Friday, May 18, 2012

King's Gambit (King's Bishop's Gambit), Internet Chess Club

OK, on to the other King's Gambit game I got in last weekend's ICC marathon.  This one was a King's Bishop's Gambit.  (See previous posts for the King's Knight's Gambit game.)

This is zavenc (1725) - jientho (1292).

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4  This is the King's Bishop's Gambit.  After Fischer "busted" the King's Knight's Gambit (3.Nf3 d6), word is that he played and won three tournament games as White using the Bishop's Gambit; here are two:,

3...Qh4+  I always take this check.  I think it messes up White more than Black.  And I have a simple system I developed using the computer.  The other common responses to the Bishop's Gambit are 3...Nf6 and 3...d5.

4.Kf1  Forced.  As I covered in the Knight's Gambit Part 1 post, 4.g3 loses a piece:  4...fxg3 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Qf3 Nf6 7.hxg3 Qxe4+ 8.Qxe4 Nxe4, or 5.Kf1 g2+ 6.Kxg2 Qxe4+ 7.Nf3 Qxc4.  If 4.Ke2, easiest is to snag an additional pawn via 4...Qg4+ 5.Ke1 Qxg2 6.Qf3 Qxf3 7.Nxf3 Nf6.

This sets up my simple system targeting Ng4 and Ne3+, before or after Nf3 Qh6.

5.Nc3 Ng4  Before.  And now mate and Nxh2+ are both threatened.

6.Nh3  7.Qf3 is the only other option and it runs into 7...Ne5 8.Qe2 Nbc6.

6...c6  Keeping the knight out of d5 and b5.  Also preparing b5 and perhaps d5.

7.d4 g5  Standard call and response, black holding f4.

8.Bd2  Trying to develop. Also maybe eying Be1 to chase away my queen.

8...d5?  I don't know why I just throw away this pawn.  I think I just wanted to get my c8 bishop out with tempo.  8...d6 is much better.

9.dxe5  Now I notice my king has been exposed and so I had better pull the trigger:

9...Ne3+ 10.Bxe3 fxe3  Obviously I can't hold that pawn, but White has to find the right way to hit it.

Apparently trying to hit (and pin) e3 and to expel the queen on h4 (to stop the Bxh3 threat) simultaneously.  But he apparently missed that it gives me a really good reply.  White had to find 11.Qd3.

11...Qxd4  And I find the right reply.  Gain a pawn, defend e3, and hit the undefended c4.

12.Bb3 Bc5?  I guess I was lining up on f2, and also looking to castle quick, but I needed to see that g5 was hanging and find g4.  Sadly, this non-optimal move took my longest think of the game, 3:15.

13.Rd1  Again trying to expel my queen and again apparently missing that I have a good reply.

13...Qf6+ 14.Nf2  Yes he has to give up the knight because Kg1 loses the d1 rook to the discovery e2+.  But now it's my turn to mis-calculate.
14...O-O  I must have thought this was necessary for getting the knight, or maybe just a stronger way to take it, or I was still obsessed with getting quickly castled.  Boy was that wrong.  Now it becomes just a piece trade, because I failed to see my opponent's fork threat.  Lesson:  consider all ways to capture, and don't be spooked by a pin that will dissolve.

15.Nce4  Fork!  Lesson: always look at opponent's possible attacks, not just your own.

15...Qxb2  I saw this as an exploit of the knight move.  But again, I must have missed Nd3 by which the knight escapes.  But my opponent chooses to liquidate:

16.Nxc5 exf2 17.Qxf2 Rd8 18.d6
I thought I had a nice pin, but of course the pawn is not pinned from moving forward, silly.  And now I have to deal with f7.  I should mention another factor at this point:  I now have 1:10 on the clock while my opponent has 10:14.

18...Qg7  Best, not hard to find.

19.d7?  Now it's my opponent's turn to throw away a pawn needlessly; it also allows me to unwind my cramped pieces.  He must not have seen the knight (3rd piece) covering d7.  But more likely he is just running down my clock.

19...Nxd7 20.Nxd7?  Much better would have been to just leave my knight pinned and my bishop thus blocked in.  Again, just a clock move.  I am at a sad 0:09.

20...Bxd7 21.Bxf7?  0:08

21...Qxf7 22.Qxf7 Kxf7  0:04

23.Kf2 Rf8  0:02

24.Rxd7+?  And I forfeit on time.

Well the obvious lesson here:  Learn how to use my time better.

Thanks for reading.  Comments welcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Part 2: King's Gambit (King's Knight's Gambit), Internet Chess Club

This is the second part of a post about a game I played last weekend on ICC.  See Part 1 for the opening:

One-DarkKnight (1644) - jientho (1277)

I've completely got this game in the bag, right?  Materially up rook, knight, and 2 pawns.  No obvious threats by White.  At best White gains the pawn by 13.Bxe5 Bxe5 14.Qxf6 Nxf6 15.Rxe5+ Kf8 right?  So how did I blow it?  Let's see:

13.Qg3  All this seems to do is to load up further on e5 and get away from a queen swap.  Yes it takes away one additional flight square from my queen (g7) while the queen attack Ne4 is in the air, but my queen still has plenty of options especially g6.  And all I need to do is to break the pin on e5 and the bishop on f4 is immediately attacked.  As I recall, the only thing above that I didn't see during the game was the Ne4 attack.

13...Be6  I'm pretty sure that my thinking during the game was, first, try to trade off pieces (because I'm way ahead material).  Second, I also saw this as a double attack on c4 and f4 (because it breaks the pin on e5).  I was also vaguely aware that I could let the bishop on a1 drop if it meant I could develop other pieces and that the White rook would have to leave the action to get it.

14.Ne4?  There it is.  A good shot against a lower-rated player.  Because I hadn't seen it in advance and probably also because I was aware of a significant difference in remaining time budgets (6:27 for me, 9:59 for White at this point), I started to go into panic mode.  Always a bad thing for a chessplayer, especially a "novice", because it narrows the imagination down even further than it already is.  If I could wave a magic wand, panic is the one thing I would eliminate from my chessplaying.  Because even if I can't find the absolute best moves, at least I want to "see everything" (at a basic level) that's going on on the chessboard.

14...Qg6?  Not horrible.  It doesn't lose the game or any material.  But oh what I missed.  I was so focused on my threats of exf4 and Bxc4 and probably in trying to trade queens that I missed Qxf4, according to the computer.  OK I shouldn't be so hard on myself because, looking again, I must have seen White's Qg7 threat as well.  And it's not at all obvious how to handle that or whether Qxf4 is worth it.  Even now with plenty of time, I am not seeing it.
OK, I "cheated" to learn what I was missing.  I did not see any way to both protect the knight on g8 and counter the threat of Nf6+, thus thinking I would have to lose both the rook and the knight (with check) for the two bishops.  For some reason I thought the king was frozen out of f8 even after Qxh8.  Lesson to learn: consider all moves which can defend a piece after an otherwise favorable liquidation; also always know which side is "on move" during a trade-down (I assumed Nf6 would necessarily be a check, forking king and pinned knight; not so if I have an extra move to counter that).  The line:  14...Qxf4 15.Qg7 Bxc4 16.Qxh8 Kf8.

15.Bxe6 Qxe6?  Complete blunder.  Here again panic must have been a factor.  I just completely lost the previous threads of:  1) Qg7 threat (thought it was permanently addressed already or something?) and 2) trading queens (maybe I thought I was in check?).  Also possible paranoia that my opponent was trying to "trick" me into removing the support of f7 for my queen and doubling up my pawns.  Why oh why does my brain sometimes turn into spaghetti? :-|

16...Nd7  Somehow I stumble into a good move.  Unfortunately I took 2:21 to come up with it, leaving me 3:06 on the clock.  This and my next move were my plan for saving the g8 knight with development.  No way was I going to venture exf4 now, even if I had seen the bishop on a1 hitting g7, because I definitely saw the coming rook pin against e6 with Nf6+ or Nd6+.

17.Qxh8 Ke7?  This is much worse than the other way to get the a8 rook to defend g8.  Right idea, wrong execution.  What do I need to do, besides ignoring the clock, to get myself to double-check for an improved way to accomplish something?  Just because we're on move 17 doesn't mean O-O-O is not available.  I think it is a matter of keeping more possibilities in my consciousness at the same time.  There is just no excuse for a chessplayer not at least keeping all legal single moves in mind.

18.Bg5+  Of course, removing the bishop from attack with check.

18...f6 19.Qxh7+ Qf7  I do some pretty good defending here, for a while.

20.Qh3 fxg5 21.Nxg5 Qxa2  Inviting a king chase.
Qg6 was better, hitting the knight while still stopping nasty queen checks at e6 and h7.  I am now down to 0:47 on my clock while opponent has 5:06.  With no forced mating plan in place, it's all but hopeless.

22.Qh7+ Kd6 23. Rd1+  My thoughts at this point are to try to run the king toward a3 whenever I'm checked, and otherwise to try to catch my opponent unawares somehow with a QxR#.

23...Kc5?  I am not seeing that the knight on d7 is hanging.  Bd4 is the move.

24.Ne6+  Haha.  Opponent does not see the knight hanging either, but instead moves his own knight en prise.  Cute.  I guess he's just in run-down-opponents-clock mode.  He has 4:02.

24...Kb4  He was right that I wouldn't see Qxe6.

25.Qxd7  Now he does see my knight hanging.  I forfeit on time here.

Very discouraging, especially considering how some folks play successful 1-minute chess and with 1 minute left I still had a 4.56 advantage by computer eval.  So another lesson learned: learn how to optimize my own play at different time budgets.

And of course the overarching lesson: don't lose won games.

Thanks for reading.  Comments are welcome.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Part 1: King's Gambit (King's Knight's Gambit), Internet Chess Club

I played in the ICC Marathon tournament May 12-13, 2012.  ICC is the Internet Chess Club (  Every 2nd month they have a 24-hour marathon of tournaments noon Saturday to noon Sunday (  I do relatively poorly, playing in the "standard" section (each player having a 15-minute budget per game), but I usually can get some membership extension prize by being in the top six in total number of games played.  For example this time I got 8 points out of 32 games (and that includes some "unearned" full-point byes, which happen sometimes when there are an odd number of players and the "lowest man" is thus not paired to play).  By comparison, the player with the highest number of games played won something like 20 points by playing 45 games; and the player with the highest score won something like 27 points from playing 33 games.  (The marathon consisted of 47 rounds total).

But I want to do better, and have more fun, so I want to publicly analyze one of my games here in great detail, trying to recall my thought process, and being brutally critical.  Maybe it can also help other lower-rated players like myself.

I have chosen a game whose opening I love to play as Black, the King's Gambit.  I got one each of the King's Knight's Gambit and King's Bishop's Gambit this marathon, and I'll do the Knight's game in this first post.  The Bishop's in a later post, if this one proves useful to me or to others ("on request"), also time permitting.  I am "jientho" on ICC.

So, this is the game One-DarkKnight (1644) - jientho (1277).

1.e4  Something like 43% of games start with e4, 40% with d4, and 18% other (mostly Nf3 and c4).
1...e5  Of the games where White starts 1.e4, Black's replies break down approximately as follows:
  1...c5, 47% (Sicilian Defense)
  1...e5, 26% (Open Game)
  1...e6, 12% (French Defense)
  1...c6, 7% (Caro-Kann Defense)
  1...d6, 3% (Philidor Defense, Pirc Defense, or Hedgehog Defense)
  1...g6, 2% (Modern Defense or Pirc Defense)
  1...Nf6, 1% (Alekhine's Defense)
  1...d5, 1% (Scandinavian Defense)
  1...other, 1%
Combining percentages, of all games, about 11% start with 1.e4 e5.

2.f4  And here is the King's Gambit.  White has not defended the f4 square before sending the f pawn there.  As such, the full intent of this move is to distract Black's e5 pawn or to force her into awkwardly trying to defend it.  Rather than wait until d3 or d4 is played first, when the f4 square would be defended by the bishop on c1, White holds the move d4 "in reserve" to attack the black pawn on f4 if Black accepts the gambit.  Another note here -- whenever the opponent moves f3, f4, or g4 early in the game, I keep in mind that that is half of the Fool's Mate: just in case the other shoe drops, I don't want to miss a mate-in-one.
2...exf4  I always take the offered material both because consensus is that this is best for Black and also because it leads to more interesting, attacking, dynamic, open positions.  This is called the King's Gambit Accepted or "KGA".  I'll mention one version of the King's Gambit Declined or "KGD" because it sets a trap for White, although I never play it because the White players who opt for the the King's Gambit surely know about it.  Called the Classical KGD, it's 2...Bc5, which "looks through" White's gap on f2 and prevents White castling while apparently not defending the e5 pawn at all.  But White loses the pawn on e4 and the rook on h1, if not the game, if she takes on e5 now, because of two sequential Queen forks, first of e1 with e4, then of e1 with h1:  2...Bc5 3.fxe5 Qh4+ 4.g3 (if 4.Ke2 (the only other move), then 4...Qxe4 is checkmate!) 4...Qxe4+ 5.Qe2 Qxh1.  So if White wants actually to threaten the e5 pawn in the Classical KGD, she needs first either to keep the queen off of h4 (3.Nf3) or to protect e4 (3.Nc3 or 3.d3).

3.Nf3  This is the King's Knight's Gambit.  The main/immediate purpose is prevention of the queen check on h4, which was made available to Black by 2.f4.  Normally g3 would be an effective block to that check (if e.g. Black tries the immediate 2...Qh4+).  But once Black has her pawn on f4 from 2...exf4, then g3 becomes ineffective as a block because it can be captured with advantage.  From the King's Bishop's Gambit: after 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.g3? fxg3, the recapture loses because the h pawn is pinned (5.hxg3 Qxh1); meanwhile the discovered g2+ is threatened (winning the rook with promotion), as well as Qxe4+ winning the undefended bishop on c4.  White's only correct response after 3.Bc4 Qh4+ is 4.Kf1.

I wasn't going to do the Bishop's Gambit in this post, but in case I don't get to it in a separate post, I want to make a first confession.  I did not know White's best response to 4...fxg3 above and I did not know how Black should handle that response, in case White really does try 4.g3 to test Black's preparation.  White's best is not 5.Kf1 getting out of the discovered check, because 5...g2+, although it doesn't get the rook, still does the job (gains the bishop plus another pawn): 6.Kxg2 Qxe4+ 7.Nf3 Qxc4.  (5...d5 may be slightly better but is much more complicated).  White's best is actually to throw the bishop in a different way: 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Qf3+, both checking and guarding h1 so h2 is unpinned.  Black now must see that 6...Nf6 is best, allowing her to answer 7.hxg3 with 7...Qxe4+ and taking the queens off the board.  (If White doesn't take g3, then g2+ is still in the wind.)  If confronted with 6.Qf3+, I almost certainly would have panicked (in my novice way) that 6...Nf6 would be met with 7.e5 attacking the pinned knight.  But in that case, 7...g2+ is absolutely devastating: 8.Kd1 Qe4 and White must allow gxh1Q or give up her own queen to prevent it.

The lesson to learn is, always know your own leverage (the power of your threats) on the board, so you are never needlessly cowed by an opponent's weaker threats.  In the above case, even if White tries to hold everything but the rook by answering 8...Qe4 with 9.Qg3, and then answers 9...gxh1Q by taking the knight as feared, 10.exf6, the blocking move 10...Qeg2 is devastating, but 10...d5 is even better, a mating trap.  (For heavens sake just from a material standpoint, you've turned a pawn into a 2nd queen plus traded the knight for a rook.)  Although there are slightly better defenses after 10...d5, White would almost surely try to get Black to blunder into her own mate (or think she might get a perpetual) with 11.Qxc7+, but alas that is a road to a cute mate-in-4:  11...Kg6 (11...Ke8?? or 11...Kg8?? 12.f7#) 12.Qg3+ Bg4+ 13.Qxg4+ Qxg4+ 14.Ke1 Qhxg1#.

3...d6  The Fischer Defense.  The story goes that Fischer was so devastated by a 1960 loss to Spassky when using the Classical Variation 3...g5 ( that he developed the little-used 3...d6 into a full-blown answer (he called it a "bust") to the King's Knight's Gambit.  Modern analysis shows that Fischer was actually ahead in that game until move 25 or 26, although I suppose it's possible that the 17-year-old Fischer, in pre-computer days, could have exaggerated the responsibility of the opening in his own mind.  Then again he was one of the top players in the world even then and probably knew better.  Regardless, he did show that the ideas used by White after 3...g5 don't work after 3...d6.  Most directly, after 4.d4 g5 5.h4 g4, White no longer has the Kieseritzky Gambit idea, 6. Ne5, available to her; and neither is the alternative Allgaier Gambit idea, 6.Ng5, workable because the bishop on c8 now holds the g4 and h3 squares for Black's g pawn, giving Black this resource: 6...f6 7.Nh3 gxh3 8.Qh5+ Kd7 9.Bxf4 Qe8 10.Qf3 Kd8.  So now the main line after 5...g4 is 6.Ng1 Bh6 and Black holds on to the extra pawn, with development.

Fischer may have busted the old ideas, but White has since found that 3...d6 opens the way for a new idea to help in relocating her knight if Black tries to kick it with g4, namely 4.Bc4.  After 4...g5 5.h4 g4 6.Ng5, now threatened is 7.Nf7 ouch, forcing Black to prevent first with 6...Nh6, and afterward Black's 7...f6 kick is not even a threat because the knight then has 8.Ne6.  So Black needs to answer 4.Bc4 with 4...h6.  And the King's Knight's Gambit itself is not busted.  Fortunately my opponent in this game didn't play 4.Bc4, but unfortunately I soon miss a correct continuation.

4.d4 g5  This is a standard "call and response" in the KGA.  White pulls the d4 move "out of reserve" attacking f4; Black tries to hold on to the extra pawn in the most economical way, also opening g7 (or sometimes h6) for her bishop.

5.Bc4  As shown by Fischer (see above under 3...d6) 5.h4 does not really work here.  But neither does anything else particularly.  5.h3 is a try.
White has waited too long to play Bc4: now that Black has played g5, the threat of g4 is too strong.  Unfortunately I miss it.

5...Bg7  Not a particularly bad move, g7 being, usually, a good strong outpost for the bishop in the Knight's Gambit, hitting d4 and also making h6 now a good response to h4 since the rook h8 is protected.  It's just that 5...g4 would have been much stronger: if the knight moves, Qh4+ is strong, e.g. 6.Ng1 Qh4+ 7.Kf1 f3 8.gxf3 Nf6; and otherwise the knight is lost, e.g. 6.O-O gxf3 7.Qxf3 Qf6 with the threat of Qxd4+ more than countering Black threats against f4 and f7.  This is like a Muzio Gambit except with d4 and d6 having been played.  The main line from here seems to be 8.e5 dxe5 9.dxe5 Qg6.

So what is the lesson?  When White has not played h4 nor castled, g4 is a strong move for Black.  Or more generally, look for simple attacks on pieces that have limited/bad escape squares and/or which are guarding squares you'd like to move to (Qh4 in this case).

5.O-O  Castling out of all the danger.  Best move.  Although I note the possibility of Bxd4+ later.

6...g4  A day late and a dollar short?  White now has the good safe e1 for the knight (and no more Qh4+ threat).

7.Bxf4 gxf3 8.Qxf3  In true gambit fashion, my opponent opts for sacrificing the knight anyway!  In return for big pressure toward f7, Muzio-style.

8...Bxd4+  Of course.

9.Kh1  Best.  In a previous over-the-board game in a similar setup my opponent opted for 9.Be3 perhaps thinking of the immediate exposure of f7 to his queen and rook, but of course 9...Bxe3+ being a check either gives Black time to cover up f7 or draws his queen off of f7.

9...Qf6  This always seems to be a necessary response to a Muzio setup.  Black must be in a position to trade off queens if/when White moves the bishop.  We've also entered a zone of maximum complexity in the position, i.e. the middlegame.  It's hard for either player to know for certain how to proceed.
Materially Black is a whole knight up, but she is at least 3 moves behind in development and still facing a barrage on f7. Black's immediate threat is of course Bxb2.  The straightforward 10.c3 Be5 followed by liquidation and gaining of the f7 pawn doesn't really give White enough back for the knight:  11.Bxe5 Qxf3 12.Rxf3 dxe5 13.Bxf7+ Ke7.  White's strongest seems to be 10.Qb3 which accomplishes 3 things at once:  attacks f7 albeit now from behind the c4 bishop, attacks b7 preventing Black from defending f7 with Be6, and removes the queen from the line of sight of Black's queen leaving the attack as rook vs. queen instead.  Black has to either defend with Nh6 (probably best), or else pull the trigger on b2 apparently resulting in a liquidation of 2 rooks for her queen and ultimately a likely draw by perpetual.  This would need to be further examined to be sure, but here is the line:  10.Qb3 Bxb2 11.Bxd6! Qxf1+ 12.Bxf1 Bxa1 13.Bxc7.

10.e5  A clear blunder.  Although e5 is "thematic" in the normal Muzio, my opponent must have overlooked that the d4 pawn is missing or thought that I couldn't retake with the d6 pawn for some reason...

10...dxe5 11.Re1  ...or that this rook pin would be sufficient to win the pawn back.  Of course, the pawn is now also protected by the bishop on d4.

11...Bxb2  The obvious attack.  White has some countering possibilities that I did not see, namely 12.Nc3 regaining control of e5 and thus getting my h8 rook in trade via Bxe5, and the immediate 12.Bxe5 forcing 12...Bxe5 and a trade of bishops, due to the pin, instead of rooks.  But trades are better for the one who is already up material.

12.Nc2  Neither did my opponent see those counterplays.

12...Bxa1  And now I am completely dominating.  How in the world did I lose this game?  Complications, my friend.  Stay tuned to find out in Part 2.  <cliffhanger/>

This is getting much longer than I thought it would, so I have decided to serialize it.  Until then...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Smith-Morra Gambit (or Morra-Smith or Mora)

I want a main line for chess's Smith-Morra Gambit: 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3

Granted, from what I said in the previous post (Chess Theory), the concept of a main line in chess is theoretically incoherent.  Because all playable lines lead to draws, there is no such thing as "best play", at least not in any single-line sense.  (I am assuming the Smith-Morra is playable.)  All roads lead to Rome.

On the other hand, it is certainly possible, based on computer and human evaluation, to find what appears to be a "best line of play", or at most a handful of such lines.  That is what openings books are all about.  From a theoretical perspective, this is not an exercise in finding the best line(s), but rather in finding the longest line(s) before the inevitable draw.  The most scenic routes to Rome.  This is directly due to the horizon effect: the only reason humans and computers don't see all reasonable moves as leading to a draw is because they cannot look far enough (and thoroughly enough) ahead.  But scenic is good too.

So here is what I currently consider to be the main line of Smith-Morra:

3...dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.Bc4 a6 7.O-O Nf6 8.Bf4 Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 10.Qb3 Qc7 11.Ng5 e6 12.Bxe6 h6 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.exd5 hxg5 15.dxc6 fxe6 16.cxb7 Rb8 17.Qxe6+ Be7 18.Rac1 Qxb7 19.Bxd6 Qd7 20.Qxd7+ Kxd7 21.Bxb8 Rxb8 22.b3

if 8...e6 then 9.Qe2 Qc7 10.Rfd1 Nh4 11.Be3 Be7 12.Rac1 O-O 13.Na4 Nf6 14.Bb6 Qb8 15.Bb3 Nd7 16.Qe3 Nf6 17.Nc3 Nd7 18.Na4 draw by repetition.

If Black wants to decline the gambit, this is what I consider to be the main line of the best try:

3...d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.cxd4 e5 6.Nf3 exd4 7.Qxd4 Qxd4 8.Nxd4 Nf6 9.Bb5+ Bd7 10.Bxd7 Nbxd7 11.O-O

Can anyone find anything better/longer?