Round four report

Best game prize: Xerxes51
Best fight: dikankdan – TommyFischer99
Picture perfect: Kobra666
Tip of the round: Don’t believe your opponent (when they play Bxh2+)
Lichess study:

Round summary:

Two rounds to go and at the top WearyWilly is not looking too weary at all on 4/4, along with Glenton1812.

Firstly best game prize goes to Xerxes51 for a great game in the Black Lion. Careful readers will have noted the million times I repeat the importance of playing good central chess, and this game is a wonderful illustration building central control and then using it. Some great tactics too, and it all boils down to an endgame where White only has an additional pawn, and the pawn is doubled as well, but White’s got it all under control. (For people who are bored of the central chess thing, feel free to enjoy Riff-Art’s Fried Liver Attack!)

Best fight goes to dikankan and TommyFischer99. A very interesting Queen’s Gambit Accepted in which Black gains queenside activity at the cost of giving White the edge in the centre and on the kingside. Black’s strategy works well enough, but Black fails to find the killer blow, and White’s attack is decisive.

I’d recommend that everyone look at the position after Black’s 20th move in nokiokid vs Kobra666. The material is level, the pawn structure is rather symmetrical in some ways, but Black’s position is a picture of perfection. Rooks belong on open files – both Black’s rooks sit powerfully on open files. Bishops love the long diagonals – both Black’s bishops sit on the long diagonals. Queen’s love messing with the opponent’s king – Black’s queen sits menacingly on the g1-h7 diagonal opposing the king on g1. Winning games of chess with clever tactics is great, but you’ll find strong players win games simply by putting pieces on good squares!

Our tip of the round is about working on your own calculation and not believing your opponents! The ‘Greek gift’ sacrifice Bxh7+ or …Bxh2+ is a classic piece sacrifice that wins a lot of games. When your opponent plays such a move, it is natural to assume that they’ve worked it all out, so taking the bishop must be bad! Wrong!! Twice this tournament players should have taken the bishop and didn’t, don’t trust your opponent’s calculation or else you’ll never pick up on their mistakes, and players frequently make mistakes when going for tactical glory.

Game summaries:

  • WearyWilly - onlinek: A really interesting game, very well played by WearyWilly. The Advance Caro-Kann (3.e5) can now be viewed as the modern mainline of the Caro-Kann. Black’s 3…c5 is a move that I’m a big fan of, as the main alternative 3…Bf5 gives White a range of dangerous plans. The 3…c5 line requires extremely careful technical play from both sides and hides a range of subtleties. White captures on c5, and then attempts to hold the pawn, Black gets strong pressure, but eventually that pressure needs to achieve something real or dissipate. A key subtlety arising in the game is that Black should have tried 6…Qa5+/7…Qa5+ in both cases White is forced to play Nc3, which suits Black as White really would prefer to play 3 in this line. The defining moment occurs on move 11, Black needed to play 11…f6!! sacrificing a second pawn to achieve central dominance. This was an extremely difficult idea to find, and Black instead played 11…Nf4, an enterprising, but ultimately doomed sole expedition for the knight, which ends up being lost of the a4 square. Being a piece up for a player of WearyWilly’s quality is more than enough.

  • Tilbs_11 - Glenton1812: A rare, but very modern defence with 1.d4 e6 2.c4 Bb4+. White chooses to play 3.Nc3 and after 3…c5 4.a3 Bxc3+ White’s c-pawns are doubled. Black plays well and the doubled and immobile c-pawns quickly become the key feature in the position. Under pressure White drops the exchange. After this Black is always likely to win, and it is interesting how Black’s positional mistake 19…a5 makes the win much harder. Rooks thrive on open files, and the closing of the queenside gives White chances to hold. Eventually Black is able to open up the h-file and Black’s rooks dominate.

  • dikankan – TommyFischer99: A fascinating queen’s gambit accepted. The opening is fascinating, nuanced and ultimately the game is shaped by Black’s 10…c4. This move which bypasses the White d-pawn ensures that Black will always have an advanced queenside pawn majority, which could form the basis for active play in the middlegame and could easily win an endgame. The downside of 10…c4 is White is then clearly superior in the centre with a powerful pawn centre and space to generate a kingside attack. This dynamic is further developed by White’s 15.e5, when 15…Nd5 16.Nxd5 exd5 is forced and Black’s queenside pawns are further supported, but White’s kingside space is even clearer. Black demonstrates good judgment in playing Bb7>Bc8>Bg4 turning a useless piece into a useful one! White’s kingside pressure seems to be gaining, but Black actually gains a winning opportunity due to queenside piece play and the potential for powerful fork with White’s pieces a little loose. Black gets the move order slightly wrong, and the game equalises. At move 27, Black needed to drop the bishop back to e7 to prevent White playing Nh4. Instead White plays 28.Nh4 and 29.Nf5 when the knight dominates the kingside and hands White the advantage. Under pressure Black allows the h-file to open for White’s rooks and White’s attack crashes through.

  • Mark2_alias – Julianclissold: A fascinating London system. Black plays an early …Bd6 neutralising White’s strong bishop. A highly illustrative point arises on White’s 8th move, Black has just played 7…Be7, and the simple 8.Bxe7 would have left White with a clear advantage as several of Black’s minor pieces are poorly placed. Instead, White plays the tactical 8.Ne5, which hands Black the edge. A highly tense position arises, and White sacrifices a piece for two pawns, in a position where White has three connected passed pawns. Black’s bishop pair is strong, and gave Black good chances, and the game boiled down to a rook pawn endgame which was drawn, but difficult for White. After a lot of fighting White is unable to find the best moves and Black breaks through.

  • LeilaPeymani – Aytacoglu: A mini-masterclass in opening play. In an …e6/Bb5 Sicilian Black unwisely chooses 4…d5, and White is able to open the position up with a lead in development and strong pressure. On this occasion White was then happy to take the draw.

  • nokiokid - Kobra666: A fascinating Modern defence, which beautifully illustrates various ideas in the opening. White chooses to support d4 with Nc3 and e3 – this approach isn’t harmonious (as in the long run it will be very hard for White to open the centre on White’s terms, and White’s rooks are likely to get stuck). White follows this with f4, going for a Stonewall attack style position, but this structure is best supported by c3, which secures the d4 square, and the knight on c3 is therefore in the way. White makes further trouble by playing 5.Bb5 c6 6.Bd3, where Black has gained the productive move …c6 for free! In the meantime Black churns out strong developing moves that in typical Modern style don’t look overly flashy, but put pieces on squares with strong long-term potential. White complicated things with 11.Ne4, and at this point Black could have gained a good advantage by playing for the …c5 pawn break. White instead choose to play for …e5, and this perhaps gave White chances to gain a playable game with 14.f5! or 15.dxe5 dxe5 16.f5! Instead Black opens up the e-file successfully, and the plays …c5 opening up the c-file. All Black’s quality moves putting pieces on good squares then pays of handsomely and the position after Black’s 20th move seems more of a textbook demonstration of perfectly placed pieces, than a real game position. The material is level, but it’s game over and Kobra666 converts with ease.

  • Riff-Art - dmh6: The Fried Liver Attack! Is there any better named chess opening? (By which I mean serious master level ones, not obscure sidelines.) It’s sharp and it’s fun. White does all out attack on f7, and both sides need strong preparation and a good tactical eye. White’s preparation is better, with Black choosing the rare 4…Bc5!? over the strongest continuation 4…d5! White’s response 5.d4! Bxd4 6.Nxf7 is strong and technically should be winning. Much tactics follow, but when the dust settles White is up two pieces vs four pawns. Black makes an error in rushing to sacrifice the exchange to win a piece back as in the arising position White’s extra rook should dominate. It should, but White leaves Black with a tactic winning the rook for a bishop. Black finds it, but one move too late and although material is suddenly level with White having a bishop vs 3 pawns, Black can’t avoid dropping some pawns back. White plays well, slowly squeezing off pawns, and forcing trades down to a won endgame.

  • Damo770 - tottydpogi22: Once again tottydpogi22 prove the master of provocative openings, the play reaches an usual c4 Sicilian structure in which White could and probably should play 4.e5! pushing Black’s knight back to g8. White’s pawn is then rather overextended and complex play will follow. Instead White opts for safety and an illustrative passage of play occurs where Black could have picked up a large advantage with 5…d5! but instead chooses 5…d6, and White would have equalised with 6.d4! but selected 6.d3. The lesson is that the opening battle is all about controlling the centre and don’t be too passive! Both sides develop some piece and then Black gets on with it by playing 10…d5! The centre opens with White’s king a bit exposed, and tactical error by White sees Black gain two pawns. Black’s pieces are more active and harry the White king. The king is driven forwards and is executed on h6.

  • Mags2020 - calcina: An interesting centre-counter. I don’t especially like White’s 3.Nc3!?, as I feel that 3…Nxd5 should allow Black to equalise. I therefore even more disagree with Black’s choice of 3…c6!? which gambits a pawn under circumstances where I don’t believe that Black can get enough compensation. Black’s 6…a6? exacerbates the situation, costing a tempo and leaving Black with a broken pawn structure. 11.b3 would have left White a pawn up, with several additional positional advantages. Instead White plays the provocative 11.Nh4!? and Black goes for the famous ‘greek gift’ sacrifice 11…Bxh2+. At this point White makes a common and serious mistake, she believed her opponent and played 12.Kf1? Instead 12.Kxh2 Ng4+ 13.Kg3! would have left White a piece up and Black in huge trouble as in the resulting position it is White who has threats, not Black. Conclusion, never believe your opponent, instead rely on your own analysis! Having lost the h2 pawn and getting the King misplaced White now stands worse, but Black fails to extract the bishop from h2, where it becomes a major liability and eventually costs Black the exchange. Black has some compensation and Black seeks to attack, but instead simply opens up the g-file for White’s rook and suddenly it’s White’s turn to show some attacking flair, and despite having been forced to march the king from g1 to c3, it is Black’s king that is fatally exposed.

  • Irenge – fredspassky: A game shaped by Black’s early piece sacrifice or blunder. Black chooses to meet 1.d4 with the rare 1…Nc6, and gets a little tied down reaching a Advance French position with the c-pawn blocked by the knight. Black sacrifices the knight on d4, and the rest of the game is a perfect illustration of what a quality player does when they’re a piece up. Beautify play by Irenge, with some gorgeous attacking play. Less experiences players should note the use of the g-pawn to break open Black’s kingside, and White’s knights were beautifully handled. Well worth a look!

  • NotJudit – abeswick: A Colle system vs the KID. The game is shaped by two features. Firstly, White develops the c1 bishop with Bd2 and Bc3, this isn’t really a harmonious set up and leaves White badly coordinated as the bishop doesn’t really belong on c3. Instead b3 and Bb2 would work nicely, leaving the c-pawn free to engage in the battle for the centre. The second feature, which is a common theme at all levels of chess, is the threat that central pawns pose to pieces. Black’s pawn on e7 hardly looks threatening, but 9…e5 wins a piece by force, firstly attacking a piece that can retreat, but then marching on with 10…e4! forking two pieces, one of which therefore is lost. Black is an experienced player and once a piece up the game snowballs away from White.

  • hsk4u – clhchess: An offbeat and interesting open. White chooses to double fianchetto and Black takes the centre. I would have preferred either …Be6 or …Bg4 to Black’s …Bf5, as it runs less risk of White engineering a powerful e4 break, or being hit with a Nh4 attack. 6…Nxe5 7.Bxe5 h5! would have underlined why central chess is winning chess, as Black prepares castling queenside and attacking on the kingside, while maintaining strong central control. Instead Black is unable to find the most energetic moves and in particular 7…f6 is a toxic move that undermines Black’s position. With 10.Nd2 White has reached an excellent setup with strong pressure on White’s centre and Black’s attack has not progressed swiftly enough. Black either miscalculates or misjudges the position and allows White to win a pawn in the centre and trades off Black’s lightsquared bishop. As a rule of thumb it is practically impossible to successfully attack a fianchettoed king’s position if that king is defended by the bishop and the attack doesn’t have the same coloured bishop, (even achieving Qh2+ is unlikely to go further as after Kf1 the queen would have no more checks). Black carries on attacking, but White is ice cold defending clinically, and picks up Black’s b7 pawn with a powerful attack. Black reasonably concludes that White knows what they’re doing.

  • Xerxes51 - Blackscorpion2020: A well fought and entertaining Black Lion defence. White focuses on central control in classical style, while Black mixes central control with aiming for a kingside attack. Black’s attack looks threatening, but White wins the battle in the centre, and 20.Ne4! would have practically finished the game on the spot. White has a huge advantage, but Black grabs the opportunity to trade down to an endgame in which White is only one pawn up, and that is a doubled pawn. Black however makes a terrible mistake, trading down into the rook pawn endgame was a great choice, but Black then decides to trade rooks. This is an incorrect choice as rook pawn endgames are notoriously drawish, and being a pawn down often isn’t a problem. In king pawn endgames everything being equal an extra pawn is normally a win, even when it’s a doubled pawn. The position at White’s 39th move is critical and illustrative. The simple 39.g4! enables White to convert to a trivial win.

  • jack43lin – Mulummm: An interesting Modern Benoni style game in which Black is able to engineer the …b5 break and create a powerful pawn mass by winning White’s d-pawn. White played well enough to generate tactics chances, but was not able to take any and Black showed excellent endgame technique to take home the point.

  • Lamolam – jonmill: A curious game. White’s opening play is creative, but ultimately high problematic. White’s pawns are moved forward almost at random, and the resulting structure leaves White with doubled isolated/backwards f-pawns and the White king stranded behind them. Black’s pawn moves are more restrained and focused on the quality development of the Black pieces, so it is no surprise that quite quickly White starts losing pawns, and we reach an endgame with White two pawns up. In some ways the most surprising element of the game is Black had real drawing chances as if White had swapped off rooks (43.Rxg3), just leaving the opposite coloured bishops, then White would have achieved a drawn position, as the opposite coloured bishops enable White to control one colour of squares sufficiently to prevent Black making progress. Instead Black gains a tactical chance and is able to win a bishop and swap off rooks leaving the position a simple win.

  • swissdave1066 - BFS127: An exciting London System / Pirc transposition. White sacrifices the d4-pawn, without really gaining sufficient compensation, and then presses on with full aggression. Black chooses a high risk defensive strategy playing 13…g5, and while this is sufficient for Black to gain tactical chances (e.g. 16…c4!) it always left the risk that White would play h4 and blow the kingside open. The g&h files open up, White’s rooks find their way to h1 & g1, and a White knight reaches f5. All this spells doom for Black, and although Black temporarily goes a piece up, White’s attack is unstoppable.

  • Anglo - P1nFork: A fascinating Classical Sicilian. White meets 6…e5 with 7.Ndb5 as in the Sveshnikov Sicilian, but here it shouldn’t work as well, and if Black had played 8…b5 (with the idea of keeping the a3 knight locked out of play), then Black would have at least equalised. A sharp tactical position arises and White comes out of it a piece up. Black battles valiantly and oddly resigns in a position where it is true that Black is a couple of pawns down, but …Nh5 would have left Black with queen, knight and pawn all in striking distance of the White king. It may be that Black was very short of time at this point.

  • Alex_Escacs – anikamehta: An exciting battle in which both queens come out early and the game quickly gets complicated and lively. Both sides create threats, but Black’s come with check, and once Black can bring in a second piece to support the queen, checkmate quickly follows.

  • Hydefc1 - pranavmehta06: A fun Colle opening in which both sides are in sacrificial mood. Black sacrifices a pawn, and then White sacrifices a knight to try to attack the Black king. This backfires when Black brilliantly wins the White queen, and then Black is able to push the game to a two rooks vs one endgame, where White resigns before being checkmated.