Friday, February 23, 2007

Play the Ruy Lopez

When I some 10 days ago received Andrew Greet’s “Play the Ruy Lopez” - an impressive tome of 376 pages - my instinctive reaction was to check how his analysis of the Worrall compared to our coverage in “Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black”. It came as no shock that his 131 pages (!) offered quite a lot more than our 8.5 pages did. The Worrall is after all a rather minor option for White. (But our 4 pages on 7.d3 and 7.a4 may be of some interest even to Greet’s readers wishing to expand their Worrall repertoire a bit). Whether he really has made 5.Qe2 a promising line for White is another question, to which I may return later if I reach any conclusion.

The next thing I did was to check what Greet had to offer on the Norwegian variation. As a good Norwegian I have always wanted to play this risky line, but I have never dared to. Instead I have from time to time checked its theoretical status and recent games by Norwegian players. In order to play it successfully you need good defensive technique, good nerves and a deep understanding of chess - three qualities I have never claimed to possess.
The variation’s theoretical standing has always been shaky, and without offering a lot of new analysis, I believe Greet’s book has made Black’s task even harder; mainly by pointing out White’s most promising course but also by offering some small improvements for White where needed. Below is my summary of one of the mainlines with some additions from Greet's book :

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Na5
This is the Norwegian Variation. In Greet's words it is "...arguably Black's most direct method of fighting against the Ruy Lopez".
6.0–0 d6 7.d4 Nxb3 8.axb3 f6 9.Nc3 Bb7 10.Nh4 Qd7
Up to here, Greet deals systematically with all of Black's possible deviations. But every Norwegian knows that this is the first real junction for Black (with a possible exception for Zwaig's 7...f6). Now, however, 10...Ne7 is a major alternative which deserves a separate entry.
Greet recommends this over 11.f4, which is also quite challenging.
This is not a perfect solution but the alternatives are even less tempting:
a) 11...Ne7?! 12.Qh5+ Kd8 13.c4 when Black’s king soon felt very vulnerable in the centre in Short-Sulskis, Bled 2002.
b) 11...0–0–0 12.c4 Ne7 13.Be3 Nxd5 14.cxd5 Kb8 15.Qe2 Re8 16.dxe5 dxe5 17.Rfc1 when Black’s king again was under heavy fire, this time on the queenside, in Leventic-Krstic, Zadar 2004.
c) 11...Qf7 has been considered the main continuation but after 12.c4 c6 there are problems ahead:
c1) 13.Ne3?! Ne7 was not too bad for Black in Anand-Timman, Linares 1993.
c2) Anand later suggested 13.Nc3! as an improvement.
c3) Greet suggests 13.Nb6! which he modestly attributes to his computers. My Fritz 9.0 agrees that White has a very clear advantage after e.g. 13...Rb8 14.d5. It is not inconceivable that the knight may turn out to be trapped, or at least misplaced at b6, but I honestly cannot see how. I would not feel comfortable on the dark side here.
12.c4 Bg7

In Gutsche-Boog, corr 2000, 12...Rd8 was made to look quite silly after 13.Bd2 exd4 14.Ba5. 13.dxe5
Here Greet concludes with Anand's recommended 13.f4, presumably agreeing that White is clearly better. I happen to know that some Norwegian players disagree with that evaluation. I will not try to reproduce the analysis I saw a couple of months ago, but I can promise that things are not at all clear. However, judging from available games, this central exchange may be more critical.
Could 13...dxe5!? be the right move?
This could be the critical position. Black has a difficult task ahead, e.g.:
14...h6? 15.Nxg6 hxg5 16.Nxh8 Bxh8 17.Qh5+ obviously is not an option.
15.Qd3 bxc4 16.Qxc4 c6!?
Giving up the light-squared bishop with 16...Bxd5 17.exd5 of Raidna-Boog, corr 2000 is a desperate measure.
17.Nb6!? Qf7 18.Rfd1 Bf6
18...h6? seems to lose after the slightly surprising 19.Qb4!
a) 19...hxg5? is out of the question because of 20.Qxd6.
b) 19...Qc7 20.Nc4 c5 21.Qa4+ and Black’s fortress is cracking again.
19.Nf3 Qe7 20.Be3
This position is not necessarily lost for Black, but it cannot be what Black hoped for when entering the Norwegian variation.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Germany Here We Come!

I was surprised today to learn that my London book will be translated and published in German in December: Here is the info page for those of you who can read German.

It will not be a lot of extra cash to me and my co-author but I am still very pleased as not a lot of Gambit's opening monographs are translated to German.

Something Entirely Different

When I in 1977 as a 13-years old boy first visited Kongsvinger Sjakklubb, one of the first sights that met me, was a group of adult players discussing whether it really was possible that this position could occur after only 4 moves:

I happily joined in with my suggestions but after 30 minutes of heavy thinking and discussion and a lot of aimless moving around, we concluded that it was impossible: The two knights simply could not both capture each other and it was not time for other pieces to capture them and return to its original squares.

Well, it turned out that it was possible after all, but only after the person who had offered the puzzle (standing sniggering in the background all the time) demonstrated the solution. Since that day I have had a fascination for this kind of retrograde puzzles, and collected whatever I have come across. Unfortunately the composer (originator/creator?) of the puzzle very rarely is provided.

Sometime around 2000, I was offered this seemingly related puzzle:

Can this position occur after only 5 moves? Surprisingly knowing the solution to the previous puzzle does not make it easier at all.

Judging from the reactions to puzzle No 7 at the
ChessBase Christmas Quiz, I am not the only chess-player fascinated by this kind of useless brain exercizes. You can safely look at the readers' feedback - all spoilers have been removed.

I will return with solutions (also for the ChessBase nut, which is quite hard) in a few days.

Frustrated Note:
It seems that I cannot add a link to the ChessBase Christmas Quiz. I have no idea why, but here it is as a text string:

If you want to solve the puzzles yourself, be careful. I will allow spoilers in the Comments below (they will become visible if you open a post by clicking the header or if you click the "Comments" link below).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mengarini's Opening

My apologies to readers waiting for some serious analysis - I still have some things to say about 1.a3:

1.a3 e5 2.e4 (Dia)
I suspect this move will come as a surprise to many players. We now have a position that could as well arise from 1.e4 e5 2.a3, which at first seems rather meaningless in a set of openings where we have learned that rapid development is essential.
This is natural and probably best. It is debatable whether the extra a-pawn move has any significance in the reversed King’s gambit arising after 2...f5!?. What is certain is that this is an unlikely move to encounter unless your opponent is a regular King’s Gambit player. One of the relatively few practical examples is 3.exf5 Nf6 4.Be2 (4.g4!?) 4...Bc5 5.Nf3 d6 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 0–0 8.0–0 Bxd4 9.Qxd4 Bxf5 with fairly equal chances in Anbuhl-T.Kristiansen, Gausdal 1981.
Now we enter the so-called Mengarini Opening (which normally would arise after 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.a3). It can be considered a reversed version of the Open Games where the Ruy Lopez obviously is ruled out. It seems unlikely that the extra move will make a reversed Latvian with 3.f4?! a tempting option.
With 3...Bb4?? (a reversed Spanish) out of the question, one might expect 3...d5 (a reversed Scotch) to be Black’s best try, as Kasparov has made a case for this being White’s only serious alternative to the Spanish. However, it turns out that after 4.exd5 Nxd5 5.Qh5!, may be a major obstacle. In the parallel line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Qh4, White has the promising pawn sacrifice 5.Nb5 (or possibly a delayed version with a later Nb5). As this obviously is not an option here, 5...Nc6 6.Bb5 may be quite unpleasant for Black, e.g. 6...Qd6 7.Ne4 Qe6 8.Nf3 Bd6 9.Nfg5 Qg6 10.Qf3 f5 11.Nxd6+ Qxd6 12.d4 0–0 13.Bc4 Nce7 14.Bd2 exd4 15.0–0–0 h6 16.Rhe1 with a clear advantage to White in Czarnota-Korosciel, Poraj 2003.
3...Bc5 4.Nf3 d6 obviously must be sound. One of the more high-powered games continued 5.h3 Nc6 6.d3 a6 7.g3 0–0 8.Bg2 Be6 9.0–0 h6 10.Kh2 d5 with equal chances, Wahls-Brueckner, German Cht 1990.
4.Nf3 d5 (Dia)
This probably is critical.
a) 4...Bc5 5.Nxe5! is good for White, and one of the basic ideas behind the Mengarini, e.g. 5...Nxe5 6.d4 Bd6 7.dxe5 Bxe5 and now:
a1) 8.Bd3 0–0 9.0–0 Re8 10.Ne2 d5 =+ Levitsky-Steinitz, Moscow 1896.
a2) 8.Nb5 a6 9.f4 axb5 (9...Bxb2 10.Bxb2 axb5 11.e5 Qe7 12.Bxb5) 10.fxe5 Nxe4 11.Qg4 d5 12.Qxg7 +/- Molander-Van Hoolandt, Gausdal 2002.
b) 4...a6 makes some sense; Black reclaims his right to be Black. The game Gunsberg-Zukertort, London 1887 casts some doubt about the playing level at the time: 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 g6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 Bg7?? 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.e5 g5 11.exf6 Qxf6 12.Bg3 when White was winning.
c) 4...d6 allows White to take the initiative in the centre with 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 when Black seems unable to take advantage of White’s tempo-loss:
c1) 6...Nxd4 7.Qxd4 Be7 8.Bc4 0–0 9.0–0 Kh8 10.Bg5 Ng4 11.Bxe7 Qxe7 12.f4 (12.Nd5) 12...Be6 13.Be2 += Carlsen-Potapov, Peniscola 2002.
c2) 6...Be7 7.Be2 (7.Bc4 0–0 8.0–0 Re8 9.h3 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 Nd7 11.Nd5 Nb6 12.Nxe7+ Qxe7 = Gullaksen-Simonsen, Torshavn 2003) 7...0–0 8.Be3 Re8 9.Qd2 Nd7 10.0–0–0 Bf6 11.f4 Nb6 12.g4 Bd7 13.g5 Bxd4 14.Bxd4 Nxd4 15.Qxd4 += Motwani-Winants, Belgium 2001
d) 4...g6 is a reversed version of Glek’s Four Knight’s line. White’s most entertaining move is 5.Nxe5!?, to which I may return in a later entry. It has however limited theoretical significance as Black after 5...Nxe5 6.d4 Nc6 7.d5, can return the piece with 7...Bg7! 8.dxc6 bxc6 and reach exactly the same position as after 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 Bg7 7.Nxc6 bxc6.

Also 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Bb5 Nxc3 7.bxc3 has been tried, but White has been unable to prove any advantage: 7...Bd6 8.d4 exd4 9.cxd4 0–0 10.0–0 Bg4
a) 11.c3 Qf6 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Qxf3 14.gxf3 Ne7 15.c4 Nf5 16.Be3 Nh4 17.f4 c6 =+ Bae-Porat, Port Erin 2003
b) 11.Be3 Ne7 12.h3 Bh5 13.Bd3 Nd5 14.c4 Nxe3 15.fxe3 c5 = Golubovic-Z.Szabo, Budapest 1995
5...Nxe4 may be better:
a) 6.Qe2 Nxc3 7.Qxe5+ Qe7 8.dxc3 Bd7 1/2–1/2 Gullaksen-A.Moen, Stockholm 2004.
b) 6.Nxe5 Qf6 7.Nf3 Be6 8.Qe2 Nxc3 9.dxc3 Bd6 10.Bg5 Qg6 11.Bd3 Qh5 12.Bf5 Ne5 (12...0–0!) 13.Bxe6 fxe6 14.Nxe5 Qxe2+ 15.Kxe2 Bxe5 = Djurhuus-A.Moen, Gausdal 2002
The position has become semi-closed. I doubt White has any advantage, but there should be plenty of opportunities to outplay a weaker opponent. One typical game is G.Welling-Reimer, Dinard 1986:
6...Nxe4 7.d3 Nf6 8.Nxe5 Qd5 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Nf3 c5 11.0–0 Bd6 12.c4 Qb7 13.b4 += Glek-Zaja, Austria 2005.
7.d3 Bd7 8.0–0 g6 9.c3 dxc3 10.bxc3 (Dia)

White is better developed, better co-ordinated and has more pawns in the centre. But with accurate play it is still possible that Black could hang on.
10...Nd8?! 11.a4 c5 12.d4 Bxb5 13.axb5 Bg7 14.dxe5 Ng4
14...Nxe4 15.Re1 0–0 16.Nf4 Nxc3 17.Qb3 is no better.
15.Bg5 Qc7 16.Nf4 Nxe5 17.Nd5 Nxf3+ 18.Qxf3 (Dia)

Black's position is just too bad. 18...Qd7 19.Rfd1 and 18...Qd6 19.Rfd1 are just as hopeless.
19.Bf6 1–0

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Open for Comments

I am no experienced blogger and still need to experiment with my settings.

Today I opened for unregistered users to comment, just to see what happens. If there comes a lot of spam and flames, I will probably switch the parameters back again.

Addendum 16th February 2007
I didn't realize that all reader comments would be emailed to me for approval before appearing in the blog. But except for the delay, this may actually be a very good way of avoiding spam. So until further notice I leave my settings as they are.

It seems the best way to read comments is to click on the heading of the main entry.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The R-Factor

In a previous post (January 20th, 2007) I discussed the theme of "The Greatest Player", and claimed that one of the major factors that must be taken into consideration is a player's relative strength compared to his contemporaries - the R-factor. I believe this should be one of the easier lists to agree on. A very relevant source is the Chessmetrics site. Among other statistics, they provide lists of the best "peak years". After having set up my own preliminary list, I compared it with Chessmetric's list of "Peak Average Ratings: 3 year peak range", added a couple of names that obviously belonged in the top and did some other rather minor adjustments.

In the list below I have tried to take into account peak strength as well as the time span at the very top. I admit my methods have been far from scientific, but for now this is my suggested top-10 list of "Relative strength compared to contemporary competitors":

1 Garry Kasparov
2 Emanuel Lasker
3 Bobby Fischer
4 José Capablanca
5 Anatoly Karpov
6 Paul Morphy
7 Alexander Alekhine
8 Mikhail Botvinnik
9 Wilhelm Steinitz
10 Mikhail Tal

These just missed my top 10 - mainly because it's not clear at what time they would have a claim to being the clearly strongest player on earth:

11 Tigran Petrosian
12 Viswanathan Anand
13 Vladimir Kramnik
14 Vassily Smyslov
15 Akiba Rubinstein

Compared to Chessmetrics, the most obvious difference is that Morphy made it to a 6th place in my list, while ending on a modest 66th in the "3-year peak range". I must admit there is some doubt about his world dominance at his time. But I still cannot see who of his contemporaries that could have given him a good match when he was at his peak around 1860.

My next entry on this subject will probably be on the "A-factor" - a list of the objectively strongest players based solely on the quality of their moves. I will not go into details yet, but suspect that most of the players on that list will have been active during the last decade or so.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Origin of a Name

I am always careful not to dive too deeply into historical background when writing about an opening. Research of this kind can be very time consuming and most chess-players have a very practical approach to their game; they simply don’t want to be bothered with historical facts that will not help them winning games.

Nevertheless you occasionally stumble into questions that you really should know a bit about in order to consider yourself an expert on a theme. Personally I would like to know a bit more about the origin of the name “London System”. So far I can say this:

The name "London System" doesn't occur anywhere in the tournament book for the London 1922 tournament. The first use of the name which I have come across, is in the New York 1924 tournament book. There the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 followed by Bf4 generally are referred to as "Reti's Eroffnung im Nachzuge" (Reti's Opening Reversed) but there is one interesting exception:

Janowski-Reti, New York (9) 1924
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.h3
Quite curiously a consensus seems to have been reached among the top players at the time that the immediate 3.Bf4 was premature. This already seemed to be accepted in the later rounds of the London 1922 tournament. Can it be that 3.Bf4 Nh5!? was considered inconvenient?
3...Bg7 4.Bf4 b6
Probably a set-up with ...d5 (followed by ...c5, ...Nc6 and ...Nfd7, preparing ...e5) is the way to demonstrate that h3 was too slow. This is discussed in some detail in "Win with the London System".
5.e3 c5 6.c4
Here Aljekhine comments: "Hier hatte besser 6.c2-c3 nebst Lf1-d3 (c4) geschehen sollen, was zu einem Kampfe zwischen zwei Systemen (Reti's und dem Londoner) gefuhrt hatte." Or in a rough translation to English: "6.c3 followed by Bd3 (c4) would have been better here. That would have lead to a battle between two systems (Reti's and the London).
6...cxd4 7.exd4 0-0 8.Nc3 d5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.b3 Ne4 11.Rc1 Nxc3 12.Rxc3 dxc4 13.bxc4 Nc6 14.Rd3 Na5 15.c5 Qd5 16.0-0 Qxa2 17.Re1 Qd5 18.Bf1 Ba6 19.Rc3 Bxf1 20.Kxf1 Nc6 21.Be3 Rfd8 22.Qc1 b5
Now the queenside passed pawns decide.
23.Rd1 b4 24.Rc2 a5 25.Ng1 a4 26.Ne2 b3 27.Rcd2 a3 28.Nf4 b2 29.Qc3 Qf5 30.Nd3 Bxd4 31.Bxd4 Rxd4 32.Kg1 (Dia)

Now come some nice and correct but totally unnecessary tactics:
32...Rxd3 33.Rxd3 Qxd3 34.Qxd3 a2 35.Kh2 a1=Q 36.Rb1 Rb8 37.h4 Qa4 38.g3 Qd4 39.Qc2 Qf6 40.Kg2 h5 41.Kg1 Nd4 42.Qd1 Qf5 43.Kg2 Qxc5 44.Qd2 Qd5+ 0-1

Aljekhine's comments don't give the impression that he introduces a new name for the system, he rather takes it for granted that the reader already is familiar with it. So where did the name originate? Possibly in a chess magazine issued some time between these two tournaments?
Any information or suggestions from readers would be appreciated.

Monday, February 5, 2007

My Chess World Record

I suddenly remembered that I am a world record holder in chess!
It may not be the most prestigious records, but I still have a claim to fame: . See "Greatest number of checks" under "Checks" and "Longest sequence without captures" under "Captures". Here is my game with some light comments:

IM Hannu Wegner, (2425) - Sverre Johnsen (2220)
Gausdal International (7), 1991
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5
At the time, this move - the Tarrasch defence - was my favoured weapon against 1.d4. Black accepts an isolated d-pawn in exchange for active piece play.
4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5!? Be7 6.Bxe7 Nxe7 7.dxc5 Nbc6 8.e3 Qa5+ 9.Nbd2 Qxc5 10.Nb3 Qb6 11.Be2 Bg4 12.0-0 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 0-0 14.Qd2 Rfd8 15.Rfd1 Ne5 16.Nd4 N7c6 17.Be2 Rac8 18.Nxc6 Rxc6 19.Rac1 Rxc1 20.Qxc1 h6 21.Qd2 Qg6 22.Qc3 Qd6 23.h3 a6 24.Rd2 Kh7 25.Qc2+ g6 26.Qd1 Qc5 27.Bf1 Kg7 28.b3 Kh7 29.g3 (Dia)
I assume my opponent must have missed this simplifying tactics. In principle the resulting endgame with bishop against knight and pawns on both wings should be better for White. But my knight is excellently placed, and my king is able to support it, so I believe chances are balanced.

30.exd4 Rxd4 31.Rxd4 Qxd4 32.Qxd4 Nf3+ 33.Kg2 Nxd4 34.f4 Kg7 35.Kf2 Kf6 36.Bd3 h5 37.Ke3 Nf5+ 38.Kf3 Nd6 39.b4 Ke6 40.g4 hxg4+ 41.hxg4 Kd5 42.Ke3 Nc4+ 43.Bxc4+ Kxc4 44.Ke4 Kxb4 45.Ke5 Ka3 46.Kf6 Kxa2 47.Kxf7 b5 48.f5 gxf5 49.gxf5 b4 50.f6 b3 51.Kg7 b2 52.f7 b1Q 53.f8Q (Dia)
If I remember correctly, FIDE's rules at that time stated that once my rook-pawn reached the 2nd rank, I would have 75 moves (rather than the standard 50) at my disposal to capture a piece or move a pawn (which both normally should ensure the win).

53...Qg1+ 54.Kh6 Qe3+ 55.Kh5 Qe5+ 56.Kh6 Qe6+ 57.Kh5 Qd5+ 58.Kh6 a5 59.Qf2+ Kb3 60.Qg3+ Kb4
At this time, the standard time schedule for a serious tournament game was 120 minutes for the first 40 moves and thereafter 60 extra minutes per 20 moves. Not quite as generous as when I first started playing but still luxurious compared with current week-end tournaments. So here another hour was added to our clocks.
61.Qb8+ Kc5 62.Qa7+ Kb5 63.Qb8+ Ka6 64.Qc8+ Kb6 65.Qb8+ Qb7 66.Qd8+ Qc7 67.Qd3 Qf4+ 68.Kh7 Qh4+ 69.Kg6 Qg4+ 70.Kh6 Qf4+ 71.Kh7 a4 72.Qb1+ Kc5 73.Qc2+ Qc4 74.Qf2+ Qd4 75.Qc2+ Kb4 76.Qb1+ Ka3 77.Qc1+ Qb2 78.Qc5+ Ka2 79.Qc4+ Qb3 80.Qe2+ Ka1 81.Kh6 Qb6+ 82.Kh5 Qc5+ 83.Kh6 a3 84.Qd1+ Kb2 85.Qd2+ Kb3 86.Qd3+ Kb4 87.Qd2+ Kb5 88.Qd3+ Kb6 89.Qd8+ Kc6 90.Qe8+ Kc7 91.Qf7+ Kb6 92.Qb3+ Ka5 93.Qa2 Ka4 94.Kh7 Qh5+ 95.Kg7 Qg5+ 96.Kh7 Qf5+ 97.Kg7 Qd3 98.Kh6 Kb4 99.Kh5 Qc4 100.Qd2+ Kb5 101.Qd7+ Ka5 102.Qd2+ Qb4 103.Qd8+ Qb6 104.Qa8+ Kb4 105.Qe4+ Kc3 106.Qe1+ Kb2 107.Qd2+ Ka1 108.Qd1+ Ka2 109.Qc2+ Qb2 110.Qc4+ Qb3 111.Qe2+ Kb1 112.Qe1+ Kb2 113.Qe2+ Qc2 114.Qe5+ Kb1 115.Qe1+ Ka2 116.Qe6+ Qb3 117.Qe2+ Kb1 118.Qe1+ Kb2 119.Qf2+ Qc2 120.Qf6+ Qc3 121.Qf2+ Kb3 122.Qb6+ Ka4 123.Qb1 Qh3+ 124.Kg5 Qg2+ 125.Kh5 Qd5+ 126.Kh6 a2 (Dia)

And the count-down begins.

127.Qc2+ Kb5 128.Qb2+ Kc6 129.Qc3+ Kd7 130.Qg7+ Kd8 131.Qa1 Qd2+ 132.Kh5 Kc7 133.Qe5+ Kc6 134.Qe8+ Kc5 135.Qc8+ Kb4 136.Qb7+ Ka4 137.Qc6+ Kb3 138.Qb5+ Qb4 139.Qd3+ Ka4 140.Qd1+ Qb3 141.Qd4+ Kb5 142.Qd7+ Ka6 143.Qc8+ Ka5 144.Qd8+ Kb4 145.Qd6+ Kc4 146.Qe6+ Kc3 147.Qe5+ Kc2 148.Qe4+ Qd3 149.Qa4+ Kb1 150.Qb4+ Kc1 151.Qc5+ Kd1 152.Qg1+ Kd2 153.Qg5+ Ke1 154.Qh4+ Kd1 155.Qa4+ Qc2 156.Qd4+ Ke2 157.Qg4+ Kf1 158.Qf3+ Kg1 159.Qg3+ Kh1
The final stages of the game were played as two-hours sessions in between rounds. Somewhere around here, my opponent informed the arbiter that he would not turn up for the next playing session, and that his clock should be running for the two hours. This was accepted by the arbiter, and I was informed that I too could have some hours off, provided that I turned up for the opening of the sealed move and then informed the arbiter where I could be found.
160.Qf3+ Qg2 161.Qd1+ Kh2 162.Qd6+ Kg1 163.Qc5+ Qf2 164.Qg5+ Kh1 165.Qd5+ Kh2 166.Qe5+ Kh3 167.Qc3+ Qg3 168.Qa1 Qf3+ 169.Kh6 Qe3+ 170.Kg6 Qb6+ 171.Kh5 Qa5+ 172.Kg6 Qd2 173.Kh5 Kg2 174.Qg7+ Kh2 175.Qe5+ Kh1 176.Qa1+ Kg2 177.Qg7+ Kh3 178.Qa1 Qd5+ 179.Kh6 Qe6+ 180.Kh5 Kg3 181.Kg5 Kf2 182.Kh5 Qh3+ 183.Kg6 Qg2+ 184.Kf6 Qf3+ 185.Kg6 Qg3+ 186.Kf6 Qf4+ 187.Kg6 Qd6+ 188.Kg5 Qd8+ 189.Kh5 Qa5+ 190.Kg6 Qa6+ 191.Kh5 Qb5+ 192.Kh6 Qb6+ 193.Kh5 Qc5+ 194.Kh6 Qd6+ 195.Kg5 Qd5+ 196.Kg6 Ke3 197.Qe1+ Kd3 198.Qd1+ Kc4 199.Qc2+ Kb5 200.Qb2+ Kc6 1/2-1/2
(In total the game lasted for 16 hours and 20 minutes).

When I finished this game, I knew I had beaten the latest published Guiness' record (which, I believe was 196 moves played in Martinovsky - Jansa, at the same playing site four years earlier). I also knew there was a recent game (apparently Chekhlov - Stavrinov, Riga, City Ch. 1988) which was longer. So I had no illusion my game was the longest game ever. As it turns out, it was number 3 in the "Longest games" list - as it still is. That it actually set two other records I discovered years later!

I may in the future return to this game and add some comments after having fed the endgame to the "Nalimov Tablebases" and established where I missed the wins (I am quite sure there was at least a few opportunities).

PS: For those wondering whether the Kovacevic winning the shortest tournament game could be Vlatko, my co-author of "Win with the London System", I must disappoint you. The lucky man appears to have been the unrated Milorad Kovacevic. Kovacevic is a common name in former Yugoslavia, and could indeed with some justification be translated 'Smith'. There seem to be two GMs and three IMs with this family name.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Finally Available

Yesterday I received my copies of "The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black". You might think it should not be too exciting to see a book that you have written yourself, but it actually is!

First there is the physical appearance of the covers, the indexes and those small things you never see when you are working on the content. I really like this one - Wolff Morrow's cover illustration is visually pleasing as usual and the theme at least somewhat relevant. You may argue that Black rarely goes for an immediate attack on White's king in the Zaitsev variation of the Closed Ruy Lopez, but the spark of aggression definitely is there. See this page for some of Morrow's other covers with his brief comments.

Then it is always exciting to see how many of those last-minute corrections and amendments the editors actually managed to include. I have not yet had time to compare the book with the correction tables we forwarded or to discuss it with my co-author, but I can see that most of it actually found its way into the book.

But most of all it's about holding the book in your hands - imagining that you are a potential buyer, flipping through the pages considering whether the book is worth its money or not.
- Is the words/moves ratio acceptable?
- What about the pages/diagrams ratio?
- Is the variation numbering intimidating, or are most readers comfortable with the occasional 'b2222)'?

Well, it really is too late to worry about this now - I am now eagerly awaiting the first reviews.
I will mainly be watching these sites:

- Checkpoint at Very good monthly reviews, but far from all books get a mention.
- Silman: Probably the biggest and best collection of chess book reviews, but Gambit books usually are released a month later in the US than in Europe.
- Seagaard: Usually quite thorough reviews but there seem to be fewer new reviews now than a couple of years ago.
- Chessville: Thorough reviews with the amateur's needs firmly in focus.
- British Chess Magazine: Usually very short and to-the-point monthly reviews.
- John Elburg's reviews: A huge number of reviews every month. Unfortunately the English is awful, and the reviews usually so gentle that they are uninformative.
- Phil Adam's reviews: I like this site - but where does he dump the older reviews? My London book is now nowhere to be found.
- Sean Marsh' reviews: Another growing collection of good reviews. I must however say that I frequently disagree with the evaluations.

Addendum 16th February 2007
I forgot the "Week in Chess" reviews by John Watson - possibly because no new reviews had appeard for almost one year. But now he appears to be back in combat with three new columns in less that a month. Watson's reviews generally are quite gentle, but very detailed and well researched. I am not sure about the relationship with his reviews at Silman's site, but there seems to be considerable overlap.