Improvements: learning from losses

It was my last match of the season last night, so I thought I would show a loss of mine from earlier this season to demonstrate how to learn from your losses. It was generously written up in Downend’s match report as both players ‘taking risks’ but really it was me getting thrown in the opening and subsequently trodden down – lots of lessons learnt from my imaginary GM coach…

Why look at losses? Why not chuck the score-sheet in the bin?

Well – you can chuck them away if you want. I’m pretty sure we all play this game for fun – even if it is slightly masochistic fun at times. But I guess the point of looking back through painful losses depends on whether you see fun and improvement as dependent on each other (or at least natural co-habitors), or you see improvement as an optional thing which doesn’t impact on fun. Either is okay, but if you fit the former right now, critiquing your own play is among the best ways to improve. So do it.

The GM coach on your shoulder

I am going to analyse this game using this technique – imagining a GM peering at your moves and telling you what they think – honestly – about your moves. Clearly I don’t need my coach to be as good as a GM, but I find it easier to imagine a GM being ruthlessly honest about each move – Gordon Ramsey style if need be. So, here we go.

Mike Harris vs Chirag Hosdurga (Horfield B vs. Downend B – 23/10/18)

Full game re-playable here: https://www.downendchess.com/game/1106

Opening: A Sicilian with an early Qb6 – and White trying to play like Karpov with Be2 and Nf3-d4-b3… but Black equalises easily.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Qb6 5. Nb3 Nf6 6. Nc3 e6 7. Be3 Qc7 8. Be2 a6 9. a4 Bb4 10. f3 d5

pos1

So Black gets in that key Sicilian move d5 with no issues. Something clearly went wrong – I ‘learnt’ this Nb3 idea from a book about Karpov called ‘Slay the Sicilian’, with some beautiful games by the world champ. Over to the coach:

GM coach: “Mike, you are not Karpov. He won a lot of games with Nb3 which you admire, but here’s the thing – he is a better chess player and more importantly he is a very different player to you. He wins games dictating positional subtleties from a distance – whereas you win most games with a sledgehammer. D5 is the key move for Black – and preventing it is an art, you do it sometimes with tactics and sometimes with strategy. But you don’t just let it happen and hope for the best… Yes, you may have won a few decent games which included the move Nb3, but it’s more of a coincidence – this system is not for you. Stop playing it.”

Me: Harsh. But true. And I will. Promise. Okay, on with the game:

Early middlegame: White’s h-pawn is under fire and the kingside lacks pieces. White tries to hold the pawn by threatening a bishop-trap – which fails.

11. O-O Bd6 12. exd5 Nxd5 13. Nxd5 exd5

pos2

GM coach: “Hmm.. I thought the point of Nb3 was to direct attention to the queenside, where you can make use of your control of it from the two bishops and your a4 prod. Now look at it! The knight and the pawn on a4 look quite useless – and the attention is all on the kingside. Again, this is why you prevent d5 – the centre stays closed then.

Okay, so we’re in a mess, let’s try to get out. First off, watch out for your h-pawn. You know the one protecting your king – it’s important… No, the opposing bishop will not be trapped on h2. It’s about the least trapped bishop ever. Just defend it or move it and move on – chess is a long game, you will get some chances again.”

Me: Yup. Sound advice. But that seems like too much effort, maybe I’ll just spend three moves not defending my h-pawn:

14. Kh1 O-O 15. Qd2 Re8 16. c3 Bxh2

pos6

GM coach: “(sigh) Ok, that’s bad. c3 was a waste – I know you were worried about the move d4, but trust me, you have bigger things to worry about. The h-file is now open for the queen or a rook.

But not to worry – try something else and then complicate things. Try to stay positive and look for your strengths in the position, there is still that isolated d-pawn… its not much but its something. Just don’t panic and play anything totally anti-positional like f4.”

17. f4

GM coach: “(winces) Oh dear oh dear. What was that? Do you still think you are trapping that bishop? You are now completely lost and you should resign.”

Me: Yeah… I’ll take my chances.

Mid-Middlegame: Black builds up more of an attack with the strong bishop on g3 while White has to deal awkwardly with a few attacks such as Qh6, threatening Qh2 – very difficult to stop.

17… Bg3 18. Kg1 Bf5 19. Nd4 Nxd4 20. Bxd4 Qd6

pos4

GM coach: “It’s still over – resign.”

Me: Okay, I’ll just try some random moves first.

21. Rf3 Qg6 22. Raf1 Be4 23. Re3 Bxf4

pos5

GM coach: “…”

24. Rxe4 Bxd2 25. Rg4 Rxe2 0-1

Me: Okay I resign.

Footnote

Very well played to my opponent in this game – who took advantage of the above mistakes with great efficiency.

Silver lining

So, what’s the point of analysing losses? Well, fairly serendipitously I played another game about a month later – and won by snapping up an a-pawn with a bishop, recognising that trapping the bishop was harder than it looked, and in fact it because a nuisance for my opponent and I ended up with an ending of 5 pawns vs. a lone bishop.

The rewards for studying losses will not always come this quickly – but we should recognise that there are many lessons from one game – like me and my attachment to the Nb3 move in the Sicilian. If you blundered in a game then it’s unlikely that was the only lesson there, or that the blunder came about all of a sudden. Look at the lead up to the blunder – what were your thinking patterns? What didn’t you understand about the position?

Sharing games on BCT and elsewhere

I am publishing this game for two related reasons:

  • To encourage others to analyse their losses
  • To encourage others to share their games to help others learn.

We have always asserted that in amateur chess we should all be sharing games (yes – including those cherished opening secrets) if we want to improve. After all, we are not grandmasters preparing novelties on move 27 for the upcoming world champs. We are all chess players on the same path – and looking honestly at our own mistakes must be the truest way to improve.

So share your games. It could be with a friend or clubmate, with your whole team (at Horfield there are frequently email threads going round discussing the match gone by) or on the internet for all to see.

As far as BCT goes, we will not continue just with our own games – that might get a bit repetitive. So without more contributions, we will eventually stop. If you want to see a friendly culture of improvement, then be the change that you want to see!

If you would like to take up the challenge of finding your worst game of the season – or any game you can learn from – email us at bristolchesstimes@gmail.com


mikecircle

Mike is a regular league player and co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times

Ratings – possible issues with monthly grading

Quick league update – congratulations to North Bristol CC for the div 2 title! Now for something completely different – some thoughts about grading:

I read with interest Bob Radford’s and the BCT’s comments on the ECF’s proposals for using FIDE ratings. It’s handy to have a quick conversion check list and it’s interesting to see the BCT’s questions about the conversion process. To quote them: “Here at the BCT we are quite confused about all this K-factor and RO and algorithms going on”

But I see from the link to the ECF proposals that these are headed “Monthly grading proposal” and the change from ECF to ELO is a secondary detail to facilitate the introduction of monthly grading. The change to monthly grading seems to be a done deal, while the switch from ECF to ELO is a supplementary matter which is explained (or not, depending on your point of view!) in great detail. So, really, there are two separate issues: monthly grading and the switch to ELO.

I suspect that the introduction of monthly grading has rather gone under the radar and in fact opens an enormous can of worms. There is a major issue concerning how monthly league results would be communicated to the ECF. At present the results are sent twice-yearly and the increase in administrative hassle to do it monthly must be a major concern. I don’t want our league’s administrators to be caught up with feeding monthly data to the ECF if this will in any way affect the excellent reporting of results that we currently enjoy. Chessit reporting is actually quite sophisticated in the way that it handles not only match scores and updating of tables but also detailed club statistics including grading thresholds and play ups and downs. We are extremely lucky to have all this.

It is all very well for the ECF to lay down that results must be sent in monthly but I seriously wonder whether they have really thought it through properly and understand the problems they may be causing bigger leagues like ours. They state in their proposal that “At least in the early stages, there should be tolerance of delayed reporting, particularly for leagues and internal club results.” I wonder if this could be the thin end of the wedge.

As regards how monthly grading will affect the individual player, I suspect that anyone who is desperate to know how his/her grade is progressing from game to game is able to do this quite easily on the back of an envelope or, if they are so inclined, on a simple computer spreadsheet. And indeed they probably already do! How many will feel the necessity to log on to an ECF file to see their monthly grade? Nice to have, maybe, but hardly essential for most players. We have around 320 players in the league, of whom typically 60-ish play in weekend congresses which means that over 70% only ever play league chess for grading purposes. They can already see their grade not monthly, but weekly, on Chessit, so the ECF’s publishing of monthly updates will add nothing of great value for them.  And, after all, “they”, the silent majority, are the League.

I am fairly sure that we all play league chess for the enjoyment, fun and competitive spirit that the league gives us. And I suggest we look out for the results and league tables on Chessit in much the same way that we check the football results in the Sunday paper or on the internet. I would not want that to be put at risk because of issues to do with sending results to the ECF.

Perhaps it will be argued that monthly grading can be implemented with no adverse effect on Chessit. However, until I see convincing proof of that, I shall remain very cautious about the potential administrative problems. If push came to shove and the ECF were to try to force the League to send monthly results against our better judgement, I would hope we would have the determination to stand up to them. Incidentally, these are all purely my personal views.

And my personal view on changing from ECF to ELO is that I suppose it is “progress” and I can’t get too excited about it one way or the other. Of greater concern seems to me to be how the webmasters will cope with it.

BCT: If anyone else has any thoughts about current proposals, or proposals of their own around grading, please comment and share them with the league. Many thanks to Ian for his.


Author:  Ian Pickup is a regular Bristol League player in division 1

New rating system for the Bristol league?

We now know that the ECF may switch the grading system from a three digit grade to a more modern Fide ELO style four digit rating system from January 2020.

I have compiled a rating chart that converts ECF grade to Elo for the benefit of those that may wish to know what their new rating would be if it were implicated at this time.

It’s based on ratings starting at 100 ECF and rising 10 ECF points at a time to 220.

I hope it helps some to have an idea of what these new ratings might be for players in the Bristol & District Chess League that are not fully understanding of the difference between the two:

ECF  –  FIDE

100 – 1450

110 – 1525

120 – 1600

130 – 1675

140 – 1740

150 – 1825

160 – 1900

170 – 1975

180 – 2050

190 – 2125

200 – 2200

210 – 2275

220 – 2340

BCT: The details of the proposal are here: https://www.englishchess.org.uk/monthly-grading-proposal/

Here at the BCT we are quite confused about all this K-factor and RO and algorithms going on and have some simple questions for the Bristol league:

  • What are the pros and cons for you as a club player of using ECF and FIDE ELO ratings?
  • Is it a pain for anyone using both? (e.g. in Bristol FIDE rated congresses?)
  • For those that play online chess, how does your ECF grade compare with your unofficial ELO rating online?

 


bobradford

Bob is a regular Bristol league and tournament player

BCT Archives: September 1993

Originally a bi-monthly publication in the 80’s and 90’s the Bristol Chess Times delivered the latest league updates and news in a pre-Internet era. Here is another BCT from September 1993 when Michael Hennigan won the British Championships!

This issue features a report of the British Chess Championship won by Michael Hennigan – once a Bristol University Student. Fun fact – he is the only champion in the last 35 years not to have a Wikipedia entry… so if anyone out there is in the know please submit one!

Another baffling story is that of current Division 1 logger-heads Bath and Clifton got themselves into a total mess with a player forgetting to seal their move in the cup final – the whole match rested on how this incident was judged. Read more in the PDF below – and for those who aren’t old enough to remember sealed moves, read all about that here.

Open the PDFhere: BCTsep93


john

John has been playing for Horfield for longer than anyone else cares to remember (but was actually 1983). Never quite managing to get to a 180 grade, he is resigned to the fact that he probably never will. He set up the original Bristol League website and has been, at various times League General Secretary, Recruitment and Publicity, Chess Times Editor, Bristol 4NCL Manager and an ECF Arbiter.

Cross Hands Blitz – all hands on deck

The Cross Hands pub in Downend has been putting on great blitz nights for 5 months – the next is on the 3rd March and it needs new players!

Note – well done to all winners and the 141 entrants of the 72nd Bristol League Championships! Now for some Blitz!

12 rounds of quality blitz chess on a Sunday night with a 10% discount at the bar – this is what is on offer the first Sunday of every month at the Cross Hands pub. Always great fun, you’ll get to practice those offbeat openings, win prizes (and frequently, get the chance to play IM Jim Sherwin – the first opponent in Fischer’s 60 memorable games, no less).

Downend residents (and players) Derek and Elmira run this tournament with FIDE arbiter Geoff Gammon – and have been fronting the prizes in months when numbers were low. So we are giving them a big shout out to get some new players out on a Sunday to support Bristol Blitz – and hopefully this event will become a mainstay of the tournament calendar.

blitz

Put it in the diary, tell everyone you know about it, offer lifts, and scrub up on those tactics!


mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

Mindful chess has arrived in Bristol!

Mindful Chess is a London-born initiative for teaching school-children the art of chess; Jake and his team give us an insight into its creation and details about their ventures further West…

Rewind 20 years and my dad was running a chess club at the school we went to in North London. It was (and still is) an extremely relaxed environment for kids to come play chess, eat bagels and hang out. Both me and my brother would sometimes attend but I hadn’t quite caught the bug as yet… My love for the game only really began to develop in my late teens. My brother on the other hand had taught himself how to play at the age of 4 on an Atari by clicking on the pieces and then it showing him the possible squares they could move to.

Fast forward 15 years and I found myself living in a very local area of Hong Kong called Sai Ying Pun. I was exploring my art career while my partner explored her architecture and design work. I was spending most my time working in quite an insular environment with not all that much contact with the outside world. Finding me in a bit of a rut my partner suggested I explore doing some chess teaching. Having occasionally helped my dad out running his club and having since developed a far greater appreciation for the game, this seemed like not such a bad idea. I googled ‘chess teaching Hong Kong’ and clicked on a link titled Scholastic Chess. A phone call and one day later I found myself sitting in a local cafe with Benjamin Chui who set up and managed the school. The following week I began teaching sessions and developed a real love for it. Like my dad, Ben took an approach to teaching that placed great importance on the students enjoying the experience of learning the game. Ben also had an 18 chapter program of puzzles and exercises that students could dip into as and when they wished. I found the experience of working with the kids hugely enjoyable.

chess teaching

After six months we decided it was time to leave Hong Kong to return to London. On the way back we decided to go via Indonesia. I had never visited a country where people of all ages were so keen to play chess. I’d walk down the road holding a board and kids would rush up asking to play. We’d often spend hours just hanging out on street corners with groups of kids passionate to play or learn. Along with the children who showed a fantastic hunger for the game, we often found older men spending afternoons crowded round a board. One evening a few days before I left, I was driving down the street when I spotted someone playing chess with a couple of the local kids. I stopped my bike to ask if I could join in. It transpired he’d also spent the previous six months teaching chess to kids but back home in Melbourne.

The next couple of days weren’t spent almost entirely playing chess or surfing. Half way through a game he turned to me and asked if I thought about my breathing while playing. This was definitely not something I’d ever given consideration to in regards to a game of chess. He pointed out that my breath often became irregular and sped up over the course of a game. He on the other hand made a conscious effort to slow his breaths as he maintained focus. Over the course of the following few months I began to apply this to my chess and found sure enough I started both winning more games and also enjoying the experience even more. I’d been in contact with Ben from Scholastic chess and he’d very kindly offered to let me open up Scholastic Chess London and give me all his teaching materials, use of his logo and everything else relating to the company. Although I was hugely grateful of the extremely kind offer (and did say I’d love to have use of his 18 chapters of training exercises) I felt I wanted to set something up that took influence from my experience with him while also integrating some of what I’d been thinking about in relation to my chess since. Mindful Chess was born. I built a website and started contacting schools. After many many phone calls and even more emails I heard back from a school saying they would like a session once a week for a small group of students. Come September I turned up to find a class of 20 students eager to learn the game. Although I was able to run the sessions alone, I didn’t feel the students were getting enough input and hence decided to find someone else that would be interested in running the sessions with me. Through word of mouth over the next few months I started hearing from other schools asking us to come in to run weekly sessions. I started posting on Facebook groups to find others that were passionate both about chess and the equally important skill of communicating this to children.

After many many informal interviews in coffee shops and trial sessions, I met two other like minded individuals called Lawrence Northall and Sammy Mendell. As well as being passionate about the game, they brought a whole range of teaching ideas to how we could further improve on the speed at which students improved and the pleasure they took from the experience. Over the past two years, each term we have continued to gradually grow, now teaching over 300 students a week across 14 different schools. Along with myself Lawrence and Sammy, there are a team of other passionate chess teachers that have joined us who run many of the weekly sessions. We take an approach to teaching where we look to give the students an element of control over how they learn. Rather than just telling them to do chess drills and games, they get the choice between engaging in competitions within the class, working through our chess training program of puzzles and tactics training exercises or working with one of our coaches in small groups to develop specific areas of their game. We also now create every child their own chess kid account which means they can do additional training exercises at home or play against other students anywhere in the world in a totally safe environment. We are able to track students progress and tailor our teaching accordingly for each individual group we work with. As part of our mission to bring chess to as many students as possible, we have a policy where if parents can’t afford to send their child along, we ask them to pay simply what they can afford, no student is ever turned away.

As of the start of this year we have just started providing weekly sessions to our first two schools outside of London, Westdene Primary in Brighton and Hillcrest Primary School in Bristol. In the coming year we hope to make our teaching available to a number of other schools in both Bristol and other cities, along with starting to run evening sessions for adults that wish to either learn or further their chess skills.

For anyone that would be interested in learning or getting involved in teaching with us then please get in touch! (jake@mindfulchess.co.uk)

www.mindfulchess.co.uk

Instagram – @mindfulchess

Twitter – /mindfulchess

Facebook – /mindfulchess


Jake

Jake grew up in North London and following the experience of teaching chess to students in Hong Kong and Kids on the streets in Indonesia, decided to set up Mindful Chess in the UK.

Problems in February with GM Jones

GM Jones is back with another edition of chess problems – this time the theme is ‘distant self-blocks’ of all things!

Having last time presented a problem that I had managed to solve, this time I’m presenting one that I failed to solve when I recently came across it. Having said that, I then was kicking myself for my laziness (I’d only spent about five minutes looking for the solution) because it shouldn’t have been too difficult to find the key move and thereafter to have the pleasure of unearthing and admiring the continuations after Black’s various defences.

game1
White to play and mate in 3

This problem, by the late Friedrich Chlubna, won first prize in Problem in 1968. It is a 3-mover: White is to play and is to force mate on his third move at the latest.

As usual. the key is not a checking move, nor is it crude in any way. But looking at crude moves may help in arriving at the solution, because some of them will work if we can first induce Black to make a move that will work to his disadvantage.

The key is 1.Rg6!. This threatens 2.Qg4+ Kxe5 3.Qe4. Black has a number of defences – 1…Rg2 is met by 2.Rf6+ Kg3 3.Rf3, 1…Rf2 by 2.Qg5+ Kf3 3.Qg4, 1…Qd4 by 2.Qg4+ Kxe5 3.Qg5, 1…d5 by 2.Qg4+ Kxe5 3.Re6, and 1…e2 by 2.Qg5+ Kf3 3.Qg3.

The remarkable thing is that each of these defences features what a problemist would call a ‘distant self-block’: Black puts his piece on a square to which his King could otherwise move out of check. What’s more, these ‘self-blocks’ are distant: they are on squares to which the King is not yet adjacent, but rather on squares to which he will become adjacent. To show this in five continuations is a remarkable task achievement and (unlike some task achievements) an aesthetically appealing one.

The place where I saw this problem was the website of the British Chess Problem Society, and there are countless other similarly enjoyable problems there. On the homepage you’ll find a weekly problem selected by Michael McDowell. For many years he’s been selecting weekly problems for the website, and he chooses them with a solver’s as much as a composer’s eye. (He’s very good at both those activities!) At the foot of the homepage, beneath the problem, you’ll find a link to the archive of these weekly problems, so you will be able to spend as long as you like solving old weekly problems (or even, like me, rushing all too quickly to read the solution!).

Check out some past problems from Chris here:

November 2018

August 2018

July 2018

 


chriscircle

Chris is a GM problem composer and long-time member of the Bristol League

A wild game from the major cup quarters

No doubt this one goes down in Downend’s Hall of Fame – Michael ‘Tal’ Meadows pulls off an enterprising win in the cup

Sitting in a cricket club in December staring at zero winning opportunities whilst your team slowly get outplayed on all boards is no fun for a captain looking for his club’s only chance of sliverware. But sadly that’s where I was.

But the stresses of amateur captaincy melted away when, peeking to my left, I witnessed some wild and mysterious chess on the board next to me. It was none other than Meadows vs. Nendick – and is surely a contender for game of the season:

The Magician from Riga, Mikhail Tal, had a knack of landing in an endgame just one point of material ahead after a mind-boggling middlegame with several sacrifices. That’s what Mike achieved here, and the queen was simply dominant over the two rooks.

Here are some of Phil’s thoughts as it happened:

phil1
After 12. Bg5

Phil (black): “This got me out of book (!) so I spent quite a while trying to refute it. As it happens Fischer has played it so it’s probably not too bad.

After a6 and Ba4: The knight can now be embarrassed in some lines with Bd7 as it is now pinned to the bishop but I couldn’t make the tactics work. I decided instead for active defense.”

phil2
After 14. Bxf6

Phil: “I had initially planned 14…o-o the point being that White now has 2 pieces en prise so I’ll get one of them and I’ve got my king relatively safe. The problem is he can open it up with Bxg7.”

BCT: Phil played hxg3 instead

phil3
After 17…Qxf6

“This time 0-0 works well and maintains a healthy advantage”

BCT: Alas Phil grabbed the bishop and got his king in no-mans land (of course White’s king is in such a traditional place!)

phil4
After 20… Qxf7

Phil: “I thought this was pretty much forced as Qxe4 is coming with my king stuck in the middle but Qd6 again seems to hold the balance (if you’re a computer)”

phil5
After 24…Kxf6

Phil: “I thought I would try and make something of my kingside majority but hanging on to the queenside and hoping for a draw would probably have been more prudent”

BCT: It was very tough to defend after this because the rooks had no active plans, any attempt to move them up the board falls to nasty queen-checks. It was all lost at this point and I could tell Mike was much more comfortable. A great win and an overwhelming performance from the Downend team.

Why not send us your games? We’ll edit them how you want and show them off to the world!


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess 

Half Season Update – 18/19

Winter is coming which means only one thing – the Bristol League season is half way done! Let’s have a look at the standings.

2018 saw tense FIDE elections, excited speculation about Alpha Zero’s chess learning ability – with publication of a few jaw-dropping wins and brow-raising losses against Stockfish, and all the while Magnus calmly saw off Caruana with an unpopular decision to draw the 12th game and send the match into rapids.

But, more importantly, here are the league standings over here in the South West:

table
Smaller clubs are flourishing so far – and everyone has got a point!

How are our predictions looking?

We picked a winner for each division, as well as a ‘Dark Horse’ pick for insurance, and we are well on track! We could well prove correct in all 4 divisions:

Division 1

Our top pick Horfield are still one of the 5 horses in the Division 1 race – but it is our ‘Dark Horses’ Bath in pole position – only dropping one match in nine.

Division 2

Again the Dark Horses (North Bristol A) have dropped just one match and look well on course for the title, with our top pick Clevedon B in 3rd.

Division 3

It’s not looking so good for our Dark Horse pick here (South Bristol B) but the top pick Cabot A is doing the business! Come on the Cabot!

Division 4

Clevedon C lie in 2nd currently behind Harambee A; but I’m afraid newcomers and our Dark Horse pick Congresbury have had to withdraw – so looking pretty unlikely there!

 

Outstanding performances

 

Grade? What Grade?

We give a shout out to those who are way out-performing their own grades:

James Sutton (Keynsham): +36

Alex Vaughn (University): +34

Alan Warne (Clifton): +34

Dave Tipper (Downend) is unbeaten: +32

Jerry Humphreys (Grendel) is on 7 from 7: +29

 

Draws are for wimps

A special mention to those swashbucklers who would rather battle on than make treaties (rules: must have played 8 games, and won and lost at least 1 game)

Matthew Wilson (Clevedon) 5/0/6

Richard Kirk (Hanham) 2/0/7

Derek Pugh (Horfield) 4/0/4

Rob Attar (Horfield) 3/0/6

James Facey (Horfield) 6/0/4

James Sutton (Keynsham) 5/0/5

Mike Minshall (Thornbury) 3/0/5

Lester Moon (Yate) 3/0/6

 

Best of luck to all in the new year – for those super-keen (like me) come along to Downend’s Buzzer tournament (10 seconds a move) on New Years’ Day!


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

Defensive sacrifices – the queen falls on her sword

Sacrifices are often associated with attack – but they can be equally effective as defence. We take a look at a queen ‘sack’ from the Bristol league.

This is the position from Stubbs vs. Helbig in a recent Division One match:

game1
Rb1 has just been played by White – attacking the queen on b8. What would you do?

White is beginning to take some control, utilising extra space and time; and is threatening to really tighten the screw and maybe land a piece on b6, supported by pawn c4-c5. This is just one possible plan, but it would also free the bad bishop on d3. However, Paul wanted that bishop to stay bad, and so played the deep queen sacrifice:

…Bxc5!

He gives up the queen for a rook and bishop after Rxb8 Rxb8 Black has three relatively active pieces which stand a good chance of stopping the queen rampaging – and the potential of co-ordinating to pressurise the king or get a pawn moving down the board.

Would you have thought of this move? It’s important to at least consider them. After a good 4-5 seconds thought, Stockfish comes to the same conclusion as Paul and gives up the queen also! Here are the lines:

Comp
Stockfish recommendations. Qe8 also draws but presumably it thinks this is a longer (and probably more painful) defence, so it puts Bxc5 at the top.

In the game there followed Qc3 Bd4 Qxa5 c5:

game2
After …c5 from Black

Without the a-pawn White would have no real way to make progress, and still has the weak bishop on d3 -which Black goes for now. Surprisingly, White simply gives the bishop up straight away rather than try to wriggle to worse and worse squares, and gets the pawn moving: Qa7 Rb3, a5! Rxd3, a6 White had worked out that the Black rook would have to sacrifice itself too for the pawn, but hadn’t counted on the bishops being so strong afterwards! Bxc4, Qb8+ Kg7, a7 and Black must give up the rook:

game3
Black is forced to play Ra3, planning to take the new queen

After a8=Q Rxa8, Qxa8 the bishops and the extra pawn provide Black with enough stability and potential counterplay to distract the queen from doing any damage. White tried the best plan to disrupt the pawns and open more lines for the queen, but had to settle for a perpetual check and a draw was agreed.

That’s some defence!

The rest of the game went Bd3, g4 g5, Qd8 h6, h4 gxh4, g5 hxg5, Qxg5+ Kf8, Qd8+ Kg7, Qg5+ Kf8, Qd8+ etc.

Always consider the defensive sacrifice – it may just be the best way forward.


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess