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Chess Tips

                                                                                                            Chess Tip 1:

This chess tip is for the new tournament player. Playing in a chess tournament can be so exciting and fun. Here are a few tips for playing in tournaments: Make sure that you have a current United States Chess Federation (USCF) membership. You can acquire this from the USCF website. The USCF is the governing body for chess competition in the United States. Be sure to arrive early so that you are stress free and ready to go. Learn how to notate your game as this is a requirement of the USCF. You should only write your notation on your scoresheet along with name and tournament info like what round and dates. You may also include your clock times throughout the sheet. No note taking is allowed, if you write notes on your scoresheet and someone reports it, you may receive a warning or penalty.

 Be respectful, I remember playing in a tournament and hearing the sound of keys clashing together as someone walked by that had keys hanging from their belt. Try not to be that person with the keys.

Have fun and good luck!

                                                                                                                   Chess Tip 2:

This chess tip is on how to recognize Smothered Mate. Would you believe me if I told you that a lot of people can see a five move smothered mate as if it were just one move? Don’t run away, giggle giggle. You can learn to do this as well. Take a look at diagram 1 below, “White to move”. Can you see the smothered mate in five moves? It is ok if you are unable to, that just means you will learn something by continuing to read on. White plays a forcing move with 1.Qc4+ of course if Black plays Kf8 you would respond by playing Qf7# and ask why would you need to know smothered mate when you can win easier? If your opponent, like all of mine, wanted to put up more resistance “they don’t see the five move mate coming” they could play 1…Kh8 2.Nf7+ Kg8, now we have a discovered check. But where is the best place to put the knight? It can go to several squares? We move it to 3.Nh6+ a double check. The queen and the knight are checking the king simultaneously. The king moves back to 3…Kh8 now comes a bolt of lightning with 4.Qg8+ this forces the rook on a8 to capture “the king capturing would put itself in check from the knight” so we have 4…Rxg8 and finally 5.Nf7#

Here are the moves without interruption 1. Qc4+ Kh8 2.Nf7+ Kg8 3.Nh6+ Kh8 4.Qg8+ Rxg8 5.Nf7#

If you practice this often enough, you might see this over the board one day. Maybe you see it in five moves, two, maybe three moves away. The fact that you recognize and played such a beautiful mating pattern will impress your friends and score you some points. Good Luck!

Diagram 1 Smothered Mate

November 2023 Chess Tip.png

                                                                                                                    Chess Tip: 3

This chess tip comes from Irving Chernev’s book “Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings” game 12 Stapfer vs Capablanca (New York 1913). I love reading and finding little gems like this and adding finesse to my game just like Capablanca….ok so I am far from greatness, ok ok I am far from being good - giggle giggle but this is a nice way to make a move to the square you want and still be on move. Yes, you read that right, make a move and still be on move…. Let’s jump to it. In diagram 1, Black would like to put his Rook on the c2 square followed by Rg2 so the Rook would be poised to capture the g3 pawn. If Black plays Rc2 then White could play f4 to f5 with a discovered attack on Black’s g4 pawn. Note diagram 2, Black plays the finesse move Rc1+ first. This forces White’s King to h2. With the White King on h2, Black can now play Rc2 with check gaining the tempo and next move! Diagram 3 shows the White King back on h1 and now it’s Black to play. Diagram 4 shows that the Black Rook made it to g2 attacking the g3 pawn.  White no longer has the discovered attack on Black’s g4 pawn since Black's Rxg3 covers his g4 pawn. Now that is finesse!

Diagram 1

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Diagram 3

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Diagram 2

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Diagram 4

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                                                                                                      Chess Tip: 4

This chess tip is about attacking the castled king using a classic bishop sacrifice. This Bishop sacrifice is known as the Greek Gift. This nice little weapon is used by tournament and club players around the world. It is a basic concept that should become a tool on every chess player’s tool belt. If you are unfamiliar with this, no worries, we will dive right in- just hang on and enjoy the ride. Diagram 1 shows the bishop sacrifice at its simplest. Here White plays 1. BXh7+ KXh7 2. Ng5+ Kg8 3. Qh5 with an unavoidable mate next with Qh7#. Diagram 2 shows this same idea, but there are pieces on the board just like a real game. Just play the same moves. 1. Bxh7+ Kxh7 2. Ng5+ Kg8 3. Qh5 with mate to follow.

Diagram 1


Diagram 2


Here is a game that includes the Greek Gift idea: This game came from the USCF Chess Life - July 2023 edition, page 48. Glucksberg vs Najdorf 1929.

Look at move 9 for black - Enjoy this little miniture!

1. d4 f5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e6 4. Nf3 d5 5. e3 c6 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. Ne2 Nbd7 9. Ng5 Bxh2+ 10. Kh1 Ng4 11. f4 Qe8 12. g3 Qh5 13. Kg2 Bg1 14. Nxg1 Qh2+ 15. Kf3 e5 16. dxe5 Ndxe5+ 17. fxe5 Nxe5+ 18. Kf4 Ng6+ 19. Kf3 f4 20. exf4 Bg4+ 21. Kxg4 Ne5+ 22. fxe5 h5# 0-1

                                                                                                        Chess Tip: 5

This chess tip is something I learned a long time ago from watching the commentators at the St Louis Chess Club. Look at the position in diagram 1. It is king and rook vs king and bishop. Can White defend this? Here is what I learned:  When defending, you should get your king to one of the corner squares that is opposite color that your bishop controls. Diagram 1 shows that corner highlighted in green.  Then you place your bishop on the squares surrounding your king, “note that those squares are the same color that your bishop controls” diagram 2. Now your bishop can maneuver back and forth in that corner to block any rook checks. The enemy king is unable to get too close or it risks stalemating.  For example, after the rook check on c8 the bishop blocks by moving to g8, now if the Black king moves to g6 it would then be a stalemate.


                                                               Diagram 1                                                                                Diagram 2

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August 2.png

                                                                                                        Chess Tip: 6

                                        This chess tip comes from Jeremy Silman’s book Amateur’s Mind.  Page 11 and 12.

Rule 4 -The term “bad Bishop” means that your Bishop is situated on the same color as your center pawns (which block it and limit ists activity). If you have such a Bishop you usually want to do one of three things: 1.Trade it for a piece of equal value. 2.Get the pawns off the color of your Bishop. 3.Get the Bishop outside the pawn chain. It will still be bad by definition, but it will also be active. A bad Bishop can be a strong piece!

Look at the diagram below, Whites Bishop on c4 is “bad” but “active” since it resides outside the pawn chain. Even though it has the stigma of “bad.” The Black Bishop on c6 is considered to be a “good” Bishop but it is not nearly as “active” as its White counterpart. This example shows us that the terms “good” and “bad” are useful for basic definition, but don’t take them too literally! In general, if your Bishop is serving a useful function you can happily toss the “good” and “bad” terminology out the window.

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                                                                                                      Chess Tip: 7


This chess tip comes from a book by Larry Evans titled “The 10 Most Common Chess Mistakes”, chapter four page 79.  It is a lesson about how dangerous it can be to ignore pins and at the same time how you can take advantage of pins.  Look at the position in diagram 1 below. Larry Evans explains “The pin is by far the most frequently encountered tactical theme. A pinned piece is immobilized because it must shield a more valuable piece (or square) behind it. There are two kinds of pins: absolute and relative.  An absolute pin means the pinned piece can’t move because doing so exposes the king to capture, which is illegal.  A relative pin means the piece is free to move, but at its own peril.  In general, it’s a good idea to break pins as soon as possible. Rd7 is the only place White can move his rook without costing material, but White is in no hurry to swap queens. Instead he broke the pin by the natural 1.Qd7? diagram 2, and probably expected 1…Rf8.  But 1…Re1+ 2. Kh2 Rc1 suddenly set up a new pin – this time against the king instead of the queen.  White resigned.”

                                                          Diagram 1                                                                                          Diagram 2


                                                                                                    Chess Tip: 8

This chess tip we are going to talk about the square of the pawn. This works well in king and pawn endgames. Learning the square of the pawn can save you from trying to calculate long variations in a position. Look at the first diagram, can the white pawn make it to the queening square? It depends on who is to move. If white to move, the little guy would be able to run into the endzone and score! If Black to move, the Black king can catch the pawn and stop it from promoting. Here is how it works: Draw a diagonal line from the pawn to the back rank as seen in diagram 1.  Then draw a square from that file to the same rank as your pawn and then back down to the back rank as seen in diagram 2. If the enemy king is in this square or can enter this square on move, then the king can catch the pawn. If the enemy king is out of this square or unable to enter it, then the pawn can score!

                                                           Diagram 1                                                                                     Diagram 2






                                                                   Chess Tip: 9

  IM John Donaldson said that the master knew when to rely on chess principles as opposed to brute calculation. You can also learn when to rely on chess principles. Chess principles are ‘Rules of Thumb’ more like guidelines that you can use at your disposal. There are many chess principles. I will use the next few months to list all the ones that I know which is give or take, about 40 chess principles. Remember, you can use these at your discretion; they apply most of the time but not all the time. Enjoy!

  1. Avoid opening the center if you king is in the center.

  2. Two minor pieces are generally better than a rook and pawn.

  3. Three pieces are generally better than a queen.

  4. Rooks are very strong on your seventh rank.

  5. Doubled rooks on an open file are very strong.

  6. Bishops favor open positions.

  7. Knights favor closed positions.

  8. When being attacked on the flanks, counter in the center.

  9. Generally when capturing with pawns, capture toward the center.

  10. A king is valuable in the endgame.

  11. Rooks should be behind passed pawns, even enemy passed pawns.

  12. Two connected passed pawns on the sixth rank will beat a rook.

  13. Attack the base of a pawn chain.

  14. Knights are usually the best piece to use when blocking enemy pawn advancements.

  15. If you have a cramped position, trade pieces.

  16. When ahead material, trade pieces not pawns.

  17. When down material, trade pawns not pieces.

  18. When you see a good move, look for a better one.

  19. It is ok to break the rules of chess principles if you gain from it.

  20. When dealing with wide pawn centers, the easiest target is always the one furthest advanced.

  21. A queen and knight work better together in an endgame than a queen and a bishop.

                                                                Chess Tip: 10

                                                                                        Here are some more chess principles

  1. Open in the center with pawns

  2. Control the center.

  3. Develop your pieces quickly.

  4. Develop knights before bishops.

  5. Refrain from moving the same piece twice in the opening.

  6. Refrain from bringing your queen out too early, no more than the third rank.

  7. Try to castle before your tenth move.

  8. Connect your rooks.

  9. Place rooks on open files

  10. Knights are grim on the rim.

  11. Try to avoid double pawns.

  12. Try to avoid isolated pawns.

  13. Try to avoid backward pawns.

  14. Refrain from trading a bishop for a knight, unless for a good reason.

  15. Refrain from moving pawns in front of your castled king.

  16. If you have a cramped position, trade pieces.

  17. When ahead on material, trade pieces not pawns

  18. When down material, trade pawns not pieces

  19. Opposite colored bishop games are dangerous in the middle game and drawish in the endgame.

  20. Avoid playing hope chess. Think!!

                                                                  Chess Tip: 11

This chess tip is from a book by IM John Donaldson titled  ‘Essential Chess Endings For Advanced Players’.

Although the title says for advanced players, I think even a novice can appreciate this tip. Look at the position below (Kan-Sorokin, Leningrad 1933) What might you play as white here? Some would think that they need to trade pawns in an ending like this to make a draw and some may think that they need to trade Queens. IM John Donaldson’s book, page 4 reads: ” Knowing when to calculate and when to rely on chess principles is one of the hallmarks of the master. Here the average player would probably be surprised at what White should do. On the surface of it 44.Bxe8 looks strange-shouldn’t White be trying to trade pawns and not pieces when a pawn down? However the master realizes the combination of Queen and Knight work much more effectively than Queen and Bishop. The ending of Queen and four versus Queen and three is no picnic for the defender but he has real chances to save the game. The presence of the two minor pieces virtually guarantees White will lose. Knowing such things is often much more important than being able to calculate a large number of variations.”


                                                                 Chess Tip: 12

This chess tip comes from Jeremy Silman’s ‘The Complete Book of Chess Strategy’. It is about development as seen on page five.

Silman writes:

"It is important to develop your whole army. Note the word “whole”. Some players get a few pieces out and launch an attack. The correct way to play chess is to develop each and every piece (chess is a team game), get your king safely castled, and only then begin more aggressive maneuvers. The necessity for quick development depends on the type of center that exists. For example, if the center is closed, development is not necessarily a priority because the enemy pieces won’t be able to break into your position. However, if the center is open (meaning that files and diagonals penetrate into your camp), development takes on great significance. A typical beginner's mistake centers around the Queen. In general, don’t move her too early! Because of the Queen’s enormous value, she is vulnerable to tempo-gaining attacks by lessor enemy units. A good rule of thumb calls for the Queen to be developed no further than the second or third ranks (far from the touch of enemy pieces).You should only use her in a more aggressive manner later in the game."

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