Thursday, September 9, 9999


I offer personal individualized chess lessons that are geared to your style of play. Many titled players and coaches promise improvement for hundreds or thousands of dollars. But even Bobby Fischer can't stand over your shoulder and tell you what to play. I teach you how to think in any given situation so that you can handle anything your opponent throws at you. And I do so at low rates that fit within your budget.

As a chess coach, my job is to help you get on the right track no matter what your level is. But ultimately, you are responsible for your improvement. You have to be teachable, willing to learn, and willing to try different things. I don't always go by the book -- general book knowledge such as what is taught by Reinfeld, Chernev, Pandolfini, Silman, et al, is good enough to get you to about 2000-2100 or so. Solving routine positions will help you most of the time. But in order to master the game, you must be able to solve non-routine positions as well. Being able to succeed requires using the whole board, constantly striving for the initiative, being willing to win whether it takes you 15 or 90 moves, and above all, seeing the game as a constant struggle. The game is never over until you deliver checkmate or until the other person throws in the towel.

If you take lessons with me, your goal will be to develop a universal chess style. Let's say you love to attack -- the King's Indian is a perfect example of this. If your opponent plays into your hands with 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5, you will likely be able to play for a king side pawn roller. But if your opponent plays 7. dxe5 instead, forcing an early endgame, what then? Or what if he crosses you up with 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bf4, which is very popular at the club level? You have to play all sorts of different positions in order to be successful. Your goal is to be just as good as endgames as you are at attacking chess or a slow, positional battle.

I will lay out rules for you to follow -- develop, attack, and defend in that order. But rules are no substitute for concrete calculation -- if you blindly follow rules, then it is only a matter of time before you get blindsided by hidden tactics. Here are the types of lessons I offer:

One on one study ($10/hour; due at the start of the lesson): This could involve games on, FICS, or ICC against someone of your own strength and feedback afterwards, analysis of your games, or exercises.

Annotated games ($5 per game; due when you send me the games): Here, I will annotate any game you choose -- your game or someone else's -- and give feedback for improvement. Feel free to include any questions you have about the game -- I can help you more if I know what you want to see discussed.

Opening Research ($15/hour; due at the completion of the research): Here, I will go over an opening of your choice and explain what is going on and why the strong players play what they do. For instance, it won't do you any good to play the Scotch (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4) if you don't know what is going on. I will give you ideas on what to play, various traps, and why certain moves are good or bad. Again, feel free to include any questions.

You are invited to try out my methods before you buy. You are welcome to read through my posts; I do not believe in "top secret" information that you have to pay hundreds of dollars to get that you may or may not use. For the first lesson, I will have you try it out. If you get any good out of it, then send me the money and we will make arrangements for the next lesson. If you don't, then send nothing -- no questions asked. If you're happy with what you get and you want to study with me on a regular basis, then future lessons are due when stated.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Another Uncastled King Bites the Dust

Charousek punishes an opponent who fails to castle in this game at the turn of the 20th century. Schiffers' 11. Qd2?! was not the best; it shuts off the retreat of the Queens Bishop. However, his failure to castle on move 12 was his losing move and spoiled what had looked like a promising position. Charousek was one of the top attackers of that era and failing to castle against a player of his caliber was equivalent to suicide.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

On nearly touching a legend

Sometimes, people can play out of character. Vassily Smyslov, who would go on to become World Champion next decade, was known for steering towards quiet positions where he would rely on his superior technique. However, in this 1945 game with Alexander Tolush (White) in the Soviet Championship that year, Smyslov played out of character and courted complications which should have turned out badly for him. Tolush had a golden opportunity to steal a win following an opposite side castling battle.

White started out with the Capablanca Variation of the Nimzo-Indian; however, his intentions were anything but peaceful as he castled queen side and sought to take Smyslov's fortress by storm after blockading the Queen side to delay Smyslov's counterplay. On move 9, he could have played 9. Nxd4, uncovering his Bishop and preparing to use the f5 square.

White could have played 10. cxd5 0-0 11. a3 Bd6 12. Nb5, grabbing the Two Bishops in a wide open position and played for a positional advantage. But he sounded the attack with 13. g4 and 16. h4.

On move 16, Smyslov could have played 16...Nh7!?, stopping the pawn roller in its tracks. He could have also sought to break the blockade with 16...bxc5 17. dxc5 Ne5 18. Nd4 Nfd7 19. g5 hxg5 20. hxg5 Qxg5+ 21. Kb1 Nf8, but that would have been met with 22. Bb5!!, creating headsplitting complications.

After 22...cxb5, White would have regained the piece with 23. f4, due to the fork on f4 and c7. On move 18, wrong would have been 18. gxh6 Qf6! because of Black's counterplay on f3. Tolush saw further than the machine in this position when he played 18. Bh3. On move 21, Smyslov could have kept the White Bishop off the h2-b8 diagonal with 21...bxc5 22. dxc5 Qc7! On move 26, another line that the machine found attractive would have fallen short -- 26...Be3 27. Qb4 Bc8 28. Rhe1 Bf2 29. Re2 holds for White.

Fritz's evaluation hovered near equality until move 30 and Smyslov could have maintained the balance with 30...Bf4, trading off the powerful Bishop on d6 and blockading White's pawn storm. However, he uncorked the anti-positional howler 30...g6?, which should have lost the game. The tactics along the long Black diagonal were tantalizing even for someone of Smyslov's caliber; however, it is rarely a good idea to move pawns in front of one's King while being attacked. A pawn on g6 is frequently a sitting duck for an onrushing h-pawn and White obtained a winning position with 31. h5 Nxd4 32. Rxd4 Qf6.

Tolush could have capped his unlikely victory with 33. hxg6!! Qxd4+ 34. Kb1 Qf6 35. Nh5 Qxg6 36. Bf5 Qg5, when despite being up an exchange, Black is helpless against the threats on the King. It does not require exact calculation to find such a line, just the knowledge that the first person to back down in an opposite side castling battle usually loses. White backed down with 33. Qb2?, starting his slide towards defeat as Smyslov's pressure down the long Black diagonal suddenly became real. White was still winning as late as move 39, when he could have played 39. f5!, protecting his Knight and hitting the Queen. But he allowed a pin with 39. Qf2? and then fell on his sword the next move with 40. Qxe2?? instead of seeking to hold on with 40. Qg1.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

White to Play and Avoid a Blunder -

White to Play and Avoid a Blunder -

White makes a move that would be good 99% of the time. However, he gets snookered by the 1% exception.

Stonewalling the Stonewall

[Date "2011.04.16"]

[White "Riskit"]
[Black "EternalHope"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A80"]
[WhiteElo "1212"]
[BlackElo "1682"]
[PlyCount "90"]
[SourceDate "2007.08.25"]
[TimeControl "15"]

1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 f5 3. e3 Nf6 4. b3 Be7 5. Bb2 O-O 6. Nbd2 d6 7. Bc4 d5 8. Bd3
c6 9. Ne5 Ne4 10. f4 Bd6 11. O-O Qh4 12. Bxe4 dxe4 13. c4 Nd7 14. Qe2 Nf6 15.
Qf2 Qh5 16. g4 {White played the first 15 moves really well, but here, he
loses patience and lashes out at Black. This move looks aggressive because it
tries to open lines for White, but it is not -- Black simply grabs a pawn here
without compensation. The question becomes -- how do you judge that White does
not have enough play along the g-file? For starters, White has none of his
pieces lined up along that file. Secondly of all, since he traded his Bishop
off on move 12, he has no light-squared Bishop to contest the Queen on h5 --
meaning he needs time to bring the Knight to g3. Such a move requires careful
preparation on White's part, not the lashing-out move in the text.} Nxg4 17.
Nxg4 Qxg4+ 18. Qg2 {It turns out that the opening of the g-file does not
inconvenience Black in any way as he can simply play ...g6 if White tries to
line up on the g-file. And it turns out that White does not have time to try
and set up a Q-B battery along the long diagonal.} (18. Kh1 Qh5 19. Rg1 Be7 20.
d5 g6 21. Nf1 cxd5 22. cxd5 Rd8 23. Ng3 Qh4) 18... Qxg2+ 19. Kxg2 Kf7 20. h4
Be7 21. Rh1 Bf6 22. Nf1 Rd8 23. Rd1 c5 24. Ng3 cxd4 25. exd4 g6 26. h5 g5 27.
h6 {Another move that looks dangerous for Black but is not. After his lapse
earlier in the game, White has played really well. But here, he ignores a
threat and permits two connected passers. It is always important to check for
threats before making moves. White has a 4-3 pawn majority on the Queen
side. Black will have two connected passers on the King side after the
obligatory 27. fxg5. In passed pawn battles, material does not always mean
anything -- it is the race to Queen that matters. Black will try and activate
his pawn rollers while White will try and get d5 in and get his passer going.}
gxf4 28. Nh5 Bg5 29. d5 exd5 30. Rhe1 Be6 31. Kh3 dxc4 32. Ng7 Rxd1 33. Rxd1
Rd8 34. Rxd8 Bxd8 35. Nxe6 Kxe6 36. bxc4 Bf6 37. Ba3 f3 38. Bc5 b6 39. Bf2 f4
40. Kg4 e3 41. Bxe3 fxe3 42. Kxf3 Bd4 43. a4 a5 44. Ke2 Kd6 45. Kd3 Kc5 0-1

On Broken Wills

[Date "2003.03.15"]
[White "Hikaru Nakamura"]
[Black "A J Goldsby"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D48"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3
a6 9. O-O c5 10. e4 cxd4 11. Nxd4 Bb7 12. Qe2 Bc5 13. Nf3 h6
14. Rd1 ({Rybka gives the following line as better for White. Yet it is not
easy, in the human mind, to accept doubled pawns on his King side which could
be like waving a red flag to a bull.} 14. e5 Nd5 15. a4 Nxc3 16. bxc3 b4 17.
cxb4 Bxf3 18. gxf3 Bd4 19. Ra3 Nxe5 20. Be4 Rc8) 14... Qb6 15. e5 Nd5 16. Ne4
Be7 17. a4 b4 18. a5 Qa7 {Here is where Black starts to go astray. It is
generally better, all other things being equal, to move pieces towards the
center of the board. Therefore, Black should have retreated his Queen back to
c7, hitting the pawn on e5. The game is then even as the advanced pawn on e5
has elements of strength and weakness. It cramps Black's position, but can
frequently be a target as well; should White try to defend it with a future
f2-f4, then his King could be a target down the a7-g1 diagonal. This is a
minor mistake on Black's part. Yet watch how he lets his will get broken to
the point where he makes one mistake right after another.} 19. Nd6+ {
This would not have been possible if Black had gone 18...Qc7.} Bxd6 20. exd6
Qb8 21. Nd4 Qxd6 22. Nf5 Qf8 {This is where Black seriously starts to go wrong.
22...Qe5 should have been played even at the cost of a pawn. Morphy and the
people who came after him understood a key concept -- activity over material.
White will indeed win a pawn in this line -- 23. Qxe5 Nxe5 24. Nxg7+ Ke7.
White has won his pawn. Yet Black will come swarming down the c-file once the
light square Bishop gets traded or driven off via ...Rc8-c2. White's Bc1 is
still home and Black will be able to get full compensation for his pawn. By
taking an overly materialistic view of the position, Black made a horribly
passive move and took a position which was salvagable to one that is lost.} 23.
Bc4 N7f6 {Rybka rightly flags this move as bad because it gives away control
of d6 after White's next. With 23...g6, Black could have at least kept the
Knight out of his position. This all could have been avoided with ...Qc7
instead of ...Qa7 -- White would have had to sacrifice another pawn in order
to get Black's dark squared Bishop traded off.} ({2.38 Rybka 2.3.2a 32-bit :}
23... g6 24. Bxh6 Rxh6 25. Nxh6 Qc5 (25... Qxh6 {
This capture does not matter because the Knight is hanging thanks to the pin.}
26. Bxd5 Bxd5 27. Rxd5) 26. Bxd5 Bxd5 27. Ng4 Ke7 28. Qe3 f5 29. Rac1 Qd6) 24.
Bf4 g6 {Now this comes too late. Black had to play 24...Qc5, at least stopping
White from sealing in his Queen.} 25. Nd6+ Kd7 {WIth 25...Ke7, he could have
at least answered 26. Nxb7 with 26...Nxf4. But this is not possible with the
text because the Knight is pinned.} 26. Nxb7 Kc6 27. Bxa6 1-0

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On Passing up One's Freedom

[Event "URS-chT"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1966.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Vitolinsh, Alvis"]
[Black "Remmel, Anto"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B12"]
[PlyCount "65"]
[EventDate "1966.09.??"]
[EventType "team"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "URS"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Ne2 {In the Caro-Kann, long favored by
defensive stalwarts such as Karpov and Petrosian, Black is frequently able to
blunt White's attacks. But in this game, Black goes down without a fight, and
without an obvious mistake on his part. Vitolinsh takes the game out of theory,
into his own favorite territory, and successfully targets the weak e6 and g6
squares.} e6 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. c4 dxc4 (6... Ne7 {This is also possible. It
frequently transposes back to the game; however, White can also trade Knights
on f5 and play c5. Instead of trying to exchange the light-squared Bishop,
White would try to blockade the center and/or the Queen side.} 7. Nc3 Nd7 8.
Be3 Nf5 9. Nxf5 Bxf5 10. c5) 7. Bxc4 {This line is counterintuitive for White,
seeing that it creates a backward d-pawn right off the bat. However, since
there is no Knight on f6 for Black, White can bring his heavy pieces to bear
on the King side after transferring one of the Knights to f4 to exchange off
the Bishop on g6.} Ne7 (7... c5!? {This has not been played; however, this
continuation is possible, to break up White's plans before they ever start.
When faced with these sorts of positions, where one side is planning to knock
out the other side seemingly without a fight, it is always a good idea to use
moves like this to cross them up. The disadvantage of White's plan is that it
needs time to develop, and by forcing a struggle on White before he is ready,
some opponents will frequently lose their way and make mistakes.} 8. d5 exd5
9. Bxd5 Qd7 10. O-O Nc6 {Now, this is a totally different game than what
happened in the next. Black will castle Queen-side and the game will take a
much different course than what happened in this encounter.}) 8. Nc3 Nf5 9. Be3
{Neither side wants to exchange Knights at this point. White does not want to
give up a chance to exchange off the Bishop on g6; Black does not want to open
up the h-file for Whites Rook.} Nd7 10. O-O Be7 (10... c5? {Now, this is not
possible because White can force open the e-file and use his rook:} 11. Nxf5
Bxf5 12. d5 Nxe5 13. Bb5+ Nd7 14. g4 Bg6 15. dxe6 fxe6 16. Re1 {Black has still
not completed his development and his e-pawn is a target and likely to fall.
And if he retreats his Bishop to f7 to guard it, that allows White to bring
his Queen into the game to target his b7 pawn and break into the position.}) (
10... h6 {This is possible, to prevent the Bishop from being exchanged.
However, it means that Black either has to forfeit short castling or submit to
a pawn roller on the King side:} 11. Nxf5 Bxf5 12. g4 Bh7 13. f4 Qh4 14. Qe2
O-O-O 15. f5 Re8 {Here, White is still slightly better thanks to his spatial
advantage and his pressure on the f-file and possibly the Queen side; however,
Black has a lot more practical chances than he did in the game. Both sides are
castled on opposite wings and White's King is a lot more exposed; therefore,
there are a lot more ways for him to go wrong.}) 11. Bb3 Nxe3 12. fxe3 O-O (
12... h6?! {This is not possible here because of:} 13. Bxe6 fxe6 14. Qg4 Bf7
15. Nh5 {In these lines, where Black plays an early ...h6, he must always
reckon with a possible sacrifice on e6 because he weakened the g6 square with
that move.}) 13. Qf3 Qc7 (13... Qb6 {This move, preparing the ...c5 break, was
possible. This, in fact, is the thematic break in these positions even though
White's center is apparently solidified by the exchange on e3. However, Black
can still create pressure on White's center by exchanging the pawns on d4 and
then increasing the pressure on the d4 pawn with the Queen and one of the
Rooks. White would be forced to keep one of his Rooks or the Queen at home and
his heavy pieces would not have the kind of free hand that they do in the game.
As we shall see, Black repeatedly passes up this pawn break and gets punished
for his slow play.} 14. Rac1 c5 15. Na4 Qc6 16. Qxc6 bxc6) 14. Rac1 Rad8 {
14...c5 was still good for Black despite the White Rook opposite the Queen;
White cannot make use of the ensuing pin. Now, White moves to trade off the
light-squared Bishop.} 15. Nge2 Nb6 (15... h6? {
Once again, this is not possible because of a familiar theme:} 16. Nf4 Bh7 17.
Qg3 Qa5 18. Bxe6 fxe6 19. Nxe6 {Black must give up the dark squared Bishop or
entomb his other Biship with ...g6 to avoid mate. The tactic on e6/g6 strikes
again; therefore, Black must submit to the following exchange of his Bishop on
g6.}) 16. Nf4 Qd7 (16... Bf5 17. g4) 17. Qh3?! {
Sloppy because Black had a way out.} Nd5?! {
And this is not it. Black should have played:} (17... Bf5 18. g4 Bg6 19. Nxg6
fxg6 20. g5 Nd5 21. Nxd5 Rxf1+ 22. Rxf1 exd5 {Thanks to the obstructing g-pawn,
Black is able to recapture with the f-pawn because e6 is adequately covered.
Black can then reduce it into an opposite-colored Bishops game with plenty of
chances to draw.}) 18. Nxg6 hxg6 {Black would have had good drawing chances
had he captured with the f-pawn instead. But instead, he played "routinely" by
capturing with towards the center -- and was overrun on the King side. Had he
captured with the f-pawn, he would have opened lines for his Rook and would
been able to prevent what happened in the game. And yet, he still could have
equalized by forcing through the ...c5 advance.} (18... fxg6 19. Nxd5 cxd5 20.
e4 Bg5 21. Rcd1 Qc6) 19. Ne4 a5 {
And still, he could have forced through the ...c5 advance:} (19... b6 20. Rf3
c5) 20. Rf3 Ra8 {Now, it is too late for ...b6 and ...c5. White can simply
answer ...b6 with Ba4, threatening the c6 pawn and forcing ...b5. But Black
could have prepared it with ...Rc8 instead. But his attempt to advance his
Queen side pawns is too slow and allows White to build up an unstoppable
attack on the King side. And not only that, he will now waste a move as well.}
(20... Rc8 21. a3 c5) 21. a3 Rad8?! 22. Rd1 b5 {And here again, Black
passes up the saving ...c5 break that would have equalized on the spot. In the
meantime, White continues to build up on the King side until it becomes too
late to stop it.} (22... c5 23. Nxc5 Bxc5 24. dxc5 Qb5 25. Bxd5 Rxd5 26. Rxd5
exd5 27. e6 f5 28. Qg3 Qxb2) 23. Rg3 {And now, the mating net begins to
take shape. Vitolins will put one Rook on the g-file and one on the f-file to
rule out an escape by Black's king along the f-file. White will, if the Queen
leaves the defense of the e6 pawn, sacrifice his Rook on g6, allowing the
Queen to check on e6; the Black King will have no escape from the mating net
along the h-file since the double g-pawns hem their own King in. White will
also bring the Bishop back along the b1-h7 diagonal so that he can use a Q-B
battery on h7 if necessary. In many such positions, White wins not despite,
but because of the Bishops of opposite colors because there is no way to
oppose this by Black.} Rb8 {
And still, the ...c5 break would have stopped White cold in his tracks.} (23...
c5 24. Nxc5 (24. Rf1 {
Attempting to ignore Black's advance and continue with his attack.} cxd4 25.
exd4 a4 26. Bc2 Rc8 27. Bb1 Rc4 {But it turns out that as long as Black keeps
the e6 pawn defended, White will not be able to break through on the King side.
Once again, White must retreat to defend.}) 24... Bxc5 25. dxc5 Qc7 26. Qh4 {
This is best, setting up a battery on the h-file; however, Black can now
create a flight square and equalize.} (26. Rxg6?! Nf4) (26. Rf1 Qxe5 {
Black is better because White's pawns are loose and the critical e6 square is
once again covered.}) 26... Qxe5 27. Rh3 f5 28. Bxd5 Rxd5 29. Rxd5 Qxd5 30. Qe7=) 24. Rg4 a4 25. Bc2 Qd8 {Now, things are coming to a head. For instance, if
Black plays 25...Rfc8, White can play 26. Nc5, clearing the way for a decisive
attack; he answers 26...Bxc5 with 27. Rh4, creating an unstoppable battery
along the h-file. The Nc5 move clears the way for the White Bishop so that if
Black tries to escape with 27...f6, the Bishop comes into the game with
decisive effect. It is now too late to play 25...c5, because Black simply
loses the pawn to 26. Nxc5; Black cannot capture the Knight because of the pin
on his own Knight.} 26. Rf1 Re8 (26... Qa5 {As White still has to bring his
Rook to the third rank, Black can try this move to tie the Rook to the first
rank, but it will not save him. White simply redeploys his other Rook to f3
and then moves his Knight away so that the Bishop can deliver the decisive
blow.} 27. Rg3 Rb7 28. Rgf3 Qa7 29. Nf2+-) 27. Rf3 Qa5 {
Black is lost as his attempts to prevent the sacrifice on g6 fail:} (27... Qc8
{This allows the fork on c8 and f7. Keep in mind in all these lines that the
Knight cannot be captured because the Bishop is guarding against the decisive
Rh4.} 28. Nd6+-) (27... Qd7 28. Nc5 Qc8 29. Rxg6!! {This is still decisive
because the Bishop recaptures and the Queen delivers mate on h7.}) (27... Nc7
28. Nf6+!! {This clearance sacrifice, allowing the subsequent capture on g6
by a Bishop or a Rook, is decisive.}) 28. Kf1! b4 29. Rxg6!! Qb5+ 30. Kf2
Bh4+ (30... Qc4 {This simply allows White to destroy Black's pawn cover with
the desperado Rook. 31. Nc3! also wins.} 31. Rxg7+!! Kxg7 32. Nc3 Bh4+ 33.
Qxh4 Kf8 34. Bg6 {Rybka here announces mate in 20.}) 31. Qxh4 fxg6 32. Ng5 {
Rybka announces mate in 10. Black's next only shortens the agony.} Nf6 33. Rxf6