Thursday, November 30, 2006

Kramnik - Deep Fritz: Game 3

I spent yesterday in a deep dark corner of the Hampshire countryside - visiting my Mum; family anniversary - where only the woo of an owl might keep you from sleep - and, where the internet dare not reach. Still, as far as I could judge from Ceefax, I didn't miss much in game 3 of Kramnik's contest with both Deep Fritz and his own blunder-loving demons.

But in fact, playing through the moves of the game - 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 dxc4 5.Qa4+ Nbd7 6.Qxc4 a6 7.Qc2 c5 8.Nf3 b6 9.Ne5 Nd5 10.Nc3 Bb7 11.Nxd5 Bxd5 12.Bxd5 exd5 13.0-0 Nxe5 14.dxe5 Qc8 15.Rd1 Qe6 16.Qd3 Be7 17.Qxd5 Rd8 18.Qb3 Rxd1+ 19.Qxd1 0-0 20.Qb3 c4 21.Qc3 f6 22.b3 Rc8 23.Bb2 b5 24.Qe3 fxe5 25.bxc4 Rxc4 26.Bxe5 h6 27.Rd1 Rc2 28.Qb3 Qxb3 29.axb3 Rxe2 30.Bd6 Bf6 31.Bc5 a5 32.Bd4 Be7 33.Bc3 a4 34.bxa4 bxa4 35.Rd7 Bf8 36.Rd8 Kf7 37.Ra8 a3 38.Rxf8+ Kxf8 39.Bb4+ Kf7 40.Bxa3 Ra2 41.Bc5 g6 42.h4 Kf6 43.Be3 h5 44.Kg2 ½-½ - that is not quite the case. Fritz had some pressure for a pawn, and then Kramnik found a neat way to liquidize to a drawn fortress endgame.

Which brings me on to something else. If you want to play through the above game or any game featured here, one good way to do it is download a programme called 'WinBoard.' WinBoard will allow you to copy and paste moves to play through games on your computer screen. Actually, it does a few more things besides that - but you can find that out for yourself. A link to its download and information site is in the sidebar to your left under 'Chess Downloads.'

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chess a bit more!

Chessabit are a new London outfit, who are about to run their second one-day rapid-play tournament. The event is this Saturday - December 2nd 2006 - in East London. First prize is £500, no less - and best of all, it's not to late to enter. Click the link above for more details.

I took part in their first event over the summer, and I was lucky enough to scrape my way to second place and a prize of £250 - plus a few goodies thrown in from their sponsor. It was a nicely organised event in a novel setting (that time, the Salvador & Amanda bar/club/restaurant in central London.) I'm sure they will have learnt a lot from it too - especially how to deal with cantankerous old timers - and so this next event promises to be even better.

The diagram position is taken from one of my wins that day, and should tell you something about the standard of play required in this kind of tournament. That is, the standard required when the time-limit is all your moves in fifteen minutes, and the grading limit is 175ECF and under.

Black, my opponent, was to move, and he tempted me with 1. ... f6. I decided upon: 2. Nxg6 hxg6 3. Qxg6 White's attack doesn't make that much sense - and 2. Nf3, 2. Bxg6 and 3. Bxg6 were all probably better choices - but real precision is required to defend here, and thus I reasonned the position would gain me 'five minutes of compensation from the clock.' In fact, I got even more from it. After 3. ... Kf8 4. h4 Bf7 5. Qh7 Ne6?? 6. Bf5 Bg8 we reached the second diagram position, below. I just had to spot one of those tactics that are key in blitz, and I'm sure you'll spot it too.

Yep - after 7. Qxg8+! Kxg8 8. Bxe6+ Qxe6 9. Rxe6, the endgame was easily winning for white. Hope to see you Saturday.

Monday, November 27, 2006

World Championship Quality Blunders

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

It’s humankind against the computers and frankly we’ve embarrassed ourselves. [see Shock and Stun below]. There goes Kramnik, allegedly the very best we’ve got to offer, making the sort of howler that would shame a patzer who spends his time fiddling around the lower reaches of the London League. A player such as myself I mean.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. After all Kramnik’s recent match against Topalov was settled by a rank bad move. We probably should have seen that coming too.

Looking back at World Championship matches, you'll find both Champions and Challengers committing blunders of true beginner-level brilliancy. Yes, from Steinitz-Zukertort all the way to Kramnik-Topalov, it seems the greats not only outshine us amateurs in matters of conventional chess technique, but that they also horlicks things up with a lot more style too.

This is definitely an area that warrants further investigation but before we start our quest to find the greatest World Championship Blunder of all time we need some objective criteria by which we can judge the contenders. After long contemplation (while I was on the bus on my way to Golden Lane last week) using the latest technology (back of envelope, biro) I’ve discovered each blunder can be definitively rated using four criteria.

(A) Effect on the Game
(B) Effect on the Match
(C) Degree of Difficulty
(D) Artistic Merit

The first two categories probably speak for themselves. A move that turns a certain win into a dead loss during a closely fought match should clearly score more highly than one that merely transforms an easy draw into a slightly worse game when the match situation is already beyond saving. The other categories, though, may need more explanation.

My robust and absolutely non-subjective (ahem) yardstick for *Degree of Difficulty* is how I'd feel if I played the move myself during a routine London League match.

*Artistic Merit*, on the other hand, is a collection of sundry factors that the truly gifted will throw into the mix to lift his work above the mediocre. It’s a dollop of cream that might (slightly) disguise the stench of rotting strawberries if you will.

It’s a concept, I must confess, I struggled to explain to Tom when we discussed the potential for this series. Some potential examples are the blunder requires a Queen sacrifice to exploit or perhaps the move itself was so wonderfully pointless it’s really difficult to work out why it was played even if it didn’t lose instantly. That sort of thing.

So let's review Kramnik - Topalov in the light of our criteria.....

In an admittedly difficult position Topalov played

... Rxc5??
which loses instantly to
The point is after
... Rxb7
Rxc5+ Kb6
axb7 ...

if Black now takes the Rook White will Queen so it's Good Night Charlie.

Topalov was losing anyway in a blitz finish you never can be quite sure so you have to say blowing the game instantly had a fairly significant effect on the game. Similarly it was effectively a world championship decider so losing the game meant automatically losing the match.

Of course it was just a rank bad move and thus fairly hard to find in normal play. I'm not sure what I would have played in the position myself, perhaps trying to get the Bishop around to have some influence on the Queenside, but I'd certainly be kicking myself after the game if I'd come up with ... Rc5.

In terms of Artistic Merit there really isn't much to say. A simple one move refutation and that's your lot. I do find it somewhat amusing that Topalov should lose the match in this way, given his (some would say) questionable behaviour earlier in the contest. There's nothing too memorable about this blunder though, more's the pity.

In Conclusion:

Effect on the Game 2/5
Effect on the Match 2/5
Degree of Difficulty 3/5
Artistic Merit 1/5

So there you have it. Topalov manages an Ultimate Blunder Rating of just 8/20. It's respectable, but not really good enough at this level.

Trust me, there are much better of examples of ineptitude to be found in World Championship matches across the years - something I hope to demonstrate in the weeks and months to come.

Next time ... probably the most famous World Championship blunder of them all.

Shock and Stun

Susan Polgar is regularly stunned and shocked when it comes to chess events and moves - but even she might have to reach for the thesaurus to express her amazement at this one.

In the diagram position it's black, Kramnik, to move, in game 2 of his match against Fritz from today. Now it doesn't matter how centralised you are, whether you'll be better in the endgame after a queen exchange, nor whether your bishop is better than the knight, or how quick you can make a passed pawn - not when your opponent threatens mate in one.

So, here are the moves of the game, if you can bare to look. The diagram is at move number 34:

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e4 b5 4. a4 c6 5. Nc3 b4 6. Na2 Nf6 7. e5 Nd5 8. Bxc4 e6 9. Nf3 a5 10. Bg5 Qb6 11. Nc1 Ba6 12. Qe2 h6 13. Be3 Bxc4 14. Qxc4 Nd7 15. Nb3 Be7 16. Rc1 O-O 17. O-O Rfc8 18. Qe2 c5 19. Nfd2 Qc6 20. Qh5 Qxa4 21. Nxc5 Nxc5 22. dxc5 Nxe3 23. fxe3 Bxc5 24. Qxf7+ Kh8 25. Qf3 Rf8 26. Qe4 Qd7 27. Nb3 Bb6 28. Rfd1 Qf7 29. Rf1 Qa7 30. Rxf8+ Rxf8 31. Nd4 a4 32. Nxe6 Bxe3+ 33. Kh1 Bxc1 34. Nxf8 Qe3?? 35. Qh7#

Deep Fritz versus Kramnik: Game 2

The second game of the man versus machine contest from Bonn, Germany, starts in just over half an hour. Kramnik will play black - and so, one might imagine, his chances of exchanging straight out the opening into the kind of technical endgame at which he excels - and where Fritz might encounter serious problems - are probably rather less than in Game One. Especially if Fritz opens 1. d4.

ChessBase - who manufacture Fritz - have been covering the event like crazy. Their top five stories are all currently about it. Aside from Yasser Seirawan's analysis (which I linked to from the post about game one) these excerpts translated from a Kramnik interview in German were particularly interesting.

You might think nothing else was happening in the chess world - but that's not entirely true. Check out the excellent news service Doggers Schaak to find out how Loek van Wely won a horse, or how Ivanchuk is getting on in Cuba right now, for instance.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

First Team versus Ilford: Update

This is Adam W's adjournment position from the Streatham & Brixton Chess Club First Team match against Ilford (which was left 5-3 with four adjournments on the night). His opponent, who had the black pieces, sealed, and below the diagram you can find out  what happened on the resumption.

The sealed move was 37. ...Qg5 - but after 38. Rh4+, black blundered straight away with 39. ... Qh5?? Necessary instead was 39. ... Qxh4 40. Qxh4+ Kg7. Then, whilst white doesn't have any immediate mating threats, he can still round up the d6 pawn with Qd4+ and Nb5 - after which he can advance his c-pawn, and maybe at the same time apply pressure on the black kingside with h4-h5. But what happened allowed Adam to finish the game off in crisp style. 39. Rxh5+ Kxh5 40. Nd5 Rde8 41. g4+! The key move. Black's king is caught in a mating net. 41. ... Kh6 42. g5+ Kh5 43. Qf3+ Kxg5 44. Qf4+, and black resigned. It's mate next move.

Jeremy meanwhile agreed his adjourned rook and pawn endgame as drawn - which brings the match score to 5½-4½ in Ilford's favour. Good luck to Angus and Alan in their adjournments - the results of which will decide the match, one way or another . . .

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Man versus Machine: Kick-Off!

Everyone's talking about it.

No, not EastEnders, not the cricket, and not Streatham & Brixton's new chess blog. I mean of course the Kramnik - Deep Fritz match, game one of which kicks the match off today at 2pm. I recommend the excellent site Doggers-Schaak's rather interesting preview - it includes predictions from top players, a profile of the computer, details of the unusual rules, some slightly odd photo's, and quotes from Kramnik's press-conference. Let's hope this one in particular proves accurate:

"This computing monster keeps getting better year by year, month by month, day by day: My opponent will be incredibly strong. But I think I can still beat it."

Of course, there'll be live coverage all over the internet and chess servers. I'll be watching it here - whilst Chessgames's coverage might (who knows?) offer a more sophisticated level of kibitzing, compared to the usual in-jokes and chatter on the ICC & Playchess. Apart from that, you can find out more about Kramnik from his home-page, whilst the official site for the match is here. I'll post the moves of the game up once it's done.

> > > UPDATE > > >

And so - it was a draw.

Kramnik played white, and here are the moves:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 dxc4 5. Qa4+ Nbd7 6. Qxc4 a6 7. Qd3 c5 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Nf3 O-O 10. O-O Qe7 11. Nc3 b6 12. Ne4 Nxe4 13. Qxe4 Nf6 14. Qh4 (When a computer offers you two rooks for a queen, it's probably a good idea to decline.)14. ... Bb7 15. Bg5 Rfd8 16. Bxf6 Qxf6 17. Qxf6 gxf6 (Black's activity and slight lead in development will not last for long; therefore, white has the better endgame due to the battered black pawns.) 18. Rfd1 Kf8 19. Ne1 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 f5 21. Rxd8+ Rxd8 22. Nd3 Bd4 23. Rc1 e5 (Moves like 20. ... f5 and 23. ... e5 are typical of a common problems computers have with pawns in endgames: they are often too enthusiastic to move them.) 24. Rc2 Rd5 25. Nb4 Rb5 26. Nxa6 Rxb2 27. Rxb2 Bxb2 28. Nb4 Kg7 29. Nd5 Bd4 30. a4 (Fixing the pawn on b6. But might it have been more exposed on b5 or b4 anyhow? Moves 30 and 31 are critical for determining a winning plan for white - and maybe he got it wrong. E.g., or the analysis here.) 30. ... Bc5 31. h3 f6 32. f3 Kg6 33. e4 h5 34. g4 hxg4 35. hxg4 fxe4 36. fxe4 (Maybe white should have penetrated with his king on the queenside before this simplification, or prepared e4 but without g4.) 36. ... Kg5 37. Kf3 Kg6 38. Ke2 Kg5 39. Kd3 Bg1 40. Kc4 Bf2 41. Kb5 Kxg4 42. Nxf6+ (42. Nxb6 Bxb6 43. Kxb6 f5 is trivially drawn.)42. ... Kf3 43. Kc6 Bh4! (Now the draw is crystal clear.) 44. Nd7 Kxe4 45. Kxb6 Bf2+ 46. Kc6 Be1 47. Nxe5 Game drawn 1/2-1/2

Friday, November 24, 2006


Well, here it is.

Streatham & Brixton Chess Club blog
goes fully public today. Please take a look around - you'll find team and tournament reports, for instance, as well as puzzles to baffle and amuse. There's a happy birthday to Capablanca, and a link to an excellent free book, and more besides. Or you can just clik the 'November 2006' archive link up on the left, then scroll about to take a look at it all for yourself.

And if you're done with all that - then feel free to leave a comment, or try out the sidebar to the left, which is bursting with chess links. Mm, what else do you need to know? Well - we plan to update the blog at least once a day, with anything from club news to trivia, puzzles to opinions, games to history.

Oh, and let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Secret Secret

New In Chess frequently send me adverts for products I can't afford, but this morning's credit-card temptation took me by surprise. "Botvinnik's Secret Games is about the training matches which the Patriarch played to prepare for his World Championship contests," writes Allard Hoogland. "It contains no less than 97 games from between 1937 and 1970, many of which are annotated by Timman."

Can't you just print that for free from the internet, though, a corner of my memory asked . . . ?

Not quite, it turns out . . .

A previous version of the book is currently still available here (large pdf), titled this time as Secret Matches: The Unknown Training Games of Mikhail Botvinnik. It's edited by Hanon W. Russell - but with many games annotated by Timman, and with a very interesting essay by him too at the start, about the theoretical importance of the games. But on the other hand, this seems to be a new addition to the commercial version of the book:
The book also has an amazing chapter by Yuri Averbakh, one of Botvinnik's training opponents. Averbakh relates how he had to play in front of a blaring radio because Botvinnik wanted to steel his nerves against noisy disturbances. "After five hours of play", writes Averbakh, "I felt like an utter zombie."
I always feel like an utter zombie after five hours of play, but team-mates from our club will know that already. Anyway - if I were you, Streatham & Brixton Chess Club, I'd download the free version now, in case it disappears like a secret.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Puzzle Extraordinairé

What's the most extraordinary move you've ever played? That you've seen played? That's ever been played? Unfortunately, my answer to the first question is my 35. ... Re3 from a recent London League match for Streatham & Brixton Chess Club first team - overlooking the none too subtle reply 36. Rf3xe3. A whole rook down I went - and no, I wasn't in time trouble either.

This position is from Gomes - Neto, Rio de Janeiro 1942. Black played an extraordinary move too, but extraordinary for all the right reasons. Can you spot it? It's number 108 in Tim Krabbé's 110 Most Fantastic Moves Ever Played - but one of my favourites.

Bytheway, you can find a link to Tim's site in the sidebar. On which note - let me know if you think I've left any interesting chess links out from there, and I'll add them too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Civil Service Congress

The Third Civil Service Open Chess Congress took place on the weekend of the 11th November, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Three Streatham & Brixton Chess Club players took part.

Barry battled it out in a tough-looking Major - whilst after a nice win in the first round of the Open, I managed only one draw from the next four games. Well done to Robin though who had a much better time of it - scoring 3/5, which proved enough to win him a cut of the Grading Prize.

The Civil Service Chess League site currently has a brief summary of the tournament - whilst if you want to look through any of the games from the Open, they are available here (via the BritBase site) although many seem incomplete. Upcoming tournaments meanwhile can be found listed here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

London Transport, Chess Puzzle

Well, they say nothing was working in London this morning. No Central Line, no Circle Line. Delays on the Northern and Picadilly. Strikes on the buses. The night's engineering work on the train tracks not finished on time. Silent thousands fuming on the platforms. Glad I slept right through my alarm and missed it all, frankly.

I don't know anything about this puzzle, except it's called "Scenic Railway." If only London worked so prettily too.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

London League - Second Team, So Far

Streatham & Brixton Chess Club entered a second team for the first time last year in the London League. That team topped the Fourth Division by one game point, and was thus rewarded with promotion to Division Three - a somewhat tougher prospect.

So far this year, the team has played three matches. Despite a close 4½-5½ defeat at the hands of Capablanca, we beat West London 7-3, and overcame East Ham by the narrowest of margins - 5½-4½. Incidentally, that extra half point was earned by Alan in a tricky adjournment where he defended tenaciously for over two hours - great stuff.

The second team's next encounter is at Golden Lane on the 23rd November against Albany. Albany have won both their mathces so far this season, and look to have a strong line-up - as can be seen by the London League Division 3 table, here.

José Raúl Capablanca

Today would have been Capablanca's birthday, had he lived to 118. He was the third World Chess Champion, and one of the all time greats. Current World Champion Vladimir Kramnik describes him this way:
We can compare Capablanca with Mozart, whose charming music appeared to have been a smooth flow. I get the impression that Capablanca did not even know why he preferred this or that move, he just moved the pieces with his hand. If he had worked a lot on chess, he might have played worse because he would have started to try to comprehend things. But Capablanca did not have to comprehend anything, he just had to move the pieces!
Well, at least I have a lack of comprehension in common with Capablanca. Anyhow, wikipedia has a brief article about him here, whilst below is a short and spectacular crowd-pleasing win of his, against the amateur Jaime Baca Arus in an Exhibition Match in Havana, 1912. Capablanca played white. See if you can spot the continuation from the diagram position.

1. d4 d5 2. e3 e6 3. Bd3 c6 4. Nf3 Bd6 5. Nbd2 f5 6. c4 Qf6 7. b3 Nh6 8. Bb2 O-O 9. Qc2 Nd7 10. h3 g6 11. O-O-O e5 12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. cxd5 cxd5

I should let you know at this point that Capablanca was playing blindfolded.

But can you see his next move?

Well, here is how the game finished:

14. Nc4 dxc4 15. Bxc4+ Nhf7 16. Rxd6 Qxd6 17. Nxe5 Be6 18. Rd1 Qe7 19. Rd7 Bxd7 20. Nxd7 Rfc8 21. Qc3 Rxc4 22. bxc4
. Some sources say black resigned here, whilst others give these concluding moves: 22. ... Nd6 23.Qh8+ Kf7 24.Ne5+ Ke6 25.Qxa8. Either way, white won. Anyhow - Happy Birthday Capablanca, from Streatham & Brixton Chess Club!


Rook and pawn endgames are notoriously tricky - which means that in practice, they're notoriously drawn. This particular position indeed looks rather tricky for white (to move) to win, as both 1. b7 and 1. Rb7 can apparently be met by 1. ... Kc6.

But white has something crafty up his sleeve. Can you spot it?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

London League - First Team, So Far

Despite a 2.5 - 9.5 defeat in the opening London League Division One match of the season at the hands of last year's Champions Wood Green, Streatham & Brixton Chess Club First Team bounced back in our second match, beating the ever-hospitable Drunken Knights 8-4.

The next test was on November the 15th against Ilford. That match is currently poised 5-3 to them - with four adjournments waiting to be played out. Here's my win from the evening, where I played white on board 8 against David Chandler.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 c5 3. Nf3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nc6 6. Nxc6 dxc6 7. O-O e5 White has a slight advantage - a tiny lead in development, and a few holes in the black queenside to aim his pieces at. 8. Be3 Nf6 9. f3 Bb4!? 10. Qe2 Qe7 11. Nd2 Be6 12. Nc4 Bxc4 13. Bxc4 Rd8 14. Qf2 b5 15. Be2 Qe6 Black has played inaccurately, and now will have to make one kind of concrete compromise or another on the queenside. 16. a4 O-O 17. c4 bxc4 18. Rfc1 a5?! (18. ... Rd3! was the best way to confuse matters.) 19. Bxc4 Qd7 20. Rc2 Rb8 21. Rac1 h6 22. Bf1 Rfc8 23. Ba6 Rd8 24. Rxc6 Ra8 25. Bb5 Rab8 26. Bb6 Rf8 27. Rxf6 Qd2 28. Rfc6 Over the last eight or so moves, black has been playing for traps rather than sitting back and suffering a long defence. He was short of time and perhaps intended 28. ... Rxb6 - but that loses to 29. Qxb6. Black resigned.

Croydon League Second Division - First Result!

The Streatham & Brixton Chess Club Second Team played their first match of the new season on the 15th November, in the Croydon League second division. An exciting match ended in a 2-2 draw, with Jonathan and Alexey both winning.


White had been pushing in the middlegame, and is still trying to win this endgame. With his last move (1. Bf2-h4) he intends Kg3xg4, and then to penetrate via f5 or g5. Black can stop this by posting his bishop on h6 and king on e6, and then by meeting Bg5 by retreating his bishop - with a definite draw.

Or does he have something better?

First Post

It's the news the chess world has been waiting for.

No - not that Fischer has returned, and will face an unretired Kasparov, in an unlimited match. No - not that The Master Game is back on BBC2. No - not that Hydra has created a 32-piece tablebase that proves once and for all that 1. g4 wins outright, whilst everything else is a draw. No - it's not the low-down of what Kramnik was doing in his toilet after all. No - Wood Green have not lost a London League match.

Think bigger.

Think better.

Yes, that's right! We - Streatham & Brixton Chess Club - have gotten ourselves a new blog!

Although thinking about it, you new that already, since you're looking at it.

Oh well. Hello.