Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another Shortest Proof Game

At Chess Publishing Forum, IM John Cox has suggested a new 'shortest proof game' task: What's the shortest game ending with '0-0, mate' or '0-0-0, mate'.

So far the best tries are:
1.d4 e6 2.Qd3 Ke7 3.Bg5+ Kd6 4.Na3! Kd5 5.Qf5+ Kxd4 6.0-0-0, mate


1.f4 f6 2.Nh3 Kf7 3.e3 Kg6 4.f5+ Kxf5 5.Bc4 g6 6.d3 e5 7.0-0, mate.

Both achievements are quite good but I wouldn't be surprised if they can be improved upon.

One would think that short castling must take at least four moves: one knight move, one pawn move to open for the bishop, one bishop move and castling but that isn't necessarily so because Black can capture pieces too.
The same of course goes for long castling.

For those of you still toying with symmetrical mates from my blog entry of April 5th, here are some short games I found:

Knight: 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2 Nge7 4.g3 g6 5.Nd5 Nd4 (Dia)


Rook: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.Ng5 Ng4 3.Nxh7 Nxh2 4.Nxf8 Nxf1 5.Ne6 Ne3 (Dia)


Bishop: 1.b3 b6 2.Bb2 Bb7 3.f4 f5 4.e3 e6 5.Be2 Be7 6.Bxg7 Bxg2 (Dia)


Pawn: 1.g4 g5 2.f4 f5 3.gxf5 gxf4 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Ne5 Ne4 6.f6 f3 (Dia)


King: 1.f3 f6 2.Kf2 Kf7 3.Kg3 Kg6 4.Kh3 Kh6 5.e3 e6 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.Bg6 Bg3 8. hxg3 hxg6 (Dia)

9.Kg4 mate.

Any better?

Addendum July 12th
There is a quite readable article on Shortest Proof Games at Chessville. It appears to be the first in a series.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Collector's Item

I now am the proud owner of a rare collector's copy of Rudel's 'Zuke 'Em' book.

The first print has been withdrawn due to an excessive number of typos. A new edition is now under work and buyers of the first batch will have a new copy free of charge. More information can be found at Chessco's home page.

I have no idea whether this image will be the new cover or not. Actually I suspect the blue color is only symbolic - representing the author's and publisher's regret for having sent a poorly proof-read manuscript to the printers.

Addendum July 20th
Yesterday I received a new copy and as I suspected, the cover is unchanged. The new version has a new ISBN number and on page 255 I found my name on a list of people who helped finding typos in the first edition. There are still typos but the number now seems not to be disturbing.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Markovic Triumph

There are very clear similiarities between the Gurgenidze System of my previous entry and the Markovic' Defence (or the De Bruyker's Defence).

The game below is long but it's not only one of the most high-powered recent games with the defence, it's also an excellent illustration of the positional ideas that make the defence attractive.

Eagle eyed readers may already have noticed that there now are some old but still interesting articles by Gerard Welling available as pdf-scans on Der Alter Gonif's blog:
Gerard Welling's article from the Myers Openings Bulletin #25 (vol 3., No. 1, Oct-Nov 1982), plus a supplementary historical article by Myers. A followup by Welling on the subject from MOB #35 (vol 3, no. 11, Oct-Dec 1984).
Part of Welling's article on rim-Knight systems from Rand Springer #37 (issue #1 of 1988).
These articles are 20 years old so I hope I don't infringe any copyright laws by linking to them.

Velimirovic - Markovic,
Valjevo 2000

1.e4 c6 2.d4 Na6!?

According to Stohl this is Kavalek's suggestion. That may well be the case but I could find no examples of him playing the line. What he has played is the related line 2...d5 3.e5 Na6. This is far behind 3...Bf5 in popularity but still fairly respected.

A typical continuation is 4.c3 Nc7 5.Bd3 g6 and now:

a) 6.Ne2 h5 7.0–0 Nh6 8.Nd2 Bf5 9.Nf3 Qd7 10.Ng3 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 Nf5 += Fedorov-Eliseev, Ekaterinburg 2002.

b) 6.Nd2 h5 7.Nf1 Nh6 8.Ne3 Ng4 9.Nf3 Nxe3 10.fxe3 Bf5 11.Ng5 e6 12.e4 += Van der Wiel-Kavalek, Wijk aan Zee 1982.

3.f4 (Dia)

Stohl considers this dubious. I don't entirely agree. It may not be White's best try for an advantage but I think Stohl's evaluation should be reserved for the related variation 3.Nc3 Nc7 4.f4?! d5 which may indeed give Black promising light-square play.

The difference is similar to the Gurgenidze system which is quite popular in the 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 g6 version but far less attractive after 3.Nd2!?.

3...g6 4.Nf3 d5 5.e5 h5 6.c3

This move which secures White's central pawn chain White cannot so easily play with his knight on c3.


Interestingly Black seems to have nothing against allowing Bxa6. There can hardly be anything wrong with 6...Nc7.


Stohl evaluates 7.Bxa6 bxa6 8.c4?! dxc4! 9.Qa4 Qb6 10.Qxc4 Be6 as slightly better for Black.

7...Nc7 8.Be2 b6 9.Nf1 Ne6 (Dia)

This knight employment is quite popular also in the Gurgenidze system - but usually only after having developed the light-squared bishop to f5 or g4. In that case it's frequently exchanged for a knight.

10.Ng3?! Ng7! 11.Be3 a5 12.b3 e6 13.0–0 Ng4 14.Bd2 h4 15.Nh1 Nf5 16.Qc1 Ba6

According to Stohl Black is already better.

17.Bxa6 Rxa6 18.h3?! Ngh6 19.Be1

More natural is 19.Nf2 Ng3 20.Re1 Nhf5 when Black may have a small advantage

19...Be7 20.Bf2 Ra8 21.Qd2 Rc8 22.b4 a4!

If you enjoy long pawn chains, slow manoeuvring and long plans, the Markovic (and the Gurgenidze) may be a good opening choice.

23.Rfe1 b5

Black is slightly better with his outpost on f5 and better bishop, but his chances to open the position with a timely ...f6 or ...g5 are rather vague and can hardly be realized without White's help.

White's knight in the corner looks strange but can relatively easily be extracted. Now an instructive manoeuvring phase begins. First both sides evacuate their kings from the possible scene of action.

24.Kf1 Kd7 25.Ke2 Ng8 26.Bg1 Rh5 27.Bh2 Ng7 28.Rf1 Nh6 29.Nf2 Nhf5 30.Ng4 Kc7 31.Rae1 Kb7 32.Kd1 Ne8! 33.Qe2 Nc7 34.Ne3 Rh8 35.Kc1 Na8

The battle spans the entire board; now it's a black knight in the corner!


A serious concession, now Black gets the open file he needs on a silver platter.

36...gxf5 (Dia)

37.Rg1 Nb6 38.Nd2 Qf8 39.a3

Later the pawn will be weak here and White can't let the knight to c4, so perhaps it was better to do without this move.

39...Qh6 40.Ref1 Rcg8 41.Rf3 Rg6 42.Kd1 Rhg8 43.Ke1 Bd8 44.Kd1 R8g7 45.Re3 Nd7 46.Qf3 Qh8 47.Ke1?!

White should have kept his king on the queenside, protecting c3. He can cover g2 by Re2. But even then a well timed ...f6 and ...fxe5 gives Black good winning chances.

47...Qg8 48.Kf1 f6! 49.Re2

White cannot allow 49.exf6? Nxf6 followed by ...Ne4.


The time was already ripe for 49...fxe5 50.fxe5 (50.dxe5?! Bb6 51.Rh1 c5 is no better) 50...Rg3! (50...Nf8 51.Qf2 Nh7 52.Nf3 and the knight won't get to e4 via g5) 51.Bxg3 Rxg3 52.Qf2 Rxc3 53.Re3 Rxe3 (53...Rc2 54.g4! unclear) 54.Qxe3 Bg5 55.Qd3 Bxd2 56.Qxd2 Qg3 and Black is clearly better as he is planning ...Nb6-c4.


50.Qf2 stops the sacrificial motif but Black is still better.

50...fxe5 51.fxe5 Rg3! (Dia)

For the exchange Black gets a dangerous attack.

52.Bxg3 Rxg3 53.Qf2 Rxc3 54.Re3 Rc2 55.Qf4

After 55.Rf1 Bg5 56.Rd3 Nb6 Black's pressure is unbearable.

55...Nf8! 56.Re2

56.Rd3 Ng6 57.Qf3 Bg5 is hardly any better, but now Black could have won by force.

56...Rc3 57.Re3 Rc2?

After 57...Ng6 58.Qf2 (58.Qf3 Rc1+ 59.Kf2 Rxg1 60.Kxg1 Bb6 –+) 58...Rc1+ 59.Ke2 Nf4+! 60.Qxf4 (60.Kf3? Qh5+ 61.Kxf4 Bg5#) 60...Rxg1 Black’s has a winning material and positional advantage.

58.Re2 Ra2?

For 58...Rc3 59.Re3 Ng6 see 57...Ng6.


After the loss of both queenside pawns White's position becomes untenable. After 59.Qf3 with the idea Qc3 and Nf3 it's difficult to see any advantage for Black.

59...Rxa3 60.Kf2 Rb3 61.Rc1 Rxb4

The rest is relatively simple.

62.Rec2 Rc4 63.Kf1 Qe7 64.g3 hxg3 65.Qxg3 Qa3 66.Kg2 Kb6 67.h4 Qb3

67...Qd3! is an immediate win.


68.Ne1 Rxc2+ 69.Rxc2 Qxg3+ 70.Kxg3 b4 also wins for Black.

68...dxc4 69.Rh1 Qc2+ 70.Kh3 a3 71.Qg7 Qf2 72.Ng5

72.Qxf8 Qxf3+ 73.Kh2 Qf2+ 74.Kh3 Qxh4+ 75.Kg2 Qe4+ would only prolong the hopeless struggle.

72...Bxg5 73.hxg5 f4 0–1

Annotation (in particular for the later stage of the game) is based on Stohl’s for ChessBase.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bukhuti Gurgenidze 1933-2008

A few weeks ago I learned from a Chessbase article that chess legend Bukhuti Gurgenidze was dead. Although a very strong player he was more noted as an original chess thinker and a trainer for several women world champions. Below is a game he played in one of the opening lines that are named after him. Actually he didn't play it very frequently himself but his student Nona Gaprindashvili did.

Honfi - Gurgenidze, Kislovodsk 1968
1.e4 g6
Gurgenidze also played the Caro Kann version of his defence: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 g6!? 4.e5 (4.h3!? Nh6 5.Nf3 f6 was a Gaprindashvili specialty) when 4...h5 may be better than 4...Bg7. However, when he played that opening he seemed to prefer another pet variation: 3...b5!?
2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c6
This is the characteristic move of the Gurgenidze system.
4.f4 d5
In contrast to many other lines of the Modern, Black immediately claims a foothold in the centre.
5.e5 h5
! (Dia)

I met this defence in one of my first tournament games and was convinced that Black had gone mad. But only 10 moves later I was very happy to accept a draw offer; I simply could find no active plan.
6.Nf3 Nh6!

Black is breaking all the rules but he has a plan: He wants to block White's pawns on the dark squares in order to gain total dominance of the light squares.

7.Be3 Bg4 8.Be2 e6
Quite frequently Black tries to hold back this move as ...Nd7-f8-e6 can be an interesting option.
9.Qd2 Nd7 10.0–0–0 b5 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 h4 13.Bf2

This move occurs surprisingly frequently in this system - the bishop is biting on granite and needs to change diagonal to find active opportunities. Consequently Black has been investigating move-orders where the bishop never leaves f8. I already have mentioned the Caro-Kann version. A paradoxical option is the so-called 'Accelerated Gurgenidze' 1.e4 g6 2.d4 d6 3.Nc3 c6 4.f4 d5?!?. Black's idea is that while he loses a tempo on ...d6-d5 he saves two by not playing ...Bf8-g7-f8. As far as I know it's now considered close to refuted but I will have to check that more closely.
14.Ne2 Nf5
This knight is the pride of Black's position.
15.Kb1 Nb6 16.Bg4 Nc4 17.Qe1 a5 18.Bxf5 gxf5 19.Ng1 Bb4 20.Qe2 a4 21.Nf3 (Dia)

Even modern software needs some thinking time to appreciate this move. It's easier for Black than for White to bring his troops to the queenside.
22.bxc3 Qe7 23.Be3 b4
There is no way to stop Black opening the b-file against White's king.
24.Qe1 b3 25.cxb3 axb3 26.Bc1 Rxa2 27.Rd2 Qa7 0–1