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 chess.com.

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?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2020_09_10_a.jpg

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
chess.com, 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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2020_08_20_b.jpg

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.

The Sultan’s Problem

Is sometimes our problem as well.


We human beings, despite our efforts and accomplishments in mathematics and technology, can only visualize only a few objects at a time. The exact number depends on the objects, the differences in the objects, and the arrangement of the objects.


The number, therefore, can vary from perhaps as low as three to no more than 100.


So what does this have to do about chess? And why are we concerned about this fact?


The history of chess of chess is shrouded somewhat in mystery. It is known to have originated in India, about the year 700.


From there it traveled across Arab lands before it arrived in Europe in about 1485. The rules were updated to expand the powers of the queen and moves like en-passant and castling were added to speed up the game.


But we don’t know the person, or persons, who actually invented the game.

Therefore, this is a good  place to insert a myth.



A certain Sultan was concerned about boredom and indifference that was infecting him, his staff, and his army.


So, he called over his advisor to see what could be done. The advisor recommended a game that a slave, loyal to the both the advisor and Sultan, had recently invented.



The Sultan was intrigued about this and so he called over to the slave.


The slave told him that this new game of his was a war game that emphasized strategy and there was no luck involved; the winning player must earn this victory.


That intrigued the Sultan who began to ask questions about the game and wanted to play.


Of course, the Sultan won the first game of chess; the slave was a clever one.


After winning more games, the Sultan was full of praise for his slave. He asked him, “What do you desire for this excellent game?”


The slave thought for a short time before replying. He finally said, “Oh great and wonderful master. The only thing this humble servant want is to paid in grains of wheat, in which I can feed my family and perhaps make a small profit by selling the rest.”


The Sultan looked at him and replied, “I am a busy Sultan, so let me ask you one more time, what do you want for this game?”


The clever slave replied, “Master! All I ask for one grain on the first square on the chessboard, two on second, four on the third, eight on the fourth, and so on until the board is filled.”





The Sultan smiled, and asked him, “Is that all?”


“Yes, master.”


The Sultan called over his advisor and said to him, “Bring me a bag of grain for this slave and do what he asks”. The advisor bowed and walked to the grain room.


But, if you know exponential functions, you’ll realize that the advisor must have made many trips to the grain room and could never fulfill his task.



And the clever slave, who know he outsmarted the Sultan, didn’t count on the fact that it was the Sultan who had the power of life and death over his slave. Once the Sultan figured it out, or perhaps had it explained to him, he immediately executed the clever slave.


Here is a chart to help you.





For the actual numbers (and I know you want to see them!), please click on the following link.




If simple folks cannot visualize large numbers of rice grains, how can we expect to visualize the large numbers of people, both healthy and sick, and make good decisions about what we should do to make sure more of us stay healthy?


This story is a fantasy. The sick are not.

Happy Birthday Fabiano Luigi Caruana!


Caruana was born this day in 1992 (July 30) in Miami, Florida. He moved to Italy in 2005 but returned to the United States when he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 2014.


He claims dual citizenship of Italy and the United States.


He played his first tournament at the young age of five at the Polgar Chess Center in the appropriately named in Queens borough in New York.

Caruana earned his grandmaster in 2007, at the age of 14 years, 11 months, and 20 days—the youngest grandmaster in the history of both Italy and the United States at the time.


He won the Italian National Championship in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011 and the US Championship in 2016.


He is the third American to play in the (OTB) World Championship (after Marshall and Fischer), losing the playoff to Magnus Carlsen after drawing the match 6–6 (2018).


Here are some games from the amazing GM.


GM Fabiano Caruana-GM Emanuel Berg
Dresden Ol.
Germany, Nov. 20 2008
[The first sacrifice is easy to find, the immediate second one is not so easy. Both require a belief that one’s attack must be successful.]
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Bd3 c5 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.Qe2 O-O 10.O-O b6 11.Bg5 Bb7 12.Rad1


[12.Bxf6 leads only to a draw. Kleeschaetzky-M. Mueller, Bundesliga, Oberliga Nord, Germany, 2001 continued with 12…gxf6 13.Bxh7+ Kxh7 14.Qe4+ f5 15.Qh4+ Kg7 16.Qg5+ Kh7 17.Qh5+ Kg7 18.Qg5+ Kh7 1/2-1/2.]


12…Qc7 13.Ne5 Rfd8 14.Kh1! (More common is 14.Rfe1. The text move allows the rook to use the f-file.) 14…Be7 15.Rde1 h6 16.Bh4 Nd5 17.Bg3 Bd6 18.Qe4 Nf6 19.Qh4 Nd7?!


20.Nxf7! Kxf7 21.Rxe6!! Nc5 22.Rxd6 Rxd6 23.Qf4+ Ke7 24.Re1+ Kd7 (Stronger is 24…Ne6. Now White wins by a series of pins.) 25.Bb5+ Bc6 26.Qf5+ Ne6 27.Bxd6 Qxd6 28.Rxe6 (And now if 28…Qd1+, 29.Re1+ wins.) 1-0


GM Fabiano Caruna (2652)-GM Konstantin Landa (2664)
Torneo di Capodanno
Reggio Emilia, Italy, June 1 2010
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Be3 Nc6 8.Qd2 Be6 9.O-O-O Qd7 (9…O-O is an alternative but Black doesn’t have to commit just yet.) 10.Kb1 (Caruna likes to tuck his king in for safety before doing anything aggressive.) 10…Bf6 11.h4 (Just in case Black decides castles on that side.) 11…h6?! (The h6-pawn is now a potential weakness and target.) 12.Nd4! Nxd4 (If Black castles on the queenside, then White has the annoying 13.Bb5. Black has problems castling on either side!) 13.Bxd4 Bxd4 14.Qxd4 O-O (Finally, Black castles. But he still has the same weaknesses.) 15.Rg1! (Obvious and good!) 15…Rae8 16.g4 (The purpose of 15.Rg1.) 16…Qc6 17.Bg2 Qa6 18.b3 Bd7 19.g5 h5 (A good defensive move. But does Black want to keep defending?) 20.g6! Re7 21.Bd5 Be6 22.Rde1 c5 (Black doesn’t have resources to defend adequately.) 23.Qd1 Rfe8 24.Qxh5 fxg6


25.Rxe6 1-0 [Mating threats are breaking out. If 25…gxh5, then 26.Rxe7+ Kf8 (26…Kh8 27.Rxe8+ Kh7 28.Bg8+ Kh8 29.Bf7+ Kh7 30.Bg6+ Kh6 31.Rh8# ; 26…Kh7 27.Rgxg7+ Kh6 28.Rh7+ Kg6 29.Be4+ Kf6 30.Rhf7#) 27.Rf7+ Kg8 28.Rf5+ Re6 29.Bxe6+ Kh7 30.Rxh5#.]


GM F. Caruana-GM B. Gelfand
Zurich Chess Challenge
Switzerland, Mar. 1 2013
[Notes based on: Zura Javakhadze, en.chessbase.com/post/zurich-r6-caruana-wins-by-a-full-point-040313]
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Nf3 (Again Catalan. It was the most played opening in this tournament.) 4…Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O c6 8.Qc2 Nbd7 9.Bf4 b6 10.Rd1 Bb7 11.Ne5 (11.Nc3 is the main line.) 11…Nh5 12.Bd2 Nhf6 13.cxd5 cxd5 14.Nc6 Bxc6 15.Qxc6


15…Qb8 [An interesting novelty! 15…Rc8 is the most played line. 16.Qb5 Nb8 17.e3 Ne8 18.Be1 Nd6 19.Qe2 Nc6 20.Nc3 Bf6 21.Rac1 Qd7 (1/2-1/2 Mchedlishvili,M (2651)-Alekseev,E (2683)/ Germany 2012/CBM 151 (35).


Since this game was played, Gelfand’s novelty has proven to be more ineffective.


GM Roman Ovetchkin (2529)-GM Grigoriy Oparin (2497)
Yekaterinburg, Russia, June 27 2013
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O c6 8.Qc2 b6 9.Rd1 Bb7 10.Bf4 Nbd7 11.Ne5 Nh5 12.Bd2 Nhf6 13.cxd5 cxd5 14.Nc6 Bxc6 15.Qxc6 Qb8 16.Qb5 a6 17.Qd3 b5 18.Be1 Nb6 19.e3 Rc8 20.Nc3 b4 21.Ne2 Nc4 22.Rab1 Qb6 23.f3 Rc7 24.Bf2 Rac8 25.g4 Qa5 26.Be1 Qb5 27.Rdc1 Qb6 28.b3 Na3 29.Rxc7 Rxc7 30.Rc1 Nb5 31.Qd2 Ne8 32.Rxc7 Qxc7 33.Qc1 Bd6 34.Qxc7 Nexc7 35.Bf1 f6 36.Nc1 Kf7 37.Bd3 g6 38.h4 a5 39.Ne2 e5 40.dxe5 Bxe5 41.f4 Bb2 42.f5 g5 43.hxg5 fxg5 44.Bg3 Bf6 45.Nd4 Nxd4 46.Bxc7 Nc6 47.Bb5 Bd8 48.Bg3 Ne7 49.Bd7 Kf6 50.Be8 Ng8 51.Kf2 Ke7 52.Bc6 Nf6 53.Kf3 h5 54.gxh5 Nxh5 55.Be5 Nf6 56.e4 dxe4+ 57.Bxe4 Bb6 58.Bc6 Bc5 59.Bc7 g4+ 60.Kg2 Bd6 61.Bxa5 Nh5 62.Be4 Nf6 63.Bc6 Nh5 64.Be4 Nf6 65.Bb7 Nh5 66.Bc8 Ng7 67.f6+ Kxf6 68.Bxg4 Nf5 69.Kf3 Ke5 70.Ke2 Nd4+ 71.Kd3 Kd5 72.Bb6 Bc5 73.Bd8 Bd6 74.Bh4 Kc5 75.Bf2 Be5 76.Be6 Bf6 77.Bg8 Bg7 78.Be3 Bf6 79.Bf7 Bg7 80.Bc4 Bf6 81.Ke4 Bg7 82.Bd5 Bf6 83.Bh6 Be7 84.Bc4 Nb5 85.Kd3 Nd4 86.Bc1 Nb5 87.Be3+ Kc6 88.Bf7 Nd6 89.Bh5 Bf6 90.Bc1 Be5 91.Bg4 Kb6 92.Bd7 Kc5 93.Be3+ Kd5 94.Bf2 Ne4 95.Be6+ Kxe6 96.Kxe4 Bc3 97.Bc5 Be1 98.Kd4 Kd7 99.Kc4 Kc6 100.Bxb4 Bf2 101.a3 Be3 102.Bc3 Bc1 103.a4 Ba3 104.Bb4 Bc1 105.Bc5 Bd2 106.Bd4 Ba5 107.Bc3 Bc7 108.b4 Kb7 109.b5 Bb6 110.a5 Bd8 111.a6+ Ka8 112.Kc5 Bc7 113.Kc6 Bd8 114.Be5 Bb6 115.Bd6 Ba7 116.Bc5




M. Muzychuk (2540)-Adam Kozak (2148)
Gibraltar Masters
Caleta, Jan. 1 27 2018
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O Nbd7 8.Qc2 c6 9.Rd1 b6 10.Bf4 Bb7 11.Ne5 Nh5 12.Bd2 Nhf6 13.cxd5 cxd5 14.Nc6 Bxc6 15.Qxc6 Qb8 16.Qb5 a6 17.Qd3 b5 18.Bf4 Bd6 19.Bxd6 Qxd6 20.Nd2 Nb6 21.e4 Qe7 22.e5 Nfd7 23.Rdc1 Rac8 24.a3 Nc4 25.Rc2 g6 26.f4 Ndb6 27.Nf3 Nd7 28.h4 Ncb6 29.Rf2 Rc7 30.Bh3 Rfc8 31.Kg2 Rc1 32.Rxc1 Rxc1 33.g4 f5 34.exf6 Nxf6 35.Ng5 Ne4 36.Nxe4 dxe4 37.Qxe4 Qd7 38.f5 exf5 39.gxf5 Qc6 40.Qxc6 Rxc6 41.Kf3 Kf7 42.Ke4 Ke7 43.fxg6 hxg6 44.Ke5 Rc1 45.Bg2 Nd7+ 46.Kf4 Rd1 47.Re2+ Kf6 48.Ke4 Nb6 49.b3 Ke7 50.Re3 a5 51.Rc3 Re1+ 52.Kf4 Nd7 53.Rc7 Kd6 54.Rc6+ Ke7 55.Rxg6 Rd1 56.d5 Nf8 57.Rb6 Rd4+ 58.Be4 Nd7 59.Re6+ Kf7 60.Ke3 Rd1 61.Ke2 Rd4 62.h5 Nc5 63.Bg6+ Kg7 64.Rc6 Nxb3 65.h6+ 1-0.]


16.Qc2 b5 17.Qd3 b4 18.Be1 Qb6 19.Nd2 (Fabiano’s reaction on Gelfand’s novelty was probably the most natural.) 19..a5 20.Rac1 Rac8 21.e3 e5 (It looks like Boris missed his opponent’s next move. 21…Rfd8 looks more solid. But after 22.Bf1 White is better, due to the bishop pair.) 22.Bh3 Rc7 (22…e4 23.Qb3 +/=. In the late endgame Black’s central pawns might become a target of attack, this gives White very pleasant prospects.) 23.Bxd7 Nxd7 24.dxe5 Nxe5 (Gelfand activated his pieces but in my opinion, it hardly compensates a pawn.) 25.Qxd5 Rfc8 26.Nb3 Nc4 27.Rd4 Qa6 28.Rf4 Bf6 29.Qd3 Qe6 30.Re4 Qd6 31.Re8+! (Caruana simplifies the position in a nice tactical way and remains with an extra pawn.) 31…Rxe8 32.Qxd6 Nxd6 33.Rxc7 a4 34.Nc5 b3 35.axb3 axb3 36.Rc6 Bxb2 37.Nxb3 (37.Rxd6?! Ba3 38.Rb6 Bxc5 39.Rxb3. Knights on the board are obviously favorable for White.) 37…Ne4 38.Kg2 h5 39.f3 Ng5 40.Bf2 (The second time control has arrived and the Italian shows very high endgame technique.) 40…g6 41.Nc5 Ne6 42.Ne4 Bg7 43.Rb6 Ra8 44.h3 Ra2 45.f4 Ra5 46.Kf3 g5 47.Rb8+ Kh7 48.Nd6 f5 49.Rb6 g4+ 50.hxg4 fxg4+ (50…hxg4+ was the best try for survival.) 51.Kg2 Nc5 52.Nb7 (White has two connected pawns, so knights are no longer necessary on the board.) 52…Nxb7 53.Rxb7 Ra4 54.Rb6 Re4 55.Kf1 h4? (White is very close to victory but this move makes his task much easier.) 56.gxh4 g3 57.Bg1! Bh6 58.Kg2 (A very convincing victory by the Italian prodigy!) 1-0


GM Magnus Carlsen-GM Fabiano Caruana
World Ch., Game #11
London, Nov. 24 2018
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Be3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nd7 9.O-O-O Nf6 10.Bd3 c5 11.Rhe1 Be6 12.Kb1 Qa5 (12…d5!?) 13.c4 Qxd2 14.Bxd2 h6 15.Nh4 Rfe8 16.Ng6 Ng4 17.Nxe7+ Rxe7 18.Re2 Ne5 19.Bf4 Nxd3 20.Rxd3 Rd7 21.Rxd6 Rxd6 22.Bxd6 Rd8 23.Rd2 Bxc4 24.Kc1 b6 25.Bf4 Rxd2 26.Kxd2 a6 27.a3 Kf8 28.Bc7 b5 29.Bd6+ Ke8 30.Bxc5 h5 31.Ke3 Kd7 32.Kd4 g6 33.g3 Be2 34.Bf8 Kc6 35.b3 Bd1 36.Kd3 Bg4 37.c4 Be6 38.Kd4 bxc4 39.bxc4 Bg4 40.c5 Be6 41.Bh6 Bd5 42.Be3 Be6 43.Ke5 Bd5 44.Kf4 Be6 45.Kg5 Bd5 46.g4 hxg4 47.Kxg4 Ba2 48.Kg5 Bb3 49.Kf6 Ba2 50.h4 Bb3 51.f4 Ba2 52.Ke7 Bb3 53.Kf6 Ba2 54.f5 Bb1 55.Bf2 Bc2 1/2-1/2


GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave-GM Fabiano Caruana X25
Blitz Game
Chessbrah May Invitational
Chess.com, May 2020
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e3 Bb4 5.Qc2 a5 6.Nd5 d6 7.a3 Bc5 8.Be2 Be6 9.Nxf6+ Qxf6 10.b3 O-O 11.Bb2 Ba7 12.Rd1 Bf5 13.d3 Qe7 14.O-O Bg6 15.Qd2 Rad8 16.Rfe1 d5 17.cxd5 Rxd5 18.Qc3 Rfd8 19.Rd2 Rc5! -+ 0-1

Cheating in Correspondence Chess

Five big questions about cheating in correspondence game, are:

(1) Why this sudden interest in cheating in correspondence chess?
(2) What is cheating?
(3) How does one cheat in correspondence?
(4) How can cheaters be caught?
(5) What is are the penalties for getting caught?

But first, let us define the difference between OTB chess and correspondence chess.

Over The Board (OTB): Chess played between two players, in which both players can see each other across a board. This form of chess uses a chess clock, individual sheets of paper where players write down their moves, and Tournament Director (TD) the help with any disputes. The OTB players are not allowed to consult any notes and games normally finish in a few hours.

This is the usual image when the public think of chess.

Correspondence Chess: A game played where reflection time (the time allotted for a player to research, analyze, and play a move) exceeds one day. In addition, players are allowed, with some restrictions, access to printed material, databases, and their own notes.

The game can played via postcards, email, and Internet servers. Organizations that feature correspondence chess events include ICCF, USCF, CCLA, and chess.com.

Here is a correspondence game from the dawn of the Internet.

Escalante-“The Thinker”
Chess Palace BBS, 1990
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 8.Nc3 Nb4 9.d4 Nxc2+ 10.Kd1 Nxd4 11.Bxd5+ Kd6 12.Qf7 Be7? 13.Ne4+ Kd7 14.Qxg7 (with the idea of Qxe5.  14.Nc5+ is just as good.) and White duly won.

Now, let’s now answer the questions!

(1) Why this sudden interest in cheating in correspondence chess?

The cheating, and the interest in cheating, is not sudden onslaught, but rather part of continuing problem of correspondence chess. With the corona virus epidemic still rampant, many OTB players who would normally prefer to play chess facing their opponents in real life, now must get their study, play, and enjoyment, from correspondence chess or the Internet.

This increases the number of players who play on the Internet, where apparently more cheating occurs than anywhere else. Interesting enough, having more OTB players are not the problem. It’s still the people who would still cheat in OTB and correspondence play.

Personally, last year I had played one cheater in a speed game on chess.com and two correspondence cheaters the year on the same website. One game is presented at the end.

So yeah, cheating is a real thing.

(2) What is cheating?

Cheating: Influencing the game or tournament by illegal means. This can take various forms.

(3) How does one cheat in correspondence?

A caveat here. This list is not exhaustive as no single list of cheating can ever be complete. Cheaters are apt in finding new ways circumvent the rules and ethics. And while this list is meant for correspondence play, many of these items are also directly applicable to OTB chess.

(a) Using active help rather than passive help.

A player may consult publicly available books, magazines, newspaper articles, opening databases, most web sites, and videos (such as YouTube.com) for help on his move. He may also use his own notes. This is passive help.

This type of help is allowable in correspondence chess only. OTB players must not use any type of notes, including a player’s thoughts during the game nor may he write down any inspirational thoughts, as GM Wesley So found out (2015 US Men’s Championship, against GM Varuzhan Akobian).

Active help is using a computer, an engine, an endgame table base, a cellphone, or any other electronic device, generate moves for the player. He is also not allowed to ask for help from a friend, a GM, or any other person, for help on his moves. Nor is he allowed to “show off” his game to other players, where they might be tempted to comment on the game. It’s quite a list!

However, it must be mentioned that ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation) does allow computers for help. This list is meant for mostly domestic play and not international. And even then, some international organizations and events prohibit computer assistance. Please check if you intend to play in an international correspondence tournament.

And, yes, players are allowed to use chess engines and computers to study their game after the end of their game. Just like the game below.

(b) Impersonating a player, real or fictional, to play in tournament which is impersonator is not normally allowed to play..

Examples of this type of cheating are:

Assuming the role of a woman in game if one is a man. This is probably impossible in OTB, but several cases have existed in correspondence play.
Perhaps the most (in)famous case is that of Miss Leigh Strange. You can look it up in the Internet.

Assuming the part of a younger person to partake in a junior contest. No known examples exist. But it is possible.

Playing in a lower section that is beneath a players rating. A Master, hiding the fact he is a Master, and playing an unrated tournament, is a supreme example of this form of cheating. Unfortunately, it has happened. More than once.

(c) Throwing a game so as to lower one’s rating so he can play in a tournament with lower rated players (see above). It is informally known as “sandbagging”.

(d) Convincing other players to lose or draw their games so that a player may place higher in the standings that he would not otherwise reach.

(e) Deciding the outcome of a game before starting the game. Known as collusion.

(4) How can cheaters be caught?

The most obvious example is a player who would be normally be playing at 1200 (beginner) Elo, suddenly plays at 2000 (Expert) level. Players do not normally jump 800 Elo points in a short time. This raises a red flag.

The more complex a position, or the longer sequence of moves necessary to reach a goal, the more likely a player is to error, even if it such error is minor. The same goes for many types of endgames. Being suddenly proficient in these areas again raises red flags.

Chess.com has adapted a policy that if they feel they can accuse a suspected cheater and win a in court of law, where the level of evidence needs to be high for a conviction, they can ban the player. It is this player’s opinion that this standard should be applied in in all correspondence play.

(5) What is are the penalties for getting caught?

They range for immediate forfeiture of the game and all games in a tournament (if the offender is lucky), to being barred for life for that organization.

A lawsuit is possible to recover any prizes awarded, as well criminal charges that might be filed (depending on circumstances, the nature of the offensive, and other factors).

It is just not worth it!


Thematic Tournament, Round 2
Chess.com, 2020
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 b5 8.O-O Be7 9.Qf3 Qb6 10.Be3 Qb7 11.Qg3 b4 12.Na4 Nbd7 13.f3 O-O 14.Rfd1 Nc5


15.Bh6!? (This idea was mentioned by GM Golubev in one of his books on the Sozin, and as such, we are still in theory. Chess.com list of Master games also gives 15.Nxc5 dxc5 16.Ne2, but Black wins both games. And who wants to play a losing game? Finally, Stockfish considers 15.Bh6 an error.) 15…Ne8 (Pretty much forced and a move I expected.) 16.Nxc5!? [Only now do we leave theory. The idea is to preserve the bishop (Black threatens …Nxb3) and perhaps allow him back into the game via c2 so he can apply pressure on Black’s kingside.] 16…dxc5 17.Ne2!? (Where else could the knight go?) 17…Kh8! (Black gets out of trouble and threatens the other bishop.) 18.Be3 Bd7 19.Qf2 Rc8 20.c4 Qc7!? (Black’s move seems very strong. I didn’t know it at the time, but this move is almost certain to be engine-generated. After the game Stockfish gave 20…bxc3 21.bxc3 Nf6 22.c4 Bc6 23.Nf4 Nd7 24.Nd3 f5 25.e5 Qc7 26.Rab1 a5 27.Qg3 Rfd8 28.a4, evaluating the position as +.81. But Black’s move seems stronger. Was my opponent really playing stronger than Stockfish?) 21.Bf4 e5 22.Be3 a5 23.Bc2 Be6 24.b3 a4 25.Ng3 (The idea of Nf5 makes sense as White has to generate counterplay before he gets squeezed to death.) 25…Nd6 26.Rd2 Rfd8 27.Rad1 Nb7 28.f4 Rxd2 29.Bxd2 f6 30.Bc1 Na5 [Here as where my opponent was forfeited as he was caught cheating in this game and others. Not only did he lose an enormous large amount of games this year (2020) but he is now banned from the website. And as chess.com announced earlier this year; it is for life.) 31.Nf5 (Only played so the players in the round two, including me, can advance to the next round.) 1-0

A Continuation of From’s

A few posts ago I wrote about From’s Gambit (see “From England, with Love.”)

The research needed for that article helped this one. I finally got to play a From’s Gambit. And while the game is not perfect, it was a lot of fun to play.


Blitz Game
chess.com, July 15 2020
1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e3


(Most popular, after 5.e3 is 5…Ng4 with lines progressing with 6.Qe2 Nc6 7.Nc3.)






[A slightly passive move. 6.Bb5 should be considered. Here are four games illustrating that White’s play does not have to be limited to the kingside.


Thematic Tournament, 1961
1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e3 Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.d3 Qe7 8.Nc3 O-O-O 9.Bd2 Ng4 10.Qe2 Nb4 11.Bxd7+ Rxd7 12.O-O-O f5 13.h3 Nf6 14.Nd4 g6 15.a3 Nbd5 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.c4 Nf6 18.Bc3 Re8 19.Nc2 Nh5 20.Qf3 Bg3 21.Rd2 c5 22.Rhd1 Qe6 23.Kb1 Kb8 24.Re2 Be5 25.Bxe5+ Qxe5 26.g4 fxg4 27.hxg4 Nf6 28.Rf2 Re6 29.d4 Qg5 30.dxc5 Qxc5 31.Qf4+ Kc8 32.Nd4 Red6 33.g5 Ne8 34.Rc1 Re7 35.Rc3 a6 36.Qg4+ Kb8 37.Rf8 Ka7 38.b4 Qc7 39.Kb2 Rd8 40.Rf4 Ng7 41.c5 Nh5 42.b5 Qxf4 43.b6+ Kb8 44.exf4 Rxd4 45.c6 bxc6 46.Rxc6 Re8 47.Qg1 Rd5 48.Qc1 Ng3 49.Re6 Rc8 50.Re8 1-0


Moscow, 1984
[Gambit Revue, 2/1991]
1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e3 Nc6 6.Bb5! (A new idea.) 6…O-O (6…Bd7 should be preferred and 7.O-O O-O 8.Nc3 a6 9.Bxc6 Bxc6 10.d3 Re8 11.a4 although and here White has a clear advantage.) 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.O-O Re8 9.Nc3 Bg4 10.Qe1 Rb8 11.d3 Qe7 12.e4 Bxf3 13.gxf3! (The natural 13.Rxf3 would be a serious mistake because of 13…Be5! with full domination by Black.) 13…Nh5 (13…Be5 Now gives nothing. 14.f4 Bd4+ 15.Kh1 with a better position for White.) 14.f4 f5 15.e5 Bc5+ 16.Kh1 Qf7 17.Qe2 Bd4 18.Qf3 Bxc3 (18…Re6 19.Ne2? Bxb2? 20.Rb1 +-) 19.bxc3 Qd5 20.c4 Qxf3+ 21.Rxf3 g6 22.Ba3 Kf7 23.d4 Red8 24.Rd1 Ke6 25.Bc1 Rb1 26.Rfd3 Ra1 27.d5+ Kf7 28.Be3 Rxa2 29.dxc6 Rxd3 30.cxd3 Re2 31.Bc1 Ng7 32.d4 Rc2 33.d5 Rxc4 34.e6+ Kg8 35.Be3 Ne8 36.Bxa7 Kf8 37.Bd4 Ke7 38.Be5 Nd6 39.Re1 Ra4 40.Bxd6+ cxd6 41.Rb1 1-0.


Vladimir Malaniuk (2600)-Roman Ovetchkin (2475)
Russia Cup
Omsk/Perm, 1998
1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e3 Nc6 6.Bb5 O-O 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.O-O c5 9.b3 Ne4 10.Bb2 f5 11.Na3 Bb7 12.Nc4 Qe7 13.d3 Ng5 14.Nxg5 Qxg5 15.Qd2 Rae8 16.Rae1 Re6 17.e4 f4 18.Rf3 Rh6 19.Nxd6 cxd6 20.Rg3 1-0


Claude Oger (19970-Xavier Lebrun (2205)
Elancourt Open, Apr. 22 2006
1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e3 Nc6 6.Bb5 O-O 7.Nc3 Bg4 8.Be2 Re8 9.O-O Qe7 10.Kh1 Rad8 11.a3 Nh5 12.Qe1 Ne5 13.d4 Ng6 14.Qf2 Nf6 15.Bd2 c6 16.Bd3 Bc8 17.h3 Nh5 18.Ne2 Bb8 19.Rg1 Nf6 20.Nc3 c5 21.Rae1 a6 22.Ne2 b5 23.c3 Bb7 24.Nf4 Ne4 25.Bxe4 Qxe4 26.Ng5 Qf5 27.h4 Nxf4 28.exf4 h6 29.Nh3 Qxh3mate 0-1.]



(Black could obviously try 7…O-O but I usually like to castle to the opposite side of my opponent – it opens more possibilities to attacking their castled king. R. Norman-M.Varner, corres., 1991 continued with 6…O-O 7.O-O Be6 8.Nc3 Nd7 9.b3 Nde5 10.Ne4 Nxf3+ 11.Bxf3 Bd5 12.Bb2 Bxe4 13.Bxe4 Qh4 14.Rf4 Bxf4 15.exf4 Qxf4 16.d3 Rad8 17.Qe1 Rfe8 18.Qc3 Nd4 19.Re1 Kh8 20.Bc1 Qxc1 21.Rxc1 Ne2+ 22.Kf1 Nxc3 23.Bf3 c6 24.a3 g6 …0-1.)


7.O-O h5 8.Nh4?! (8…c4!?) 8…Be6 9.Rxf6? (This might work if Black was forced to play 9…gxf6? and now either 10.Bxh5 or 10.d4. But even then Black has the advantage.) 9…Qxf6 10.g3 g5 11.Ng2 h4 12.g4 h3 13.Ne1 Qe5 (>13…O-O-O! which will save Black a tempo or two.) 14.Nf3 Qf6 15.Nc3 Bxg4 16.Ne4 Qf5 (>16…Qg6!) 17.Nexg5? (This can’t be good. Much better is 17.Nxd6+ cxd6 and White rids himself of an annoying bishop. The text move, moreover, freely opens the g-file to Black’s rooks without him having to work for it.)




17…O-O-O?! (A reasonable move. But not the best. Black should immediately use the open file that was freely given to him with 17…Bxf3 18.Bxf3 Qxg5+ or 18.Nxf3 Qg4+.) 18.Qf1 Bxf3 (A move best described as better late than never.) 19.Nxf3 Rhg8+ 20.Kh1 Rg2 21.Bd3 Qg4 22.Ng1?? Rxh2mate 0-1