Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Minor Piece Attack

(A. Webster vs. V. Akopian) (1992)
(White to move)

Blacks's minor pieces have deeply penetrated white's position. Can anything be done? Possibly. Black spies 1. Qxb2. Is such a move wise?


It is absolutely fatal! 1. Qxb2? leads to 1... Rxe2!. Thus, the score is even, but white's woes have just begun. White's queen must fall back, but where? 2. Qc1 is the only move (2. Nxe2 is, of course, suicide since now the black queen is lost by the black bishop), but now watch. 2... Rc2! (forking the knight and queen!), and the black bishop is looming down on the rook. No matter what... white is going to lose a piece! (See below).

Monday, August 22, 2005

Greed Kills Part II

(Eyesofblue vs. NN)
(Black to Move)

It's black's turn to move here. He's already down a couple pawns, so you can't blame him for just trying to get something started, but he is about to make an awful mistake: namely, 1... Rxh3?.

Do you see why this is such a major blunder? It is because that same greedy rook is now lost. 2. Rxb7+ Ka8 (forced). 3. Rh7+! with the inevitable 4. Rxh3 to follow.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Chess Set

What makes a good chess set? Several people can provide several answers. Some like fancy and elaborate, some like simple and plain. Some like pure staunton-style, others like modern design. In my humble opinion, really good chess sets (ones that make family heirlooms, or ones you would have laying out eternily in your living room) have two basic elements with one super-rare feature:

1. The queen must be a female. This is lost in so many sets these days. I saw a civil war chess set the other day that Ulysses S. Grant as the queen (with Lincoln the king of course). It's chess! There are two queens on the board. Stripping them of their femininity is a crime . . . and more importantly, just plain boring.

2. The opposing side must not be different in just color. How many chess sets have I seen where the only difference between the white and black pieces are that some pieces are white and some are black? This, of course, is not an issue with a "working" chess set (i.e., one you play most of your games on), but for truly decorative and elaborate chess sets, variety really is needed. Your standard, tournament, staunton-style set is for traveling. . . . not for displaying or giving to your grandchildren.

Bonus. Every piece is truly different (i.e., not any of white's 8 pawns are identical; etc.). This is truly rare. I have only seen a handful of sets with this truly awesome feature. It is this that separates the good chess sets from the great ones.

On that note: I present my original chess set. As you can see, it possesses the two main elements that I think are important (not the third, I am afraid, but I still think it's a great set!). The sentimental value for these pieces cannot be described. It is from this set that my chess really furnished (See first two posts below).

(Queens and Kings)

This is an "Islam versus Christendom" themed set. Of intersting note, notice how Christendom is the darker of pieces (i.e., black). Usually, with theme-based sets, the "bad guys" are black. For this reason, I suspect this set came from the middle east.

(Knights and Bishops)

Again, notice how elaborately different the white pieces are from the black.

(Rooks and Pawns)

This shot doesn't due the rooks justice. They are probably the two most beautiful pieces of the set.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Put a fork in me.... I'm Done!!!

(Eyesofblue vs. NN)
(FICS Game) (White to Move)

I faced a nasty position in this game. The knight, queen, bishop, knight setup on the 3rd rank combined with the two black pawns at d5 and e5 are potentially disasterous. Either d4 or e4 leads to a nasty pawn fork where at least one of my pieces is lost. Is there a way out?

I didn't think so, hence my dubious move of 1. Ng5(?) instantly losing to 1... d4. (I was hoping for some kind of attack on h7... which by the way never occurred!). Instead, the right move was 1. Nxe5. If the queen retakes, 1... Qxe5 then 2. Bb6. After the black queen moves (it is being attacked by the rook), 3. Bxd8 Rxd8 leads to fairly equal chances.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Philidor Defense: When white doesn't play 3. d4

For better or worse, I have become a minor "expert" on the Philidor Defense. Probably for the sheer fact nobody else in their right mind plays it (except me), I am often asked about various nuances on it. The following move order was discussed the other night:

(1.e4 e5. 2. Nf3 d6. 3. Bc4) (Black to Move)

What is black's best move? Black's confusion is understandable. It is rare in the professional chess world (and thus in chess opening books) for white to play anything other than 3. d4 (here white has played 3. Bc4).

3. Bc4 is popular in amateur chess for the same reason the Napoleon and Patzer opening are. It is white brandishly putting pressure on the f7 pawn (red pawn above) hoping for a quick, easy win. After 4. Ng5 both the white knight and bishop are bearing down on the poor pawn. Amateur and blitz chess are all about such quick and sudden attacks. It is, thus, key for the Philidor practitioner to recognize this position (I guarantee you'll see it... almost as much as 3. d4 (the universally accepted "correct" move)).

(3. Bc4 Be7) (white to move)

By far, black's move is 3... Be7 (see blue piece above). It accomplishes two things that ultimately defeat white's plans to put pressure on the f7 pawn: 1) It prevents the white knight from going to g5 (blue "x" above) (at least for now); 2) It makes white's goal of castling king side one step closer. And as an added bonus: it activates black's dark bishop, the notorious character of the Philidor (usually it is horribly cramped up). With this position, white's advantage is largely minimal.

Diagree? Let me hear about it. I purposely put quotation
marks around my self-given "expert" title.


My Modest Library
I am currently in a slump... so I thought, I would procrastinate and share with everyone my ever-growing (albeit slowly!) chess library. There's a couple titles missing, but this constitutes the bulk of my chess books. My girlfriend has only given me the middle shelf, so as you can see... I am running out of room! You'll recognize some classics, and some truly rare gems (yard sales while only rarely providing chess-book outlets, can be truly incredible).
If you're ever in Washington, DC... give me a call. I ain't no library, but for true-chess fans I would be willing to lend out some titles!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Busy With Work

There's a lot to report but no time.

Unfortunately, I have been working like a freaking mad man lately. Not much room for chess I am afraid... maybe that's for the better -- I once again find myself in a giant slump. My FICS rating has dropped to a recent all-time low!

Oh well... Maybe this weekend I can squeeze in a couple games.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A closer look.... the French Defense

(White to Move)

The French Defense has never impressed me. I fair well against it, though I have spent almost zero percent of my fledgling chess career (if one dares calling my chess that!) studying it. Still, I have noticed that most of my games have ended up in the position above. (1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6). Thus, I guess it is time to look it over.

The position is entirely "text book" (a welcome surprise since I tend to deviate away from chess opening theory after the third move if I don't know the opening by heart!). It's only with my 6th move that I ended up veering away from the text books.

(6. Qb3?!)

This is my usual reply. It doesn't seem like a terrible move to me. But, indeed, it is uncommon. Of the 1227 games I have that starts with the position in diagram one, 6. Qb3 has been played only once. Only upon reviewing my games, did I realize how often I played this obscure move.
(Whether the move is good or bad, I'll let the reader decide. I played with the hope of 6... Qxb3 with the obvious 7. axb3 to follow. I didn't mind the doubled pawns and actually liked the open a-file. So, I wonder if there is some major problem with it that I am missing.)

(6. a3)
This is the "text book move" that I am now adopting. This is not only the most popular 6th move of the 1227 games, it also produced the highest win average. I, personally, have never played it before. However, it definitely is sound... and popular.

All the "cool kids" are jumping over the cliff.... guess I'll join them!