Chess Endings

This may sound unbelievable, but before I drew that bishop+knight game, I had considered studying the bishop+knight mate about a week ago, and then thought ‘why bother?’ since I so rarely get it. I just finished studying the technique from Batsford Chess Endings (you really need this ending like the way they do it, toughest replies with alternatives, best technique. Had I decided to, I would have studied the same thing and had 5 minutes to carry it out in that game). I think I could do it, it’s a 36 move problem, but if you have it ‘nailed’, that should be enough, or even plenty of time.

It took me 4 tries before I could mate Crafty before the 50 move rule or out of time. Then I was able to do it twice in a row with 37 moves, and 1:46 left out of 5 minutes on my clock the last time. There are a lot of wasted moves initially because the knight, bishop and king start at practically 3 different corners of the board, and I end up having to chase his king from 2 bad corners as I get my pieces rounded up and he is chasing them around, while starting near enough a bad corner to run to. Just imagine if I had done that at the club, no would probably would have acted surprised even though quite a few people were watching it. They just expect the knowledge to be there at my level, and now I realize that it is actually my best bet for garnering wins.

I’m more interested in studying endings from this point. The BCE is a really good book, not anywhere near as dry as I had once thought. Some of these endgame maneuvers are a lot more interesting than finding the cheapo in some opening in an online game. Even with the openings that I play, I’d sort of rather study them than to see if I can run into some quick traps on the internet.

The other thing is “Who really ‘plays’ endings online?” OTB, sure it’s possible to get blown away in the opening for one reason or another, but I am finding that that is less the case. More often OTB games turn into that rook and pawn affair, trying to get the draw versus two knights, etc. OTB, people really do plan on playing you down to the nubs in and endgame, pressuring you on the clock in a long game, and generally holding out for as long as possible using every wile in the book. What happens when that quick attack fades into just a material advantage? That is when the superior technique comes to the forefront.

I came for the combinations, but stayed for the endings.

1.5 out of 3

I played an expert in round 1 and lost quickly and easily to Show Kitagami. I was almost blitzing actually, not wanting to “waste” his time – I used < 30 minutes. He played 1.d4, and then fianchettoed his king's bishop. I should have stood pat and waited him out, but instead made the mistake of playing a few sharp moves (it's _his_ system, what was I thinking?). I even blundered exchange and a piece at the end. I literally made a move as soon as he made his, then immediately saw my blunder, 1 blunder lost 2 things. But he would have had a positionally won game even had I dropped nothing. His observation after the game was interesting saying "my rooks were strong". I never heard that out of someone in the opening/early middlegame before, but he was right.

He said my move ..a6 “was weak” and it was, and also pointed out that I needed to get my c8 bishop developed (easier said than done from that position). Even if I had played Ncd7 instead of Qe8, it would actually be a really easy positional win for White after that, who has to sacrifice the b7 pawn, and the ending is not good (played it out against Crafty). After the game I played lots of variations (by myself) as Black and was amazed at how in many of them White was easily winning. The fact that I took a sharp hack of it meant that I really needed to play with _more_ care and time, not less.

Round 2, I got down to King, knight, and bishop vs. King – it was against Bellinger again, but after close to 100 moves, I ran out of time. Didn't have enough time for that ending and forgot how to play it, tried to mate him in the wrong corner of the board (as his dad was quick to point out, but they both knew that ending). So I got half a point from that game. I actually blundered a pawn on move 3 and was horrified, but we were both playing quickly and he didn't see it. hehe. He played Owen's defense.

Round 3 I played a little girl. She looked about 4 and acted like a little kid, getting easily distracted – I feel like saying "Polly, I played a little kid!" Should have got a photo. Anyhow, I can't even imagine how she got to that rating (1823) as it was a rather routine win for me.

Actually, it was a little unnerving to play against the kid because she took so much time, had < 5 minutes left at the end. It seemed like she was only looking at the board about 10% of the time while it was her turn. At first I once reminded her that it was her turn to move and she said "I know". She was really polite but it seemed like her strategy was to wait around until inspiration hit, almost seemed like she spent more time looking at my t-shirt than the board. She tried to read me eyes as I was looking at the board, on most moves, which felt sorta like cheating, so I would look at some other part of the board when I caught her watching me intensely for too long. hehe. But it just felt like I was waiting forever for no reason, that I just kept thinking to myself "Sh*t, if I lose this game after waiting around for so dang long over these moves, I may quit chess or something." haha. She offered me a draw like a move before I took her second pawn (she blundered the first). I was thinking to myself "I had to sit there all this time with seemingly nothing to think about on the board, and _now_ you are going to offer me a draw? No way jose.

My new rating is up, it’s 1763. For blowing a win in round 2, and getting blown out in round 1, I'd say that's rather positive.

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Positional Play

Sometimes people will say that I am a stronger positional-player than they are, like even 1900+ player on FICS said that yesterday (nice of him, either way), but most of the time I can just tell. If I didn’t play so many games in a row in a chess-addict, blunderous-like fashion, the rating would make that more obvious.

Part of it, I have had to learn from playing specific positions myself, yes, positions I didn’t see much of in books.

For a number of years way back when, I did not play at the club much and instead read chess books of grandmaster games. One can pick up a lot about what a correct Sicilian should look like, for example, from going over Karpov-Kasparov games just from reasoning out what they did, even if you are a weak player at the time, the ideas stick with you.

Oh, against the open-Sicilian as White, very bad idea to play this opening against me in general, I have always had a very high-score with it as White, even back when I was a 1300 level player. Largely this is because I grew up on the Sicilian, Kasparov, Fischer, seemingly everyone has played it at some time, very popular opening. I think ..e5 in response to e4 is way the heck stronger mind you. Many people can’t seem to get that glorious 10-move cheapo win they got out of it as Black from their mind, so they stick with it, forgetting all those 40 move losses where they always seem to get some crappy endgame out of it, if not outright zoinked in the middle-game. The thing about the Sicilian (yes, I make lots of mistakes in that opening) is that one mistake is usually decisive in such an open-position where every tempo counts). Why do I bring this up? Because I am usually better at taking advantage of that _one_ mistake. I see the open-sicilian for Black like playing with no clothes on for protection, vulnerable. Whereas ..e5 is like playing with a suit of armor.

Blunderprone on his blog seems to make that case for his going through the classic chess-masters. My strong opinion is that “it works!”.

Why this rant? What is my problem?

My problem is, well lets take blitz, if someone has really useful ideas on blitz, I am guessing they probably got it from playing standard chess where they took the time to come up with strong positional ideas. Even standard on FICS, I see a lot of bad positional play that I would not even hardly expect from a weak-rated OTB player, who at least takes the time to memorize some lines of theory if nothing else.

So, a lot of players, most sadly, I don’t really learn much from anymore. If anything, I need to play more strong players OTB, like ‘open-section’ strong. I’ve been looking around for tournaments lately because my club did not have a tournament the past weekend. I notice the dearth of local tournaments at this time. A lot of G/30 crap. To my mind, it’s sad that this is what chess has come to, though I’ve noticed that the up-and-comers seem great at going all over the map to ferret out any possible decent tournament at the time.

Blitz can be great if I am making some mistake on move 4 of some opening. Like if I play English as Black. c4, e5. then f5? d4! or something like that, to learn an opening in the first few moves it’s great, but if you know the opening, it seems there is hardly a point except that they know the standard middle-game sac because you are developing just for the sake of it, and not taking time to notice some typical flaw.

My favorite book, next to anything of Capablanca’s games was Mednis’ ‘How Karpov Wins’. I’m cracking up at some of these games now and the one bad review of it on Amazon. I played through this game, for example:

Thought ‘Ah! I’d like to try Black’s system for myself (even though Black lost!)’. Sure enough, Crafty had Black with a tiny edge over Karpov through the opening. The funniest part of this game (Yes, even Karpov missed stuff) was move 17. Black plays Bg4-e6 instead of RxR on e3. Crafty had it at 0.00, dead even, then it goes to .82 after that move, virtually ensuring a lost game as it’s opposite-side castling. Funniest part about that is that Crafty wants the bishop back on g4 on the next move! Game ends with a blunder, both sides missed a respectable amount of stuff during the attack. I forgot how many of those games ended with blunders – I went over at least half of the games, and should have kept the book anyway and gone through the rest. So like I say, best way to get rating points is to play higher rated players!



It is Black to move.
Black’s defense loses material. Find the likely continuation for this game.

Hint: I found the first 2 moves but requested the game only be adjudicate as abort because I did not see the combination or “sham sac” on move 3. I was awarded the win, though.

Combinative play


Combinative play
I wanted to post this quickly, so not much fanfare.

Time control is 15 10, and my opponent lost on time.

See the whole game as I dropped a piece early out of the blue, was so half-out of it at the moment that I actually thought the queen was defending it, then realized that was the bishop’s diagonal once he took it. However, when he made it interesting for me, I actually preferred my position once he had retreated his queen to d8(!)

At the end, I vacillated because I was worried about my attack and his at the same time. I looked at the Bxh a few times, but not until after the game did I go “Oh yeah, RxB and my queen and rook mate his king” – or he gives up queen for rook and is when White would have queen and 3 pawns for rook and knight. But what I didn’t see until I fired up Crafty was the answer to my question “What if he doesn’t take my bishop sac on a6?” So I could see the combo with not too much trouble but missed the Qb5! follow-up move which forces the trade of queens.

This game is a good example of what happens when one player outplays the other both positionally and combinationally.

Of course, in the game, I blew it at the end. He should have played Bd6+ at the end, then I play g3 and hold on to a slight advantage. We both got into time-trouble but he did first. I didn’t get into time-trouble until I was calculating Bxh, which is also when I lied down on defense instead of playing the series of moves I had thought about (perhaps Kf1 and f3).

He also missed 27…Rxf, after my 27. Rc2 blunder, which would have won him the game. But that’s sort of my point, this game goes to the best combinative player, especially as the appropriate positional defense never manifested itself for Black after winning the piece early on. Saving more time early on would have been helpful to Black’s counter-combination chances.

The Value of the pieces

What is your take on their values?

Please note, I will probably not agree with your opinion, but I would like to hear it.

Mine, generally speaking:
Pawn: 1
Knight: 3.33 to 3.5 ( 3.33 90+% of the time, same for bishop )
Bishop: 3.33 to 3.5
Rook: 5
Queen: 9.75 – read an article once, based on computer evaluations of GM games.

I google on this and most will say Knight and Bishop are worth 3 pawns (I’m aware, some will swear up and down that this is the case), some will say 3.25, one chess program I used a long time ago put them at 3.33.

For as long as I can remember, say 20 years, I would always take 2 minor pieces for rook and pawn try to win with that, so 3 is out of the question for me. The thing is that knight and bishop or even 2 bishops can interlock squares and compliment one another very well (perhaps a knight pair in an open position with queen and rooks off is worth less, but when does that ever happen), their synergy increases their individual value.

I’ve been studying a combo from a position in the Scotch, and I think Crafty may be hamstrung but whatever it evaluates the pieces to be (don’t know, just a guess). Whereas Shredder solves the position, and probably gets the piece value right under the covers. It’s just that Crafty will routinely go for this, but not have the human evaluation of the board to see that going based on point values can lead to crap. I think even “weak” players can often get the human sense of a position right, as it’s just an intuitive feeling. Anyway, I could post this example. I’ve played thousands upon thousands of games of chess, I have a pretty good feel for the endgame, and more lately for middle-game complexities such as this tradeoff for rook and pawns vs. 2 pieces. It only comes to my attention as perhaps an Achilles heel of a chess engine.

Chess Assistant 9

This is the best purchase that I could have made for a database/openings handler. Unless I want to avoid theory completely like some seem want to do; side-story to that, a guy played f4 against me in yesterday’s game 3, and needless to say was writing his own theory as we played. He played his system well. I’ve beaten him before in the Alekhine, and we almost played again once, where he choose yet a different opening, before we figured out we had been paired wrong.

But this program seems to do all that I was looking/hoping for in a “database program”. I didn’t even buy the standard database for it, just using the openings encyclopedia and the game bases that come with it, it’s nice that that is a separate product that you can choose to buy later.

Oh, I bought it at the club for $99 (but it’s cheaper online). I like that it runs on my Windows2000 PC. Appears it comes with around 1.5 million games on it. I was able to quickly figure out how to use it for reviewing openings. Supposedly there are these 900 or so photographs of players on it, but that is the one part that I couldn’t get to work, minor quibble.