29 June 2006

A lesson in chess logic

This is the third game in Alekhine's annotated brilliancies played at Bad Pistyan 1922. It has two sequences of outstanding moves. The first sequence is in the opening, which I look at for this post.

The diagram shows the position after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 c5 3.c4 cxd4 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Nxd4 have been played.

Pistyan 1922
Wolf, Heinrich

Alekhine, Alexander
(After 5.Nf3-d4(xP))
[FEN "rnbqkb1r/pp2pppp/5n2/3P4/3N4/8/PP2PPPP/RNBQKB1R b KQkq - 0 5"]

Now Wolf played 5...a6, and Alekhine commented,

Black wished to avoid the variation 5...Nxd5 6.e4 Nf6 7.Bb5+ Bd7 8.e5 Bxb5 9.Nxb5 Qxd1+ 10.Kxd1 Nd5 11.N1c3, to the advantage of White, mentioned in the latest edition of Colijn's Laerobok. But this variation, like many others indicated in that work, which are indeed interesting but scarcely accurate, can be improved by 6...Nb4!, after which White's advantage would be difficult to demonstrate. The text move does not seem risky, Black intending to capture the d-Pawn on the next move. Its refutation is therefore only the more instructive.

6.e4!!. Alekhine:

Sacrificing the e-Pawn to retain the d-Pawn, which as will be seen in the sequel, exercises a very strong pressure on the opponent's game.

The '!'s attached to the moves are also Alekhine's. 6...Nxe4 7.Qa4+!. Alekhine:

In order to provoke the obstruction of the d-file by a Black piece, which cuts off the attack of Black's Queen on the d-Pawn.

7...Bd7. 'Not 7...Qd7 on account of 8.Bb5'. 8.Qb3 Nc5.

The square is hardly indicated for the Knight, but on the other hand he must secure the defense of his b-Pawn; and 8...Qc7 or 8...Bc8 is scarcely any better, seeing that Black's Queen would soon be dislodged from this file by White's Rook.

9.Qe3!. Alekhine:

Much stronger than the plausible move 9.Qf3 on which Black could have freed himself by 9...e5 10.dxe6 Nxe6 11.Nxe6 Bxe6 12.Qxb7? Bd5 and Black must win. Whereas after the text move, the advance of Black's e-Pawn would give White the opportunity of exercising strong pressure on the e-file. Black therefore resigns himself to the development of his Bf8 in fianchetto, but equally without success.

Since after 9.Qe3, the move 9...e5 is obviously bad, Alekhine must mean 9...e6 followed by 10.Bc4 and 11.O-O. 9...g6 10.Nf3! Alekhine:

This gain of time allows White to prevent 10...Bg7 followed by 11...O-O. Black's King being kept in the center, White's attack will be facilitated, thanks to his superior development.

Continuing this last comment, Alekhine gave an extraordinary lesson in chess logic.

The opening of this game offers some analogies with that of the game played at The Hague against Rubinstein. In the one, as in the other, the advantage won results from the repeated movements of the same pieces (here the first eleven moves contain four displacements of the Queen and three of the King's Knight).

But the possibility of like maneuvers in the opening phase is solely attributable, I must reiterate, to the fact that the opponent has adopted faulty tactics, which must from the first be refuted by an energetic demonstration. It is clear, on the contrary, that in face of correct development, similar anomalous treatment would be disastrous.

It cannot therefore be any question of a "Modern System", but just simply of exploiting in a rational manner the opponent's mistakes. I cannot conceive why there is such an ardent desire to discover in a game of chess anything more subtle than it has to offer, for I am of opinion that the real beauty which it possesses should be more than sufficient for all possible demands.

In other words, if one player fails to adhere to chess logic, the other player can take advantage of this by also neglecting chess logic. For me, this is against all logic!

The game continued 10...Qc7 11.Qc3 Rg8. In a future post I'll look at how Alekhine took advantage of Black's uncastled King. First I'd like to look at the game mentioned in the last note : Alekhine - Rubinstein, The Hague 1921.

To play through the complete game see...

Alexander Alekhine vs Heinrich Wolf, Bad Pistyan 1922

...on Chessgames.com.

27 June 2006

Tarrasch - Alekhine, Pistyan 1922

Continuing with Alekhine's annotated brilliancies the following position is a win for Black according to Alekhine's notes. It's hard to believe that one of the best players in the world at the time of the game could be lost with the White pieces after 11 moves, but so it seems to have been.

Alekhine's annotations for the next moves are the sort of comments I like to see from a grandmaster. They show verbal reasoning rather than calculating a tangle of variations. Alekhine was adept at explaining the logic behind a position. Note that White is a Pawn ahead.

Pistyan 1922
Alekhine, Alexander

Tarrasch, Siegbert
(After 11.Bc1-b2)
[FEN "r2q1rk1/pb1n2pp/3bpn2/1Ppp4/8/1PN1PN2/PB2BPPP/R2QK2R b KQ - 0 11"]

In this position Alekhine played 11...Qe7, and wrote,

Black has completed his development, and prepares in perfect safety the advance of his e-Pawn, which encompassing still more the adverse game, secures him a very strong attack against White's King.

12.O-O Rad8. Alekhine:

Black has no need to hasten the advance of his e-Pawn, his opponent at present being able to attempt absolutely nothing.

13.Qc2 e5 14.Rfe1. Alekhine:

In order to defend the square h2, by bringing the Nf3 via d2 to f1. From now on White defends in the most skilful way, but his game is already too far compromised by the strategic error of the opening ceding the center to his opponent in exchange for a Pawn of little value.

If instead, White tries block the advance with 14.e4, the game would probably continue with something like 14...d4 15.Bc4+ Kh8 16. Nd5 Nxd5 17. Bxd5 Bxd5 18. exd5 e4, when White is also losing.

I imagine that the game was awarded a prize for the remaining moves, where Alekhine gave himself eight '!'s. The most impressive aspect of the game for me is how he obtained so overwhelming a position after only 13 moves. To play through the complete game see...

Siegbert Tarrasch vs Alexander Alekhine, Bad Pistyan 1922

...on Chessgames.com.

25 June 2006

Blumenfeld Counter-gambit stem game

Continuing with Alekhine's annotated brilliancies , look at the position in the diagram and name the opening. Benko Gambit? No, that starts 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5. In the diagram the moves 2.Nf3 e6 have also been played.

The Tarrasch - Alekhine game started 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 c5 4.d5 b5. In 'The Oxford Companion to Chess', this opening is called the Blumenfeld Counter-gambit, 'an invention of the Russian master Benjamon Markovich Blumenfeld (1884-1947) that was launched triumphantly by Alekhine against Tarrasch at Pistyan 1922.' The game was given by the authors of 'The Oxford Companion' as one of two examples of Alekhine's play.

Pistyan 1922
Alekhine, Alexander

Tarrasch, Siegbert
(After 4...b7-b5)
[FEN "rnbqkb1r/p2p1ppp/4pn2/1ppP4/2P5/5N2/PP2PPPP/RNBQKB1R w KQkq b6 0 5"]

The game continued 5.dxe6 fxe6 6.cxb5 d5 7.e3. After 5.dxe6 Alekhine wrote, 'The acceptance of the gambit yields Black a formidable position in the center. The right move was 5.Bg5!. Equally possible, although less strong, is 5.e4 played by Rubinstein against Tartakower at Teplitz-Schönau, 1922. An instructive game, Gruenfeld - Bogoljuboff, from the Vienna tournament of 1922, was continued as follows: 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.Nc3 b4 8.Nb5 Na6 9.e4 Qxb2 10.Bd3 Qf6 11.e5 Qd8 12.dxe6 dxe6 13.Be4 Qxd1+ 14.Rxd1 Rb8 15.Bc6+ Ke7 16.Nxa7 g5 17.Bb5 Bg7 18.Nc6+ and mates next move.

From this analysis, I inferred that 5.dxe6 is an inferior move, but it has been played successfully by many strong GMs in recent years. The next few moves are also frequently played, where White has tried 7.Nc3, 7.g3, 7.Bf4, 7.a4, as well as 7.e3, which was played by Krasenkow in 2005. The move 7.g3 appears to be the most popular choice. Alekhine wrote of White's seventh move, 'Black threatened to regain his Pawn with the better game by 7....Qa5+. However, 7.Nbd2 followed by 8.b3 and 9.Bb2 offered White better defensive chances.'

To play through the complete game see...

Siegbert Tarrasch vs Alexander Alekhine, Bad Pistyan 1922

...on Chessgames.com.

23 June 2006

Alekhine - Selezniev, Pistyan 1922

Unlike the other games in this series of posts on Alekhine's annotated brilliancies , the fourth World Champion did not mention in the notes to the game that it had won a prize. He mentioned this in the notes to another game -- Alekhine - Bogoljubov, Triberg 1921 -- when commenting on certain characteristics of several of his brilliancies.

While I can only take Alekhine at his word on this, it means that he won three brilliancies in the Pistyan 1922 event: one for this game and one each for the games against Tarrasch and Wolf. What is the record for brilliancy prizes won in the same event by the same player?

As with many Russian names, there is some difference of opinion on the transliteration of his opponent's name into the Roman alphabet. Alekhine used Selesnieff; Chessgames.com (see below) uses Selezniev, which is confirmed by Gaige's 'Chess Personalia'; the PGN source we obtained from Chesslab.com uses Selesniev. My personal preference is Selesniev, but I usually bow to Gaige on the spelling of names and will use his choice.

The brilliancy begins with the following position.

Pistyan 1922
Selezniev, Alexey

Alekhine, Alexander
(After 16...b7-b5)
[FEN "r1b2rk1/p3bppp/3qp3/1pp1N3/3P1P2/1BP5/P2Q1PPP/2R2RK1 w - b6 0 17"]

The game continued 17.Bc2!, and Alekhine noted,

An important move with the double threat 18.Qd3 followed by 19.Qxb5; and 18.Be4 Rb8 19.Nc6 and on this account preventing Black from completing his development by 17...Bb7.

Now after 17...Ba6 18.Rfe1 Rad8 19.Rcd1 cxd4, Alekhine wrote,

By playing 19...g6 immediately, Black would have maintained an excellent position, with good chances on the Queen's side. On the contrary, the text move, which frees the position in the center, is distinctly advantageous to White, and the latter succeeds in taking advantage of it by undertaking an attack as lively as it is interesting.

20.cxd4 g6 ('Inevitable.') 21.Bb3! Alekhine:

This move first threatens 22.Nxf7, and secondly prevents the maneuver 21...Bb7 and 22...Bd5 on account of 22.Qd3 a6 23.Nxg6 hxg6 24.Rxe6 fxe6 25.Qxg6+ Kh8 26.Bc2 and mates in a few moves.

In fact, Black should win with 26...Rf5. Better is 26.Qh6+ (not 26.Rd3? Qxf4) 26...Kg8 27.Bxe6+ Qxe6 28.Qxe6+.

The game continued 21...Bc8 ('Preventing the threatened sacrifice.') 22.Qe2! a6 23.d5 Qb6 24.Nc6 Rde8 25.Nxe7+ Rxe7 26.f5! Rb7. Alekhine:

In this way Black loses a Pawn without weakening White's attack. Black's game rapidly becomes hopeless.

Black again has a better defense than the sequence given by Alekhine : 26...gxf5 27.d6 Rd7 28.Qd2 Qd8, instead of Alekhine's 28...Rfd8 29.Qg5+ Kf8 30.Qh6+. After 28...Qd8, the win is not yet certain.

To play through the complete game see...

Alexander Alekhine vs Alexey Sergeevich Selezniev, Bad Pistyan it, CZE 1922

...on Chessgames.com.

21 June 2006

Alekhine - Sterk, Triberg 1921

Continuing with Alekhine's annotated brilliancies , the following position contrasts with the other games I've looked for several reasons. First, Alekhine rescued his game from a difficult position. Second, there appear to be several holes in Alekhine's analysis.

Black played 15...Bb4! (all notation given here is Alekhine's), where the future World Champion commented,

This move marks the critical phase. White, whose game is compromised, will make a serious effort to maintain equality. What has he to do? Neither 16.e5 Ng4, nor 16.Rac1 Bxc3 17.Bd3 Nc5 18.Rxc3 Bxe4 19.Bxf6 Bxd3, threatening ...Bxf1 would be sufficient.

Triberg 1921
Sterk, Karoly

Alekhine, Alexander
(After 15.Qc2-e2)
[FEN "r1q2rk1/pb1n1ppp/1p2pn2/2b3B1/2B1P3/2N2N2/PP2QPPP/R4RK1 b - - 0 15"]

Alekhine continued 16.Bd3 Bxc3 17.Rfc1!, and wrote,

If Black now plays 17...Nc5, which is his best, the continuation would be 18.Rxc3 Bxe4 19.Bxf6 Bxd3 20.Qe3 gxf6 21.b4 Bg6 22.bxc5 bxc5 23.Rxc5 Queen moves anywhere, 24.h4 and White will find his attacking possibilities adequate compensation for the Pawn thus sacrificed.

Now here I have a question. After 23...Qa6 24.h4 Rfc8 25.h5 Rxc5 26.Qxc5 Rc8 27.Qe7 Bxh5 28.Qxf6, where is the attack? White's problem is that all of the squares on the fifth rank are covered by Black's pieces. Both the Rook and the Queen can't stay on the rank to protect the Pawn on h5. Sterk continued 17...Nxe4. Alekhine:

Black attempts to win a Pawn without compromising the position of his King, but does not sufficiently count the danger to which he exposes his Knight on c5.

18.Bxe4 Bxe4 19.Qxe4 Nc5 20.Qe2!. Here again, Alekhine makes a dubious comment:

More energetic than 20.Qb1, suggested by some annotators, which would have yielded the win of only two minor pieces for a Rook, after 20...Bb4 21.a3 Qb7 while allowing Black numerous defensive possibilities.

Alekhine appears to have considered only 22.axb4 Nb3, but 22.b3 is stronger, when White wins a piece for two Pawns, e.g. 22...Nxb3 23.Qxb3 or 22...Bxa3 23.Rxa3.

Now Black counted on tactics to counter the threat of b2-b4, but Alekhine had seen further: 20...Ba5 21.Rab1 Qa6 22.Rc4 Na4 23.Bf6!. (Not 23.b4 Nc3.) Of his 23rd move, Alekhine said,

The initial move of a mating attack as elegant as it is unexpected, which leads to this end in a few moves. Black is threatened with 24.Rg4.

Now after 23...Rfc8 24.Qe5!, White wins in all variations. To play through the complete game see...

Alexander Alekhine vs Karoly Sterk, Budapest 1921

...on Chessgames.com.

19 June 2006

The pause that refreshes

Ready to start blogging again after a vacation in the Provence region of France, where I was cut off from the Internet. Although only a few hundred kilometers from Turin, I had no news about the Olympiad or about the FIDE Presidential election.

The American teams did well in the Olympiad and deserve congratulations. I was hoping that Kok would win the election, but knew that he had little chance against Ilyumzhinov. The incumbent's advantage is almost insurmountable. I haven't yet had the chance to read what the chess blogosphere is saying, but am sure there is general disappointment with the results.

When I returned home, I found 14.000 email messages waiting for me. Around 13.800 of them were spam. This is about 1.000 per day, which is the current average. Things have improved since two years ago when I routinely received 4.000 or so per day.

The next post will continue with Alekhine's brilliancies.

01 June 2006

Loss of a tempo = an opening reversed

My last post raised the question What is wrong with this position?. What is wrong is that White has lost a tempo somewhere. After eight moves by both sides, White appears to have made six moves, Black seven.

This is confirmed by the opening of the game: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.e3 Bd6 6.Nb5 Be7 7.Qc2 c6 8.Nc3, shown in the following diagram. Now the move 8...O-O reaches the position shown in 'What is wrong with this position?'

Triberg 1921
Sterk, Karoly

Alekhine, Alexander
(After 8.Nb5-c3)
[FEN "r1bqk2r/pp1nbppp/2p1pn2/1N1p4/2PP4/4PN2/PPQ2PPP/R1B1KB1R w KQkq - 0 8"]

To get to the diagrammed position, White has wasted two moves with 6.Nb5 and 8.Nc3, returning the Knight to the same square it reached after 4.Nc3. Black has wasted one move with 5...Bd6 and 6...Be7, finishing on a square it could have reached in one move, 5...Be7. Since White has wasted one move more than Black, White has lost a tempo.

The same position with White to move can be reached by a sequence like 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Be7. In fact, this has been played many times, with White trying 7.Bd3, 7.Be2, and 7.b3.

The position from Alekhine - Sterk could also be reached with colors reversed, for example 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.c3 c5 5.Nbd2 Qc7 6.Be2 Nc6, where neither side has lost a tempo. Now 7.O-O reaches Sterk's position after eight moves, colors reversed.

I am often mystified by opening positions with colors reversed and was glad to find another example in the Alekhine - Sterk game. Perhaps Alekhine's analysis in 'My Best Games' will help me understand them.