Archive for September, 2009

This position is from the game Vinay Lakshman v IM James Morris in the recent RJ Shield Tournament. White entered the rook endgame a pawn ahead but has allowed Black counter-play and now the game is in the balance. It probably depends on him finding the correct plan in the diagrammed position.

[fen caption=”What would you play as White?”]8/8/1k6/1p4RP/2p5/P5P1/1r6/4K3[/fen]

46.h6 Rh2 47.Rg6+ Ka5 48.g4 Ka4 49.Ra6+ Kb3 50.g5 c3 51.Rc6 c2 52.g6 Rxh6 53.g7 Rxc6 54.g8=Q+ Rc4 55.Qg3+ Ka2 56.Qg2 Kb1 57.Qg6 Kb2 58.Qg2 Kxa3 59.Qg3+ Ka2 60.Qg2 b4
Here White played the obvious 46.h6 and lost after
46…Rh2 47.Rg6+ Ka5 48.g4 Ka4 49.Ra6+ Kb3 50.g5 c3 51.Rc6 c2 52.g6 Rxh6 53.g7 Rxc6 54.g8(Q)+ Rc4 55.Qg3+ Ka2 56.Qg2 Kb1 57.Qg6 Kb2 58.Qg2 Kxa3 59.Qg3+ Ka2 60.Qg2 b4 0-1

Where did he go wrong?

Archive for September, 2009

The seventh RJ Shield tournament for 2009 was held on 27th September at the Oakleigh-Carnegie RSL and attracted a field of 67 players.

This was a special event as both Chess Kids Superstars, IM James Morris & FM Bobby Cheng played in the tournament which was also a fund-raiser for Bobby’s forthcoming trip to Turkey for the World Under 12 Championships. We raised $551.30 towards his trip so thanks to all those players and parents who contributed.  James beat Bobby in their individual game and thus won the tournament with 7/7 followed by Bobby on 6.

Archive for September, 2009

At the moment, whenever I have some spare time, I’m using the iPhone App. “Chess DB” to play through some chess games.   The application claims to have over 500,000 games on file and you just select the player whose games interest you.

I’ve chosen Bob Wade, and English IM (originally from NZ) who died recently aged 87 and who was one of the most important figures in world chess in the last century.   He persuaded Batsford to publish a series of chess books in the 1970’s and 80’s and he played a key role in making England a leading chess power from the 1970s onwards.

He had a very large chess library and was always pleased to have visiting players from Australia or New Zealand drop in to see him.  Peter Parr and I called to see him on our way home after the 1976 Olympiad and spent a pleasant afternoon chatting with him.

In today’s puzzle he is on the losing end of a position against the Belgian player A.O’Kelly de Galway.   Wade (Black to play) has to decide between exchanging queens or retreating with 1…Qe6.   Which move is better?

Black to Play. Should he play 1...Qxd1 or 1...Qe6.

Black to Play. Should he play 1...Qxd1 or 1...Qe6.

Archive for September, 2009

A gigantic delusion has beset the chess world for almost half a century – not only the rank and file of the chess world but its leading writers, who have spread the delusion further and further.
When I say half a century I mean 52 years for readers of German (because Emanual Lasker’s “Lehrbuch” appeared in 1926), and 46 years for readers of English, because the translated “Manual” first appeared in 1932.
The delusion is that William Steinitz formulated certain chess principles, which have become known as the Steinitz principles or the Steinitz theory.
The truth is that these principles were indeed formulated, but solely by Emanuel Lasker.   It may seem to many quite incredible that a man should give the chess world the vital principles of position play and at the same time go out of his way to ascribe them to a predecessor.  But Lasker had a reason which to him was a matter of conscience.
What would Lasker have answered if some exceptionally erudite chess player had said to him “In 1926 you ascribed all these principles to Steinitz.  How come that in 1907 you published some of the most fundamental of them without a single mention of Steinitz?”
“KAMPF”
In 1907, Lasker wrote and published an essay entitled “Kampf”.  This is often mentioned in chess literature, but so few people have ever read it that the title is almost invariably misquoted as “Der Kampf”.   It is not about chess but about the concept of struggle in general, and chess is used by way of illustration.
The three principles that appeared in Kampf will be very familiar to readers of the Manual which appeared two decades later.   They were :-
1. The Principle of Work (or in chess, “development”).   Each piece has an inherent tendency towards the maximum utilisation of its potentialities.
2. The Principle of Economy – economy of force, which applies to all forms of combat.
3. The Principle of Justice.   An attack in an equal position should permit a sufficient refutation, and it follows that an attack cannot be successful until an advantage is acquired.
In the Manual, Principle (3) is given among the “additions to Steinitz’s theory”, while (1) and (2) are given as integral parts of it.   Evidently Lasker felt that he could, if challenged, say that they were implicit in Steinitz’s games and annotations, or some of them.
When I first read Lasker’s Manual in 1932, I already suspected that Lasker was giving Steinitz undue credit, for I remembered that Steinitz in his Modern Chess Instructor” had said not one word about any principles such as were attributed to him by Lasker.   The book’s only approach to a generality is the famous description of position play as the “accumulation of minute advantages” – which, by the way, does not cover defensive play.
M.V.ANDERSON COLLECTION
An Australian chess researcher has, strangely enough, a great advantage over those in other countries, e.g. Britain.  He can, through his own State Library, borrow books from the M.V.Anderson Collection in Melbourne, which contains about 9000 items and is about equal to the Niemeijer Collection in the Hague; all he has to do is pay the postage which in those days was not exorbitant.   So I borrowed from the M.V.Anderson Collection all the seven volumes of Steinitz’s “International Chess Magazine”.   Steinitz was not only the editor but also the principal contributor.   I went through it page by page, and still found not a single enunciation of a chess principle.
I found plenty of painstaking annotations, far above the level of others of the time, but they were all empirical.   It is true that deep study of them would benefit any player; he would gradually begin to think about new positions in somewhat the same way that Steinitz would have.   But this is quite different from setting out a body of principles.
I did not go to the length of trying to get hold of 19th century copies of “The Field” and other magazines in which Steinitz edited chess columns, but I am prepared to wager ten dollars to one that they contain none of the formulated principles attributed by Lasker to Steinitz.   For by this time I had read enough of Steinitz that he just didn’t tick over in this way.
LASKER EMOTIONAL
Lasker became quite emotional about Steinitz in the Manual.   He believed that Steinitz had never been given his due.   But this alone would hardly have been enough to induce him to give Steinitz nearly all the credit for his (Lasker’s) own work.   It was more than that.
Steinitz’s rapid break-down in health was undoubtedly accelerated by his two defeats at Lasker’s hands, especially the second, which was crushing.   Immediately after it, i.e. early in 1897, Steinitz had to go to a sanatorium.  In 1899 his mind gave way, and he died in an asylum in 1900.
If you read everything ever written about Lasker, you must conclude that as a young man he was somewhat aggressive.  But decades of success mellowed him – or perhaps the aggression developed out of his fight against poverty and it was only in later life that he could give free rein to his natural good nature.   Be that as it may, I am certain that he harboured feelings of guilt about Steinitz.   He could not help blaming himself in part for Steinitz’s bad end.
STEINITZ VITRIOLIC
Quite unjustifiably!   If you had read some of Steinitz’s vitriolic polemics, you must conclude that he had incipient mental illness long before he met Lasker.
Read what Lasker says on page 189 of the Manual, and pay special attention to the last sentence:-
“The world did not listen to Steinitz but mocked him … The world would have benefited if it had given Steinitz a chance.   He was a thinker worthy of a seat in the halls of a University.   A player, as the world believed he was, he was not; his studious temperament made that impossible; and thus he was conquered by a player and in the end, little valued by the world, he died.   And I who vanquished him must see to it that his great achievement, his theories, should find justice, and I must avenge the wrongs that he suffered”.
Take that last sentence first.  “I, who vanquished him, … must avenge the wrongs he suffered”.
To carry out his self-imposed task, Lasker, a worshiper of truth, was prepared to abandon his goddess, which he felt free to do because he thought he would be the only sufferer.   I wonder if he realised what a sacrifice he was making!   The chess world has taken him at his own valuation.   He dubs himself “the player” and Steinitz “the thinker” and the world has stuck to these labels like glue.   Even Euwe, whose intellect all must respect, falls into this error in “The Development of Chess Style”.
Had Lasker, in the Manual, simply given Steinitz the credit for evolving a more scientific kind of position play, and given all the general principles as his own – which in fact they were – using examples of Steinitz’s play to illustrate some of them, how differently Lasker would be spoken of by chess critics today.
TARRASCH SIMPLIFIES LASKER
As a sheer teacher – in the sense of an expounder – Tarrasch excelled Lasker.   But Tarrasch’s only great work, Das Schachspiel (“The Game of Chess” in English) came 4.5 years after Lasker’s Manual and would have been impossible without it.   In the Manual, Lasker had shown for the first time that combinations could be classified, but he made things a little hard for the average mentality by using grandiose terminology, e.g. “motif of function”.
Tarrasch saw the enormous value of Lasker’s discoveries and cashed in on them.   “Motif of function” became “tied piece” – further pruned to the monosyllable “tie” (which is better because it is not always a piece that is tied – it may be a pawn that cannot afford to capture anything because it is needed to stop a back-rank mate).
The part of the Manual that deals with combinations is not, of course, attributed to Steinitz.   But Lasker introduces it without the slightest fanfare.   The reader is given no hint that LAsker was breaking absolutely new ground in chess literature.   Other authors followed him; most of them introduced improvements from a teaching viewpoint, and the fact that all of them owed the whole conception to Lasker has been told to the world by only one writer – myself.
MOVES NOT WORDS
It is only in book IV, on position play, that Lasker saw his chance to make emends for the “wrongs” to Steinitz.
Going back to that quotation from page 189 of the Manual, some of it is sentimental nonsense.   Steinitz not a player!   How then, did he hold the world championship for 28 years?   He was self-evidently a player and one of great tenacity.
And the reason Steinitz was not understood – by the generality of players – was a very simple one.   He never explained himself.   But in fact he was fairly well understood by his fellow masters.   For them his games were enough explanation.
In 1901, just one year after Steinitz’s death, the American columnist, Charles Devide, wrote of Steinitz, “the man who for nearly 30 years ruled the chess world, who firmly impressed the game with his own individuality, and who moulded and reshaped the theory and style of play …. the famous Viennese player Adolf Schwarz, at the Vienna tournament of 1882, pointed to Steinitz and said, “This little man has taught us all how to play chess”.
“Us all” meant the assembled masters.   They learned from his moves, not his words.   But the chess world at large needs words, and these words they owe to Lasker.   Lasker’s words are not always fully appreciated – partly because he would insist on wandering off into little by-paths – either emotional or philosophical – but other writers used his theories and principles and kept to brass tacks.   Nevertheless, Lasker was the king of chess writers, and anyone who doesn’t appreciate his chess Manual is to be pitied.  It and Nimzovitch’s “My System” are the key chess books of all time.   But the Manual is the more fundamentally true.   Fine rather sapiently observes “My System” is not a complete system but a “series of insights”.
STEINITZ FOLLOWED STAUNTON
From what has been said, the impression could be gained that Steinitz as a player was a complete revolutionary.   On the contrary, he followed on from Staunton, who followed on from Philidor.   Steinitz, as a young player in Vienna, thought of hardly anything but sacrifices.   It was in London that he completely changed his style, Lasker himself says on page 200 of his Manual:-
“I heard in London, that a London master, Mr.Potter, who loved unusual and stage moves, had influenced Steinitz greatly.   The two were friends, and Steinitz somehow began to copy Potter’s style”. (William Norwood Potter, 1840 – 1895, “in his day the equal of any master except Blackburne”, according to the BCM of 1895 – CJSP) “However that may have been, I can well believe that a strange style would rise, almost of necessity, at a time so romantic, so superstitious as that time was.   Potter probably saw through the emptiness and the presumption of the style then dominating, and with his style of play he seemed to call out to his contemporaries: “You want to beat me right from the start by force of your greater genius?   Look!   I make ridiculous moves, and yet you cannot beat me.   Become, I pray you, more modest and more reasonable”.
This is one of Lasker’s rather irritating little flights of fancy.   Potter wrote a book of chess maxims which were eminently sane and hardly indicate that he was motivated in chess in any abnormal way.
STEINITZ’S STYLE CHANGES
However, the point is that Steinitz’s style underwent such a rapid change after his migration to England (from Austria) in 1862 at the age of 26, that some outside influence is easily deducible, and Potter was probably the nearest thing to a close friend that Steinitz ever had.   He was a quarrelsome little man who made enemies more easily than friends.
Lasker’s feeling of guilt about Steinitz was probably allied to a deep feeling of sympathy – a feeling of “there but for the grace of God go I”.   They were both Jews, they each held the world championship for the best part of three decades, and they both had to contend with poverty, at times and with enemies and detractors.
LASKER’S FEAR
On page 2 of “Mein Wettkampf mit Capablanca”, Lasker makes it clear that he always had a dread of ending his days like Kieseritsky, Zukertort, Mackenzie, whom he alludes to in his emotional style as “starving to death”, or like Steinitz or Pillsbury, who “wasted away in insane asylums”.   Lasker was writing about a match which he was convinced he would lose and which he was only persuaded to contest because of the large amount of money (for those days) which he would receive as loser.   It was one of the times in his life that he was short of money.
All in all, it is clear that in his later years he could not think of Steinitz without emotion – Lasker was an emotional man and despised Tarrasch because he “lacks the passion that whips the blood”.
EUWE and RETI ON THE WRONG TRACK
In view of all this, his quixotry in deliberately attributing so much of his own brilliant brainwork to Steinitz, becomes less incomprehensible.   It conquered even his passion for truth, which was considerable.   But it does not conquer mine, and I have always been infuriated by his self-abnegation and the almost unanimous acceptance of it by even great writers – pre-eminently Euwe and Reti – who have actually assumed, without verification, that among Steinitz’s admittedly voluminous writings are to be found the formularisation of chess principles simple on Lasker’s say-so.
STEINITZ NO HEGEL
Steinitz’s mind simply didn’t run to synthesis.   He could analyse a position brilliantly, but he did not have the kind of mind that seize upon the factor common to a multitude of instances and find the words to express it truly and memorably.   Such synthesis is not absolutely necessary for players of high talent, but it is an indispensable prop for a huge majority, who can use it to build up their own intuitive thinking to a point of fair reliability.
EINSTEIN ON LASKER
It was in any case impossible for Lasker to sit down and take the trouble to record the ideas of another man.   Albert Einstein, the great physicist, says as much in his foreward to Hannak’s biography of Lasker.   Einstein and Lasker were close friends.   Einstein writes, “In our discussions I was almost invariably in the position of the listener for it seemed the natural thing for this eminently creative man to generate his own ideas rather than adjust himself to those of someone else”.   He goes on to mention that Lasker even argued about relativity with Einstein, denying the validity of Einstein’s proposition that the velocity of light in a vacuum is constant – because a complete vacuum does not exist.   Einstein even concedes that LAsker had a point.
The truth leaks forward in Lasker’s book here and there.   For example, on page 189 (Manual) he says, “Steinitz demonstrated his assertion by the analysis of an enormous number of games by the masters”.   The truth behind these words is that Steinitz did in fact analyse a host of games and that it is possible by studying his analysis to conclude that Steinitz thought about chess in a certain way.   To describe this certain way as an assertion is stretching things.   Earlier on the same page, Lasker explains that modern planning as he sees it started with Steinitz.   He explains that the correctness cannot be absolutely demonstrated, so it requires “an assertion”.   To make such an assertion, he says, “requires the boldness of genius”.   So when he speaks of Steinitz’s “assertion” he does not allude to a particular assertion but to a general attitude.
Further, when Lasker has to confess that Steinitz didn’t really say the things Lasker wants to say, he glosses it over by speaking of “gaps” in the Steinitz theory, but that Steinitz “felt” certain things – and then he goes to formulate these things – the principle of economy and so forth.
On page 229 he comes right out in the open with “Criticism of an Additions to Steinitz’s Theory” – and these, including illustrative examples, take up 26 pages.
Apparently he felt he could get away with attributing quite a lot of principles to Steinitz, on the excuse that by stretching hints dropped here and there in Steinitz’s excellent annotations, in a rather far-fetched way, the principles could be said to be implied.   But a point came where honesty compelled him to admit that he could carry his deception – a harmless one as he thought – no further.
Some erudite persons may object that Alekhine, when once asked by a journalist, “From whom have you learnt most?” replied “Steinitz”.   This is easily explained.   Alekhine was born in 1892 nd in his youth would have been studying Steinitz’s games and annotations.   Being a genius, he did not need generalities.   Similarly, any player of high talent in the last half-century could become a master simply by a very close study of “New York 1924” with Alekhine’s voluminous and brilliant annotations.
To conclude, I am willing to compromise by calling the theory or principles the Steinitz-Lasker theory.   This way at least gives Lasker some of the credit due to him, while at the same time making sure that such credit as may be due to Steinitz is given with over-measure, in accordance with Lasker’s wish.   In my own writings I have almost always called it this.
– C.J.S.Purdy
(Reprinted from the September 1978 issue of “Chess Player’s Quarterly”.)

A gigantic delusion has beset the chess world for almost half a century – not only the rank and file of the chess world but its leading writers, who have spread the delusion further and further.

When I say half a century I mean 52 years for readers of German (because Emanual Lasker’s “Lehrbuch” appeared in 1926), and 46 years for readers of English, because the translated “Manual” first appeared in 1932.

The delusion is that William Steinitz formulated certain chess principles, which have become known as the Steinitz principles or the Steinitz theory.

Wilhelm Steinitz

Wilhelm Steinitz

The truth is that these principles were indeed formulated, but solely by Emanuel Lasker.   It may seem to many quite incredible that a man should give the chess world the vital principles of position play and at the same time go out of his way to ascribe them to a predecessor.  But Lasker had a reason which to him was a matter of conscience.

Archive for September, 2009

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the finals of the Secondary Interschool Championships at Brighton Grammar and was pleasantly surprised by the high standard of play.  The Melbourne High boys in particular dominated the event and occupied all the top boards at the tournament.

Chui v Tanner

Chui v Tanner

I recorded some of the games on my iPhone (using Shredder Classic – a very good app.) and noted in particular the game between Willian Chui and Michael Tanner.  William (white) had been building up a big attack on the kingside and had his pieces placed menacingly around the black King.  I was looking over his shoulder pondering how he could best bring the attack to a successful conclusion when William beat me to it and found a pretty combination to win the game.  Can you spot it also?   Read on to the hint if you need help.

White to play and win.

White to play and win.

Archive for September, 2009

FosterMirror_9-09-2009_ChessChampions

Archive for September, 2009

FosterMirror_9-09-2009_ChessChampsAtFosterPrimary

Archive for September, 2009

There has been a complaint. It seems that not everyone is able to solve “Jammo’s Chess Puzzles” even with the occasional hints that I offer. Failure, rather than spurring readers on to improve their chess skills so that these puzzles will no longer be a mystery, (and delighting at seeing the unimagined solution), means there is a grave danger that repeated failures at puzzle solving will discourage our budding chess champions.

The message has therefore come down from on high that I should chuck in some easy puzzles so that all our readers will be able to bask in the glory of having solved “Jammo’s Chess Puzzle”.

I am only too happy to oblige and accordingly I offer you “Jammo’s Chess Puzzle #8”. What is White’s best move?

What is White's Best Move?

What is White's Best Move?

If you are struggling with this one, then read the hint below:

Archive for September, 2009

YWeekly_3-09-2009_MindGames