Chess commentary

Acting on glee’s suggestion, this thread will annotate ivan astikov’s recent chess game. I’ll cover a few moves per post, and anyone is welcome to chime in with questions, suggestions, or improvements on my notes, as we go.

Here we go - ivan was Black in the following game.

  1. e4 a5

White’s first move stakes a claim to the centre of the board - important because this is where Knights have the most scope, and a major highway for Bishops. It may lead to an opening of lines against the enemy King too. Also, it lets out the Queen and the King’s Bishop along the diagonal, and while it slightly weakens the White King’s position, with sensible play the King won’t be staying there for long.
Black’s response is culpable, as it accomplishes none of the above - the only piece it “develops” is the Queen’s Rook, which can’t presently move to a6 in any case as the white Bishop could take it (and would). There are at least ten better responses to 1. e4: the c, d or e-pawns can move one or two squares, the b or g pawns one square, and either Knight can move, preferably to f6 or c6. 1. … e5 is probably the best for the novice and very good for the experienced player too.

  1. d4 Nf6

White continues on sensible lines. Establishing the “classic centre” is good if it can be done without interference, and now White has all the key squares and both his Bishops are free to move.
In reply, Black plays a move that would have been better (though not necessarily recommended to beginners) on move 1. Now it is not so good as White would be free to chase the Knight if he liked.

  1. Nc3 c6

White chooses instead to defend his e-pawn, which is simple, straightforward and good, bringing the Queen’s Knight to its usually-best square.
Black’s response at least leaves the Queen free to move and might support a later move to d5.

  1. e5 Nd5

White would have been better advised either to chase the Knight on his previous move, while he could still follow up with a move of his c-pawn, or simply to bring another piece into action.
Black can hardly be criticised for his Knight move; the piece had to go somewhere, and at least it is centrally located and has the support of a pawn. Moreover it can’t immediately be chased by White’s c-pawn.

  1. Nf3 d6

Nothing wrong with White’s move, developing another piece to a good square.
Black’s d-pawn now challenges White’s advanced e-pawn. Still, White’s position is still comfortably the stronger and with further simple moves - say, 6. Bc4 and 7. 0-0 if no emergency arises - he would stand well.

When’s the next instalment of “Ivan’s How Not To Play Chess”, guys? :smiley:

About 6pm our time, E&OE. :slight_smile:

  1. a4 Nxc3

White didn’t really need to play 6. a4. If it was intended to prevent Black from playing …b5, this wasn’t necessary as after 6. Bc4, b5; White can just play 7. Bxd5, winning a pawn.
Black responds by exchanging off his only active piece, and one that has made three moves to effect the capture, which is the same as handing White two free moves.

  1. bxc3 c5

White makes the obvious and necessary recapture.
Black responds with a further attack on White’s centre pawns.

  1. exd6 Qxd6

White didn’t need to take, as everything was protected. Developing another piece would have been more to the point.
Black’s Queen makes an entrance - this can be a mixed blessing, as we’ll see. But retaking with the e-pawn might have been no better; with such an undeveloped position, it’s dangerous for Black to open the file his King is standing on.

  1. Ba3 Qe6+

White’s Bishop hasn’t moved to its best diagonal, although it does tie down the Black c-pawn from here and might interfere with Black’s castling later.
Black responds with the old beginners’ maxim: “Never miss a check - it might be mate!”. :slight_smile:

  1. Be2 Qg6

Naturally White prefers to develop another piece rather than move the King and forfeit castling. But this leaves the g-pawn undefended and Black makes haste to attack it. Still, the board is quite crowded and doesn’t afford an ideal hunting ground for the Queen. We’ll see how this works out next time. White is still the better placed, but a few second-best choices have allowed Black to catch up a little.

I’m curious about alternatives to 7… c5.

It seems to me that this is practically asking White to tie up a piece or two once the bishop moves to b5. Meanwhile, White has the queen, bishop, and a knight that are free to roam on the kingside. The pawn threat isn’t very substantial, as mentioned, and it seems that a more defensive move might have helped.

I’d have gone with 7 … d5 instead. It keeps the king well-protected, with a chance to make a nice defensive pawn structure with a pawn on e6. There’s a little bit of space to move pieces around as needed, since White’s still got the advantage.

Actually, as a result of having never read the fine print, I was under the impression that you couldn’t castle once you had been in check. I never knew it was only after you’d moved your king you couldn’t do it. :slight_smile: You can imagine my puzzlement when a moment later he was castling? Well, you live and you learn.

You can’t castle if:

  • either the King or Rook has moved
  • your King is currently in check
  • there are any pieces in between the King and Rook
  • an enemy piece is attacking either the square the King moves across, or the one he moves to

In general during the opening moves, you should:

  • control the centre (mainly with pawns)
  • develop your pieces
  • get castled
  1. … c5 is a harmless move, but developing a piece (e.g. 7. … Bf5) would be more to the point.

  2. … d5 is OK, but also is not a developing move.
    Following up with 8. … e6 would be a mistake, since it blocks in the Bishop on c8.

  1. O-O Bh3

White chooses to defend his attacked g-pawn by bringing the King over - which could cause him to live in “interesting times”. Castling into trouble is justified strictly by results. :slight_smile:
Black alertly spots that the g-pawn is pinned - that is, it cannot leave the file, because the King would be in check - and brings his Bishop in to the attack. This threatens mate, and if White defends by pushing the g-pawn, Black wins Rook for Bishop. Clever, but it’s worth remarking that Black has no other resources on hand to follow up with.

  1. Nh4 Qe6

White finds a defence - which not only covers the threatened mate but attacks the Black Queen into the bargain.
Black gives up on his Bishop too easily. 12. … Qg5 would maintain the threat and also attack White’s Knight. True, he cannot take the Knight without releasing the pin and hence losing the Bishop, but that’s better than losing a piece for only a pawn.

  1. gxh3 Qxh3

Naturally, White helps himself to the piece. Black has a pawn for it, and has weakened White’s King’s position, but has no way of continuing the attack for now. This shows why it’s important to develop pieces - so that when opportunities arise, they can be capitalized on.

  1. Nf3 e5

White returns his Knight to a safe square, although g2 would have been a good alternative, closing the file the King stands on.
Black tosses another pawn on the bonfire.

  1. dxc5 Nd7

White could have played 15. Nxe5 - the capture actually played leaves a “trebled” pawn on the c-file, which is a weak formation as the pawns can’t protect each other and get in each other’s way (and friendly pieces’).
Black plays a developing move at last, protecting one pawn and offering to recapture another.

Fifteen moves in and White is a piece ahead with the better development, a killing advantage between equals. But there’s many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.

  1. Ng5 Qxc3

White attacks the Black Queen, which has only a few squares to choose from.
Black helps himself to a pawn, but the Queen moves to an even more restricted location.

  1. Bb5 O-O-O

White pins Black’s Knight and threatens to win it.
Black castles into a rather exposed position – simply 17. … Rd8 might have been better, with an option on castling into the safer King’s side later.

  1. Ne4 Qd4

White centralises his Knight with gain of tempo, as the Black Queen must move yet again.
The square Black chooses is an uncomfortable one, as although the Queen is centralised and protected, she is also still exposed to attack from the lesser White pieces.

  1. Qg4 Kb8

Good play by White, protecting the Knight, pinning the Black Knight again, and clearing d1.
Black unpins the Knight, but there is a threat he has overlooked. 19. … g6, preparing 20. … f5, looks necessary to me.

  1. Rad1 h5

White traps Black’s Queen! If Black had played 19. …g6 then 20. …f5 would allow him to either take White’s Queen in return or play 21. … Qxe4. But he doesn’t have this resource with nothing to underpin the pawn on f5, and the move actually played only delays the inevitable. Despite her enormous mobility, the Queen doesn’t have one single safe square.

So Black, already material down, is about to lose his Queen, to add to his positional woes. Can things get worse? Tune in again tomorrow!

Hee hee hee. I’m enjoying this play-by-play account. Thank you for your time, Malacandra. :wink:

A problem with both these moves is 18.Nxf7 (overlooked in the game). With Rd8 at least the king can trade pieces (losing the pawn) but there isn’t much hope of castling left.

Interestingly - I checked with the computer it found mate in 8 from Rd8 pretty quickly.

It starts with


My move (and as previously shown, what I would play isn’t often the best option) would have been Qd4. Either White moves her queen to a weaker position, makes a mistake and loses the knight, or allows Black to get a little bit out of trouble.

Trading queens is likely from here (White can do it right away if desired), which is probably the best chance once you’ve gotten her into trouble. Given the chance to make mistakes, it seems less risky to gamble with a big piece like that. I think this goes 18.Qf3 0-0-0 19.Nxf7 Qf4. Black probably still loses some material, but it’s better than losing the queen.

Yes, Malacandra should have mentioned 17. … OOO 18. Nxf7 winning material. :frowning:

Copmuters are very reliable at tactical sequences.

After 17. … Qd4, White wins lots of material by 18. Qxd4 exd4 19. Re1+ and now either 19. … Kd8 20. Nxf7+ or 19. … Be7 20. c6.

It’s interesting that beginners often try to avoid queen exchanges, but waste time doing so. Usually the player with the better position is right to exchange.

Oy. :smack:

Good spot. What can I say? 17. Rd8 is an outright lemon. Annotate in haste and all that. And this is all out of my head, no computer.

My only excuse is that I wouldn’t have been in Black’s position in the first place. :stuck_out_tongue: And I’m in good company: glee presumably knows the story of Harry Golombek, in the quiet of his study and with much more time than I had, claiming that the right move for Black in such-and-such a game was to castle… overlooking the inconvenient detail that Black had already moved his King.

  1. Qe2 Nxc5

White moves his Queen to a safe square, while keeping the Black Queen shut in.
Black takes a White pawn, operating on the principle that no matter how many pieces he leaves dangling, White can take only one per turn. :slight_smile: But the pawn he just took was defended as many times as attacked, so now the Black Knight is being hung out to dry as well.

  1. Rxd4 exd4

Obviously White takes off the Queen and Black, with a choice of captures, nips off the most valuable piece he can in response.

  1. Nxc5 Kc7

White picks the wrong piece to take with. Observe, his Bishop on a3 is undefended, and if the Knight leaves its present square Black can play Bxa3. If White had taken with the Bishop, he could always take on f8 next if nothing better offers itself.
It’s unclear what Black’s about with his King move, but since White now has no safe Knight check, the move does threaten …b6, winning the pinned Knight.

  1. Qe5+ Bd6

White’s check is not much to the point, and Qf3, threatening 25. Qxb7+ or 27. Qxf7+, looks better to me. There would then be a Queen and three minor pieces bearing down on the Black King, and a mate would not be far away. Instead he just provokes Black to improve the position of his Bishop.
Black stops the check and forces White’s Queen to find another home.

  1. Qxg7 Rhg8

White goes a full Queen-equivalent up, but don’t blink or you’ll miss it…
Black alertly spots that the Queen can be pinned, and wastes no time nailing Her Majesty to the monarch. It’s White’s turn to lose his Queen for a Rook.

So from a clearly won position, White has blundered to a less clear-cut one, although I’d sooner be White eleven times out of ten in this position. Where next? Tune in next time…

Be honest Malacandra, is this like commentating on a Carling Cup match, when you could be doing a Champions League game…or is it not that good? :smiley:

Picture Harry Carpenter covering two drunks outside the pub, and you’ve about got it. :smiley:

Coverage will be sparse this week, I’ve a hellish schedule on account of a show I’m in after work, but I’ll see what I can do.

  1. Qxg8 Rxg8+

White sees that his Queen can’t be saved, and helps himself to a Rook at least.
On taking the Queen, Black is now “only” two pieces for a pawn in arrears. To quote an Irish bull, the situation is hopeless, but not serious.

  1. Kh1 Kc8

White had no choice but to move out of check.
Black relocates his King. 27. … b6 would have led nowhere special after 28. Na6+, when the Knight is unpinned and everything is protected.

  1. Bc4 b6

Another mistake by White, who should have played 28. Ra1, protecting the Bishop and so allowing the Knight to move.
Black correctly sets about regaining still more material.

  1. Bxf7 Rf8

White nips off a pawn while the going is good.
Black’s response leaves the Bishop hanging while still maintaining the threat against the Knight.

  1. Bxh5 bxc5

So White has picked up a couple of pawns while losing the Knight, and now leads by only a piece and a pawn. That’s quite a comedown from a Queen ahead, but should still be enough to win easily. Full marks to Black for his fightback, though - let’s see how it continues.

  1. h4 Rf4

Despite his material advantage, White’s forces are scattered, and his move doesn’t improve matters. It’s hard to see how he could have saved his h-pawn from the threat of 31. … Rh8, though. 31. Kg2, Rh8; 32. Be2 (or some other Bishop move), Rxh2+; or 31. Kg1, Rh8; 32. Be2, Bxh2+ both lose the pawn anyway.
Black’s response gives White the opportunity to make matters worse for himself.

  1. f3 Rxh4+

White obliges, and Black recovers the extra piece and pawn - from a Queen down twelve moves ago!

  1. Kg2 Rxh5

Material is level and now the game should be drawn with best play, though there is still enough left on the board for there to be scope for things to go wrong.

  1. f4 Kd7

White pushes his passed pawn, and Black counters by bringing his King across.

  1. f5 c4

This gives White the opportunity to trade Bishops, but the ending should still be a draw as the Black King will not be decoyed far enough away from the f-pawn.

  1. Bxd6 Kxd6
  2. f6 d3

Black makes a last losing attempt.

  1. f7 Rh8
  2. Rd1 Ke7

White could have won by 39. f8(Q)+, Rxf8 (absolutely forced); 40. Rxf8, as the Rook gets back in time to stop the Black pawn from promoting no matter what. Even after 40. … d2; 41. Rf1 c3; 42. Kf2 Kc5; 43. Ke2 Kc4; 44. Ke3 Kb4; 45. Kd3 Kxa4; 46. Kxc3 Kb5; 47. Kxd2 White keeps a pawn on the board as well as his extra Rook, and must win easily.

  1. cxd3 c3

Now, once again, it will be a question of whether White can manage not to lose. :slight_smile:

Going back to something from a while ago - when White lost his queen by getting her pinned. I think it would have helped him to play 26.Qg2 Rxg2; 27.Kxg2. Black’s remaining rook and bishop aren’t enough of a threat to have him stay in the corner, so it’s good get him moving if there’s going to be an endgame. It would have been possible to save the h-pawn the way the game went. I don’t know that getting the d-rook to come over to capture makes much of a difference, and in fact might give Black a few more things to do with that rook.

This is an interesting exercise for a beginner. I’ve always found it useful to look at these positions, since it’s often stated by good players that an endgame position is won (and probably tedious for them to show it). I spent a fair bit of time making sure I could win as White from that position, as it can end up in a draw if you don’t play the right moves.

I found 40. …d2 to be slightly easier to win from (you’ve shown one version already). Black can also bring the king directly down the d-file to hold off White’s king (just as hopeless, though). 40 …d2; 41.Rf1 Kd5; 42.Kf3 Kd4; 43.Ke2 Kc3; 44.Kd1 Kb3; 45.Rf4. Now the rook gets to pick up the pawns and hunt down the king.

  1. …dxc2; 41.Rf1 is a bit more hopeful in terms of Black’s chances to draw. If anyone looks at this, consider that if Black can get stalemate if he’s only got one pawn left and gets his king in front of it in the corner.

Again there’s something I didn’t see until I set the computer on it to check (and I probably spent a lot more time on it than you did). 40. … d2. 41.Rd8+ to take the d-pawn right away, which is a bit faster death. :smack: