Friday, June 30, 2017

Yusupov 1.06

Relative Value of the Pieces

Diagram 6-2

The second diagrammed position in the chapter really threw me off for a bit. My mind was stuck on the idea of material inequality, a big part of this chapter, and I was looking for a way to make this happen. Then I recalled that the chapter is about relative strength. That's when I realized that I probably just need to trade off the rooks so that my knights can dominate the board.

Ncd7 is the first move, I believe. Then rooks are traded off with the white queen ending up on c3.

Nope. Totally wrong. This is all about the superiority of white's knights. Incredibly difficult to solve.

Possible Errata: In the text, I believe that 14. Nf3+ is supposed to be Ng6+.

Diagram 6-4

I found the solution, though it was not easy, except that I overlooked what happens if black plays Kh7. He doesn't mention this line, and I kept thinking (erroneously):

Nf5+ ... Kh7!
Qg3 ... Nh5! and I was busted.

I wanted to scream and throw my book. "Why, Yusupov, why did you not mention this obviously critical line?!"

Suddently, like a cold smack in the face, I realized that if ... Kh7, then simply Qxh6+.


Diagram 6-6

I really, really wanted to play ...h4 as my response. I couldn't find Yusupov's solution. In fact, I even plugged the position in the computer, played his line, won the pawn, and still couldn't win. I think this was just beyond my ability, quite honestly. I nevertheless learned from it. I've always been the type of player who prefers a queen instead of two rooks of three minors. But I'm beginning to see situations where she "ain't so great."

Diagram 6-7

I was absolutely convinced that I had to prevent b5. Nope. Just counter attack. I should have known. He stated that in the middlegame, the piece is better because it's an extra attacker. So instead of worrying so much about his pawn steam-roller, I should have found a way to make an attack. Another excellent example from Yusupov. The man is a chess god.

Test Exercises

Exercise 6-1 (two stars)

This took me forever to figure out. As I was traveling, I had no board, so I had to visualize it only. I eventually came to realize that I was absolutely losing and ought to look for a stalemate. That's when I saw Qxf5! and the g-pawn falls on the next move.

Exercise 6-2 (two stars)

Again, I don't have a board with me at the moment, but I've made up for that by trying harder than I ever have to calculate everything in my head.

Nxh6 seems like it must be the first move.

Nxh6 ... Kxh6
hxg5+ ... fxg5??
Bxg5+ forking the K and Q.

Clearly black must instead back off with the king. The problem is that he can go to four different squares. h5 and g6 can be eliminated, as they both quickly lead to either a discovered check or a knight fork (which would give us two pawns and a rook for our knights, plus an attack).

So I think black needs to go to g7 or h7. If ...Kg7:

gxf6+ ... Qxf6 then I think white must play Bf4. This prevents the threat to f2 and threatens a nasty pin. If the rook had taken on f6, the Bg5. Same if the K had taken it.

In addition to various threats from our knight or bishop, we have either Qg4 or Qh5 looming at any moment. It's hard for me to calculate accurately beyond this, but I hope to have illustrated just enough to justify any points I receive! And yes, I realize that the points don't really matter. But I really did spend a ton of time attempting to visualize the solution. In fact, I have probably spent more time practicing my visualization via this book than I have in the past few years combined. Maybe. Probably. I was wrong. It was simply a double-knight sacrifice. I think that, of all the problems thus far, this is one the I put in the most work only to end up being totally wrong. I can't help but laugh. Probably my line works in some of the variations, but there is probably one or more where the king escapes and is okay. If I had a board I'd try and work through it to see where, but I think I've gotten what I needed out of the exercise.


Haven't worked on this in five days. Been on a road trip with the family to Banff and Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Haven't had a board available so I've had to do all of the test exercises without one. Meaning I spent quite a bit of time on some of them, as noted on occasion. Interestingly, I think this has been a great benefit for me. Since I am stubborn and don't like to give up on problems, it has forced me to struggle and strain and push past my natural limitations on several occasions in order to come up with some of the solutions.

===end break===

Exercise 6-3 ( two stars)

Not too hard to work out once I saw found the knight sac.

Exercise 6-4 (one star)

This one wasn't hard to spot, but when the King runs to h6, it gets tricky and I wasn't able to solve the variation on my own. One can probably reason, however, that black is doomed, even if one cannot see it clearly.

Exercise 6-5 (one star)

Really easy.

Exercise 6-6 (two stars)

So I found this one fairly easily, but...part way through the variation that Yusupov gives, I found a more complicated variation that requires an extra two moves, but ends up the same in the end.

Nd7 ... Bxd3  of course you cannot take the bishop or it is stalemate
c3+ ... Kc4 or Ke4   (let's say Ke4 for this line)
Nf6+ ... actually, I think I was wrong. I think that there are some variations where this will work, but if black simply keeps pursuing the knight, the knight will eventually fall if I ever want to capture the bishop. Hmmm. I cannot imagine what I was thinking previously. I didn't take notes. And now, five days later, I'm questioning whether I just did not see it previously, or if I had been right but can no longer find the solution. Probably the former.

But, for finding Nd7 and c3, I get both points. Over the board, I undoubtedly would have found the immediate follow-up fork on move three.

Exercise 6-7 (two stars)

This one took me friggin' forever. I just could not find a solution. I'd stare at it for five or ten minutes, find nothing, put it away. Try again later, find nothing. I did this several times. I am just plain stubborn, so I never gave up. Yusupov's voice filled my head: "You simply must find new ideas!" Knowing that there must be a solution fueled me on. Finally, it hit me, and I cheered! The harder something is to solve, and the more time invested in solving it, the greater the reward and feeling of elation upon success.

And I'll tell you what: I will have this solution burned into my brain permanently as a result of my struggle.

Exercise 6-8 (two stars)

I knew this one right away. I'm 100% positive I've seen this puzzle somewhere else previously, and I remembered the solution. Very, very cool puzzle. A good one to share with fellow chess friends.

Exercise 6-9 ( one star) *****

I failed this one. I just could not figure it out, and as it was actually the last puzzle I worked on for the chapter, I threw in the towel after getting sick of looking at it. Even after looking at the solution, I was like, "Wut??" But I guess there really is nothing better, and black has time to do it. Sometimes, with puzzles like this that don't have immediate consequences, but rather rely on quieter waiting moves, I overlook the solutions.

Exercise 6-10 (two stars)

Tricky. Took me some time to find. While Yusupov gives ...Qd6, I found ...Qf6 instead, which I believe also works. Do you agree?

Exercise 6-11 (one star)

Couldn't see it right away, but after a few minutes, seeing the solution made me smile. Cool problem.

Exercise 6-12 (one star)

Found the solution without too much trouble, but apparently black can still put up quite a fight, so it requires accurate play.

My Score: 16/19  "Excellent"

(lost two points on 6-2 and one point on 6-9)


Yusupov has done an outstanding job of providing us examples of piece superiority. Their relative strength depends on centralization, mobility and activity. In some cases, such as diagram 6-3, it can also be stronger because of its enhanced coordination with another piece. In that example, the queen--and bishop, being unopposed on the light squares--together dominate black's pieces.

We often hear how such factors make our pieces stronger. We are almost always shown a knight on an advanced outpost square and how it's the strong piece on the board which the opponent happily sacs a rook to rid himself of the mounted devil. What I have not before seen, however--and maybe it's just me--are the types of examples Yusupov has shown. The positions truly seem nearly even. Nearly balanced. I stare and think, "I have an advantage here? A winning move? Really??" and I often don't find it. But, despite this, the increased mobility of my knights, or a single badly placed piece in the opponent's camp, and I suddenly have a crazy advantage. Both of these factors are beautifully illustrated in Diagram 6-4.

*****From 6-9, if you have time, and there is nothing immediate, don't force things. Find a strong waiting move. Or perhaps waiting move is the wrong term. Find the quiet move that threatens.

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)


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. 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)


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.

Intro part II: 10,000 Kicks

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