Problems in February with GM Jones

I was interested to receive feedback that it would be good to see problems that featured more game-like positions. This set me thinking. ‘Mate in 2’ positions are very unlikely to fill the bill as White must have a totally overwhelming position with a choice of apparently immediately killing moves of which only one forces mate next move. Problems in other genres – helpmates, selfmates – certainly won’t fill the bill! (Though most of us have had the experience of unwittingly creating an inelegant helpmate in the course of a game…) So the likeliest place to find such problems is in the ‘Mate in x’ field where “x” is a large number.

I haven’t yet come up with a really good example to publish here. A candidate would be this mate in 9, but it’s hard work just reading through the solution, never mind trying to solve it!

B8A6DD4B-B758-487A-975B-5403719F5FD9

Andrei Zhuravlev, U.S.Problem Bulletin 1995

It turns out that Black has to try to keep his Bishop on a square that guards white squares from which the white Knight is imminently threatening to reach f7. In case you’re interested, the first move apparently is 1.Ng4, and thereafter there are numerous variations, in each of which White manages to wrongfoot, and so overload, the black Bishop.

In fact, this is similar to many studies that feature such duels between minor pieces (it’s just that in this case penetrating the defences gives rise to a mate, not just the win of a crucial Pawn or whatever). And if we’re thinking of studies then there are plenty of studies from game-like positions that are much more enjoyable, for instance this one, by former World Champion Vassily Smyslov (Pravda, 1976):

5C95CAB9-EEB5-4346-8026-4BC1362DE56F

White to play and win (solution below)

I’m indebted to Jonathan Mestel, who expounded this study in a recent issue of The Problemist (the magazine of the British Chess Problem Society). I’ll basically be cribbing his commentary! It looks as though White has a straightforward win by forcing Black to sacrifice his Bishop for the fP and preserving at least his hP which will in the end be able to promote. After 1.f7 Ba3 2.Bg7 does Black have any resources? As Jonathan remarks, he could try 2…Kd3 3.f8Q Bxf8 4.Bxf8 e2+ when 5.Ke1? f3 6.gxf3 Ke3 is a draw, but 5.Kf2 wins.

535E4F52-2BEA-4451-83E8-B756765B2639

2. …Kd3 isn’t the answer leading to white victory with …5.Kf2. What else?

In a game, you might be quite pleased to see this way to give White the chance to go wrong, knowing that you’d resign if he played 5.Kf2. In solving a study, you’d look deeper to see if there’s a way to show this idea without 5.Kf2 being available to White. And you might then find (if you’re a strong solver!) 2…f3! 3.gxf3 Kd3. The point is now that now, surprisingly, 4.f8Q only draws: 4…e2+ 5.Kf2 Bc5+! and either 6.Qxc5 e1Q+ leading to stalemate or 6.Ke1 Bxf8 7.Bxf8 Ke3 capturing both Pawns.

424EF457-8E72-4716-A990-7DEC8A19B103

Amazingly, promoting to a queen only leads to a draw after 5…Bc5. Hmmm

So we need an under-promotion! After 4.f8B! Black no longer has his stalemate defence and we have 4…e2+ 5.Kf2 e1Q+ 6.Kxe1 Ke3 7.f4! 8.Kxf4 Kf2. Jonathan adds 8…Bc1, saying that then 9.Bh6+ (and not 9.Bf6) is the only win. I don’t see why 9.Bf6 doesn’t also win (in the end) – perhaps you may be able to tell me. Whatever – this point in no way diminishes my enjoyment of the main play.

6A76CA71-E601-40F1-9CBB-5250882E8A43

The final position


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Christoper 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).

Bristol’s Forgotten World Chess Champion

She was “the leading lady player of the world” (1) and “known throughout the length and breadth of the land” (2) in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The pinnacle of her career was winning the first international women’s chess tournament in 1897, but she lived a life of genteel poverty and died almost forgotten.

 

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Mary Rudge

Mary Rudge was born in Leominster on the 6th February 1842 to Henry and Eliza Rudge (3). Henry was a surgeon and “very fond of chess and played a fairly strong game, though he never took part in public chess. He taught the moves to his elder daughters, and they in turn taught Miss Mary”(4). Leominster was a small town and could not have provided much in the way of serious competition, so it is unsurprising that the first record of Mary playing chess is in a correspondence tournament in 1872 (5). The first mention of over the board competition is in August 1874 when Mary played in Class II at the Meeting of the Counties’ Chess Association, at Birmingham (6).

Two months later Dr Rudge died, leaving Mary, 32, and her sister, Caroline, 41, to fend for themselves. Both women were unmarried and they went to live with their brother Henry in Bristol. Henry was 37, also unmarried, and had been a curate at St John Evangelist, Whiteladies Road, Clifton since 1870 (7).

Mary started playing chess seriously and, for her, the move to Bristol was particularly fortuitous. Bristol had a long chess history; the Bristol Chess Club was formed in 1829 or 1830 and is thought to be the first English club outside London. More importantly for this story, in 1872, the new Bristol and Clifton Chess Club Association voted to admit women:

“During the year the vice-president proposed that ladies should be admitted to the Club as associates, at an annual subscription of 5s.,which was agreed to. We believe that no members of the softer sex were admitted as subscribers, by any chess club in this country, prior to this date.” (8).

Although Burt’s claim is very doubtful – there are examples going back to the eighteenth century (9) – Mary had ended up in a place that was going to give her the opportunity to play competitive chess.

The first mention of Mary in Bristol is in 1875 when she played Blackburne – who gave a blindfold simultaneous display against ten opponents. The following year she played in another blindfold simultaneous display given by Zukertort (10). At this stage Mary had not made much of an impact on the chess world. When John Burt wrote his history of the Bristol Chess Club in 1883, Mary was considered worth just two very brief mentions. If she had been recognized as a leading woman player at this time then Burt would surely have recorded it.

The arrival of Henry’s sisters must have caused a major upheaval in his life and, in particular, a need for new accommodation. Before 1876, Henry does not appear in the residents’ lists. In 1876-77, he was living at Walmer Villa, 48 Wellington Park, Clifton. This house may have been owned by St John’s, because when he moved to become curate of another church, St Thomas, Bristol, in 1878, he also moved house to 8 Burlington Buildings (now Burlington Road) Clifton. Perhaps Henry’s new post at St Thomas still did not bring in enough money because the Rudges had a new plan. The following year they took over the new Luccombe House Preparatory School on Redland Green; Henry became the schoolmaster and we can assume his sisters helped with the teaching (11). The school was described as providing “’high class education for boys, 7-11. Efficient masters providing a thorough grounding for public schools.” (12). The venture may have started successfully because Henry gave up his curate’s post in 1881, but by 1885 things were going wrong. In January, the school was advertising for pupils (13), but by August it seems the school closed and the Rudges left (14).

Henry moved to become curate at North Meols (15), near Southport, but Mary stayed in Bristol. What happened immediately after the school closure is not clear – Mary did not appear in two matches that autumn that she would normally have played in (16). But she eventually reappeared on the chess scene and this time she quickly began to make a real impact. This is all the more remarkable as she was already 45 years old. On 12th March 1887 she played on board six for Bristol against Bath at the Imperial Hotel, Bristol, and she got a draw against a Mr W E Hill. At the beginning of 1888, Rudge played and won on board six for Bristol & Clifton against City Chess & Draughts Club (17), and then drew with Blackburne in a simultaneous display on 1st March (18). The following year Mary must have really made the men sit up and take notice as she won the challenge cup of Bristol & Clifton Chess Club (19). However, the very same month (June 1889), Mary was in dire financial straits.

‘Our readers will be sorry to hear that Miss M. Rudge, of Clifton, is at present in very depressed pecuniary circumstances; so much so that she has felt obliged (though most reluctantly) to give her consent to an appeal being made on her behalf. We are sure English chessplayers will not allow one of their best lady players to remain in actual, though it is to be hoped only temporary, want, and contributions for its relief, however small, will be thankfully received by the Rev. C.E. Ranken, St Ronan’s, Malvern, and acknowledged by him privately to the donors.’ (20)

Perhaps the school venture had wiped out any funds or legacy that had once existed. Mary was reduced to relying on a form of charity, as she became a companion to various ladies. The most important of these ladies was Mrs FF Rowland, who lived at Clontarf, near Dublin, and also Kingstown. Frideswide Rowland was a significant figure in late nineteenth-century chess, both as a problemist and, with her husband, Thomas B Rowland, as a chess journalist and writer of chess books. And so Mary started alternating between living in Bristol and Ireland.

By September 1889, Mary was living in Clontarf where, possibly inspired by Mrs Rowland, she composed and published a chess problem (in the Clontarf Parochial Magazine) (21). She also gave a simultaneous display – she won all six games (22) – and it is possible that she was the first woman in the world to perform a ‘simul’. By November Mary was being hailed as “the leading lady player in the world”(23).

Meanwhile, brother Henry was still in Lancashire. By 1889 he had moved a short distance to Church Town, Southport (24). The same year he succeeded in getting a new post, as Curate and then Rector of St Mary, Newent, Gloucestershire (25). It appears that Mary decided not, or was not invited, to move to Newent. In any case, Henry was destined not to enjoy his new post for long; he died in September 1891.

Over the next few years, Mary took part in various competitions, playing for Bristol & Clifton, (26) and for Gloucestershire, (27) and also moving to Dublin for several months at a time. She won the Ladies’ Challenge Cup in Cambridge in 1890 and was third in Class II. By now, the British Chess Magazine could describe Mary as “known throughout the length and breadth of the land” (28).

In 1896, Mary won Class II at the Southern Counties’ tournament, at the Imperial Hotel. Mr Stevenson tied for first place, with a score of 61⁄2. The latter beat Mary in their game, then waived his right to play off, giving Mary the first prize of £5 (29).

The following year, 1897, the first international women’s chess tournament was held at the Ladies’ Club in London. Twenty players entered. Two rounds per day were played, with a time limit of twenty moves in one hour. Some expressed concern that the event would be too taxing for the ladies.

It is likely that Mary was urged to enter and her supporters may have raised money to enable her to stay for a couple of weeks in London. If so, it was worthwhile as Mary sailed through the event undefeated with eighteen wins and one draw.

“Miss Mary Rudge, of Clifton, won her games in the eighteenth and final rounds of the International Chess Tournament, played in London, at the Ladies’ Chess Club, on Saturday. Miss Rudge came out as first prize winner of £60, her full score being 181⁄2 points.”(30) 

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The first women International Tournament, London 1897.  Mary is top centre

The British Chess Magazine commented her play was marked by a lack of risk taking and published only highlights of her games, but they did confirm the status of the event:

“Rudge in capital form, … displayed those qualities of steadiness and tenacity for which she is renowned. … Her play was marked throughout by care, exactitude and patience. Someone said of her, ‘She doesn’t seem to care so much to win a game as to make her opponent lose it.’ She risked nothing, she never indulged in fireworks for the purpose of startling the gallery; if she got a Pawn she kept it and won, if she got a piece she kept it and won, if she got a “grip” she kept it and won, if she got a winning position she kept it and won. Not that she always outplayed her opponents in the openings, or even in the mid-games, for the reverse was sometimes the case; but risking nothing she always managed to hold her game together, and then in the end her experience as a tournament player and her skill in end positions came in with powerful effect.’”

“Miss Mary Rudge has for long enjoyed the reputation of being the strongest lady chessplayer in the world, and the fact that she has carried off the first prize in the present tournament, thereby becoming entitled to style herself lady chess champion of the world, is very satisfactory to her many friends.”(31)

At the age of 55, Mary had reached the pinnacle of her career. It is certain that the £60 prize money was also very welcome. Afterwards it was back to the more mundane life of playing in Bristol and Dublin.

In 1898 Mary played against the men’s world champion, Emanuel Lasker, in a simultaneous display at the Imperial Hotel. Lasker was unable to finish all the games in the time available (32) and Mary’s was one of those unfinished. Mrs Rowland described how Lasker had been winning but made a mistake. He graciously conceded defeat in this game when it was unfinished at the call of time because he would be lost with best play (33). She continued to play for Bristol and for Gloucestershire.(34) The following year, Mary was playing in Dublin “with great success”(35).

Mary’s health deteriorated sometime in the next few years. Her sister Caroline died in 1900 leaving her on her own. In 1912, there was a new appeal for funds. The Cork Weekly News published the following announcement by Mrs F.F. Rowland:

‘Miss Mary Rudge is the daughter of the late Dr Rudge, and after his death she resided with her brother, who kept a school, but since his decease she is quite unprovided for, her sisters are also dead, and she is without any income of any kind. She lived as companion with various ladies, and was for some years resident with Mrs Rowland, both at Clontarf and Kingstown. Whilst at Clontarf, she played in the Clontarf team in the Armstrong Cup matches, and proved a tough opponent, drawing with J. Howard Parnell and winning many a fine game. She was also engaged at the DBC to teach and play in the afternoons. At the Ladies’ International Congress, London, she took first prize (£60), making the fine score of 191⁄2 in 20, the maximum [181⁄2 from 19, in fact]. Miss Rudge held the Champion Cup of the Bristol Chess Club, prior to Messrs H.J. Cole and F.U. Beamish. Miss Rudge is now quite helpless from rheumatism and is seeking admission into a home or (if possible) the Dublin Hospital for Incurables. A fund is being collected for present expenses, pending her admission, and chessplayers are asked to help – either by influence or money. Donations may be sent to Mrs Rowland, 3 Loretto Terrace, Bray, Co. Wicklow, or to Mrs Talboys, 20 Southfield Park, Cotham, Bristol.’(36)

The next few years must have been very difficult indeed. In 1918, Mary attempted to solve her financial problems when a cousin, James Barrett, died intestate. Mary claimed to be sole next of kin, but another Barrett claimed to be the grandson of the deceased’s uncle and hence sole heir (37). Mary’s claim appears to have failed (38).

Mary moved, at some point, to Truro and then to the British Home for Incurables, Streatham. She died in Guys Hospital, London, on 22 November 1919. The British Chess Magazine accorded her just three lines:

“As we go to press we learn with great sorrow of the death, at Streatham last month, of Miss Mary Rudge, winner of the International Ladies’ Tournament in 1897.” (39)

So how good a player was Mary Rudge? Although she was considered the best woman player in the world it is doubtful that she was all that strong. A reasonable indicator of her strength is that she played around boards 4 to 8 for both Bristol & Clifton and for Gloucestershire, and that she played in the second strongest section (Class II) of tournaments at regional and national level. So, relative to her male contemporaries, she was not as strong as a top female player of today, but this is not to belittle her achievements. She played chess at a time when women were not encouraged to play, in fact often positively discouraged. She also started at a late age for a chess player and had her greatest success at 55. In contrast, when the first official women’s world championship tournament was held, it was a 21 year old, Vera Menchik, who was victorious. By coincidence, the tournament was also in London, almost exactly thirty years after Mary’s triumph, and Vera won by a similar score: ten wins, one draw, no losses.

Mary deserves to be better recognised and remembered as a pioneer of women’s chess. A blue plaque in Bristol would be a good start, but we need to find a building to place it on. Her only definite address in Bristol, Luccombe House, no longer exists (40). Perhaps a good alternative would be the Imperial Hotel where she played on many occasions, and the venue for her near-win against Lasker. The Hotel is now named Canynge Hall and it is the home of the University of Bristol’s Department of Social Medicine.

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Imperial Hotel – now Canynge Hall 

References

  • 1 Colombia Chess Chronicle, 1 November 1889, pp 92-93, quoted in Winter, E, Chess Note 3281
  • 2 British Chess Magazine (BCM), 1890, p264.
  • 3 General Register Office, reference March 1842 Leominster XXVI/194. The date of birth is often given, erroneously, as 1845.
  • 4 BCM, 1897, p289.
  • 5 Personal e-mail from C.P.Ravilious, saying Tim Harding has record of Mary playing in the first correspondence tournament of The Amateur Chess Magazine (Ed James T.C.Chatto) which began in the summer of 1872.
  • 6 Burt J, The Bristol Chess Club, 1883.
  • 7 Crockford’s Clergy List, 1889. 
  • 8 Burt, J, op cit.
  • 9 BCM, 2004, p666.
  • 10 ibid.
  • 11 1881 Census, RG11, 2504 / 23, 39.
  • 12 Web site: bristolinformation.co.uk/schools/
  • 13 Clifton Chronicle & Directory (CCD),
  • 14 January 1885. 14 CCD, Rev H Rudge is listed at Luccombe House up to 12 August 1885, but no one is listed at that address for the rest of the year.
  • 15 Clergy List for 1886.
  • 16 CCD, 18 November 1885. The two matches were an internal club match over twelve boards and an 8-board match against Oxford University.
  • 17 CCD, 18 January 1888.
  • 18 BCM, 1888, pp186-7. 
  • 19 CCD, 5 June 1889.
  • 20 BCM, 1889, p231.
  • 21 CCD, 11 September 1889.
  • 22 CCD, 30 October 1889.
  • 23 Colombia Chess Chronicle, op cit.
  • 24 Crockford’s Clergy List, 1889.
  • 25 Crockford’s Clergy List, 1890.
  • 26 BCM, 1894, p48; BCM, 1895, pp 17, 68, 511.
  • 27 BCM 1895, p220.
  • 28 BCM, 1890, p264. 
  • 29 BCM, 1896, p389.
  • 30 CCD, 7 July 1897. 
  • 31 BCM, 1897, p285-296.
  • 32 CCD, 30 November 1898, gives the story of Lasker not finishing but does not mention Mary by name.
  • 33 Weekly Irish Times, 14 January 1899.
  • 34 BCM, 1898, p200.
  • 35 BCM, 1899, p454. 
  • 36 Source: American Chess Bulletin, May 1912, page 112, quoted in Winter, E, Chess Note 3281.
  • 37 London Gazette, 2 August 1918.
  • 38 London Gazette, 8 November 1918.
  • 39 British Chess Magazine, 1920, p13, quoted in Winter, E, Chess Note 3281.
  • 40 Personal e-mail from G Nichols, 17 January 2004.

 


johnrichardsblogJohn 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.

The 71st Bristol Chess Championships: March 2nd to 4th 2018

In the thriving Bristol chess scene we typically have four weekend congresses a year (in line with the four seasons). What a lot of people don’t realise is that the Spring congress is also the occurrence of the Bristol Championships when the highest placed Bristol & District League player can claim the crown of Bristol Champion.  The championships are 71 years old this year so the Bristol Chess Times decided to find out more.

 

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The perennial Congress question: “Do I take the Friday night bye?”. Perhaps the hardest task facing the 2018 Bristol Champion

On the weekend of March 2nd-4th the 71st Bristol Chess Championships takes place at the Sixth Form Centre at Bristol Grammar School in the heart of Bristol. Grandmaster Keith Arkell (2411) is already signed up as is Bristol based International Master Chris Beaumont (2259).  In addition, Downend’s Attila Reznak (2280) adds to a strong field in the Open.  The Open carries Prize money of £260 for first, £130 for second and £65 for third.

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CEO of UK startup Chessable, David Kramaley will also be in attendance.

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The university will also be contributing a number of strong contenders

However, the beauty of the Bristol Championships is that its not just about who wins the Open.  A Major section (U160 ECF) and Minor section (U120 ECF) also enable two further champions to be crowned (which also carries first place prise money of £180 and £140 respectively).

It should be pointed out that anyone can enter the Bristol Championships (and are encouraged to from other leagues, counties and cities!) but the titles of Bristol Champion in the Open, Major and Minor categories are only awarded to the highest placed Bristol & District league players.  This makes the Bristol Championships an excellent choice for any league players who want a cracking weekend of competition, with a shot at winning something but might be unnerved by the presence of all those titled players!

Here are the last five years of Bristol Champions:

Open

  • 2016/17 – Carl Bicknell
  • 2015/16 – Stephen Meek
  • 2014/15 – Richard Savory
  • 2013/14 – James Cobb
  • 2012/13 – David Buckley

Major

  • 2016/17 – Andrew Borkowski
  • 2015/16 – James Hennefeld
  • 2014/15 – Alan Papier
  • 2013/14 – Alex Rossiter
  • 2012/13 – Harvey Atkinson

Minor

  • 2016/17 – Grant Daly
  • 2015/16 – Jason Blaxill
  • 2014/15 – Kevin Langmaid
  • 2013/14 – Richard Porter
  • 2012/13 – Alastair Marsten

The Bristol Congress Website contains the full Hall of Fame of Bristol Champions going back to the inaugural competition in 1947/48! In a subsequent article I fully intend to explore the history of Chess in Bristol.

All three champions receive trophies but even if you can’t win one (because you are not a Bristol & District league player), the congress still promises to offer an excellent weekend of chess in the centre of one of the UK’s best cities just as Spring starts to break and the sun starts to shine (editors note – ok I’m bias, I know).  Whats not to like?!

Here is a PDF download to the entry form:

71stBristolChampionshipsCongress (PDF)

Alternatively, contact Igor Doklestic (Congress Secretary) on chessinbristol@gmail.com.

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Igor Doklestic, the Bristol & District Chess League Congress Secretary and all around top bloke!


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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.

An Anti-London System based on Chigorin’s Defence: Part 2

A few weeks a go I published an article highlighting the idea of fighting the London System using principles derived from Chigorin’s Defence.  Given the prevalence of the London system in amateur circles and its reputation for being stodgy, I wanted to try to showcase a line that was more tactical and open in nature. The article proved very popular and promoted a lot of conversation, particularly around the 4. Nc3 lines.  Today we revisit this line to update our analysis and build upon this blossoming approach to fighting the London.

First of all, if you haven’t read my first article on this anti-London system then I strongly recommend that you do as it introduces the wider system and the four major lines of 4. Nf3, 4. e3, 4. cxd or 4.Nc3 and their respective merits. The rest of this article will not make much sense otherwise…

It was the 4. Nc3 lines that caused the most conversation online. IM Frendzas from Greece rightly questioned and then found a much superior line in the Nc3 variation that I had overlooked in the first article.  Lets take a look.

1.d4 d5 2. Bf4 Bf5 3. c4 Nc6 4. Nc3 e5?! 5. cxd5 Nb4

AL1

IM Frendzas puts our initial choice of 5…Nb4 in jeopardy

Previously I had suggested 6. e4 for white with a messy position but IM Frendzas found a nice alternative leading to a clear advantage for white, 6. Bxe5!

AL2a

“Go ahead, I don’t care about the c2 square!”

At first it seems astonishing that white can play this and voluntarily leave his king in the centre but as we will see, whites king is more than safe and ends up running to the queenside.

6…Nc2+ 7. Kd2 Nxa1 8. e4!

AL3

Black has won a rook and forced whites king to the centre yet unbelievably is in an inferior position

As IM Frendzas points out:

  • white has two pawns and a massive centre for the rook;
  • The knight on a1 is ultimately doomed;
  • The white king can run to the queenside (probably being the one to gobble the a1 knight)
  • Black is sorely lacking good squares to develop his pieces too.

Having debated the merits of the above position (the computer agrees too, giving an evaluation of between +0.7 and +0.9 for white) its hard to find much pleasure in the position for Black, no matter how great it initially looks.  The initial recommendation of 5…Nb4 doesn’t seem to be holding up  in the Nc3 lines so we need to find an alternative if our anti-London system is to survive past its infancy.

Line #4a – 4. Nc3 e5 5. cxd5

Having looked extensively at 5…Nb4 its too good for white.  Our subsequent discussions and analysis shows that the best line for black in this variation is likely to involve accepting weak pawns with the interesting move 5…exf4

AL4

Black accepts weak pawns to remove whites annoying black squared bishop

This leads to the almost forced line of 6. dxc6 bxc6 7. Qd2 Bd6 8. g3!

AL5

Black retains the bishop pair and has a clear plan of development

The position is unusual (something we wanted to achieve in our anti-London philosophy) and whites black squared bishop is no more.  The computer evaluation of this position gives us +0.3 so it would seem to give a playable position for black.

Conclusion

So our anti-London Chigorin system is still alive and kicking albeit with a necessary re-evaluation of the tricky Nc3 lines.  My thanks to everyone who has commented and contributed thus far but especially to IM Frendzas for his insight and analysis. So what is next?

Well despite almost all theory and top masters agreeing that after 2…Nf5 whites best response is 3.c4, I have still received a lot of comments from London players wanting to stick to their system with c3, e3 and the traditional London structure.  It seems that a third article may be required to look at blacks options in the event of the player of the white pieces proving particularly reticent to push the c pawn two squares.


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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.

January 2018 Review

Yes, January has been and gone and for the South West it meant club derby’s, new grades, individual runs coming to an end, and a bumper edition of game of the month!

Division 1

All three club derby’s took place this month – with 6 fighting draws at the cricket club (Downend), Clifton B overcoming their A team, and Horfield A restoring the balance in the universe with a last-minute win. It was a big win for Clifton B who separate themselves further from Clevedon in the relegation zone – the Uni are just above them so we’ll have to see if the students can repeat last year’s late winning streak.

div1

Division 2

Horfield C and North Bristol A split their matchpoints for the title race, so South Bristol B have taken a bit of control at the top for now; in the mid-table Thornbury scored a crucial 4-pointer against Downend C, whilst the latter’s D team struggle in last place.

div2

Division 3

Surely its another two-horse race between Yate and Keynsham this year; both close to 100% – their own crunch match is postponed till April. Bath B continue their winning streak with 2 for 2 in January, whilst Hanham A have climbed out of last place, leaving Downend E in their wake.

div3

Division 4

Its all about the resurgent North Bristol – they lie 1st and 3rd; the B team with a commanding lead at the top, whilst one of our games of the month comes from a crucial C-team encounter. The division has started to separate – still very close in the middle but with a few teams in the promotion and relegation zone (assuming there’s Division 5 on the way in 2018-19?! There have been a fair number of default points across all divisions this season but membership in general is growing).

div4

Statistics

The long harsh month of January also saw some individual runs come to an end, so we thought we would give some shout-outs. Jerry ‘unstoppable force’ Humphries was on 10/10 which is a remarkable feat in division 1 – but on his 11th game faced Andrew ‘immovable object’ Cooper – who stopped Jerry by continuing his 100% drawing record. In the same match Andrew Munn finally had to split a point peacefully – ending his run of zero draws from 13 games. A combative style is what we like to see!

Finally, the out-performers – players who are on a plus performance score compared with their grade. Congratulations to the following who are a whopping 30 points or more above their grade:

  • Elmira Walker (Downend, +30),
  • Yuvraj Kumar (Downend, +31)
  • Christian Brown (Bath, +35, also no draws),
  • Kwame Benin (Harambee, +35),
  • Pete Marks (Horfield, +38),
  • Max Walker (Clevedon, +39, also no draws),
  • Jonathon Long (University, +44)
  • Oleksii Novakov (Clifton, +45).

Game of the Month

We have several games to showcase this month all following a theme of defensive wins with Black. At the excellent Somerset congress in Clevedon there was two such games. Coincidentally a win with Black was exactly what I needed in the major section, but instead I got a little bit crushed by tournament specialist Chris Timmins. In the intermediate and minor however, players rose to the challenge and managed to resist White’s attack before clearing up the debris:

Check and mate

Rich Wiltshir forced resignation from his opponent with this very pretty finish.

Both wins allowed the victors to win (or jointly win) the congress – well done!

In the league Waleed Khan’s game was instrumental in North Bristol C’s rise to the top; with a calm response to an attacking battery and then some swift pressure on a bishop pinned on c2 and it was all over.

waleed

In his first season in the league, Waleed Khan posted a statement of intent with this strong victory in Division 4.  The bishop on c2 is hopelessly lost

But our game of the month come from the 4NCL (4 Nations Chess League) where Bristol regular Steve Woolgar played a blinding Najdorf and dismantled his opponent in 25 moves (editors note – did anyone win with white in January?!).

WOOLGAR

MVL would be proud indeed!  Congratulations to Steve Woolgar for the Bristol Chess Times  Game of the Month

What’s in store for February? Well its a startling lack of title race crunch matches, but that means plenty of room for upsets! More importantly its the KO cup semi-finals, watch this space..


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.

Using chess.com explorer to prioritise opening study

For most of us in the amateur club scene we regularly purchase books or trawl YouTube for the latest “Win with Black with the Bonecrusher Opening” (editors note – This is not a real opening). Many club players spend ages reading and nodding along with the main line of their new opening only to discover that hardly anyone plays it against them.  Thus the big dirty secret of amateur chess emerges – the frequency of mainline theory is far far lower in amateur chess circles. Often the lines covered as an afterthought at the back of opening books, DVDs and YouTube under the “Other sidelines’ title are the very lines that we encounter most often. Lets look at how we can overcome this problem using a great feature on chess.com called MyGames Explorer.

For a while now I have been interested in the differences between professional and amateur chess players with regards to opening choices.  Fortunately, chess.com contains a lovely feature that does just that! Lets first look at what this feature is and where to find it and then we will look at an example using the Nf6 Scandinavian.

Looking at My Games with the chess.com opening explorer

When logged into chess.com go to “Explorer” in the navigation:

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.43.47

The Explorer option is underneath the weird blue and white icon with an arrow on it…

You will see the following page:

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.34.00

The main Explorer page on chess.com.

At the top of the Explorer page are two dropdown menus. Change the first dropdown from “Master Games” to “My Games”.  And you will get a full breakdown of statistics for all your games.  The second dropdown menu allows you to view your games with black or white.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.41.42

With MyGames and black selected I can start to look at the opening statistics of different lines that my opponents play against me online.

Now you know where to find this great feature, lets start to use it to understand how amateur chess players differ from professional and thus aid ourselves in directing our study efforts.

Comparing Profesional to Amateur Opening Statistics – An example

Ive been playing the Nf6 Scandinavian for almost 18 months and like most players who want to learn a new opening I bought a book and started playing loads of blitz games.  I highly recommend Smerdon’s Scandinavian by GM David Smerdon if you are interested in this opening, it really is one of the best opening books I have ever read. One feature I love (which is sadly missing from most opening books) is a diagram outlining the likelihood of facing each line out of every 100 games.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.46.22

The diagram (editors note – taken from Amazon’s preview feature, I don’t know why its grey and blue?!) at the start of Smerdon’s Scandinavian showing the likelihood of each line occurring. A wonderful feature for all opening books.

Im not going to dwell on Scandinavian opening theory in this article.  What I want to look at is the percentages of common lines occurring amongst professional / strong players according to GM Smerdon:

1. e4 d5 2. exd Nf6:

  • 3. d4 – 47% 
  • 3. c4 – 19%
  • 3. Bb5+ – 17%
  • 3. Nf3 – 11%
  • 3. Nc3 – 10%
  • All other lines – 6%

This all looks nice and normal right?  It would seem that I would be sensible to prioritise looking at d4, c4 and Bb5 lines as part of my study. Now lets compare these statistics to my own experience in online games against 1300 – 1900 rated opposition.  The MyGames Explorer feature on chess.com shows me that I have played 340 games of (admittedly blitz) in the Nf6 Scandinavian and my opponents have responded in the following way:

1. e4 d5 2. exd Nf6:

  • 3. Nc3 – 26%
  • 3. c4 – 18%
  • 3. d4 – 17%
  • 3. Nf3 – 13%
  • 3. Others – 8%
  • All other lines – 18%

Comparing the predicted occurrence of a line in the book to amateur occurrence shows some interesting insight:

  • The d4 mainline occurs a whopping 30% less of the time compared to predicted theory.
  • The third best line for white, Bb5, is not even on the radar of most amateurs with a measly 7 occurrences from 340 games or 2% of the time.
  • The fifth most common line at professional level, Nc3, is the most popular line at amateur level occurring 2.5 times more often.
  • Almost 20% of players don’t take on d5 on move 2 (compared to 6% of professionals).  A response widely regarded by theory as leading to inferior positions for white.
  • The propensity of greed (i.e. keep the d5 pawn) amongst professionals and amateurs is about the same (editors note – this is a joke before anyone kicks off!)

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.59.47

Amateur chess players seem to demonstrate an annoying obsession with 3. Nc3…

To back these numbers up in over the board play, in the last 18 months I have played the Nf6 Scandinavian 12 times with the following breakdown of white responses:

1. e4 d5 2. exd Nf6:

  • 3. Nf3 – 25%
  • 3. d4 – 25%
  • 3. Bb5 – 25%
  • 3. Nc3 – 25%

Admittedly 12 games is not a large sample size but the percentages are certainly close to the amateur statistics observed online (with the exception of Bb5).

This is not the first time I have spoken about the differences between amateur and professionals in their opening choices. My article from last summer comparing responses to Larsen’s Opening has become one of the most popular blogs I have written and highlighted stark differences again. To me it is becoming clear that there is a demand at the amateur chess scene for opening statistics for the club level player to help prioritise which lines to study, especially given how time poor your average club player is with regards to study. This is exactly the gap that I see chess.com’s MyGames Explorer filling.

 

Conclusion

Whilst we all recognise that below 2000 ELO, opening study is unlikely to yield big changes in rating compared to studying tactics and endgames, we can’t get around the fact that we all love playing with our opening repertoires. Using the My Games Explorer has the potential to identify differences that we didn’t even know existed and allow us to plug valuable gaps in our knowledge at the amateur level.

I remain fascinated by the differences in move choice between amateur and professional levels and am certain that many publishers and producers of opening content could benefit from thinking about and recognising these differences.  In my opinion, we can’t ignore the fact that when it comes to amateur chess the sideline is the new mainline.

The MyGames explorer on chess.com could prove an invaluable tool to the average club player in terms of prioritising which lines to study or atleast which lines to have a response too. For example, I am now very comfortable with my response to 3. Nc3 in the Scandinavian scoring a respectable 53% with black. No I’m not telling you what it is, I need some secrets!

Thank you for reading and do let me know if you discover any other interesting differences in your own opening repertoires and if that changes which lines you study.


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.

 

An Anti-London System based on Chigorin’s Defence

The amateur chess world has been flooded recently with the London System, thanks in no small part I expect to GM Simon Wiliam’s excellent three part series on this opening (his three videos on “learn the London System have amassed 180,000 views on YouTube). If like me you are tired of facing this frustrating system as Black, then today I want to share an approach I have been working on based on principles taken from another of GM Simon William’s opening choices, the Chigorin Defence.

The approach I am advocating in this article is based upon the “copycat” sideline (as nicknamed by GM Williams) where Black initially mirrors White with 2…Bf5.

AL1

GM Simon William’s advocates that in this sideline of the London, Whites best response is to play 3. c4 with plans to play a quick Qb3 hitting b7.  Indeed, 2..Bf5 is the one move where GM William’s is advocating playing c4 (rather than c3).

So basically after 2…Bf5 White is left with two choices:

  1. Continue with the usual London System setup with c3, e3 and Bd3 leading to (in my opinion) a one way ticket to a boring line where Blacks moves are easy and Whites core plan is neutralised;
  2. Transpose into a Queens Gambit style position with 3. c4.

It was this “admission” to abandon the traditional London setup and enter a Queens Gambit type position that inspired me to try a response based on Chigorin’s Defence.

Chigorin Principles

The move order I am advocating involves transposing into a type of Chigorin defence with 3..Nc6 quickly followed by a later e5 break.

AL2

White is faced with four choices of which three score highly in practice for white, hmm.

From ChessBase, White scores the following:

  • Line #1 – nf3 – 77 games with a score of 67% and a computer eval of +0.20;
  • Line #2 – e3 – 49 games with a score of 71% (bare with me readers!) and a computer eval of +0.24;
  • Line #3 – cxd – 0 games (?!) with a computer eval of 0.00;
  • Line #4 – nc3 – 11 games with a score of 54% and a computer eval of +0.08;

Lets look at the main lines.

Line #1 – 4.Nf3

4…e5

AL3

Chigorin would be proud (if not slightly unsound…)

Played twice on Chessbase with a win and a draw for Black!

5. Nxe5 Nb4 6. Na3 f6?! 7. Nf3 dxc

AL4

Not exactly the nice closed systemic approach that most London players are hoping for out of the opening.

8. e3 Nd5 9. Bg3 Bb4+ 10. Nd2 c3!

AL5

The style of game and position is open and dynamic.  In the amateur chess world where the London is so pandemic at the moment, I would certainly like my chances of scoring well from here.

Line #2 – 4. e3

Again we stick to our Chigorin Principles with 4…e5

AL6

Played five times on ChessBase with a score of 60% for White:

5. dxe dxc

6. Nc3 (not 6.Bxc4 when the following equalises: 6…Qxd1 7. Kxd1 Rd8 + 8. Nd2 Be4 9. f3?! Bb4 fxe4 Rxd2+ =) 6… Bd3 7. Bxd3 cxd3 8. Nf3 Qd7 9. 0-0 Ne7

AL7

White has a pawn, and although not exactly the type of game that most London players want I’m not convinced by this line for Black. A better alternative to 5…dxc we can also look at 5… d4!

AL8

Whites best response here is 6. Nf3 followed by:

6…dxe 7. QxQ+ Rxd8 8. Bxe3 f6?! 9. exf Nxf6

AL9

A nice open board where Blacks loss of a pawn is compensated by open lines and great development.  The computer gives an evaluation 0.00 in this position.

Line #3 – cxd

Unbelievably no-one seems to have played this line.  The key seems to be the removal of the b1 knight before it gets chance to jump to c3.  As below:

4. cxd Qxd 5. Nf3 (protecting d4) Bxb1 6. Rxb1 e5!

AL10

This line appears to be the strongest so far for Black, breaking up the centre and resulting in very unlike London formations.

7. Nxe5 and the game can continue in a relatively equal position.

The mistake 7.dxe leads to advantage Black with the following two lines: 7. dxe Bb4+ 8. Bd2 Qxa2 OR the very nice line 7.dxe Qe4! 8. Qc1 Nb4 9. Ng5 Nd3+ 10. Kd1 Nxf2+ 11. Ke1 Nd3+ 12. Kd1 Qxf4 with a clear advantage to black (see below)

AL11

7. dxe appears to be a mistake as demonstrated with the resulting position above.

Line #4 – 4.Nc3

The lowest scoring line for White but it seems a sensible plan.  Lets strike again with e5 and see what happens:

4…e5 5. cxd Nb4 6. e4?! 

AL12

White is provoked into a very un-London like e4 leading to a messy position

6…exf5 7.exf4 Nxd5 8. Qb3 Bb4 9. Bc4 Nf6

AL13

In this line both sides get a game as they say with active piece development.  But at risk of sounding like a broken record, how many London System players envisage this kind of position at the start of the match?

Conclusion

Obviously there is a greater level of depth required to this analysis in all these lines. For the sake of this article I have ventured only a handful of the most obvious positions. At the time of writing I have only tried this approach in online chess with modest / good results.  However, I am excited by its potential and the reason for this is threefold:

  • In the world of amateur chess where the London System has become so prevalent, psychology and clock time play a huge part in leading to mistakes.  By forcing confrontation in the centre of the board with an early Nc6 and e5, Black is ultimately saying to white “I will not play on your terms“.  I would predict this approach to the London will leave the amateur white player atleast feeling uncomfortable, if not worse on the clock as well.
  • From move two you are forcing the player of the white pieces to make a choice.  Either accept that their conventional setup of c3, e3 and Bd3 will be immediately contested in a dry boring, drawish opening line OR go into a range of tactical lines involving high-levels of early calculation.  This choice is not one that I would predict most players of the London System are thrilled about, particularly in amateur club circles.
  • I admit that their might be some queries around theoretical soundness but even the initial analysis shown in this article indicates that white is at best only half a pawn ahead in the best lines.  Personally a cost I am prepared to pay in order to gain the psychological and time advantages mentioned above.

When you put the above three points together, you can see that here we have a potentially interesting line against the London System with strong practical chances. Just like the real Chigorin Defence, another advantage is that many of Blacks moves are thematic in nature such as nc6, e5, Nb4 and Bb4.

I hope you have enjoyed this line and if you have any thoughts, or better still, venture this line in one of your games then please let me know. I would love to develop the theory on this Anti-London System further!


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.