Your Questions Answered By Andrew Martin

Your Questions Answered By Andrew Martin

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International Master Andrew Martin from England presents a regular series of articles to answer any questions that readers have about the game of chess.

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Now it's over to Andrew for this week's questions and answers...

Andrew Thomas Hello, I am inquiring about the pin variation.   On the video (Sicilian Shockers), you say it is good for black, but after Qxg7, Bxc3+ bxc3+ Qxc3+ Ke2 you say either b6 or Nc6 are good for black. I have yet to find a good game for black with this line.

Hi Andrew.  Upon reflection, it is impossible to state that the Pin variation is 'good' for Black, but it is certainly very tricky and difficult to meet for the amateur or unprepared player.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bb4 6.e5 Ne4!? The main point of 6...Ne4 as opposed to 6...Nd5 is to take the sting out of 7 Bd2 eg  7.Qg4 [7.Bd2?! Nxd2 8.Qxd2 0–0 with the idea of ...f7-f6 and already Black is better.]

7...Qa5 8.Qxg7 [8.Qxe4 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Qxc3+ 10.Kd1 Qxa1 11.Nb5 d5 also leads to an extraordinarily complicated position.]

8...Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Qxc3+ 10.Ke2  I presume this is the position you are referring to. Let us see how a strong Dutch IM copes with 10...b6

10...b6!? [10...d5 a suggestion of the English amateur EL Stewart,seems to fail to 11.Qxh8+ Kd7 12.Nb3 Nc6 13.Be3 Qxc2+ 14.Kf3 Ke7 15.Rc1; Meanwhile 10...Nc6 obliges White to be cold-blooded: 11.Qxh8+ Ke7 12.Nb3 Nxe5 13.Be3 Qxc2+ 14.Ke1 Qc3+ 15.Kd1 b6 16.Qxh7 Bb7 17.Rc1 Qb2; 10...Rf8 11.Bh6 Qc5 12.Nb3 Qb4 13.a3 Qe7 14.f3 Nc3+ 15.Kd2 Nd5 16.c4+-]

11.Qxh8+ Ke7 12.Be3 [12.Bg5+ Nxg5 13.Qf6+ Ke8 14.Qh8+=]

12...Ba6+ [12...Nc6 could induce panic: 13.Nxc6+ dxc6 14.Kf3 Bb7 15.Qg7 c5 16.Bd3 Rg8 17.Qh6 Qxd3 18.cxd3 Nc3+ 19.Kf4 Ne2# 0–1 Schaefer-Elm,W/Essen 1978] 13.Kf3 Bb7 14.Kg4 This crazy position seems to be good for White, but you can see what I mean about complications!  At club level ,anything could happen and White will probably have spent a LOT of time just getting here.

14...Nc6 15.Nxc6+ Bxc6 16.Qg7 h5+ [16...Qxa1 17.Bd3 Qxh1 18.Bxe4 Qd1+ 19.Kg3 d5 20.Bg5+ Kd7 21.Qxf7+ Kc8 22.Bd3 a6 23.h3]

17.Kxh5 Spoelman wins this game and somehow this move shows a refusal to be afraid of non-existent threats. White's King,seemingly on his own death march is safer than he looks. However, the win is not that easy to find for White, as we will see. 17...Qxa1 18.Bd3?! [18.f3! is correct.]

18...Qxh1 19.Bxe4 Qxh2+ 20.Kg4 Rh8 [20...d5!] 21.Bg5+ Ke8 22.Qf6 Qh5+ 23.Kf4 Qh2+ 24.Ke3 Kf8 25.Qd8+ Kg7 26.Bf6+ Kh6 27.Qxh8# 1–0 Extraordinary.  My take is that used sparingly, the Pin Variation in this guise is a terrific surprise weapon for Black, although you must understand that objectively it is probably unsound. Throughout the passing of time, this has never concerned the average club player who is willing to take a risk and probably never should. At GM level, forget it! 1–0


Joe McDonald I had an endgame situation where my opponent and I each had a pawn on the "a" file, plus I had a bishop.  He had only only his king and the pawn.  I decided to give up my bishop in order to capture his pawn, thinking that I could then escort my pawn to a8.  It did not work.  I kept moving forward, first with the pawn and then with my king, and he kept backing up.  It ended with him being stalemated in the corner. Where did I go wrong?  Should I have held on to my bishop?  Was it possible to capture his pawn without giving up the bishop?  (It was on the right colored square to have kept him out of the corner, so it would have been mighty nice to have had it.)?

I presume this is the type of position you are referring to Joe. As the Bishop is the same colour as the eventual queening square, the winning procedure should not be too difficult. White wins methodically:

1.Kc3 Kc6 2.Kb4 Kb6 3.a4 a5+ 4.Kc4 Ka6 5.Kc5 Ka7 6.Kb5 Kb7 7.Kxa5 Ka7 8.Be4 Kb8 9.Kb6 Kc8 10.a5 1–0 and the pawn strolls through.

Things to remember in the endgame: 1) Play SLOWLY and CAREFULLY, whatever the position 2) PRECISION  will always be required, due to the reduced material on the board. 3) The King is a strong piece in the endgame. 4) The object of the endgame is to CREATE A PASSED PAWN and then to PROMOTE the pawn.  In an ideal world, mate follows. Very few endgames tolerate slapdash play or hasty decision-making.





 Hi Andrew. I play chess for fun. I am a 1550 rated player that has played for 30 years. My question is not about a certain opening. My question is not about any chess technique.  I want to know how to keep my focus on the game while playing. I am not a GM or even a very high rated player. Sometimes it seems that I see forks and traps easily and can look forward easily.  However other times I can hardly stop from giving away material. I guess it’s a state of mind. I tend to lose 5 games in a row then win 5. I have spent much time trying to figure out why sometimes I can see the board so well and sometimes I can not.

Is there anything I can do about my state of mind while playing? Maybe other people at higher levels don’t have this problem and maybe I didn’t state it correctly.  Am I alone in having this problem ?

Concentration during a game can waver at all levels. When you feel your mind starting to wander, you have to keep bringing yourself back to your ideal, concentrated state of mind. Continually ask yourself simple questions during the game: 1) What am I trying to do?  What do I need to do? 2) What is he trying to do? 3) Has he got any threats?  If so, what are they? If not, how can I move forward ?

At least you are aware of your problem, Matt. Thus you can do something about it. In the following game, the then British Champion seems unable to believe he can beat the great Bogulyubov and ends up making a series of passive moves.

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Qe7! The introduction to a solid plan which has endured the test of time and survives even today. Black keeps the tension,commits to nothing, protects his Bishop and plays an all-round useful move.

5.Nc3 Bxc3!? A move which marks the age of the game. The master of today would think long and hard before taking on c3 and then he probably wouldn't do it. Just 5...b6! or 5...0–0 are both more elastic.  But Yates is a strong player and he has an idea. He wants to put his Knight on e4 and reinforce that Knight with ...f7-f5. A Kingside attack may follow. Who is to say this idea is bad?  It looks playable to me.

6.Bxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2 f5 8.Nd2?! Far too meek. White cedes any advantage he may have by moving the Kinght again.Just 8 e3 or 8 g3 were indicated,with perhaps a small advantage to White.


8...Nxc3 9.Qxc3 0–0 10.g3 Nc6 11.Bg2 d6 12.0–0 e5! Adjusting the pawn formation to his needs in the true tradition of this opening. Black has completely equalized and White seems confounded by this realization.

13.Bxc6 They sure let the Bishops go easily in those days although funnily enough, Deep Fritz is saying that this is the best move.  Maybe White had no choice though, because the pressure on d4 was too strong. Certainly [13.e3 f4 seems to give Black excellent play on the Kingside.]

13...bxc6 14.dxe5 dxe5 15.Nf3 He has softened him up and now he moves to place his Knight on a better square.

15...e4  [Yates would not have been interested in 15...Re8 16.Rad1 c5 17.b3 Bb7 18.Rd2 and moves over to direct attack.]

16.Ne5 f4!? 17.Nxc6 Qc5 Chess is a wargame. It's what works that counts, not what is objectively best at any given moment. The point is that Winter is now fully on the defensive and the Black Bishop on c8 is a piece to be feared. White may panic.

18.Nd4 Rb8 Pressure on the b file is an illusion; Black wants ...Rb6-g6 or ...Rb6-h6 to worry White.

19.Rfd1 e3! 20.fxe3 [Is  20.gxf4 exf2+ 21.Kxf2 Rxf4+ 22.Ke1 Bg4 survivable ? My instinct says no but the computer says yes.. On this rare occasion I think that I am right.]

20...fxg3 21.hxg3 Qe5 22.e4 Qxe4 23.Rd2 Rb6 [I quite like 23...Bb7! 24.Nf3 Qg4 25.Kg2 Rbe8 here.  This is just a horrible position for White with holes all over the place.]

24.Nf3?! [24.Qd3 was a sterner defence: 24...Qe5 25.Rf1 Rxf1+ 26.Kxf1 Rd6 27.Qc3 Rf6+ 28.Ke1 Bh3 29.Kd1 White seems to be holding this one.]

24...Rg6 25.Kf2 Bb7 26.Rd4 Qe7 27.c5 Ba6 28.Rd2 Rh6 29.Kg2 Re6 30.Qb3 Kh8 White has been struggling manfully but his position is distinctly unenviable and with the threat of ...Re3, maybe even lost

31.Qc2 Re3 32.Rh1 h6 33.Rh2 [33.Re1 Rfxf3]

33...Bxe2 34.Nh4 Rxg3+ 0–1 It's mate in two after 35 Kxg3 Qg5+ 36 Kh3 Qg4 #

A lovely game, but White had only himself to blame. His play lacked confidence and concentration. Can we identify with that? How many times have we gone home scratching our head thinking 'why did I play that way' ?


Derek Silsby  I play d4 as white looking to play queen’s gambit lines. However my more formidable opponents often play Queen’s Indian, Bogo-Indian, or Nimzo-Indian line, which I have studied to some degree. However I’ve found that most of the solid lines for white leave black with the initiative. For example 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ etc…Are there any solid lines for white to keep the initiative from black?  I’ve tried the more quiet patient lines as white and they don’t seem to suit my style. I prefer to attack or at least develop without having to deal with black’s annoying tactics that dictate the opening into his familiar territory. The theory appears to me that black gives up spatial advantage in these Indian openings to win initiative, something that I don’t want a stronger player to have.  Are there any games where white gains an early initiative against black’s 1... Nf6 2… e6


Hi Derek. There are a lot of GM's who would pay a fortune for a definitive answer to this question. After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 how about trying 3 Bg5!? as a deodourizer?

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5 h6 4.Bh4 Bb4+ [4...c5!? 5.d5 exd5 6.cxd5 d6 7.Nc3 Be7 8.Bg3 Nh5 9.e3 Nxg3 10.hxg3 a6 11.a4 Bf6= Meister-Obukhov, Kuibishev 1990; 4...g5 5.Bg3 Bb4+ 6.Nd2 Ne4 7.Ngf3 g4 a) 7...Nc6 8.a3 Bxd2+ 9.Nxd2 Nxg3 10.hxg3 Nxd4 11.Ne4; b) 7...d6 8.a3 Bxd2+ 9.Nxd2 Nxg3 10.hxg3 b6 11.e3 Bb7 12.Qc2 Qe7 13.c5 dxc5 14.dxc5 Qxc5 15.Qxc5 bxc5 16.Rc1 Nd7 17.Nb3 0–0–0 18.f3 g4 19.Be2 gxf3 20.gxf3 Ne5 21.e4 c4 22.Na5 Nd3+ 23.Bxd3 cxd3 24.Kd2 f5 25.Nxb7 Kxb7 26.exf5 exf5 27.Rc3 Rhg8 28.Rh3 f4 29.g4 Rge8 30.Rxd3 Rxd3+ 31.Kxd3 Re6 32.Kd4 c6 33.Rh5 Re3 34.Rxh6 Rxf3 35.Ke4 Rb3 36.Rh2 f3 37.Rf2 Kc7 38.g5 Kd6 39.g6 Ke6 40.Rxf3 Rxb2 41.Rg3 Rb8 42.Kd4 Kf6 43.g7 Kf7 44.Kc5 Kg8 45.Kxc6 Rb6+?! (45...a5 46.Rg5 a4 47.Rg4 Rb3 48.Rxa4 Kxg7=) 46.Kc5 Rf6 47.a4 Rf5+ 48.Kc6 Rf4 49.a5 Rb4?! (49...Rf5!? 50.a6 Rf7 51.Rb3 Re7 52.Rb7 Re6+ 53.Kb5 Re5+ 54.Kc4 Re6 55.Rxa7 Rb6=) 50.Rg5 Rb1? the decisive mistake (Black had to force White's rook to take the a-pawn and then he had to force the rook to stay in front of the a-pawn: 50...a6 51.Kc7 Rb1 52.Rg6 Rb5 53.Rxa6 Rf5 (53...Kxg7? 54.Ra7 Rf5 55.Kb6+ Kg8 56.Rc7+-) 54.Ra7 Rf7+ 55.Kb8 (55.Kb6 Rf6+ 56.Kc5 Rf5+ 57.Kd6 Rb5 58.Ke6 Rc5 59.a6 Rc6+ 60.Ke5 Rb6=) 55...Rf5 56.a6 Rf6=) 51.Rb5 Rc1+ (51...Rg1 52.Kb7 Rxg7+ 53.Ka6+-; 51...Rf1 52.Kb7 Rf7+ 53.Ka6 Re7 54.Rb8++-) 52.Kb7 Kxg7 53.Rf5 Kg6 54.Rf4 Kg5 55.Rf8 1–0 Nguyen Chi Minh (2366)-Peter,S (2238)/France 2003/CBM 095/[Mueller,Karsten](55.Rf8 Rc5 56.a6 Rb5+ 57.Kxa7 Kg6 58.Rb8 Rf5 59.Kb7 Rf7+ 60.Ka8 Kf5 61.a7 Ke6 62.Rc8 Rf1 63.Rc6+ Kd5 64.Kb7 Ra1 65.Ra6+-) ; 8.a3 Ba5 9.b4]

5.Nd2 c5 6.a3 [6.dxc5 Na6 (6...Bxc5 7.e3 b6 8.Be2 Bb7 9.Bf3 Nc6 10.h3 0–0 11.Ne2 Rc8 12.Nc3 Be7 13.0–0 a6 0–1 Pihlajasalo,H-Sammalvuo,T/Tampere 1998/EXT 99 (52); 6...Nc6 7.a3 Bxc5 8.e3 b6 9.Ngf3 Bb7 10.Bd3 Be7 11.0–0 d6 12.Qe2 g5 13.Bg3 h5 14.h4 gxh4 15.Bxh4 Ng4 16.Bxe7 Qxe7 17.Ne4 f5 18.Neg5 Rg8 19.Nh3 0–0–0 0–1 Pihlajasalo,H-Veingold,A/Helsinki 1996/EXT 99 (25)) 7.Ngf3 Nxc5 8.a3 Bxd2+ 9.Nxd2 d5 10.b4 Ncd7 11.cxd5 exd5 12.Nb3 0–0 13.e3 Ne5 14.Qd4 ½–½ Avrukh,B-Pelletier,Y/Biel SUI 2000/The Week in Chess 300 (57)]

6...Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2  The main points of  Bg5 include: a) Throwing Black on his or her own resources as soon as possible. b) Creating a unique QP position, due to the original nature of Nd2. Of course with an early Nc3 or Nf3, White can transpose back into known variations.

7...g5 [7...Nc6 8.dxc5 (8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.dxc5 a5 10.Nf3 a4 11.e3 Qe7 12.Qd6 Ra5=) 8...g5 9.Bg3 Ne4 10.Qc1; 7...cxd4 8.Qxd4 Nc6=]

8.Bg3 Ne4 [8...Nc6 9.0–0–0 (9.dxc5 Ne4 10.Qc1!±) 9...Nxd4 10.Qd3 d6 11.e3 Nf5 12.Be5 Bd7 13.Bc3 d5 14.Nf3 0–0 15.h4 g4 16.Ne5 d4 0–1 Gliksman,D-Sokolov,V/Kraljevo 1967/EXT 2000 (44)]

9.Qe3 [9.Qd3 f5 10.dxc5 Nc6 11.0–0–0 Qa5 12.f3 Nxc5 13.Qc2 Qa4 14.Qc3 Nb3+ 15.Kb1 0–0 16.Be5 Rf7 17.Qc2 b5 18.e3 bxc4 19.Bxc4 Nca5 20.Bxb3 Qxb3 ½–½ Jukic,Z-Keglevic,P/Zagreb 1995/EXT 2000 (20)]

9...Nxg3 10.hxg3 Qa5+ 11.Kd1!? [11.b4 cxb4 12.Qd2 d5 13.cxd5 exd5 14.Nf3 Nc6 15.Ne5 bxa3 16.Nxc6 Qxd2+ 17.Kxd2 bxc6 ½–½ Seirawan,Y-Andersson,U/Tilburg 1983/MCD (56); 11.Qd2 Qxd2+ 12.Kxd2 cxd4 13.Nf3 Nc6 14.Nxg5 Na5 15.Kd3 Nb3 16.Rd1 b6; 11.Qc3 Qxc3+ 12.bxc3]

11...d6 12.Nf3 [12.dxc5 Qxc5 (12...dxc5 13.Nf3 f6=) 13.Qxc5 dxc5=]

12...Bd7 [12...Nc6 13.dxc5 dxc5 14.Nxg5 Nd4; 12...cxd4? 13.Qxd4±]

13.d5! Na6 [13...g4 14.Nd2±]

14.Nxg5 Nc7 15.Rc1 [15.Qf3!?±] 15...Rg8 16.Ne4 [16.Rxh6 Ba4+ 17.b3 Rxg5 18.bxa4 Qxa4+ 19.Rc2 Re5]

16...0–0–0 17.Nf6?! [Instead 17.Nxd6+!? Kb8 18.Nxf7± looks good: 18...exd5 (18...Ba4+ 19.b3 Nxd5 20.cxd5 Rxd5+ 21.Kc2+-) 19.Nxd8 Rxd8±]

17...Ba4+ 18.b3 Rg6 19.Nh5 Bd7 [19...Be8 20.Nf4 Rf6 21.Qc3±]

20.Nf4 Rf6 21.dxe6 [21.Qc3 Qxc3 22.Rxc3 exd5 23.Nxd5 (23.cxd5 Nb5) 23...Nxd5 24.cxd5 Rxf2 25.Rf3 Rxf3 26.gxf3 Rh8 27.e4]

21...fxe6 22.Qc3 Qxc3 23.Rxc3 b5 [23...e5!? 24.Nd3 Bf5]

24.e3 bxc4 25.bxc4 [25.Bxc4 e5 26.Nh3 (26.Nd3 d5) 26...Bxh3 27.Rxh3 Rxf2 28.Rxh6 Rxg2 29.e4 d5=]

25...e5 26.Nd3 Bc6 27.Rh2! Ne6 28.Ke1 Kc7 29.Rb3 Ng5 30.Be2 [30.f3? Rxf3!]

30...Rdf8 31.f4 Ne4 32.fxe5 dxe5 33.Nxe5 Ba4! [33...Nxg3 34.Bf3]

34.Rb2 Re6 35.Nd3 Nxg3 36.Nf4 [36.Nxc5 Rxe3 37.Nxa4 Rf1+ 38.Kd2 Rxe2+]

36...Ra6 37.Nd5+ Kc8 38.Bg4+?! [38.Bf3!?]

38...Bd7 39.Bxd7+ Kxd7 40.Rb7+ Kc8 41.Rb3 Rf1+ 42.Kd2 Ra1! [42...Rf2+ 43.Kd3 h5 (43...Nf1 44.Rh5 Rxg2 45.Rf5+-) ]

43.Rh4 [43.Kc2 Ra2+ 44.Kb1 R2xa3 45.Rxa3 Rxa3 46.Rxh6]

43...R6xa3 [43...Ra2+ 44.Kd1 R2xa3 (44...Rxg2 45.Rf4 Rg1+ 46.Kc2 Rf1 47.Rg4±) 45.Rxa3 Rxa3 46.Rxh6]

44.Rxa3 Rxa3 45.Rxh6 Ne4+ 46.Ke2 Ra2+ 47.Kf3 [47.Kd3?! Nf2+ 48.Kc3 Ne4+=]

47...Nd2+ 48.Kf4 Nxc4 49.g4 Kd7 50.Nf6+ Ke7 51.Nd5+ Kd7 [51...Kf7 52.Rc6 Rf2+ 53.Kg5]

52.Nf6+ Ke7 53.Ne4 Re2 54.Nxc5 Rxe3= 55.Rh7+ Ke8 56.Ne4 [56.Rxa7 Re7=]

56...Re1 57.Kf5 Ra1! [57...Ne3+?! 58.Ke6 Kd8 59.Rd7+ Kc8 60.Nd6+ Kb8 61.g5±]

58.g5 Ra5+ 59.Kf6 [59.Kf4 Ne5=]

59...Ra6+ 60.Kg7 Ne3 61.Kh8 Nf5 62.Rb7 Kf8 63.Nf6 Ne7 64.Nd7+ ½–½ The author is indebted to GM Ribli for the bulk of the notes.



Tom Terrific Hi, Andrew, I'm in my 50's. I've been fascinated by the game of chess since my teens. Perhaps I'm imagining things; but I've always intuitively sensed an inner poetry to the game, and my principal interest in chess is not to win games, but to discover and appreciate this inner beauty. When I was younger, I thought that discovery of this "essence" or spirit of the game would naturally lead to faster learning of openings and more quickly becoming a winning player; but, while this intuitively seems likely, these are no longer principal concerns.

My inability to find any help in this quest, combined with my inability to make headway on my own, has led me to abandon the game multiple times, only to return later, sometimes after years, drawn again by this hidden "something." I've tried to get some help from books; but books quickly become incomprehensible. The enunciate principles, and then violate them without adequately explaining why. They may say why such-and-such a move is important in the situation; but what they never explain, and what they should explain, is the thought process that led them to question the fundamental principle they just violated - how the values were weighed. I know that the actual weighing of values is something one learns over time; yet the initial starting point should be explained. The author should say, "I know the rule says we aren't supposed to (put the knight here, move this pawn, or whatever). The reason the rule doesn't apply in this case is ..."

The spirit behind each piece, each line, each opening, and the game itself is my objective. It's more than philosophy; for lack of a better word, it's a question of poetry. All the books are written as if the poetry of chess could be reduced to merely its component elements; but, as everyone knows, poetry is much more than that. I want to see the soul of chess. Can you advise me?


Hi Tom. I don't know what you are on about!  Regards, Andrew.

Update:  Some people have been unhappy at Andrew's answer to this last question.  As Andrew has stressed in a comment below, he geniunely didn't understand what Tom was asking and his reply was meant to be humourous.  Nevertheless, we offer our sincere apologies if anyone, particularly Tom, was offended.




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