Max Lange Attack – An “actually quite simple” puzzle – The Philidor Position

Max Lange Attack

This attack is yet another branch off of the Italian Game. From last week, this begins with 1 e4 e5  2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5. As a review, Evans Gambit from a few weeks ago is if 4 b4.  Giuoco Piano from last week is in the case of 4 c3. This week, for the Max Lange Attack, we look at 4 d4.

Max Lange Attack or Rosentreter Gambit

Black usually responds in one of three ways. Seirawan explores the line 4 … exd4 5 0-0 Nf6 (why not 5 … d6?) 6 e5. This brings us to the following postion with black to move.

Black to move.

If black moves the knight, say to g4 here, white has an interesting opportunity to regain a pawn: 6 … Ng4 7 Bxf7+ Kxf7 8 Ng5+ Kg8 9 Qxg4 and the game is pretty even.

White seems to have a better position. With Black to move, the game is even.

Instead, if we follow his main line: 6 … d5 7 exf6 dxc4 8 Re1+ Be6 9 Ng5, this brings us to the following postion.

Here again with black to move

Black’s best responses in this position are either 9… f6 or 9…Qd5. Let’s look at the mistakes 9 … Qxf6 or 9 … 0-0.  The first will lose a bishop with 9 … Qxf6 10 Nxe6 fxe6 11 Qh5+ g6 12 Qxc5 while the second loses even more after 9 … 0-0 10 fxg7 Kxg7 11 Rxe6!, where white wins a bishop that black cannot afford to take without a queen-king fork by the knight.

Castling on the 9th move for black is no good!

There are definitely some mistakes that can be made by black with the Max Lange attack that are worth studying.

It’s actually quite simple

The following puzzle is taken again from 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners by Franco Masetti & Roberto Messa.  This one is puzzle 824. It is black to move and win. 

Black to move and win

If you need a hint, you’re looking for a move that will be a major threat that will soon end the game. The chess engine suggests that there is a mate in 7 for black in this position. Once you find the initial move for black, if you want a challenge, try and find how white can stretch the game out for 6 more moves. 

The answer is 1 … Qh3. Since 2 Rxe2 leads to 2 … Qxf1#, white doesn’t want to take the rook with his rook. If 2 Rf2, then 2 … Rxf2 3 Rxe8+ Bf8 and nothing stop the inevitible Qxh2# in time. 

How does white stretch it out? One way is 1 … Qh3 2. Qxe2 Rxe2 3 Rf2 Rxf2 4 Re8+ Bf8 5 Rxf8+ Kxf8 6 Bb4+ Ke8 7 a3 Qxh2#. White cannot do anything on the 7th move to stop Qxh2#.

The Philidor Position

Last week we looked at how to promote a pawn from the Lucena Position. This week we’ll look at the Philidor Position, one in which if you find yourself on the opposing side, you can easily force a draw. Let’s take a look at a classic position. All of this, BTW, is taken from Silman’s Complete Endgame Course.

Black to move and draw

If you put this into an engine, best moves will not always be the easiest to follow.  Silman breaks the method down into a few simple steps.  We first advance our rook to the row in front of the pawn to stop the enemy king from advancing in front of its pawn.  This is what we want to avoid. While on this rank, you’ll move your rook back and forth until white gets bored and pushes the pawn. 

At this point, advance the rook to the first rank with the idea of tormenting the enemy king with an endless supply of checks.  This is how you draw the game.

I just finished a lengthy, boring game playing the level 8 Stockfish engine.  The engine didn’t advance the pawn until the 50th move. I just hung out on the 6th rank moving the rook back and forth making sure it was safe from the enemy king and rook.

As Silman says, after mastering the Philidor Position, you should be able to draw any grandmaster that is playing white with ease.

Giuoco Piano – Back Rank and Pin – The Lucena Position

Openings – Giuoco Piano

We’ll explore four lines that follow the opening called Giuoco Piano. The Giuoco Piano begins with the following moves. 

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5

Giuoco Piano

We’ll look at four paths off of 4 c3 Nf6 today.  All of these are pretty boring in my opinion, as there is little room for really big errors unless they’re blatant. 

The first is “the old main line which peters out to equality” according to Modern Chess Openings by Nick de Firmian. It goes as follows.

4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Bd2 Bxd2+ 8 Nbxd2 d5 9 exd5 Nxd5 10 Qb3 Nce7

The Old Main Line

The Möller attack would be using 7 Nc3 instead.  The game would remain just as equal if black went with the queen attack 10… Na5 here also. Another line off of 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 goes as follows.

6 e5 d5 7 Bb5 Ne4 8 cxd4 Bb6 9 Nc3 0-0 10 Be3 Nxc3 11 bxc3

A complex open position that is pretty equal

How about 5 d3 rather than 5 d4?

4 c3 Nf6 5 d3 d6 6 h3 0-0 7 0-0 a5

Battle for the center leaves both sides pretty equal

Finally, let’s look at the unusual 5 b4. This is referred to as Bird’s attack.

4 c3 Nf6 5 b4 Bb6 6 d3 d6 7 0-0 Ne7 8 Nbd2 c6

Bird’s Attack

Modern Chess Openings goes into detail with 65 different lines involving the Giuoco Piano and that is not even close to exhaustive. I prefer Winning Chess Openings by Yasser Seirawan, as that only explores a few different lines of play which is good enough for the beginning to intermediate player.

Puzzle – Back Rank and Pin

My favorite puzzle of the week was puzzle 833 in 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners by Franco Masetti & Roberto Messa.  The title of the post is a pretty big hint. In this puzzle, it is black to move, and there is only one good move.  Can you find it?

Black to move

Notice that white is two pawns up currently.  However, this position with black to move gives black a 3 pawn advantage.  There is another big hint!! Solution is next, so continue to try and find the best move if you don’t think you have already.

The solution is Rook to c5. Notice that after this move, if white tries to take the rook with dxc5, then black has queen to d1 checkmate!  And, if white tries to take the queen with Rxd7, then black has rook to e1 checkmate!  So, what is white’s best move after this? 

It is to take the rook.  Yes, white loses a queen, but with a few extra pawns, white could fight their way out with near perfect play and any future mistakes by black.

Endgame – The Lucena Position

The Lucena position is an endgame in which one side has a rook with a non-rook pawn on the 7th rank with its King on the promotion square while the other side has a rook only. Here is an illustration giving the idea of the Lucena Position. This was taken from Silman’s Complete Endgame Course.

The Lucena Position

We start with something like 1 Rf2+ and black answers with either 1 … Kg7 or 1 … Kg6.  The idea to promote the pawn is simple, as we just need to get our king out of the way and then promote the pawn. But, the idea is much more simple than the practice, which is why it is worth the study.

According to Silman, we need to use these winning ideas:

  • Force the opposing king away from the action (which is what we did with the first two moves)
  • Prepare the rook to use what Silman calls a bridge building agent by playing Rf4.
  • Move the king out from behind the pawn.
  • When the time is right, use the rook to block the opponent’s desperate attempts to check.

When playing an engine, you may notice that another strategy may have to unfold that involves allowing an early promotion that will then allow you to steal the rook afterwards. White must be careful to not move the king too far away from the pawn. The goal is to eventually use the rook to build a bridge like the following diagram.

It is over for black now

This leaves nothing more for black to do. The best black can go for in the original Lucena Position (when white knows what they’re doing) is to exchange the pawn (promoted or not) with the rook and leave white with a rook and king. This, as we know, is a losing position.

Evans Gambit – A Brutal Move – Fake Stalemate

This week, we’ll begin a new format on this tab of the Decorah Sjakklubb’s website. We’ll cover an opening, a puzzle, and an endgame with each post.

Evans Gambit

A while ago, I covered the Fried Liver Attack off an Italian Game.  White can also play Evans Gambit off the Italian Game. We first get things going with:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4!?

The idea of Evans Gambit play is to trade the pawn (and/or pawns) for more advanced development (Winning Chess Openings; 2003, Yasser Seirawan). The best move for black is to accept the gambit.

4 … Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4

Main line for Evans Gambit

We could diverge quite a bit from here. The Stockfish engine prefers the following defensive continuation.

6 … d6 7. Qb3 Qd7.

Let’s follow a path in which black gobbles up white’s pawns instead.

6 … exd4 7. 0-0 dxc3 8. Qb3 Qf6 9. e5 Qg6 10. Nxc3 Nge7 11. Ba3 0-0 12 Rad1

At this stage, black is two pawns up but the game is even with white in a much better position.

A Brutal Move

The following puzzle comes from puzzle 820 in the book 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners by Franco Masetti & Roberto Messa. I’ve been slowly working my way through this delightful book over the last year now and will sometimes find puzzles that I love.  The correct move here took me quite a while to find, but once I landed on it I knew it was the right one. It is, as the title suggests, a brutal move. Before I say more, please take some time to find it. Black to play on this puzzle.

Black to play. Find the only good move.

I have to say, I toiled for a while on this one but it was worth my time finding it.  I’ll provide a few hints in the next paragraph if you need them, and the solution in the paragraph after.

The first hint is that this is not a mate in 2, 3, 4 or more puzzle. The second hint is that the move you are looking for threatens a mate in the next move or few moves if white doesn’t give up pieces. 

The solution is to move the queen to e2.  Observe how huge of a threat this move is to white.  White cannot capture the queen because black has a checkmate on the next move with rook to f1. White cannot capture the rook on f2 because after the queen captures the bishop on f2 for check and backs white’s king into the corner, mate follows when then queen captures the rook on e1. 

The chess engine suggests there is mate in 12 after moving the queen to e2. 

Fake Stalemate

This endgame analysis comes from Joel Benjamin in his July 2022 US Chess magazine article Rook Pawn Magic. Look at the following position for white.

An endgame white can win

With white having a rook pawn and a bishop that is not the same color as the queening square of that rook pawn, it seems for a moment that black has a great opportunity for a stalemate. All black has to do is continually threaten control of the a8 square. However, black’s biggest weakness is the b7 pawn that will have to move in a “fake stalemate”.  Consider the following sequence of moves.

49 … Kh8 50. Bc3+ Kh7 51. Bg7!

Black has no other move than to advance his b-pawn.  This is white’s strategy… to force this move until his rook pawn on the a-file can capture it! Play continues.

51 … b6 52. Bf8 Kh8 53. Bh6 Kh7 54. Bg7!

Again, another “fake stalemate” that makes black advance his b-pawn. If black does not resign, white repeats these moves until he can take black’s b-pawn, and then promotes it while capturing black’s a-pawn with the bishop. 

Fried Liver Attack

For the last few weeks, I’ve looked for a game in which we could play the Fried Liver Attack as either white or black. So far, nobody has taken the black line far enough for me to initiate it as white, and when I was black and did take it that far, white didn’t use the attack. Oh well. At least I know it exists and will be a fun game when I get to play it.

The main line begins as follows:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6

Black uses the Two Knight’s Defense

To initiate the Fried Liver Attack, white moves 4. Ng5 threatening to take the f7 pawn on the next move and fork black’s queen and rook. What would black’s best response to this be?

If you found 4. … d5, good job. This block’s the bishop from its attack on f7. After white captures with 5. exd5 we find ourselves in the following position.

Not yet to the Fried Liver Attack. It depends on Black’s next move.

It is suggested by Stockfish not to recapture the pawn right away, but to play 5. … Na5 to attack the bishop. We will not explore this line, as we want to explore the Fried Liver Attack, which means that the knight must recapture the pawn. So, play continues with 5. …Nxd5 and the Fried Liver Attack may commence!

6. Nxf7

After this odd and interesting play, white sacrifices the knight in order to bring out black’s king.

The Fried Liver Attack

Black’s only move here is to capture the knight to protect the queen and rook. But after 6. … Kxf7 white responds with 7. Qf3+. Study the following position and see how you would respond as black before reading on:

Here is where things get interesting if black has not yet seen this position.

With white having two attackers on the knight on d5, and black only having the queen as a defender, the best move for black is to add a defender while getting out of check with 7 … Ke6.

White continues to attack the knight with 8. Nc3. From here we’ll look at two lines that black could initiate, either 8 … Nce7 or 8 … Ncb4. The engine seems to favor the second option. To provide yet another defender for the knight pinned on d5, let’s say black answers with 8 … Nce7.

What is white’s next best move?

In this case, white’s best response is 9. d4. If black takes the bait with 9 … exd4, then white will win back the knight (and possibly a pawn) after 10. Nxd5 Nxd5 11. Qe4+. So, black should answer by providing further defenders to the d5 square with 9. … c6.

Playing it out from here would provide some interesting games!

Let’s back up and explore black’s slightly better move of 8 … Ncb4. Here, black initiates an attack on the c2 pawn while providing a defender for the knight pinned to d5.

Ncb4 takes the offense away from white

Rather than continue the attack, white now needs to think about defending the c2 pawn. After either 9. Bb3 or 9. Qe4, black can respond with 9 … c6 and interesting games can ensue.

Puzzles from my game last week

The game we played was pretty even for 16 moves. Moving my bishop to h6 was a huge error according to the Stockfish engine. After a few text moves we were in this position with white (my opponent) to play. What was his best move here?

White to move

The only defender to my bishop on h6 is the knight. White should threaten those knights the best he can with 19. e5. In the actual game, however, play continues with 19. Qd2 which kept black in the game.

Later on, we found ourselves in this position. White had just advanced the f pawn, and the black queen came down to take. What is white’s best response here?

White to move

White elected to trade queens here leaving black a bishop up. But look at 40 … Qh7+! The king is now forced to move in line with the queen with Kf8 or Kf7 and then white can now get black’s queen for their rook with 41 … Rf5.

The Englund Gambit

Wednesday, May 18, at 6pm, members of the Decorah Sjakklubb (chess club) will begin to congregate at The Landing in order to challenge one another to some chess matches. Come to learn and/or just to play.

In today’s post, I’m going to cover a small portion of the Englund Gambit, which occurs after a queen pawn opening. The beginning line is 1. d4 e5 and looks like this.

This is an interesting line for somebody who has not studied it, and if white is not careful, can fall behind to black rather quickly.  The appropriate response for white is to take the free pawn. The next few moves that usually occur are as follows:

2. dxe5 Nc6 3. Nf3

Here, a trap can be set by black that isn’t easy to see how to defend for those playing the line for the first time.  Let’s say black continues to put pressure on the e5 pawn with 3. … Qe7. Take a look at the position now and see what you would do with white to move.

If you happened to find either Bf4 or Bg5, both are fine. Moving the bishop to f4 to offer protection to the pawn, or moving the bishop to g5 in order to attack the queen are both decent moves. Let’s say that play continues with 4. Bg5 Qb4+ and produces the following position for white. Look at it and see if you can find the best move for white.

Although it feels like retreat is not the answer (as you just developed your bishop), the correct move here is to either retreat your bishop with Bd2 or put the knight in front with Nc3. When I first played this, I thought trading queens was best with Qd2 (and I’ve seen a surprising number of chess players who have not seen this line resort to this).  Black’s answer?  Black doesn’t want to trade when he can have your rook!  The (incorrect) line continues 5. Qd2 Qxb2

How is white going to keep the rook in this situation? Look at the position above a while and see what you can come up with before reading on. This is a difficult position indeed, as black is winning.

Playing this for the first time players may try and trade queens again, thinking this time it will surely work with Qc3. It turns out, this is a huge blunder. Why? Black will skewer the queen with the bishop with Bb4.  White is losing horribly on the sixth move of the game! 6. Qc3 Bb4

So, what should have white done? Let’s back up to the position before the fifth move. There are two moves that work. White has either Bd2 or Nc3. If black elects to take the pawn on b2, then white plays the other move (if Bd2 was played first, then Nc3… if Nc3, then Bd2).  So, the fifth and sixth moves could look like this:

5. Nc3 Qxb2 6. Bd2 Bb4

The good response by black is to bring the bishop down to b4 to put two attackers on the knight with only the one defender. If  white answers correctly here with 7. Rb1, then it will be a pretty good game from here with a slight advantage for white.

Closed Sicilian

March is a great month for chess as it will bring 5 Wednesdays on which our wonderful club can meet and play and learn some chess. Come on out to The Landing anytime in the 6-9pm window tonight (3/23/22) for some chess games and fun.

In the lastest American Chess Magaizine (Issue #25), the closed Sicilian is explored. The Sicilian is signified by the moves 1. e4 c5, which is initiated by black after white’s king pawn opening. An “Open” Sicilian is signified by the next move 2. Nf3, while the “Closed” Sicilian is signified by 2. Nc3.

Closed Sicilian

While the Sicilian is intiated by black, white can then initiate an open or a closed Sicilian with the second move. Here is one such opening line for the closed Sicilian.

Main Line for a Closed Sicilian

Although the main line is given at the bottom of the picture above, it can also be arrived at through the following:

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. g3 Nc6 4. Bg2 g6 5. d3 Bg7

Yet another alternative:

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. d3 d6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7

As you’ve noticed, we can interchange several moves to arrive at this closed Sicilian position.

So you might be asking what the next best move for white might be. Several options have been explored, with 6. Be3 being the most popular.  Other options include 6. f4 or 6. Nh3.. However, a chess engine would rather see 6. Ngce2 or 6. Nf6 rather than the previous two even though some chess experts disagree.

King’s Gambit – Mistakes & Blunders Explained

Once again, chess players in the Decorah area will be gathering for some chess magic at Pulpit Rock Wednesday, 1/12/2022 , from 6:00-8:30pm. We’ll look at some puzzles, examine a few strategies, and then play as many games as you have time for. Come join the fun!

Last week, I explored King’s Gambit as far as 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3, and offered a few alternatives to Black’s accepting the gambit 2. … exf4 with either a counter gambit 2. … d5 or just not accepting.  I wanted to dive into some possible mistakes and blunders that could occur during this opening for White.

King’s Gambit Mistakes and Blunders for White

Let’s say that after 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4, that white makes the move 3. d4 in hopes of gaining control of the center while at the same time attacking the black pawn on f4.

An error by white

As we saw last week, the answer to this would be 3. … Qh4+.  At first, this may not seem like that big a deal for white, but it is a bigger debacle than one might think, especially given that the best move here for white is 4. Ke2 giving up any castling opportunities on the 4th move!

Let’s see why 4. Ke2 is the only good move. The only other two options are 4. Kd2 or 4. g3. 

Black’s Answer to 4. Kd2

In this situation, black answers with 4. Qf2+! If white plays best, they will lose only the pawn on d4 and have a difficult game after that. While better than 4. g3, it is worse than 4. Ke2.

Black’s response to 4. g3

This attempt at blocking black is the worst move. Black will accept this piece with 4. … fxg3 giving white an illusion of an opportunity to recover. It turns out that the best response is to get in the way of this pawn with 5. Bg2. Why? Let’s instead try the knight attack with 5. Nf3.

What is Black’s best move?

Since the queen is being attacked you may think that 5. … Qxe4+ is the best move. While it isn’t horrible, Black has a much bigger opportunity with 5. … g2+!!  After White’s knight takes Black’s queen with 6. Nxh4, Black gets it right back after capturing the rook with 6. … gxh1=Q. 

Black is now up a rook and a pawn.

This shouldn’t discourage white from playing the king’s gambit! It should only offer strong reason-backed encouragement for playing 3. Nf3 on the third move!