Chess Puzzle of the Week (254)

Our 2023-24 season starts on Tuesday, with the gratifying news that adjudications (and also adjournments) are almost, but not quite, extinct.

But today I’m giving you the chance to act as an adjudicator.

It’s Black’s move in this rather unusual ending. You have to make a decision (and, back in the day, adjudicators didn’t have Stockfish to help them). Each player has to submit a claim. White is claiming a win, while Black is claiming a draw.

What is your verdict? A win for White? A draw? Or even a win for Black?

Do get in touch to let me know your decision. And no cheating: we’re in pre-computer days here so you have to rely on your own instincts and powers of calculation.

Pre-Season Blitz 19-09-23

It was great to have a full house of 22 players for this event, including a few guests and prospective members.

They were competing for the Polish Sokolsky Cup, named after our late President Abraham Neviazsky’s favourite opening.

You can see the full results here.

Maxim and Mike H

Maks and James

Alastair and Raghu

The control team: Andrew and Simon

Mike Healey with the trophy

Thanks to all who played, and especially to Andrew and Simon for setting everything up and running the event so smoothly.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (253): Solution

From a game played the other day between Bibisara Assaubayeva (2469) and Shrook Wafa (2111) (FIDE-WWTC-Pool-A 2023 Bydgoszcz, 2023.09.06).

I asked you on Monday how White should continue here.

The winning line is 20. Bb6 (obvious enough) 20… Qa6, and now the rather less obvious 21. Qf1!, when Black has no good reply to the threat of Be2. The best she can do is 21… Nd7 22. Be2 Nxb6 23. Bxb5, winning the exchange.

The game actually continued 20. Bb6 Qa6 21. Rxc8? Rxc8 22. Qxe7 Re8? (something like Rb8 or Qa8 would have kept her in the game) 23. Qxe8+! Nxe8 24. Rxe8+ Bf8 25. Be2!, when again Black has no way of breaking the pin. If she does nothing White will continue with Rb8 followed by moving the bishop on b6.

An unusual position, I think, with the unbreakable pin on the f1-a6 diagonal.

Here’s the complete game. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (253)

From a game played the other day between Bibisara Assaubayeva (2469) and Shrook Wafa (2111) (FIDE-WWTC-Pool-A 2023 Bydgoszcz, 2023.09.06).

White to play: how should she continue?

Do let me know if you think you’ve found the answer. The first move is easy enough, but the follow-up might prove problematic.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (252): Solution

On Monday I presented you with this endgame study by Oleg Pervakov, composed in 2021 and dedicated to the 7th World Champion Vasily Smyslov on the centenary of his birth.

White can draw this position as follows (note that 1. Nd7?! fails to 1… b6!):

  1. Nd5! f1Q
  2. Nb6+!! axb6
  3. Bd6! Qe2 (or wherever)
  4. Be5!

… giving this position…

… which is a fortress draw. As long as the white bishop remains on e5 and the king continues to defend g2 there’s no way Black can make progress.

If you assessed this position correctly you’re smarter than Stockfish, which, while correctly finding the best line, insists that Black’s still winning.

Even the best engines, it transpires, are currently not very good at identifying fortress positions such as this where Black can move the queen round the board and the king up and down the a-file without repeating the position.

Next time you reach a position like this you’ll know what to do! This position was again taken from Zlotnik’s Treasure Trove (New in Chess 2023): my review will be appearing on British Chess News very shortly.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (252)

Are you smarter than Stockfish?

You can find out by solving this endgame study by Oleg Pervakov, composed in 2021 and dedicated to the 7th World Champion Vasily Smyslov on the centenary of his birth.

As always in endgame studies, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you’re two pieces ahead. The bad news is that the black pawn on f2 is about to promote.

It’s White to play and draw. This is the sort of position that humans can analyse better than computers. Yes, that means you! Let me know if you’ve found the solution.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (251): Solution

On Monday I asked you how Bob and Carol reached this position after Black’s 5th move.

I’m sure you worked out the solution to this Proof Game problem. Their opening moves (don’t try this at home) were:

  1. h4 Nf6
  2. h5 Nxh5
  3. f3 Nf6
  4. Rxh7 Ng8
  5. Rh1 f6

This was again taken from Zlotnik’s Treasure Trove by Boris Zlotnik (New in Chess 2023). Enjoyable Chess Training for Amateurs (1600-2000 Elo) according to the subtitle. I hope you found this to be enjoyable! My review of this book will be appearing shortly on British Chess News.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (251)

Eager to get some practice, ready for the new league season, Ted and Alice arrived at the Adelaide to find Bob, playing white, already engaged in a game against Carol.

“What happened to your h-pawns?” asked Ted. “You should find some spares in the box.” “And why have you both moved your f-pawns one square?”, Alice added. “Are you trying to play like Kramnik against Niemann?”

“No”, replied Bob. “We’ve already played five moves each. Look! The captured pawns are on the table over there.”

“You’re coming to the BBQ on Saturday, aren’t you?”, said Carol. “It should be a great evening. I think there are a few places left so you’d better book them quickly. We’ll show you the opening then.”

“Hold on a minute”, said Alice. “We’re both taking our kids to the new children’s chess club in Twickenham Library on Thursday, aren’t we.” “They’re really looking forward to it”, Bob answered. “We’ll show them as well: they could do with learning some good openings!”

Can you work out how Bob and Carol reached the diagrammed position after Black’s 5th move? If so, let me know. If not, I’ll show you at Saturday’s BBQ – and show your kids at Twickenham Library on Thursday.

Chess for Schools Shortlisted

I’m thrilled to announce that my book Chess for Schools has been shortlisted, along with three other titles, for the English Chess Federation Book of the Year Award.

The citation reads:

There is increasing awareness to the value of learning chess in general education, but there have been no books in English on how to teach it. James brings a lifetime of experience in doing so and has now written this comprehensive book which fully covers how to begin. It is difficult to imagine a better book to give a non-chess playing schoolteacher starting chess classes for the first time. In view of the Prime Minister’s interest in supporting chess, this is a valuable and topical book as well.

You can see the complete shortlist here.

I can offer a FREE copy of this book along with a FREE consultancy session to any school in the area interested in taking a very different approach to chess. If you have children, grandchildren or other young relations who attend a local school, do please put them in touch with me. Now – at the start of the new school year, would be an excellent time for us to talk.

I can also provide a FREE consultation session for parents in the Twickenham area. Again, contact me if you know anyone who might be interested.

Email me here if you want to find out more.

Richard James

Chess Puzzle of the Week (250): Solution

This week’s problem, with White mate in 5 moves, was composed by Darjan Marjanovic (Mat Plus 2009).

I’m sure you found the solution, involving two underpromotions.

1. c8B Kg1 2. Bh3 Kh1 3. a7 Kg1 4. a8R Kh1 5. Ra1#

Next time you reach an endings with seven extra pawns you’ll know exactly what to do!