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.

If you want to ask Andrew a question, then send an email to and next time your question could be featured!  Please include your real name and your member name, but you can ask to remain anonymous if you wish!

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


Alex Radu Hi Mr. Martin, I've enjoyed and benefited from your latest DVD on the Dragon and I  have a question regarding the move order. Since I play the Najdorf,  I'd like to get into the Dragondorf  starting from the Najdorf move order. This way I don't have to prepare the entire Dragon and can mix it up. However, I'm wondering if there aren't some objective  disadvantages to starting 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 2. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 g6 as opposed to 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 2. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4  Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 with the same intention.

Hi Alex, My strong feeling is that you should NOT try to get into the Dragondorf via the Najdorf move-order. The main reason is that in the Dragon White only has one real system that puts pressure on Black and that is the Yugoslav Attack.Therefore this crops up in most Dragon games. In the Najdorf you have to contend with many dangerous systems eg 6 Bg5, 6 f4, 6 Be2 etc etc and you will have to do a lot more work.  Of course, if that is your desire, then please adopt the 5...a6 move order, but for the average player with limited time to study chess this is not so practical. The Dragon is actually quite a practical opening when we compare results gained with time available for to study. This wasn't the case until recently when the Dragondorf was re-evaluated.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 This is one of the most dangerous systems against the Dragondorf.

9...h6!? [White intends 9...b5 10.h4 h5 11.g5 Nh7 sending the Knight to a poor square on h7. White then proceeds positionally trying to prepare a central pawn advance. The last word has yet to be said there.]

10.h4 b5 [Once White has played g2-g4, I believe Black should get a Knight on e5 as soon as he can. 10...Ne5!? 11.h5 g5 12.0–0–0 b5 13.Be2 Bd7]

11.0–0–0 [11.h5 Ne5 12.hxg6 fxg6 13.Be2 g5 14.0–0–0 Qc7 15.Nf5 Bxf5 16.exf5 Nc4 17.Bxc4 Qxc4]

11...Bb7 [11...Ne5! looks like an improvement: 12.Kb1 (12.h5 b4 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.exd5 Qa5 15.Kb1 Qxd5 16.hxg6 fxg6 17.f4 Nc4 18.Bxc4 Qxc4÷) 12...Bb7 13.h5 b4! 14.Nd5 Nxd5 15.exd5 Bxd5 16.hxg6 fxg6 17.Be2]

12.h5 g5 13.Nf5 Bf8 14.Be2 Rc8 15.Rhe1 Ne5 16.Nd5 Nfd7 17.Nd4 e6 18.Nc3 b4 Black has the traditional counterplay of this variation.

19.Na4 Qa5 20.b3 Be7 21.a3 d5! 22.exd5 Bxd5 23.Kb1 Rb8 24.f4 gxf4 25.Bxf4 Bf6 [25...Bh4! 26.Rf1 Bg5 27.Bxg5 hxg5 28.axb4 Qxb4 29.Qxb4 Rxb4 30.Nc3 Bb7 31.Kb2 Ke7]

26.Bxh6 Rxh6 27.Qxh6 bxa3 28.g5 Qxa4 29.gxf6 Bxb3 30.cxb3 Rxb3+ 31.Ka1 Qb4 32.Qc1 Nc5 33.Bb5+ axb5 34.Rxe5 Rc3 35.Qb1 Nb3+ 36.Nxb3 Rxb3 37.Rxe6+ 1–0 member bagpuss56 Hi Andrew, Really appreciate your column - interesting games and excellent ideas. A few weeks ago you gave some tips on endgame play, the first of which was "Play SLOWLY and CAREFULLY, whatever the position". Sound advice, and easily applied in correspondence games, but in OTB play it's a different matter. For obvious reasons, endgames tend to coincide with time pressure late in the game, and for me the result is that I'm conceding draws in endgames I should be winning - for example from a pawn up - simply because I can't work out the right moves fast enough. Do you have any suggestions - techniques or practice drills for example - that might help here? Many thanks.

Take a look at a recent book called 'Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics', published by New in Chess. This is a brilliant way of studying the endgame in bite-sized chunks, using over the board, relevant examples. Go through 2-3 examples per day carefully and you will soon find the confidence you need to play endgames quickly and well. Let's take a look at a game between two legends now, where superb endgame play is to the fore.

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.h3 A move which frankly does not look like much. White simply takes the g4 square away from his opponent. But Spassky ensures himself 'against the loss' by these means and can hope for a very small advantage. Possibly in the old days even a quick game of tennis.

7...Bf5 8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3 e6 10.0–0 Be7 11.c4 0–0 12.b3 Very small advantage achieved. Before White gets any bind at all with Bb2 and Rad1 Karpov hits back in the centre.

12...c5! 13.Bb2 cxd4 14.Rfd1N [14.Bxd4 led nowhere in a previous encounter: 14...Bc5 15.Rfd1 Bxd4 16.Qxd4 Qe7 17.Qd6 Qxd6 18.Rxd6 Rfd8 19.Rad1 Rxd6 20.Rxd6 Kf8 21.Kf1 Ke7 22.Rd4 Rc8 23.Ke2 Nd7 24.Ke3 Nf6 25.Ne5 1/2–1/2 Spassky, B-Karpov, A/Mainz 2005 It is not done for the audience to throw cabbages in exhibition games.]

14...Qa5 15.Bxd4 Rfd8 16.Qe2 Qf5 17.Rd3 White's chances in these positions lie in the advancement of his 3-2 queenside pawn majority. Endgames favour White due to this feature. Doubtless Black is not in much difficulty here, but he must avoid too many exchanges. 17...Qe4? Very passive. Surely 17...Nh5! would have given Black at least equal chances.

18.Qxe4 Nxe4 19.Rad1 Kf8 20.Kf1 f6 21.Be3 Rxd3 22.Rxd3 Ke8 23.Nd2 White is en route to getting the Bishop ending he desires.

23...Nxd2+ 24.Rxd2 a6 25.Ke2 Rd8 26.Rxd8+ Kxd8 27.c5 The King comes to c4 and a passed pawn will be established. After that the White King tries to find a way to invade on the kingside. I'm very surprised Karpov went for this ending.

27...Kd7 28.Kd3 Bd8 29.b4 Bc7 30.Kc4 h5 31.a4 Be5 32.b5 axb5+ 33.axb5 Kc7 34.g4! Forcefully driving home his advantage. Black's kingside is softened up ready for the future invasion.

34...hxg4 35.hxg4 Kd7 36.f4 Bb2 37.f5! e5 38.Kd5+- Ba3 39.g5 fxg5 Otherwise White plays his pawn to g6 and at the right moment a Bishop to h6. [39...Bb4 40.g6! Ke7 41.c6 bxc6+ 42.bxc6 Ba5 43.Bc5+ Ke8 44.Ke6+-]

40.Bxg5 Bb2 41.Bh4 1–0 Karpov resigns, in view of 41.Bh4 Bc3 42.Bg3 e4 43.Kxe4 Bb4 44.Kd5 Bc3 45.Be5 Ba5 46.Bxg7+-.  Black must not be too concerned about 7 h3 but he must certainly not react as Karpov did here, expecting the draw as a matter of course.  



Christopher Howard Hi. I have a question about chess openings and king safety. When I was first learning to play, I was taught that to maintain king safety I should attempt to castle as early as possible, and to try to avoid moving the pawns in front of my castled king.  However, I have seen others using openings which seem counter-intuitive in that regard. They say the important thing is that you are able to handle any kind of attacks that could be made on your king. Any thoughts on maintaining king safety that you would like to share?

Chris, This really depends on your level of ability. I mentioned last week it was unwise to try to break the rules before one has mastered them. For the average player it is so crucial to have a complete grasp of the basics and one of those basics is simply to get the King out of the centre early in the game. I append a game between two Super GM's where this rule is ignored and Black gets smashed.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Ne7!? This is an irregular and not especially good defence to the King's Gambit. Black basically wastes a tempo getting his Knight to a dubious square on g6, with the dodgy intention of protecting f4.

4.d4 d5 5.Qe2!? Ng6 6.h4! [Black would have preferred to see 6.exd5+ Be7 on the board, because in that case he could soon cause problems for White's royal couple on the e-file with . ..0–0 and ...Re8.]

6...dxe4 7.Qxe4+ Qe7 8.Qxe7+ Nxe7 Black does not leave his knight on g6 to be hit by 9 h5.

9.Nc3 [Black would be happy with 9.Bxf4 Nd5] 9...c6 10.Bc4! Again stopping ... Nd5, and also developing pressure against Black's frail f7-pawn.

10...Nf5 11.0–0! [More awkward for Black than 11.Bxf4 Bd6]

11...f6 [If 11...Bd6 12.Re1+ Kf8 13.Ne4 Bc7 then 14.b3 creates the terrible threat of 15 Ba3+ Kg8 16 Neg5.]

12.Bxf4 Bd6 13.Rae1+ Kd8 Doubtless Sokolov was hoping to survive the middlegame with his King in the centre because Queens have been exchanged. No such luck! Black has serious problems with development as well as a vulnerable King to look after and these twin obligations all prove a bit too much.

 14.Nd2 Bxf4 15.Rxf4 Nd6 16.Bd3 Nd7 17.h5 h6 [If 17...Nb6 then 18.h6! shatters Black's g7-f6 pawn chain.]

18.Re3 Re8 19.Rg3 Re7 20.Nce4 Ne8  Passive, but Black badly needs support for his exposed g7-pawn.

21.c4 Nf8 22.d5 cxd5 23.cxd5 Re5 24.Nc3 Rxh5 When one is judging compensation after material loss or a sacrifice compare

a) The relative activity of the pieces

b) The ability to create threats

c) The safety of both players King.

Black is worse on all three counts here and his queenside is completely undeveloped. It is any surprise he goes down?

25.Re3 Nd6 [25...Re5?? loses instantly to 26.Rxe5 fxe5 27.Rxf8; and 25...Nd7?? 26.Rxe8+! Kxe8 27.Bg6+ is equally abrupt.]

26.Nf3! Threatening to embarrass Black's h5-rook with 27 g4.

26...Nf7 27.Rfe4! [Stronger than 27.g4 which can be met by 27...Ng5!? (threatening ...Nh3+) (or 27...Rh3 intending 28.Kg2 Ng5)]

27...Ne5 28.Nxe5 Rxe5 29.Rxe5 fxe5 30.Rf3!! Infiltration along the f-file is much more important than winning back the relatively insignificant pawn on e5.

30...Ke7 31.d6+ Ke8 32.Nb5 Ne6 This shows why Black decided to let White have the "free" 31 d6+ (so that there would no longer be a d5-pawn preventing ...Ne6), but Morozevich has a winning position anyway.

33.Bg6+ Kd8 34.Rf7 Bd7 35.Bf5 Threatening 36 Nc7 or 36 Bxe6 Bxe6 37 Rf8+.

35...Be8 36.Re7 Nd4 37.Nc7 Bc6 38.Bh3 1–0 Black resigned in view of 38...Rb8 39 Rxg7 followed by Rg8+.The author would like to thank GM Paul Motwani for his kind assistance with the notes.


Rene Vergara Hello, Andrew.  First I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer all our questions. I am curious about the topic of Simplification, and I hope you can offer some guidelines.  If one gets a favorable exchange, say knight for a rook, should one start to trade off the remaining pieces immediately? How is the material advantage best exploited? Kind regards,Rene.

Dear Rene, Lets first review some basics:

1) In a winning or better position play carefully. Avoid risk. When material ahead trade down to a superior endgame.

2) In a worse or losing position take risks. Mix things up. Make it tough for the opponent to realise his or her advantage by the simple means above.

Turning to material advantage, if you cannot trade pieces then the best thing to try to do is to USE the extra material energetically. For instance, in a battle of Rook vs Knight as you describe, I would be angling to place the Rook as aggressively as I could, to spread play out over the whole board, to avoid blocked positions and fighting at close quarters. In that way I demonstrate why the Rook is better than the Knight.


Tim Sniffin Andrew, I was wondering what do you think is the best way as black to combat white playing 0–0–0 in the Sicilian Najdorf? White also seems to put too much pressure in the center for me to handle. Tim S.

Hi Tim, Perhaps you are not playing with enough energy and purpose. When the players have castled on opposite sides the most important thing is to develop counterplay FAST. You can't just sit there and let yourself be attacked! Without specific variations I cannot go into any detail Tim, because if you are playing the Najdorf (and I wonder whether this is the right opening for you given what you say) it is very important to go into detailed analysis. Now comes a game where the Black player gets his response just about right. Andrew.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 Be7 9.g4 0–0 10.0–0–0 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Nd7 12.h4 Ne5 13.Be2 b5 14.Kb1 Rb8 15.h5 b4 16.Na4 Bd7 17.f4 Bxa4 18.fxe5 Qc7 19.exd6 Bxd6 20.Qc4 a5 21.g5 Qxc4 22.Bxc4 Be7 23.Bd3 Bb5 24.h6 g6 25.e5 Rfc8 26.Be4 Rc4 27.Bf3 a4 28.Rd2 a3 29.Re1 axb2 30.Rg2 Rc3 31.Kxb2 Ra3 32.Rg4 Rc8 33.Bb7 Rc4 34.Rxc4 Bxc4 35.Bd2 Rxa2+ 36.Kb1 b3 37.cxb3 Rxd2 38.bxc4 Rd4 39.Ba6 Bxg5 40.c5 Ra4 41.Bd3 Ra5 42.c6 Rc5 43.Be4 Bxh6 44.Re2 Bf4 45.Rc2 Rxc2 46.Kxc2 Bxe5 47.Kd2 h5 48.Ke3 g5 49.Bd3 f5 50.Kf2 g4 51.Kf1 Kf7 52.Kg2 Bc7 0–1

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