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Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Year!

I wish all readers a safe and prosperous 2022. May you all gain 400 rating points. Since starting this blog it has had over 1.75 million visits...thanks!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

McDonnell-La Bourdonnais Fireworks

     For today's game we are going to step way back in time to the year 1834. In the U.S. the Senate censured President Andrew Jackson for refusing to turn over documents to Congress regarding his dismantling the Bank of the United States. Sound familiar? 
     In other news Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas, was imprisoned in Mexico City for insurrection. He was not tried and finally returned to Texas in August 1835. John Jacob Astor, a German immigrant, was the richest man in the United States. He was the organizer of the American Fur Company, which he sold in 1834. And, Henry Blair received the second patent awarded to an African American when he patented a corn planter. 
     In June 1834, the first La Bourdonnais-McDonnell match was played. It consisted of 25 games and La Bourdonnais won with a +16 -5 =4 score. 
     There was a series of La Bourdonnais-McDonnell matches that year between Louis-Charles Mahe de La Bourdonnais of France and Alexander McDonnell of Ireland. The matches confirmed that La Bourdonnais was the leading player in the world. The overall result was La Bourdonnais scored +45 -27 =13. 
     Their match was the first of importance in the history of chess and the games were published widely and were annotated and discussed by enthusiasts all over Europe. In the matches both players introduced several new opening innovations. There was no time limit, no seconds and very little stakes. McDonnell sometimes took over an hour and a half to make a move. One game a day was played every day except Sunday. A game began at noon at the Westminster Chess Club and if the game was still in progress by 6 pm, they adjourned and finished it the next day. The matches ended in October, 1834. 
     Alexander McDonnell was born in Belfast on May 22, 1798. He held the post of Secretary of the West India Committee of Merchants. In the 1830s he was the best player in England. He developed a kidney ailment and died September 14, 1835 of Bright's disease in London at the age of 37. 
     Bright's disease is a kidney diseases that today is known as acute or chronic nephritis. It was characterized by swelling and and was frequently accompanied by high blood pressure and heart disease. Treatment in those days consisted of warm baths, blood-letting, a plant called squill, digitalis, mercuric compounds, opium, diuretics, laxatives and dietary therapy, including abstinence from alcoholic drinks, cheese and red meat. 
     La Bourdonnais was born on the French Island La Reunion in 1797. He learned chess in 1814 and took lessons from Deschapelles. He later became the best chess player in France. He came from a noble family and heir to an old estate, but lost his fortune in a building speculation and turned to chess to earn his living. In November, 1840 he was diagnosed with dropsy, an old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water. 
     Today one would be more descriptive and specify the cause and so, for example, the person might have edema due to congestive heart failure. He also had a scrotal, or inguinal as it is called, hernia. It is the most common type of hernia and can appear as a swelling or lump in your groin, or as an enlarged scrotum. The swelling may be painful and the lump often appears when you're lifting something and disappears when you lie down. 
     La Bourdonnais died at the age of 43 and was buried at Kensal Green All Souls' cemetery, next to McDonnell. 
     In the following game McDonnell played an uninspired opening and allowed La Bourdonnais to set up a strong mobile Pawn center of the type that had been recommended bu Philidor. 
     When McDonnell threatened an attack, La Bourdonnais sacrificed the exchange resulting in a tactical fireworks. In the end, his three passed Pawns on the second rank were more than McDonnell's Queen and Rook could handle. 
     This amazing game was the first game in the excellent book The World's Greatest Chess Games. As to be expected, the book, which was published in 1998, has annotations that a sub-par based on today's standards. The authors were assisted in their task using ChessBase which used (I think) Fritz 5.32, an engine that has been far surpassed by today's engines. As a result, the notes and some of the conclusions are not quite correct, but it's still a fantastic game. 
     A word about the opening. The move 4...e5 dates back to this match when La Bourdonnais used it and it was also popular for a short time in the 1940s. In these earlier games the Lowenthal Variation (4...e5 5.Nb5 a6 6.Nd6+ Bxd6 7.Qxd6 Qf6) was played. In those games black gave up the two Bishops to achieve a lead in development. However, the line fell out of use once it was determined that white has the advantage. 
     The Sveshnikov Variation was pioneered by Evgeny Sveshnikov and Gennadi Timoshchenko in the 1970s. Before their efforts, the variation was called the Lasker–Pelikan Variation. 4...Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 
     In the late 1980s players revived 4...e5 with the intention of meeting 5.Nb5 with 5...d6 (the Kalashnikov Variation). The Kalashnikov Variation are close relatives, the difference between the two being that in the Kalashnikov black does not develop the Knight to f6.

Alexander McDonnell - Louis La Bourdonnais

Result: 0-1

Site: Match, London

Date: 1834

Sicilian: Lowenthal Variation

[...] 1.e4 c5 2.♘f3 ♘c6 3.d4 cxd4 4.♘xd4 e5 5.♘xc6 Not bad, but it strengthens black's center and avoids the theoretical battle by eliminating black's backward d-Pawn and the weakened d5 square.
5.♘b5 Is almost universally played today. 5...d6
5...♘f6 6.♘1c3
6.♘d6+ This loses a P. Correct is 6.Nbc3 6...♗xd6 7.♕xd6 ♘xe4 8.♕d5 ♘f6
6...d6 (6...h6 7.♘d6+ ♗xd6 8.♕xd6 ♕e7 9.♕xe7+ ♔xe7 is good for white.) 7.♗g5 a6 8.♘a3 b5 and white can play either 9.Bxf6 first or 9.Nd5
6.a4 ♗e6 7.♘1c3 a6 8.♘a3 is the main line today.
5...bxc6 6.♗c4 ♘f6 7.♗g5 ♗e7
7...♕a5+ is the modern way. After 8.♗d2 ♕b6 9.O-O ♗e7 10.♗c3 d6 11.♕d3 O-O the chances are equal. Prol Medeiros,H (2006)-Silva,L/Niteroi BRA 2019
8.♕e2 This is questionable because white delays development and exposes his Q to attack along the q6-f1 diagonal. It also encourages black to advance in the center.
8.♗xf6 ♗xf6 9.♕d6 ♕e7 10.♕xe7+ ♔xe7 11.♘c3 and black is slightly better. Schroeder,M (1452)-Clausen,D (1287)/Dortmund 2006
8.♕d3 O-O 9.♘c3 h6 10.♗h4 d6 11.O-O with equal chances. Oleniak,W (1882)-Graf,P (2127)/Police 2009
8.♘c3 This is probably white's best move. 8...O-O 9.O-O h6 10.♗xf6 ♗xf6 11.♕d6 which is completely equal.
8...d5 9.♗xf6 This is not so good. (9.exd5 cxd5 10.♗b3 O-O 11.O-O but here, too, black is better.) 9...♗xf6 10.♗b3 O-O 11.O-O a5 Threatening both ...a5 and ...Ba6 12.exd5 Facing the mentioned threats white wrongly makes concessions in the center and gets an greatly inferior game.
limits black's advantage. 12.♖d1 ♗a6 13.♕e1 d4 14.♘d2 Black is better, but white has avoided the worst.
12...cxd5 13.♖d1 d4 Black's d-Pawn is well advanced and well supported which gives black a considerable advantage. 14.c4 McDonnell hopes that his passed c-Pawn will afford him adequate play. That was said to be an unrealistic hope, but as will be seen later, that is not the case.
14.♘d2 was more prudent. Then after 14...♗b7 15.c3 ♕b6 16.♗c2 ♖ad8 17.♗e4 ♗a6 18.♕f3 and black is better, but white is still in the game.
14...♕b6 15.♗c2 ♗b7 (15...♕xb2 loses to 16.♗xh7+) 16.♘d2 ♖ae8 Graham Burgess explains the purpose of this move: Black's d-Pawn is his main asset, but in order to create threat black will have to advance his e-Pawn which in turn may need the support of the f-Pawn. If white could somehow set up a blockade he would have good chances, so the square e4 becomes the focus of the battle.
16...♕xb2 Strays off course and allows white equality after 17.♕d3 and the mate threat is best met by 17...e4 18.♘xe4 ♗xe4 19.♕xe4 g6 with equal chances.
17.♘e4 ♗d8 Threatening ...f5 and so forcing white to do something quickly. 18.c5 ♕c6 19.f3 ♗e7 Preventing white from laying Nd6. 20.♖ac1 f5 Black doesn't waste any time dealing wiht white's Q-side play, but instead starts his K-side attack. This move has been highly praised, but the fact is that it gives white some chances also.
20...♕h6 is Stockfish's suggested move which keeps black slightly better. 21.♕d2 ♕xd2 22.♘xd2 ♖c8 23.♘e4 Here Stockfish gives black almost a two P advantage, ut in Shootouts failed to win a single game, all 7 being drawn including a 168 move game at 23 plies.
21.♕c4+ ♔h8
21...♕d5 would be met by 22.♗b3 ♕xc4 23.♗xc4+ ♔h8 24.♘d6 ♗xd6 25.cxd6 ♖d8 26.f4 ♖xd6 27.fxe5 and it's white who has the better game!
22.♗a4 Missing his best chance.
22.♘d6 ♗xd6 23.♗a4 ♕xc5 24.♕xc5 ♗xc5 25.♗xe8 ♗b6 26.♗d7 with a highly unbalanced position in which the results would not be clear. In Shootouts 7 games were all drawn.
22...♕h6 23.♗xe8 Best.
23.♘d6 ♗xd6 24.♗xe8 ♗c7 25.c6 ♗c8 26.♗d7 e4 27.♗xc8 ♕xh2+ 28.♔f1 d3 and black is winning.
23...fxe4 24.c6 exf3 25.♖c2 (25.c7 allows a mate in two. 25...♕e3+ 26.♔f1 fxg2#)
25.cxb7 allows mate in 6. 25...♕e3+ 26.♔f1 fxg2+ 27.♔xg2 ♖f2+ 28.♔g1 ♖f5+ 29.♔g2 ♕f3+ 30.♔g1 ♖g5#
25...♕e3+ This is less precise that 25...Ba6 which nails it down. In fact, 23...Qe3+ is deserving of a couple of question marks because it should have allowed white to equalize!!
25...♗a6 26.♕xa6 e4 27.♖f2 d3 28.♕c4 e3 29.♖xf3 e2 30.♖xf8+ ♗xf8 31.♕xd3 ♗c5+ 32.♔h1 ♕e3 and wins.
26.♔h1 After this the game is lost.
26.♖f2 saves the game! 26...♗a6 27.♕xa6 ♗c5 28.♕f1 d3 29.♖xd3 ♕g5 30.h4 ♕xh4 31.♖dxf3 ♖xf3 32.gxf3 ♕g3+ 33.♕g2 ♗xf2+ 34.♔f1 ♕xg2+ 35.♔xg2 ♗b6 is a draw.
26...♗c8 Even better was 26...d3 27.♗d7 f2 Again, 27...d3 was even better. 28.♖f1 d3 29.♖c3
29.♗xc8 was only marginally better. 29...dxc2 30.♗a6 ♕c5 31.♕xc5 ♗xc5 32.♗d3 e4 33.♗xc2 e3 34.♗d3 ♗b6 and black wins.
29...♗xd7 30.cxd7 (30.♖xd3 ♗e6 31.♕c2 ♕b6 32.♖d2 ♗c5 33.c7 ♗d4 and white is helpless.) 30...e4 31.♕c8 ♗d8 32.♕c4 ♕e1 33.♖c1 d2 34.♕c5
34.♖fxe1 allows mate in 3 34...fxe1=♖+ 35.♖xe1 dxe1=♕+ 36.♕f1 ♖xf1#
34...♖g8 35.♖d1
35.♖fxe1 is mate in 10 35...dxe1=♕+ 36.♖xe1 fxe1=♕+ 37.♕g1 ♕xg1+ 38.♔xg1 ♖f8 39.g3 e3 40.g4 e2 41.g5 e1=♕+ 42.♔g2 ♕f1+ 43.♔g3 ♕f3+ 44.♔h4 ♖f4#
35...e3 36.♕c3
36.h3 is also fruitless. 36...e2 37.♖dxe1 dxe1=♕ 38.♖xe1 fxe1=♕+ 39.♔h2 ♕f1 40.♕c3 e1=♕ 41.♕xe1 ♕xe1 42.a3 ♗c7+ 43.g3 ♕xg3+ 44.♔h1 ♕h2#
36...♕xd1 A pleasing finish. 37.♖xd1 e2 Facing mate in 5 McDonnell resigned. (37...e2 38.h4 exd1=♕+ 39.♔h2 f1=♕ 40.♕c4 ♕xc4 41.g3 ♕de2+ 42.♔g1 d1=♕#)
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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Reti Crushes Spielmann

     Tartakover described Richard Reti (his name rhymes with eighty) as follows: "Reti studies mathematics although he is not a dry mathematician; represents Vienna without being Viennese; was born in old Hungary yet he does not know Hungarian; speaks uncommonly rapidly only in order to act all the more mature and deliberate; and will yet become the best chess player without, however, becoming world champion." 
     Personally, I never cottoned to Reti's games, but that's just me. He was among the best players in the world during his prime as he demonstrated at the great New York tournament in 1924 even though he finished fifth (out of 11) wth a +9 -8 =3, but defeated Alekhine, Bogoljubow and ended Capablanca's eight-year winning streak. 
     Chessmetrics assigns him a high rating of 2710 on the December 1920 rating list, placing him at number 6 in world behind Capablanca (2830), Lasker (2748), Bogoljubow (2724), Rubinstein (2723) and Tartakower (2716). 
     Early in his career, Reti favored aggressive openings and tactical positions, but later became a chief proponent of the Hypermodernism School which he wrote about in his classic 1921 Modem Ideas in Chess. He also composed some of the finest endgame studies in history. 
     Chess was Reti's life and livelihood and over the course of his 20 year career, he played in 51 tournaments, 8 matches and gave numerous blindfold and simultaneous exhibitions. He also wrote many chess columns for European newspapers. In 1925 Reti set a world blindfold record by playing 29 games simultaneously and scoring +21 -2 =6. 
     Richard Selig Reti (May 28, 1889 -June 6, 1929) was an Austro-Hungarian and later Czech player. With the exception of Nimzovich he is considered to be the Hypermodern movement's foremost contributor.
     Reti was born to a Jewish family in Bazin, Austria-Hungary (now Pezinok, Slovakia), where his father worked as a physician in the Austrian military. His older brother, Rudolph, was a noted pianist, musical theorist. 
     One of the top players in the world during the 1910s and 1920s, Reti started out as a classical, but tactical player, who favored openings like the King's Gambit. However, after the First World War his style changed and he became a proponent of Hypermodernism. 
     It is not clear when Reti learned to play chess, but his brother thought he was about five and that he picked up the game from his parents. Because his parents were both poor players they did little to foster their son's enthusiasm for the game. Reti had few opportunities to improve his play, but studied what books were available, played his brother and occasionally made trips to the local club. 
     Reti died on June 6, 1929 in Prague of scarlet fever, a bacterial illness that develops in some people who have strep throat. It features a bright red rash that covers most of the body and is almost always accompanied by a sore throat and a high fever. Today scarlet fever is most common in children 5 to 15 years of age.
     Although it was once considered a serious childhood illness, antibiotic treatments have made it less threatening. Still, if left untreated, it can result in serious conditions that affect the heart, kidneys and other parts of the body. 
     His ashes are buried in the grave of his father, Dr. Samuel Reti, in the Jewish section of Zentralfriedhof cemetery in Vienna. 
      In the following game against Rudolph Spielmann at Bad Trentschin-Teplitz, 1928, Reti relied on tactics to crush his opponent. 
     According to Reinfeld and Chernev in Chess Strategy and Tactics, this game converted Spielmann from playing K-side openings to playing 1.d4. They wrote that the suddenness of the change "was no less astonishing than the stubbornness with which Spielmann had previously clung to the King’s Gambit and similar openings. Perhaps the clue to this surprising change will be found in the overwhelming drubbing administered by Reti" in their encounter in that event. 
     How, exactly, they reached that conclusion is not known. About the closest thing was in the annotations by Spielmann in the May 1928 edition of Wiener Schachzeitung when he wrote: Reti always plays the best chess against me. In what contrast is his remarkably weak play in several other games in the same tournament.

Richard Reti - Rudolf Spielmann

Result: 1-0

Site: Bad Trentschin-Teplitz

Date: 1928

Queen's Gambit Declined

[...] 1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 e6 3.♘c3 d5 4.♗g5 ♘bd7 5.e3 At the time this was the most popular opening and it was one of the reason Capablanca predicted the draw death of chess. To avoid such a fate, while he was World Champion Capablanca suggested a new variation to be played on a 10x8 board with two added pieces that would increase the complexity. 5...c6 6.a3 ♗e7 7.♘f3 O-O 8.♕c2 a6 9.♖d1 ♖e8 10.♗d3 h6 11.♗h4 dxc4 Black has managed to get a position is quite cramped and one in which the development of his Q-side pieces presents a a major problem. Unless he can safely play ...e5 or ...c5 his chances of survival are slim. 12.♗xc4 ♘d5 This is his best option.
12...b5 immediately is less good. 13.♗a2 ♕b6 14.♗b1 g6 15.O-O ♗b7 16.e4 and white is better. Gromovs,S (2154)-Varga,M (2011)/Lignano Sabbiadoro ITA 2019
12...c5 is the thematic attempt at freeing his position and is probably his best chance. 13.dxc5 ♕c7 14.b4 b6 15.♗g3 ♕c6 16.O-O ♗b7 and white is only slightly better.
13.♗g3 A general rule is when your opponent is cramped avoid exchanges, 13...♕a5
13...c5 This is no longer playable. 14.♗xd5 exd5 15.♘xd5 ♕a5+ 16.♖d2 ♗d8 preventing 17.Nc7 but after 17.O-O white has an excellent position.
14.O-O ♘xc3 15.bxc3 b5 16.♗a2 ♘f8 If Black captures the a-Pawn he will quickly get into serious trouble. (16...♕xa3 17.♖a1 ♘f6 18.♗b3 traps the Q)
16...♗xa3 17.♖a1 b4 18.♗b1 g6 19.cxb4 ♕xb4 20.h4 with a very promising K-side attack.
17.♘e5 ♗b7 18.f4 ♗f6 The further advance of the f-Pawn cannot be stopped. (18...g6 19.♘xf7 ♔xf7 20.f5 gxf5 21.♕xf5+ mates in 3)
18...c5 This freeing move is also insufficient as after 19.f5 ♕a4 20.♗b3 ♕xa3 21.fxe6 fxe6 22.♖a1 ♗e4 23.♖xa3 ♗xc2 24.♗xc2 white has won a piece.
19.f5 ♗xe5
19...♗c8 was not much better. 20.e4 ♗xe5 21.♗xe5 f6 22.♗d6 ♘h7 23.e5 with a crushing position.
20.♗xe5 ♕d8
20...♕xa3 is still no good. 21.♖a1 f6 (21...♕a5 and there is no answer to 22.fxe6) 22.♗xe6+
21.fxe6 fxe6 22.♖xf8+ This is more elegant than the materialistic engine way of finishing the game!
22.♖f4 This is the engine way, but it's not very pleasing. 22...c5 23.♗b1 ♕g5 24.♖df1 g6 25.h4 and wins.
22...♔xf8 23.♖f1+ ♔e7 24.♕g6 For the record this leads to a mate in 8 moves. 24...♔d7 25.♖f7+ ♕e7 26.♗xe6+ ♔d8 27.♕xg7 ♕xf7 28.♕xf7 ♖xe6 29.♗c7+ ♔c8 30.♗b6 ♖e7 31.♕xe7 ♔b8 32.♕c7#
23.♗xe6+ ♔h8 24.♗a2 The timing is important and this is a must because the immediate 24.Qg6 would result in white having to work harder at forcing the win.
24.♕g6 ♖f6 25.♕g4
25.♗xf6 After this white would have to play an arduous ending. 25...♕xf6 26.♕xf6 gxf6
25...c5 26.h4 a5 27.♗xf6 ♕xf6 28.♖f1 h5 29.♕xh5+ ♕h6 30.♖f5 cxd4 31.exd4 ♗e4 32.♖xb5 ♔h7 33.♕xh6+ ♔xh6
24...♕g5 25.♗b1 ♔g8
25...♖f5 This is a last effort to avoid the inevitable, but after 26.♕xf5 ♕xf5 27.♗xf5 the ending would be lost.
26.♕h7+ ♔f7 27.♗xg7 A nice finish. 27...♕xe3+ 28.♔h1 ♕e2 29.♗e5+ ♔e6 30.♕g6+ ♔e7
30...♔d7 31.♕d6+ ♔e8 32.♖g1 ♗c8 33.♕xc6+ ♔e7 34.♕c7+ ♗d7 35.♕d6+ ♔e8 36.♗g6+ ♖f7 37.♕f6 ♗e6 38.♕xe6+ ♔d8 39.♕xf7 ♕xe5 40.dxe5 ♖a7 41.♕xa7 b4 42.♖d1+ ♔c8 43.♗f5#
31.♕d6+ Black resigned.
31.♕d6+ ♔e8 32.♗g6+ ♖f7 33.♗xf7+ ♔xf7 34.♕f6+ ♔e8 35.♕e6+ ♔d8 36.♗f6+ ♔c7 37.♕xe2 ♖g8 38.♕e7+ ♔b6 39.♗e5 ♔a7 40.♖f1 ♖e8 41.♕xe8 a5 42.♕b8+ ♔a6 43.♖f7 a4 44.♕xb7+ ♔a5 45.♗c7#
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