Short World Champion Wins

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

Here is a collection of short wins by World Champions: 

Lasker, Emanuel – Tarrasch,  Siegbert

Exhibition Match, Round 6

Berlin, Germany, 1916


Siegbert Tarrasch was one of Emanuel Lasker‘s chief rivals for the World Chess Championship.  When Steinitz was still World Champion and Tarrasch his chief rival, Lasker challenged Tarrasch to a match.  Tarrasch dismissed the challenge from the upstart Lasker.  This rebuff poisoned relations between Lasker and Tarrasch for many years.

After Lasker won the World Championship from Steinitz, Tarrasch was his logical challenger.  But Lasker rebuffed Tarrasch’s advances until 1908, when Tarrasch was past his prime.  In the match Lasker prevailed by 10.5 – 5.5.

In 1916, during WWI, an exhibition match was arranged between the two players.  This time Tarrasch was smashed 5.5 – 0.5.  The game below is the final game from the match.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 The Open Defense to the Ruy Lopez. 6. d4 Be7!? In an open position, this is a rather a passive development for the bishop.

[The normal line is 6… b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. c3 Bc5 10. Nbd2 Black’s well placed bishop on c5 secures equality.]

  1. Re1 b5?! With his king still in the center, this is no time for Black to be inviting complications.

[7… f5 8. dxe5 O-O 9. Bb3 Kh8 10. Nc3 Nxc3 11. bxc3 White is better due to his freer position and Black’s insecure king, but Black has chances due to White’s bad pawn structure]

  1. Rxe4 d5 9. Nxe5!

[9. Re1?! e4 Black’s strong center gives him the better game.]

9… Nxe5 Forced.

[9… dxe4? 10. Nxc6 Qd6 11. Nxe7 bxa4 12. Nxc8 Rxc8 13. Nc3 White wins.  He is up a bishop and knight for a rook and will win a pawn]

  1. Rxe5 bxa4 11. Nc3 Be6?!

[11… c6 12. Nxa4 O-O Despite White’s extra pawn, the bishop pair gives Black chances]

  1. Qh5! The twin threats are Rxe6 and Nxd5.

12… g6 He weakens his position to avoid the loss of a pawn.

[Or he could just concede the pawn with 12… O-O 13. Nxd5 Bxd5 (13… Bd6?? 14. Bg5 Qd7 15. Nf6 gxf6 16. Bxf6 h6 17. Rg5 hxg5 18. Qh8#) 14. Rxd5 Bd6]

  1. Qf3 Bf6? The pawn on d5 is holding Black’s position together. Defending it is critical.

[13… c6 14. Nxa4 O-O Though down a pawn, Black still has a decent position]

  1. Rxd5! Bxd5 15. Nxd5 Bg7 16. Bg5 Qxg5 17. Nxc7 Kd8 18. Nxa8 Down two pawns and with his king exposed, Tarrasch resigns. [1:0]

Reti, Richard – Capablanca, Jose Raul

Tageblatt International Tournament

Berlin, 1928


This game was played one year after Capablanca lost the World Championship to Alexander Alekhine.  Reti, one of the Hypermoderns, was one of the leading grandmasters throughout the 1920’s.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 The Modern Steinitz Defense.

[More typical is the Closed Ruy Lopez. 4… Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 White’s better center gives him a small edge]

  1. c3

[5. d4!? only gives White equality. 5… b5 6. Bb3 Nxd4 7. Nxd4 exd4 8. Bd5 (But don’t fall for the Noah’s Ark Trap! 8. Qxd4? c5 9. Qd5 Be6 10. Qc6 Bd7 11. Qd5 c4 White loses his bishop for two pawns) 8… Rb8 9. Qxd4=]

5… f5!? The Siesta Variation.  Prior to this game this line had only been played once at the top levels, in the Capablanca versus Marshall match in 1909.  The name actually comes from a tournament played later in 1928 in the Siesta Sanatorium in Budapest, Hungary.  A chess tournament in a sanatorium?  Well, I guess you play anywhere you can get space.  In that tournament, both Capablanca and Hans Kmoch played the Siesta Variation against Endre Steiner.  The point of the Siesta Variation is that Black exchanges a wing pawn for a center pawn and exploits the fact that White cannot play Nc3, the natural defense to the e-pawn.  But he weakens his kingside in the process.

[Safer is 5… Bd7 6. d4 g6 7. O-O Bg7 8. Re1 b5 9. Bb3 Nf6 White is better due to his strong center]

  1. d4!? This is seldom played now because Black easily equalizes.

[Simply taking gives White the better game because of the weakening of Black’s kingside 6. exf5 Bxf5 7. O-O Bd3 8. Re1 Be7 9. Bc2 Bxc2 10. Qxc2 Nf6 11. d4 e4 12. Ng5 d5 Black’s weakened kingside gives White a small edge]

6… fxe4 7. Ng5

[White can play for a perpetual check with 7. Nxe5 dxe5 8. Qh5 Ke7 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. Qg5 Kd7 11. Qf5 Ke7 12. Qg5=]

7… exd4 8. Nxe4 Nf6 9. Bg5 Be7 10. Qxd4?! It is hard to believe Reti didn’t see Capablanca’s next move.  He must have simply miscalculated something in the following complications.

[White held a draw in the following game. 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. Qh5 g6 12. Qd5 Bd7 13. O-O Qe7 14. Nxf6 Qxf6 15. Re1 Ne7 16. Re6 O-O-O 17. Bxd7 Rxd7 18. Qxb7 Kxb7 19. Rxf6 Nd5 20. Re6 dxc3 21. Nxc3 Nxc3 22. bxc3 Rf8 23. Rb1 Kc6 24. Re4 Rf5 25. f4 Rb5 26. Rb3 Kc5 27. Ra4 a5 28. Kf2 d5 29. g4 Kb6 30. f5 c5 31. Rf4 Rxb3 32. axb3 gxf5 33. gxf5 Kc6 34. f6 Rf7 35. Kg3 Kd6 36. Kg4 Ke6 37. Kg5 Rd7 38. Ra4 d4 39. cxd4 Rd5 40. Kf4 cxd4 41. Ke4 Rb5 42. Kxd4 Kxf6 43. Kc4 Rf5 44. Kd3 Kg5 45. b4 axb4 46. Rxb4 Rf2 47. h4 Kh5 48. Ke3 1/2-1/2, Andreev V V (RUS) 2085 – Yandemirov Valeri (RUS) 2500, Ekaterinburg (Russia) 1997]

10… b5! Of course!  The knight on c6 is no longer pinned and White has two pieces hanging.  White has some tricks, but they fall short.  This is reminiscent of the Noah’s Ark Trap.  He can’t save both the bishop and the queen.  See the note to White’s fifth move. 11. Nxf6 gxf6 12. Qd5 bxa4! 13. Bh6

[After 13. Qxc6 Bd7 White drops the bishop]

13… Qd7 14. O-O? Presumably Reti went into this line with the idea of trapping Black’s king rook.

[There is no time like the present. 14. Bg7 Qe6 15. Qxe6 Bxe6 16. Bxh8 Kf7 17. O-O Rxh8 Black’s bishop pair in the open position is better than White’s rook and pawn, but White has a playable position]

14… Bb7 15. Bg7? But ironically this now leads to a lost position because of the kingside attack Capablanca conjures up.

[15. Qh5 Kd8 16. Nd2 White is down a piece but he has chances with Black’s king stuck in the center]

15… O-O-O 16. Bxh8 Ne5 17. Qd1

17… Bf3!! 18. gxf3? Suicide.  In view of the twin threats of Bxd1 and Qg4, there is no good move, so why drag it out? 18… Qh3

[19. Qd5 c6 White is forced to give up his queen to avoid a quick mate, but it comes quickly anyway. 20. Qe6 Qxe6 21. Nd2 Nxf3 22. Kg2 Qg4 23. Kh1 Rg8 24. Bg7 Qh3 25. Nxf3 Qxf3 26. Kg1 Rxg7#]


Botvinnik, Mikhail – Spielmann, Rudolf, 1:0

Moscow, USSR, 1935

Caro-Kann Defense, Exchange Variation

This is probably the best known game in this series.  It was in the Moscow 1935 tournament that the Western players first became familiar with the post revolution Soviet chess players.  That Mikhail Botvinnik and Salo Flor would tie for first ahead of such greats as former World Champions, Jose Raul Capablanca and Emanuel Lasker, was a huge shock.  Rudolf Spielmann was also one of the best Western players.  For him to have lost to Botvinnik in just 12 moves was a not just a shock, but an embarrassment too.  The game is an object lesson in the old gem, “Never take the b-pawn with your queen!”

  1. c4 c6 2. e4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. d4 By transposition this is the Exchange Variation of the Caro-Kann defense.

4… Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 Qb6!? A very aggressive move since it threatens both the d and b pawns, but he can’t really be considering taking the b-pawn with his queen, can he?

[Either of the following more conservative moves give White nothing more than his normal opening advantage. 6… e6 7. Nf3 Be7 8. c5 O-O 9. Bb5 Ne4;

6… dxc4 7. Bxc4 e6 8. Nf3 Be7 9. O-O O-O]

  1. cxd5 Qxb2? I guess so. Either Spielmann miscalculated this, or he was displaying a lack of respect for his opponent. The problem with this move is not simply that he risks his queen being trapped, but that he does it in a position where he already has a knight hanging.

[Better is 7… Nxd4 8. Nf3 Qxb2 (8… Nxf3 9. Qxf3 Bd7 10. Bc4 Rc8 11. Bb3 White’s more active pieces give him the better game) 9. Rc1 Nxf3 10. Qxf3 a6 11. Bd3 Black is undeveloped and unorganized, but he does have the extra pawn]

  1. Rc1! Securing his position before going for the counter attack.

[8. Na4? This may be what Spielmann expected. 8… Qb4 9. Bd2 Qxd4 10. dxc6 Ne4 11. Be3 Qb4 12. Ke2 Qb5 13. Qd3 (13. Ke1? Qa5 14. Ke2 bxc6 15. g3 Ba6 16. Kf3 Bxf1 17. Qxf1 Qxa4 White is two pawns down and his king is on the run; 13. Kf3?? loses his queen. 13… Qh5 14. Kxe4 Bf5 15. Kd4 O-O-O 16. Kc3 Rxd1 White wins) 13… Qxa4 White is a pawn down and his king is on the run]

8… Nb4 Taking away a key square from his own queen, but the knight has no good place to move.

[8… Nb8? 9. Na4 The twin threats to the queen and the bishop are deadly.;

8… Nd8 Best, but insufficient. 9. Bxf6 exf6 10. Bb5 Bd7 11. Rc2 Qb4 12. Qe2 Be7 13. Bxd7 Kxd7 14. Qg4 Ke8 15. Qxg7 Unlike Black’s capture at b2, this capture is strong because Black’s pieces are disorganized and his king is stuck in the center.  White won convincingly in the following game. 15… Rf8 16. Nge2 Rc8 17. O-O b6 18. Rfc1 a6 19. d6! Bxd6 20. Nd5 Rxc2 21. Nxb4 Rxc1 22. Nxc1 Bxb4 23. Qxf6 Kd7 24. Qxb6 a5 25. Nd3 Re8 26. Ne5 Ke7 27. f4 f6 28. Qc7 Kf8 29. Ng4 Ne6 30. Qxh7 Nxd4 31. Qh8 Ke7 32. Qxf6 Kd7 33. Qxd4 1-0, Muminova Nafisa (UZB) 2287 – Tokhirjanova H (UZB) 2006, Tashkent (Uzbekistan) 2009.06.19]

  1. Na4! Now this wins because Black’s own knight blocks his queen’s escape.

9… Qxa2 10. Bc4 Bg4 11. Nf3 Bxf3 12. gxf3 Black resigns because the only way he can avoid losing his queen is to give up his knight on b4.

[12… Qa3 13. Rc3 Nd3 14. Qxd3 Qb4 15. Bb5 White wins]


Uhlmann, Wolfgang – Smyslov, Vasily, 0:1

Moscow, USSR, 1956


Queen’s Indian Defense

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 d5 6. Bg2 Bb4 7. Nfd2!? A little odd.

[Why retreat the knight when you could instead develop the bishop? 7. Bd2 White has his normal opening advantage]

7… c5 8. dxc5!? Trading a center pawn for a wing pawn and putting Black’s bishop in a strong position.

[It makes more sense to push the bishop back first. 8. a3 Ba5 9. dxc5 bxc5 10. O-O=]

8… Bxc5 9. Bb2 O-O 10. O-O Nc6 11. Nc3 Rc8 12. cxd5 He avoids an isolated pawn on c4, but at the same time he opens the diagonal for White’s light square bishop.  With his bishops aimed at White’s king, Black clearly has the initiative.

12… exd5

  1. Na4?! White tries to relieve the pressure from the bishops by attacking them, but he never gets the chance to take. Instead, this move is a waste of time because the knight will be forced back to c3 to defend e2.

[The better plan is to block the bishops by gaining control of b5 and d4. 13. a4 Qe7 14. Nb5 Qe6 15. e3 Rfd8 16. Nf3 Black has a small edge]

13… Nd4 14. Nc3

[Not 14. Re1? Nc2 15. Rc1 (15. Qxc2?? Bxf2 winning White’s queen) 15… Nxe1 16. Qxe1 White is down an exchange with nothing to show for it]

14… Qe7 15. Re1? He thinks that because he has blocked the c-file with his knight, that he is now safe playing this move.  But the weakness of his kingside is far worse than he realizes.

[The best hope is to immediately give up the exchange, winning Black’s d-pawn in return. 15. e3! Bxf1 16. Nxf1 Ne6 17. Nxd5 Nxd5 18. Bxd5 With the bishop pair and a pawn for the exchange, White has chances to hold]

15… Nc2!! Stunning!  Even without the threat to win White’s queen, the knight is untouchable due to the vulnerability of White’s king.

  1. Rf1

[16. Qxc2? Bxf2! 17. Kh1 (17. Kxf2?? leads to mate. 17… Ng4 18. Kg1 (18. Kf1 Qe3 19. Qxh7 Kxh7 20. Be4 f5 21. Nd1 Bxe2 22. Rxe2 fxe4 23. Bf6 Rxf6 24. Nf3 Rxf3 25. Kg2 Qxe2 26. Nf2 Rxf2 27. Kg1 Rf1 28. Rxf1 Qxh2#; 18. Kf3 Qf6 19. Kxg4 Rc4 20. bxc4 Bc8 21. Qf5 Qxf5 22. Kh4 Qg4#) 18… Qe3 19. Kh1 Nf2 20. Kg1 Nh3 21. Kh1 Qg1 22. Rxg1 Nf2# The old smothered mate trick) 17… Bxe1 18. Rxe1 d4 19. Nf3 dxc3 20. Bc1 With an advantage of an exchange and a pawn, Black is winning]

16… Nxa1 17. Qxa1 Rfd8 18. Bf3 Ba3 White resigns, perhaps a little prematurely, but there is not much hope. [0:1]

Tal, Mikhail – Petrossian, Tigran, 0:1

Candidates Tournament, Curacao, 1962

French Defense

This game was played in the Candidates Tournament in 1962.  Petrossian would take first place and then go on to defeat Botvinnik for the World Championship the following year.  Tal, though the recently defeated World Champion, was not up to fighting form due to health problems.  Indeed he was forced to withdraw before the tournament finished.  This game, like the prior game in this series, where Tal won against Huebner, is decided by a simple blunder.  Perhaps this game pushed Tal into withdrawing from the tournament.

  1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 The French Defense – typical of Petrossian’s reserved style of play. 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Nbd7 6. Nxf6 Nxf6 7. Nf3 c5 8. Qd3 I can’t say this move is bad, but it is definitely unusual. The position before this move occurs in my database 195 times and this is the only game where White played 8. Qd3.

[White has a small edge after 8. Bb5 Bd7 9. Bxd7 Qxd7 10. Qe2 Be7 (or 10… cxd4 11. O-O-O Bc5 12. Qe5 Rc8 13. Nxd4) 11. O-O-O O-O 12. dxc5 Qa4 13. Kb1 Rac8]

8… Be7 9. Bxf6!? On the other hand, this move is hard to fathom.  Why give Black to advantage of the bishop pair in an open position?  I can only assume that Tal thought Petrossian would be forced to recapture with the g-pawn to avoid the loss of a pawn.

[Simply capturing on c5 gives White a slight edge due to Black’s cramped position. 9. dxc5 O-O 10. O-O-O Qa5 11. Qc4 Qxc5]

9… Bxf6!

[9… gxf6!? would have returned the favor, leaving White with the better game after 10. O-O-O]

  1. Qb5!? Continuing with his faulty plan.

[The simple path to equality is 10. dxc5 Qa5 11. c3 Qxc5 12. Qb5 Qxb5 13. Bxb5 Ke7 14. O-O-O a6 15. Bd3 Bd7=]

10… Bd7 11. Qxb7 Rb8 12. Qxa7 Rxb2 13. Bd3 cxd4 14. O-O Bc6!? The threat to take the knight, doubling White’s pawns, can wait.

[What he really needs to do is simply castle. 14… O-O With the bishop pair and superior pawn structure, Black has a clear advantage]

  1. Qa3! Attacking the rook and preventing Black from castling.

15… Qb6

  1. Bc4?! As with his ninth move, this is hard to fathom. There are so many things wrong with this move. It leaves the c-pawn hanging, it leaves the bishop undefended and it makes d3 a potential threat for Black.

[White’s main asset is his passed pawn.  If he plays to advance it, he has an equal game. 16. Qd6 Bd5 17. Qxb6 Rxb6 18. a4]

16… Rb4!

[Perhaps Tal expected 16… Rxc2 The problem with it is that White seizes control over the open b-file, which is worth more than a pawn. 17. Rab1 Qc7 18. Bb5 Bxb5 19. Rxb5= Black has an extra pawn, but he also has problems castling, defending his back rank and holding his d-pawn.]

  1. Qd3 O-O 18. a3 Ra4 19. Rfd1 Qa7 20. Ra2?? A simple minded blunder that loses the game instantly.

[White’s position is difficult because of Black’s bishop pair, superior pawn structure and the blockade on White’s passed pawn, but he has chances to hold after 20. Nd2 h6 21. Rdb1 Rc8 22. Rb3]

20… Rxc4! Even former World Champions make simple minded blunders.  Tal resigned.

[If he plays on he will be down two bishops for a knight and with a bad position to boot. 21. Qxc4 Bd5 22. Qe2 Bxa2]


Anand, Viswanathan – Korchnoi, Viktor, 1:0

Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, 2000, Round 6

French Defense

As the first Asian World Chess Champion, Anand may herald the rise of Asian chess players on the world stage, much as Morphy and Capablanca heralded the rise of American players.  Like Morphy and Capablanca, he has a classic positional style of play.

Perhaps it is unfair to include another game lost by Korchnoi in this series, but he does often play high risk chess, leaving himself vulnerable to more traditional players.

The Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands is the world’s premier annual tournament.  It always attracts the very best players.

In this game things develop fairly normally, with Korchnoi seeming to play for a draw.  It is Anand who is playing for a win, apparently trying to draw Korchnoi out.  He is paid off when Korchnoi makes a move I wouldn’t expect even of a C player.  What was he thinking?

  1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 Korchnoi goes for simplicity rather than one of the theoretical lines, signaling that he is content with a draw.

[4… Bb4 The c 5. e5 h6 6. Bd2 Bxc3 7. bxc3 Ne4 8. Qg4 g6 9. Bd3 Nxd2 10. Kxd2 c5 White has an isolated a-pawn and he has lost his castling privilege, but he has the better bishop and a solid center.;

4… Be7 5. e5 Nfd7 6. Bxe7 (6. h4!? The Alekhine-Chatard Attack 6… Bxg5 7. hxg5 Qxg5 8. Nh3 Qe7 The open file for his king rook and the better bishop give White enough for the pawn) 6… Qxe7 7. f4 a6 8. Nf3 c5 White’s center looks strong, but Black can undermine it with Nc6 and f6]

  1. Nxe4 Nbd7 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Nxf6 Bxf6 8. h4!? Anand, on the other hand, wants a real fight!

[8. Bxf6 Qxf6 9. Bd3 O-O 10. O-O c5 11. c3 Black has some problems developing his queenside, but he has no weakness for White to attack.  The position is drawish]

8… h6 Korchnoi accepts the challenge!

[Keeping it simple is a good option. 8… O-O 9. Bd3 c5 10. Qe2 If Black does not take the bait, White is left wondering why he played h4]

  1. Bxf6 Nxf6!?

[9… Qxf6 looks more logical because the knight on d7 helps with an eventual pawn break at e5 or c5. 10. Qd2 O-O 11. O-O-O e5 12. dxe5 Nxe5=]

  1. Qd2 b6 11. O-O-O The move, h4, effectively took away the option of castling kingside. 11… Bb7 12. Ne5 O-O 13. Bd3! Leaving the g-pawn hanging. But obviously Black can’t take it since that would open a file to his king.

13… c5 14. dxc5 Qc7 15. Rhe1

15… Bxg2?? A move that is hard to fathom.  Evidently Korchnoi figured he could weather the storm on the g-file.  But with a few simple moves Anand achieves a winning position.

[15… Qxc5!? would also be weak because Black does not have a good counter to White’s kingside attack. 16. g4 Rad8 17. g5;

Best is 15… bxc5! 16. g4 c4 17. Qc3 Nxg4! 18. Qxc4 (18. Nxg4 Qf4 wins the piece back with a good game) 18… Qxc4 19. Bxc4 Nxe5 (19… Nxf2!? is risky because the knight is in danger of being trapped after 20. Rd4) 20. Rxe5 Rfc8=]

  1. Re2 This rook is tied to the defense of the knight, so he prepares to bring the other rook to the g-file.

16… Kh8 17. Rg1 Bd5?! He is lost anyway, but it is better to retreat the bishop all the way because d5 could be a good square for the knight.

[17… Bb7 18. Qf4 Rac8 19. Ree1 (19. Re3 transposes after 19… Nd5 20. Qg3 Rg8 21. Ng6 fxg6 22. Qxg6 Nf6 23. Rxe6) 19… Nd5 20. Qg3 Rg8 21. Ng6! fxg6 22. Qxg6 Nf6 23. Rxe6 Be4! The only answer to the threat of Rxf6. 24. Rxe4 Rce8 (24… Nxe4?? 25. Bxe4 Black can avoid mate only by giving up his queen. 25… Qf4 26. Kb1 Qxe4 27. Qxe4) 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. cxb6 axb6 White is two pawns up and still has pressure on Black’s king]

  1. Qf4 Qxc5 19. Re3 Preparing to bring the other rook to the open file. Korchnoi resigned.

Why the resignation?  Certainly White has the makings of a strong attack against Black’s king, but what is the immediate threat?  20. Rxg7 looks good after 20… Kxg7, 21. Rg3+ Ng4, 22. Rxg4+Kh8, 23. Qxh6 mate.  But unfortunately Black has the intermezzo, 20… Qxe3!! after which White’s attack goes up in smoke.  So if the immediate Rxg7 doesn’t work, then the threat must be R(3)g3 FOLLOWED by Rxg7.  Is that really strong enough to justify a resignation?

Let’s look at Black’s defensive tries.

19… Nh5 Defends g7 and attacks the queen. 20. Qg4 g6 Otherwise the knight is lost. 21. Nxg6 Kg7 (21… fxg6 22. Qxg6 Threatening mate on both h6 and h7, to which there is no good answer) 22. Nxf8 Kxf8 23. Qxh5 White is a rook up;

19… Ne8 Defends g7 without leaving the knight undefended. 20. Reg3 Threatening 21. Qxh6!! gxh6, 22. Nxf7+! Rxf7, 23. Rg8 mate. 20… Qe7 Stopping the queen sacrifice by putting another defender on f7. 21. Rxg7 Qg5 (21… Nxg7 22. Qxh6 Kg8 23. Rxg7#) 22. Qxg5 hxg5 23. Rh7 Kg8 24. Rxg5 Ng7 25. Rgxg7#;

19… Rg8 Defends g7, but not f7. 20. Nxf7#;

19… Qe7 Puts a defender on f7 so the rook is free to move to g8.  Unfortunately it takes the attack off of the rook on e3, so now White plays the rook sacrifice on g7. 20. Rxg7 Kxg7 21. Rg3 Ng4 22. Rxg4 Qg5 23. Rxg5 hxg5 24. Qxg5 Kh8 25. Qh6 Kg8 26. Qh7#

Okay, I am convinced that Black is totally lost, but if I were Black I would have played on a few moves just to make sure my opponent knows what he is doing.



Chess and Famous People

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

Here is a sampling of famous people who played or influenced chess:

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) – The American founding father and Renaissance man was also an avid chess player.  He is the first American known to have written a book on chess.  “Morals on Chess” was published posthumously in 1796.  In 1999 he was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame.

Here’s a painting of Benjamin Franklin playing chess with Lady Caroline Howe:

 Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France (1769-1821) – Napoleon is reported to have been an enthusiastic, though weak player.  Four games allegedly played by him are known, but the authenticity of them has never been established.


The game was played on St. Helena, where Napoleon was exiled after the Battle of Waterloo.  His opponent, General Bertrand was another exile.

Bonaparte, Napoleon – Bertrand, Henri Gatien, 1-0  

St. Helena, 1818 (some sources give the date as 1820)  

Scotch Game

  1. Nf3 Nc6, 2. e4 e5, 3. d4 Nxd4!?, 4. Nxd4 exd4, 5. Bc4?! Bc5?, 6. c3? Qe7?!,
  2. O-O Qe5, 8. f4!? dxc3, 9. Kh1 cxb2?, 10. Bxf7? Kd8!, 11. fxe5 bxa1=Q, 12. Bxg8 Be7?, 13. Qb3 a5?? This is a complete non sequitur that gives Napoleon the winning combination.

[If he gets his queen back into the game, he is no worse than even. 13… Qxe5 14. Bb2 Qg5 Black’s lack of development is a serious problem, but with an advantage of an exchange and two pawns, he has the better game]

  1. Rf8!! Very nice! He forces mate in four moves. 14… Bxf8, 15. Bg5 Be7, 16. Bxe7 Kxe7, 17. Qf7 Kd8 18. Qf8# [1:0]

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)The world famous French painter was also a strong chess player.  He was good enough to represent France in the Chess Olympiad of 1928.

He sometimes featured chess in his art as in this work titled, “Portrait of Chess Players”:

Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957)– The famed American actor was also a strong chess player.  He was purported to be an expert strength player, though he never played in tournaments.  He always had a chess set with him when filming.  Remember the scene in Rick’s Café  from “Casablanca“?

John Wayne (1907-1979) – Every true fan of the Hollywood actor knows that John also happened to be a huge chess lover.  In fact, according to fellow chess nuts, John was a fairly good chess player at that.  He was known to carry a miniature chess board along with him on set to play a few games with co-stars in between filming scenes.  Wayne played chess with a number of well-known celebrities including Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum.

John Wayne plays chess on set.  I don’t know who is playing White, but he was clearly intimidated since he just dropped his queen rook for nothing.

Jacqueline (1911-2012) and Gregor Piatagorski (1903-1976) – Gregor was a Russian born American cellist.  His wife, Jacqueline, was a strong chess player and regular participant in the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship.  Together they sponsored several major chess tournaments in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.  Two of the strongest tournaments ever held on American soil were the First Piatagorski Cup in 1963, where Paul Keres and Tigran Petrossian, both of the Soviet Union, tied for first and the Second Piatagorski Cup in 1966, where Boris Spassky barely beat out Bobby Fischer for first.

Here is Jacqueline Piatagorski playing in a chess tournament in 1951 in a French Defense, Tarrasch Variation:

Claude E. Shannon (1916-2001) – Shannon, an American mathematician, was one of the pioneers in the development of computer technology.  He was a code breaker during World War II.  Though he was an amateur chess player, he is best known in the chess world for coming up with the first design for a chess program.  He never wrote a chess program himself, though virtually all computer chess programs use the design he spelled out in “Programming a Computer for Playing Chess,” published in 1950, including my own program, Friedliver.

Henry Kissinger (1923-) – Kissinger, the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State in the Nixon administration is best known in the chess world for a phone call that changed chess history.  At a point in the negotiations between Fischer and Spassky for their World Championship match in 1972, when it seemed that Fischer’s demands would scuttle the match, Kissinger called Fischer and talked him into playing.  The rest is history.

Walter Tevis (1928-1984) – Was an American novelist and short story writer. His best known novels were “The Hustler,” “The Color of Money,” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” all of which were made into movies.   He was also an avid chess player and wrote the novel, “The Queen’s Gambit,” about a child prodigy.  “The Queen’s Gambit” was made into an acclaimed TV series on Netflix in 2020.

Bobby Darin (1936-1973) – The American singer and songwriter was an enthusiastic chess player.  He is best known in the chess world for something that didn’t happen.  In the wake of Bobby Fischer’s rise to World Chess Champion, Darin set out to sponsor a Grandmaster chess tournament.  Unfortunately the event was cancelled after his premature death.

Dr. Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) – If you watch Fox News, you know who Krauthammer was – a commentator and regular guest on many of their shows.  He enjoyed a good game of chess and frequently used chess analogies in his commentary.  He played in the 2002 Atlantic Open in Washington, D.C., but the only time I saw him in person was at a simultaneous exhibition, March 20, 1986, on Capitol Hill against GM Lev Alburt.  I don’t know how Charles fared, but I drew my game.

Sting (1951-)“Sting” is the stage name of Gordon Matthew Sumner, lead singer of the band, The Police.  In 2000 his interest in chess inspired him to invite Gary Kasparov to play a simultaneous exhibition against The Police.  The exhibition took place on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Needless to say, Kasparov was neither stung nor impressed.

For more celebrities that play chess, see this guest blog post by Guitar Guide CEO Mike Papapavlou.

Ten Chess Principles That One Will Not Find in a Book

By Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin 

There are many great opening, middle game and endgame books out there; see some of my favorite ones here. However, not many books cover practical elements of the game, related to mindset, game preparation, psychology, etc.

Here are ten principles that you likely would not find in any chess book:

  1. The Divisor of 40 Rule

Unless you read my time management blog post, you definitely would have not heard of this rule. The average chess game is 40 moves long. Therefore, one should take the time control he is playing by 40 and that is roughly the number of minutes he should spend per move. For instance, if the time control is G/60, that means he should spend 1.5 minutes per move.

2) Go with Flow

While it is obviously important to calculate, one should also listen to his instincts,  positional elements. There is usually no reason to overcomplicate matters. Yesterday, I taught an intermediate student and asked him in a typical opening position, what the best move was. Perhaps thinking that my question alluded to the idea that there should be some sort of tactic, he overanalyzed, considering many possible variations. To the contrary, he should have suggested a simple developing move.

3) Active Rest

Have you ever been disappointed that you lost a chess game, where you completely outplayed your opponent and made one silly blunder? If the answer is “yes”, that means to you are like every chess player on this planet. As per this old post, while one should not put as much energy into each move, it is important to remain consistent and never put the foot of the pedal.

4) Most Blunders Happen in Winning Positions

The time that players most often lose focus is when they have winning positions and relax. They will often the incorrect mindset that anything wins in a given position. While it is true that many moves may be winning, it is important to always try to look for the best one. David Macenulty, Founder of the Macenulty Foundation, once said “ There’s only one time in chess and when you are allowed to hope and that is when you are dead lost.” When you are winning, you should spend extra time and make sure that you are finding the easiest finishing moves.

5) The Importance of Physical Exercise

In Podcast Episode 158, Lord Carmine Villani shares how his experience as the World Champion of Endurance helps him in his finance career as Executive Board Director of Saudi Crown Holding. A serious chess game could last 6+ hours. Many of the top chess grandmasters are also athletic; Fabiano Caruana enjoys tennis and Hikaru Nakamura enjoys long mountain hikes all around the world.

7. Focus on Transitions, not openings or endgame.

Most chess books are about openings as that is what sells to the beginners and class players. A few years ago, I taught an adult beginner our initial private lesson and he asked me “what openings are we going to learn today?” I quickly told him that were a lot more important aspects of the game for him to learn. My friend and mentor Bill Lombardy, Bobby Fischer’s second, once suggested that instead of studying openings or endgames, I should review whole games, focusing on transitions. One needs to evaluate a position and come up with a plan given his advantages and disadvantages. If one has a safer king or more development, it makes sense to consider attacking. Likewise, if one has less space than your opponent, he should try to make some trades.

7) Review all your games.

Compared to most other chess masters, I have read, far fewer, less than five chess books, cover to cover. While I do have some good book recommendations, studying theoretical ideas is not how I improved to become a titled player. I learned the most about running a business through hammering enterprise sales, founding, and managing Pillar Sales and Premier Chess and learning from my mistakes. Likewise, I developed most of my chess understanding by playing in 950+ tournaments and reviewing all my games. One should review his games alone and then ideally with a coach before turning on the engine.

8) Avoid domino effects.

Just because one domino drops, that does not mean all of them need to follow. When a player makes one mistake or blunder, he often will make several in a row. In many games I had a winning position, made one mistake to get into a better position, another to get into an equal position and soon a last one to get into a losing position. Similarly, after heartbreaking losses, players often lo se steam and will lose several games in a row. In the 2006 World Open, I played in the U-2000 section, after having been an expert player in the past. I studied a lot the week leading up to the tournament, so I was confident about my chances. I won the first game and was excited. In the second round, I was prepared against Expert Rob Guevara, who came to the round with 2-minutes to spare. I mistakenly tried to blitz him and ended up blundering massively and losing the game, when he had a few seconds left. As you can imagine, I was little upset at myself. Instead of picking myself back up though, I kept criticizing myself and before you knew it, I had 2.5 points out of 8 games and withdrew from the tournament. When one makes a mistake or loses a game, it is important to take a breath, relax and maintain stamina.

9) No one is that great of a player.

When I was rated 600, I was afraid of playing against 800s. When I was 800s, I was nervous about playing people rated above 1000…… now as a 2200 player, I can easily fear playing against a higher rated 2400 senior master; however, I am not. I realize he is inferior to an International Master, who is lower in the food chain than a grandmaster. While all grandmasters are relatively super strong, compared to 99.9% of the world, most will not hold their own against the likes of World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Of course, these days, even Magnus Carlsen cannot defeat our silicon friends.  Thus, we should not look at higher rated players like they are invincible. Regardless of how strong one’s opponent is, he should pretend like he is playing against someone that is 50 points higher rated than him; that we he will give some respect but not be underconfident. For more about confidence, read this post.

10) Have fun!

Premier Chess' Blitz Tournament

In an interview last year, Philadelphia Chess Society Founder Jason Bui told me the number one important thing when it comes to teaching is to make sure kids have fun. Some students will love to play, others would like to do puzzles and others will enjoy lectures. Likewise, many coaches will tell students not to play blitz, bughouse, and other variants. While one should not overdo these; if they will increase your enjoyment and keep you playing chess, there is no reason to give them up.



Short Losses by World Champions, Part 5

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

This week we finish up with World Chess Champions Gary Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen.

Deep Blue (computer) – Kasparov, Gary, 1:0, 1997

Caro-Kann Defense


Perhaps it is unfair to include this game in this series since Kasparov’s opponent was a computer.  But make no mistake, Kasparov took the match against Deep Blue very seriously.  It is also one of the most famous games ever played.  It put to rest the question of whether or not a computer program could beat the best human players.  This is also one of just two cases where the shortest loss by a World Champion happened while he was World Champion.

Anand, Viswanathan – Kramnik, Vladimir, 1:0, 5/19/2005

Petroff’s Defense

The future and current World Champions face off in a mega tournament in Bulgaria.  In addition to being one of only two games in this series where the winner and loser are both World Champions, this is also one of only two games in the series where the loser is the World Champion at the time of the game.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. c4 Nb4 9. Be2 O-O 10. Nc3 Bf5 11. a3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Nc6 13. Re1 Re8 14. cxd5 Qxd5 15. Bf4 Rac8 16. Qc1 A little off the beaten path.

[More common is 16. Bd3 Qd7 17. Rb1 Bxd3 18. Qxd3 b6  +0.16|d17 Rybka4]

Up to here this has been a solidly played game by both sides, but now Kramnik plays two bad moves in a row.

16… Na5!? How many times must it be said – even to World Champions – “Knight on the rim spells a trim.”

[16… Bf6 17. Qb2 Na5 18. Rad1 Qb3  +0.25|d18 Rybka4]

  1. c4! Anand sees that the three undefended pieces on the 5th rank are vulnerable and plays to exploit them.

17… Qe4?! Since it is so obvious that you shouldn’t put your queen on the line of attack of your opponents pieces, I can only conclude that Kramnik miscalculated.

[17… Qd8 18. Qc3  +0.53|d16 Rybka4 His position is a little disorganized, but at least it is safe.]

  1. Bd1 Qd3

[The only other move that saves the queen 18… Qc6 drops a piece for a pawn. 19. Re5 Nxc4 20. Rxf5  +2.43|d16 Rybka4]

  1. Re3! The zwischenzug that Kramnik apparently overlooked on his last three moves.

[Not 19. Re5 ? 19… Nxc4 20. Be2 Nxe5 21. Bxd3 Nxd3 22. Qd2 Nxf4 23. Qxf4  -0.37|d17 Rybka4]

19… Qxc4 20. Re5 Kramnik has to lose either the knight or the light square bishop.  He chooses to resign instead.

[20… Qxc1 21. Bxc1 g6 22. Rxa5 a6 23. Ne5 Rcd8 24. Bb3  +1.53|d5 Rybka4]


Zapata, Alonso – Anand, Viswanathan, 1:0, 1988

Petroff’s Defense

This game was played in a minor tournament twenty years before Anand won the World Chess Championship, but even so he was already a strong player.  His opponent is a Columbian grandmaster.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Not the usual move, but perfectly good.

5… Bf5? At least Anand was aware that his knight was under attack.  Unfortunately this move falls short.

[5… Nxc3 6. dxc3 Be7 7. Bd3 Nd7 8. Be3 Nc5 9. Bxc5 dxc5 10. Qe2 O-O 11. O-O-O Bd6 12. Rhe1 Qf6 13. Kb1 Be6 14. Qe3 Rfe8 15. Qg5 Be7 16. Qg3 Bd6 17. Qg5 Be7 18. Qg3 Bd6 19. Qg5 1/2-1/2, Radjabov Teimour (AZE) 2756  – Topalov Veselin (BUL) 2813 , Nice  3/14/2009 It “Amber” (blindfold)]



  1. Qe2

[The only plausible defense to the threat to win the knight, 6… Qe7 , fails to 7. Nd5 Qd7 8. d3  +3.04|d5 Rybka4]


Pelletier, Yannick  – Carlsen, Magnus, 1:0, 7/24/2005

Nimzo-Indian Defense

Yes, even Carlsen has been known to have a bad day.

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 Classical Variation. A very solid system which is very popular these days. White avoids doubled pawns on the c-file, prepares to attack the bishop with a2-a3, and takes control over the important central e4-square. A drawback of this plan is White’s slow development.

4… d5 5. cxd5 c5 6. dxc5 Nxd5!? Certainly aggressive, but this has the drawback of leaving the queen bishop hemmed in.

[6… exd5 7. Bg5 h6 (7… Nc6 8. O-O-O Bxc3 9. Qxc3 d4 10. Qa3 h6 11. Bh4 g5 12. Bg3 Ne4 13. e3 f5 14. f3 Nxg3 15. hxg3 Be6 16. exd4 Qd5 17. Ne2 Qxa2 18. Qxa2 Bxa2 19. d5 Nb4 20. Nc3 Rc8 21. Rd4 a5 22. Rxb4 axb4 23. Nxa2 Rxc5 24. Kb1 Rxd5 25. Nxb4 Rd4 26. Nd3 Kf7 27. Kc2 Kg7 28. Be2 Re8 29. Kd2 Kf6 30. Ra1 Re7 31. Ra5 Kg6 1/2-1/2, Sumets Andrey (UKR) 2595  – Matnadze Ana (GEO) 2413 , Palma de Majorca 11/22/2009 It (open)) 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 Ne4 10. e3 Qa5 11. Be5 O-O  +0.00|d16 Rybka4]

  1. Bd2 Bxc5 8. Nxd5 Qxd5 9. e4 Qd4 Again, this certainly is aggressive, but the trouble with making aggressive moves with your queen in the opening is that you leave it vulnerable to attack.

[Safer is 9… Qc6 10. Rc1 Bb6 11. Qb1 Qd7 12. Nf3 O-O 13. Be2 Nc6 14. O-O  +0.49|d13]

  1. O-O-O! White immediately takes advantage of the exposed queen.

10… Nd7 11. Bb5 O-O? Noooo!  Not only does the king need to stay on e8 to defend the knight, but the queen needs to get off of the d-file to get off the line of the rook.

[11… Qe5 12. Bc3 Qg5 13. Kb1 O-O 14. Nf3 Qe7  +0.56|d17 Rybka4]

  1. Bc3 Qxf2 13. Qxf2 Bxf2 14. Bxd7 Be3 15. Kc2 Rb8 Carlsen, down a knight for a pawn, resigned without waiting for a reply. [1:0]

The Game of Chess and College Admissions

By Dana Ponsky, Founder of Dana Ponsky Consulting Service LLC

“The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it… Life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with.” Benjamin Franklin

I have been a college counselor for more than 10 years and I help high school and college students with the college and graduate school admissions process. I was recently asked how could chess help with the college admissions process and the first thing I did was seek out this quote by Mr. Franklin. I believe his words perfectly summarize the outcomes that one can gain from playing and/or mastering the game of chess.

When I meet with students and families for the first time, I often present the analogy of looking at the college application as a blank canvas where you are being asked to paint your self-portrait. This portrait can be made up of any number of factors that an individual student finds important and best highlights the person they are. For some, a large portion of the portrait might be grades and standardized test scores. For others, it might be extracurricular activities and the essay they write to tell the story of who they really are. Whatever a student chooses to include on their application, it is important simply because it is one of many things that make up the whole person. Colleges are looking for interesting, engaged, and committed individuals to join their community and the application is the best way to convey this to those who are reading it.

When thinking about chess and its role in an individual’s application, it is important to remember that chess is a dynamic game/sport of intellect, strategy, patience, delayed gratification, competition, and community. It is one of the few games that I can think of where gender, race, socio-economic status, and language do not need to interfere with accomplishing the same goal. The life skills gained from chess are not just obvious to those who play, but easily transcend to how a player interacts with the world around them.

College admissions officers know that the dedication to the game of chess along with the social, emotional, behavioral, and competitive skills gained from the game, imply a higher level of capability and readiness to tackle the challenges that college can present. Chess is a game/sport that utilizes countless life skills that are easily transferable to the academic, professional, and social environments often found on the college campus. In the college admissions process, chess is seen as a positive addition to any list of activities. Participation in chess clubs, organizations, or tournaments encompasses so much more than a competition. The experiences gained from playing chess can also be shared in the college essay, in letters of recommendation from teachers and mentors, in the interview process (when there is one), and also in the decision-making process. If chess is important to you, then it should be an important part of your college application.

If a student has been actively involved for many years or just started with the game in the last year, it is important to add this to the college application. In addition to just simply stating your participation, decide how much of the game should be included in other parts of the application. Some great questions to consider about whether chess should be highlighted in essays, interviews, etc. including: Do you play chess because of the challenge? The camaraderie with other players? The opportunity to build rapport in a non-threatening way? Is it the skills gained that help you with other aspects of your life in and out of school? What are those skills and how will they help you along your personal and professional journey?

Chess is a game for life and there is no reason to stop playing once you get to college. Take the time to identify colleges that are not only going to help you achieve your academic and professional goals, but ones that will allow you to continue staying engaged and active within the chess community. It will likely make your transition to college much easier and provide a sense of grounding and support as you embark on this new chapter in your life.

Dana Ponsky is an independent college counselor at Dana Ponsky Consulting Services LLC based in Brooklyn, NY. She works with high school and college students and their families to navigate the college admissions process with a lot of success and much less stress.