This blog is all about chess. I started playing chess in the late sixties. At some point I got very fanatic about it and played in lots of tournaments. My level? At best mediocre. I played in the second team of the Utrecht Chess club.
I have to confess that when solving chess puzzles I have the tendency to jump right in. In that way chess becomes a process of trial and error. With quite a lot of errors of course!
I think I can do better. Bit by bit I try to change my bad habits. One of the first things I do now is have a good look at the position. Are there any pieces en prise? What do the pawn formations tell me? Are there any threats? Can I find a motif? Are there any patterns?
If I look in this way generally things get a bit more easy. The motif in the diagram position is clear. White’s pieces are a somewhat “loose”. How can black use this motif to his own advantage? Solution…
Off course there are general principles that apply to endgames. But mere intuition brings you most of the time nowhere. You have to calculate very careful.
See this, seemingly simple rook endgame. If it was black to move, he would have a very easy draw. See for example this variation…
But it is white to move. That makes all the difference in the world. But how? That’s maybe not so easy to spot. Do you see how white can win? Solution…
Here is another one!
Some moments after I finished this post, I surfed to chess.com. Chess.com shows every day a new puzzle. Sometimes these puzzles are quite hard to solve. This one is also a bit tricky. See the second diagram.
It is white to play and win. The first move is obvious. But then it gets a bit tricky. Do you see how to solve this one? Solution…
Goes without saying that not all rook endings end in a draw!
This a position after white’s 25th move. It is from one of my own games. At our level we make (too) many mistakes. But it doesn’t mean that there are no interesting moments.
It is clear that black is much better. The white king is not safe and his pawns are weak. Compare both rooks and queens and it becomes clear that black has a winning advantage. But the situation is still a bit tricky and black can go astray very easy. What is the best move for black?
Last Saturday I played my first game since March last year. I was a bit rusty. Although I solved a lot of tactical puzzles almost every day, I missed a simple (standard) tactic.
Even after missing this chance I still got a good game. And then? Disaster. I thought I could snatch a pawn. It turned out to be a bad miscalcultation and spoiled a promising position. After that things went down hill very fast ad I lost. Do you see what I missed?
It seems I am in need for a lot of training (and probably more active play). Today I received the book ‘Training with Moska’. It is packed with exercies. I seems to be a great book to study and might be of some help to develop my skills. Which, as you’ve seen, are quite poor.
See the second diagram. White to move and gain a wining advantage. Solution…
Even after a quick look you will see that this position is totally crazy. White has a material advantage, but most of his pieces are en prise.
What makes matters even more complicated is the pawn on b2 that is about to queen and give mate.
Is there a way out of this mess? Can white achieve the impossible and even win this position?
Yes, he can. It is up to you to figure this one out. Solution…
If found this fantastic puzzle on Johan Salomon’s twitter account. Johan is the present Norwegian Champion and is well on his way to become a grandmaster. You will find more intriguing puzzles on his account.
The purpose of chess is of course to mate the enemy king. There is nothing more fascinating than an all out attack on the enemy king.
But how many times does this happen in our games? Maybe not so many times as we would hope for. At least that’s my personal experience.
One should develop an eye for it. Some help might be very useful. Strange enough there aren’t many books written about this subject. One such book is ‘Mating the Castled king’ by GM Danny Gormally. This book is solely dedicated to attacking the enemy king, in the place where the monarch thinks he is safe, when castled. One of the main themes in this book is pattern recognition. Danny writes:
“Chess players should have the ability to remember and recognize patterns and themes that repeatedly occur in practice. The more examples we see, the more ingrained these patterns will become until eventually they are second nature.”
Indeed when you recognize certain motifs the good moves almost automatically pop up in our minds. See for instance the first diagram. Can you see how white can obtain a winning advantage? Please think for a while before you read on.
Was it hard to find the correct solution? If you haven’t found the solution yet, you will find it almost within the blink of an eye when I tell you what motif to look for. Think: bank rank mate. Now it becomes a lot more easy.
In his book Gormally gives 160 mating finishes. This one doesn’t necessarily end in mate, but the threat is there. Best case scenario: it ends material loss. See for yourself: 1. Qxf8 Qxf8 (if 1. – Kxf6 2. Bc5+ and mate) 2. Bc5! And black loses the exchange because he has to give his queen (see all variations).
The next example is more complicated. Do you see the motifs? I got the motifs right, but still missed some crucial variations. See the solution.
Danny’s book is very instructive. The examples are not always easy, but you will learn a lot. All these attacks are a lot of fun to study. Besides that Danny’s writing is very witty and a pleasure to read!