Goodbye Artificial Barriers

By Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin 

Have you ever not achieved a goal due to limiting beliefs? If you have, you

are like most other people on the planet. This past Shabbat,  Rabbi Yehoshua Lewis, Director of Mesorah NJ, explained how in 1954, Roger Bannister did a 4-minute mile, a record that most professional athletes thought was impossible.

Since then, the four-minute barrier has been broken by over 1400 athletes. Would have any of those 1400 runners made the feat had Bannister not done so- who knows? Similarly, Abhimanyu Mishra recently becomes to the World’s youngest grandmaster, at the age of 12 years, 4 months and 25 days, beating Former World Championship Candidate Sergey Karjakin’s record. Proteges like Bannister and Mishra teach us that most of our goals can be possible if we put our mind to it. We can do so by avoid saying “I don’t know”, living by the idea of “Ufaratzta” and abiding by the 50-point rule.

One answer I never accept from students is “I don’t know.”Teaching students of all ages and skill levels, I have a great idea of what questions are too hard or easy for each one. However, often students will tell me “I don’t know” or “I haven’t learned that before.”, not realizing the answer is well within their wheelhouse. To the contrary, Social Worker Carrie Cohen, MSW, LCSW once shared how in stead of saying “I don’t know” to a question, they should say something a long the lines of “Can you explain the question more”, “I need some more time to think about it”, etc. They should not jump to conclusions that they do not know the answer; they should spend as much time as they need to figure it out, confidently. Stronger players will often rush doing puzzles, clicking through the moves on Lichess or, without figuring out the answer completely on their own.

Music Video – Ufaratzta from Yeshiva Darchei Torah on Vimeo.

“Ufarazta” means to spread out in Hebrew. More loosely, it means to get outside of one’s comfort zone. My mentor Peretz Chein, Director of Chabad of Brandeis, first taught me the idea when I learned about him running a ½ marathon after only a few months of training, when he hardly ran a day in his life before him. Despite the fact that most people did not believe he would be able to do it. He proved everyone wrong and ran the race. The next year, he ran with a group of students, named “ Team Ufarazta”.

Yesterday I was teaching a beginner student and he was so proud to tell me all of what he knew about chess- piece movement, basic opening principals, pins, etc. Since he has not played in over a year, he forget parts of the rules, like the difference of check and checkmate. As he tried to regurgitate the rules he did not know, he was actually not learning. Rather than try to stay what one knows, he should listen as much as possible and soak in as much information as possible. It is also important to be open to trying new activities, places, foods, etc. Never did I think I would end up taking a ballet class ever in my life but I did the other evening; that was definitely an ufarazta experience for me.

A few weeks ago I asked a class if Magnus Carlsen was a strong chess player; of course all the students said  he as of course as he is a strong grandmaster and current world champion. I then asked if he was good, relative to Stockfish and very few students said “yes.” The truth is even our world champion is not as strong as our top silicion friends thse days. No matter who you are playing, it is easy to either overestimate or unederstimate your opponent. No matter what rating your opponent actually is, you should pretend as if he is 50 points higher rated; that way you give him a little of a respect but not too much. For more ideas regarding confidence, see this old post.

If your instinct is that you cannot do something, do not think it is impossible. I personally did think in the first two months of our business in 2017, we would have 10 instructors working in 14 schools but we did. Some times, you just need to avoid artificial belefis and, as Nike says, “just do it!” Avoid saying “I don’t know”, live by the idea of “Ufaratzta” and abide by the 50-point rule.

The Art of Forcing Moves

By Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin 

Beginner students will often capture pieces, without considering why their opponents are allowing them to do so. To the contrary, our 118th Podcast Guest Grandmaster Maxim Dlugy often reminds us how chess is like a duel. If your opponent offers you something, your initial reaction should not be to take it but rather be suspect as to why he is allowing you to have it. One may decide to leave a knight where it can be captured, if it means capturing his opponent’s queen on the next turn. There may also be something more complicated, like a hidden attack.

Even more experienced players will not abide by Dlugy’s guideline. For instance, in the 5th round of the U.S Open 2021, I was playing against an “A”player who I bet in a tournament in Manhattan 3-years ago. When I offered a draw, he almost instantly took it and afterwards told me he felt a little relieved since he was in time pressure and I was 250 points higher rated. However, truth be told, I only offered it because I knew I was losing; when we looked at it together with the engine, Stockfish gave his position +4.9, which equates to almost a rook.

Who knows what would have been the ultimate result if the game continued but he likely would have won. If you want your opponent do something in chess or any other area of life, you must force him to do so. With this in mind, here are the most forcing type of moves, 10 being the highest and 1 being only slightly forcing:

10- Check: absolutely must be dealt with, according to rules of chess (I heard our 126th Podcast Guest Elizabeth Spiegel , when coaching students years back at the Bruce Bowyer Memorial tournament).

9- Threaten Checkmate.

8 – Attack a queen, trade queens, threaten to promote.



5- Attack a rook, trade rooks.


3-Attack a bishop or a knight, trade minor piece.

2-Theaten to make a trade that rips open kingside.

1- Attack a pawn.

While forcing moves are not always good, one should strongly consider every single check, capture and threat. These moves can help you create tactics to lead to winning of material and checkmate. That said, one should not making an attacking move just for the sake of making an attacking move. One should only do one if he looks at the move his opponent will likely respond with and sees he will get some benefit.


The Full Stack Approach to Chess Improvement

The last few days I was in Tampa to kick off our new program at Tampa Day School  ,walked by Pineywoods and was impressed by the full stack of servies that they offer. I know some great real estate brokers, lenders, title representatives, mortage brokers and insurance agents, who can be seen on our partners page. To the contrary, I never heard of a company that offered all of these services. Similarly, I worked at Oracle, which took pride in offering the full technology stack with hardware, database, applications, consulting, and more:

Likewise, for top chess improvement, we recommend that individuals, schools and companies take a full-stack approach. To get better in chess, it is best to have a good mix of group classes, private lessons, self-study and tournament practice. Here is more detailed list of suggest full-stack approach for each vertical:


  1. Group Classes: Good way to pratice with coach and other players, will be a mix of lectures, practice games, puzzles and more, can be part of school program, virtual group classes , or other option.
  2. Private Lessons: Work 1-1 with a coach, usually weekly- best way to get individualized learning plan, prepare openings, study middle game themes and fundamental endgames,  review tournament games, etc.
    1. Self- Study: As much learning you do with coaches, privately or with a group, there is no replacement for self- study. All players need to review their games, do chess puzzles and learn opening, middlegame and endgame fundamentals.  There are lots of great resources out there, incuding good-old fashioned books, Lichess and ChessKId.
  3. Tournaments


Administrators will often ask me “What does your program look like”, not realizing, we currently serve 80+ schools and no two contracts look alike. While this not feasible for every school, given budget constraints, this what the full-stack chess program looks like:

  1. Curriculum Classes: Chess teacher visits each classroom, all students in school (or a set of grades), gets exposure to chess.  
  2. After-School Program: Open to students who want to learn more advanced strategies and get ready to represent school at tournaments
  3. Professional Development: Instructor classroom teachers how to teach, prepare them tio supplement chess program and allow kids to practice when chess teachers are not there.
  4. Coaching at Tournaments: Instructor travels with students to help prepare for games and analyze them afterwards.


Lunch and Learns: Allows companies to start a chess culture, provides networking opportunity between different lines of business and a productive break from work.

After-Work Events: Allows for extra chess practice, can be weekly, monthly, etc; higher the frequency, the better, will include lectures, games with feedback and more.

Competition: League play, tournaments and  more. Check out the Global Corporate Chess Championship, organized by Florian Helff.

While a full-stack-approach is the best way to achieve rapid chess improvement, we realize it is not feasible for all indivudals, schools and individuals, based on time and economic constraints. It is best to start with a little bit of programming and expand as resources permit. For instance, we have several schools start after-school partnerships with us and later begin curriculum classes. To learn more about what solution is most feasible for you, book some time to chat with yours truly. 

What Makes Chess Players?

What skills and traits come to mind when you think of the people who make top notch chess players? Probably some combination of the following: problem solving ability, confidence, commitment to practice, learning from mistakes, strategic thinking, and of course, good sportsmanship and awareness of others. The best chess players don’t chalk up their wins to a lucky day. No way! Chess is truly a mental and emotional Olympics that takes a ton of advance focus and preparation.
Guess what? Those are the same skills and traits that make up put students on a path to success in their current classroom, in college, and beyond. Just like chess, the most successful and consistent students do not “get lucky” on the day of the test. Top notch students engage their minds in every step of the learning and test-taking process, demonstrating actions such as:
  • Actively participating when new content is delivered
  • Asking questions and engaging in independent practice
  • Completing ALL assignments to the best of their ability
  • Learning from mistakes and knowing that it’s okay and important to ask for help
  • Approaching multiple choice with a plan of attack
  • Including specific details on short response questions
  • Reviewing the test AFTER it ends in order to address misunderstandings
As an elementary school teacher myself, I am constantly in awe of ALL of my students, particularly after a year (and then some) of remote learning, uncertainty, and unfamiliar challenges! I also notice that the students who are passionate and engaged in mentally-challenging and demanding activities like chess, sports, dance, and music, are able to adapt and persevere when the content or the circumstances of learning are difficult. They know that success doesn’t happen overnight, that learning and demonstrating mastery of new skills takes practice and a lot of energy, and that oftentimes, it’s important to ask for some extra help. For this reason, I encourage you to keep up with chess! On top of that, next time you’re in class, about to start taking notes on something that you may or may not find as fascinating as a chess match, think about how you can harness the skills you’ve developed for the art of chess! I promise it will pay off, and make learning feel all the more urgent and interesting!
Thank you for the chance to share my thoughts. I am a third grade educator in NYC, and eager to offer my tutoring and homework help services!

3 Questions to Always Ask when Your Opponent Makes a Move

By NM Evan Rabin, CEO of Premier Chess

3 Questions to Always Ask when Your Opponent Makes a Move 

Would you ever cross the street with out looking both ways? Would you ever make a business decision without considering what your competitors are doing? The answer to both questions is likely “no”, or at least it should be. Therefore, one should never make a chess move without considering why his opponent made his last move. In order to start one’s thought process, he should always ask three golden questions about his opponent’s previous move: 

1) Why did my opponent make his move? 

Firstly, a player should ask himself why his opponent made his previous move on a high level. Every single move a strong player makes has a distinct purpose. These are few examples of why:

-Threatens a piece 

-Develops a piece. 

-Helps develop another piece. 

-Responds to a threat

Contrarily to popular belief, most moves a strong player makes is not to make a threat. 

2) If my opponent had another move, what would it be? 

Often beginners will blindly continue with their plan without even realizing what his opponent played and what they are planning next. This gaffe will cause blunders as they will not see simple threats. If Player A attacks Player B’s bishop, it is very clear if Player A had another move, he would take the bishop. Therefore, in order for a move to be a candidate move, Player B needs it to stop Player A from taking his bishop. 

3) What changed about the position? 

I learned to always ask this question from our 75th podcast guest Grandmaster Alex Lenderman. While the first two questions are important to ask and address, one will rarely win a chess game, just by responding to all of his opponent’s ideas. When I once told a student that he needed to always consider why his opponent made his move, he told me that it is not good to be a reactionary. It is important to look at the nuances of a move and see how you can take advantage of the changes. 

For instance, in this position, black can initiate the Sveshnikov Sicillan by playing 5…e5…. What changed about the position?

A lot of beginners and intermediate players will play 6. Nb3 or Nf3, the so-called retreat squares. One who is a little more experienced will noticed that after 5…e5, there was a change in the position. Black created a backward d-pawn on d6. Therefore, it makes most sense for white to play 6. Ndb5, putting pressure on the weakness.

Moving forward, every time your opponent makes a move, don’t have the urge to immediately start thinking of your plan. Always ask your self “Why did my opponent make his move?”, “If my opponent had another move what would it be?” and “What changed about the position?”. Then you can start looking for candidate moves and eventually come up with the best move. For more about thought process, see this blog post.


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.



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. 


Shortest Losses by World Champions, Part 4

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

This week we feature World Chess Champions Boris Spassky, Bobby Fischer, and Anatoly Karpov.

Korchnoi, Victor – Spassky, Boris, 1:0, 1948

Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation

This game was played in the semi-final of the USSR championship in 1948.  Spassky was a 14 year old wunderkind destined to win the World Chess Championship from Petrosian in 1969.  Korchnoi at 19 was also a very strong player and years later would challenge Karpov for the World Championship.  This was the first of 81 games they would eventually play against each other in competition.

  1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. f4

[More common today is 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O  +0.02|d15 Rybka4]

6… Bg4!? Unusual in the present day, but the theory of the Dragon Sicilian was not well developed at this time.

[Better is 6… Nc6 as played by the same two players a year later. 7. Bb5 Bd7 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. O-O Qc7 10. h3 Bg7 11. Be3 O-O 12. Qd3 Rab8 13. b3 Rbd8 14. Rae1 Bc8 15. f5 Nd7 16. Qd2 Ne5 17. Bh6 f6 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Nce2 g5 20. Ng3 d5 21. exd5 Rxd5 22. c4 Rdd8 23. Qe3 Rf7 24. Ne6 Bxe6 25. fxe6 Rff8 26. Nf5 Kh8 27. h4 gxh4 28. Qh6 Rg8 29. Re4 Rg6 30. Qh5 Rg5 31. Qxh4 Rdg8 32. g3 Ng6 33. Qh3 Ne5 34. Rh4 R8g7 35. Nxg7 Rxg7 36. Kg2 Qd8 37. Qf5 Qd6 38. Qf2 Qxe6 39. Rd1 Nf7 40. Rhd4 Rg8 41. R1d2 Ng5 42. Rh4 c5 43. Qxc5 Qe1 44. Qf2 Qe6 45. Qd4 Qc6 46. Qd5 Qc7 47. Rd3 e6 48. Qb5 Nf7 49. Qd7 Qe5 50. Rxh7 Kxh7 51. Qxf7 Rg7 1/2-1/2, Korchnoi Viktor (SUI) 2564  – Spassky Boris V (FRA) 2548 , Leningrad 1949.  If the game had continued, then a draw by repetition was inevitable. (52. Qe8 Qe2 53. Kg1 e5 54. b4 Qxd3 55. Qh5 Kg8 56. Qe8 Kh7 57. Qh5 Kg8 58. Qe8 Kh7 Draw by three fold repetition)]

  1. Bb5 Nbd7 8. Bxd7!? Korchnoi is hoping for the mistake Spassky makes, but he really should not exchange the bishop for the knight until Black forces it by playing a6.

[8. Qd3 a6 9. Bxd7 Bxd7 10. e5 dxe5 11. fxe5 Ng4 12. Bf4 Bg7 13. Qe2  +0.17|d15 Rybka4]

8… Qxd7?! The trouble with this move is that it leaves the bishop with no good retreat.

[8… Bxd7 9. Qd3 Rc8  -0.04 Rybka4]

  1. Qd3 e5!? Leaving both d6 and f6 weak. In general it is not a good idea for Black to play e5 in an open Sicilian if he has already played g6. If the dark square bishop  develops to e7, then the dark squares on the king side are weak, but if the bishop develops to g7, then the pawn on d6 is weak.

[9… Rc8 10. Be3 Bg7 11. O-O O-O  +0.38|d17 Rybka4]

  1. Nf3 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 Qg4? Spassky’s plan is to exchange queens with an equal position, but…

[better is 11… d5 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. exd5 Bg7 14. Bd2 Rd8 15. c4 O-O 16. O-O b5! when he has good play for the pawn.]

  1. Nd5! The twin threats of Nxf6+ and Nc7+ leave Spassky with no good move, so he resigns.

[12… Kd8 13. Qxg4 (Not 13. Nxf6? Qh4 14. g3 Qxf6  +1.27|d16 Rybka4) 13… Nxg4 14. h3 Nh6 15. fxe5  +2.32|d17 Rybka4 dxe5 16. Bg5 Kc8 17. Bf6 Rg8 18. O-O-O b6 19. Bxe5 f5 20. Rhe1  +2.61|d17 Rybka4 White has an extra pawn and better development.  Black’s king is exposed to attack and his pieces are in disarray.;

12… Qxf3 13. Nxf6 Ke7 14. Nd5 Ke6 15. gxf3  +3.26|d15 Rybka4;

12… Qh4 13. g3 Qh3 14. Nxf6  +4.46|d5 Rybka4]


Unzicker, Wulfgang – Fischer, Bobby. 1:0, 1960

Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation

Bobby Fischer, though only 17, had already been U.S. Chess Champion for three years and a World Champion Candidate when he travelled to Buenos Aires to play in this tournament.  His opponent, Wolfgang Unzicker, was one of the leading players from West Germany.  Fischer uncharacteristically loses his way in the opening and never gets on track.

  1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 The Najdorf Variation is named after Miguel Najdorf. He was originally from Poland, but Argentina became his home when he was stranded there after the 1939 Chess Olympiad due to the German invasion of his home country.
  2. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Be7 8. Qf3 Qc7 9. O-O-O O-O!? It is too early to signal where the king is going to be. Frequently in the Najdorf Black will leave his king in the center as long as possible so as to keep open his options as White develops his attack. The king is reasonably secure behind the phalanx of pawns on f7, e6 and d6.

[9… Nbd7 10. g4 b5 11. Bxf6 Nxf6 12. g5 Nd7 13. f5 Nc5 14. f6 gxf6 15. gxf6 Bf8 16. Rg1  +0.00|d15 Rybka4;

Or as Fischer played three years earlier in the U.S. Championship 9… h6 10. Bh4 Nc6 11. Nxc6 Qxc6 12. Bd3 Bd7 13. Qe2 Rc8 14. Kb1 b5 15. Rhf1 b4 16. Bxf6 gxf6 17. Nd5 exd5 18. exd5 Qc7 19. Bxa6 Rb8 20. Rfe1 Bc8 21. Bxc8 Rxc8 22. Rd4 O-O 23. Re4 Rfe8 24. f5 Kh7 25. c3 bxc3 26. Rxe7 Qb6 27. Rxf7 Kg8 28. Qg4 Kxf7 1/2-1/2, Seidman Herbert – Fischer Robert J (USA) 2780 , New York 1957 Ch USA]

  1. Bd3 Unzicker begins to aim all of his forces at the castled king.

10… Nc6 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Qg3 h5? Apparently Fischer played this to secure g4 for his knight.  Whatever he hoped to gain by playing this is not worth the weakening of his king side.

[Blocking White’s light square bishop out of the attack is much better. 12… e5! 13. Rhf1 Nh5 14. Qh4 Bxg5 15. fxg5 g6 16. Ne2 Qd8 17. g4 Ng7 18. Ng3 Rb8 19. b3 Ne6 20. Rf6 Qa5 21. Kb1 Nc5 22. Nf5 Bxf5 23. gxf5 Na4 24. fxg6 Nc3 25. Kc1 hxg6 26. Qh6 Qa3 1/2-1/2, Borngaesser Rene (GER) 2390  – Stean Michael F (ENG) 2275 , Groningen 1972 It (open)  Both players recognized that a draw by repetition was inevitable. (27. Kd2 Nxd1 28. Rxg6 fxg6 29. Qxg6 Kh8 30. Qh6 Kg8 31. Qg6 Kh8 32. Qh6 Kg8 33. Qg6 Draw by three fold repetition)]

  1. e5! Now the light square bishop is fully in the attack.

13… dxe5 14. fxe5 Ng4 15. Bxe7 Qxe7 16. Ne4 Qc7? Fischer ignores the defense of his king to go after a measly pawn.

[There is still a chance after 16… Kh8 17. Be2 Nh6 18. Bxh5 c5  +1.45|d10]

  1. h3 Nxe5?? Still paying more attention to the pawn than his own king, Fischer walks into a mating net. But he does not have a good move anyway.

[17… Nh6 18. Nf6 Kh8 19. Qg5 Rb8 20. Nxh5 Nf5 21. Bxf5 Qxe5 22. Rd8 Bb7 23. Rd3 Rg8 24. Ng3 Qf6 25. Qh5 Qh6 26. Qxh6 gxh6 27. Bg4  +3.08|d14;

17… Qxe5 18. hxg4 Qxg3 19. Nxg3 hxg4 20. Bh7 Kh8 21. Be4 Kg8 22. Bxc6  +3.47|d19 Rybka4]

  1. Nf6! Kh8 19. Qg5 Nxd3 20. Rxd3 gxf6 21. Qxh5 Kg7 22. Qg4 Fischer resigns because he will be forced to give up his queen to avoid mate and even then Unzicker will mate quickly anyway.

[22… Kh7 23. Qh4 Kg6 24. Rg3 Qxg3 25. Qxg3 Kh7 26. Rf1 Rg8 27. Qh4 Kg7 28. Qxf6 Kh7 29. Rf4 Rxg2 30. Rh4 Kg8 31. Qh8#]


Christiansen L. – Karpov A, 1:0, 1993

Queen’s Indian Defense

Back in the good old days there was a National Chess League.  The team from Washington, D.C. was the Washington Plumbers.  I was at their site one evening watching one of their matches.  After the games were over, one of the players on the Washington team, International Master Eugene Meyer, was playing over his game from the match and taking questions from the audience.

After one of his moves someone asked, “Why did you play that move?”  Indeed, from my point of view the move did not have a point.

Meyer replied, “Because it defends the knight.”

“But there is nothing attacking the knight.”

“True, but even when not attacked, the more pieces you have undefended, the more likely it is that something bad will happen.”

Profound!  I had never thought of that!

Perhaps Karpov should have been at that Washington Plumbers match.

At the time former World Chess Champion, Anatoly Karpov, lost the game below, it caused a sensation.  How could the second best player in the world (after World Champion Gary Kasparov) play such a simple blunder in a simple position?  Karpov’s opponent, Larry Christiansen had been U.S. Champion in 1980 and 1983.

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. a3 Ba6 5. Qc2 Bb7 This move and White’s 4. a3 are not the kind of moves I would play in the opening, but this is a normal book line and they are Grandmasters, so what do I know?
  2. Nc3 c5 7. e4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Nc6 9. Nxc6 Bxc6 10. Bf4 Nh5 11. Be3 This is still normal book stuff, but now…

11… Bd6?? This move is hard to fathom.  Not only is there the positional objection that it blocks his d-pawn, but more important, it leaves the both the bishop and the knight undefended and exposed.  Furthermore the refutation is ridiculously simple.

[My best guess is that Karpov intended to keep following the normal line and simply got the move order mixed up. 11… Qb8 A few months EARLIER Karpov played this move against Christopher Lutz and won. 12. O-O-O Bd6  +0.27|d17 Rybka4 Again, these are not the kind of moves I would play, but what do I know?]

  1. Qd1! It doesn’t take a genius to see that either the bishop or the knight is gone, so rather than continue a hopeless game, Karpov resigns. [1:0]