Tournament Experience

There is an upcoming chess tournament at Iowa State University in Ames, IA that I would like to encourage you to attend. It is the 2022 Iowa Open Reserve (U1600). While it spans 3 days from Friday, September 9 through Sunday, September 11, you have many options to participate however you would like.

Let’s say you choose the 3-day option. You’ll be slated to play five games using 90 minutes per side with 30 second bonus. The games will be played at 7pm Friday, 10am and 3:30pm on Saturday, and then 9am and 2:30pm on Sunday. You have the option of selecting 1/2 point buys for any games you may miss (say you can’t stick around for the 2:30pm game on Sunday or have to miss the Friday night game).

You can also choose the 2-day option. With this choice, you’ll also play five games, but with 60 minutes per side with a 5 second delay. These games will be at 10am, 12:30pm, and 3:30pm on Saturday, and then 9am and 2:30pm on Sunday. Again, you have the option of selecting some 1/2 point buys for any games you have to miss.

What to Expect

There really isn’t any need to show up really early. If you can get there 5-10 minutes early and check-in, you’ll be fine. You’ll also be fine if you show up exactly on time, but I would never recommend that. Allow yourself a little wiggle room for parking, and finding out where in the building you’ll need to be (there will be signs).

You’ll see many players that bring their own board and timers. Boards and pieces will be available at this tournament, but they’re asking to bring your own timer. You’ll probably be fine if you don’t have one (since most other players will have one).

Expect a cell phone policy. You may have to leave it in a box somewhere not on your person.

Do not rely on any snacks being available. I recommend bringing a small cooler with snacks and drinks. You may have time between games to escape the Memorial Union for a while and go down to campus town to grab something, but I would have some food available just in case time gets tight.

Practice ahead of time. Use chess club to play the games as they will be played in the tournament (1 hour 30 minutes per person with 30 second bonus for the 3-day, 60 minutes per person with 5 second delay for the 2-day). You’ll want to practice recording the game by hand on paper. For knight and rook moves, double check if extra notation is necessary (as in which knight or which rook is moving to a square if both can). You’ll also want to practice tournament play: and that is not to touch a piece until you have completely committed to moving it! Get in the habit of moving-hitting clock-recording in that order.

Let your mind wonder during the game when it is not your turn. Breathe. Relax. Look around at other players. Concentrate on relaxing any tension in your muscles.

Have fun. There is honestly nothing to be nervous about. Just play your best and learn something.

New Name and Logo

May the fourth be with you tonight as we meet up at The Landing from 6-9pm and then Pulpit Rock Brewery from 9-10pm for some chess games and strategies!

Exciting things are in the works for the Decorah Chess Club! Although we’ll still refer to the club as the Decorah Chess Club, the official name will be in Norwegian: Decorah Sjakklubb (prounounced “shock-lube”). The logo will be as seen on the koozie in the featured image.

Designers went back and forth on what to include in the logo that would both keep it simple and include something distinctively Decorah. Rather than include a graphic, it was decided that using the Norwegian word for chess club was the answer!

We’re still progressing on the logo, and will soon have chess log books and vinyl roll out chess boards (among other items) that will have our logo!

A preview of our logo

King & Pawn vs King Endgame

Another chess night is upon us, Decorah Chess Club fans and members! Looking forward to seeing many of you out at The Landing tonight (4/13/22, 6-9pm). I’m certain that Pulpit Rock Brewery will see some spillover games along with a few last minute fresh ones from 9-10pm.

King & Pawn vs King Endgame

Sometime tonight, make sure that you get with someone to understand the king & pawn vs king endgame. I’ll give a brief introduction at the beginning of the night. On your own with whoever you’re playing, sneak some practice in.

There are three different set-ups below that you should master as both white and black. Let’s go through them one at a time.

White or Black to move. White should be able to promote.

If it is white’s move, a good move is to gain the “opposition” by playing Kc4. If white were to move the pawn (either one or two spaces), black will then have the capability of drawing the game! This is why you need to practice these situations and learn the rules.

White’s goal here in taking the oppostion is to eventually force black off of the c-file and keep black off the c-file. Then, and only then, advance the pawn!

If it were black to play, they might try something like Kc7 to try tempting white into making a mistake and bringing forward the pawn. If white does so, black can draw by taking the opposition with Kd6

If it is white to play, white can promote. Black to play, black can draw.

Just like the first board, white must gain the opposition with Kc4. If black stays on the c-file with … Kc7, white answers by following black and maintaining the position with Kc5. The first time black steps off the file (say with something like …Kd7) in an attempt to try and go around the king to grab the pawn, the white king can step off in the opposite direction with Kb6.

Again, depending on what black does, white can respond accordingly and promote the pawn and win. If black moves toward the pawn with …Kd6, white can now safely advance the pawn.  If black moves back into the c-file with …Kc8, white needs to immediately take the opposition with Kc6 forcing black to move back off the c-file.

White or Black to move? Doesn’t matter; black can draw.

Equally important to knowing how to promote a pawn with white in these endgames, is to be able to shut white down when you are black and draw the game rather than lose. The general rule to follow is to take the opposition when you can, and if you can’t return to the c-file in such a way white cannot take the opposition back.

By the time pieces move to the back rank, black can eventually make white make the ultimate decision of leaving his pawn unprotected, or placing the game in stalemate.

When you feel comfortable and confident with this particular endgame, your game will have improved significantly!

Missing Piece

Decorah Chess Club only has a few more winter meeting left, and only one more before we spring forward with the time change. Wednesday, 3/9/2022, at 6pm come out to The Landing and get in on several games. Until then, here are a few puzzles of put in the missing piece for a mate!

White’s Missing Piece

In each of these four puzzles, place the given white piece on the board for a checkmate!

Add a rook for mate
Add a pawn for mate
Add a knight for mate
Add a bishop to mate

Hopefully, these exercises helped you identify patterns and positions. Want more? Check out “1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners” by Franco Masetti & Roberto Messa. Answers are below.

  • Rook at e5
  • Pawn at e6
  • Knight at g6
  • Bishop at g4

Skewers – Part 2

Decorah Chess Club will meet Wednesday, 2/23/2022, at the Landing beginning at 6pm. There will not be a set structure this week, but timed games that last under 45 minutes are encouraged so that we can switch players with as many members as possible.

If you have a timer please bring one! Or, you can download the lichess app which has this logo:


I’ll show you where you can find the chess clock on that and some very cool functionality if you want. Just find me at chess club!


The puzzles over the last two days have challenged me to look at gaining material through the use of skewers. Let’s check out this first puzzle from Feb 21.

Using the Pause Button from

In terms of pieces, white and black are even. It is black to move, and with the move, can take a piece advantage over white. Try and find it before moving on.

If you found the skewer, 1 … Qb6 good job. The only good move for white at this point is to take black’s queen with 2. Qxb6. Now, we can get a piece ahead with 2 … Nxe2+ where white then is forced to move his king to either h1 or h2. Black then gets the queen back with 3 … cxb6 and ends up a knight ahead!

In this second puzzle from 2/22/2022, the skewer is already in place! We just need to know what to do with it. See if you can solve this to get a minor piece ahead for black.

Adding more “Zs” to Your Chess Vocabulary

Here, with the protected skewer in place, black wants to start by taking the knight 1 …. Rxf3. With white’s queen skewered to the king, the best move for white is to take black’s queen. We will also address what you should do if white advances the pawn to d4. After 2 Qxc5 it is important not to take the queen right away! Otherwise, black would be down a rook for a knight. Instead, the line finishes 2 … Rxf1+ 3 Kxf1 bxc5, and black is up a bishop!

If instead white plays 2 d4, the rook should continue the mayhem with 2 … Rxf2 3 dxc5 Rxf1+ 4 Kxf1, and black is still up a bishop. If instead black makes the mistake with 2 … Qxd4, then after 3 Qxd4 Rxf1+ 4 Kxf1 exd4, blacks rook on e8 is exposed and will be lost!

Difficult Endgames

Last week was a great success! Not only did we have many members show up at The Landing, but there were several who spotted us and asked for more information!  Hopefully, we’ll continue to grow.

We’ll be meeting at The Landing at 6pm on Wednesday, February 2 (Groundhog Day)! Just learning? One of us will happily walk through the moves and some basic strategies. Already know the game but would like to get some real board experience? We’ll try and match you to someone close to your skill level.

Difficult Endgames recently tweeted a comic with a person asking a crowd of chess players who among them wanted to raise their chess rating. Everyone raised their hand. Then, when they were asked how many of them wanted to study some endgames, they all put their hands down and looked away.

A book I’m currently digesting is Chess Fundamentals by José Raúl Capablanca. It is very short and a good read for beginners. Chapter 1 covers a little bit of the basics of endgames until you get to Chapter 2, which is devoted entirely to endgames. I’ll share one that I am still struggling with: the queen against rook endgame.

Queen vs Rook Endgame: White to move

I recall looking at this thinking that perhaps 1. Qa6 is a decent move. But where do I go if black answers with 1. … Rc7+?  Do I move my king further away? Keep it on the same file? If white decides on 2. Kb6, then black will force a stalemate with 2. … Rc6+ threatening the queen if you don’t take the rook.  Notice, however, that 3. Kxc6 results in the 1/2 – 1/2 stalemate, as the black king is not in check and has nowhere to go!

So, what should white do?  The goal for white happens to be to try and return to this same exact position but with black to move. This can be done pretty easily with the following sequence. 1. Qe5+. This will be followed by either 1. … Ka8 or 1. … Ka7. (It will not be followed by 1. … Kc8 since then 2. Qe8# is checkmate). Then 2. Qa1+ Kb8 3. Qa5, and we’re back to the same position above but it is black’s turn.

Black should move their rook a distance along the rank or file so as not to be taken easily. For example, not 3. … Re7 or Rg7 since 4. Qd8+ or Qe5+ would win the rook on the next move.  Whereever the rook moves to, however, the queen can eventually get it and that is what deserves practice!

If you found this endgame intriguing and want to learn more, please ask me at Chess Club!

January Chess

Hello Decorah chess enthusiasts. We’ll be playing some chess at Pulpit Rock Brewing Company tonight (1/19/22) beginning at 6pm. We’ll also be playing in one week on Wednesday 1/26/22 at Pulpit Rock Brewing Company at 6pm.

Usually, I like to write and analyze a fun chess related thing each week to set up our regular meeting, but need to take a break until February. Thanks for your interest in chess, and hope to see you out on the Chess nights in January.

Chess Wednesdays – Garry Kasparov

Sorry to leave you hanging last week with my early Wednesday travel. I’m back in town and eager to learn and play some more chess. The Decorah Chess Club will gather at Pulpit Rock Brewing Company around 6:30pm on Wednesday, 11/17! Please come out and join us!

Last week, if I didn’t have to travel, I was going to write about how it was on November 9, 1985 when 22 year old Garry Kasparov beat Karpov to become the World Champion in chess.


Garry Kasparov has developed a platform for chess playing and learning called kasparovchess in your app store. It is new, so has some issues, but I’m sure the app will get better with time.

His 16th game with Karpov in 1985 seemed to be a great game for chess history, with Kasparov using the Sicilian defense as black. Check out that game here: Game 16 Karpov vs Kasparov.

Chess Wednesdays – Frank Marshall

Once again, some Decorah-area chess enthusiasts are gathering at the local watering hole (Pulpit Rock Brewing Company) beginning at 6:30pm and ending whenever on Wednesday 11/3/2021. There is a wide range of skill levels, so please don’t be afraid to join us. As long as you have an interest in chess, you will be welcome!

The last American Chess Magazine had quite a tribute to Frank Marshall. He was the U.S. chess champion from 1909 to 1936. There have been three really big names in chess in America that have really gripped the American public and chess communities: Paul Morphy, Frank Marshall, and Bobby Fischer.

Time usually provides a recency bias, and the first two names are probably foreign to most people outside the chess community (and even to several inside). There is much to learn about Marshall’s contribution to the world of chess. I hope to learn some of it with a trip to the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan someday soon. In the interest of brevity, I’ll simply introduce you to an opening known as The Marshall Attack.

The Marshall Attack

If you’re familiar with several openings, you will find yourself thinking that this opening is simply the Ruy Lopez. It is. There is a point, however, when it becomes unique and it occurs around the 8th move. In the 15th edition of Nick de Firmian’s Modern Chess Openings, Ruy Lopez openings are covered from pages 42-95, and the Marshall Attack is on pages 93-95.

The first few moves are 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5.  This defines the Ruy Lopez opening, as seen in the graphic below.

Run Lopez opening

Now, continuing the opening: 3. … a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 0-0 8. c3. It is at this point that Stockfish, the chess engine that uses, still doesn’t recognize The Marshall Attack.

Still a Closed Ruy Lopez opening

But Black’s next move defines The Marshall Attack: 8. … d5. This produces many, many different openings some of which favor white or black and a few that lead to a pretty even match even after 23+ moves.

Black’s d5 move defines The Marshall Attack

This opening, played in the Anand-Aronian match in 2007 leaves a pretty even match after 23 moves. 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d4 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Re4 g5 16. Qf1 Qh5 17. Nd2 Bf5 18. f3 Nf6 19. Qg2 Qg6 20. Re3 Rae8 21. Ne4 Nxe4 22. g4 Ng3 23. hxg3 Bb1.

I hope this small introduction to The Marshall Attack opens your eyes to the vast world of openings that have been studied and tried over time. See you Wednesday!