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    Saturday
    Apr092005

    Blog Name!

    Whether because Blogger is making changes that will eventually lead to improvements in their site, but are currently causing glitches, or because more people are signing up with them and taxing their resources, I've found their site increasingly inconvenient and will move to another location soon.

    In fact, I would have moved some time ago, but there's a problem: I'd like to come up with a better name for the blog. Suggestions are welcome, as long as they're (a) within the bounds of good taste and (b) don't involve butchering my name ("Mono" puns...gee, I didn't hear those a few thousand times when I was a kid). So, marketing and advertising geniuses in my readership, please help!

    Friday
    Apr082005

    A Case of Enduring Mutual Blindness

    Alexander Morozevich sometimes plays long series of blitz games, and yesterday I watched part of a 76-game marathon with Tigran Petrosian. (The runner-up in last year's world junior championship, not the late former world champion.) Most of the games I saw were interesting and at a level you'd expect from a top 10 player and his talented young GM opponent, but one series of moves, in one of the games, was pretty remarkable. We begin here:

    Morozevich's games tend to be crazy, imbalanced and lacking in familiar signposts, and this one is no different. Here he's up a piece, but Black's potentially threatening pawn mass gives him some chances - at least in the context of a 3-minute game. Black can't play ...e4 here, because the pawn hangs to the Ba8, while ...f5 hangs the e-pawn. Therefore, plausibly enough, Petrosian uncorks the following:

    28...Qf4??

    The move has its virtues: it recentralizes the queen, attacks the Nf3, and supports the ...e4 fork. There is one small drawback, however. Do you see it? You probably do, but if not, don't worry - you're in excellent company.

    29.Qd6??

    Logical - it threatens the e5 pawn and prevents ...e4 because, well, that would hang the Black queen.

    29...Bd7??

    An interesting idea: the Bc8 wasn't a paragon of activity, and if 30.Nfxe5(??) Rxa8(??) 31.Qxd7(??), Black "wins" the knight with 31...Bxe5(??), while 31.Nxd7(??) hangs the queen to 31...Qxd6.

    30.Qxd7?? Rxa8?? 31.Rf1??

    We wouldn't want to hang the Nf3, now would we? Further, this move comes with the crushing threat of 32.Nd2! Qxd2 33.Qxf7+ Kh8 34.Rh1+ Bh6 35.Qxg6. Naturally, Black prevents this.

    31...Rf8?? 32.Qc7??

    Again, cleverly pinning the e-pawn and thus stopping the ...e4 threat. Let's have a final celebratory diagram here:

    32...Qf5!!

    Finally! And yet...I'm not sure that Black actually saw the threat so much as he wanted to elude the pin. Either way, after eight consecutive turns of mutual blindness - provoking much amusement and shock for the spectators - Black at long last saves the queen. (In case you too were struck with chess blindness, White could have played Nxf4 on any of moves 29-32.) White is winning here in any case, and certainly should have won, but a panicky time-trouble stalemate let Black off the hook yet again. Too much slapstick in one day may be desensitizing, so we'll close the curtain on this whole sorry episode now.

    Wednesday
    Apr062005

    Around the Web

    It's a great big web out there, and it's impossible to keep track of all the good stuff. But hopefully I can offer a little help - here are three recent agglomerations of bytes worth your time qua chess fan.

    1. Kasparov interview: Michael Greengard ("Mig") has transcribed and posted the first of what will be three parts of a very long interview he recently conducted with the famous retiree; you can read it here.

    2. Kavalek's column: Erstwhile super-GM Lubosh Kavalek's Washington Post chess column is unfailingly excellent, and I'm especially eager to recommend this week's issue, due primarily to its second featured game. Lev Milman, a very talented 18-year old IM from New York, won a very nice game against fellow IM Joe Fang at the recent Foxwoods Tournament culminating with a beautiful concluding combination. If you miss it, you're definitely missing out!

    3. Dragon analysis: Philosopher, blogger and Dragon specialist Victor Reppert has been presenting an occasional series featuring his Dragon games, and the latest installment is now in. The games are interesting and the theoretical summaries are well-done and a fine resource for students of that variation.

    Wednesday
    Apr062005

    Maverick Chess?

    Independent philosopher and blogger Bill Vallicella recently presented an interesting game on his website, complete with annotations. In the interest of truth and instruction too, let's take a look.

    Vallicella,Bill (1170) - NN (1244) [B13]
    ICC 5 0, 06.04.2004

    1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nc6

    This is an inaccurate move order, and I'm surprised Bill didn't know how to exploit it, as he's a fan of the Smith-Morra gambit. [4...Nf6 is correct.] 5.Nf3 [5.cxd5! Qxd5 6.Nf3 transposes to a line of the 2.c3 Sicilian/Smith-Morra declined known to be favorable for White.; 5.Nc3 is the better move order from a pure Caro-Kann perspective. Now Black has to choose between the well-known endgame line with 5...Nf6 or play 5...e6, in circumstances much worse for Black than after 4...Nf6. 5...Nf6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Bxf3 9.gxf3 e6 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.Bb5+ Nxb5 12.Qc6+ Ke7 13.Qxb5 Qd7 14.Nxd5+ Qxd5 and now either 15.Qxd5 or (15.Bg5+ f6 16.Qxd5 exd5 17.Be3 with an interesting, well-studied ending. (Jacob Aagaard has a nice treament of this ending in his Everyman Press book on the Panov-Botvinnik variation of the Caro-Kann.)) ] 5...Nf6 6.c5 [6.Nc3 is the normal move, again inviting Black to play the endgame mentioned in the previous note, as 6...e6 7.c5 (and 7.cxd5 are both favorable for White.) ] White's plan in the Gunderam is to play Bb5xc6, thereby solidifying his c-pawn and control over the e5 square. White's position is very comfortable once that happens, so Black has to find some way to prevent the plan. 6...Bg4 This move gets the bishop outside the pawn chain and seems to take care of the problem of an eventual Ne5, but [6...Ne4! is better. This puts the knight on a good square and prevents an immediate Bb5, forcing White to waste a tempo with 7.a3 (7.Bb5 Qa5+ 8.Nc3 Nxc3 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.bxc3 (10.Qd2 is also possible, but Black retains an edge thanks to the bishop pair and a strong pawn center after 10...Ba6 11.Qxc3 Qxc3+ 12.bxc3 f6 13.Rb1 Kf7 14.Be3 g6 followed by ...Bg7 and ...e5.) 10...Qxc3+ 11.Bd2 Qd3 12.Qa4 Qa6-/+) And now Black attacks White's pawn chain at practically every point: 7...e5 8.b4 a5 9.Bb5 exd4 10.Bb2 Be7 11.Nxd4 Bd7 12.0-0 0-0 13.Bxc6 bxc6 14.Nc3 axb4 15.axb4 Rxa1 16.Bxa1 (16.Qxa1 Nd2 17.Re1 Nc4-/+) 16...Nxc3 17.Bxc3 Qc7=/+ White's lead pawn isn't "binding" anything anymore, so Black has a slight edge due to the bishop pair and the b4 pawn's slightly exposed status.] 7.Bb5

    7...e6?! This is certainly a step in the wrong direction, though not yet a clear mistake - see the note to the next move. [7...Qa5+ 8.Nc3 Ne4 9.Qa4 Qxa4 10.Nxa4 Bxf3 11.gxf3 Nf6; 7...Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Qa5+ 9.Nc3 Ne4] 8.Qa4 Qc7? [8...Bxf3! 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Qxc6+ Nd7 11.gxf3 Be7 leaves White with an extra pawn, but with plenty of weaknesses, too, while Black's position is fairly sound and his pieces ready for activity.] 9.Ne5 Now White, having achieved a Gunderam fantasy position, is winning. Even so, the rest of the game isn't quite the coronation it ought to have been (or rather, it is, but might not have been, had Black played slightly more accurately). 9...Rc8 10.Bf4 a6 11.Bxc6+ [11.Nxc6?? loses a piece after 11...axb5] 11...bxc6

    12.Ng6 Bill punctuates this with two exclamation points (or "excited points", as Danny Olim is wont to say), but I think this is excessive for at least three reasons. First, while it's not a bad move and it's certainly enjoyable to play, it's also pretty obvious for a player of Bill's level, and obvious moves don't get multiple exclamation points unless something very special is going on. (For example, the obvious move has what seems to be an obvious refutation, but really isn't due to some later, unobvious rejoinder.) Second, 12.Ng6 was the point of 10.Bf4, so if there are exclams to be handed out, they belong on move 10. And third, 12.Ng6 isn't even the best move or even the second-best move. It's only #3 on the hit parade. [12.h3! Bf5 13.Qxa6 delays material gratification, but leaves Black bereft of counterplay and losing at least a second pawn with a bad position. 13...Qb8 14.Nxc6 Qa8 15.Qxa8 Rxa8 16.Nc3 and between his two extra pawns, space advantage, central bind and three connected passed pawns, it's an easy, worry-free win for White.; 12.Qxa6! Nh5 (Everything else loses pretty much instantly, as the panoply of knight discoveries leaves Black helpless to save all his loose pieces.) 13.Bd2 Nf6 14.h3 Bf5 15.Bf4 is an indirect way of reaching the position after 12.h3 Bf5 13.Qxa6.] 12...Qb7 13.Nxh8 Qxb2 14.0-0 Qxa1 15.Qxa6

    [15.Qb4! This nasty move comes with two threats: 16.Qb7, forking c8 and f7, and 16.Nc3, trapping the Black queen. 15...e5! 16.Bxe5 Qxa2 17.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Qb7 Bd7 19.Re1+ Be7 20.Nxf7 Kxf7 21.Qxd7 Re8 22.Qxc6+- White is winning, but it's not nearly as easy to win as the position at the end of the line starting with 12.h3.] 15...Kd7?? [15...e5! looks obvious, and Bill mentions it. 16.dxe5 but here, instead of the decentralizing 16...Nh5?, why not (16.Bxe5 may be better - it certainly keeps the center under better control than 16.dxe5. But even here, it's not clear that White has an advantage. Black will make a few necessary moves (getting the queen out of the box, covering up the e-file), and White will be left with the problem of saving the Nh8. Warning to computer users: the tin can will claim that White has a decisive advantage here, but be patient. Chances are, if you carry the line through for a few moves, the evaluation will drift back to near-equality, as the Nh8 becomes increasingly imperiled. 16...Qb2 17.Qb6 Qc2 18.Qb7 Be7 19.f3 Be6 20.Re1 Kf8 with an unclear position.) 16...Ne4 17.Nd2 (17.f3?? Qd4+ 18.Kh1 Nf2+ 19.Rxf2 Qxf2 20.h3 Bxc5-+) 17...Qd4 finds White is up a pawn but without an attack, with three vulnerable pawns, and serious problems with the knight on h8. Further, if White tries to be clever with 18.Be3 Qxe5 19.f3? Nxd2 20.Bxd2 it will rebound against him: 20...Bxc5+ 21.Kh1 Be6 22.Re1 Qc7-+] 16.Qb7+ Kd8 17.Nxf7+ [17.Nxf7+ Ke8 18.Nd6+ Bxd6 19.Bxd6 wins, as Black can't stop 20.Qe7# without losing the rook (and then getting mated anyway just a few moves later).] 1-0

    Wednesday
    Apr062005

    Rook vs. Bishop: 4 Endings

    In my own practice, I haven't seen many rook vs. bishop endings, and I suspect the same is true for many of you, too. Nevertheless, if we want to be well-rounded in our chess education, it's worth spending some time every now and then even on relatively uncommon endings, if they are fundamental. So here are four rook vs. bishop endgame positions; your mission, if you choose to accept it - and I hope you will - is to do your best to solve the positions before I present the solutions over the course of the next few days.

    Position 1: White to move and ___, and how?

    Position 2: White to move and win - how?

    Position 3: White to move and win - how?

    Position 4: Win or draw?

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