Game of the Month – October 2018

We check in on the league and get started for a brand new season of Game of the Month.

The league is in full swing!

Division One proving as tough as ever and a little surprising; Downend B are on top thanks to a youthful and in-form team. Bath A are lurking with a match in hand and look very strong, for example only losing 2.5 points to all 3 Horfield teams put together!

Conversely to division 1, the ‘A’ teams are in charge of the other three divisions: North Bristol, Cabot, and Harambee with a much improved start compared to last season in division 4 (they have a game in hand over Clevedon C, level on points).

Game of the Month

Rob Attar vs. Max Walker

Horfield B vs Clevedon A (division 1)

I was playing in this match, and would have shown my own loss on board 1, succumbing to some nice tactics from my opponent, but there was a sharper game on board 4 from Max:

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 b6 4. e3 Nc6 5. Bd3 Be7 6. O-O Nb4

pos1
With Nb4, Max removes the ‘London Bishop’

7. c4 Nxd3 8. Qxd3 Bb7 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. e4 d5 11. cxd5 exd5 12. e5 Ne4 13. Rac1 c5 14. b3

pos2
Here Max goes for cramping the other bishop with g5!

14… g5 15. Bg3 g4 16. Ne1 cxd4 17. Qxd4 Bc5 18. Qd3 Ba6

pos3
Ba6! A nice tactical idea with the plan of Nxd2, trapping the rook on f1.

The engines prefer Qg5, which is always hanging in the air – but perhaps this is more a computer favourite because it shuts out a few perpetual possibilities for White. But if one thing is certain, Rob wasn’t looking for chances to bail out! With the g-pawn gone, this is still a very double-edged position.

Rob accepts the exchange loss and sets about creating counter-chances against the open king, but Max finds a cool defence:

19. Qxa6 Nxd2 20. Qe2 Nxf1 21. Qxg4+ Kh8 22. Kxf1 Rg8 23. Qf3 Qd7 24. Bh4 Be7

pos4
Be7(!) defends f6 but leaves a tempting Qxf7

And Rob takes the bait with Qxf7! This is a piece sacrifice, with the idea being that after Black escapes the pin with Qb5+ and then Bxh4, White has the nasty Rc7! Threatening h7 mate with no obvious escape.

But Max had seen one:

25. Qxf7 Qb5+ 26. Kg1 Bxh4 27. Rc7

pos5
Black has one defence to Qxf7…

27… Bxf2+! And Black either drags the king to an unfortunate square (If Kh1, Qf1 mate; and if Kxf2, Rf8 pins and wins) or distracts the White queen away from mate so that Black can bring in the reinforcements in time. Phew!

28. Qxf2 Raf8 29. Nf3 Qd3 30. Ne1 Rxf2 31. Nxd3 Rgxg2+ 32. Kh1 Rxh2+ 33.
Kg1 Rxa2 34. e6 Rhd2 35. Ne1 Rd1 36. Kf1 Raa1 37. Kf2 Rxe1 38. e7 Kg8
0-1 (Full game below)

Well played to Max and to Clevedon A who won that match and are definitely in the running for division 1. See you next time and remember to keep sending in those games!


 

mikecircle

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

Horfield win over ‘Rest of league’ in 75th anniversary celebration

Founded by air-raid wardens in 1942 and still going strong – strong enough to beat the rest of the league in their anniversary match!

Miraculously or not, two even-handed teams of 11 chess warriors rocked up for battle on Saturday morning, supplied with coffee, cake and biscuits and 45 minutes on the clock. It was Horfield’s 75th – playing against a mixed team representing 7 different league clubs. The captains were Bristol league legends John and John (Richards and Curtis), organised and arbitrated by yours truly.

round2
The top boards in round 2

A history of the club (also found on Horfield’s website) was on display, along with famous games past and present.

history
A long history

The pleasant and spacious playing hall was just upstairs from the usual dinky Horfield rooms – unfortunately reserved for Pilates on Tuesday evenings.

room
Plenty of mental gymnastics going on in the fitness room

Geoff Gammon got to play instead of arbitrate, and brought along a number of puzzles to add to the collection – one of the beauties is below:

puzzle.jpg
White to play and win (solution at the end of this article)

Though a friendly match, chess players are always up for a fight and Horfield will be rejoicing at the convincing scoreline, 15 – 7! Only two players won both their games – Derek Pugh and Phil Nendick of Horfield A.

result
Horfield won 7-4 with all players playing Black, and bettered that by 1 in round two with the White pieces to total 15-7

Memorabilia was also on display – including the charming ‘h-file’ leaflet/magazine:

hfile
Classic photos from yonderyear

Thanks to Horfield for putting on a friendly event for the league, and to all those who travelled to play and show support for a long-standing club.

In other news

I couldn’t stand to organise chess and not play for much longer, so I saddled on down to the Cross-Hands pub for some blitz on the Sunday night.

Through a combination of dubious sacrifices, grovelling for draws against people half my age, winning on time whilst literally getting checkmated and all-around time-scrappery, I managed to win a tournament outright for the first time in at least 5 years. So thanks to Downend, Derek and Elmira for organising and Geoff for arbitrating.

Come along next time on December 2nd (especially if you live in Downend – no excuse really!) Details will be on Downend’s website.

Puzzle Solution

After the ridiculous Kg5!! Black has a couple of waiting moves (c5 is met with d5!, and f4 is met with f3!) before fatal zugzwang, where the Black queen is lost with every move.


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times, is now a feared blitz superstar across the land, and plays regular league and tournament chess

The November Problem with GM Jones

I think that chess problem solving tournaments can be quite fun, although it must be admitted that I say this from the perspective of someone who is usually involved in helping to run them, not actually competing!

Part of the skill in running such a competition is in selecting problems of the right level of difficulty. On August 26th I ran the problem solving event at the MindSports Olympiad in London. Only five competitors turned up, but they all took the event seriously, and as lively discussions broke out at the end of each round about problems they’d solved correctly and problems they hadn’t I think they found it a stimulating experience. All five were more familiar with chess-playing events, though some had at least a passing interest in problems. The event took the form of two one-hour ‘papers’, each comprising six problems, nearly all of them orthodox, and as the scores, out of 60, ranged from 47.5 to 14.5 I was pleased that no competitor found the problems either too easy or hopelessly difficult.

Of the problems, my own favourite, which was solved I think by two of the five competitors, was one that I managed to solve when looking for problems to set:

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 14.59.58

It’s mate in 4. Composed by one Walter I. Kennard, it was published in American Chess Bulletin in 1915.

Solution Below

In this case, Black has only two legal moves, so the obvious approach to solving is to see what happens if White ‘passes’ and Black plays either of these moves. Well, White isn’t worried about 1…c5. This move, losing control over d5, allows 2.Rd1 b5 3.Rd5 and 4.Rxc5#. But as matters stand White doesn’t have a mate after 1…b5; the only way then in which you might hope to mate within the 4-move time-frame is 2.c5, but then after 2…b4 what happens? If 3.cxb4+ Kb5 and there is no mate.

But of course it is White to play in the initial position, and can we finagle it so that in that line there is a mate after 3…Kb5? If so, the mate would have to be 4.c4. So the Rook must guard c4. The natural way to do this is to play 1.Rf4 – but the drawback then is that 1…c5 now defends successfully! (If 2.Rd4 then of course 2…cxd4.) So the ‘lightbulb moment’ is when one sees that the key has to be 1.Rc1! It is very attractive that this move, which of all the moves on the board seems to give the Rook the least influence, does have the well-concealed potential to guard the c2P when it administers mate on move 4. And of course the Rook at c1 can still play the mating line, beginning 2.Rd1, if Black plays 1…c5.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 15.04.02

Mate in four after: 1.Rc1 b5 2.c5 b4 3. cxb4 + kb5 4. c4# (editors note – Lovely stuff!)

Although you may feel under pressure in a solving event if you’re competitively minded it’s still possible to enjoy ‘lightbulb moments’ when you spot a nice paradoxical key move like this. And even if, competitive-minded, you find a solving tourney as stressful as a game in the Bristol League, it’s like a League game in which you’re guaranteed that you’re going to have the opportunity to play a brilliant winning move!

If you’re interested in solving events don’t hesitate to contact me.


chriscircle

Christopher Jones

Christopher holds the Grandmaster title for Chess Problem Composition and uses his skills to write a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times. He is also a longterm Horfield Chess Club player (where he is acting secretary).

Checkmate with two knights in the endgame (YouTube)

In this short episode we look at a lovely checkmate involving two knights in a time pressured endgame.  With only five minutes left the black player bravely ignores an advancing white pawn to deliver an impressive mate.  

An excellent example of subtleties in the endgame massively turning the outcome of a game.

Checkmate with two knights in the endgame (8 minutes)

As always if you enjoy this episode, please subscribe to YouTube and share with all your chess friends.  We are always happy to take submissions of suggested amateur league or tournament games to look at.

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

White punishes Black’s slow development in the French defence (YouTube)

In our latest episode we look at a 19 move demolition of Black in a rare sideline of the French advance variation.  The game comes from the North Bristol Chess Club Championship held over the summer and is an excellent example of the impact of losing too much time in the opening.

White launches a lovely attack (after getting their king safe) and is quickly rewarded by jumping on blacks underdevelopment.  One things for sure, Black will be going back to the drawing board after this one…

White punishes Black’s slow development in the French Defence (17 minutes)

As always please do share with your chess friends and subscribe to the YouTube channel.  If you would like one of your games featured on The Bristol Chess Times then please send them in to bristolchesstimes@gmail.com.

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Five ideas for league chess in Britain

Every now and then a group of like minded individuals find themselves in the right place at the right time. Just such an event occurred on Friday afternoon on the medium of Twitter.  A relatively innocuous tweet from Kings Head Chess Club about the length of evening chess league games started a very enjoyable (and long) online discussion on the state of British League Chess.  Whilst I will not do justice to all of the conversation spread across dozens of threads and tweets, I thought it best to try to capture  some of the lovely ideas that emerged.  Be warned!  Not everyone will agree with every suggestion but thats the point. If nothing else I feel that this blog post is here simply to act as a celebration of the range of proactive and passionate clubs and individuals working to improve British league chess in 2018.

prelim

The British evening league chess scene is a unique institution! Lets talk about it!

Rather than list the entire conversation verbatim I have decided to pull out the core themes and ideas that sprung from the minds of the various actors involved.  Who were they I hear you ask?

  • The Bristol Chess Times (@brizchesstimes) – Loud bloke shouting about modernising the UK chess scene;
  • Richard James (@chesstutor) – Very well established chess tutor from Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club who has run junior training for decades;
  • Kings Head Chess Club (@kingsheadchess) – A big London club who asked a simple question and received about 300 tweets as a response (editors note – Sorry!)
  • Andrew Rimmer (@AndrewRimmer) – .net developer working on creating a new wordpress template for chess clubs to utilise after becoming appalled at the state of most British chess club websites.
  • Hammersmith Chess Club (@hammer_chess) – A phoenix of a chess club who have turned the corner of decline by embracing positive change.

So without further ado here are five ideas or discussions for chess clubs to consider both now and in the future.

There is potentially an appetite for 2hr evening league games

The original discussion started by asking if three hours on a weeknight is too large a commitment for some people and might be putting some players off?  For example, many other activities in modern 21st century life tend to only take an hour (e.g. the gym / play 5 aside football or another sport) still leaving some time of the evening to achieve other things.  Currently 3hr games are basically asking players to give up an entire evening away from home.  Obviously some people may not mind this but it cannot be argued that a full evenings commitment is harder at different stages of life.  For example, young parents, people in full time employment can all struggle to commit to 3hrs compared to say people with older children or retirees.

I know that many people will argue that evening league chess has always run this way and many club players I know would complain if time controls were to get any shorter. Some would say that basically commit or don’t commit its your choice.  However the debate does raise interesting societal impacts that may be hampering the growth of new recruits in modern 21st century Britain.

For example, (I totally acknowledge my bias here) as a father of two young children, 19:30 KO times for league matches means that on a Tuesday evening I miss bedtime. Having finished work at 17:30 – 18:00 I barely have time to get home, eat and then make it to whichever respective chess club I need to be at.

But what if matches started at 20:30?

Young mothers and fathers with an interest in chess could finish work, tuck the kids into bed, eat and still play league chess.  And no, before anyone says anything I’m not proposing leaving the kids home alone!  My point is that it is far more common in 21st century Britain for both parents to take active roles in children’s meal and bed times compared to say 50-60 years ago.  Would we see more young mothers and fathers (i.e. people in their 20’s and 30s) at chess clubs if weeknight league chess started at 20:30?

Interestingly, Richard James countered that a 2hr league game starting earlier in the evening would be far more supportive of junior participation.  Certainly an interesting viewpoint that again may well help boost league participation. For example, if games ran between 18:30 and 20:30. However I would be interested to hear readers thoughts on this as such an early start would directly conflict with the workers / parents discussion raised above.

In the end, I don’t suspect any of us involved in the conversation expect league chess to embrace 2hr game lengths (we also discussed 1hr games of Rapidplay with two games a night! – heresy!) but my point here is to get people asking the question that perhaps we might be hindering league growth by asking too big a commitment from some people in modern 21st century Britain.

Weekday Evenings vs. Weekend Leagues

An alternative to the shorter weeknight games was suggested by Richard James in terms of running localised weekend leagues. Much like the 4NCL but at a local level rather than clubs being forced to travel halfway across the country to play a match.

Again a really interesting idea that I would love to get readers feedback on.  Again the benefits of running weekend leagues would enable longer games but also maximise the opportunity for juniors to participate at more amenable hours of the day. Three key questions were raised with the “local weekend league” idea:

  • Would players be able to commit their personal time to weekends easier than weeknights (editors note – I couldn’t?)  Would such a league not steal potential attendees at congresses and the 4NCL?
  • Where would these weekend leagues be hosted?  Battersea Chess Club generously volunteered their current venue for example but I think most readers would ask how to obtain and hold onto venues for such leagues over time?
  • How many fixtures are reasonable in weekend leagues? Would these be shorter divisions and fixed numbers of games?

WordPress should be the goto place for a chess club website

The group unanimously agreed that the digital skill of most British chess clubs was woeful and the poor presentation of most clubs to the outside world was directly affecting recruitment.  Digital literacy is something that I have spoken about before and all those involved seemed to settle on the choice of WordPress for setting up and running club websites.  I loved the following quote:

If you can create a decent looking document in Microsoft Word you can create a decent looking website in WordPress – Hammersmith Chess Club

Andrew Rimmer is currently in the process of producing a generic wordpress theme for chess clubs to use and roll out and The Bristol Chess Times have agreed to help road test and provide feedback.  Watch this space for more updates as and when this potentially beneficial tool for the chess club community will be ready.  Thanks Andrew!

Losing juniors at secondary school level means adult leagues don’t benefit in terms of recruitment

There is a large range of beneficial investments and schemes in Primary school children’s chess across the UK. These are all great wonderful initiatives!

However, the statistics show that a lot of children drop away from chess when they reach secondary school age and don’t come back. When we are talking about the weeknight British League Chess scene most of the discussion identified that a large increase in primary school children playing chess has not resulted in any noticeable increase in people in their 20’s joining adult clubs.  There are many reasons for this and its a complex subject. I myself stopped playing chess between the ages 14 and 20 for the usual adolescent reasons.

However, it does make me ask the question about what are clubs doing to attract young adult beginners?  As I have said on many an occasion, online chess is exploding with tens of millions of people playing around the globe.  The interest in chess is there across all age ranges and yet in the UK club scene we seem to struggle to attract people in their 20’s and 30’s?

Certainly some of the issues we have already discussed in this article may be contributing and I don’t pretend to have the answers (yet) but I feel it is an interesting behaviour to call out and think about.  How many of the 40,000 school children playing chess in the UK today will go on to play at adult clubs?

Proactive clubs producing content and social spaces are thriving

6

Local Bristol legend Dave Tipper demonstrating a nice smothered mate! Dave has been an active contributor to the Bristol & District League online for almost 15 years. 

Finally, the message from the group discussing the British League Chess scene was one of optimism.  Where clubs were actively engaging in digital skills, creating social spaces and promoting themselves they are seeing huge benefits.

Horfield chess club had 23 registered players when I was appointed webmaster 18 months a go and at the start of the 2018/19 season is now looking at circa 35 players playing league chess and a further 4-5 regulars turning up each week for friendly chess.  In the Bristol & District Chess League, both North Bristol and Downend & Fishponds have also been very active in their promotion and have reported impressive growth levels.

Perhaps the poster child for chess club reform is Hammersmith chess club. The following quote from Twitter sums up their proactive approach:

“…in less than three years we have gone from 28 members and the very brink of extinction (£600 deficit that year), to 72 last year & able to refresh almost our entire range of equipment thanks to positive cash flow” – Hammersmith Chess Club

It should be noted that none of the clubs I’ve mentioned have achieved this success with just one individual.  All the clubs agreed that having multiple club members step up to create, publish content, run training nights, greet newcomers is the key to success.  Perhaps the old club approach of saying one person is responsible for the website is the reason why so many clubs are in the state they are in?  In each of the successful clubs mentioned, a small group of individuals is making a real difference to the benefit of all!

jon
Thanks for everyones support!

Conclusion

So there we are!  Five interesting ideas identified in the British League Chess scene in 2018.  I appreciate not every idea or discussion here will be to everyones tastes and thats ok.  If nothing else I hope this article helps readers ask questions about their own clubs and leagues and if there is anything they could be doing differently.

I can’t help feel that perhaps we are witnessing the evolution of a new type of chess club within the UK.  Those that create engaging social learning spaces by leveraging the power of digital.  There are hundreds of chess clubs across the UK and it is highly unlikely that all will make the transition required to survive but I believe all should be encouraged by the examples discussed here and the individuals fighting to make it happen.

Finally I want to extend my sincere thanks to all those who engaged in the conversation on Twitter yesterday afternoon.

Lets do this!


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Chess events in Oct/Nov

Winter is threatening to unleash itself on Bristol, so we thought we’d remind you of some all-weather chess events before Christmas

Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay – Sunday 21st October

Everyone’s favourite Sodbury – the Bristol league will once again proudly host some rapid wood-pushers in this charming town. Lunchtime visits to the antique/craft/charity shops and several pubs are recommended/obligatory. Details here.

7_Major Dave

Horfield vs. The League – Saturday 3rd of November

Still spaces left for Bristol league players of any playing strength to enter this friendly anniversary match. There will be two medium-length games, as well as puzzles with a difference, free refreshments, some history of Horfield & Redland club and perhaps a speech from their humble chairman.

Crosshands Blitz – Sunday 4th of November

More blitz action organised by Downend’s Elmira Walker – see their site for details – we hope to make this one!

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 07.59.19
Remember places are limited on a first come first serve basis

…Nothing else happening in the chess world in November, right? 😉


mikecircle

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

Introducing the Philidor constellation at the Batumi Olympiad (YouTube)

Two Bristol League Players recently competed in the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.  On the latest episode we showcase two games from Lewis Martin who was competing for the International Chess Committee of the Deaf (ICCD). Lewis scored a remarkable 72% across 11 games of stiff competition and rumour has it has qualified for the FM title.  Lets take a look.

The first game is a lovely Sicilian Najdorf where both players decide to ignore the concept of defence.  The second game is a tricky “Black to play and win” in a tactical finale.

Introducing the Philidor constellation at the Batumi Olympiad (20 minutes)

Please remember to subscribe to the YouTube channel to receive regular updates and share with all your chess friends!

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

A knight on the rim is…great?! (YouTube)

In the latest episode we look at a Division 1 game between Horfield and Downend chess clubs.  Black places a knight on the edge of the board and it turns out to be the best piece in a series of tactical exchanges!  Rules are there to be broken!

We also look at a nice checkmate at the Batumi 2018 Olympiad where Bristol league player Peter Kirby is representing Guernsey.

A knight on the rim is…great?! (19 minutes)

If you are enjoying the YouTube channel then there a number of key actions you can take:

  • Please like and share the videos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whichever social media takes your fancy;
  • Please subscribe to the channel on YouTube to receive alerts of when we publish new videos;
  • Send any exciting games from your local league to bristolchesstimes@gmail.com and we will do our best to get them on the channel.

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Chess myths: Are there really 3 phases to a chess game?

Is it always this simple? Can you define a phase of a chess game? And does your perception of them change how you play?

Opening, Middlegame, and Endgame. This model is simple and may be a useful one to teach, and to define books and DVD’s (Master the Middlegame!, Improve your opening play, etc.). And I must admit I am a fan of chess quotes like these:

“Play the Opening like a book, the middlegame like a magician, and the endgame like a machine” – Rudolph Spielmann

or

“To beat me you have to do it three times – once in the opening, once in the middlegame, and once in the endgame” – World Champion Alekhine, at the height of his career.

However I also believe that seeing the game this way can alter your evaluations of your play and it can be limiting (“I’m really bad at endgames”) or (“That was lost from the opening”). It can be harmful to stop at these categorisations. You can get stuck in thinking only in terms of these three phases to the extent that it actually harms your moves. A few years ago I was stuck in thinking that a ‘lost’ endgame is irreparable – and I would prefer to make highly speculative moves in the middlegame rather than brave a slightly worse endgame. I didn’t appreciate that the endgame is long – and includes several phases.

To improve your game, we have previously advocated asking other players what type of player you are, and I realised something about my own play when someone said that I “win all my games in the middlegame”. I hadn’t realised, but he was right, I reached an endgame less often than other players.

Now, I’m of course still more than happy to win games in the middlegame – but when I am on the losing side I have learned to fight on and test out opponent’s endgame skills, rather than test their ability to refute a wild sacrifice. Through this, I have learned that a chess game is pretty long after all. The ‘endgame’ especially – can be exceedingly long both in moves played, and the amount of ‘play’ left. One example is this unfavourable position last season, which I managed to turn around:

position1
White is a pawn ahead – and has been since the opening. But Black has been avoiding easy piece-swaps, and therefore keeping the game alive.

I was forced to give up a pawn after a bad opening. Crucially though I had kept the game slightly alive and decided not to panic, and offer to go into double-edged middlegames and endgames. That doesn’t always mean keeping the queens on, it doesn’t always mean closing up the position – it just means finding some imbalance. Here I found myself in a double rook endgame where I could attempt to get my own passed pawn. It still wasn’t great, but it was enough to try.

I eventually conjured up a passed f-pawn which won me the game after a very natural move Rb8 was played here: (Full playback below)

position2a
White is winning, but the best is b5! to gain another passed pawn. My opponent played the natural Rb8, to which I immediately replied Rxa7! There followed Rxa7? and f2! winning for black. See the game below for the cheeky preparatory move Kg7…

My machine says that the game was about +3 to White from move 28 until the mistake on move 43. That’s 15 moves where Black is effectively down a whole piece. But in human terms, it was an extra pawn and some serious work to make it count.

Losing the psychological game

It can be the hardest thing to win a won game. And in amateur chess there are so many swings in the endgame (like the game above!) But take this as a positive – you can play for a win in a lot of positions, just stay positive and try to either prolong or complicate things until your opponent slips up. When you think you are losing, don’t stop looking for wins!

Have you ever been on the back foot in a game, and offered/accepted a draw only to realise that you were actually winning in the end position?

I think this has happened to many of us. If you reach an endgame and think “okay – I’m playing for a draw” then you may miss chances to steer thing around and transition to a winning ‘endgame proper’ – and instead of hanging on, you’ll see ways to complicate the position and create chances for your opponent to slip.

Transitions

In A + B, the ‘+’ is an important ingredient. Or something like that. The point is there is a moment between the Opening and Middlegame, or between the Middlegame and Endgame, which are called transitions. They may last a few moves, and there may be several of them in a row. Some examples include:

  • Exchanges – e.g. trading the queens to go into a ‘Berlin Endgame’ or trading minor pieces to ensure an ‘opposite-coloured bishops ending’
  • Pawn advances to change the structure – e.g. advancing a pawn to block up the centre – turning the game into a blocky, manoeuvring battle
  • Pawn advances to attack – typically the f or g pawns moving two squares with opponent’s castled kingside, signify so much about your plan (and because pawns can’t move backwards, you’re sort of stuck with it!)
  • Sacrifices – these change everything!

There are others of course, but transitions are often more than just one move, they may be preceded by preparatory moves or by other exchanges. They can be short phases – but incredibly important.

The Endgame proper

One phase that definitely deserves recognition is the ‘Endgame Proper’ – how many half points – or even full points – have you seen be lost or won with just a few pieces left? For example this one:

pawntrick
White to move – Kd6! wins, but the natural Kd5 actually loses to Kf4.

Or how about a rook and king vs bishop and king? Can you draw with the bishop? Can you mate with a bishop and knight? These are all ‘Endgame Proper’ examples and well-worth knowing!

The education of a chess player

I may be over-simplifying this, then again it may be a useful way to think about it, but I believe that the more phases you are able to distinguish in a chess game, the more chance you have to improve in all phases.

Let’s follow this through a typical learning curve:

New player – 1 phase

At the very beginning, you see 1 phase – just the game of chess; one long, incredibly complex and surprising string of moves that don’t seem to relate to each other that much. Total chaos in other words!

Beginner – 3 phases

Soon after learning a few things, you see 3 phases:

  • Opening
  • Middlegame
  • Endgame

This helps to break down that enormity and – for example – help you focus on learning the Guioco Piano, or queening an outside passed pawn in a king+pawn endgame.

Beyond – 5 or 6 phases

Later on you see more and more phases and start to think differently. For example, right now I am trying to see up to 6 phases:

  • Opening
  • Transition
  • Middlegame
  • Transition
  • Endgame
  • Endgame proper

Some people have suggested 7, with the addition of another Opening phase – but I’ll need to know more theory for that one! And some have suggested 5, in various combinations.

Of course at some point the distinctions become a less and less practical – like arguing how many dimensions or universes there might be. But even thinking about going beyond 3 can lay the groundwork for improvement.

And who knows what really happens in the minds of the Super-GMs – there may be many more definable phases, as well as the infinite parallel-universe games played out frantically on analysis boards. (If you are a super-GM reading this, by the way, please let us know what goes on!).

Conclusion

Chess is a game where it can all change in one move – let alone one phase – but the longer you see the game to be, and the longer you are willing to play it, the more ways you will see to win it.


 

mikecircle

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