Saturday, September 29, 2018

Endgame Analysis: Bishop Endings

Hello everyone. Today we are going to look at three Bishop endgames that occurred at the NC Open back in mid-August 2018. As some of you may recall, I had done an article on Opposite Colored Bishops back in December (CLICK HERE to go to that article), and so here, we are going to be looking at one game featuring Bishop versus Pawns and two more that feature Same Color Bishop endgames. Each of these feature themes that are often critical in Bishop endings.

For those of you curious as to how each of the endgames arrived, I have included the complete game for all three games, but since the article is an endgame article, the analysis given will be on the endgame in all three cases. The unique thing about this article is that all three games below end up being drawn, and yet, only one of them should have ended in such a way. White should win the first game, and Black should win the second one! The third is a draw, but there is room for both sides to error.

Part I: Bishop vs Pawns

We will start with a game featuring one side having the Bishop and the other side having an extra pawn. This should almost always be winning for the side with the Bishop, especially in a case like the one we will see where Black only has one pawn for the piece, and White did indeed miss a fairly simple win.

NC Open, Round 2
W: Mohak Agarwalla (1977)
B: Patrick McCartney (2075)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.Bxc5 Nxc5 11.Nd4 Qb6 12.Nxc6 Qxc6 13.Qd4 Rb8 14.O-O-O b4 15.Ne2 b3 16.Ng3 bxa2 17.Kd2 Qb6 18.Ke3 Qxb2 19.Qxc5 Bd7 20.Bd3 g5 21.Nh5 gxf4+ 22.Kxf4 Qb4+ 23.Qxb4 Rxb4+ 24.Ke3 Ke7 25.Ra1 Rb2 26.Ng3 Ba4 27.Rhc1 Bb5 28.Ne2 Rc8 29.Kd2 Rg8 30.g3 Rg5 31.Nd4 Ke8 32.Nxb5 axb5 33.Kc3 Rb1 34.Rcxb1 axb1=Q 35.Rxb1 Rxe5 36.Rxb5 Rh5 37.h4 Ke7 38.Rb8 Kf6 39.Rg8 h6 40.Kd2 e5 41.Be2 Rf5 42.Ke1 e4 43.g4 Re5 44.g5+ hxg5 45.h5 g4 46.Bxg4 Rg5 47.Rxg5 Kxg5

So here we see White with a Bishop, an outside, well-advanced passed pawn, a c-pawn, and the King in front of Black's passed pawn. Black simply has 3 pawns, and about the only thing going for him is that the 3 pawns are connected. If they were scattered and isolated, the win would be even easier. That said, White should have absolutely no problems here. The main thing is to recognize a couple of very important factors:
  • First and foremost, with White having a passed pawn, Black's King is severely limited. In reality, White's Bishop isn't even threatened because the Black King can't exit the box crated by the squares h5-e5-e8-h8. If Black goes anywhere outside that territory, the h-pawn promotes uncontested and White wins easily.
  • The second thing to keep in mind is that given that White's c-pawn is not a Rook Pawn with a promotion square opposite the color of the Bishop, White does not have to worry about draw tricks from the stalemate perspective. If White can maintain the c-pawn and eliminate ANY TWO of the Black pawns, White wins easily. Use the Pawn and the Bishop to guard each other, and then tempo Black out and the last pawn will then go away, and White again wins easily.
  • From Black's perspective, his only hope is to get at least two connected pawns far advanced up the board such that there is at maximum one light-square (since it's a light-squared Bishop that he is going up against) between his pawn and promotion. He must also get rid of the White h-pawn and get his King down near White's final pawn, the c-pawn. This is a very tall task if White plays the right moves.
  • Given Black's idea, White wants to immobilize the Black pawns, especially the e-pawn.


This move is OK, but not necessary. However, it must be followed up correctly. A far easier way to victory was to play 48.c3!. Remember in the first bullet that Black is not threatening the Bishop because the White h-pawn will run. However, by playing the move 48.c3, White can keep the h5-pawn guarded, and immobilize the d-pawn on a light square, where the Bishop can then attack it. For example, after 48...f5 49.h6!, White forces the King back and away from the center as once again, taking the Bishop with either the Pawn or King leads to White Queening the h-pawn and Black can't get the g-pawn promoted in time. Therefore, forced is 49...Kxh6, when after 50.Bxf5 Kg5, the move 51.Be6 wins easily after either 51...Kf4 52.Bxd5 or 51...d4 52.cxd4, White wins easily because you have the Bishop and Pawn protecting each other versus the single Pawn scenario where White can put Black in Zugzwang and eventually win the pawn, and then the game easily with Bishop and Pawn versus the lone King.

Again, 48.Bd7 wasn't the move that White threw the win away, but why complicate matters when there are simpler wins out there?


Black can't take the h-pawn yet as 48...Kxh5 49.Bc6 wins the d-pawn, and while Black still does have two connected Pawns remaining, the e-pawn and the f-pawn, White's c-pawn is passed, and so Black won't be able to march the King deep into White's territory to harass the c-pawn and help promote his own e-pawn.


Here is where White blows it. White can either play 49.Bg4, going back to where it originally was, or else play the even stronger move, 49.Bc6!

The idea here is that if Black takes the h-pawn with 49...Kxh5, then 50.Bxe4 leads to split pawns for Black, which is far easier to win in a Bishop versus Pawns endgame than if they were connected. Again, the Bishop and c2-pawn will guard each other by putting the Bishop on d3. The d-pawn will be completely immobile, and White can use the King to tempo out the Black King and collect the loose pawns, occasionally moving the Bishop to "lose a tempo" whenever necessary.

After 49...e3, White has 50.Bf3, re-guarding the h-pawn and winning easily as the White King now has a path to d4 with the Bishop covering e2. Again, the Black King can't run to the d-pawn's rescue as the h-pawn will promote.

The last possibility is 49...f5, but here 50.Be8! does the job. Again, Black can't leave the box of the h-pawn. Three moves must be considered, but none of them work. After 50...e3, White has the simple 51.Ke2 and after 51...f4, White blocks with 52.Kf3 with the idea of 53.Bg6 and 54.Bd3, giving the Bishop the role of covering e2, and then tempoing Black out and winning the f-pawn. The Black King may be able to take on h5 after the Bishop goes to d3, but here you have a similar scenario to the game where the Black King is on h5 instead of being entrenched in White's territory. This is a simple win for White as he will collect the d-pawn with his King. The second possibility to consider is 50...f4, where White now plays 51.Bg6 and here, 51...e3 52.Ke2 is simple as we already saw this idea in the 50...e3 line. That leaves 52...d3, but after 53.c4!, Black's pawn mass is not far enough advanced. After 53...e3 54.Bxd3, the pawns are easily stopped while 53...f3 54.Bxe4, once again, the pawns are stopped, and the passed c-pawn wins it for White. The last move to consider is passively toggling the King with 50...Kh6, and here White should answer is 51.Kf2 with similar ideas to the previous lines. If Black ever advances e3, White puts the King on f3. If he advances the d-pawn, White answers again with c4, and of course, the idea is to put the Bishop on g6 and Black's position will crack.

The move played in the game fails tactically due to the fact that the only way to pressure Black's central pawn mass involves putting the Bishop on a square that Black can use to his advantage to gain the tempo and save his d-pawn.


Now is the time to grab the pawn! This leaves White with only one Pawn left, so even if White wins all three of Black's pawns, all Black cares about is eliminating the c-pawn, unless, of course, White just outright blunders and hands Black the win, but Black needs to instill reality into his mind and realize that even with the three pawns versus one, all he is looking to achieve is the draw, which he has there.


Trying to attack e4 from long distance (from the Black King that is) via 50.Bc6 doesn't work because of 50...f5. The longer Black can go without advancing the central pawns, the better it is for him as advancing one of the pawns weakens either the dark squares or the light squares around the pawns. Obviously, if forced to advance one of them, Black would like to put the pawns on dark squares so that the Bishop can't capture them, but for now, they should be left on d4 and e4 as long as possible.

By putting the Bishop on f5 instead, White forces Black to advance the e-pawn immediately, but it gives the Black King just enough to get to the d-pawn.

50...e3 51.Kd3


And here is the saving grace for Black. The Bishop is under attack, and there are no squares that the Bishop can go to immediately that cover the e2-square. Therefore, not only will White not be able to take on d4 this move, but he also won't be able to do it next move either because of the move ...e2 by Black where White can't stop promotion, and so Black buys two tempi to get the King to the rescue of his d-pawn.

52.Bh3 Kf4 53.Bf1

53.Bg2, with the idea of 53...Ke5 54.Bh1 f6 55.Bg2 f5 56.Bh1 etc, trying to tempo Black out, doesn't work. Instead of 53...Ke5, Black draws with 53...Kg3! Now 54.Kf1 f5 55.Ke2 is White admitting that he has nothing, and 55.Be2 also draws after 55...f4 56.Ke4 (56.Kxd4?? f3 is winning for Black) Kf2 57.Bh5 e2 58.Bxe2 Kxe2 59.Kxf4 d3 is also a draw. Note that 55.Kxd4?? actually loses after 55...Kf2 56.Bd3 (56.c4 also loses to 56...f4 57.c5 Kxf1 58.c6 e2 59.c7 e1=Q 60.c8=Q Qe3+ 61.Kd5 f3 62.Qa6+ Ke1 63.Qa1+ Ke2 64.Kc6 f2 65.Qb2+ Kf3 66.Qa1 Qd3 67.Qf6+ Ke2 68.Qe5+ Kd1 69.Qa1+ Kd2 -+) 56...f4 57.c4 f3 and the Black pawns are too fast.

53...Ke5 54.Be2 Kd5 55.Bf3 Kc5

And so once again, White can't cover e2, cover d5, and attack d4 with the King, all at the same time, as he has to make a move. Therefore, there is no available Zugzwang. If White moves the Bishop and continues to cover e2, the Black King can always go back to d5. If the Bishop moves and plugs up d5, then e2 is abandoned and Black can move his King, not worrying about the White King taking on d4 as then the e-pawn promotes. If White moves his King, then d4 won't be under attack and once again, Black can move his King. So again, there is no Zugzwang tactic available to White here.

56.Bg2 Kb4 57.Bf3

Now the problem is different. White would like to get the Bishop to d3 and the King free to chase down the Black pawns. However, White can't do this without the Black King getting to c3. For example, had he played 57.Bf1 instead, then 57...Kc5 58.Ke4 f5+ 59.Ke5 f4 60.Ke4 f3 61.Kxf3 Kb4! 62.Ke2 Kc3 63.Kd1 Kb4 and White can't make progress.

57...Kc5 58.Bh5 f6 59.Bf3 f5 60.Bh5 Kd5 61.Bf3+ Kc5 62.Bg2 Kb4 63.Bh3


The only move that works. 63...f4?? 64.Bg4 Kc5 65.Bf3! does put Black in Zugzwang and White will take the d-pawn on the next move. Instead, Black jettisons the f-pawn, keeping the critical ones on d4 (to stop the c-pawn and protect the e-pawn) and e3 (to limit what White can do with the Bishop and King due to the threat to promote), and now brings the King down to the White c-pawn, forcing White to baby the pawn at all times. If the pawn goes, White has only a Bishop left!

64.Bxf5 Kb2 65.Ke2 Kc1!

Now what? If 66.Kf3, then 66...Kd2 and Black will toggle to eternity between d1 and d2. For example, 67.Bd3 Kd1 68.Ke4 Kd2 69.Kxd4 e2 70.Bxe2 Kxc2 and it's a draw.

66.Bd3 Kb2

So we will note this position after Black's 66th move. White spends the rest of the game uselessly trying to make progress, but there is nothing here, and we will see this position occur three times with White to move.

67.Kd1 Ka2 68.Kc1 Ka3 69.Kb1 Kb4 70.Kb2 Ka4 71.Kc1 Ka3 72.Kd1 Kb2 73.Ke2

Note that this does not constitute 2-fold repetition as the first time it was with White to move and this time it is with Black to move. Therefore, this position has occurred once with each player to move.

73...Kc1 74.Bf5 Kb2 75.Kd3 Kc1 76.Bg4 Kb2 77.Be2 Kc1 78.Bg4 Kb2 79.Be6 Kc1 80.Bf5 Kb2 81.Bg4+ Kc1 82.Be2 Kb2 83.Bf3 Kc1 84.Be4 Kb2 85.Ke2 Kc1 86.Bd3 Kb2

It turns out the diagram position above occurred here on move 86, but Black missed that.

87.Kd1 Ka2 88.Ke2 Kb2

And so now we have the last diagram for the second time (In Black's mind) with White to move. Of course, other positions have also occurred twice, but this is the one that will ultimately occur three times.

89.Kf3 Kc1 90.Ke2 Kb2 1/2-1/2

And here Black claimed the draw based on moves 66, 88, and 90 (despite it actually occurring four times!)

Ultimately, White failed to win this game due to a lack of understanding how critical King position is and that White should have improved the position of his own King before giving up the h-pawn to deflect the position of the Black King. The White King needed to be blocking the e- and f-pawns initially rather than trying to hunt down the d-pawn by going to d2. This was one of those cases where prevent defense works better than trying to force the issue, and that is very often the case in endgames where one side has a minor piece and the other doesn't. Prevent the side with the extra pawn or two from storming down the board and promoting, making the pawns immobile while maintaining your own trumps, is the key to winning this type of endgame.

Part II - Same Color Bishops

With same color Bishop endings, there are two things to always be aware of that aren't nearly as common in Bishop versus Pawns or opposite color
  • The first one is Domination, and from that, often time, Zugzwang. The Bishop can only occupy half the squares on the board. If both players have a Bishop on the same color squares in an endgame, there are fewer squares that both sides are fighting over. Rather than 64 possible squares, there are only 32, and often times, certain squares or entire diagonals can be critical to control. Domination of the most important diagonals, which in theory can mean control of up to 14 squares, almost half of all the possible squares the Bishop can occupy, is often the most critical aspect of the Bishop ending, and if pawns become immobile, and the Kings are opposing each other where a King move from either side allows the opposing King to penetrate, can often mean that it comes down to the two Bishops, and if one side dominates all the critical squares, and the opposite side is trying to avoid penetration by the opponent, then the side with the domination can often toggle his Bishop on the dominant diagonal, forcing the opposing side into Zugzwang, where his only choices are to allow the opposing Bishop or the opposing King to penetrate into the position. This theme will be seen in the first game.
  • The second theme to look out for is the sacrifice. Pawn chains are not safe in Bishop endings, especially if your pawns are on the same color as the Bishops. Sometimes, when penetration with the Kings or the Pawns is impossible, a draw is not automatic, and a sacrifice of the Bishop for a pawn or two can lead to an unstoppable promotion, or a scenario of the Bishop vs Pawns ending we saw above, only in a case where the side with the pawns has the upper hand rather than the side with the piece. We will see this theme in the second game.

Before going further with the games, I just wanted to illustrate a very simple example of the Bishop sacrifice. Obviously the instance that we will see in the second game will be a far more complicated example, but here is a very simple version of what can happen if you are not careful in Same Color Bishop endings.

Here, it is Black to move. White's last move was 1.Bh3. If Black takes the Bishop, it's a simple draw, but Black has far better here:


This wins for Black as 2.bxc4 b3! wins for Black. White has no way to stop a pawn promotion on a1, regardless of whether White takes the pawn via 3.axb3 a2 or moves the Bishop as his own pawn blocks the diagonal. For example, 3.Be6 bxa2 and 4...a1=Q can't be stopped.

We will see a far more complicated example of this in the final game. But for now, let's look at a game that features the idea of domination and zugzwang.

NC Open, Round 4
W: Davide Nastasio (1854)
B: Patrick McCartney (2075)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 Bb4 5.Bg5 d6 6.dxe5 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 Nxe5 8.Nxe5 dxe5 9.Qxd8+ Kxd8 10.Bd3 h6 11.Bxf6+ gxf6 12.Rb1 Ke7 13.h4 Rg8 14.g3 Rb8 15.Ke2 Be6 16.a3 Rgd8 17.Rb2 Rd6 18.Rhb1 Rb6 19.Rb4 Rd8 20.Ke3 Rdd6 21.Rxb6 Rxb6 22.Rxb6 axb6

What we have at the moment is a level position. If this were a pair of GMs playing this game, it would not be a surprise if a draw was agreed upon here. However, this game is between amateurs, and amateurs make mistakes, and it will start with a major error by White. If both sides pretty much sit put, it will be a draw, but we will see White get stuck in a situation where his g-pawn will be immobilized on a light square, and this combined to Black achieving domination of the f1-a6 diagonal will create a Zugzwang scenario where Black should have won the game until he fails to follow up the Zugzwang correctly.


If White wants to try to penetrate, the best move here is 23.f4, but it should still end in a draw. Note that White's Kingside Pawns would still remain on dark squares, safe from the opposing Bishop.

23...f5 24.f3 Kd6 25.g4?

This is ultimately the move that gets White into trouble. A simple move like 25.exf5 would retain a level position. Now we are going to see Black paralyze the White pawn on g4, and the attack by Black will center around this along with White's shattered pawn structure on the Queenside and domination of the f1-a6 diagonal.

25...fxg4 26.fxg4 f6!

Because the White King cannot break through, Black does not need to worry about any weak pawns on dark squares. The only pawn of Black's on a light square is the b7-pawn, which is virtually impossible for White to get at. White, on the other hand, has the shattered pawns on the Queenside along with two weak pawns affixiated on light squares, namely e4 and g4, the latter being the real issue for White.

27.Kd2 Kc5 28.Kc1 Bc4!

The shattered Queenside allows Black to take over the f1-a6 diagonal. White cannot afford to trade Bishops. After 29.Bxc4?? Kxc4, it doesn't matter if White plays 30.Kd2 or 30.Kb2, Black will tempo White out because of the White Pawn on c2. It makes it so that White has no toggle squares to continue guarding the c3-pawn, and so after something like 30.Kd2, Black can simply play 30...b5!, which put's White in Zugzwang. No matter what White does, he would lose a pawn. Therefore, White must abandon the open diagonal and hand it over to Black.

29.Bd1 Bf1 30.Bf3 Kc4 31.Kd2

So we have reached the first stage of Black's goal. Black wants to force White to lose a pawn. To do this, we want the Bishop arrangement exactly as it is with White to move so that when White moves the Bishop, he has to allow Black to come in via g2 or e2, harassing either the e-pawn or g-pawn. However, we also want the White King as far away as possible from this action, and therefore, we want to force the White King to be on b2 instead of d2. Lastly, it needs to be White's move at the end of all of this. So how do we achieve this?


Step 1: Attack the a3-pawn so that White must bring his King to the other side of the doubled c-pawns.

32.Kc1 Ka4 33.Kb2

The first phase has been achieved. The problem now is, if Black tries to run back to c4 with the King, the White King simply runs back to d2. Therefore, we need the King to be further away. From this position, White cannot move the Bishop. With the Black King pressuring the a3-pawn, if it were White to move in this position, he would be forced to go to a2. From there, Black can play ...Kb5, headed back to c4 where the White King can't make it to d2 in time, and so we would have the Black King on c4 with the White King on b2 instead of d2, which is what we are trying to accomplish, or else White would have to come up with Kb3 in response to ...Kb5, and as seen in the game, that will lead to other problems. Therefore:

Step 2: Make it White's move in this same position.


Since the King can't move, White's Bishop is forced to d1.

34.Bd1 Ba6

Now White must move his King as otherwise, 35.Bf3 Bf1 achieves the goal for Black that we talked about at move 33.

35.Ka2 Bb5

A stall tactic for Black.


Or 36.Bf3 Bc4+ 37.Kb2 Bf1 reaching the desired position.

36...Bc4 37.Bf3 Bf1

Mission Acomplished! We have reached the same position as the diagram after White's 33rd move, only now it is White to move instead of Black.

38.Ka2 Kb5

Now if 39.Kb2, then 39...Kc4 and White can't get his King to d2 and he is in Zugzwang because he must move his Bishop, allowing the Black Bishop to crash in on the weak White Kingside pawns on e4 and g4.


So White tries to keep the Black King out of c4, but stall tactics will force White to run out of moves and once again put him in Zugzwang.

39...Kc5 40.a4 c6!

Now White has three choices and none of them are good. Drop a pawn, allow the Black King to c4, or allow the Bishop on f1 to penetrate toward the weak Kingside pawns on light squares.

41.Ka3 Kc4 42.Kb2 b5 43.axb5

Or 43.a5 c5! and again White's in Zugzwang.


And it's official, White is in Zugzwang! 44.h5 would be answered by 44...b6 and White is still forced to move. Black is about to win a pawn.

44.Bd1 Bg2 45.Be2+ Kc5 46.Bd3 Bf3 47.g5 fxg5 48.hxg5 hxg5 49.Kc1

Black to Move and Win


This move does not completely throw away the win yet, but far simpler is for Black to shove the g-pawn. After 49...g4! 50.Kd2 g3 51.Ke1 (51.Ke3 Bh1!) g2 52.Kf2 b4 53.cxb4+ Kxb4 54.Kg1 Kc3 55.Kf2 Kd2 56.Kg1 Ke3 57.Bc4 Bxe4, White is completely lost!

50.cxb4+ Kd4??

Now Black is throwing the advantage away. Black is still winning after 50... Kxb4 51.Kd2 g4 52.Ke3 Kc3 53.Kf2 Kd4

51.Kd2 Bxe4 52.Be2??

Handing Black one last chance. The immediate 52.c3+ is correct.


Black should keep the pawn at home on b7 and move the Bishop away from e4, whether that be 52...Bd5 or 52...Bg2. What matters is that Black will be able to answer 53.c3+ now with 53...Be4!, which doesn't allow the White King to penetrate via e3 like it does in the game.

53.c3+ Kd5 54.Ke3! Bf5 55.Ba6

Possibly even stronger is 55.c4+!

55...Kc6 56.c4 Kd6 57.Bb7 Be6 58.Ba6 g4

A better try was 58...Bd7, but life is still a lot more difficult for Black than it would have been after 49...g4.

White to Move and Draw


59.Kf2 also works, but the game move is simplest.

59...Bd7 60.c5+ bxc5 61.bxc5+ Kxc5 62.Kxe5 g3 63.Bf1 Bb5 64.Kf4 Bxf1 65.Kxg3 1/2-1/2

A depressing result for Black. When you have the extra pawn, and the promotion square is opposite the color of the Bishops, the idea is to get the pawn to the 7th rank (or 2nd for Black) and tie down the King, and then using your own King to penetrate on the other side of the board since the Bishop is totally useless at covering the promotion square.

While the last game saw the themes of Domination and Zugzwang, this is not always possible, and the other main theme to always be on the lookout for is to sacrifice the Bishop to achieve an unstoppable pawn.

NC Open, Round 5
W: Patrick McCartney (2075)
B: Maurice Dana (2200)

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.d4 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Bg5 c6 10.Nxe5 Re8 11.O-O-O Na6 12.Rhf1 Nc5 13.f4 Nfxe4 14.Nxe4 Nxe4 15.Rd8 Rxd8 16.Bxd8 Be6 17.Rd1 g5 18.Nf3 gxf4 19.Bc7 Bh6 20.Rd8+ Rxd8 21.Bxd8 Nd6 22.b3 Nf5 23.Bg5 Bxg5 24.Nxg5 Nd4 25.Bd3 h6 26.Nf3 Nxf3 27.gxf3

So here we have a different scenario than the last game. Black is a pawn up, but his extra pawn is doubled, and no pawn is unopposed by a pawn of the opposite color on the same file. You don't even have the typical ideas available that you get when you have a majority. For example, when you have a g- and h-pawn against just an h-pawn, you advance the g-pawn first and then bring the h-pawn with it to turn a 2-on-1 into a 1-on-0. With this luxury unavailable, Black must find something else if he wants to penetrate. There are key squares that if the Black King were able to enter, he would likely win. These include squares like d4, c3, or h2. The problem is, White always has corresponding squares. For example, if you label e5 with a 1, Black has c3 (or d3 in some cases), then put a 2 in f5 and f6 and a 2 for White on d2. A 3 goes on g5 for Black and e1 for White. A 4 goes on h4 for Black and f2 for White, and then h3 gets a 5 for Black and g1 gets a 5 for White. With Bishops on the board, White can toggle his Bishop if he needs to lose a tempo, and so King infiltration does not appear to be an option either. White will keep the Bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal so as not to allow the Black Bishop to attack the White pawn chain.

So what does that leave for Black? Should he offer a draw right now? The answer lies in a piece sacrifice. But where is that sacrifice? It turns out that the sacrifice is also not winning for Black, though it's not lost either, but what it does do is open up White to the most vulnerable opportunity to mis-defend, and it turns out he does exactly that, but like the first two games, Black does everything right to reach the opportunity, but will fail at the end of it to make the final execution needed to win.

27...Kg7 28.Kd2 Kf6 29.Be4 Ke5 30.Kc3 Bh3 31.Bd3 a5 32.a4 Bg2 33.Be2 Bh3 34.Bd3 Be6 35.Bc2 f6 36.Bd3 Bf7 37.Bc2 Bh5 38.Bd1 c5 39.Be2 Be8 40.Bd3 Bc6 41.Be2 Kf5 42.Kd2 Kg5 43.Ke1 b6

So now the Queenside is completely blocked. White clearly won't ever advance the h-pawn, but with the given position, it is now fairly obvious what Black has in mind. He is going to advance the f-pawn to f5 and try to sacrifice the Bishop on e4 to give Black connected passed pawns. He will want to do this with the White King closer to the Kingside as he wants to force White to take the Bishop. If the King is far away from the Queenside pawns, White won't be able to ignore the Bishop and decline it as the blocked pawns for White are on the color squares of the Bishops. White can't let the Black Bishop infiltrate and attack the Queenside at the base.

44.Bd1 f5 45.Be2 Kf6 46.Kd2 Ke5 47.Kc3 Kf6 48.Kd2 Kg5 49.Ke1 Kh4 50.Kf2 Be4

So here is the position that Black envisioned. White is virtually forced to take the Bishop as 51.Bd1 Bd3 leads to various forms of Zugzwang, whether that be a case of the White Bishop moving and letting the Black Bishop win on the Queenside, or else the King leaving the corresponding squares and Black using the King to win material.

51.fxe4 fxe4 52.Bf1 Kg4 53.Ke2 Kf5

White to Move and Draw

White has spent a very long time defending. Roughly for two hours straight. This will often wear on someone. There are two moves that draw for White, one of which leaves the possibility open for Black to error and actually win! Can you find the two drawing moves, and can you determine which one leaves Black with the possibility to error?


This is one of two moves that works. The difference between this one and the other is that here, White has no winning chances. The other drawing move is 54.Kd2!, and here, White leaves Black room to error. The problem is that Black can never advance his pawns as White then penetrates because advancing one of the pawns weakens certain squares. After 54...Ke5 55.Kc3 h5 56.Bh3, Black has nothing better than to toggle the King. A move like 56...f3?? loses. After 57.Bd7, Black has no way to save the game. For example:
  1. 57...Kd6 58.Bf5 Ke5 59.Bc8 Kf4 60.Kd2 h4 61.Bd7 f2 62.Bh3 Kf3 63.Bf1 h3 64.Bxh3 e3+ 65.Kd3 e2 66.Bg4+ Kxg4 67.Kxe2 Kh3 68.Kxf2 Kxh2 69.Ke3 Kg1 70.Ke4 Kf2 71.Kd5 Ke1 72.Kc6 Kd1 73.Kxb6 Kc2 74.Kxc5 Kxb3 75.Kb5 Kc3 76.c5 and White wins.
  2. 57...Kf4 58.Kd2 e3+ 59.Kd3 h4 60.Bh3 e2 61.Kd2 Kg5 62.Bc8 Kf4 63.Bb7 Kg4 64.Ke1 Kh3 65.Bxf3 Kxh2 66.Kxe2 Kg1 67.Bg4 Kg2 68.Ke3 Kg3 69.Bf3 h3 70.Bb7 Kg4 71.Bc8+ Kg3 72.Bxh3 Kxh3 73.Ke4 Kg3 74.Kd5 Kf2 75.Kc6 Ke3 76.Kxb6 Kd4 77.Kb5 and again White wins.

After the game move, White will defend the rest of the way, but will hang on by a thread.

54...Ke5 55.Bd7 Kd4 56.Bc6 e3

Or 56...f3+ and it's a pin that saves White. 57.Ke1 Ke3 58.Bd5 f2+ 59.Kf1 Kf3 60.Bc6 Ke3 61.Bd5 Kf3 with a draw.

57.h4 Kc3 58.h5 Kxb3 59.Kxd3 Kb2 60.Bd7 Kb3 61.Bc6 Kb4 62.Bd7 Kb3 1/2-1/2

A very tough game indeed and it took a very long series of accurate, defensive moves from White to draw this game!

So we saw three endgames involving Bishop against Pawns and Same Color Bishops. We saw three major themes in this article. The fact that King position is critical, which we saw in the first game. The constant theme of domination and zugzwang that we saw in the second game along with the third game in the case of White not accepting the sacrifice, and lastly, while it wasn't enough to win in the case of game three, the theme of the sacrifice always has to be taken into consideration, as there will be times where games end up similar to the "simplified example" covered earlier where the Bishop Sacrifice will score the full point. Of course, lots of calculation is required in this case as one mis-step and you can easily lose doing that!

Well, that concludes this article on Bishop Endings. Till next time, good luck in all of your tournament games!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Letter from the Executive Director: CCCSA Moving

Final Update: 10/28/18

Grand Re-Opening: Friday, November 2, 2018 - Starting at 6:00pm

Class Schedule: Many Classes Offered - Beginner to Rated - Start November 4

Updated Schedule of Events: New Additions to the Weekly Schedule including Friday Night Quads and A.L.T.O Mini - See Schedule of Events 

Center Location:
10700 Kettering Drive
Unit E
Charlotte, NC 28226

Udpate: 10/24/18

Time Frame: It appears as though our Grand Opening will be Friday, November 2. Please mark your calendar for this date. This will serve as an open house for new participants and a warming for current members. Light food and drinks provided.

Class schedule and location published.

Tuesday night will not meet next week as we will be preparing the Center for opening.

Update: 10/23/18:

Time Frame: The Center is waiting on one particular shipment. It appears that the Center will either open Tuesday, October 30 or Friday, November 2.

Center Schedule and Classes: The Center and class schedule will be published by the end of the day on Wednesday, October 24.

Update: 10/12/18:

Lease Agreement Signed!

Tuesday Night Action will continue to meet at the 4 Points Sheraton - Woodlawn
Round 3 Scheduled for October 16, 2018

Unrated Practice Tournament will meet at Barringer Academic Center 
Tournament Scheduled for October 20, 2018

Time Frame: We can not be 100% sure as construction time may vary as it progresses. Will continue to keep you updated here and on Tuesday nights. Once we are about 1 week away from opening, the exact Center address will be published.

Update 10/9/18:

Tuesday Night Action will continue to meet at the 4 Points Sheraton - Woodlawn

Reverse Angle will meet at the 4 Points Sheraton - Pineville
Reverse Angle this Saturday October 13, 2018

Time Frame: We hope that our first day in our new Center will be Tuesday October 23. Negotiations and finalization of lease agreement has been moving slower than we would like. We remain optimistic and look forward to our new home!

Update 10/1/18:

Temporary Tuesday Night Location Found, Click for More Details
Tuesday Night Action will Begin October 2 at a temporary location.

Location Update for Rated Scholastic Tournament, Click for More Details
The scheduled October 6th Rated Scholastic will take place at Barringer Academic Center

Original Post: 09/23/18

Dear CCCSA Members and Supporters:

It is with both regret and excitement that after four and a half years the CCCSA will be moving its location. The last event at the current location will be the Unrated Practice Tournament on September 29. I hope to answer the questions you may have below:

Reason for Move?
The current property owner has a vision for Southend that does not fit having a Chess Center. In addition, the changed parking situation and only one restroom was a problem long overdue to be solved.

I absolutely love Southend. It is not only where I live, but of course work. I will miss the quaint walking streets, local restaurants, and view of the downtown. 

However, the reality is that most of our members live to the south and east of downtown. After four and a half years of collecting data, it is clear that moving in that direction would benefit the most of our members. 

I have heard you over the years. I was not oblivious to the fact that there was only one restroom, that parking had become a big problem and that for some getting upstairs is difficult.

The new Center will feature:

  • Two Bathrooms!!
  • Adequate Parking
  • 1 Level to Accommodate Physical Disabilities
  • Slightly Larger Lounge and Playing Hall
  • Bright Lighting
You could've just skipped to this one right? The new location is currently being negotiated and thus I have not put out the exact address or details as of yet. I can tell you that the area we are currently looking at is near CMC Pineville off of Pineville-Matthews Road (51)

Why There?
Much closer for about 75% of our member and supporter base. That is 6-8 minute drive from Ballantyne proper. 12 minutes from the Arboretum. 12 minutes from South Park.15 Minutes from Matthews. 15 Minutes from Steele Creek. 15 Minutes from Fort Mill.

We realize that our members live all over Charlotte which is why we wanted a location near the interstate. For those to the north, 485 outer or inner will get you to the location in similar time to our current location, especially during rush hour.

Price point is always taken into consideration for us as well. We need approximately 2500 square feet of space to allow for camps, tournaments and special events. We wanted a location near our base, but with a price point that meets our needs as well.

There are a plethora of restaurants, hotels, and shopping areas (Carolina Place Mall) around the proposed new location.

Anything New?
We plan on continuing our current schedule of events with the addition of classes and possibly one additional day of rated play on weeknights.

Expected Opening?
Negotiations can move slower than other agreements. We hope to have the location signed, sealed and renovated by the middle of October. 

That may leave a period of two weeks where we will not meet on Tuesdays, although we are trying to find a temporary location for TNA. Saturday tournaments in early October will go on as planned, but may be at locations other than the Chess Center itself.

Though change is always hard, I am looking forward to an improved experience for our members and supporters!

All the best,

Peter Giannatos

Executive Director, Charlotte Chess Center

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Game Analysis: Potomac Open, Round 5

Hello everyone! We have come to the end of the Summer Tour through Kansas and Maryland, which we have been covering for the last two months, and here we will be looking at the final round of the Potomac Open.

Just as a little background information on the situation, The Potomac Open, and many other weekend chess tournaments in the state of Maryland, uses a concept that I actually think is better than any concept ever used in tournaments in North Carolina or any other state. You get paid by the score, not by what place you finish. Now organizers might be wondering how they make sure they don't lose their shirt. What happens if there are many draws and the number of people that qualify for a prize sky-rockets with there being a lot of draws? Well, low and behold, every draw saves the director more money. The concept is simple. For the Open, Under 2300, and Under 2100, you pay for anybody that scored at least 3 points. For those Under 1900 and lower sections, you pay for 3 1/2 or more. The higher the section, the higher the prize money for higher scores because so few of them will happen. For example, I can't give exact amounts as I paid very little attention to the bottom sections, but I think a perfect score in the Under 1250 and Under 1000 only paid something like $1000 and $500 respectively (but had a slightly lower entry fee), figuring perfection will happen since there are so few draws in the bottom sections. Also, if there are no perfect scores, you add a nominal amount to all of those that finish in the top scoring group to split. Here's how it worked for the Under 2100 section, which was the section I was in:

5 - $1500, 4.5 - $700, 4 - $350, 3.5 - $150, 3 - $40, If no 5 then add $200 to top score and split, so if 3 people get 4.5 and there is no 5, each gets $766.66.

So take two players that have 4 going into the final round. If it is decisive, one gets $1500, the other $350, that's $1850. If they draw, and they are the only 4.5's, then they get $800 each for $1600. If two players have 3 going into the final round, and one wins, the winner gets $350 and the loser gets $40 ($390 total between the two players), while if they draw, each gets $150 ($300 between the two players). The Under 2300 had slightly higher prizes, which I believe were $1500, $700, $350, $150, and $50 if memory serves me right, with $250 added to the top spot if nobody got 5. That's because the higher the section, the higher the number of draws. Lower sections you needed 3 1/2 to get paid at all because they have fewer draws. This came with an entry fee of $109 if you paid early, and I believe it was $130 if you paid at the door, and an $80 re-entry for non-FIDE sections (U1900 and below) which forced a 1/2 point bye as they did not offer two different round 1's, round 1 was Friday Night (this also benefits the director as all re-entries are capped at the second prize on the list, and same goes for anybody that takes the offered half-point bye), but don't quote me on that one. I encourage all organizers to give this format a try (you can check tournament adds in Maryland as examples) as it has many advantages:
  • Excluding hotel costs, it's a virtually guaranteed profit. Ok, sure, if only two people show up, you will lose money if one wins it 5 to 0, but any realistic number and you will come out ahead. For example, The Potomac Open saw 250 players, and the Under 2100 section saw 38 players that each paid a MINIMUM of $109, and the payout was $900 for a single 4.5, two 4's for $700, five 3.5's for $750, and 6 3's for $240, totaling $2590 in payout for a section that took in $4142 minimum, and I doubt everyone registered early. Actually, I seem to recall it was 25 players that registered early in the section, so you can do the math.
  • In a tournament with a based on, like $15,000 based on 300, you still have to give out $7500 even if only 43 people show up. Here, the fewer the people, the fewer the high scores, the less money you give out!
  • Lastly, you don't get large groups of people standing around, and then a long line of people waiting for money. When giving out place prizes, you could have a 7-way tie for first place, and six of those seven are waiting on the last one to finish their game for over an hour! Here, you get your score, you get your check, and if you want to hang around, you can, but you can also head on home if you wanted to! Benefits both players and directors.

So with all of that said, both my opponent and I had a score of 3 going into the final round. So the winner of this game gets $350, the loser gets $40, and if we draw, we get $150 each. I had White in this game, and what we are about to see is that when neither player has much of a clue what they are doing in the opening, some very weird positions crop up, even in a benign opening like the Exchange Slav. We are about to see White's King go on a very long walk after a few errors by White in the late opening, and we will be seeing a missed opportunity by Black that will hopefully teach you to make sure that you look at all possibilities and not just knee-jerk because a piece is under attack. Lastly, I always emphasize how critical it is to know your endgames, and we will see White pull off a draw because of this. So get ready and hold on tight as what initially will appear to be a smooth ride is going to be a very bumpy road ahead!

Potomac Open, Round 5
W: Patrick McCartney (2050)
B: Stephen Jablon (1980)
Slav Defense, Exchange Variation

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.d4 Nc6 6.Bf4 Nh5

The five main responses for Black are 6...Bf5, 6...e6, 6...a6, 6...Ne4, and 6...Qb6. The move played in the game is off the beaten track. It is not bad, and results in equality if White plays 7.Be5 or the move played in the game, but White can get a nagging advantage in this line if he goes along the other diagonal as 7.Bd2 (White can also attempt 7.Bg5 first to get an improved version by getting Black to play 7...h6 and then go 8.Bd2, but Black should then head back to a normal Exchange Slav with 8...Nf6 9.Bf4 but with the pawn on h6) 7...g6 8.e3 Bg7 9.Be2 O-O 10.O-O e6 11.Rc1 Bd7 12.Na4 b6 13.Ba6 Qe8 14.b3 with a slight advantage for White.

7.Bg3 Nxg3 8.hxg3 Bg4

Normal here is 8...g6 with an equal game. The problem with the move played is the same problem as playing ...Bf5 too early in the normal Slav without taking on c4 first, where White can then attack d5 and b7 at the same time, but it turns out it's something else that White misses that would give him the advantage here, and will show why 8...g6 should be preferred.


The other option is 9.Qb3 where 9...Qd7?! 10.Ne5 Nxe5 11.dxe5 d4 12.Rd1 f6 13.f3 Be6 14.Qa3 fxe5 15.e3 hands the advantage to White while 9...Bxf3 10.gxf3 (10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.exf3 e6 12.O-O-O Bc5 13.Na4 Rb8 14.Qa6 Bb6 15.Nxb6 Rxb6 16.Qd3 Nb5 is also equal) 10...Nxd4 11.Qa4+ Nc6 12.O-O-O Rc8 13.Rxd5 Qb6 14.e3 e6 15.Rb5 Qc7 maintains equality.

9...Nxe5 10.dxe5 d4

Now comes the moment of truth.


Not as strong is 11.Rh4 dxc3 (11...h5? 12.Qa4+ Qd7 13.Qxd7+ Kxd7 14.Rd1 g5 15.Rxd4+ Ke8 16.Rh1 and White has a big advantage) 12.Rxg4 Qa5 13.Qa4+ Qxa4 14.Rxa4 cxb2 15.Rb1 Rc8 16.Kd1 e6 17.Rxb2 Bc5 18.e3 and the game is equal.

11...Qd7 12.Qxd7+?

White hands the advantage right over to Black. Correct is 12.e3 Qxa4 13.Nxa4 Bd7 14.Nc5 dxe3 15.Nxd7 exf2+ 16.Kxf2 Kxd7 17.Rh4 e6 18.Rc4 with advantage to White. Black is so far behind in development that the extra pawn doesn't help. Black can't even contest the c-file as 18...Rc8?? 19.Rd1+ wins the Rook!

12...Bxd7 13.Nd1?

13.Ne4 is the lesser evil, keeping Black's advantage to a minimum.


Now White is in major trouble. Seeing that nothing works here for White, he tries to play the most confusing line, but this should lead to a winning position for Black via not using a King Hunt to make the King, but rather to lead to a fatal position that should net Black a piece.


White sees that the other moves don't work anyway, and so he tries walking the King out. The immediate threat was 14...Bb4+, winning a piece. 14.a3 Bc5 makes it impossible for White to develop his pieces while 14.e3 doesn't work because of 14...Bb4+ 15.Ke2 dxe3 16.Nxe3 Bb5+ 17.Kf3 Bc6+ and no matter where White goes, 18...Rd8 is coming next and White is in serious trouble while 14.f3 fails to 14...Bb4+ 15.Kf2 Rc8 and White is once again in serious trouble.

14...Bb4+ 15.Kd3 Bc5 16.e3 Bb5+ 17.Ke4 Bc6+ 18.Kf4 f6 19.Rc1

Do you see the winning line for Black?


Don't worry, Black didn't see it either! Actually, the move played still is winning, but Black has a stronger move here that leads to a clear cut victory if White doesn't give Black the material for free. 19...fxe5+! wins a pawn as White must play 20.Kg4, and only then should Black move the Bishop.

Let's take a look and see what happens if White were to play 20.Kxe5. Black should ignore the threat of the Bishop and play 20...O-O!! After 21.Rxc5 Rf5+ 22.Kxd4 (22.Kxe6 is going to get the White King mated) 22...Rd8+ 23.Kc4 and now Black can get an adventageous middlegame, but a winning endgame is better!

A) The adventagous middlegame arises after 23...b5+ 24.Kb5 a5+ 25.Kxa5 Rxc5, but after 26.Nc3, while 26...Re5 is clearly better for Black, I don't see a clear cut path to victory for Black.

B) Best here is the line I saw in the game while Black was thinking about his 19th move. 23...Rxc5+ 24.Kxc5 Rxd1 and now, because of the pawns on g2 and g3 along with the Bishop on c6, White will never be able to lift the g-pawns to move the Bishop to g2, and so his Bishop is in a fatal pin. Black threatens 25...a6 and 26...Bb5, winning an exchange and the game. Therefore, White is forced to play 25.b3, intending to answer 25...a6 with 26.a4, keeping the Bishop off of b5. However, after 25.b3, Black has 25...Rc1+ 26.Kb4 (26.Kd6 Kf7 27.a4 a5 28.f3 Bd5 is also winning for Black) 26...b6 27.a4 a5+ 28.Ka3 Re1! and now Black's idea of Bc6-b7-a6 can't be stopped. Black's winning!

20.exf6 O-O 21.Bd3?

White can show more resistance with 21.exd4


But here we go. As a result of White's Bishop move, Black had another clear cut win, but with the complications of the position, Black misses it. Another reason why I say 19...fxe5+ is better. A clear cut winning endgame leaves less room for error than a superior, though complicated, middlegame position. Here though, Black wins with 21...Rxf6+ 22.Kg4 Bxg2 and Black wins due to a fork and a removal of the guard. 23.Rh4 Bf3+ 24.Kh3 g5 gets the Rook trapped while other moves lead to 23...Bf3+ 24.Kg5 Bd8 with a fatal discovery and mate to come.

22.Kg4 Bd7+ 23.Kf3 Rxf6+ 24.Ke2

Now White escapes. From here on out, we are going to see White putting up some stiff resistance. White still realizes that he is slightly worse, and should play for the draw unless Black blunders outright, but he has gotten off the hook due to Black's inferior play the from moves 19 through 22.

24...Bf5 25.Bxf5 Rxf5 26.Rh4 Rd8 27.exd4 exd4 28.Kd3 Re5 29.Rh1 Rde8


This was White's one error in the endgame, but it didn't end up costing him. White can get a draw via 30.Rc2 Re1 31.Rxe1 Rxe1 32.Rc1 Rg1 33.b4 Kf7 34.a4 Ke6 35.a5 Bd8 36.Kxd4 Be7 37.Kc4 h5 38.b5 Rxg2 39.Rc3 g5 40.Re3+ Kd7 41.Rd3+ Ke6 42.Re3+ Kf7 43.Rf3+ Kg6 44.Kd5 Rg1 45.Ne3 and White should have no problems holding the position. Note that here, the Knight was not in a fatal pin, unlike the Bishop on f1 in the 19...fxe5+ 20.Kxe5 line, because Black's Bishop is of the wrong color to attack the Knight.

30...Re2 31.a4 a5?

Here is where Black missed his chance to take advantage of White's error on move 30. After 31...Ra2! 32.a5 Ra3+ 33.Kc2 Re2+ 34.Kb1 Rb3+ 35.Ka1 Bd8 36.Rc8 Re8 37.Rh5 Rf8 38.Rb5 b6 39.axb6 axb6 40.f3 Rd3 41.Nf2 Rd2 42.Rd5 Be7 43.Rxf8+ Kxf8 44.Ne4 Rxg2 45.Rxd4 Re2, it is Black who has the advantage because he has both the better minor piece, and the better King - White's is stuck on the back rank.

32.bxa5 Bxa5 33.Rc2 Rxc2 34.Kxc2 Re2+ 35.Kd3 Rd2+ 36.Kc4 Bb6 37.Rf1 Rc2+ 38.Kb3 d3 39.Nb2 Bd4

Now having been let off the hook, how does White defend?


Of course, the pawn is poisoned as 40.Nxd3?? Rc3+ drops a piece. Instead, White is heading for a drawn minor piece endgame. The first thing to always keep in mind is various drawing tricks. This is why it is so crucial to study your endgames. Many times, being down a pawn means having to use one of those mechanisms. You need to know Philidor's Draw (against any pawn), the Short Side Defense (against Bishop pawns), and the Passive Defense (against Knight pawns), along with Lucena's position to see what you need to avoid or what you want to achieve if you are the player with the pawn in Rook and Pawn vs Rook endgames, and another, which gets put to use in this game, is the concept of the wrong color Bishop and Rook Pawn idea, which despite being up a piece and a pawn, if the King can get to the corner where the pawn wants to promote, there is nothing that the player with the extra Bishop and Pawn can do. Of course, if he has the right colored Bishop, which is the Bishop on the color complex that matches the color of the promotion square, then it's a win for the player with the Bishop and the Pawn.

Here in this game, we see that Black's Bishop is on the dark squares. h1 is a light square. It doesn't matter if the promotion square matches the Bishop's color or not if it's not a Rook pawn. Any of the 6 central pawns and a Bishop versus nothing is a win for the Bishop and Pawn, but with the h-pawn promoting on the opposite color of the Bishop, White is looking at eliminating the Rooks, and if he can get rid of Black's b-pawn, then he will gladly sacrifice the Knight for the g-pawn if the King can get to the corner in time. Some calculation here and we will see that White is able to achieve that in this game.


The other move, 40...Rxf2, leads to a drawn minor piece ending after 41.Rxf2 Bxf2 and here White can play 42.g4 or flick in 42.Nd6 b6 and then play 43.g4 and the endgame is drawn. The d-pawn is going nowhere. The move played in the game gives Black connected passers on the Kingside, but it also gives White a passed pawn on the Queenside, which is just enough to distract Black.

41.Rd1 Bxg3 42.Rxd3 Rxg2 43.Rd8+ Kf7 44.Rd7+ Kf6 45.Rxb7 Rg1 46.Rb6+ Kf5 47.a5 Rb1+ 48.Kc2 Rxb6 49.Nxb6 Bf2

Computers are not very good at endgames, and hence why they need tablebases. A computer will claim that Black is winning after 49...Bc7, but that is not so. White can ignore the capture of the Knight until the King gets into the box. Then it will move to c4, guarding the pawn, and Black will need to use both pieces to collect the pawn, at which point White will be able to use the Knight to harass the Black pawns, and at worst sacrifice itself for the g-pawn. After 49...Bc7, White has 50.Kd2 Ke6 51.Nc4 Kd7 52.Ke3 Kc8 53.Kf3 Kb7 54.Kg4 Ka6 55.Nd2 and now everything draws. For example, 55...Bd8 56.Kh5 Bf6 57.Nb3 g6+ 58.Kh6 Be7 59.Nd4 g5 60.Kxh7 g4 61.Nf5 Bd6 62.Kg6 is a draw as is 55...Kxa5 56.Nb3+ Kb4 57.Nd4 g6 (57...h6 58.Nf5 Be5 59.Nxg7! Bxg7 60.Kf3 and White gets to the corner with the classic Wrong-Color Bishop and Rook Pawn scenario) 58.Ne6 Bd6 59.Kg5 Be7+ 60.Kh6 and Black has no way to win it.

50.Kd3 Ke6 51.Nc4 Kd5 52.a6 Kc6 53.Ke2 Ba7 54.Ne5+ Kb5 55.Nf7 Kxa6 56.Ng5 Kb5

Or 56...h6 57.Ne6 g6 58.Kf3 Kb5 59.Kg4 Be3 60.Nf8 g5 61.Ne6 Kc4 62.Kh5 Kd5 63.Nd8 Ke5 64.Nf7+ Kf4 65.Nxh6 with a draw. However, now, after surrendering the h-pawn, the Bishop and g-pawn versus the Knight is a dead draw given how the Kings are situated.

57.Nxh7 Kc4 58.Kf3 Kd5 59.Ng5 Ke5 60.Kg4 Bc5 61.Nf3+ Kf6 62.Nh4 Be3 63.Nf5 1/2-1/2

And so both players walked out with $150 for a 3 1/2 score.

There are a number of things that can be picked up from this game:
  • Understanding the Opening is more critical than memorizing lines. Black played an offbeat move on move 6, and Had White understood what he was doing early on, he would not have found himself in the predicament that he was in. The Queen trade was terrible, and moving the Knight to d1 the following move was even worse. I have stated this time and time again in my articles on the French Defense, and specifically go through this in the 9th edition of the French Connection published back in the early summer. This game illustrates what happens when you don't know what you are doing. White got very lucky this game to walk out of it alive!
  • When your opponent shoots his King out into the wind, the most important thing is not to let the King run away. Black's sequence of moves from moves 19 through 22 allowed White to achieve his escape.
  • Pay very close attention to details. The pin of the Bishop to the Rook illustrated in the 19...fxe5+ 20.Kxe5 line is fatal to White, but the pin of the Knight to the Rook that results from 30.Rc2 is not because Black's Bishop is the wrong color in that case. Generalizing with ideas like "The Bishop is better than the Knight on an open board with Pawns on both sides" might work for a sheer beginner, but once you get out of that beginner phase, while the general concepts may work more times than not, them alone are insufficient for success, and attention must always be paid to minute details in every position.
  • Make sure you know and learn every drawing pattern in your endgames. Wrong Color Bishop and Rook Pawn, all of the Rook and Pawn versus Rook scenarios, Pawnless Endgames, like when King and Rook versus King and Bishop is a win for the Rook and when it's a draw, the fact that Rook and Knight versus Rook or Rook and Bishop vs Rook are almost always drawn, or various fortresses, like Queen versus Rook and Pawn or Queen versus Bishop and Knight, where the Bishop goes to g7 and the Knight to e5 with the King near the corner. Same pattern would apply in the other three corners of the board. If you know all the drawing patterns, you no longer need to calculate things to the end. You can simply calculate to the endgame, and then trust your endgame knowledge after that to take over. In the game played, I am not looking at how to stop two pawns and a Bishop. I am looking at how to get rid of the g-pawn, and if I have to give up the Knight for it, I will because then I have a common drawing pattern. Being familiar with these simplifies your task tremendously, especially when you are the side defending. It is also critical to know these from the winning side so that you know what you must avoid allowing your opponent to do!

So that concludes the coverage of the Summer Tour in July. A month later, in mid-August, I had three games in the NC Open that all featured Bishop endings, and having just said how critical it is to know your endgames, that's what will be coming next - an article on Bishop Endings. Endgame fans, stay tuned!

Until then, good luck in all of your games!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The French Connection: Volume 14

Hello and welcome to the fourteenth edition of The French Connection. This one will conclude the trifecta of French McCutcheons, and the line we will be looking at here is a line that you could face fairly frequently against lower-rated opposition, but will almost never see at the GM level. This game was played in late July, and I have faced this same line in a correspondence game on since then! Since the majority of the audience reading this article will also be facing amateurs, it's critical to know what to do as Black. The game in and of itself is not particularly well played, and is not as exciting as the previous two we saw with the King walk and Rook Sacrifice, or the battle of the color complexes leading to a fast mate that we saw in the first two articles on this line. That said, we will see three very important concepts in this game:

  • Why capturing with the Bishop on c3 in the opening is bad.
  • Bad trades
  • The importance of the Intermezzio and Deflection tactics

So with that said, let's take a look at the main game.

Potomac Open, Round 4
W: Albert Yao (1846)
B: Patrick McCartney (2050)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bd2 Bxc3 7.Bxc3

This is the wrong way to recapture on c3.

7...Ne4 8.Qg4

Also seen is 8.Bb4, but after 8...c5 9.Bxc5 Nxc5 10.dxc5 Nd7 11.Qd4 Qc7 12.Nf3 Qxc5, White has nothing.


So this move was made on the basis of the fact that I was facing a young kid, and most young kids do not like to trade Queens. That said, there is a slight problem with this response as after 9.h3 Bd7 10.Nf3 Qxg4 11.hxg4 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.g5 Ke7 14.gxh6 gxh6 15.g3 Rag8 16.Bd3 Na5 17.Ke2 Bc6 18.a4 Nc4 19.Bxc4 dxc4 20.a5, White has a nagging advantage.

That said, significantly stronger is 8...O-O! with a major advantage for Black. In the normal McCutheon, Black can't do this because the Bishop on d2 would take on h6 with major threats on g7. Here, there is no Bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal, and if White goes back there, Black has time to move his King. Therefore, Black doesn't have to weaken his Kingside with 8...g6 or lose his castling rights with 8...Kf8 unlike when the Bishop is still on d2.


This move is not good and swings the advantage to Black. As mentioned prior, White should play 9.h3, and it turns out that it is the only move for White to avoid turning the advantage over to Black.

9...c5 10.h4 Qe7 11.dxc5 Qxc5 12.Ne2 Nc6 13.Qf4 Bd7 14.Rh3 O-O-O 15.Rf3

15.Qxf7?? loses tactically to 15...Rhf8 where if 16.Qxg7, then after 16...Qxf2+ 17.Kd1 Qxf1+ 18.Be1 Rf2 19.Re3 Rxg2 20.Qxh6 Nf2+ 21.Kd2 Ng4, White is mince meat!

15...g5 16.Qe3 Qxe3 17.Rxe3 Nxc3 18.bxc3 Kb8 19.h5 Rc8 20.Kd2 f5 21.Nd4

A very critical point in the game has arrived. White has the better Knight, the better Bishop, and the better placed King for an endgame. Black's only trump is the pawn structure. White's e-pawn is a liability, and the doubled c-pawns are an issue for White. Which is more important to Black? Getting rid of the well-placed White Knight? Or maintain the train wreck pawn structure for White?


This is the wrong idea and Black's advantage is gone. Instead, it is more vital for Black to maintain the wrecked pawn structure, despite putting the Knight on the edge of the board, and play 21...Na5, after which, something along the lines of 22.Ree1 g4 23.Rab1 Rhg8 24.Rb4 Rc7 25.Bb5 Bxb5 26.Nxb5 Nc4+ 27.Kd3 Rc6 28.Nd4 Ra6 29.a4 would occur and now 29...Rg5 would give Black a substantial advantage.

The next few move see Black activating his Rooks, trading one set off, and we reach a critical juncture of what is an equal endgame.

22.cxd4 Be8 23.Rh3 Rh7 24.Bd3 Rhc7 25.Rb1 Rc6 26.Rb2 Kc7 27.f3 Rb6 28.Rxb6 Kxb6 29.g4 Bd7 30.Rh1 fxg4 31.fxg4 Rf8

So here, there are a number of moves that work for the draw, but one move is best and the way to find it is to recognize what Black is trying to do, and preventing it. What move do you think White should play here?


Believe it or not, White actually offered a draw here with what is ultimately the losing move as Black will be able to dominate the Bishop ending. Black has a bad Bishop, White has a good one. Black wants to force the Bishops off. Even better would be to force both minor pieces off as, given the position of the Kings and the pawn structure, a King and Pawn endgame wins for Black here.

That said, the big thing is that Black wants to play ...Bb5. White still has an equal position with the moves 32.Kc3 or 32.Ke3 due to improvement of the King position, but best here is the intermezzio move, 32.Rb1+! This forces the Black King back since 32...Ka5 drops the b-pawn, 32...Kc6 blocks the Bishop, and 32...Ka6 is illegal, and so 32...Kc7 is virtually forced, not allowing Black to get his inferior minor piece out with ...Bb5. After the King moves away via 32...Kc7, only then is 33.Rf1 correct.

In the game, letting the King remain on b6 allows Black his goal, and since White can't afford to trade the Bishops, his Bishop will be dominated, at which point, Black can force the Queenside pawns off the board, and the fact that his King will be far advanced will allow Black to grab the loose White Pawns while his bishop is sitting uselessly on the Kingside. All of this was calculated by Black when he played 31...Rf8, expecting 32.Rb1+, but knowing that if White missed that, and played the move played in the game, Black has an easy win via calculation.

32...Rxf1 33.Bxf1 Bb5! 34.Bg2

Again, White cannot trade the Bishops due to the superiority of the position of the Black King.


Forcing the advancement of the White Pawn, which is to his own detriment.

35.a3 Ka5 36.Kc3 Ka4 37.Kb2 Be2 38.Bh3 b5

Black will force the Queenside pawns off the board and then use his advanced King position to win the game. White is completely helpless with his useless Bishop on h3.

39.c3 a5 40.Ka2 b4 41.axb4 axb4 42.cxb4 Kxb4 43.Kb2 Kc4 44.Kc2 Kxd4 45.Kd2 Bf3 46.Ke1 Kxe5 47.Kf2 Kf4 0-1

So as mentioned in the introduction, not quite the fireworks of the previous two McCutcheons we have seen, but a number of vital concepts in this game shows the importance of knowing your sidelines, especially when playing at the amateur level, where sidelines are more common than at the GM level. The items that should be absorbed from this game include:
  • Understanding that piece placement is sometimes more important than pawn structure. We saw that by White not accepting doubled c-pawns, his Bishop abandons the Kingside, and allows Black to castle to safety. Black did not do that in this game, but reading the notes to Black's 8th move should illustrate the reason behind why Black's move was inferior to castling.
  • The importance of understanding when to trade and when not to. In this case, Black's 21st move was a mistake because his one major trump card was superior to all of White's smaller trumps. White may have had more trump cards, but Black had the ace, which was the far superior pawn structure. After Black gave that up, he had to rely on White blundering to win the game.
  • The last thing we saw was how vital a single tempo can be, and how an intermezzio move that acted as a deflection can mean the difference between survival and defeat. It was critical to not allow Black to turn his Bishop from a passive piece into a dominant one, but White lack of exercising the check on move 32 before trading the Rooks is what lead to his defeat.

Well, that concludes this edition of The French Connection. Until next time, good luck in all of your French games, White or Black!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Game Analysis: Potomac Open, Round 3

Hello everyone. We are going to continue going through the games played during my summer trip in Mid-July. We are up to the third round of the Potomac Open, where both my opponent and myself have a perfect score of 2 and 0. The main theme behind this game is learning from your mistakes instead of your brilliancies. We will see poor opening play by Black followed by a totally incorrect strategy by White, followed by a hasty attack by White, leading to an advantage for Black. He never relinquishes the advantage, but both sides do miss a tactical blunder by White which should have ended the game on the spot. Needless to say, a few moves later, White is completely lost anyway, and this game should likely have been a good 10 moves shorter, but severe time pressure and inertia is the only reason White kept on going, and if not for a two piece advantage and mate coming up leading to a resignation by White on move 40, White would likely have resigned anyway on move 41 when the clocks were reset with 30 extra minutes for each player.

Potomac Open, Round 3
W: Patrick McCartney (2050)
B: Tejas Ramas (2032)
Queen's Indian Defense

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 b6 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.O-O d5

This move is not very good for Black, and leads to a hybrid of the Queen's Indian and the Catalan. Much stronger for Black are 5...Be7 or 5...Bb4+, both leading to a fairly balanced game. The problem here, compared to say, the normal Catalan, is that in the normal Catalan, Black will usually either keep the Bishop on the c8-h3 diagonal, which makes trading on d5 not look so hot for White as it opens up the Bishop for Black when he recaptures with the e-pawn. If he can't trade on d5, then it makes developing the Knight to its most active square of c3 hard to do because often times it blocks a Rook or Queen from guarding c4, and so instead White often has to develop the Knight more passively to d2. On the flip side, Black can do an early capture on c4, after which he has the assurance that the diagonal will be open, and then developing the Bishop to b7 to oppose White's strong g2-Bishop is often the way to go. However, in this case, it is White that will get the best of both worlds. Because Black has already committed to moving his Bishop to b7, a trade on d5 is now encouraged, leading to a Black pawn being on d5, and the Black Bishop having to move again to get back to the opened diagonal. Also, with White ridding himself of the c4-pawn, he can develop his Knight to c3 instead of d2.

So in summary, it is totally Black's choice whether he wants to open the position and only then put his Bishop on b7 (hence the "Open Catalan", or keep the position closed and staying on the original diagonal, making opening a discouraging move for White and instead then forcing White to cover c4 (hence the "Closed Catalan"), but Black gives White the best of both worlds by committing the Bishop before deciding what to do with the pawn structure, and White fixes the pawn structure to his liking based on the location of Black's Bishop, and gets to develop his Knight to the most natural and active square, c3.

6.d4 Nbd7 7.cxd5!

As described already, when Black moves his Bishop to b7 too early in the Catalan or commits to ...d5 too early in the Queen's Indian, this is a favorable trade for White.


Taking with either piece is worse. 7...Nxd5 allows 8.e4, giving White the big center, while 7...Bxd5 gives White 8.Nc3 with tempo as Black does not want to give up that Bishop for a Knight as then White's counterpart on g2 becomes way too strong for Black to handle.

8.Nc3 Be7 9.Bf4 c6 10.Qc2 O-O


This looks like the most natural move for White. He develops his last undeveloped piece to the only semi-open file from White's perspective (Black has the semi-open e-file). It turns out though that this is completely the wrong idea for White. The hardest part of the game, often times, is what to do with the Rooks. Before you can truly figure out the right arrangement for the Rooks, you have to define your plan, and having the wrong plan, as is the case in this game, can often lead to disaster, as it does in this game for White.

First let's assess the position. White has a slight lead in development as he has one undeveloped piece to Black's two with it being his move, and his Rooks are connected while Black's are not. It is a given that we are going to develop the Rooks now, and so let's look beyond the Rook development and ask ourselves a few questions. First, once the Rooks are developed, what will be White's worst-placed piece? Given Black's pawn structure with pawns on d5 and c6, we see a similar problem to what Black often has to deal with in the Italian Game, where a White pawn is on c3, and Black's c6-Knight has no productive square to go to. We have a similar scenario here where the c6-pawn blunts all active use of a Knight on c3, and so it is the Knight on c3 that will be White's worst-placed piece. Second, what advantages does White have? He has an advantage in space, and a lead in development. These two things combined call for immediate activity by White, and the opening up of the position. If Black could keep the position bottled up until he catches up in development, he would be perfectly fine and have at minimum an equal game. The main way for White to open up the position and at the same time improve his worst-placed piece of the Knight on c3 is to advance the e-pawn to e4. Notice, however, that because Black can ill afford to allow e4-e5 by White, he will have to take the pawn on e4, and White will be left with an Isolated Queen Pawn, a common theme in numerous Queen Pawn openings, and the Queen's Indian and Catalan are no exceptions, especially the latter. In return for the IQP, White gets free piece play with a space advantage, and if White can either eliminate the weakness with a timely d5-advance, or in some cases, turn the weakness into an asset in the form of a far advanced d-pawn should it become a passer, like maybe if Black ever plays ...c5 and White answers with pushing the d-pawn, then White can often reach an almost decisive position.

So once we answer those two critical questions, and we realize that White wants to play e4 and accept the IQP position, we should have the answer now of what we need to do. We need to place a Rook on d1, backing up the IQP and trying to get in that d5-push. Ok now, which Rook? Well, despite the semi-open c-file, there is nothing there for White. The c6-pawn is well protected. White will not dominate the c-file even if Black does open it with a c5-advance as Black will have a Rook by then on c8 and White's battery sees the Queen in the front, and so she will have to move anyway. So there is no encouraging reason to put a Rook on c1. It is the Queenside Rook that wants to go to d1, with the other Rook likely going to e1 at some point, back up the e4-advance, and so in this scenario, White wants his rooks on d1 and e1, not c1 and d1 or c1 and e1. Therefore, the right move here was 11.Rad1! with ideas of getting in e4 in the near future. Depending on Black's response, potential follow-ups include Rfe1, Ne5, or in a few rare cases, potentially even the immediate e4. Don't try to go down these rabbit trails, over-analyzing the position before knowing what Black will do in response. The key thing here is to correctly figure out where the Rooks need to go, and we did that. In this position, they belong on d1 and e1. Move your Rook from a1 to d1, and leave it at that, and the subsequent moves can be figured out once we see what Black does. The main plan is to get in e2-e4 at the right time.

11...Rc8 12.Qf5

Heading in the wrong direction, going for a hasty Kingside attack. Better here is to follow the positional ideas in the position. Natural moves like 12.Rfd1 or 12.Bh3, taking advantage of the pin on the open diagonal and Black's misplaced Bishop on b7, were both better moves than the move played in the game.

12...Re8 13.h4 g6

White's 12th move would be correct if the enticement of this move created a major weakness for Black, but Black has nothing to fret here. He still has his dark-squared Bishop, and White is not ready to bombard the Kingside and his pieces are not set up in any way, shape, or form to take advantage of Black's slight dark-square weaknesses around the King. Instead, White's Queen simply gets thrown back.

14.Qb1 a5

14...Bf8, intending to go to g7 with the Bishop, would be more consistent here and Black would be at least equal.


Once again, after Black's incorrect 14th move, White can maintain a slight advantage with either of the same two options he had on move 12. Either 15.Bh3, once again taking advantage of the pin, or 15.Rfd1, developing the other Rook. Instead, White plays another hasty move, and this is one too many by White. Black now grabs the advantage.

15...Nh5! 16.Bd2 Bf6

Significantly stronger is 16...Ndf6! 17.Rfe1 c5 18.e4 dxe4 19.Ncxe4 Nxe4 20.Bxe4 Bxe4 21.Nxe4 f5 22.Ng5 Qd5 23.Ne6 cxd4 24.Rxc8 Rxc8 25.Qd3 with an advantage for Black.


This was White's opportunity to hold the balance with 17.Qd3 Bg7 18.e4. This version is far inferior to the plan for White back at move 11, and it achieves nothing more than equality after 18...c5!, but it is far superior to what happened in the game. Now we are going to see all of White's pieces awkwardly placed and Black taking full advantage of it!

17...Ng7 18.e4?

This gives up a pawn for no real reason. 18.Qd3 is still better, but Black is very much in the driver's seat no matter what White does here.

18...Bxd4 19.exd5 Ne5 20.Bg2 Ba6

Now with that real sore spot on d3, White's hasty attack has reared its ugly head. White is lost here!



There are actually two good moves here. Also strong is 21...Nh5 22.Bf4 Bd3 23.Qa1 Bxf1 24.Rxf1 Bxc3 25.bxc3 Nxf4 26.gxf4 Nxc6 27.Ne4 f5 28.Ng5 h6 29.Nf3 Qd6 30.Qc1 Re2 31.Ne5 Nxe5 32.fxe5 Qd2 33.Qb1 Qb2 34.Bd5+ Kg7 35.Qxb2 Rxb2 with a winning position for Black. The main point here is not to merely take the Rook on f1. Notice though that both feature the same theme. Might as well make White's pieces worse before taking the material that is not going away anyway. A White Queen on a1 is even worse for White than a White Queen on b1.

22.Qa1 Bxf1

Now, of course, Black takes the material.

23.Rxf1 Nxc6 24.Nf3 Nf5 25.Nxd4 Ncxd4 26.Bg5 f6 27.Bf4 g5 28.hxg5 fxg5 29.Bd2


Sure, Black is still winning here, but he misses a move that can put the game away on the spot. 29...Rxc3!! 30.Bxc3 Ne2+ 31.Kh2 Qd6 32.Qd1 Qh6+ 33.Bh3 g4 34.Qd5+ Re6 35.Qa8+ Kf7 36.Qb7+ Kg6 and White can resign.

30.Bd5+ Kh8 31.b3?? Rcd8

This time both players miss it. Black gets two pieces for a Rook with 31...Rxc3! 32.Bxc3 Ne2+ followed by 33...Nxc3. The fact that Black was already up the exchange puts him up a full piece here, and White can again resign safely. That said, White's position deteriorates quickly anyway, and the rest of the game was mainly played out because White was down to about a minute to make it to move 40, and was predominantly played out of inertia. Had the game made it that far, I'd probably have resigned on move 41 anyway.

32.Kg2 Rxd5 33.Nxd5 Qc6 34.Bxg5 Qxd5+ 35.Kg1 Kg8 36.Rd1 Qf3 37.Bf4 Ne2+ 38.Kh2 Qxf2+ 39.Kh3 Nxf4+ 0-1

It's mate in 4 for Black starting with 40.Kg4 Ne3+.

There are a number of ideas that can be picked up from this game:
  • Move order matters in the opening, and mixing ideas between multiple openings is not usually a good idea and for good reason. In these Catalan type positions, Black wants to settle the pawn structure, whether he opts for open or closed is up to him, and only then determine what to do with his bad Bishop, not the other way around of setting up the Bishop, and then try to set up the pawn structure as White can take full advantage in the latter scenario like he did in the game.
  • When the Rooks are connected, the way to set up the Rooks is often determined by what the other pieces and pawns need to do, and the pawn structure that results from that, rather than simply which file is open. We saw that here where White assumed placing the Rook on the semi-open file was right when instead he should have been playing for e4 and setting up the Rooks based on the result of that pawn break.
  • Hasty attacks almost never work!
  • As Black demonstrated here, chess is not all about grabbing material. Sure, that often times leads to an advantage, but milk that advantage to its greatest potential, like we saw here where Black dislocates the White Queen to an even worse place than it already was before grabbing the material.
  • Always be on the lookout for tactical shots. Yes, Black won, but he had two chances to end the game a lot quicker with the temporary exchange sacrifice on c3.

That concludes this article. In the next week or two will be the fourth round of this tournament, which will be covered in the next edition of the French Connection, which will be the third of the trio of wins for Black in the French McCutcheon. Stay tuned for that! Till next time, good luck in your tournament games.