Monday, February 27, 2012

European Chess In Schools Campaign -

European Chess In Schools Campaign -

European Chess In Schools Campaign
Submitted by SonofPearl

A fantastic idea for Malaysia

cisc_banner.jpgPRESS RELEASE: The Chess in Schools and Communities Campaign (CSC) is working with the Kasparov Chess Foundation Europe on a political campaign to garner support for chess to be introduced to schools Europe-wide.

The focus of the campaign is a written declaration which can be found here

This was sponsored by 5 MEPS from the UK, Finland, Italy, Bulgaria and Malta.

kfce_foundation_logo.pngWritten declarations need the support of half of all MEPs before it becomes binding on the European Commission to act up on them.

For the last 6 months Garry Kasparov and his team have been working tirelessly to secure the signatures of 380 MEPs. I am delighted to report that to date 377 signatures have been received!

Thanks to all those associated with CSC who wrote to their MEP's.

On Tuesday 14th February, CSC Chief Executive Malcolm Pein and Operations Manager Director Stefania Matthidi we travelled to Strasbourg to assist KCFE in a lobbying effort over 3 days while the European Parliament was in session.

There are a limited number of these opportunities and our first objective was to secure another 30 signatures to get to 300, at which point the campaign would gain the benefit of increased access to MEPs at subsequent sittings.

Immediately on arrival at Strasbourg we headed straight to Le Jardin de L’Orangerie, where we joined Garry Kasparov and French MEPs for cocktails organized by the Strasbourg chess club. It was lovely to meet IM Daniel Roos who I hadn't seen for something like 25 years and who is now in charge of a thriving club in Strasburg with 350 members and 16 schools.


Most of the following day was spent in the European Parliament. The Chess in Schools programme was presented to MEPs and members of the public by Garry Kasparov, Malcolm Pein and guest speakers including young players from Holland and Bulgaria who by the way spoke impeccable English! (pictures/link to pictures).

The presentation was followed by Garry playing a simul against MEPs and children, a particularly enjoyable spectacle! Garry won all the games but one MEP from Slovenia put up stern resistance.




On the final day we attended a breakfast briefing at the European Parliament with MEPS from the Liberal bloc or ALDE. The meeting was organised by Graham Watson, an MEP for East Midlands who is the leader of the ALDE Group. Bill Newton-Dunn MEP for the Southwest of England also attended.

Garry spoke about the Chess in Schools programme and two coffees later we had to rush to get our connection to Paris and the Eurostar to London. The next session of the European Parliament is March 13-15th and KCFE will be seeking to get to 420MEPs signing the declaration as this would send a strong political message. So help us achieve our aim.

Please lobby your MEP!

To find your MEPs go to

There are 8 MEPs for each region, write to all of them. Something along the lines of

Dear >>>>>

I am writing to ask you to support Declaration 50/2011 on Chess in Schools which calls on the European Commission and the Member States to encourage the introduction of the program 'Chess in Schools' in the educational systems of the EU Member States. You can sign the declaration at the next session in Strasbourg.

You should add details of your chess experience; be it in schools, clubs or with your own children and mention the benefits of learning chess such as improvements in concentration, responsibility, memory, and social skills.

Please keep me informed of any feedback via

Malcolm Pein

Chief Executive

The Bishop's Show: Intro -

The Bishop's Show: Intro -


The Bishop's Show: Intro

Now that we are experts in the bishop vs. knight endgames it is time to move on to the endgames that feature the knight's rivals - the bishops. We shall have several articles exploring different ideas in bishop endgames such as exchange, sacrifice, passed-pawns, zugzwang, stalemate, and others. Today is the first article, where I did not want to concentrate on a specific topic but give a general idea of what kind of positions we will look at in the future articles. Here, in one endgame one can see bishop sacrifice and deflection, zugzwang and the advantages/disadvantages of having the pawns on the same color squares as the bishop. There is no specific topic that stands out but rather a mix of different ideas. I thought of doing this to show that even the most boring looking endgame has so much hidden potential and has so many hidden ideas waiting to be discovered. Let us move on to the three examples.

White's position is better because he has more space and because his pawns are on dark squares and cannot be attacked by the opponent's bishop. However, it looks like black has built up a defensive line: the king is shielding the queen-side while the bishop protects the king-side. There are limited options for white's improvement of the position. There are pawn breaks b5 and f5 and there is a possible bishop exchange after white transfers the bishop to d3. I don't see more reasonable plans for white. What is the goal of these plans? The goal is to improve the position, which can translate into better piece placement, material advantage or some other type of advantage. And the last type is the creation of a passed pawn. In the following analysis we will look at all three plans and evaluate the end-positions to determine whether white achieved what they wanted.

The next example shows the disadvantage of having the pawns on the same color as the bishops. The pawns can get vulnerable - they need to be defended by the bishop or the king. And if there are also pawns present on the other side of the board the defending side might end up with too thin a line of defense. Here white sacrifices a passed pawn temporarily to get to black's kingside after which the winning strategy is just a matter of technique. The example also shows that the defending side can sacrifice the bishop (a line to move three) but collect all the opponent's pawns, since they cannot be defended with the bishop. So there are advantages as well as disadvantages to having the pawns on the same color as the bishop - one just has to have an open mind to unusual ideas such as the one given for the variation to move 3.

The theme of zugzwang is popular in all kinds of endgames. In the following example it reoccurred several times. Black used zugzwang to break down white's defense, although he had to be careful as with one misstep white could build a fortress. Black's king is too far away from the action but it is needed where it is now to stop the h-pawn. Similarly, the white king defends against the promotion of the a and b-pawns. Having an extra pawn greatly helps black and in the end he manages to realize it.

We went over three bishop endgame examples. In the first example white found a strong pawn break that created a passed pawn and the game was decided more or less on the spot. The highlight of the second example is the bishop sacrifice where black stands no worse. The third example showed how important the idea of zugzwang is. After having this introductory article you should be familiar with what to expect from bishop endgames. In the next article we will look closer at exchanges in bishop endgames.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Attack and Defense in the Dragon -

Attack and Defense in the Dragon -


Attack and Defense in the Dragon

Submitted by IM IMBryanSmith on Wed, 02/22/2012 at 11:44pm.

There are different schools of thought on how a chess player should structure their opening repertoire. Many of the top players nowadays seem to play a huge variety of different openings, each picked to match a particular opponent or a particular competitive situation. I think part of the reason is that top players want to create a ‘moving target’ for their opponents’ preparation. This is understandable, since they may play each other ten or more times a year, and because of the advent of computer databases and the general increase in information it has become much easier to prepare for a specific opponent.

While playing a different opening in every game has the advantage that it makes it harder for opponents to prepare against you, it has the obvious disadvantage that you will have less knowledge – and, more importantly, less of a ‘feel’ for the type of position than you would if you were more consistent. Personally, I think a player who is not at the very top level does best to have one or two defenses to each white opening that he sticks to, and thus learns to understand and know like they are his ‘home’. I have always felt that this is the best for me, and have spent some time trying to find ‘my’ openings. Although my opponents can and do prepare for me (especially in tournaments in Europe, where the pairings are announced the day before), their preparations are not as sophisticated as those of the world’s top players, and therefore the result of the game still comes down to who understands the position better, in addition – of course – to such things as nerves and competitive form.

For a long time I played the French Defense as black against 1.e4. At some point I began playing the Sicilian too. At first I was hesitant to play the Dragon Sicilian in its basic form because I did not like the position in the Yugoslav attack after 9.0-0-0 (more on this later). Instead I used the accelerated Dragon (which cuts out this possibility) or a very risky hybrid of the Dragon and the Najdorf known as the Dragadorf.

In the fall of 2008, however, the Dragon turned into my main opening against 1.e4. I might have been a little influenced by someone I used to know who was a Dragon fanatic. In any case, it became my main opening against 1.e4, and I played it pretty much constantly for the next few years. My trust in it was almost religious.

White to move

The Dragon is named for its resemblance to the Draco constellation. Black’s play has been entirely logical. He traded a white center pawn for his c-pawn. He developed rapidly, preparing to castle kingside and putting a bishop on a great long diagonal. Yet this opening is considered to be sharp and risky, almost radical?!

It is easy to understand why the Dragon became popular. As soon as it was realized that it is not necessary to be putting an immovable pawn in the center in classical fashion to please the gods, such an opening would be accepted. Black develops easily, without obvious weaknesses, and gets strong pressure on the queenside.

Then along came Vsevolod Rauzer, the Ukrainian theoretician who had a strong belief in the advantage of the first move. He developed the system where White develops his c1 bishop and queen along the c1-h6 diagonal and castles queenside. This system was originally known as the Rauzer attack but later became known as the Yugoslav attack, after the Yugoslav players who extensively analyzed the variation.

White to move

Although other attacks against the Dragon are still important, the bulk of the theory is found in the Yugoslav attack. To play black in the other variations you just need some feel for the position, but in the Yugoslav attack, you are playing with fire!

This is the reason the opening is considered so radical. With the players castled on opposite sides, White is facing an open c-file and the fianchettoed “dragon bishop”; while Black has his own weaknesses on the kingside in the form of the sticking-out g6 pawn and White’s clear plan of h2-h4-h5 and Bh6. Both side’s plans are often very clear, and the only question becomes how well these plans are carried out. Rather than strategy, tactics becomes the order of the day.

So let’s see some (not all, of course) of the basic ideas of the Dragon, particularly in the Yugoslav attack:

1. The dark-squared black bishop

This is the life of Black’s position. It is the whole point of the opening and what breathes the fire. It is the norm for Black to happily give the exchange to keep his dark squared bishop (i.e., offer to trade the white dark squared bishop for a rook, so his own bishop will be unopposed, or to avoid the “equal” trade of bishop for bishop). For example, Dragon expert GM Sergei Kudrin offered an exchange sacrifice in what has become a typical form, in the following position:

Lobron, Eric vs. Kudrin, Sergei
New York
Black to move

Kudrin played 12...Bh8!!, saving the dark-squared bishop from exchange and offering instead a rook. White declined this sacrifice. The implication is that after 13.Bxf8 Qxf8 Black will have more than enough compensation in the form of threats on the long diagonal and b-file, bringing the white king into danger. Indeed when the kings are castled on opposite sides, material values often work differently, since most important is the initiative.

Here is an example from one of my games where I was happy to give a rook to get the dark-squared bishop unopposed, and it turned out there was more than enough compensation:

2. The exchange sacrifice, in various forms.

Looking at my games played in the Yugoslav Attack, the large majority of them involve an exchange sacrifice. It almost seems that if Black does not succeed in giving up the exchange, it is a bad sign!

The most common square for Black’s exchange sacrifice is on c3. Usually the aim is to destroy the white king’s position by forcing bxc3. Sometimes it is simply to remove the dangerous knight which can leap into d5, exchanging off the black kingside’s defender on f6. Here is an example of the ...Rxc3 sacrifice:

Black also often sacrifices the exchange on d5. White has his own exchange sacrifice, usually in the course of a kingside attack, on h5 – as in the following classic game:

One of the positional justifications for the exchange sacrifice is the following…

3. There are no useful open files for White!

This may seem strange, since it is the “open Sicilian”. However, the peculiarities of the opening make it that White often has no way to use his extra exchange. White has only the open d-file, but that is blunted by the pawn on d6, which – unlike in other Sicilians – is solidly defended by the e7 pawn. If the b-file is open (due to a bxc3 capture) then it can be blunted by Black simply playing …b6.

Most importantly, it is very difficult for White to open any files. All of these factors make the advantage of the exchange strangely less important than usual in the Dragon structure, and many endgames with an exchange down are quite playable for Black.

4. White has the d5 square.

Unlike in the Scheveningen, where d5 is solidly guarded by a pawn on e6, in the Dragon the black e-pawn usually has to stay on e7 to guard d6 (since instead of being on e7, the dark squared bishop is on g7). Thus the d5 square is a sort of pseudo-hole in Black’s center. That said, it hardly looks as damaging as in the Kalashnikov, for example. Sometimes Black can trade a knight that comes there. Then White takes with the e-pawn and gets some space advantage and pressure against e7. Nevertheless, Black is often okay anyway because there is queenside pressure to counterbalance. For instance, the following game:

5. Don’t imagine that things are so simple as “White attacks on the kingside, Black attacks on the queenside”.

Quite often, White sacrifices some pawns on the kingside, and Black sacrifices material back to destroy White’s initiative and remain with a hoard of passed pawns on the kingside. Such as in the following epic game:

Alternatively, especially in the 9. 0-0-0 d5 line, Black gets weaknesses on the queenside which White can try to exploit, such as in this game:

And in that line, particularly with the white pawn on h4/black pawn on h5 pawn structure, the White pawn on h4 often ends up a fatal weakness.

As I said before, I had not wanted to play the Dragon in its most basic form for a long time, because of the 9.0-0-0 line. Black’s alternatives to Konstantinopolsky’s pawn sacrifice 9…d5 looked rather dubious, and I did not like the position in the main line of the pawn sacrifice. Black has split pawns on the queenside and apparently a lot of weak squares. But being persuaded to look closer, I saw some hidden attraction in the otherwise ugly position. Soon after, I had one of my first successes in the Dragon, a win as black against a strong grandmaster.

In the past year I haven’t been playing the Dragon very many times. I have found that in many situations it is not the best opening. For example, in a recent tournament I played against WGM Iva Videnova. A look at her games showed that she was very into theory. I preferred to avoid too much of that, and chose to play the French Defense. In addition, since there are some forcing lines in the Dragon, there is always the danger, when playing a lower-rated player, that they can force a drawish position. Therefore in the last year and a half or so I have tended to play other openings against lower-rated players. Meanwhile, against grandmasters I have been willing to play the Dragon, but they have not! Thus I have seen a large variety of anti-Sicilians, such as 3.Bb5+, 2.Nc3, 2.c3, and 3.c3. After one game, my opponent, a strong grandmaster from Poland who played 2.Nc3 against my Sicilian, told me "I couldn't find anything against the Dragon!"

The Dragon could be called a very “theoretical” opening. This is because the basic plans are fairly clear, and the question is more about how effectively they are realized. Nevertheless, I feel that there is less about memorization than in other sharp openings. Somehow, without a ton of theoretical work, I am able to play it – and I don’t think I have a very good memory either. The point is that the methods of play are fairly straightforward. You can understand the positions easily, so even if you don’t know the exact move, you can find it. Compared to a Najdorf, where Black’s king is often dodging bullets (and he might have a won position anyway, provided he finds – or knows – the exact moves!) in the Dragon if your king is dodging bullets, you are probably already lost. In many Dragon positions you have a little less freedom of action than in a calmer opening. For example, in some quiet openings the pieces hardly clash early in the game, and you can choose from a variety of plans. This is a sort of trade off – you have more freedom there, but it is more boring. In an opening like the Dragon, it is more exciting, but things are more concrete, and the penalty for making a wrong move is higher.