isabella learned chess along with her other studies while she was growing up.

And special note here. At the end of the video, the speaker makes the comment how the original board game was played on an “8 inch by 8 inch board”. If chess was first developed in about 500 AD as most accounts claim, then the British had not yet introduced their Imperial units of measures, which included the inch. Probably he meant, “8 squares by 8 squares board”.

While I learned a few tidbits, I wanted more. More than an overview. Much more.

Most of the information of players, opening theory, changes in tournaments (clocks, formats, etc.), players histories, and even many GM games, are scattered among many collectors and museums. There is no clearing house, no attempt to collect and format all the data for reference, or at least to provide an easy timeline.

I challenge you to discover which year 10 GMs earned their title. The only restriction is none of your 10 GMs can be a World Champion.

Indeed, there are several people online who, with abundant amount of time, can help fill some of the gaps and occasionally overturn many assumptions about the history of chess.

One of my favorites is “batgirl” on

Here is a series of posts that generated a lot of responses.

So why am I making such a big deal over all this?

Well, last year (2019) a movie was being made. It was titled, “The Opera Game” and was to be a film about Paul Morphy.

It failed to come out this year. One reason might be because of the Corona-19 virus that forced the postponement or cancellation of many new movies in production.

Another reason might be is there are many gross errors both the main character (Paul Morphy) and the use of chess notation.

Here is what I wrote on the forum. Please know we only saw the trailer, a short film which is supposed to highlight the film (instead this trailer sank it).

In watching the trailer for the “The Opera Game”, I noticed several glaring errors that could have been resolved by resorting to the Internet (no books needed). I also did not know what century this movie was set.

First, Algebraic Notation (AN) was used by the Europeans, except for the British, who used DN. The United States also practiced DN. Morphy would have certainly used DN, and not AN as the movie alleges.

I am old enough to remember DN – I used it for a while in beginning years of chess. I changed to AN when it became popular in the 1980s.

It was a glaring error in the movie.

The chess sets were another problem. The sets displayed in the movie were not generally used by 19th century Southern aristocrats. I did a little research on the Internet. Here are the pieces Morphy would more likely to have used. I took me less than five minutes to find the images.

In fact, I found another photo of Morphy with a chess board on the Internet. It took slightly longer: about 5 minutes this time.

Finally, the dialog is again from the 20th or 21st century. People at that time were much more reserved and polite, especially in the South.

Morphy was shown to be young, when he played his uncle blindfolded, which the movie got correct. He was also frail, quiet, inquisitive, and probably introspective. But nothing like that was shown in the movie. What we got instead is snarky kid who didn’t show respect to his uncle. Unthinkable in the South.

A consultant or chess historian would have proven to be useful and essential to improving the quality of the movie.

A link to the trailer is given below.

This movie about our favorite board game would be greatly improved if they had paid a consultant who knew the history of the game. Instead, this movie, if it ever comes out, might give some potential players an inaccurate portrayal of chess and impede the growth of the game.

The worse is trying to convince the non-player that the movie is inaccurate, and he should ask an expert on chess history. But where is the expert?

Happy Birthday János Balogh!

Today is János Balogh birthday!

He was born on this day, Sept. 10 1892. And for those of you who might not know, Balogh is on of those rare players who excelled at both Over The Board (OTB) chess and Correspondence Chess (CC).

He won the Romanian Championship in 1930 and played in numerous Hungarian Championships. In addition, he played in the Olympiads for both of these countries.

His playing strength is hard to determine precisely as World War 2 interrupted much of his play. But he was likely of as least of IM strength and probably never received the IM title for two reasons. One that The International Federation of Chess (Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or FIDE for short) didn’t start awarding International titles until 1950 and around that time, Balogh started correspondence chess.

He was awarded the International Master of Correspondence title in 1953 by the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF).

János Balogh was an expert in the openings as the following games show. He even had an opening named after him, although it is now considered unsound.


János Balogh-Egil Jacobson
Hague Ol.
Netherlands, 1928

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 Na5 9.Bc2 c5 10.d3 Nc6!?

[Frederick Yates-Ernst Gruenfeld, Baden-Baden, 1925 continued with 10…O-O 11.Nbd2 Re8 12.Nf1 Bf8 13.Ng3 Nc6 14.h3 g6 15.Bg5 Bg7 16.Qd2 Qc7 17.Bh6 Bh8 18.Qe3 Bb7 19.Ng5 Nd8 20.f4 exf4 21.Qxf4 Ne6 22.Qh4 d5 23.e5 Nd7 24.d4 Nxg5 25.Qxg5 cxd4 26.e6 Nc5 27.exf7+ Qxf7 28.Rf1 Qe6 29.Rae1 Qc6 30.Rxe8+ Qxe8 31.Nf5! 1-0]

11.Nbd2 Qc7 12.Nf1 d5 13.Ng3 O-O 14.Nh4 (14.exd5!?) 14…Rd8 15.Qe2 Nxe4 16.dxe4 Bxh4 (16…d4!!? with the idea of securing a pawn, or even a knight, to d4.) 17.exd5 Bxg3 18.dxc6 Bh4?

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19.Qe4! +- Bf6 20.Qxh7+ Kf8 21.Be3! Qd6 22.Rad1 Qxc6 23.Qh8+ Ke7 24.Qxd8+ Ke6 25.Rd6+ 1-0 (25…Qxd6 26.Bf5+)

Geza Nagy-János Balogh
Budapest, 1932
1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.d4 e5 4.dxe5 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nge7 6.Bf4 Ng6 7.Bg3 Qa5 8.Qd5 b3+ 9.Qxa5 b2 10.Qc3 Bb4 11.Qxb4 Nxb4 0-1

Najmes- János Balogh
Budapest, 1943
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ne4 4.Nf3 b6 5.Qd5 Bb7 6.Qxb7 Nc6 7.Qa6 Bb4+ 8.Bd2 Nc5 9.Qb5 Bxd2+ 10.Nbxd2 a6 0-1

David-János Balogh
Hungary Ch., 1948
1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Bf5 3.Bg2 Nd7 4.c4 c6 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3?! (It’s probably too early to bring the queen out. 6.Nc3 is a better try.) 6…Nc5 7.Qb5+ Bd7 8.Qxc5?

8…Rc8! 0-1

János Balogh-Sagorowskij
European Team Tournament, 1973
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f4 e5 7.Nf3 Qc7 8.Bd3 Be7 9.O-O O-O 10.Kh1 b5 11.Qe1 [ECO gives 11.fxe5 dxe5 12.Qe2 Nbd7 13.Nh4 +/= (Shamkovich-Morales, Mexico, 1978).] 11…Nbd7 12.fxe5 dxe5 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bd2 b4 15.Nd5 Nxd5 16.exd5 Rb8 17.Qg3 Qd6 18.Rae1 Bb7 (18…Rb6!?) 19.Nxe5 Nxe5 20.Bf4 Bh4 21.Qxh4 Qxd5? 22.Be4 Ng6 23.Qg3 Nxf4 24.Bxd5 Nxd5 25.Qb3 Rfd8 (25…Nf6 certainly makes more sense. Now White is in complete control.)

26.Kg1! Bc6 27.Re5 Rb7 28.Rd1 Rbd7 29.Qc4 Bb7 30.Qe4 g6 (30…Nf6 31.Rxd7!) 31.Re8+ Kh7 32.Qe5 f6 33.Qe6! 1-0

The Balogh Defense (also known as the Balogh Counter Gambit) is an unusual chess opening beginning with the moves:

1.e4 d6 2.d4 f5

Which would make a king pawn opening. The position, however, may also arise by transposition from the Staunton Gambit against the Dutch Defense, 1.d4 f5 2.e4!? (which would make it a queen pawn opening).

The main drawback to this opening, however it may be labeled is weak e6-square, with or without a black pawn on it.

Some noteworthy games.

Euwe-Henri Weenink
Amsterdam, 1923
[ECO, A28]
1.d4 f5 2.e4 d6 3.exf5 Bxf5 4.Qf3 Qc8 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 Nc6 7.Nf3 e6 8.O-O Qd7 9.c4 O-O-O 10.Re1 Nf6 +/- (10…e5 11.Nc3 +/- Euwe) 11.Bd2 Re8 12.Na3 Be7 13.b4 Rhf8 14.b5 Nd8 15.Nc2 Nh5 16.a4 g5 17.a5! +/- g4 18.Ng5 d5 19.b6 cxb6 20.axb6 a6 21.c5 Bxg5 22.Bxg5 Nc6 23.Reb1 Qg7 24.Be3 Kd7 25.Nb4 Nxb4 26.Rxb4 Rc8 27.Rxa6 bxa6 28.b7 Rb8 29.Qxa6 Qe7 30.Bg5 Qxg5 31.Qd6+ Ke8 32.Qxb8+ Kf7 33.Qxf8+ Kxf8 34.b8=Q+ 1-0

Kornel Havasi-János Balogh
Hague Ol.
Netherlands, 1928
1.e4 d6 2.d4 f5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.Nge2 fxe4 6.Nxe4 e5 7.Nxf6+ Qxf6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ng3 Qf7 10.c4 Bd7 11.O-O Ng6 12.Qh5 Be7 13.f4 Bf6 14.Ne4 exf4 15.Bxf4 Bd4+ 16.Kh1 Ne5 17.Qe2 Bg4 18.Qc2 Qh5 19.c5 O-O 20.cxd6 cxd6 21.Ng3 Qh4 22.Qd2 Nxd3 23.Qxd3 Bxb2 24.Bxd6 Bxa1 25.Bxf8 Rxf8 26.Rxa1 Qf6 27.Rf1 Qd6 28.Rxf8+ Kxf8 29.h3 Be6 30.Qf3+ Bf7 31.Nf5 Qxd5

32.Qa3+! 1-0

Eloy Cantero Ramon (2078)-Jose Munoz Izcua
Montevideo, 1954
[Black’s weakened kingside is demonstrated in this game.]
1.e4 d6 2.d4 f5 3.Bd3!? Nc6 4.exf5 Nxd4 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fxg6 Nf6 7.g7+ Nxh5 8.gxh8=Q Nf6 9.Bh6 Ne6 10.Bf5 Bd7 11.Qxh7 Ng7 12.Qg6mate 1-0

Manuel Castillo (2233)-F. Molnar
Paris, 1963
1.e4 d6 2.d4 f5 3.exf5 Bxf5 4.Bd3 Qd7 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.c4 Bg4 7.Be3 Nc6 8.Nbd2 e5 9.d5 Nd8 10.Qc2 g6 11.Ng5 Bf5 12.Nge4 Bg7 13.Nxf6+ Bxf6 14.Ne4 Bg7 15.h4 h5 16.f3 Nf7 17.O-O-O b6 18.Kb1 O-O-O 19.c5 dxc5 20.Bxc5 Kb8 21.Bf2 Nd6 22.Qb3 Bh6 23.Rhe1 Rhf8 24.Nc5 Qb5 25.Ne6 Qxb3 26.axb3 Bxe6 27.dxe6 Rf6 28.Rxe5 Re8 29.e7 Rf7 30.Rde1 Nf5 31.Bxf5 gxf5 32.g3 Bg7 33.Re6 Bf6 34.Kc2 Kc8 35.Kd3 Kd7 36.Bd4 Rexe7 37.Rxf6 Rxf6 38.Rxe7+ Kxe7 39.Bxf6+ Kxf6 40.g4 fxg4 41.fxg4 hxg4 42.Ke4 0-1 (Black wins the pawn war.)

G. Besemer-J. Lens
Netherlands, 1978
1.e4 d6 2.d4 f5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bd3 fxe4 5.Nxe4 Nxe4 6.Bxe4 g6 7.Nf3 d5 8.Bd3 Qd6 9.Ne5?! (Perfectly good is 9.O-O.) 9…Nc6 10.Bf4 Qb4+ (Also good is 10…Qf6) 11.Qd2 Qxd2+ 12.Kxd2 Nxd4 13.Nxg6 hxg6 14.Be5 Rh4 15.Bxc7 Bf5 0-1 (16.Bxf5 gxf5 17.c3 Nc6  18.Bg3 Bh6+)

G. Besemer-D. Van Rikxoort
Netherlands, 1978
1.e4 d6 2.d4 f5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.d5 Ne5 6.Nf3 Nxd3+ 7.cxd3 g6 8.Bd2 Bg7 9.Qc2 O-O 10.O-O fxe4 11.dxe4 Bd7 12.Qb3 Bg4 13.Ng5 h6 14.h3 hxg5 15.hxg4 Nxg4 16.Bxg5 Bd4 17.Nd1 b6 18.Qd3 Bg7 19.Qg3 (>19.Rc1) 19…Nf6 20.Nc3 Qd7 21.f4 Qg4 22.Qxg4 Nxg4 23.Rac1 Bd4+ 24.Kh1 Rf7 25.g3 Rh7+ 26.Bh4 a6 27.Rf3 g5 28.fxg5 Be3

29.g6? (White could try 29.Rcf1 Bxg5 30.Kg1 Bxh4 31.gxh4 Nf6 32.Rf4 Kf7 33.Kf2 Rah8, with a slight advantage for Black.) 29…Rxh4+ (and 30…Bxc1) 0-1


There are at least two good reasons why cell phones are not allowed in tournaments.

One is that, with the readily available chess programs/engines and texting availability on almost all cell phones, text messages can be sent with computer engineered moves either from the computer or from a co-conspirator (such as “play 10.Rae1, idiot!).

Back around 1990 I was participating in an OTB tournament and had a cassette player with earphones and listening to some inspiring music. I easily won the game.

But immediately after the game my opponent strolled over to the tournament director (TD) and told him that he suspected I was cheating. He complained that I could be listening to pre-recoded moves coming from my cassette player. I looked at my former opponent, and gave him a look that very much suggested, “you’ve got to be kidding”.

In the presence of both the ex-opponent and the TD, I took out the cassette and showed it to the TD. The TD was satisfied about the label on the cassette and was about to rule in favor. But my ever suspicious opponent claimed I could have erased the content of the tape and replaced with my voice saying, “1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 ..”.

I put back the cassette in the player and showed the TD how to play it. He did so and briefly listened to The Grand Illusion album by Styx. The TD smiled and then handed back the player back to me. And while I walked away, cleared of any wrongdoing, I noticed the TD slowly shaking his head.

Now let’s go to the second reason why cell phones are not allowed in tournament halls. The game was played on-line as there is a nasty virus going around.

Blitz Game, Sept. 1 2020
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.O-O Bxc3 9.d5

(This is Moller Attack. The main line goes 9…Bf6 10.Re1 Ne7 11.Rxe4 d6, reaching a well-known position. And too drawish in my opinion. I therefore played an offbeat and interesting move and found out after the game there is theory on it.) 9…Na5!? 10.bxc3 Nxc4 11.Re1

(More common is 11.Bd3 or 11.Qd4.

Nuremberg Open, 1990
11.Qd4 Ncd6 12.Ng5 Nxg5 13.Qxg7 Nge4 14.Qxh8+ Ke7 15.Qe5+ 1-0

Nova Gorica, 2001
11.Bd3 Nf6 12.Bg5 h6 13.Bh4 d6 14.Qa4 b6 15.Rfe1 a6 16.Re3 Bd7 17.Qc2 Nb7 18.Rae1 Nc5 19.Bf5 Ba4 20.Qd2 g6 21.Re7 Kg7 22.Bxf6+ Kh7 23.Ng5+ Kg8 24.Ne6 Qxe7 25.Bxe7 fxe6 26.Bxe6+ Nxe6 27.dxe6 Kh7 28.Bxf8 Rxf8 29.e7 Re8 30.Qf4 Bd7 31.Qf7+ Kh8 32.Qf8+ Kh7 33.Qf7+ Kh8 34.Qxg6 h5 35.f4 1-0

Even the text move has a precedent.

Pierre Francois Geronimi-GM Loek Van Wely
European Blitz Ch.
Ajaccio, Oct. 25 2007
11.Re1 Nd6 12.Ng5 O-O 13.Nxe4 Nxe4 14.Rxe4 d6 15.Qf3 Re8 16.Rxe8+ Qxe8 17.Be3 f6 18.Re1 Bd7 19.Qg3 Qe5 20.Qxe5  fxe5 21.c4 b6 22.Bg5 h6 23.Bh4 g5 24.Bg3 Bf5 25.Re2 Bd3 26.Rd2 Bxc4 0-1.)

11…Nd6! [A more-or-less thematic move in this variation. It (temporarily) puts a stop to White’s plans and Black doesn’t mind giving back some material, as long as he stays ahead. Side note: It’s nice while checking the game against a database to find out that a move that you found OTB is identical to one that a GM played. But let’s get back the game – I have yet to win the game.] 12.Qc2 O-O 13.Rxe4 Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Re8 (White has a lead in development for some material. But he wastes tempi in his next few moves by trying for a quick mate.) 15.Qg4?! d6 16.Qg3 Qf6 17.Bb2 Bd7 18.Rb1 (Attempting to gain the momentum after 19.c4. But Black is ahead of him.) 18…Qg6 19.Qxg6 hxg6 20.c4 Re2 21.Kf1 Rc2 22.c5 Rxc5 23.Rc1 Rxc1+ 24.Bxc1 Re8 25.Be3 Bb5+ 26.Ke1 (I’m contemplating about White’s possibility of taking the a6-pawn. Oh wait! Is the bishop pinned? I don’t think I need to worry about my a-pawn just yet. Is there a good move for Black here?)

(Ring!! The cell phone goes off!! Do I need to check the phone?  And I know I must make a move as this is a speed game. I quickly figure that any move that doesn’t immediately lose should be OK.) 26…a6? (And I fell back into thinking my a-pawn is under attack. Black has the much better 26…Bc4! 27.Kd2 Bxd5 28.Bxa7? b6, which might let me finish the game and answer the call at the same time. But I missed this golden opportunity. So I decided to say, “hello”, keep my eye on the game, and tell the caller I will call her back in a few minutes – but not tell her I’m playing blitz chess.) 27.Kd2 Bf1 28.g3 Bg2 29.Nd4 (Back on track and everything going good so far. Then my caller asks me a question.)

 29…Bh3? (Eek! Loss of concentration and loss of a free pawn and a tempo. Black has the better and obvious 29.Bxd5! I tell myself that at least I took some squares away from the knight, but I know that’s not the reason or issue. I had let my concentration drift again.) 30.Nc2 Bg2 31.Nb4 a5 32.Nc2 Bxd5 (Finally! Now White is lost. And I realize I have more time. Maybe Black also has a phone call??) 33.a4 Bc6 0-1

Seeing Far Ahead

What is not allowed in Over The Board (OTB) chess (because it might disturb a player), generally allowed in simuls (because they are supposed to be fun and entertaining), even more allowed in blindfold chess (because they are all about entertainment), and helps to save postage in correspondence chess?

It is announcing a forced mate.

For example, White would be completely justified in calling out a mate in three after Black’s 14th move.

Rome 1620
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 d6 8.O-O Bxc3 9.bxc3 Nxe4 10.Re1 d5 11.Rxe4+ dxe4 12.Ng5 O-O 13.Qh5 h6 14.Nxf7 Qf6

15.Nxh6+! Kh8 16.Nf7+ Kg8 17.Qh8mate 1-0

Such an announcement would be frown upon in an OTB tournament in these modern times. But hey, this was played in the 17th century, where the rules were a little more relaxed.

The English Master Blackburne was proficient in making these types of announcements in his blindfold simultaneous exhibitions. This one is from 1888.

J. B, Blackburne-John Norman Burt
Eight Game Blindfold Simul
Bristol, England, Mar. 2 1888
[Blackburne, Blackburne’s Chess Games, #367]
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 Nf6 6.Nxg4 Nxe4 7.d3 Ng3 8.Bxf4 Nxh1 9.Bg5 Be7 10.Qe2 h6 11.Qe5 hxg5 12.Qxh8+ Bf8 13.Nf6+ Ke7 14.Nc3 c6 15.Nfd5+ Ke6 16.O-O-O cxd5 17.Re1+ Kd6 18.Qe5+ Kc6 19.Qxd5+ Kc7 20.Nb5+ Kb6 21.Qb3 Nc6 22.Re8 Qf6 23.Nc3 Nb4 24.Nd5+ Kc6 25.Qc4+ Bc5 26.Nxb4+ Kd6

(Here, while making his move, Blackburne announced mate in six moves with 27.Qd5+ Kc7 28.Qxc5+ Qc6 29.Nd5+ Kb8 30.Rxc8+ Qxc8 31.Qd6+ Qc7 32.Qxc7#.) 27.Qd5+ 1-0 (Black resigned, no doubt due to Blackburne’s reputation in these situations.)

And Marshall announced a mate in 11 against Col. Moreau:

Monte Carlo, 1903
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.O-O gxf3 6.Qxf3 Qf6 7.e5 Qxe5 8.Bxf7+ Kd8 9.d4 Qxd4+ 10.Kh1 Bh6 11.Bd2 Qg7 12.Bb3 Nc6 13.Bc3 Ne5 14.Qd5 d6 15.Rd1 Bd7 16.Ba4 Bc6 17.Bxc6 bxc6 18.Qxe5 Qg4 19.Na3 Kd7 20.Nc4 f3
(Here Marshall made his announcement)

Mate in 11 moves (at most)

21.Rxd6+! cxd6 22.Qxd6+ Kc8 23.Qxc6+ Kd8 24.Rd1+ Ke7 25.Qd6+ Ke8 26.Re1+ Kf7 27.Ne5+ Ke8 28.Ng6+ Kf7? (Col. Moreau could have prolonged the game with 28…Be3 29.Rxe3+ Qe6 30.Qxe6+ Kd8 31.Ba5#.) 29.Nxh8mate 1-0

Sometimes the announced mates are longer than the rest of the moves. A case in point:

London, 1862
[Chernev, 1000 Best Short Games of Chess, #3]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nxe4 4.Nc3 (The Boden–Kieseritzky Gambit.) 4…Nc5 5.Nxe5 f6? (White now announced a mate in eight moves, which is longer that the rest of moves. Apparently Black wanted to be shown and the game continued.) 6.Qh5+ g6 7.Bf7+ Ke7 8.Nd5+ Kd6 9.Nc4+ Kc6 10.Nb4+ Kb5 11.a4+ Kxb4 12.c3+ Kb3 13.Qd1mate 1-0

The longest announced mates, as you probably expected, occur in correspondence.

H.R. Barker-A.H. Owen
Midland Union vs. Southern Union
corres., England, 1906-7?
[This game was first published in the BCM, September 1907, pp. 434/5.]

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3 Nf6 5.O-O O-O 6.d3 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.Bxd5 Qxd5 9.Be3 Bg4 10.Bxc5 Qxc5 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 Rad8 13.Na3 Rd7 14.Rad1 Rfd8 15.Rd2 Qd6 16.Rfd1 Qg6 17.Qe2 h6 18.Nc4 Re7 19.Re1 b5 20.Ne3 a6 21.b4 f5 22.Qd1 Red7 23.Nc2 f4 24.Re4 (BCM reports: “Black with this move announced mate in 25 moves or less. White replied, I resign after your 36th move, Of course, I could vary the forms of checks, and drive your King to shelter, but this would be as futile as unsportsmanlike.” The other notes are from me.)

24…Qxe4 25.dxe4 Rxd2 26.Qg4 Rxc2 27.Qe6+ Kh7 28.Qxc6 Rd1+ 29.Kh2 Rxf2 30.Qe6 Rff1 31.Qf5+ Kg8 32.Qe6+ Kf8 33.Qf5+ Ke8 34.Qxe5+ Kd8 35.Qd5+ Rxd5 36.exd5 (Notice how nicely Black’s f-pawn keeps White’s king from fleeing.) 36…Ra1 0-1 [Let’s see the rest of Barker’s analysis as we long as we here. 37.a3 Kd7 38.g4 Ra2+ 39.Kg1 Kd6 40.h4 Kxd5 41.g5 Ke4 42.gxh6 gxh6 43.Kf1 Kf3 44.Ke1 Kg2 45.Kd1 f3 46.Kc1 f2 47.Kb1 Re2 48.~ (The symbol “~” is sometimes used to indicate “any move”.) 48…f1=Qmate.]

Thinking About Thinking

Sometimes I get the questions, “How do you plan your moves or know what moves to play?” Or “How do you determine candidate moves and figure out which one is best?” This is good start.

Well, there are times in which the moves are obvious and can be played very quickly.

Under this category are:

1) Book Moves – Opening moves that are considered standard, so you don’t have to think about them. For example, 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 represents the Nimzo-Indian Defence and is probably known by at least 90% of all players. The moves can be played quite quickly if both players want to get to that position.

2) Personal Preferences – Moves that a player has decided before the start of game he would like to play when facing a certain position. For example, in the King’s Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4), a player may have already decided he may go for the Bishop’s Gambit (3.Bc4), and can play that move instantly. A more experienced player might decide to come up with a new move in a certain position (also called Theoretical Novelty, or TN for short), and then play it to surprise his opponent.

3) Thematic Moves – It is well known that a rook belongs behind a pawn to assist in its promotion. Such thematic moves lessen the time in searching for the right move. Mostly used in speed games where time is limited.

If the moves are not obvious, then it is of great benefit to have a mental hierarchy of what constitutes a good, or even the best move in a certain position.

Here is my list:

1) Does my move, or a series of moves, produce or force a checkmate? If the answer is a yes, then there is no reason to consider anything else as a checkmate ends the game.

2) Does my move, or a series of a move, produce or force a material advantage?

Here is an example:

Maciej Swicarz (2145)-Radoslaw Jedynak (2140)
Polish U18 Team Ch..
Augustow, 1996
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Qg4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nge7 6.c3 cxd4 7.Bd3 Qc7 8.O-O Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Qxe5 10.cxd4 Qd6 11.Nc3 Bd7 12.a4 a6 13.a5 Rc8 14.Bd2 Qb8 15.Rfe1 Qa7 16.Bg5 h5 17.Qh4 b5 18.axb6 Qxb6

19.Bxe7! Bxe7 20.Qxe7+!! 1-0 (20…Kxe7 21.Nxd5! wins material.)

I read somewhere that winning a queen gives a player at least a 98% of winning the game. Winning a rook is at least 96%. Don’t ask me where I got this information, it was something I read a long time ago, but it does seem to be accurate. Maybe someone should do a more complete study here.

3) Does advancing a piece create problems for my opponent? For example, in the Fried Liver attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5?! 6.Nxf7!) White’s sixth move causes confusion in Black’s position and he has to focus on staying alive. It is also a Book Move.

4) Does pushing a pawn cause a similar effect?

El Segundo, CA, 1969
[White’s eighth move causes chaos in Black’s position which climaxes in spectacular mating sequence.]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 d6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5
(This sequence of opening moves is known as the Magnus Smith. The pawn advance is key here.) 8…Nd7 9.exd6 exd6 10.O-O Be7 11.Re1 O-O 12.Bh6 Re8 13.Qf3 d5 14.Nxd5 Bb7

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15.Qxf7+!! Kxf7 16.Ne3+ Kf6 17.Ng4+ Kf5 18.Be6mate 1-0

5) How about on a board with less pieces? Does pushing a pawn increase the potential for queening? Best if a pawn move creates problems for my opponent and threaten to queen at the same time.

It is best to keep in mind that such moves are not played in isolation. The opponent has to make every other move. As such, one has to take into account that short of a forced mate, the opponent can, and usually will, be attacking as well. And one should also use the above list to check if his move, or series of moves, does not allow his opponent to counterattack with a more forceful move.

For example, if I make my move, does this allow my opponent to checkmate me? Can he win material if I was to make this certain move? Etc.

Suddenly, the planning gets complicated. One must now plan, studying, think, and sweat. And you are lucky, the best move, or at least a serious candidate move, will spring out from your labors.


An old saying states, “Do not judge a book by its cover”.

But we all know that is simply not true. We are drawn to books partly because of it’s cover. When we feel proud and cherish the books we own, then we want to show them off to the world. Or at least place them proudly on our bookcases.

This sounds like a good piece of advice. But many authors and publishers forget this simple idea.

Some old chess books do not look attractive at all. They have bland, ambiguous, or simple covers and one gets the impression that no one really cared about their chess books.

Two words briefly and accurately describe these type of covers; Boring and Bland.

Here are some covers that illustrate this point.

s-l1600 (1)
s-l500 (1)

(This is an old book of Alexander Kotov’s games – in case you forgot your Russian.)

With the passage of time publishers realized that making a more attractive covers means more sales. So, they made covers that were attractive, at least for chess players.

s-l500 (3)

But even then, publishers still missed a great quantity of potential buyers. What if they made covers, not just for the players, but for non-players as well?

Well, it turns out that many non-players actually do buy chess books with attractive covers.


And it’s not just books, but magazines as well.


One medium I enjoy is colored pencils. Here is a recent Chess Life cover that was rendered in colored pencil.


So, if you have a good chess book to write or publish, take pride in your work – make your cover colorful, attractive, and appealing.