Saturday, April 14, 2018

Endgame Analysis: Rook Endgames With an Extra Pawn

Hello again everyone, and welcome to my latest article on the endgame. It's probably been well over three months since the last time I published an endgame article.

Just to give perspective on how this article has come about, has anybody ever told you that chess is a lot like the news? Take The Rachel Maddow Show (Weeknights, 9pm Eastern on MSNBC). Many times, she has started her show with a statement that she had many topics planned for her show that night, but one or two breaking news items in the last 30 minutes has just completely wiped all that out, and the next hour is spent covering those breaking news items.

Well, in many ways, that's what happened here. Originally, I was going to publish the fourth edition of The French Connection, but that is going to have to wait until the next publication. Instead, we are going to be looking at a rook endgame that happened this past Tuesday night. The tricky thing about rook endgames is that even the slightest of errors can completely change the assessment of the position. We are going to look at one here where a couple of wrong moves were made by both sides, but in the end it was White, who was probably "better but not winning" going into the endgame being up the pawn, won.

With that said, let's see what happened.


Tuesday Night Action 41, Round 5
W: Patrick McCartney (2049)
B: Adityz Shivapooja (1887)

We are going to start at the position where the Rook endgame virtually began.


Position after 32...Ra4


First let's make a few assessments about the position:
  • Black will grab a pawn. There is no way for White to save both the a-pawn and the c-pawn as 33.Rb2 will be answered by 33...Rc4!, winning the c-pawn.
  • The only way for White to get a pawn while Black is getting his is to go for the c-pawn. This is going to result in a case of White having his Rook in front of the passed Pawn. Before White will ever be able to get behind it, Black will reach that point first by going to the c-file. With his own passed a-pawn to boot, these pawns are eventually going to get traded.
  • Rook and 4 Pawns versus Rook and 3 Pawns, namely e-, f-, g-, and h- versus f-, g-, and h-, is often viewed as a theoretical draw. However, here we have Rook and 3 Pawns versus Rook and 2 Pawns with Black's pawns being split on the kingside.
So let's absorb what we have here. White doesn't want to outright lose the extra pawn and give only Black a passed pawn. Therefore, he will have to go for the c-pawn. This is follow up with a trade of queenside pawns, and so therefore, White has to focus his attention on the kingside majority if he wants any chance at winning. This pretty much drives the idea of what happened the next 10 moves or so.

33.Rc7 Rxa2 34.Rxc6+ f6

Often times, if you are the side defending in a pawn down Rook endgame, you want to keep your most centralized pawn on the 7th rank if possible. It can act as a shield to your King on the seventh rank (second if you are White), and with the King on the seventh, the opposing Rook cannot check you from behind as you will just capture it. With this advancement of the f-pawn, Black always has to look out for the White Rook invading via the back rank, and in some ways, this is the root cause of what ultimately forces the Black King himself to get stuck on the back rank. I personally would play 34...Kg7, but the move played may not lose because it sets up a fortress that White will have a hard time breaking if Black uses the Rook purely to guard the seventh rank and simply toggles until White tries to do something as we will see a few moves down the road.

35.Kg2 Ra3 36.g4

Advancing the central pawn first, avoiding situations like 36.h4 h5 or 36.f4 f5.

36...Rc3 37.h4 a5 38.f4 Kg7

There was no immediate mate threat, but Black did have to watch out as White was about to play 39.Rc7, at which point, Black would be forced to further advance one of his pawns to avoid checkmate. or loss of the Rook. That said, 38...Kf7 might be a slight improvement, getting out of there and centralizing the King, intending to answer 39.Rc7+ with 39...Ke6. If White goes quickly running after the h-pawn, Black grabs the c-pawn and still has his own passed a-pawn on the side of the board away from the Kings.

39.Rc7+

Now instead, Black is forced to the back rank.

39...Kg8 40.c6

White wants to keep his advantage as mobile as possible. Advancing the h-pawn leads to difficulties making progress. For example, 40.h5 Kf8 41.c6 a4 42.Kf2 a3 43.Ra7 Ke8 44.Ra8+ Kf7 45.c7 Rxc7 46.Rxa3 Rb7 47.Kf3 Re7 48.Ra1 Ke6 49.Ra6+ Kf7 50.Kf2 Rb7 51.Kg2 Rb3 52.Ra7+ Kg8 53.Ra8+ Kf7 54.Ra7+ Kg8 55.Ra8+ Kf7 and it's very hard to see how White makes progress.

40...a4 41.Kf2 a3 42.Ra7

Note the timing of White going to the a-file. This is very important. With White's pawns advanced, we saw in the note to 40.h5 that one of White's main problems was the cutting off of the King by Black on the third rank. If White played Ra7 a move earlier, then Black could grab the c-pawn, and once White grabs the a-pawn, go back to the third rank to cut off the White King. Here, Black can try to check the White King and then push a2, guarding laterally, but eventually will have to take the White c-pawn anyway, or he can trade immediately like he does in the game, but the specific location of the White Rook following the trade allows White to lift the King past the second rank.

42...Rxc6 43.Rxa3 Rc4 44.Ke3

In many ways, White is trying to make something out of nothing, but when you are a pawn up and have nothing to lose, being a pest is sometimes the best way to go. Test Black on his defense and make him prove that he sees that there is nothing that White can do.

44...Kf7 45.Ra7+ Kg8 46.Rd7 Ra4 47.Rd4 Ra7 48.Ke4 Kf7 49.Rd5

So White has been able to bully his way to the fifth rank, but with correct defense, he should get no further.

49...Rb7

Black correctly continues to toggle on the seventh rank, daring White to try to prove he has something.

50.Rc5

White's ultimate goal is to get the King to d6, which he cannot do with the Rook on d5, so he shifts the Rook over a square to stay in close proximity with the King. 50.Kf5 leads to nothing. Black can toggle on the seventh and White can toggle on the fifth all they want. The game goes nowhere.



50...Rb4+

This move in and of itself doesn't lose, but why mess with it? Better is 50...Ke6, immediately asking White what he's going to do. After 51.Rc6+ Kf7, White has nothing better than to go back with 52.Rc5. If White tries to charge forward with 52.Kd5, then 52...Rb5+ and if 53.Kd6, then 53...h5! puts an end to all hopes of White winning. The White h-pawn falls. If 54.g5, then 54...fxg5 55.fxg5 Rb4 wins the h-pawn, and any trade on h5 leads to an easy winning of the h-pawn and a drawn position.

51.Kf5 Rb7

Correctly returning to where it needs to go as long as the White King stays in proximity with the pawns.

52.Rc6

Playing 52.h5 first does White no favors. Sure, it gives the King the h4 square as a hiding point without dropping any pawns if Black goes on continuously checking White once he moves the Rook to c6, but what is the King going to do on h4 anyway?

A word of note to those that use computers. Many computers have been thinking that White has a winning advantage the whole time, and some see this move as the blunder that allows Black to equalize. You can't trust computers in openings and endgames, and in reality, Black has always had the draw with correct play, it's just that now computers realize it.

52... Rb5+ 53.Ke4 Rb4+ 54.Ke3 Rb3+ 55.Kd4 Rg3 56.Rc7+ Kg8 57.Rc8+ Kg7 58.Rc7+ Kg8



59.Ke4

White makes one last ditch effort to win the game. Remember what I said about being a pest when you've got nothing to lose? Well, guess what, this one worked! Black finally buckled!

59...Rxg4 60.h5

The trick is that this pawn is forever tactically defended and hence poisonous at all times unless White retreats the King back to the fourth rank.

60...Rh4 61.Kf5


Black to Move and Draw


61...Rxh5??

This move loses now and will always lose! Black must play 61...Kf8! and White can't make progress. For example, if he waits and plays something like 62.Ra7, Black just continues to toggle between f8 and g8 with his King. Any check by White? Black simply toggles between the seventh and eighth rank, specifically on the f- or g-file, so as not to allow the Rook to ever capture the h-pawn. The moment that the White King tries to charge, Black either checks or captures the f-pawn based on the following circumstances:
  • If the Black King is on g8 and the White King goes to g6, Black checks from g4.
  • If the Black King is on f8 and the White King goes to g6, Black takes on f4.
  • If the White King takes on f6, then no matter which square the Black King is on, Black will take the f-pawn with check.

Following this script, White can achieve nothing better than Rook and h-pawn versus Rook, which is a draw. Note that Black can NEVER take the h-pawn, even with the King on f8. For example, after 61...Kf8 62.Ra7 Rxh5+?? 63.Kxf6 Ke8 (63...Kg8 leads back to the same problem as what happens in the game after 64.Kg6) 64.Ke6 and now both 64...Kd8 f5 and 64...Kf8 65.Ra8+ Kg7 66.f5 Rh1 67.f6+ Kg6 68.Rg8+ Kh5 69.f7 Rf1 70.f8=Q Rxf8 71.Rxf8 Kg4 72.Ke5 h5 73.Ke4 are winning for White. In the latter case, no matter what Black does, 74.Rg8+ is coming next.

Instead, the move played in the game loses instantly.

62.Kg6 1-0

So as we saw in this game, Rook endgames are the one endgame where being a pawn up is frequently insufficient to win, but the side down the pawn must always make accurate moves, and so the player up the pawn usually has nothing to lose by playing on.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The French Connection: Volume 3

Hello again and welcome to the next edition of the French Connection. In this edition, we will see our first game where White uses the Advance Variation. Just like the game seen in Volume 2, we will see another case where White has the opportunity to achieve the "Good Knight vs Bad Bishop" nightmare ending that Black is usually looking to avoid, but the temptation of a pawn leads White the wrong way in this game, and subsequent time trouble leads to sloppy play at the end.

In addition to the Good Knight vs Bad Bishop theme, we will briefly talk about opening move order tricks, a common tactic that Black must always be on the lookout for dealing with the d5-pawn, and that sometimes the best defense is sacrificing.

With all that said, let's get to the game.


Tuesday Night Action 40, Round 2
W: Patrick Sciacca (2130)
B: Patrick McCartney (2080)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6

So here, with myself as Black, we see the main response in the French Defense. This was actually the first time I have played this move in a few years, as previously I had been exclusively playing the 4...Bd7 and 5...a6 line that I recommend for Black in the French repertoire published back in the summer and fall of 2017.

While 4...Nc6 is the "main line", after the move 5.Nf3, Black has three main responses with a fourth sideline possible. These options are 5...Qb6, 5...Bd7, 5...Nh6, and the sideline, 5...Nge7. If, as Black, you intend to play the 5...Qb6 line, there is an alternative move order to specifically avoid the move that White plays here in the game. Black can play 4...Qb6, preventing 5.Be3 as then the b2-pawn hangs at a time when White would have no compensation for it. After 4...Qb6, 5.Nf3 Nc6 directly transposes to the main line with 5...Qb6. If your intention is to play 5...Bd7 or 5...Nh6 (the move I was going to play in the game), then you need to be ready for White's response.

5.Be3

An offbeat sideline that some players will play to try to trick Black while others simply want to avoid all the heavy theory in the main line, 5.Nf3.

5...Nh6

With the idea that now, if White wants to take the Knight and ruin the pawns, White must move his Bishop again, wasting a move in the process. That said, best here is probably 5...Qb6, immediately pressuring b2. An interesting miniature occurred in the game Romero Ruscalleda - Pomes Marcet, Catalunya 2005 that Viktor Moskalenko highlights in his excellent work, "The Even More Flexible French", that went 6.Qd2 Bd7 7.Nf3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Rc8 9.Nc3 Na5 10.Rc1 Bb4 11.Bd3 Nc4 12.Qe2?? (Better was 12.Bxc4 Rxc4 when the position is equal) 12...Nxb2 13.Bd2 Na4 0-1.

6.Nf3 Qb6 7.Qd2 cxd4

It is best for Black to execute this trade before moving the Knight to f5. Instead, 7...Nf5 8.dxc5! Bxc5 9.Bxc5 Qxc5 10.Bd3 is better for White mainly due to piece coordination.

8.cxd4 Nf5 9.Bd3



9...Be7

This move is ok as the white knight has not yet arrived at c3, but once it does, Black should look at taking the Bishop on e3. Of course, Black can just as easily play 9...Nxe3 10.fxe3 Be7. Some may fear the idea that White can blow open the center with an upcoming e4, but that idea is a lot harder for White to execute than it looks. For example, 11.e4? fails to 11...Bd7! (a move you should get used to playing as it stops all discovered check tactics when trying to grab the pawn on d4) 12.exd5 Nxd4! 13.d6 Nxf3+ 14.gxf3 Bh4+ and Black has a clear advantage.

10.Nc3

White does not gain anything by splitting the Black pawns as Black is fine after 10.Bxf5 exf5 11.Nc3 Be6.

10...g6?!

Black should now take the Bishop via 10...Nxe3. After 11.fxe3, once again Black should play 11...Bd7, stopping all e4 ideas as the d4-pawn will then hang. Of course, the threat by White was to take the knight on f5 followed by the pawn on d5, and so Black is forced to either move the f5-knight, protect it with another piece or pawn than the e6-pawn, or cover the d5-pawn with a move like 10...Qd8, which is overly passive. This is why taking the Bishop and opening the f-file for White was the best option for Black here.

11.O-O

The immediate 11.Bxf5 exf5 and then 12.O-O is stronger and White has the advantage.

11...Bd7

Even after the push of the g-pawn, best for Black is to take the Bishop on e3 and follow that up with 12...Bd7. Both sides will continue to fail to make the best move, namely Bxf5 for White and ...Nxe3 for Black.

12.Rac1 f6?

Black is not ready to blow open the position.

13.Rfe1

After 13.exf6! Bxf6 14.Bxf5 gxf5 15.Bg5 O-O (How else is Black going to defend this? Taking the Bishop leads to the Black King getting stuck in the center) 16.Bxf6 Rxf6 17.Ne2 and White has a technically won position. The e6-pawn is weak. White has the dreaded "Good Knight vs Bad Bishop" scenario that Black usually wants to avoid in the French, albeit with an extra knight each, and the white king is safer.

13...fxe5

The major difference between white taking on f6 and black taking on e5 is that black will be able for force white to place a pawn on the e5 square, which fills in Black's hole on e5 in a similar way to filling a cavity at the Dentist's office. This same theme is often seen in the Najdorf Sicilian where Black has the backwards d6-pawn and tries to force White to place a pawn on d5 via trading pieces on d5 and using the White pawn as a shield to the weak d6-pawn. Virtually the same theme applies here with the weak e-pawn for Black.

14.Bxf5 gxf5 15.Nxe5



15...Nxe5

As already mentioned on move 13, Black wants to fill in the e5-square with a White pawn, filling in the cavity before his position becomes so bad that a root canal would be less painful than playing the Black position. Since White took with the piece on move 15 rather than the pawn, this piece trade is virtually forced if Black doesn't want to get blown off the board.

16.dxe5 Qd8 17.Bh6

This is a case where using the theme of the "worst placed piece" would have helped White find the best move. The worst piece for White is the Knight on c3. It would be better placed on d4 or f4, attacking e6. The former move also blocks Black's passed pawn while the latter also eyes the weak black kingside. After 17...h5 18.Bc5 Bxc5 (or 18...Bg5 19.f4) 19.Rxc5, White gets control of the c-file, and can at pretty much any time he wants to, post the Knight on d4 or f4, so there is no rush for White to do that and against most replies, White will likely follow up with 20.Rec1 and virtually dominate the position. The first of multiple opportunities for White to shrink this game down to two results. A draw or a win for White. Black has zero winning chances here. This is why he should take on e3 earlier rather than let white take on f5 leading to a rigid structure.

17...Rg8 18.Qe2 Bc6

Opening up the d7-square for the king.

19.Red1 Rg6 20.Qh5 Kd7

With the g6-rook pinned to the king and the d-pawn pinned to the queen, the cheap shot 20...d4 doesn't work. White simply plays 21.g3 and is significantly better. Black also can't simply rely on the rook to block the queen and remain pinned as Nc3-e2-f4 will win an exchange if Black still hasn't gotten out of the pin.

21.Ne2 Bg5

This is Black's best move in what is already a bad position as it gives White one more opportunity to reach the "two result position" via the Good Knight vs Bad Bishop endgame. What this move also does is offer White the "bait" of getting a free pawn. That said, White will soon learn in this game that greed will get you nowhere as that bait has been laced with a drop of poison, and if you try to go too far with it, that drop of poison will become a lethal dose!

22.Bxg5 Qxg5


Free Pawn with Check - Come, take me!


23.Qxh7+??

NO! NO! NO! White has the classic two-result position right in his hands! 23.Qxg5! Rxg5. White has the classic Good Knight vs Bad Bishop with the queens and all other minor pieces off the board, just like what we saw after move 20 in the previous French Connection article (link provided above at the beginning of the article). The dream position for White in the French Defense! White was tempted to grab the pawn thinking he could eliminate the one Black threat and then go after the Black King when instead the endgame, while it may take longer to execute than maybe White wanted it to, is simply the one-hundred percent safe route for White. He has zero losing chances, and Black is going to have to play perfect defense just to have a shot at holding the draw. In the position after 23.Qxg5 Rxg5, if given the choice, you would take White 101 times out of 100.

After the move played, White is going to have to walk a very thin tightrope just to hold equality with correct play by Black.

23...Rg7 24.Qh3



24...Rh8!

White said after the game that he missed this move when taking the h-pawn, expecting Black to triple on the g-file, a move that would be easy for White to answer. This one is not! Now it is White that is required to play perfectly to draw.

25.Qg3?

This move loses. White has two ways to draw and all other moves lose.

A) The first option is 25.Qf3 when after 25...Rgh7 26.Qa3 Rxh2 (26...Rg7 27.Qf3 simply repeats the position) 27.Qd6+ Kc8 28.Rxc6+! bxc6 29.Qxc6+ and Black can't get out of the checks. 29...Kd8 is risking losing as the King can never go to h5 to escape because then Ng3+ would win for White while 29...Kb8 leads to a surefire perpetual as Black can't ride the King up the Queenside or else the Knight and Rook come in an mate the Black King.

B) The second option is 25.f4 when 25...Qg6 26.Qf3 Qh7 (26...d4?? 27.Rxc6 bxc6 28.Nxd4 is winning for White) 27.h3 Qxh3 28.Qxh3 Rxh3 29.b3 is also equal, and might be what White tries if he is in real dire need of a win, but there is more risk of losing here than in line A which is an easy draw.

The move played instead leads to a forcing sequence that is winning for Black.

25...Qh6 26.Qf4 Qh3! 27.Ng3 Qxh2+ 28.Kf1 Rh4

28...Bb5+ 29.Ke1 Qxg2, covering d5 and avoiding the rook sacrifice, is also winning for Black.

29.Qf3



29...Rgg4??

Black blunders in time trouble and offers White one more chance at the draw. Correct here is 29...f4! when you have the following:

A) 30.Ne2 Qh1+ 31.Ng1 Bb5+ 32.Ke1 Qxg1+ 33.Kd2 Qxg2 winning.

B) 30.Nf5 exf5 31.Rxd5+ Ke8 32.Rxc6 (or 32.Rcd1 Qh1+ 33.Ke2 Qxd1 when 34.Rxd1 Bxf3 and 34.Kxd1 Rd7 are both winning for Black) 32...Qh1+ 33.Ke2 bxc6 34.Rd6 Qxg2 winning.

C) 30.Ne4 when the Knight blocks the Queen's access to d5 and the f4-pawn blocks the Queen's access to f5, and so 30...Bb5+ 31.Ke1 Qxg2 wins as there is no sacrifice on d5 for White.

D) 30.Rxc6 does not work here as Black gets out of the checks after 30...bxc6 31.Qa3 Ke8 32.Qd6 fxg3 33.Qxe6+ Kd8 34.Rxd5+ cxd5 35.Qd6+ Rd7 36.Qf8+ Kc7 37.Qc5+ Kb7 38.Qb5+ Kc8 39.Qc6+ Kd8 40.Qf6+ Kc7 and White is out of checks.

30.Qa3??

White misses his chance. After 30.Rxc6!!, removing the attacker, Black has nothing more than a draw after 30...bxc3 and now 31.Qa3 where Black has to find 31...Ke8 to maintain the balance and anything else leads to White being the one playing for the win. Play might continue 32.Qd6 Rh6 33.Rc1 Rxg3 34.Qxc6+ Kf7 35.fxg3 Qxg3 36.Qd7+ Kg6 37.Qxe6+ and it's pretty clear that Black's winning chances have vanquished.

30...Bb5+ 31.Ke1 Qg1+ 32.Kd2 Qxf2+ 33.Kc3 Rxg3+ 0-1


Always remember that dream endgame position for White and don't be afraid to go into it, especially in the Advance Variation. Trying to grab free pawns and go after the Black King in quick fashion often tends to backfire on White like it did in this game.

Til next time, hope you enjoyed the game and good luck in all your French games over the board, whether it be with White or Black.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Reverse Angle 82 Results

CCCSA: Reverse Angle 82

CCCSA: Reverse Angle 82: TOP

#NameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3TotPrize
1Daniel Cremisi2390W14W4W3 3.0125.00
2Mark Biernacki2183W7W8W6 3.0125.00
3Neo Zhu2150W13W5L1 2.0 
4Vishnu Vanapalli2032W9L1W11 2.0 
5Adharsh Rajagopal1980W11L3W8 2.025.00
6Pradhyumna Kothapalli1979W12W14L2 2.025.00
7Aditya Shivapooja1887L2D10W14 1.5 
8Sulia Mason2008W10L2L5 1.0 
9Advaith Karthik1755L4L12B--- 1.0 
10Donald Johnson1749L8D7D13 1.0 
11Andrew Jiang1715L5W13L4 1.0 
12Robert Moore1700L6W9 --- 1.0 
13Luke Harris1843L3L11D10 0.5 
14Austin Chuang1889L1L6L7 0.0 

CCCSA: Reverse Angle 82

CCCSA: Reverse Angle 82: Under 1800

#NameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3TotPrize
1Matthew Johnson1566W15W5W10 3.0150.00
2Joseph Gaynier1781W7W9D3 2.537.50
3Philip Leszczynski1709W11W10D2 2.537.50
4Debs Pedigo1300W6W17H--- 2.550.00
5Jeffery Prainito1601W8L1W15 2.0 
6Grisham Paimagam1556L4W16W9 2.0 
7Kiru Mendez1537L2W13H--- 1.5 
8Aarush Chugh1466L5D12W11 1.5 
9Rithvik Prakki1592W12L2L6 1.0 
10Danny Cropper1586W14L3L1 1.0 
11Daniel Smith1533L3W14L8 1.0 
12Sanjit Pilli1365L9D8D13 1.0 
13Francois Gros1361H---L7D12 1.0 
14Nikhil Kamisetty1357L10L11W17 1.0 
15Smayan Ammasani1337L1B---L5 1.0 
16Carl McKern1529H---L6 --- 0.5 
17Henry Chen1316H---L4L14 0.5 


CCCSA: Reverse Angle 82

CCCSA: Reverse Angle 82: Under 1400

#NameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3TotPrize
1Akshay !!!1075W16W3W2 3.0150.00
2Pranav Swarna1298W9W5L1 2.025.00
3William Merritt1241W10L1W6 2.025.00
4Mohnish Behera1125H---D7W10 2.025.00
5Sahith Tanuboddi1101W12L2W11 2.025.00
6Michael Castellani1066W13W8L3 2.025.00
7Matthew Mecia1229H---D4D9 1.5 
8Angelo Sciulli1156W11L6H--- 1.5 
9Ethan Liu1046L2W15D7 1.5 
10Raamcharan Puttagunta963L3W16L4 1.0 
11Jay Sundar934L8W12L5 1.0 
12Henry Nguyen924L5L11W15 1.0 
13Rohan Chugh828L6B--- --- 1.0 
14Henry Chen1316D15 --- --- 0.5 
15Wendell Burnett1061D14L9L12 0.5 
16Richard Trela871L1L10 --- 0.0 

USCF RATING REPORT






Upsets (150 points or more)
Under 1800 Section, Round 1 - Debs Pedigo (1300) def. Grisham Paimagam (1556) - 256 points
Under 1400 Section, Round 3 - Akshay Rajagopal (1075) def. Pranav Swarna (1298) - 223 points
Under 1400 Section, Round 2 - Akshay Rajagopal (1075) def. William Merritt (1241) - 166 points





USCF RATING REPORT

Monday, March 19, 2018

Problems From Positions At The Ron Simpson Memorial

Hello everyone. Those of you looking for the next edition of the French Connection, it will come in about another week. This time, having just gotten back from the Ron Simpson Memorial, I have five problems for you to figure out based on the most critical position in each of the five games. Note that these are not "Mate in X" problems. Your job is to find the best move in each case. It could lead to mate or it could simply lead to a better position. That is for you to figure out.

Try to figure out the solution to each of the five problems. Then scroll down to see each of the games in its entirety along with the solution to each problem. This can also be a useful article for those of you that open 1.d4/2.c4 as every game starts out that way and White wins all five games, although in one of them Black missed a win!


Patrick McCartney - Atmika Gorti




White to Move




Levan Brejadze - Patrick McCartney




White is winning after any reasonable move, but one move is better than the rest. Can you find it?




Patrick McCartney - Gil Holmes




Once again, White is Winning with any reasonable move, but can you find the best move?




Dominique Myers - Patrick McCartney




Black to Move




Patrick McCartney - Ziyang Qiu




White to Move






Patrick McCartney - Atmika Gorti


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 O-O 9.Be3 Nc6 10.Rc1 Qa5 11.Kf1 cxd4 12.cxd4 Bd7 13.h4 Rac8 14.h5 Nd8 15.hxg6 hxg6 16.Kg1 Ba4 17.Qd3 b5



18.Bd2?!

This move allows Black to equalize with correct play. The main thing about this problem is to realize that White is already better and that there is no need to do anything fancy. The simple 18.Bd5! gives White the advantage. The open h-file isn't going anywhere. White's Bishop is also ready to go to h6 to contest the fianchettoed Bishop. With the safer King and with most of Black's pieces either on the Queenside or completely bottled up, White's better.

18...Qa6??

The position is equal after 18...bxc4 19.Qh3 (19.Bxa5? cxd3 20.Rxc8 dxe2 is better for Black) Qh5 20.Qxc8 Qxe2 21.Qh3 Qh5 22.Qxh5 gxh5 and now 23.Rxc4 or 23.Rxh5 are both considered equal, though admittedly, I would rather have White as his position appears to be much easier to play.

19.Qh3 Re8 20.Qh7+ Kf8 21.Bh6 e6 22.Qxg7+ Ke7 23.Bg5+ Kd7 24.Bd3 Rxc1+ 25.Nxc1 Qa5 26.Be3 1-0



Levan Brejadze - Patrick McCartney


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.h3 e5 7.d5 a5 8.Bg5 Na6 9.g4 Qe8 10.Be2 Nc5 11.Nd2 c6 12.Qc2 Nfd7 13.h4 f6 14.Be3 Rf7 15.h5 g5 16.f3 Nb6 17.Nb3 Bf8 18.Nxc5 dxc5 19.O-O cxd5 20.cxd5 Bd7 21.Qb3 Qd8 22.Bb5 c4 23.Bxc4 Nxc4 24.Qxc4 Rc8 25.Qb3 Bc5 26.Bxc5 Rxc5 27.Na4 Bxa4 28.Qxa4 Qb6 29.Rf2 Rb5 30.b3 Rc7 31.Kg2 Kf8 32.Rd1 Rb4 33.Qa3 Rc3



34.d6

Sure this wins, but it is not White's best move. The correct answer is 34.Rc1! This move forces Black to either surrender the c-file to White, or else surrender the a-pawn, putting him down two pawns. After 34...Rc7 35.Rfc2, the open file is White's. If instead 34...Qc5 or 34...Qc7, then a trade on c3 can be followed by grabbing the a-pawn.

34...Ke7 35.d7+ Kd8 36.Rd5 a4 37.h6 Rc5 38.Rd3 Qa5 39.Qb2 Qc7 40.Qd2 Rb6 41.bxa4 Rb1 42.Rb3 Rbc1 43.Rb2 R5c4 44.Qd5 Qxd7 45.Qxd7+ Kxd7 46.Rxb7+ Kc6 47.Rxh7 Rxa4 48.Rf7 Kc5 49.Rc7+ 1-0



Patrick McCartney - Gil Holmes


1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 a6 6.a4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 a5 8.O-O O-O 9.Qc2 Bd7 10.Qxc4 Bxd2 11.Nfxd2 Bc6 12.e4 Qd7 13.Nc3 Rd8 14.Nb3 Na6 15.Rfd1 Nb4 16.Nc5 Qe7 17.d5 exd5 18.exd5 b6 19.dxc6 bxc5 20.Re1 Qf8 21.Rad1 Rab8 22.Nb5 Rb6 23.Rxd8 Qxd8 24.Qxc5 h6



25.Qxb6!!

There is no way for Black to stop the c-pawn following this Queen sacrifice. White will immediately win the material back and then some.

25.cxb6 26.c7 Qc8

Or 26...Qd7 27.Bb7

27.Rd1 Nd7 28.Bh3 Nd5 29.Rxd5 Qe8 30.Rxd7 Qe1+ 31.Bf1 1-0



Dominique Myers - Patrick McCartney


1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 c6 5.Nf3 d5 6.O-O Bd6 7.b3 Qe7 8.a4 a5 9.Ba3 Bxa3 10.Nxa3 O-O 11.Qc1 Nbd7 12.Qb2 Ne4 13.Nc2 g5 14.Nce1 g4 15.Nd2 Qg5 16.e3 Rf6 17.Nd3 Nf8 18.Nf4 Ng6 19.h4 Nxh4 20.gxh4 Qxh4 21.Nxe4 fxe4 22.Ne2 Bd7 23.Ng3 Raf8 24.Rfe1 Rh6 25.Nf1 Rf3 26.Ra2 Rh3 27.Bxh3 Qxh3 28.Ng3 Qh2+ 29.Kf1 Rf6 30.Nxe4 Qh1+ 31.Ke2 Qxe4 32.Rg1 Be8 33.Qc2 Qf3+ 34.Ke1 Bg6 35.Qe2 Qe4 36.Rb2 h5 37.c5 e5 38.dxe5 Qxe5 39.Qd2 Be4 40.f4 Qe7 41.b4 Bf3 42.bxa5 Rxf4 43.Rxb7 Qe5 44.Qd3 Re4 45.Kf1



45...Qa1+??

In severe time trouble, Black buckles. Black is absolutely crushing White after 45...Qh2!!. For example, 46.a6 g3 47.Rb2 Qxb2 48.Rxg3+ Bg4 49.a7 Qa1+ 50.Kg2 Qxa4 51.Qf1 Qxa7 and White's busted.

46.Rb1 Qxa4 47.a6 Qa2 48.Rb8+ Kf7 49.Rb7+ Ke6 50.Rh7 Qa1+ 51.Kf2 Qa2+ 52.Kg3 Be2 53.Qc3 d4 54.exd4 Qxa6 55.Rh6+ Kd7 56.Ra1 1-0



Patrick McCartney - Ziyang Qiu


1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qc2 e6 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Qa5 8.Nd2 Ne4 9.Ndxe4 dxe4 10.Bf4 O-O 11.Be2 e5 12.Bg3 f5 13.dxe5 Nxe5 14.O-O Be6



15.Nxe4!

White tactically wins at least a pawn with this move.

15...fxe4 16.Qxe4 Bd6

Or 16...Rf5 17.a3 Bd6 18.Rfd1 Bc7 19.f4 Rff8 20.b4 followed by 21.fxe5!

17.b4! Qxb4

Or 17...Qc7 18.c5 and White gets the piece back.

18...Bf5 19.Bxd6 Qxd6 20.Qd4 Qxd4 21.exd4 Rfe8 22.Bf3 Bd3 23.Rfc1 Rad8 24.d5 c5 25.Rc3 Bf5 26.Kf1 Rd6 27.Re1 Rxe1+ 28.Kxe1 Kf7 29.Kd2 Ke7 30.Rb3 Rb6 31.Rxb6 axb6 32.Ke3 Kd6 33.Be4 Bd7 34.Bxh7 b5 35.cxb5 Bxb5 36.Bd3 Be8 37.f4 b5 38.Be4 b4 39.g4 Bb5 40.h4 Bc4 41.h5 Bxa2 42.g5 Ke7 43.h6 gxh6 44.gxh6 Kf6 45.f5 Bc4 46.d6 Bb5 47.h7 1-0

Spring 2018 GM/IM/Junior Norm Invitational Preview



Author: Grant Oen, CCCSA Assistant Director



This Spring's GM/IM Norm Invitational will be our fifth Invitational tournament - our first four events have produced 12 FIDE title norms.  There will be twenty players, among them 3 GMs, 9 IMs, 5 FMs, and 3 NMs, each rated over 2300 USCF.  Fourteen of these players will be competing to earn their title norms and titles.  The average rating is 2375 FIDE and 2460 USCF!

Here are the players:

GM Section


GM Tanguy Ringoir (Belgium, FIDE 2541, USCF 2614)
·         Best Wins: 2600+ GMs Lenic, Najer, Georgiev, Ganguly, and Durarbayli
·         Fourth highest rated player in Belgium
·         Represented Belgium twice at the World Chess Olympiad
·         3 time Belgian National Champion
·         Member, UMBC Chess Team
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: =3rd place – 5.5/9 (November 2017 GM); 1st place – 7.5/9 (March 2017 GM); =3rd place – 5.0/9 (March 2016)
·         Wikipedia page



IM Michael Brown (California, FIDE 2497, USCF 2588)
·         Best Wins: 2600+ GMs Yu Yangyi, Almasi, Bachmann, Akobian, Bok, Zherebukh, Izoria, Avrukh
·         #9 under 21 in the USA, #39 overall in the USA
·         2 GM norms
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: 2nd place – 6.0/9 (March 2017 GM); =3rd place – 5.0/9 and IM norm (March 2016 GM)
·         Needs 6.5/9 for final GM norm and GM title

IM Michael Brown will seek to complete his GM title in Charlotte


GM Ashwin Jayaram (India, FIDE 2484, USCF 2576)
·         Best Wins: 2600+ GMs Swiercz, Negi, Fedorov, Petrosian, Volkov, Svetushin
·         #39 in India
·         Former member, Webster University Chess Team
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: =6th place – 4.0/9 (March 2016 GM)


Indian GM Ashwin Jayaram


IM Steven Zierk (California, FIDE 2482, USCF 2543)
·         Best Wins: GMs Azarov, Van Wely, Sadorra, Georgiev, Erenburg, Stripunsky, Huschenbeth
·         #59 overall in the USA
·         2 GM norms
·         2010 World Under 18 Champion
·         MIT Graduate
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: =5th place – 4.0/9 (January 2018 GM); 5th place – 4.5/9 (March 2016 GM)
·         Wikipedia page
·         Needs 6.5/9 for final GM norm and GM title


IM John Bartholomew (Minnesota, FIDE 2477, USCF 2575)
·         Best Wins: GMs Sethuraman, Shabalov, Lenderman, Becerra, Urkedal, Rambaldi, Paragua
·         #50 overall in the USA
·         1 GM norm
·         Former member, UT Dallas Chess Team
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: 1st place – 6.0/9 (January 2018 GM); =3rd place – 4.5/9 (March 2017 GM)
·         Famous youtuber
·         Needs 6.5/9 for second GM norm


IM John "fins" Bartholomew will return to Charlotte for a third Invitational


GM Denes Boros (Hungary, FIDE 2429, USCF 2500)
·         Best Wins: GMs So, Meier, Nyzhnyk, Bruzon, Naroditsky, Mamedov, Stukopin, Shulman, Dragun, Friedel, Vovk, Amin
·         #50 overall in Hungary
·         2016 St Louis Club Co-champion
·         Represented Hungary at European Team Championships and a Gold Medal at the 2003 U16 World Chess Olympiad
·         Former member, Webster University Chess Team
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: =8th place – 3.5/9 (November 2017 GM)
·         Wikipedia page


IM Craig Hilby (California, FIDE 2419, USCF 2549)
·         Best Wins: GMs Gelashvili, Quesada Perez, Shabalov, Sevillano, Mikhalevski, Macieja, Holt
·         #3 age 17 in USA, #62 overall in USA
·         First event in Charlotte
·         Needs 6.5/9 for first GM norm

IM Craig Hilby will seek his first GM norm


IM Kassa Korley (Denmark, FIDE 2385, USCF 2477)
·         Best Wins: GMs Dreev, Ganguly, Zherebukh, Stripunsky, Shabalov, Gelashvili, Hector, Danielsen, Kekelidze
·         #26 in Denmark
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: =8th place – 3.5/9 (January 2018 GM); =6th place – 4.0/9 (March 2016 GM)
·         Needs 6.5/9 for first GM norm


IM Philip Wang (California, FIDE 2380, USCF 2474)
·         Best Wins: GMs Akobian, Boros
·         #99 overall in USA
·         First event in Charlotte
·         Needs 6.5/9 for first GM norm

California's IM Philip Wang


FM Brandon Jacobson (New Jersey, FIDE 2329, USCF 2454)
·         Best Wins: GMs Kacheishvili, Stripunsky, Glek, Burke, Hevia, Kudrin, Rohde
·         #2 fourteen year old in USA, #5 blitz rating under 16 in USA, #1 quick rating under 16 in USA
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: 10th place – 2.5/9 (January 2018 GM)
·         Needs 6.5/9 for first GM norm or 4.5/9 for first IM norm



IM Section


IM Felix Ynojosa Aponte (Venezuela, FIDE 2390, USCF 2471)
·         Best Wins: GMs Smeets, Belous, Vasquez Schroeder, Ortiz Suarez, Dragun, Kaidanov, Fontaine, Cori
·         #8 in Venezuela
·         Represented Venezuela in 2012 and 2014 World Chess Olympiads
·         Member, UT Rio Grande Valley Chess Team
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: 1st place – 7.0/9 (March 2018 IM)

Venezuelan IM Felix Ynojosa Aponte will return to Charlotte for a second event



John Ludwig (Florida, FIDE 2388, USCF 2459)
·         Best Wins: GMs Becerra, Sevillano, Mitkov
·         #8 age 17 in USA
·         2 IM norms
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: =2nd place – 5.0/9 (November 2017 IM); =1st place – 6.5/9 and IM norm (March 2017 IM)
·         Needs 6.5/9 for final IM norm and IM title



IM Roberto Martin del Campo (Mexico, FIDE 2357, USCF 2429)
·         Best Wins: GMs Adly, Agdestein, Becerra, Zapata, Kunte, Gurevich, Sisniega, Kudrin, Browne
·         #10 in Mexico
·         Represented Mexico at four World Chess Olympiads
·         1985 Mexican Junior Champion
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: =2nd place – 5.0/9 (November 2017 IM); =7th place – 4.0/9 (March 2017); =1st place – 6.5/9 (March 2016 IM)
·         Wikipedia page

IM Roberto Martin del Campo


FM/WIM Annie Wang (California, FIDE 2321, USCF 2382)
·         Best Wins: IMs Kiewra, Ruiz, Ynojosa Aponte, Peters, WGMs Foisor and Abrahamyan
·         #1 fifteen year old girls in USA, #8 women overall in USA, #1 blitz rating for girls under 21 in USA
·         Gold Medal, 2017 World Girls U16 Championship
·         First event in Charlotte
·         Needs 6.5/9 for IM norm or 6.0/9 for WGM norm




FM Gauri Shankar (India, FIDE 2315, USCF 2417)
·         Best Wins: GMs Lenderman, Barbosa, Gurevich, Zapata
·         #9 player in Illinois
·         Has played in every Charlotte Invitational
·         5 IM norms
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: =5th place – 4.0/9 (January 2018 GM); =2nd place – 5.0/9 (November 2017 IM); =3rd place – 4.5/9 and IM norm (March 2017 IM); =5th place – 4.5/9 (March 2016 IM)
·         Needs 6.5/9 for sixth IM norm



FM Christopher Yoo (California, FIDE 2293, USCF 2334)
·         Best Wins: GM Preotu, IMs Patel, Priyadharshan, Wheeler, Stopa, Young, Cernousek, Sukandar, Matikozian, de Guzman
·         #2 eleven year old in USA, #1 player by FIDE rating under 12 in North America, #6 player by FIDE rating under 12 in the World, former youngest National Master in the United States
·         1 IM norm
·         Became National Master at 9 years old; became FIDE Master and 2017 North American Under 16 Champion at 10 years old
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: 8th place – 4.0/9 (November 2017 IM)
·         Needs 6.5/9 for second IM norm

11-year-old Christopher Yoo will play for his second IM norm


Tianqi Wang (North Carolina, FIDE 2291, USCF 2368)
·         Best Wins: GMs Barbosa, Benjamin, IMs Javakhadze, Katz, Montalvo, Martin Del Campo, Brodsky
·         #60 American player under 21, #46 American player by blitz rating under 21
·         1 IM norm from March 2017 CCCSA IM Invitational
·         Has won almost every title in North Carolina
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: 5th place – 5.0/9 (January 2018 IM); =1st place – 6.5/9 and IM norm (March 2017 IM)
·         Needs 6.5/9 for second IM norm



IM Angelo Young (Philippines, FIDE 2260, USCF 2302)
·         Best Wins: GMs Caruana, Shabalov, Van Wely, Holt, Fedorowicz, Blehm, Barcenilla, Fishbein, Ashley, Yang, Shankland, Yudasin, Arbakov, Zaitchik, Stripunsky, Atalik, Kudrin, Finegold, Corrales Jimenez, Sevillano, Rohde, Sherzer, Benjamin, Zapata, Amanov, Diamant, Smith, Mitkov, Boros, Mikhalevski, Dzindzichashvili, Ivanov, Perelshteyn, Browne, Blatny, Zapata, Krush, Gurevich
·         Has played in every Charlotte Invitational
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: 8th place – 3.5/9 (January 2018 IM); 9th place – 3.0/9 (November 2017 IM); 7th place – 4.0/9 (March 2017 IM); =5th place – 4.5/9 (March 2016 IM)

CCCSA "Lifer" IM Angelo Young will return to Charlotte for a fifth Invitational


FM Sahil Sinha (Maryland, FIDE 2246, USCF 2355)
·         Best Wins: IMs Balakrishnan, Enkhbat, Brodsky, Kavutskiy, Young, Tate
·         #13 seventeen year old in USA
·         Previous Charlotte Invitational Performances: =2nd place – 5.0/9 (November 2017 IM)
·         Needs 6.5/9 for first IM norm

FM Sahil Sinha


Justin Paul (Virginia, FIDE 2218, USCF 2295)
·         Best Wins: IMs Ostrovskiy, Wang, Mandizha, Zlotnikov, Almeida
·         #10 fourteen year old in USA
·         First event in Charlotte
·         Needs 6.5/9 for first IM norm


There is also a Junior Invitational from Friday – Sunday:
·         Vishnu Vanapalli (NC) – #6 ten year old in USA
·         Drew Justice (GA) – #39 eleven year old in USA
·         Adharsh Rajagopal (NC) – #92 fifteen year old in USA
·         Pradhyumna Kothapalli (NC)
·         Naveen Prabhu (NC) – #65 thirteen year old in USA
·         Ziyang Qiu (NC) – #46 eleven year old in USA
·         Arya Kumar (NC) – #11 thirteen year old girl in USA
·         James Dill (NC) – #62 fourteen year old in USA
·         Austin Chuang (NC)
·         Aasa Dommalapati (VA) – #13 fourteen year old girl in USA
·         Varun Gadi (GA) – #12 nine year old in USA

·         Aditya Shivapooja (NC) – #46 twelve year old in USA



Please come and visit the Invitational, March 28 - April 1!  The event is spectator-friendly - CCCSA members may visit for free while there is a $10 day pass available to everyone else.