Monday, June 19, 2017

Yusupov 1.05

The Double Check

So as far as the diagram exercises go, about four or five were very, very easy. A few were tricky, and a few were downright devilish. The ones I struggled with were 5-4, 5-5, 5-6, and 5-8. I was able to solve 4 and 6 but it took a lot of time. 5 was ridiculous. Kudos to anyone who solved it. On 8, I was trying to solve it with something more immediately forcing. I missed that you had to first make a preparatory move. I think if I had realized it, I might have been able to solve it.

On 4, I found a quicker mate: 4. Rg5+ ... Rf5  5. Bxf5+

That being said, the text answer is not only more elegant, but fits the theme of the chapter all the way to the end, which is likely why it was chosen. It just better illustrates the ideas.

Test Exercises:

Exercises 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, and 5-5 I solved in about 15 seconds total. Exercises 5-4 and 5-6 took a little longer, but were still easy.

Exercise 5-7 (two stars)

This one got me. I got the first part and earned one point. I failed to find the correct follow up, which is moderately lengthy. I kept trying to solve it by playing my queen to g7 for the check. It was supposed to be Qf4+.  That being said, I still found mate in most of the lines, but there was one line that just went to deep for me to solve and started involving rook checks. I was unable to visualize it fully enough to the end. Maybe it would have worked. Maybe not. I could plug it into an engine to find out, or play out all the moves over the board some more, but...meh. I'm fine with having missed the better solution. I should have seen it.

Exercise 5-8 (one star)

Easy. I swear I've seen this one elsewhere (note: in the solution, Yusupov indeed calls it a "famous position"). You either mate with the rook or bishop, depending on where black moves after the double check.

Exercise 5-9 (two stars)

 Took about two minutes. A fun one!

Qd8+ as you'd expect ... Kxd8
Bg5++ ... Ke8
Rd8+ ... Kf7
e6+! if King takes, Nf4 then Ne5#
...if King goes to g6, then Nf4#
...if Bxe6 then Ne5#

And finally, if he doesn't take the queen sac, then you play e6 again and mate follows with the same patterns as if he had accepted it.

I got this one and every single variation 100% correct except for the ...Kh6 4. Qh4# bit. I failed to see that the knight was blocking my dark-squared bishop from covering the h6 square, so I overlooked that flight square as an option for black. Visualization error.

Exercise 5-10 (one star)

 Super easy. But cool to see it with a knight, since bishops seem to be more common.

Exercise 5-11 (one star)

 A fun one, but also easy. Just make sure your knight goes to f5 and not e6, or it won't work :)

Exercise 5-12 (one star)

A gorgeous, zig-zag patterned mate. Similar to what was illustrated in Diagram 5-4 earlier in the text. Just lovely.






My Score: 15/16  "Excellent"

(lost one point on 5-7)

Conclusion:

Very glad to have done well on this chapter. Overall, I think I learned a few new patterns, as noted above. Some of the exercises in the chapter text were much harder than the test exercises. I'm not sure why this is. I suppose Yusupov sometimes offers a very difficult selection when he feels it properly illustrates a point, but the test positions themselves seem to be geared toward a more specific level. Or maybe such speculation is complete garbage. I haven't a clue. On to the next chapter!

I just love this photo from the book:






Yusupov 1.04

Chapter 4 is a discussion of simple pawn endings.

Fortunately, thanks to Silman's Endgame Course, most of this was easy for me as I already knew most of this material.


Test Exercises:


Exercises 4-1 thru 4-5

All fairly easy. Some I knew immediately and one or two I had to think about for a minute, knowing the winning idea but calculating to double check.

Exercise 4-6 (two stars)

I thought I had the answer to this one. I moved the King first, and after black moves I moved the pawn up, calculating that all variations afterward were winning for me.

UNLESS...black moves his pawn first. So...oops.

Exercise 4-7 (two stars)

Now this position I've not seen before, so I'll need to set it up on the board for sure...

Okay, took me just a minute to solve. Very cool position. A good one to share with your chess buddies.

Exercise 4-8 (three stars)

Hmmm, so I hope this isn't actually winning for white, because I'm currently looking for a way to just draw!

Yeah, I'm pretty sure there is no chance of winning. Even the draw is quite tricky. White has to delay the capture of black's a pawn for as long as necessary. Well, what needs to happen is that he captures it with opposition. Otherwise black will win.

Kb3 ... a2
Kb2! ... Kb4!
Ka1! ...  and black can no longer come forward without stepping outside the square of white's pawn, so he must capture either the a or c pawn. When he does, you will push your other pawn, requiring him to take back with his pawn. After capturing his a pawn next, you'll be able to position your king to gain opposition later.

Awesome exercise!!! This one took me as much time as all the others combined thus far.

Exercise 4-9 (three stars)

The only other three-star problem in the set.

This one contains the exact same idea as the last position. Black will get two squares in front of his pawn if you go the normal route. You have to sac your pawn first in order to secure a draw. Then after ...fxe5

Kc1 then Kd1, only moving forward to the second rank once the black king steps forward, that way you can gain opposition. If at that point he plays e4 instead, then you can play Ke2 and black will never get to the Promised Land.

Full points.

Exercise 4-10 (two stars)

Fairly easy. Took me maybe a minute.

Kg5 ... Kg8? (loses opposition)

Kg5 ... Kh8
Kh6! (Kxg6? throws away the win) ... g5 (don't fall for the trap!)

Instead play f7! and it's mate next move.

Exercise 4-11 (one star)

Very easy.

Exercise 4-12 (one star)

Saw the pawn move h4 right away. Necessary to buy time for positioning our King. Then Kd3, Ke2, Kf1, and black cannot queen his pawn.







My Score: 20/22  "Excellent"


(I missed 4-6)


Conclusion:

The work I did with Silman's Endgame Course paid off! While I spent 4-5 hours on the last chapter, I probably spent 1 hour max on this one.

Studying works.




Yusupov 1.03

Chapter 3 is all about basic opening principles, and I dig the way he phrases them. At first I felt this should be an easy chapter, because basic opening principles are...well, basic, right? Basic = easy.

But looking ahead at the end-of-the-chapter test exercises, I see that many of them are three-star problems! Hmmm. So I might be feeling a tad nervous. Have I underestimated the material before even looking at it? Have I overestimated my knowledge of opening principles? Time to go through the chapter and find out.

Diagrams 3-1, 3-2, 3-3

Very interesting, and complicated. It's amazing the resources available that one has to be looking out for when attempting to attack. 

This just keeps getting more complicated as it goes. I'm impressed, for sure.

Another thing I gleamed from his, thus far, is that when one side gets a significant lead in development and gains the initiative, they can almost always sac a piece at some point for a killer attack.

Diagram 3-5

Still working on the same opening analysis. Very in-depth material and not at all easy. There's no way anyone at my level is getting through this chapter easily. You absolutely must use a board and restart the position many times to understand all the nuances. I can easily see where most folks would just skip over it. I suggest you do not.

There is a line where is suggest 14. Qxa5? is a blunder, giving an evaluation at the end of -+ meaning that black has a decisive advantage. The line ends there, but white's only realistic move is 22. Kd1, after which 22....Qxh1+ 23. Kd2 Qe1+ skewering the king and winning white's queen on the next move. Yes, I'd say that's a decisive advantage.

How many of you found that? You absolutely must go through the material properly! (does that make me sound like a Brit? haha)

Further down the page before black plays 13...dxe4 in the main line, there's a part that says "...and White has no defense against 22...Re2+ and then 23...Qg2+".

True. Say white plays anything, for example, 22. Nd2, then 22...Re2+ 23. Qxe2 ... Qg2+  24. Ke1 ... and now ...Qxe2#

This game, by the way, is A. Meek vs. P. Morphy, 1855, Mobile, Alabama.

I've actually passed through Mobile before, so it amazes me to think that this game occurred there so long ago.

20...Rf8 is my favorite move of the game.

Yusupov gives an amazing quote here from Reti regarding this move:

"Beginners who, in the heat of the fight only play with pieces that are already engaged in battle and often forget to call on their reserves, can learn a lesson from this move." 
--R. Reti





I've noticed about Morphy's games: that he's fantastic about always getting his full forces into the foray.

As for the "little joke" at the end of that section, I'm not positive I get the humor. Because the black king has returned to his starting square?


Next example game, from Yusupov:

So it looks like more of the same thematic ideas...sacrificing material and positional strengths which would normally become liabilities later in the game, in order to preserve the initiative (like his ...g5 move). The advantage will dissipate if not acted upon with assertion.

At the end of his game, he gives ...Qd4 and white cannot stop the threat of the discovered check. Let's say whites plays 28. Qxf2 (probably the best move, albeit in a lost position), then black has the awesome double-check of 28...Na4++! The white king must move, and b1 is the only option. 29. Kb1 after which the axe comes down. 29...Qb2#

I certainly feel that I learned a lot from this chapter already. Honestly, I didn't expect to. I don't think I have, up till now, fully appreciate the power and important of the initiative. It's impressive to see how the games can go when handled by a true master (Morphy, Yusupov).

I have spent probably ~3 hours on this chapter and haven't even done the test exercises yet! I am certainly nervous about them, since 8 out of the 12 are ***star problems. Only a single 1-star in the lot!

Here we go.


Test Exercises


Exercise 3-1 (one star)

Super easy. I think most players have seen this one before.

That wasn't much of a warmup opportunity for me, so I'm going to do the two-star puzzles (3-5, 3-8, and 3-11) first before trying the eight (!!) 3-star ones.

Exercise 3-5 (two-stars)

This one also looks super easy, so now I'm questioning myself. Am I missing something? Seems like you just sac the bishop with tempo, then slide the rook over to pin the queen.

Hmmm, but if the black King just moves to f8...then Bh6+ King goes to g8, then we still put the rook on e1, because now we are threatening mate. But if black plays Qf5+ then he picks up the light-squared bishop and protects the checkmating square after our king moves.

But then I'd have Qh5, which his queen cannot capture, and I'm also threatening Qg5 leading to mate.

Wait, yes, he can too take my queen if I did that, because with my light-squared bishop, Re8# is no longer a threat. Wait (hahaha, this is great fun, no?), it is too a threat! Because I forgot the black king would be on g8, not f8. Okay, so Qh5 seems legit. Can he both cover the g5 square and protect his queen at the same time? Yes, by playing Qf5. But then Re8 mate.

Okay, I've thoroughly discombobulated my brain at this point. Let's see what answer Yusupov gives...

Yeah, he gives a totally different line, though I get two points for finding Bb5+. And actually he plays Rh5 with a similar idea. Time to start moving pieces around to see if I can figure out why (if) my idea doesn't work.

All right, so one of my mistakes: while black had Qf5+ picking up the bishop, even better, which I overlooked, was Qh4+ picking up the dark-squared bishop! So playing Re1 at this point was just...well, pointless. Instead, the immediate Rh5 is decisive. He stops it, but after creating additional threats, he is eventually unable to defend against all of them.

Calculation error on my part, or a visualization error? Or are they the same thing?

Exercise 3-8 (two-stars)

This, once again, seems straight-forward. Bh6 obviously achieves two objectives at once: it develops our final minor piece while preventing black from castling.

Does black have any good response?

Nope, I way over-analyzed this one. Bh6--simple as that. White isn't winning or anything. Just better. More developed, more space, but that's about it.

Exercise 3-11 (two-stars)

Well, after looking at this and trying it out for about 20 minutes, I'm stumped. I'm just not seeing anything that black can do that looks advantageous. Neither side is castled or fully developed. Black has play on the e file, but his knight is hanging.

I'm going to look at it for another five minutes or so then throw in the towel. If it were a blitz game, I guess I'd go with my intuition and play ...e4.

Well I guess that was it. ...e4, trade off pieces, play against the weak isolated c pawns. I almost feel guilty for getting the two points, as I don't feel I fully understood it. But I suppose I was over thinking it. Sometimes, getting a tiny advantage is all you can get. You cannot force something that isn't there.

On to the three-star exercises!

Exercise 3-2 (three stars)

Okay, I've seen this position before. It's out of the Italian game where after d4 exd4 cxd4 then black's bishop retreats to b6. I think black is supposed to play ...Bb4+ then white plays Nc3. I think white's supposed to just castle here. But is that enough to capitalize on ...Bb6? Is it a big enough mistake that something more immediate can dealt?

After having spent some time on it, I'm not really sure what to do here. I do see any tactical threats that work. Playing d5 or e5 seems premature, as does Ng5. The bishop sac on f7 seems to do nothing. I suppose honestly that this is one of those positions where you need to just accept the fact that black allowed you to get a beautiful pawn center, and therefore try to keep it. If I castle right away, ...Nxe4 seems okay. Sliding the rook over to attack it just leads to ..d5!

Maybe that is it. Black didn't prevent me from controlling the center. Oops on him! So I will go with 7. Nc3. The idea is to protect the e pawn and probably castle on the next move. See if I can maintain my pawn center while completing development. If so, only then will I start rolling the pawns forward.

Time to take a look at the answer.

Nope, I was totally wrong. It is 7. d5! but I do get one point for my answer.

I had thought both of the pawns moves to be premature. Interesting. The text move I rejected particularly because of the response 7...Na5. Apparently that's a bad move though, since after 8. Bd3 you have the idea of playing b4 and trapping the knight.

Well that was a cool problem. Shows that I know jack-diddly-squat about the opening!

Exercise 3-3 (three stars)

 It must revolve around the move d6. The immediate d6 looks promising, but after queenside castling and pinning the knight with Bb5, black counter strikes with ...a6. I could castle long first or play Nb5, preventing black from castling (it would lose him the bishop), but in both cases Nb6! looks like a solution.

If 0-0-0 ...Nb6
Bb5+ ...Nfd7 but if I had not castled and just swung the rook over instead (Rd1) then now I could play Rf1, threatening mate. This would keep my hanging dark-squared bishop safe. But then he could just play ...f6 or ...0-0. ...f6 might fail to d6 though.

Clearly I must do something immediately, or else black just castles and is fine.

Sacking the pawn first would give me a tempo. d6 Bxd6, Rd1 Be7, Bb5

Anyway, just took a long break. Suffice to say that I did find the right answer, but failed to calculate all the sub-variations. Earned full points nevertheless for finding d6 as the correct first move. Everything else is just too slow.

Despite earning most of the points thus far, I don't feel like I've been doing that well compared to the first two chapters. The challenge, however, has been great for me, I feel.

I also just discovered that I had one of the pieces on the wrong square for much of my calculation. Oh well! Onward...

Exercise 3-4 (three stars)

Again, I get the impression that something must be done immediately. Re1, for example, just allows black to castle queenside, after which he is probably equal or soon will be.

Ne5 fails to ...Qxd4.

The immediate pawn sac on d5 also seems to bear no fruit.

Bb5 looks interesting! I dismissed it at first owing to the obvious ...c6 reply, but let's take a closer look.

Bb5 ... c6
d5! ...now

Wait, the kitten I am watching knocked the dark-squared bishop on a3 off the board. So all my last calculations failed to take this into consideration.

Ok now the immediate d6 sac might work.

d6 ... Bxd6 (...Bg4? fails to Re1+)
Nxd6 ... Qxd6
Re1+ ... Kd8 (...Kd7? Bb5!+ picks up the queen)
Bb5 anyway and black is busted

I was correct, but missed 4. Be4

I feel like I've been on this chapter for an eternity.

Exercise 3-6 (three stars)


Lots of ways to go wrong for black. White has many threats.

Qa5 met by b4.
Be4 or Bg4, attempting to disrupt the white queen, met by Nf6+
Qg5 met by Nc7+
and e4 seems pointless.
Many other moves just drop the f5 bishop.
...b4 counterattacks, but after Nc4 there is nothing.

The only thing I can think is that maybe I allow white to capture my light-squared bishop and use that time to make a critical move. ...Bh6 then is Qxf5, Qa5+ but after white plays c3...nothing.

Right. Okay, so...thus far, not only can I not find the solution, but I cannot find anything playable whatsoever for black. Urgh! Frustrating position.

I obviously must be overlooking something. Time to move around the pieces and challenge my previous assumptions.

Maybe my idea of attempting to prevent white from castling is just false.

Now I am looking at ...Bg7, Qxf5 ... Nd4, Qe4 ... 0-0, then c3 or Bd3 can both be met with ...f5

Though a piece down, this gives black the initiative. White's pieces are underdeveloped and uncoordinated. Black has a dangerous pawn center.

Let's see what Yusupov has to say...

Dang it. I looked a lot at Nd4, but after Nc7 I for some reason rejected it.

Lesson learned: If you are going to spend a super long time staring at a position, and find nothing, then have a better method of double-checking your guesses. I had forgotten to double-check this line. If I had, I may have found it. With so many variations before me, this line was lost in the mix.

This chapter is brutal. Even if I don't score "Excellent" I do not plan on repeating this chapter anytime soon! How insane.


Exercise 3-7 (three stars)

I learned this little trick from the chapter:

...Qh4+
g3 ... Qh3

and now white can no longer castle.

Perhaps I am just thinking more clearly this morning. The last few problems I did yesterday and last night were driving me insane. I feel better today.

This leaves d6 hanging, but the pawn is safe because of the rook check ...Ra8+ threatening to win the h1 rook.

f3 square is threatened also

White could play Bf1 to drive the black queen away, but this is an undeveloping move! It does, on the other hand, allow Bg2 the next move and possibly 0-0!

After ...Qh4+

g3 ... Bxf3 is also interesting, but after:

Qxf3, I don't think black has a good follow-up since his queen is still hanging, as is the a8 rook.

Back to the Bf1 line.

Bf1 ...Qc8!? and now if

Bg2 ... Qc5 prevents castling.

If instead white played Qxd6 we would reply Bxf3.

Well then why not just play Qb6 right away with tempo (threatens the b5 bishop)? It also guards the d6 pawn. (realized later that queen started on e7, not d8, so the immediate Qb6 was impossible--derp!)

I got this one wrong also. ...d5 was the answer. It still prevents white from castling because of the threat ...Qb6+ forking the bishop and king (should white have then castled).

Oy ve!


Exercise 3-9 (three stars)

This one was actually easy to find. Going through it, I thought, "This reminds me of that famous Morphy game."

Yep. It is the famous Morphy game. I guess studying the Masters really does make a difference. Hahaha.

The line is not given, but I couldn't help but think that black could have done better. Perhaps declining the knight sacrifice, for example, and playing ...Qb4+ to ease his position. Then he would have been down only a pawn.

Exercise 3-10 (three stars)

This looks like a Dutch Stonewall. The idea of this chapter is that one side violated an opening principle, and we must therefore punish them. I don't know anything about the Dutch, and quite honestly I'm unsure what black did "wrong" here. Both sides are equally developed. Similar central control. Black's dark-square bishop is unprotected.

...b6 may have been a weakening move, however.

cxd5 ... if exd5 or Nxd5, then

Qxc6

and if instead ...cxd5, then Qc6 still. Looks like a double attack, also, upon the a8 and d6.

Full points. I'm not sure why that was worth three stars.

Exercise 3-12 (three stars)

Interesting. At first I found Qc4, but this seems to fail to ...g5!

Then again if Qxc7 ... gxf5
Qxc8+

but if instead of taking the pawn with gxf5, black could play ...Nc6 then

Qd6+  If ...Ke8, Qxf6 +-
If ...Kg8, same thing: Qxf6 (blacks pawn would then not be able to capture the white knight because of the pin against his queen.

...Kg7

I think I found a better line.

Qc4 ... g5
Qxc7 ... Nc6
Bxc6 ... dxc6
Qd8+ ... Kg7
Qd4 ... gxf4
Rg1+ ... Kf8
Qc5 + ...Ke8
Bg5 ... Qe4+
Kf1

Happy to say I got all three points for this and saw most of the lines. I didn't see white's 12. Qd4 option. Also, all my lines had ...Nc6, whereas in the main line Yusupov has black play ...Na6 instead. I suppose it's more forcing, but the lines lead to similar results. I never brought out my dark-squared bishop in any of the lines, however.





My score: 23/31  "Good"


Conclusion:

Received partial credit for 3-2. Zero points for 3-6 and 3-7. Struggled with many others despite getting points for finding the correct initial move.

This chapter was brutal. So brutal I spread it out over several days in order to complete it. I thought, going into the chapter, that it would be easy. How wrong I was. Clearly I have much to learn about this phase of the game, at least if I wish to play at an elite level.

It demonstrates how passive I probably am in some of my games. I must search for much more energetic moves and continue to improve my analytical skills.

I am happy to bring this chapter to a close.











Intro part II: 10,000 Kicks

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