Testing my chess with Daniel King

Testing my chess with Daniel King

Jun 15, 2013, 8:31 PM |

I used to have dozens of chess books, but the only ones that ever actually helped me to improve were puzzle books. There is a particular kind of puzzle book in which a master annotates games and invites the reader to guess the moves of the winning player. Fred Reinfeld and Leonard Barden wrote books like this. Possibly Euwe too; I'm not sure. But Daniel King is one of the best. He used to do a column in Chess called How Good is Your Chess?, and Test your Chess with Daniel King is a collection of those columns. I borrowed it from the local library and am working through it, my aim being to get to the magic number of 61 points. So far, my best is 55.

I thought it might be interesting to go through one of these games, explaining my thought process and comparing it to the key points which King makes. I think this is a very interesting way of comparing the thoughts of a coffeehouse player and a grandmaster. I've chosen the game Morozevich-Loginov because Morozevich is my favourite contemporary player. Unfortunately, it turns out that I am not very good at guessing his moves.

Here is the game. The moves were revealed one at a time.

Here are my thoughts:

13. ? Black wants to play b5 and/or d5 as these are the standard freeing moves. But b5 is not currently a threat since the Bg2 is pointing at a8. White has a free move to develop. The move ... e5 is also not a threat since d6 is hanging after the Nd4 moves. Re1 is possible, as is 13. e4. But e4 looks like it might encourage b5 by blocking the Bg2. Otherwise I can't see a sensible move. I like the move a4 since it makes b5 impossible, and 13... Nb4 from black is ineffective. I choose a4, but not with any certainty. I have a suspicion that Morozevich might have played 13. f4 in this position.

Actual move: 13. Qe2. "The importance of putting the queen on the correct square in the opening is often underestimated" - King. Not sure what this move does. Qc2 is not recommended because the Q would be opposite the Rc8. Score: 0/6 points. My move is not mentioned as an option.

14. ? Black plays 13. ... Rab8. It still looks like he wants to play b5 and I can still stop this by playing a4, so 14. a4 is my choice. I see no tactical threats.

The actual move is 14. h3. I score 0/4 points. Honestly, there is no way I would have played this move, but it turns out to be useful later on. At the moment, it prevents Bg4 and avoids having to play f3.

15. ? After 14. ... Kf8, black must be planning to play Nxd4 because he has defended the pawn on e7. I think I get it; black plans Nxd4 exd4 b5, which is possible because the pawn on e7 is defended. But I find Kf8 bizarre. I have a suspicion that Morozevich might have played g4 here, because he likes doing that, but I am still going to play 15. a4. Or 15. Rfe1 - an x-ray on e7? No, a4, because the rook might belong on d1 or f1. My choice: 15. a4.

Actual move: 15. Rfel. King - "one of the best moves of the game". Drat. Score: 0/6 points. Total so far: 0.

16. ? After 15. ... Na7, black is obviously trying to force through b5. Even King says so! I cannot be wrong about this. Now surely a4 is the move. If 16. ... b5 then axb5 axb5 and Ra1 is good; if Qb6 or Qc7 then cxb5 and white wins a pawn. What else could white play? e4? But what is the point? Black can just reply with b5 or Nc6. My choice: a4.

Actual move: 16. e4. Score: 0/5. King: this is a counterattack in the centre. Good point, but how does it prevent ...  b5?

17. ? Black is attacking my knight on d4. Nd5 looks bad because of Qxa2. But no, that is impossible; Ra1 wins the Q. In fact, I like Nd5. Nf3 looks wrong and Nc2 loses a piece on c3. So I choose Nd5.

Extra credit question: how to respond to b5? I would take on b5 and then play a3 after black has had enough exchanges. That looks fine to me. But the actual answer is e5, for 3 points. Looks very strange to me.

Score: 5/5! Finally some points! Total: 5

18. ? I was already planning to play Ne3 if black played e6, so I'll stick to that. b4 is no good because of Qxa2 - xc4.

Extra question: how to respond to 16. ... b5? I'll play Bc3, and if Qd8 then I am fine. Or Qa3 loses to Bb4. In fact, Bc3 Qd8 Qd2 looks nasty for black. But correct was b4, but there is no mention of the possibility of Qxa2 and Qxc4, so I am confused.

Back to the game: the actual move here was Bc3. A Zwischenzug which I overlooked. I get 1/3. Total : 6

19. ? Well now Ne3 must be right.

Yes! 2/2. Total: 8

20. ? After 19. ... b5 I don't want to take on principle, and anyway I could recapture with the Ne3 if black takes on c4, which looks great. I prefer to aim at d6 with the move 20. Red1.

Actual move: 20. Qd2. Nice move! King also likes Nf3 because exchanging black's bishop helps white in the attack which is coming. I score 0/5.

21. ? Taking into consideration King's comment on the last move, I really like Nf3 here. It threatens Ba5 which looks good, and if ... Nc6 then black forces no exchanges. (Exchanges usually help a player who is cramped, all else being equal). Red1 also looks OK, but I like Nf3. Ne2 is no good. The N has more prospects on f3 (g5). I choose Nf3.

Actual move: Rcd1. But I get 2/3. Total score: 10

22. ? After 21. ... Nc6, surely Nf3 is right. Or what if 21. Nxc6 Bxc6 22. Bxg7+ Kxg7 23. Qc3+ Kg8 24. Ng4 with what looks like a good attack? Or maybe not? But after Nf3, all that still happens except that white has an extra attacker. So I choose Nf3.

Actual move: Nf3. Score 5/5. Total: 15

23. ? Wow, 22. ... f6 looks horrible. Time to attack g6, where there is a new weakness! h4-h5 followed by Nh4 looks like a good plan. But g4-g5 also looks good. Black can play Bh6, but then g5 opens the long diagonal and looks good. For me, it is a toss-up between g4 and h4 here. If g4 then Ne5 and after an exchange, I will want to play h4 anyway. h4 gets to the enemy king quicker and leaves white less exposed, so I'll go for h4.

Actual move: h4. Score: 7/7. I dodged a bullet because g4 is not even mentioned by King as a candidate. Total: 22.

24. ? I like 24. h5 and if gxh5, then Nh4, Qe2, and white looks good for a win. g4 also comes into consideration. I'll play h5.

Actual: h5. Score: 2/2. Total: 24

25. ? Black's Rc7 is mysterious, but after a while I realise that it's to protect the Bd7 and also the second rank. Now Nh4 looks good. If g5 then white plays h6, and if Bh8 then Nxg5. Meanwhile the plan is to exchange on g6 and then play Qe2-g4. Or maybe just hxg6 is better? Actually, the previous line in nonsense as white has nothing that can take on g5 because the knight already moved from f3. I'll actually play g4. If gxh5 then g5 looks good. Or Nh2 is an idea; if black plays Ne5 then white can just play f4, followed by Kh1. Actually, I have changed my mind; I'll play hxg6+.

Extra question: how would you respond to ... g5 instead of ... Rc7. I like h6, but actually e5 is the strongest move, so no extra credit for me.

Actual move: hxg6+. I get 1/1. Total: 25

26. ? Now my plan was Nh2 here, so that f4 can be played in response to ... Ne5. But it just looks wrong, weak and retreaty. If Nh4 then g5 and then what? I'll play Nh2.

Actual move: Nh4. Score: 0/5.

27. ? I can't see the point of 25. ... Qc5. Is black aiming to play Qh5 and Qh7? If so, a rook on h1 might be good. Or I like Bf3, and if g5 then Bh5+. Yes, and if not, then Kg2 and Rh1 is great! I'll play Bf3 here.

Actual move: Qe2. Score: 0/5. But what if Qh5 now? Oh, I see, then white plays Bf3. Makes sense. King also explains rhat if black answers Nh4 with g5, then Nf5 is very strong, but I missed this idea.

28. ? After bxc4, the only move is Nxc4, which is excellent for white.

Correct, 1/1. Total: 26

29. ? After 28... Bh6, I like Qg4. Then if ... Qg5, I have Qh3. I choose Qg4.

Actual: 29. e5!! A lovely move. I get 5/10. Total: 31

30. ? Now BxN PxB and then Qg4 is great as it wins a pawn on g6. So 30. Bxe5.

Extra credit: what if fxe5? Well then surely Qe4 is crushing? No, that's wrong. 0/4.

But I got 30. Bxe5 right, so 3/3. Total: 34

31. ? Well now obviously Qg4, and if Bg5 then Nxe5+.

Actual: Qg4. Score: 1/1. Total: 35

32. ? Got to be Qxg6+.

Correct, 1/1. Total: 36

33. ? Now I don't see what to do. This is where I would lose on time in blitz. Qh7 takes a square from black's king, and then Ng6+ Kf7, but then what? Black wants to play Bc6 or Bb5. So Bh3? Or bring a rook into the attack? g4, followed by Re1-e3-f3? Rook lift looks good. I choose g4.

Actual: Qh7. Score: 0/3.

34. ? Now 34. Ng6+ or else the queen might get skewered eventually.

Actual: Bxc6, but 1/1 for my move. Total: 37

35. ? Well, Ng6+ for 1.

Actual: Ng6+. 1/1. Total: 38

And black resigns in view of taking twice on e5 with a fork on the queen after Kf7! I totally missed that the game was about to end this way. Oops!

This is actually my worst performance yet, but it was still fun. I learned that grandmasters don't move pawns very much, unless they are really sure that they won't create weaknesses by doing so. I think I understood most of what was going on, but my tactics were faulty.

That was exhausting! Time to be "Loginov".