How Good Is Your Chess?

How Good Is Your Chess?

by Daniel King


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How Good Is Your Chess? by Daniel King

Chess enthusiasts can sit down with 20 of the world's top players to answer the question posed by this instructive and amusing guide. Grandmaster Daniel King based How Good is Your Chess? on his popular Chess Monthly column. His easy-to-follow, test-yourself guide asks readers to predict their opponent's moves; points are awarded (or deducted) according to the readers' degree of success. In addition to helping players to judge their standard of play, it presents opportunities for improvement by providing a look at complete games and the chance to work out and study the plans and ideas of the experts. Algebraic notation used throughout

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486427805
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 04/21/2003
Series: Dover Chess
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

How Good is Your Chess?

By Daniel King

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1993 Daniel King
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14802-1


A Real Chessplayer

It is a general trend in most sports that the leading players are becoming ever younger. In chess this is certainly the case. A recent arrival into the world top ten is the seventeen-year-old Russian, Vladimir Kramnik.

In 1992, there was great surprise when, on Kasparov's personal insistence, he was chosen as a member of the Russian team to play in the Olympiad — at that time he was virtually unknown outside his own country. His score of 8/9 totally vindicated the selection. Since then Kramnik has firmly established himself amongst the world's leading players with powerful tournament results around the world.

Kasparov has stated on several occasions that he considers Kramnik to be a future challenger for the world title: 'He is definitely the number one talent. I think that he is the only player I have ever seen who does not play worse than I did when I was sixteen ... he has a very good natural talent. And you know there is substance. Real chess substance. Many players they're not playing chess, they're playing moves. Kramnik is playing chess.' Praise indeed.

Kramnik's opponent here is International Master Aloisys Kveinys from Lithuania.


Debrecen 1992 Sicilian Defence

1 e4 c5 2 [??]f3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 [??]xd4 [??]f6 5 [??]c3 [??]c6 6 [??]g5 e6 7 [??]d2 a6 8 0-0-0 h6 9 [??]f4 [??]d7 10 [??]g3 [??]c8 11 f3 [??]xd4 12 [??]xd4 e5 13 [??]e3 [??]e7 14 h4

Start predicting Black's moves now.

14 ... 0-

Three points. Castling is a sensible move, but it was also possible to play more provocatively with 14 ... b5 (also three points).

White's knight shields the queenside and exerts strong influence over the critical square d5, so dislodging it with ... b5-b4 cannot be bad.

15 [??]b1

15 ... [??]c7

Two points. Kramnik continues to develop calmly, but I would still be tempted to whip out 15 ... b5 (two points). Deduct one point for 15 ... [??]e6 which loses a pawn to 16 [??]xe5 Careless.

16 [??]d3

16 ... [??]e6

Three points. This is a beautiful square for the bishop. It is covered from attack by the e5 pawn; protects the d5 square; and points menacingly in the direction of White's king.

Only one point for 16 ... b5, which has lost much of its power now that the king has side-stepped to b 1, and c2 is protected by the bishop.

17 [??]h2

17 ... [??]a5

Six points. It seems curious to move the queen for the second time in the space of a few moves, but Kramnik has spotted a weakness in White's position and seizes upon it immediately.

18 [??]d2

18 ... [??]xc3

Three points. The idea behind 17 ... [??]a5 should have been clear: this standard exchange sacrifice was made possible. (I'm sure that if White had seen the possibility of 17 ... [??]a5 he would have chosen 17 [??]e1!, a couple of moves back, covering the knight.)

19 [??]xc3

White has avoided the shattering of his queenside pawns, but Black still has a fierce attack.

19 ... [??]xa2+

One point.

20 [??]c1 c1

20 ... d5!

Four points. Unleashing Black's pieces. The queen cuts a lonely figure down on a2, so she desperately needs the rest of her army's support if the attack is going to succeed.

20 ... [??]c8 (one point) looks alright, but it would allow White to exchange queens: 21 [??]a3 [??]xa3 22 bxa3. While it is true that Black does not stand worse - he has a pawn for the exchange, a solid position, and White's queenside pawns are split a draw would be a likely result; and Kramnik wants more.

21 [??]xe5

21 ... dxe4

Three points. Two points for 21 ... [??]c8 — a tricky move. If 22 [??]d4 then 22 ... [??]c5 wins immediately; so 22 [??]xf6 should be played. Taking the queen would not leave Black with much of an attack, and 22 ... [??]xf6 allows the queen to be exchanged with 23 [??]a3, so 22 ... gxf6 is the best move, and then the most likely continuation is 23 [??]e1 [??]a1 + 24 [??]d2 [??]xb2 25 [??]g3+ [??]f8. Black still has a strong attack, but in view of his own king's slightly precarious situation, the outcome is not quite clear.

22 [??]xe4

How would you have replied to 22 fxe4 instead?

One point for 22 ... [??]c8, but two for 22 ... [??]g4, with all kinds of nasty threats. If 23 [??]xg7, then 23 ... [??]c8 24 [??]d4 [??]c5 wins; and if 23 [??]d2 (threatening 24 [??]a1) 23 ... [??]xe5 24 [??]xe5 [??]f6. The b-pawn drops and White's king finds itself in no-man's -land between kingside and queenside.

22 ... [??]xe4

One point.

23 fxe4

23 ... [??]c8

Three points. Simple and good: Black's last piece joins the attack.

24 [??]g3

24 ... f6

One point. Defending against the mate and attacking the bishop, so no time is lost.

25 [??]d4

How would you have responded to 25 [??]c3 here?

25 ... [??]a1+ (two points) 26 [??]d2 [??]d8+ 27 [??]e2 [??]c4 + 28 [??]e3 [??]xd1 wins.

25 ... [??]b3

Three points. 25 ... [??]b4 (two points) was a tempting alternative. I'm sure that this would be good enough to finish off most players, but White can muster up some kind of defence if he finds 26 c3! [??]b3 27 [??]d3! giving back the exchange, but shutting out Black's queen.

26 [??]c3

26 ... [??]a1+

One point.

27 [??]d2

27 ... [??]d8+

One point.

28 [??]d3

28 ... [??]xd3+

One point.

29 [??]xd3

If you foresaw this position when playing 26 ... [??]a1+, then take an extra four points.

29 ... [??]xc2+

Three points. As his queen and bishop are both attacked, Black must give back a piece, and this is the best way to do it.

30 [??]xc2

The material balance is roughly level (queen and pawn versus two rooks), but Black actually has an excellent position due to White's exposed king and weak pawns. White's real problem is that he has no attack of his own to counter Black's initiative.

30 ... [??]a4+

One point. A good start. To protect the e-pawn, White must bring his king up the board.

31 [??]d3

31 ... b5

Four points. An excellent move. White will find it very difficult to meet the dual threats of ... [??]c4+, further harrying the king, and ... b4, dislodging the bishop from its secure post.

32 [??]e3

32 ... [??]c5+

Two points. The immediate 32 ... b4 would not be so good as after 33 [??]d4, the bishop's position is still secure.

33 [??]f4

If White had played 33 [??]d4, how would you have responded?

Two extra points if you found 33 ... [??]b3+ 34 [??]d3 [??]xd4+ 35 [??]xd4 [??]xb2+, winning a second pawn and effectively ending the game.

33 ... [??]c4

Two points. This is the surest way to continue the attack, moving the queen back towards the centre of the board and threatening ... b4, but 33 ... b4 (one point) was also reasonable.

34 [??]d8+

34 ... [??]h7

One point.

35 [??]hd1

35 ... [??]e2

Fourpoints. Highly unpleasant for White. The end of the game is a perfect illustration of the strength of the queen - an all-powerful compact unit - against a diffuse range of weaker pieces attempting to remain protected. The queen is able to zap around the board exploiting the slightest 'looseness' in the enemy position.

36 [??]f5

36 ... b4

Two points. Perfect timing: the bishop must retreat to a miserable square, relinquishing the protection of the b-pawn.

37 [??]e1

37 ... [??]xg2

Two points. Better than taking the b-pawn as it maintains the attack against White's king. The threat is ... [??]h3+ and ... [??]e3 mate. Two bonus points if you played it on the previous turn.

38 e5

38 ... [??]g6+

One point. Not the only way to kill from this position: the same score for 38 ... [??]h3+ or 38 ... [??]f3+.

39 [??]e6

39 ... [??]g4+

One point for this.

40 [??]f7

40 ... [??]h5+

One point. Kramnik has found the most efficient way to finish the game. White's king does not escape: 41 [??]e6 [??]xe5+ 42 [??]f7 [??]e7 mate. In view of this, White resigned.

There were three phases to this game: the early middlegame, manoeuvring (moves 14 to 17); the attack on the king itself (moves 18-30); and the final kill (moves 31-40). To score well on the first phase, you need some previous knowledge of the Sicilian Defence. Experience would tell you where to position the pieces and which plan to go for; this has little to do with calculation, and even long-term planning, but rather it is the recognition of established patterns and groupings of pieces.

In the second phase you have to look for forcing sequences of moves that bring an advantage, be it material or positional. This involves calculating (if X, then Y, etc.); but also being able to assess the resulting position accurately.

Having liquidated into a position where he correctly assessed that he had a winning advantage, Kramnik finished the game off with great efficiency. The secret of good technique is simple: accurate calculation.


Precision Play

The fight through to the final of the World Championship has brought out a sense of purpose in Nigel Short which was previously lacking. He concentrated all his efforts on the Candidates matches, preparing with a thoroughness which is perhaps customary in Eastern Europe, but is unknown to most other English chess professionals.

A good example of his change in approach is his play in the opening. Whereas a few years ago his main aim in this phase of the game would have been to avoid a theoretical struggle, he now actively courts one.

In a sense, Nigel has quite an extreme style. What I mean is, he demands a lot from the position - and he usually manages to get away with it because of his belief in the strategy, and of course his great strength. This game is typical. His opponent is Swedish grandmaster Ulf Andersson, one of the most solid players in the world.


Wijk aan Zee 1990 Sicilian Defence

1 e4 c5 2 [??]f3 [??]c6 3 d4 cxd4 4 [??]xd4 g6 5 c4 [??]f6 6 [??]c3 d6 7 [??]e2 [??]g78 [??]e3 0-0 9 0-0 [??]d7 10 [??]c2 [??]a5 11 f4 [??]ac8

Now try to predict White's moves.

12 [??]b1

Four points. The pawn structure here is typical of the 'Maroczy bind' (named after the Hungarian, Geza Maroczy, one of the strongest players of the early part of this century). The pawns on e4 and c4 give White a big space advantage, but with such a centre comes a great deal of responsibility: if the structure crumbles, then White's position could look like an empty shell. So this is Black's task: to break out from his cramped position before he gets squashed; if he manages to do so, the rewards will be great. The fight could be billed as 'Containment v. Counter-attack'.

Moving the rook out of the shadow of the bishop on g7 makes a great deal of sense: one doesn't know if it will be significant, but it certainly reduces the chances of an accident occurring later on.

Two points for 13 [??]h1, another careful move, tucking the king safely in the corner. Nothing for 13 [??]d2 which looks, at first glance, to be the most natural move. This would allow 13 ... [??]g4!; the dark-squared bishop must be retained so 14 [??]xg4 [??]xg4. Black has strong pressure on c3 and soon on c4. This is a typical example of how the position can turn in the space of a couple of moves.

12 ... a6

13 b4

Two points. This was the other idea behind 13 [??]b1 — but I didn't want to give the game away. The queen ought to return to base as 13 ... [??]c7 14 [??]d5 [??]xd5 15 exd5 [??]b8 is far too passive.

13 ... [??]d8

14 [??]d3

Two points. White's centre looks formidable, but it is just at this moment that it is at its most vulnerable. The main problem is that the knight on c3, standing in the line of both Black's bishop and rook, is no longer supported by the b-pawn. Thus a move like 14 b5 (deduct two) would quickly lead to disaster: 14 ... axb5 15 cxb5 [??]a5 with tremendous pressure down the c-file.

If I were playing this position as White, I would invest a great deal of time examining Black's counterattacking possibilities; it might sound extraordinary, but the game has already reached a critical stage. If White can survive the next few moves without a catastrophe occurring, then the future will look bright. The main shots to be aware of are ... [??]g4 (we have seen that one already); and ... b5.

14 [??]h1 (one point) is a careful move — but perhaps a little too careful. Black could strike with 14 ... b5!; if 15 cxb5 axb5 16 [??]xb5 [??]xb4! 17 [??]xb4 [??]xc3 and White's centre has crumbled. Of course, White does not need to be quite so compliant (16 [??]xb5 is a mistake), but clearly 14 [??]h1 does not help the cause.

14 ... [??]g4

How would you have replied to 14 ... b5 instead? Be careful.

15 c5 looks promising, but Black actually gets good counterplay after 15 ... dxc5 16 [??]xc5 [??]e6, threatening ... [??]d7.

15 cxb5 is correct, and after 15 ... axb5, not 16 [??]xb5 [??]xe4! 17 [??]xe4 [??]f5, but 16 [??]a3! threatening [??]axb5. The only serious move to counter this is 16 ... [??]xb4, but it seems that White can survive the blitz of tactics: 17 [??]xb4 [??]xc3 18 [??]xc3 [??]d5 19 [??]d2 etc.

Take three extra points if you found both 15 cxb5 and 16 [??]a3. This is a critical variation — it was absolutely necessary to have an answer to 14 ... b5.

15 [??]h1

Three points. The king is moved to a safer square and the bishop can now retreat to g1. 15 [??]xg4 would not be good: 15 ... [??]xg4 and the bishop will be exchanged off as 16 [??]d2 is met by 16 ... [??]b6+.

15 ... [??]xe2

16 [??]xe2

One point.

16 ... e6

Black fails to appreciate the seriousness of his situation. At this point, for better or for worse, he should have tried 16 ... b5.

17 c5!


Excerpted from How Good is Your Chess? by Daniel King. Copyright © 1993 Daniel King. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

1A Real Chessplayer9
2Precision Play15
3Control and Co-ordination21
4Roll of the Dice27
5Experience v. Youth32
6Genesis of a Champion39
7A King in Exile44
8A Question of Technique51
10The Hedgehog61
11Planet Shirov68
12A Theoretical Battle74
14Classical Originality84
15The Greatest Fighter90
16The Spirit of Paul Morphy99
17Speed King105
19Master v. Pupil118
20A Life of Struggle122

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