Beating the London System from two pieces down

Today on the Bristol Chess Times we welcome new columnist Mike Fielding from North Bristol Chess Club.  A club well in the ascendancy who are rapidly growing and striving for Division 1 status, North Bristol have been combative all season.  

The London seems to be everywhere in amateur chess at the moment so here is a recent game from the recent North Bristol B vs. Hanham B clash where Black launches a lovely attack against this tough opening system.

[Event “North Bristol B Vs Hanham B”]
[Site “Ratepayers Arms, Filton.”]
[Date “2018.01.25”]
[White “Kevin Marshall”]
[Black “Michael Fielding”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A80”]

1. d4 f5

The Dutch isn’t something I usually play so I thought i’d trot it out to try to catch my opponent out.

2. Bf4

The infamous London System. Buckle up.

2… Nf6 3. e3 b6 4. Nf3 Bb7

In the Dutch it’s usually good to fianchetto the queen’s bishop if white doesn’t fianchetto the kingside bishop.

5. c3 e6 6. Be2 Be7 7. h3 O-O 8. Nbd2 Nd5

mf1

Probably not the best move but I though I can either kick his bishop back to a worse square or win the bishop pair.

9. Bh2 Na6 10. Qc2 Nf6 11. O-O-O c5 12. Rhg1 cxd4 13. exd4 Ne4 !?

mf2

13… Nb4 is a good try but I couldn’t really see where the knight was going. My main aim was now to hit hard and fast.

14. Rdf1 (14. Bxa6 Bxa6 15. Nxe4 fxe4 16. Qxe4 )

This line would give up a pawn but the bishops become a bit better and I’ve got a simple plan to pawn storm the queenside. Although I’m a pawn down I’ve always thought the 2-2-2 pawn formation is favourable.

14… Rc8 15. Kd1 ?

The king is definitely asking for trouble coming back into the centre !

15. ..Nc7

I think I copped out a bit with this move. I always worry about missing tactics so I thought just reroute my knight back in and try to open up. Nb4 is better I’m sure.

16. Bd3 Nd5 !

Let the fun begin. Things soon start to open up with the king still in the centre.

17. Nxe4 fxe4 18. Bxe4 Nxc3+ 19. bxc3 Bxe4 20. Qxe4 Rxc3

mf3

This is the line I calculated. White’s king is stuck in the centre with the rest of his pieces stuck awkwardly in the corner. Now I just need to pile in.

21. Qb1 Ba3 22. Kd2 Qc8 23. Ng5 (23. Rc1 Bxc1+ 24. Rxc1 Rxc1 25. Qxc1 Qa6)

mf4

I though that white would give the exchange back to free his pieces. Even after the mass trade off I can’t help but feel I’d pick one of his loose pawns up.

23… g6 (23… Rf5 The better move. 24. Ne4 Rc4 25. Qd3 Bb4+ )

24. Ne4 Rc4 25. Kd3 ?

Stepping out the frying pan and into the fire.

…Qa6 26. Ke3 d5 27. Nd6 Rc3+ 28. Kd2 Rc6

mf5

28… Bb4 This moves to a forced checkmate. I applaud any human that would have found that over the board and had the bottle to play it! 29. Kd1 Rd3+ 30. Kc1 Bd2+ 31. Kc2 Rc8+ 32. Nxc8 Qc4+ 33. Kd1 Bb4+ 34. Ke2 Rb3+ 35. Kd1 Rxb1#

29. Qb5 Bb4+ !

mf6

Trading queens just ends up in a losing endgame for me. Sacrificing the second piece allows me to infiltrate and keep the advantage.

30. Qxb4 {Forced.} 30… Qxa2+ 31. Ke3 Rc2

Now the rook has infiltrated white has nowhere to go. Although I’m two pieces down they’re doing nothing. I can start to rearrange my pieces and cause more problems.

32. Qe1 {White cracks.}

32. Kd3 Rb2 Was the only try but white’s completely tied down. With perfect play white can probably wriggle out of it but with less than 20 minutes on the clock it’s easier said than done.

32… Qb3+ 0-1

mf7

Play through full game

So what can we learn from this game? Sometimes you’ve got to speculate to accumulate and quality over quantity. I know that computer evaluations should never be blindly followed but after the sacrifice on move 20 the silicone based overlords always had black as having an advantage, even when I was two pieces down the evaluation never went positive. Although my moves may not have been computer accurate it’s much harder to defend than attack and eventually that told..


Michael Fielding (1)

Mike Fielding

Mike can be found throwing the kitchen sink for North Bristol or hustling some backpackers in a remote youth hostel; trying to help turn North Bristol into a Division 1 side. Ex-Weymouth. UK NATO Chess Team 2015. MOD Chess Champion 2017.

 

Bristol Chess Times – January 1993

Continuing our theme of revisiting the Bristol Chess Times from 25 years ago, today we offer an insight into the league in January 1993.  The full PDF edition is available at the bottom of this article.

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 10.46.50

Highlights include:

  • Bristol still debating whether it should enter the newly formed National Chess League;
  • Nigel Short preparing for Jan Timman in his quest to face Kasparov;
  • A new company taking over Teletext?!! (Editor’s note – Younger readers should Google Teletext)
  • Bath, Grendal, Cosham, Hanham, Sun Life and Thornbury leading the respective six divisions;
  • An exchange visit to Hannover, Germany from a squad of Bristolians!
  • GM Stuart Conquest holding a simul to help Horfield celebrate 50 years.

You can download the PDF here: BCT93


johnrichardsblog

John Richards

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.

More mini games for coaching chess

The less experienced you are, the harder it is to take specific lessons from a full game of chess. This is the claim that I made in the last article on coaching. There are just way too many factors in a full game, and most of the time any interesting strategic play will be dwarfed by blunders. It is for this reason I believe more in the value of mini games – this means a game specifically designed to teach one or two aspects of the game.

Last time I showed a few games which only use one major piece.

Bristol league alumnus Chris Russell has contributed a further mini-game which he has used with great success in coaching: King, Queen and 8 pawns vs. King, 2 Rooks and 8 pawns. A queen vs. two rooks does come up from time to time in games, and depending on the position, can be much better for either side. The rooks like to be co-ordinated, and the queen likes more open positions and some loose targets. In the scenario with 8 pawns on their starting ranks – Chris notes that the queen has a slight edge because she can keep attacking pawns early on, and the rooks find it hard to establish the right battleground for them – but there’s not much in it.

Since writing the first article, I’ve also discovered that Chess.com has several training games of exactly this nature. I tried the ‘Queen vs. Queen with two extra pawns’ game (you have 5 pawns, the computer has 3) and surprisingly I ended up losing the first two games…
Once I had snapped out of that I managed to press the advantage for a bit and ended up drawing the next two. Fifth time lucky, I triumphed – but I had to calculate a queen trade very carefully. It just shows how hard these ‘winning’ positions are to convert! Anyway, this time let’s see a few other types of mini-game:

Classic mini chess

I started playing this as a youngster; it is arguably a streamlined chess game, reducing down to one of each major piece. Apart from being a shorter game, I like this one for coaching for a couple of reasons. Firstly there is an immediate way to blunder checkmate, so it doesn’t take much to explain the link between a general strategy and checkmate. Let’s take a look [n.b. the board is 5×5, pieces set up with R,N,B,Q and K on a- to e- files; and pawns in front of them, which can only move one square per move, unlike regular chess]:

minichess

1.d3 ed??

Blunder! (You have given your opponent both control and access to the square right in front of your king!) It is forced mate in four:

2.ed – threatening Qe2+ and mate on e4. Black can prolong this with cd (answered by cd) or Nc3 (answered by bxc3) but mate will come on e4 soon enough.

The other thing mini-chess should teach well is that pawns are powerful weapons – where they are only three moves away from queening from the start, strategies for promotion should quickly become apparent.

(It can also teach you about zugzwang – but that’s a bit advanced!)

Push or defend

For this one you’ll have to imagine a solid line between the a and b file. One pawn starts on the a file and can freely wander to the other end. Once it is promoted, you win the game.

However, the other side is trying to checkmate you. Try this one: (White doesn’t have a king in these games, just some pieces to attack with. Here it is Qh1, Rg1, Pf2. Black has the pawn on a7 – which will promote in 5 moves unless Black uses up some moves to avoid checkmate: Kg8, Rf8 and pawns on f7,g7 and h7.)

Push or defend.PNG

This should teach the basic importance of time, and having your own plans (counterplay). As an attacker it should force you to think about forcing moves, and see which threats really are threatening.

Endgame cuts

This one I recommend for absolutely all levels of chess – and was surprisingly inspired by a method for cutting cake fairly! I remember a puzzle from years ago about cutting cakes that are not uniform – different amounts of icing, toppings, corners etc – a potential minefield for any cake cutting scenario. The question was how can two people can ensure a cake is cut fairly between them, using only a knife? (n.b. you are not told anything about the shape or design of the cake).

The answer was pretty simple: One person makes the cut, and the other one gets to choose their piece. This encourages the cutter to cut as fairly as possible.

Okay, its not perfect – it’s a little unfair on the cutter. However, the same approach actually works much better for chess training:

One person sets up an endgame, and the other person chooses their colour.

Why does this help? Two reasons – it gets you to try to evaluate positions. As you set the board up, you will be thinking through all the various parts of the position. Material, time, and quality. Two connected past pawns? Maybe that’s equal to a bishop? Maybe they’re not, maybe they’re easily better. The point is it’s up to you, and you can modify the position until you think it’s equal.

The second reason I like it (except that it trains endgames, which let’s be honest we all need to do more of!) is that when you lose with the side that you picked, you are forced to re-evaluate. Psychologically it’s much harder to ignore the flaws in your thinking when it’s you who chose the position!


mikecircle

Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

January Problems with GM Jones

A good way in which to extend one’s imagination as to the possibilities in a chess position is solving ‘series problems’. In other words, one looks for a sequence of moves all made by either White or Black that lead to a position in which the specified outcome can be achieved. I was recently reading an article by the American composer, George Sphicas, a leading expert in this field, from which two such problems of his stood out.

cjprob1

This problem (from Ideal-Mate Review,1997) is a series helpmate in 25. In other words, Black makes 25 moves in order to reach a position in which White can play a mating move.

It becomes apparent that the only way to achieve mate is by Black blocking his potential flight squares at d7, e7, f7, f6 and f5. This will entail using each of his five potential blockers; all four Pawns will have to promote. The solution therefore comprises a wonderfully precise interlocking sequence in which every element falls into place with move-by-move exactitude (a requirement of the problem being considered sound). The f5 square must be blocked first (otherwise moving the P from g5 to g4 would give check); and you will find that there are reasons why each of the other bPs, once freed up, have to complete their manoeuvres before the next stage in the process can be undertaken. And it also transpires that we have to make one of each of the possible promotions (i.e. once to N/B/R/Q): ‘Allumwandlung’ (or ‘AUW’ for short) in problemists’ parlance – 1.a1N 2.Nc2…4.Nf5 5.g4…8.g1Q 9.Qgg5 10.Qf6 11.g5…15.g1R 16.Rg7 17.Re7 18.Qhf7 19.h5…23.h1B 24.Bc6 25.Bd7 d5#.

If you like that one, you may like to have a go at another Sphicas series helpmate, this time in 30 moves, from Ideal-Mate Review, 1995 –

cjprob2

This time we don’t get AUW, but what we do get is four ‘Excelsiors’, i.e., each of the four black Pawns is moving the whole way to promotion from its starting square. And this time there are six blocking squares to be occupied (as well as a black piece to be sacrificed at g5), so this is a longer, more complex move sequence, whose logic you will enjoy unravelling – 1.a5…5.a1B 6.Bg7 7.Kf6 8.Be6 9.d5…13.d1R 14.Rd7 15.Rf7 16.Ne7 17c5…21.c1B 22.Bg5 23.Rb5 24.Re5 25.b5…29.b1B 30.Bf5 hxg5#.

These two problems qualified for inclusion in Ideal-Mate Review because one of their achievements is that in each the final position satisfies the criteria of an ‘ideal mate’: every unit on the board contributes to the mate either by blocking or by guarding a potential flight square, and there is nothing superfluous in the way in which each potential flight is nullified (i.e., no square that is guarded as well as blocked). From experience I know how challenging it is to find settings in which you don’t have to add any extraneous material to the board in order to exclude unwanted alternative solutions (‘cooks’)!


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).

“Larsen’s Beach”: A fun sideline in the Nimzo-Larsen Attack

I’ve made no secret of my love of 1.b3 and the fun entertaining games that can arise from this quirky (but theoretically sound!) opening.  Here at the Bristol Chess Times, several of us have been playing with a spiky variation of the opening this season.  However, recently our opponents have been counter attacking (how unsporting of them!) leading to messy unbalanced positions.  In honour of the Somerset New Year Congress based in the seaside town of Clevedon where we recently played this line, we have affectionately nicknamed the variation “Larsen’s Beach”. Lets take a deeper look…

The starting position of the variation begins with Black adopting a conservative formation with his white squared bishop, f6 knight and a small centre. Here is the opening moves:

1. b3 d5

2. Bb2 Bf5

3. e3 Nf6

4. Be2 e6

5. g4?!

LB1

Hence my reference to a spiky variation.  This is not a new or unique position having been played four times according to ChessBase. Until recently all my opponents in this line were retreating to g6 and then a swift h4 led to a strong attack for white.  However, twice this season the Bristol Chess Times have experienced the following counter attack:

5. g4 Be4

6. f3 Nxg4?!

LB2

This is the starting position of what we are calling “Larsen’s Beach“. There are two lines we have explored.  Line #1 was explored by yours truly last weekend whilst the superior Line #2 was played by Mike Harris at the October Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay

Line #1: 7. h4

In both my game and the only game I could find in ChessBase, Black attempted Bd6 leading to the following:

7. h4 Bd6

8. pxe4 Bg3+

9. Kf1 Nf2

10. Qc1 Nxh1

11.Kg2?! dxe

12. Nh3 Qxh4

13. Qxh1

LB3

A ridiculous position has been reached by move 13 and I’m sure most White players are unhappy with what has been achieved.  My point is that it is actually fine for white and if you know “Larsen’s Beach” you are likely to have a large lead on the clock in these unbalanced positions.  It should be noted that the computer now evaluates this position as roughly even at 0.29.

I actually didn’t make this position in my game, instead trying the unsound 12. Bg4 and ultimately the loss of material (and the game).  As an alternative to h4, Mike Harris ventured the interesting 7. Kf1.

Line #2: Kf1

In my opinion a more sensible plan, avoiding the incoming checks and giving a better square for whites queen.

7. Kf1 Qh4

8. Qe1 Nxh2+

9. RxN QxR

10. pxe4 pxe4

LB4

Again not exactly a position that most white players aspire for from the opening but still a fun and unbalanced game lies ahead with white having bishop and knight vs. rook and three pawns.  The computer gives white as 0.49 in this position.

In our analysis here at the Bristol Chess Times there are two things to note in this position.

  1. Although it is roughly equal, is it one of those positions that is easier for one side to play than another?  For example, computers might be happy with White but how do humans feel about this?
  2. We chose the name “Larsen’s Beach” in honour of both Clevedon but also the wave of black pawns that are about to start crashing down on the kingside.

Conclusion

So there we are!  Personally I love to play chess like this but I appreciate it is not for everyone.  The key for us is that despite how aggressive this black counter attack looks, we believe that white is fine in “Larsen’s Beach“, particularly in the 7. Kf1 lines.

Could this also be the first variation named in honour of Clevedon, UK?  We hope so!

For all you aspiring Nimzo Larsen Attack players out there we hope you find this line both interesting and fun!


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.

From the Frontline: Somerset New Year Congress

Last weekend was the second Somerset New Year Congress held at the Walton Park Hotel Clevedon.  The Bristol Chess Times entered with bold hopes (well Mike Harris was top seed and I had my usual blind optimism) but alas our individual results were not as good as this excellent new edition to the South West’s congress calendar.

Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 10.00.54

On the second weekend of January, the hotel didn’t look quite as spectacular as this photo.  Its fair to say “grey fog” was the theme of the weekend.

Sixty five entrants across three sections, The Somerset New Year Congress is unusual in that it does not have an Open section.  It has a top rating limit of 175 ECF (2000 ELO) which at first seems odd but you quickly realise how this keeps it a “club players congress” and very difficult to predict as everyone starts to take lumps out of each other over three games on the Saturday and two on the Sunday.

The venue is lovely though early birds catch the worm with regards to booking a room.  Myself and Mike instead stayed at the very pleasant Moon and Sixpence pub, five minutes down the road from the venue.

Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 10.28.01

Three pints help the kibbitzing woes but also lead to an early draw Sunday morning…

The one advantage of this is were able to have some pints Saturday night and try to understand exactly how I can walk into the simplest one-move mate possible?

blunder

Unfortunately blunders plagued my weekend.  For example 47. Kxp led to an unfortunate mate in one on h2. Particularly frustrating as my opponent had less than five minutes remaining to my 50.

The congress feels fresh and different to the more well established congresses and attracted a wide range of players from the Bristol league, the Somerset clubs as well as South Wales.  Indeed, all five of my opponents over the weekend I had never met before which helped keep the surprises coming on the board.

Despite my personal chess being disappointing, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoy this congress for multiple reasons:

  • Timing – Its great to have some highly competitive chess so soon after Christmas to shrug off this January cobwebs;
  • Venue – It really is beautiful and the bar upstairs is always jammed with chess players cursing and praising their moves;
  • Approach – The upper limit of 175 ECF is fun and encourages a fair entree of confident club players looking to get amongst the prizes.

Below is a list of the prizewinners (£150 for first in each section) from the weekend:

Minor (U120)

  • 1st
    • Jason Madden 4 / 5
    • Graham Mill-Wilson 4 / 5
  • 3rd
    • Timothy Allen 3.5 / 5
    • Roy Ludlow 3.5 / 5
    • Phillip Owen 3.5 / 5
    • Chris Smith 3.5 / 5
  • Grading Prize
    • Kevin Lamb 3 / 5

Intermediate (U140)

  • 1st
    • Robert Parsons 4 / 5
    • Stephen Williams 4 / 5
    • Rich Wilshir 4 / 5
  • Grading prize
    • Allan Evans 3 / 5

Major (U175)

  • 1st
    • Chris Timmins 4 / 5
    • Timothy Woodward 4 / 5
  • 3rd
    • Andrew Borkowski 3.5 / 5
    • Martyn Harris 3.5 / 5
    • Mark Potter 3.5 / 5
    • Oliver Stubbs 3.5 / 5
  • Grading Prize
    • Robert Lanzer 3 / 5

Finally, the Bristol Chess Times put out a call to arms for any players to submit interesting games and my thanks goes out to Robert Parsons who won the Intermediate section with 4 / 5.  Below is a link to his game vs. Timothy Jones which showcases some of the exciting chess that was on offer during the weekend.

Timothy Jones (137) vs. Robert Parsons (137)View full game

rob

After 24…Rxa4 white resigned as mate is unstoppable.  A lovely example of how to blunt the ever popular London System these days.

Overall, an enjoyable weekend (full of personal regrets on the board) that I can heartily recommend to any club players in the South West next year.


mecircle

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.

December 2017 Review – Cup Special!

The cup is here! Brutal knockouts and underdog dreams reign supreme over the chessboard whilst clubs salivate over the prospect of silverware in the new year.

This month’s review will be a little different – sadly no game of the month (don’t despair, there’s plenty of tournament and league action in January so we’ll have to make up for it then) and little to no movement in the league.

South Bristol A climbed up to mid-table in div 1, Horfield C have relinquished their clutches on div 2, whilst North Bristol B extend their lead in div 4, but other than that it’s all ticking along nicely.

So on to the bloodbath that is the KO cup!

The major saw just a single quarter-final, but packed with enough tension for four! Horfield were totally on the back foot but mounted a heroic (well…) comeback and again won by the smallest margin leaving Clifton wondering where the wins even came from.

Semi-final predictions

Horfield vs. Downend. We’re going with Horfield for this one (editors intervention – bias much Mike?!). They’ve been consistent in the league, have the home advantage, are on a lucky streak, and crucially yours truly is not available to put the team in peril.

Bath vs. South Bristol. Again going with the home odds, we’ll take Bath to give South Bristol an early bath… But that’s ages away in February, many things can change.

December was all about the minor cup action. Downend’s strength in depth overcame the re-branded North Bristol, and will now face South Bristol in the semi’s who made it through with a stonking 6-0 win against Hanham. For this reason we’ll have to pick South Bristol for the win in February.

Horfield proved too strong for Yate and will meet Clevedon in the semis; who upset Clifton in a tough battle. That means giants Clifton are absent from both semi-finals, so it’s wide open! Horfield have the home odds for the semi, but who doesn’t love a cup run from a small town?! Clevedon it is.

We’ll be back in January with maybe a bumper edition of Game of the Month, and check back in February with the results of the KO semi-finals and a final preview.


mikecircle

Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.