After such a long pause it seems only natural that I come up with a good chess blog post and I think this one, about the Evans Gambit, fits the bill. Since it is a gambit employed in the Giuoco Piano/Italian Game opening, it has been widely used from the 1820s when it was first documented. There are numerous videos on it on YouTube, but the one I consider the best is the one below, from GM Gregory Kaidanov.



I have also explored the gambit with ChessBase, but there it is difficult to see the spectacular games, the ones that lead in traps or quick wins, as they are often studied and the mistakes there not repeated in high level games.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 {The Ruy-Lopez (Bb6) is twice as common, but this is the second most popular move for White.} Bc5 {The main Black response to Bc4, almost on par with Nf6.}
4. b4 {The Evans Gambit, giving material for speed. It is interesting to note that this gambit is the second most popular way to go from here, after the mainline c3.}
(4. O-O {When first invented by Evans, he castled first.} d6 {Here is a trap in the original Evans Gambit.}
5. b4 Bxb4
6. c3 Ba5
7. d4 Bg4
8. Qb3 Qd7
9. Ng5 Nd8
10. dxe5 dxe5
11. Ba3 Nh6
12. f3 Bb6+
13. Kh1 Bh5
14. Rd1 Qc8
15. Rxd8+ Qxd8
16. Nxf7 Bxf7
(16... Nxf7
17. Bb5+ c6
18. Qe6+ Qe7
19. Qxe7#)
(16... Qh4
17. Bb5+ c6
18. Qe6+ Qe7
19. Qxe7#)
17. Bxf7+ Nxf7
18. Qe6+ Qe7
19. Qxe7#)
4... Bxb4 {The overwhelmingly more used move to accept the gambit, rather than decline it.}
(4... Bb6 {A possible run for the lot less employed gambit declined variation.}
5. a4 a6 6. Nc3
(6. a5 Ba7
7. b5 axb5
8. Bxb5 {This transposes into a sort of Ruy-Lopez.})
6... Nf6
7. Nd5 Nxd5
8. exd5 Nd4
9. a5 Ba7
10. d6 cxd6
11. c3 Nc6
12. O-O O-O
13. d4 h6
14. Re1 Qf6
15. Nd2 exd4
16. Ne4 Qg6
17. cxd4 d5
18. Bxd5 Nxb4
19. Bb3 d5
20. Ng3 Bg4
21. Qd2 Nc6
22. Bc2 Qf6
23. Qd3 g6
24. Bxh6 Bxd4
25. Bxf8 Rxf8 {0-1 Santos,M (2245)-Martins,C (2278)/Americana 2000/EXT 2001})
5. c3 {Multipurpose move to defend d4, make way for the queen to go to b3 and doing it with tempo as it is attacking the Black bishop.} Ba5 {Bishop retreats, keeping an eye on the White king.}
(5... Bc5 {Bc5 transposes easily, but also has the disadvantage of giving White an extra tempo after d4.}
6. d4 exd4
7. O-O)
(5... Be7
6. d4 Na5
7. Nxe5 Nxc4
8. Nxc4 {Beautiful center and development options.} d5
9. exd5 Qxd5
10. Ne3 Qd8
(10... Qa5
11. O-O Nf6
12. c4 O-O
13. Bb2)
11. O-O Nf6
12. c4 O-O
13. Nc3)
(5... Bd6 {Not used a lot, as it cramps the d pawn.}
6. d4 Nf6
7. O-O O-O
8. Re1 h6
9. Nbd2 {Leads for a closed game for both sides, not really in the Evans spirit.})
6. d4 {Defended by queen, knight and a pawn that is, at the moment, pinned, White aggressively makes a claim on the center.} exd4 {The defending pawn can not move and taking with the knight invites a host of unpleasantness}
(6... d6
7. Qb3 Qd7
8. dxe5 Bb6
9. Nbd2 Na5
10. Qc2 Nxc4
11. Nxc4 d5
12. exd5 Qxd5
13. Qa4+ Bd7
14. Nxb6 cxb6
15. Qb4 Ne7 {Three games in the database for this, two White wins and a draw.})
(6... Qe7
7. O-O Bb6
8. Ba3 d6
9. Bb5 Bd7
10. Bxc6 Bxc6
11. Nxe5 Bb5
12. Re1 Qe6
13. Nf3 O-O-O
14. Bb2 a5
15. Nbd2 Qd7
16. c4 Ba4
17. Nb3 Ne7
18. Qd2 Nc6
19. Bc3 Rhe8
20. d5 Nb4
21. Bxb4 axb4
22. Qxb4 Bxb3
23. axb3 {1-0 Sveshnikov,E (2560)-Sofieva,A (2370)/ Cappelle la Grande 1995/EXT 1997})
(6... Qf6
7. O-O Nge7
8. Bg5 Qd6
9. d5 Nd8
10. Qa4 b6
(10... f6
11. Bc1 Bb6
12. Na3 c6
13. Rd1 {Tchigorin})
11. Na3 a6 {Two games between Chigorin and Steinitz in 1889 from here: one won by White, the other by Black.})
7. O-O {Main themes in the Evans: keep your king safe, develop as many pieces as possible and prevent the Black king from castling.} Nge7 {Nge7 is the move masters have found most effective against the Evans gambit, as well as d6, but at amateur or club level it is more likely you will see Black take the pawn on c3.}
(7... d6 {Meant to protect against the push of the White pawn to e5 and liberating the bishop.}
8. cxd4 Bb6
9. Nc3
(9. d5 Na5
10. Bb2 Ne7 {And again: Nge7.}
11. Bd3 O-O {At this point we can assume that the gambit has failed, as Black has achieved castling, but they are not out of the woods yet.})
9... Bg4 {Black is planning to castle queen side and their position is getting better.}
(9... Nge7 {At this point, Nge7 is a mistake.}
10. Ng5 O-O
11. Qh5)
(9... Nf6
10. e5 dxe5
11. Ba3 {Not taking the e pawn, but preventing Black from castling!} Bxd4 {let us see how it could go down from here.}
12. Qb3 Qd7
13. Rae1 Na5
14. Nxe5 Nxb3
15. Nxf7+ Qe6
16. Bxe6 Bxe6
17. Nxh8 {White wins a lot of material here.})
10. Bb5 Bxf3
11. gxf3 {Take with the pawn to continue to protect d4.} a6
12. Ba4 Ba5
13. Bxc6+ bxc6
14. Qa4 Bxc3
15. Qxc6+ Kf8
16. Qxc3 {Now material is even, but Black cannot castle and does not control the center.})
(7... dxc3 {Taking the pawn, accepting this second gambit, might seem a good idea, but it only allows White to develop a powerful attack.}
8. Qb3 {attacking e7, b7, c3 as well as getting close to the lightly defended Black bishop.} Qf6 {The only options for Black to defend the e7 pawn are Qf6 or Qe7.}
(8... Qe7
9. Nxc3 Bxc3
(9... Nf6 {The usual move in this situation is Bxc3. The Nf6 variation is what happened in the Fischer-Fine game from 1963, the one in the video above. The rest of the moves are from that game.}
10. Nd5 Nxd5
11. exd5 Ne5
12. Nxe5 Qxe5
13. Bb2 Qg5
14. h4 Qxh4
15. Bxg7 Rg8
16. Rfe1+ Kd8
17. Qg3 Qxg3
18. Bf6#)
10. Qxc3 f6 {At this point Black has not yet achieved safety, but it is pretty close. I continue with the main line, without annotations.}
11. Ba3 d6
12. Bd5 Bd7
(12... Qd7
13. Rac1 Nge7
14. Rfe1 Qd8
15. Nh4 Bg4
16. Qg3 Qd7
17. h3 Be6 {Rajaboz-Smeets 1995, ended in draw.})
13. Rfe1 O-O-O {Black castles (Steinitz Gray 1872), although White manages to win.})
9. e5 {The pawn cannot be taken due to the threat of Re1.} Qg6 {Only good square for the queen.}
(9... Nxe5
10. Re1 d6
11. Qb5+ {and if Black protects the knight with the pawn on d7, they open themselves to this fork.})
10. Nxc3 {Gaining back a pawn and bringing yet another piece into the game. White has brought almost all the pieces out, while Black is cramped.} Nge7 {And here it is again, Ne7. If playing correctly, it seems Black cannot move that knight anywhere else in any variation.}
11. Ne2 {Very sophisticated idea, as it attempts to lure Black into castling and losing their queen or some other piece in its attempted rescue.} O-O {Black falls into the trap. The next few moves demonstrate it.}
12. Nf4 Qe4 {The only acceptable move for the queen.}
(12... Qg4
13. h3 Qf5
14. Bd3 Nd4
15. Nxd4 Qxe5)
(12... Qh6
13. Ne6)
13. Bd3 Qb4 {Only safe square.}
14. Qd1 {The Black queen is still in trouble, as Rb1 follows.} Ng6 {This is the only move that is giving respite to the queen, but White still gains advantage.}
(14... d6
15. Rb1 Qc5
16. Rb5 Qc3
17. Bb2 {Queen is trapped.})
15. Rb1 Qe7
16. Nd5 Qe6
17. Rb5 {threatening to take on a5 and then fork queen and rook at c7.} Rb8
18. Ba3 d6
19. exd6 cxd6
20. Ng5 Qd7
21. Qh5 h6
22. Nf6+ gxf6
23. Qxh6 fxg5
24. Bb2 Nce5
25. Rxe5 dxe5
26. Bxe5 f6
27. Bc4+ Rf7
28. Qxg6+ Kf8
29. Bd6+ Ke8
30. Qg8+ Rf8
31. Qxf8#)


For more background you can scour the net for videos on the Evans Gambit, there are a lot. There are a multitude of traps in the Evans as well, for the unprepared. One video that I do recommend, though, is Ruy Lopez vs Italian Game where it is explained why the Giuoco Piano is less favoured than the Ruy Lopez, even if it seems to open up more avenues of attack, and also what are the goals of White in the opening, thus explaining a lot about the coices made during the Evans Gambit.

Enjoy!

Any person that is remotely interested in the history of chess knows the name of José Raúl Capablanca. He was a great chess player and the world champion for 7 years in a row. I've just finished reading one of his books, entitled Chess Fundamentals, and I thought it was great. It featured clear chess principles, backed by real master games and, what I believe it is most important in the book, all the matches featured in Chess Fundamentals are annotated by Capablanca, who focuses on what moves he saw best, the ones he didn't like and, most fortuitous, what he thought when he played those moves, as many of the games are his.

Unfortunately, as with any chess book, one must spend time to focus on the details and to revisit it as many times as it takes to understand and learn what Capablanca wanted to express. I've read the book as part of an iPad application called "e+books". You get the free application, this Capablanca free book, then you have to pay for any other there. What I found really nice is that the positions and moves in the book are mirrored by a chess board that allows navigation between moves, variations, going back and forth, etc. It really helps reading the book and I recommend it, especially for beginners. Using a real chessboard to mirror the moves might be best, but it adds a layer of discomfort and complexity that might deter someone from finishing the book.

The book is structured into 6 chapters, the last being a series of 14 games in which Capablanca either lost or won. He begins with some principles of the endgame, the part of a game that he considers the most important. If you recall, Josh Waitzkin also highly recommended focusing chess training on the endgame, where there are few pieces and the principles become clearer. Also, since some chess games end with mates somewhere in the middle game, there is less opportunity to learn that part of chess. For openings Capablanca has only a few words, focusing on the healthy development of pieces, which he considers the most important. As stated previously, the games are the most important and their complexity is pretty high. Some say that the book is not fit for beginners for that reason alone, but I disagree. Even the most complex strategies are explained in the annotations and I believe they are a rare opportunity for anyone to glimpse in the mind of a chess master and realize where their aim as chess players lies.

All in all a rather easy to read book, with the help of the iPad application, but very hard to completely understand and remember. I intend to return to it, several times perhaps, in order to internalize some of the cool patterns of thought I saw in there. I warmly recommend it.

I have seen there is a marked difference between me, a casual chess player that has become interested in the theory of chess, and other people of my level that do not try to understand the theory. I usually beat them with the help of some of the information that lingers in my head. At the same time, there is an even greater difference between me and people that actively play chess online, not only when a colleague becomes interested in playing. They crush me immediately.

It seems to me that in order to grasp the chess theory I must also back it up with practice. So I have decided (after quite a while of fearing it would either become addictive or that I would suck terribly) I've made the first step and played a game there. And I won! Woo hoo! Unfortunately I played horribly and only luck can be attributed to my victory. As always, I've analysed the PGN and here it is. You will understand the shame of my victory (yes, it can happen) when you get to the end. Enjoy!

[Event "Siderite vs Mar09 2012.07.14"]
[Site "Chess.com"]
[Date "2012.07.14"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Siderite"]
[Black "Mar09"]
[Result "1-0"]
[BlackElo "2400"]
[ECO "C41"]
[Opening "Philidor"]
[Variation "Hanham, Steiner Variation"]
[WhiteElo "2400"]
[TimeControl "0+300"]
[Termination "normal"]
[PlyCount "77"]
[WhiteType "human"]
[BlackType "human"]

1. e4 {+0.11/16 10} e5 {-0.09/16 10} 2. Nf3 {+0.13/15 10} d6 {-0.31/15 10}
3. h3 {+0.15/15 10} Be7 {-0.15/15 10} 4. d4 {+0.16/16 10 Didn't know
anything about the Philidor defence that Black employed, except that it is
rather passive. So I decide to attack.} Nd7 {-0.26/15 10} 5. dxe5 {+0.26/16
10} Nxe5 {-0.24/16 10} 6. Nxe5 {+0.23/17 10} dxe5 {-0.23/17 10} 7. Qxd8+
{+0.23/17 10} Bxd8 {-0.15/17 10} 8. Bc4 {+0.04/17 10 computer thinks that
defending the pawn with the knight would have been better. As such, Black
has equality.} Ne7 {-0.23/16 10} 9. O-O {+0.27/16 10} O-O {-0.26/17 10} 10.
Nd2 {+0.20/18 10} Kh8 {-0.38/16 10 Analysis says this is a bad move and
gives White 0.2 because the pawn at f7 is defended only by the rook, but
Black intends to move it forward anyway.} 11. Nf3 {+0.35/16 10} f6
{-0.30/16 10} 12. Bd2 {+0.27/17 10 at this moment I am lost: I have no
strategy, no obvious attack and so I decide to improve my position a little
bit.} a6 {-0.28/15 10} 13. Bb4 {+0.24/17 10} b5 {-0.88/17 10 I thought
about the computer suggested move at the time: Bc4-d5, but dismissed it
because I felt it did not do anything.} 14. Bb3 {+0.46/17 10} a5 {-0.48/18
10 I almost always fall for pawn pushes. I tend to dismiss their
importance, you see, until it is too late.} 15. Bc5 {+0.48/19 10} a4
{-0.57/18 10} 16. Bd5 {+0.71/17 10 Bd5 is no longer as effective as it
would have been.} Ra6 {-0.54/17 10} 17. a3 {+0.54/19 10 The only move to
save my poor light bishop from getting trapped after c6.} c6 {-0.86/19 10}
18. Ba2 {+0.88/19 10} h6 {-1.97/17 10 You see what I should have done here?
Ra1-d1 would have threatened the bishop on d8, the only defender of the
pinned knight on e7.} 19. c4 {+0.59/17 10 Instead I tried to exchange a
weak pawn with a strong one, breaking the menacing pawn chain c6, b5, a4}
(19. Rad1 Kh7 20. Rxd8 Rxd8 21. Bxe7 Rd7) 19. .. Re8 {-0.72/18 10} 20. Rad1
{+0.43/18 10} Ng6 {-5.97/17 10 too late for Rd1, but do you see the winning
move for White here?} 21. g3 {+0.33/17 10 instead I get spooked by the
knight and try to block it and leaving my h3 pawn undefended.} (21. cxb5
cxb5 22. Bf7 {nice pin, one might think, but look closer: the rook at e8
has nowhere to go, the bishop on d8 is defended by the rook alone and the
knight on g6 is also under attack. This gives White a staggering 6 point
advantage.} Rg8 23. Bxg8 Ba5 24. Bf7 Nf4 25. Be8 {b5: completely
undefendable} Ne6 26. Be3 b4 27. Bb5 Ra8 28. Bc6 Ra6 29. Rc1 bxa3 30. bxa3
Nf4 31. Bxf4 exf4 32. Rfd1 Be6 33. Bxa4 Ra8 34. Bc6 Ra7) 21. .. Bb6
{-2.12/18 10 at this moment I still had the trap for the rook on e8, but it
was invisible to me.} 22. Bxb6 {+0.22/17 10} (22. cxb5 Bxc5 {this is the
best move in the situation} (22. .. cxb5 23. Bxb6 Bxh3 24. Rfe1 Rxb6 25.
Bf7 Reb8 26. Bxg6 {White has more than 2 points advantage here.}) 23. bxa6)
22. .. Rxb6 {-0.17/18 10} 23. Kh2 {-0.05/18 10 Yay, I saved the pawn!, I
thought at the moment... by doing so I have missed every opportunity and
reached equality with Black.} c5 {-0.38/17 10} 24. Rd5 {-0.15/17 10} Bb7
{+0.14/18 10} 25. Rxc5 {-0.17/19 10} Bxe4 {-0.07/18 10} 26. Nd2 {+0.09/19
10} Bd3 {-0.11/18 10} 27. Re1 {-0.04/17 10 the computer advises to take the
soon to be open c file. I miss that, too. Little did I know what incredible
edge it would give me at the end. Goooo, luck!} b4 {0.00/16 10} 28. Re3
{-0.07/16 10} Bc2 {+0.13/16 10 again, I decided to play aggressively. If I
could exchange the rooks, I would have a powerful passed pawn.} 29. Rb5
{-0.41/18 10} Rd6 {+0.45/19 10} 30. Ne4 {-1.51/16 10} Bxe4 {+1.64/17 10}
31. Rxe4 {-1.55/19 10} b3 {+1.62/17 10} 32. Bb1 {-2.36/16 10 my light
bishop is trapped. All one has to do is move the rook on d1.} Rd2 {+0.83/19
10 fortunately Black misses it.} 33. c5 {-2.11/17 10 and I ignore that f2
is undefended and, more, it would place me in check.} Rxf2+ {+2.10/19 10}
34. Kg1 {-2.13/20 10} Rxb2 {+2.19/20 10} 35. Re1 {-2.24/19 10 the situation
is dire. Black has 2 pawns ahead and if he sees that I attacked his knight
with the bishop while defending it with the rook, I am a goner.} Ne7
{+2.36/18 10} 36. Rb4 {-2.40/18 10} Nc6 {+1.73/15 10} 37. Rxa4 {-2.18/16
10} Nd4 {0.00/18 10 He saw the knight being attacked, but didn't notice the
pawn on e5 is pinned. It is not all lost for Black, since after a few
exchanges we reach equality. But check out the next moves!} 38. Rxd4
{+0.03/19 10} exd4 {-M1/69 10} (38. .. Rxb1 39. Rxb1 exd4 40. Rxb3
{complete equality and probably a loss for me, as I don't know much about
endgames.}) 39. Rxe8# {Yup. Mate. Neither of us has seen it. When I took
the rook I thought he resigned, as the game ended so suddenly. But no, it
was an accidental mate. How embarrassing.} 1-0

I was not going to write a chess post so soon, as I haven't really been playing lately and it might give the impression that I am either a good player or that I lost interest in other areas, like software developing. (I assure you, I did not, as I still waste spend most of my time at work, coding).

However, this opening seems a natural continuation of my previous post on the Sicilian Wing Gambit. There the b pawn was moved to b4 to counteract Black's attempt to control the center with c5. In the Polish opening, White starts directly with b4, denying Black moves like c5 and even hindering the development of their queen side knight.

The Polish, Sokolsky or Orangutan opening has been successfully used by international master Alexey Sokolsky, hence the name. He was not Polish though :) and I don't even care why someone would name a chess opening from an ugly orange ape (the video below explains it, though).

I will attempt to use several resources in this post. First, a PGN of the opening as a statistic of chess games played starting with b4.

1. b4 e5
(1... d5 2. Bb2 Nf6 3. e3 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. a3 {This line ignores the White pawn on b4 and develops normally.}
(5. b5 {Moving the b pawn forward hinders the development of the queen's knight. Black is forced to either challenge the pawn, easily defended by the a and c pawns, as well as the bishop and knight, or develop their knight to d7.})
)
(1... Nf6 2. Bb2 e6 3. b5 {With White's pawn on b5 and Black's on d7, the knight on b8 is effectively out of the game.} d5 4. e3 c5 {Taking en passant would be a mistake, as it would free White's knight.}
(4... Be7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. c4 c6 {White has a thematic move: c4, with Black forced to protect the d5 pawn and lose avenues for development.})
5. bxc6
(5. c4 {Now it would be Black's turn to blunder in taking the c pawn and helping the White bishop develop while losing a center pawn. Black is not looking good with most their pieces having reduced mobility.} Be7
(5... Nbd7)
(5... b6)
)
5... Nxc6 {At this point Black is looking good, controlling the center and having more minor pieces developed.})
2. Bb2 d6
(2... Bxb4 3. Bxe5 Nf6 4. Nf3 O-O 5. e3 {The other common continuation. Black takes the pawn on b4, but loses a center pawn. At the same time Black develops a piece while forcing White to move twice - and later three times, maybe - the strong fianchettoed bishop.})
(2... f6 {Protecting the e pawn and blocking the White bishop's attack diagonal might look good, but it is robbing the Black night of its natural development square and weakening g6.} 3. b5 d5 4. e3 Be6 {Here Black has control of the center with a strong pawn structure, but can they hold it? The knights can only be developed on awkward 7th rank squares, the bishops have to wait for them and the queen has nowhere to go. The computer gives a complete equality between sides, but is it?})
3. e3
(3. c4 Nf6 {Transposing to the English opening} 4. e3 Be7)
(3. b5 {The natural continuation of b4, blocking the Black knight.} Nf6 4. e3 Be7 {Again, an awkward position for Black: everybody has to wait for the knight on b8.})
(3. e4 Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bc4 O-O {Two bishops aimes straight at Black's king.})
3... Nf6 4. c4
(4. Nf3 Be7 5. Be2 O-O 6. O-O {Another variation similar to many before.})
4... Be7 {Consider this the main line, yet with less than 100 games played in this move order.} *


What we can see is two major thematic moves for White: b4-b5, blocking the development of the Black knight. The other is c4, protecting b5 and challenging d5. If Black takes (d5xc4), it loses a center pawn and helps develop White's light bishop. Also, after b4 and the dark bishop fianchetto, a common White move is e3, helping in completely domineering the center dark squares.

As Black, one can observe a tendency to go for the light squares. If White's pawn reaches b5, the only real square where the Black queen knight can develop is d7. That means that the d pawn cannot depend on the protection of the queen all the time and the light bishop will have to develop first or remain blocked by the knight. In the last game in this post, for example, one can notice Black immediately sacrificing the light squared bishop for White's king knight, relieving some of the pressure on Black's king side and giving freedom for pawns to occupy e6 of even f5.

A second resource is some real life games:
Sokolsky - Byvshev - 1951
[Event "URS-ch sf"]
[Site "Lvov"]
[Date "1951.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Sokolsky, Alexey"]
[Black "Byvshev, Vasily Mikhailovich"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[PlyCount "75"]
[EventDate "1951.??.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "19"]
[EventCountry "URS"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1998.11.10"]

1. b4 Nf6 2. Bb2 e6 3. b5 d5 4. e3 a6 5. a4 Nbd7 6. Nf3 Bd6 7. c4 c5 8. d3 O-O
9. Nbd2 b6 10. Be2 Bb7 11. O-O Qc7 12. h3 Rfe8 13. Rc1 axb5 14. axb5 Ra2 15.
Qb3 Rea8 16. Nb1 Qd8 17. Rfd1 R2a4 18. Nc3 R4a5 19. d4 Bb8 20. cxd5 exd5 21.
dxc5 bxc5 22. Nxd5 Nxd5 23. Rxd5 Bxd5 24. Qxd5 Qe7 25. Rd1 Nf8 26. Bc4 R8a7 27.
Ne5 Bxe5 28. Bxe5 Ra4 29. Bd6 Qe6 30. b6 Rd7 31. b7 Rb4 32. Qxc5 Rxd6 33. Rxd6
Rb1+ 34. Kh2 Qe7 35. Bd5 g6 36. f4 Kg7 37. Qd4+ Kh6 38. Rb6 1-0


A more recent game, Kutuzov (2277) - Burkmakin (2571) - 2004. Kutuzon wins with the Polish.
[Event "RUS-chT2"]
[Site "Sochi"]
[Date "2004.04.28"]
[Round "9.1"]
[White "Kutuzov, Denis"]
[Black "Burmakin, Vladimir"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "2277"]
[BlackElo "2571"]
[PlyCount "87"]
[EventDate "2004.04.20"]
[EventType "team"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2004.07.06"]
[WhiteTeam "13"]
[BlackTeam "02"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "RUS"]
[BlackTeamCountry "RUS"]

1. b4 e6 2. Bb2 Nf6 3. a3 d5 4. e3 Bd6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. c4 c6 7. Be2 e5 8. cxd5
cxd5 9. O-O O-O 10. Nc3 a6 11. Qb3 Nb6 12. Na4 Nc4 13. Bc3 b5 14. Nc5 e4 15.
Nd4 Qc7 16. h3 Re8 17. a4 Bxc5 18. bxc5 bxa4 19. Rxa4 Nd7 20. Bb4 Rb8 21. Qc3
Nde5 22. f4 exf3 23. Nxf3 Nxf3+ 24. Bxf3 Bb7 25. Qd4 Rbd8 26. Bc3 f6 27. Rb1
Ne5 28. Bh5 Nc6 29. Ba5 Qe7 30. Bxd8 Rxd8 31. Qb2 Bc8 32. Qb6 Ne5 33. c6 Nc4
34. Qd4 Qc7 35. Rc1 Rd6 36. Bf3 Kf8 37. Qc5 Nxd2 38. Bxd5 Qe7 39. Kh1 f5 40.
Rd4 Ne4 41. Bxe4 Rxd4 42. Qxd4 fxe4 43. Rf1+ Ke8 44. Rf4 1-0


We must have a loss. Meijers (2507) - Naiditsch (2641) - 2005.
[Event "BL2-Ost 0506"]
[Site "Germany"]
[Date "2005.10.23"]
[Round "1.1"]
[White "Meijers, Viesturs"]
[Black "Naiditsch, Arkadij"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "2507"]
[BlackElo "2641"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "2005.10.23"]
[EventType "team-tourn"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "GER"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2006.11.23"]
[WhiteTeam "Nickelhuette"]
[BlackTeam "Bindlach"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "GER"]
[BlackTeamCountry "GER"]

1. b4 c6 2. e3 Nf6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Bb2 Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Qxf3 Nbd7 7. a4 e5 8. b5
Bd6 9. g4 O-O 10. Be2 Ne4 11. Qg2 Bb4 12. Bd3 Nd6 13. O-O e4 14. Be2 Qe7 15. f4
exf3 16. Bxf3 Nc4 17. Bd4 Nde5 18. d3 c5 19. Bxe5 Qxe5 20. dxc4 Qxa1 21. Bxd5
Qe5 22. e4 Rad8 23. g5 Ba5 24. h4 Kh8 25. Rf5 Qd4+ 26. Kh1 g6 27. Rf1 f5 28.
gxf6 Rxf6 29. c3 Bxc3 30. Nxc3 Qxc3 31. Bxb7 Rdf8 32. Rxf6 Rxf6 33. Kh2 Qd4 34.
Qg3 0-1


Note that even if I have a huge database at my disposal, most of them are not annotated at all (like these three). There is a lot of chess knowledge out there that just waits to be analysed, digitized and shared. Help me out if you can!


In this game Black quickly realizes the light bishop is going to be hindered by the queen side knight and trades it off immediately, then develops the knight to d7 while the d pawn is protected by a pawn chain.

And the final resource, a video from YangsterNo9, who, despite the gangish nickname, has some decent chess videos. This one has some annoying sound clicks on it, but it is one of the few embeddable videos on the Polish I could find on short notice. In this video, Yangster is explaining how one should play against the Polish, from Black's perspective.


As a conclusion, I liked this opening. It is uncommon for a reason, as it is rather slow and risky. White has the advantage of the first move, they should not waste it on side pawns. However it does seem more manageable than the Sicilian Wing Gambit and can easily transpose in the English opening, which I haven't played, but is in heavy use. What I did't like at either this or the wing gambit is a lack of traps. There probably are a few, but I would have to find them myself. I hope you liked it, too.

Please let me know which formula for a chess blog post you like more. I've tried several and I will continue to try in the future, but I would like some feedback from people who read about chess on my blog. Thanks!

Update October 2014:
Sergio Zaina, from Brazil, sent me this trap in the Polish:
1.b4 c6 2.Bb2 Qb6 3.a3 a5 4.c4 axb4 5.c5 Qxc5 6.axb4 1-0

Sometimes, in the subway or when I get a little bored I take out my trusty cellphone and play a little game of chess. The games are not spectacular or even smart, but I feel I learn a lot by the subsequent (and a lot longer) computer analysis of the game. Without further delay, here is one of them:
1. b4 {The Polish opening. I plan on doing a post about it, I find it interesting and deliciously unappreciated} c6 2. d4 e6 3. c3 d5 4. Bf4 a5 5. a3 (5. b5 {The chess engine suggested this move sequence} cxb5 6. e3 Bd7 7. Bd3 b4 8. Nf3 Nf6 9. O-O Be7) 5. .. axb4 6. cxb4 (6. Bxb8 {computer suggested} Rxb8 7. axb4) 6. .. Nf6 (6. .. Bxb4+ {When I played the game, I wondered why Black didn't move like this. Apparently it was a better move.} 7. Bd2 Bd6 8. Nc3) 7. Nd2 Bd6 8. Bg3 O-O 9. e3 Qc7 10. f4 {The computer keeps nagging about developing pieces, but I moved the pawn} Re8 11. Bd3 Qb6 12. Ngf3 Nbd7 13. O-O Nf8 14. h3 Ng6 15. Ng5 h6 16. Ngf3 Nh5 17. Bf2 Ne7 18. Ng5 {Computer says this achieves equality, over its solution of 0.2, however it seemed a good idea to exchange knights and ruin Black's pawn structure.} Nxf4 {Ill advised by
the computer, Black accepts the exchange.} 19. Bh7+ (19. Nxf7 Kxf7 20. exf4
Kg8 21. g3 {I didn't like the computer suggestion: giving Black a semiopen
file and blocking my own rook.}) 19. .. Kf8 20. exf4 hxg5 (20. .. g6
{interesting suggestion by the computer: trap the bishop instead of taking
the knight.} 21. Ngf3 Kg7 22. Bxg6 Nxg6 {But I also did not enjoy the
resulting position}) 21. fxg5 (21. Qh5 {Computer suggested this,
considering my own move a blunder that would have lost 1 point.} Bxf4 22.
Nf3 Ng8 23. Nxg5 Bxg5 24. Qxg5 Qd8 25. Qc1) 21. .. Bf4 (21. .. g6 22. Qf3
Nf5 23. g4 Kg7 24. Bxg6 fxg6 25. h4 (25. gxf5 exf5 26. Nb3 Qd8 27. Qg2
{With all my pieces harrassed away and uncoordinated, the computer sees an
advantage of 3 for Black, even if material is the same.}) 25. .. Qc7 (25.
.. Nxd4 {This would have been an incredible blunder, leading to a quick
mate} 26. Qf6+ Kh7 27. Qf7+ Kh8 28. Qxe8+ Kh7 29. h5 Ne2+ 30. Kh1 Qxf2 31.
Rxf2 Ng3+ 32. Kh2 Nf5+ 33. Kh1 Kg7 34. gxf5 Bf8 35. hxg6 Ra5 36. Qf7+ Kh8
37. Qxf8#) 26. Rac1 Bd7 27. gxf5 exf5 {Strange suggestions from the
computer. Look at the variations to understand why!}) 22. Bh4 {I blundered!
Didn't see that d4 would be undefended and resulting in check. Advantage
for Black: 1.5.} Qxd4+ 23. Rf2 {Another blunder: +7 for Black!} (23. Bf2
Be3 (23. .. Qxd2 {Taking with the Queen seems to win a quick free knight,
but moved ahead show it to be otherwise} 24. Qh5 Nf5 25. Rad1 Qb2 26. Bxf5
exf5 27. Rde1 Be6 28. Bc5+ Kg8 29. Rxf4) 24. Qe1 Bxf2+ 25. Rxf2 g6 {Again
the thematic g6}) 23. .. Bxd2 24. Qxd2 Qxa1+ 25. Rf1 Qxa3 26. Qf4 f5 {It's
Black's turn to make a mistake. From 7 advantage to -4 in a single move.}
(26. .. Nf5 27. Qc7 g6 28. Rxf5 (28. Bf2 e5 29. Bxg6 fxg6 30. Qh7 d4 31.
Qxg6 Qa2 32. Qh5) 28. .. gxf5 29. Kh2 Bd7 30. g6 (30. Qxd7 Qxb4 31. g6 fxg6
32. Bg3 Re7 33. Qd6 (33. Bd6 Qf4+ 34. Kg1 (34. Bxf4 Rxd7) 34. .. Ra1#) 33.
.. Qxd6 34. Bxd6 g5 35. Bg6 d4 36. Kg3 b6 37. h4 gxh4+ 38. Kf4 c5 {White
can't stop a promotion.}) 30. .. Qxb4 31. Bg5 Qc3 32. gxf7 Qg7 33. Qd6+
(33. fxe8=Q+ Kxe8 34. Bd2 Qxh7) 33. .. Kxf7 34. Qxd7+ Kf8 35. Qd6+ Re7 36.
Bg6 c5 37. h4 c4 38. h5 c3 39. Qc5 Qe5+ 40. Kh3 Qc7 41. Qd4 e5 42. Bh6+ Kg8
43. Qxd5+ Rf7 44. Kh2 {And the dance goes on. What happened? Again, see the
variations for the most obvious moves. Black has 9.3 points ahead at this
moment.}) 27. gxf6 Nf5 28. fxg7+ Kxg7 29. Bxf5 {Oops! Equality again. The
mistakes of both players balance perfectly} (29. Qc7+ {This would have been
the best course of action} Bd7 30. Bxf5 Qe3+ 31. Kh2 exf5 32. Qxd7+ Kh6 33.
Rxf5 Rg8 34. Rh5+ Kxh5 35. Qh7+ Qh6 36. g4+ Kxh4 37. Qxh6#) 29. .. exf5 30.
Qg5+ Kh8 {Equality would have been preserved if the king would have moved
Kf8. As such, defeat is unavoidable.} (30. .. Kf8 31. Qf6+ Kg8 32. Qg6+ Kf8
33. Bf6 Qe3+ 34. Kh2 Re7 35. Rf3 Qe6 36. Rg3 Ra2 37. Qh6+ Ke8 38. Qh8+ Kd7
39. Bxe7 Kxe7 40. Rg7+ Kd6 41. Qd8+ Ke5 42. Re7 d4 43. Rxe6+ Bxe6 {And this
is again complete equality.}) 31. Qh6+ {Instead, I almost equalize AGAIN!}
(31. Qh5+ Kg7 32. Qxe8 Qb2 33. Qe7+ Kg6 34. Rf3 Ra3 35. Qd6+ Kf7 36. Qc7+
Kg6 37. Qxc8 Rxf3 38. Qg8+ Qg7 39. Qxg7+ Kxg7 40. gxf3 Kf7 {The computer
version leads to a long endgame, but the advantage is clearly White's.})
31. .. Kg8 32. Qg6+ Kf8 33. Bf6 {and I allow Black to get into the Kf8
variation described above, only instead of Qe3, they do a Qa7, which seals
Black's fate.} Qa7+ 34. Kh1 Qg1+ 35. Rxg1 Re7 {Black's rook, undefended by
the Queen, is only delaying the inevitable. Of course, my ineptitude delays
it even more, so see the computer variation for a short ending.} 36. Bxe7+
(36. Qh5 d4 37. Qh8+ Kf7 38. Qg7+ Ke6 39. Qxe7+ Kd5 40. Rc1 Be6 41. Qc5+
Ke4 42. Qxd4#) 36. .. Kxe7 37. Re1+ Kd8 38. Qf7 Bd7 39. Qf8+ Kc7 40. Qxa8
c5 41. bxc5 f4 42. Re7 f3 43. gxf3 Kc6 44. Qa4+ b5 45. Qa6+ Kxc5 46. Rxd7
b4 47. Qd6+ Kc4 48. Qxd5+ Kc3 49. Qd4+ Kb3 50. Rb7 Kc2 51. Rxb4 Kc1 52.
Qb2+ Kd1 53. Ra4 Ke1 54. Ra1# *



Update April 2016: Here is the same game on the Lichess server, complete with computer analysis and human readable mistakes and blunders.

A wing gambit is a way for one of the players in a game of chess to sacrifice a pawn on the b or g files in order to deflect defenders of the center. Like all gambits, it is an aggressive attempt to gain position by sacrificing material, in this case, an attempt to control the center of the board. Today I want to talk about a gambit that occurred to me while I was thinking of a way to play against the Sicilian Defence. It involves moving a pawn to b4 to counteract the Black move c5, which is also, in a way, a sort of wing attack. I liked the concept: you outflank the opponent. Looking in the chess database, this is called the Sicilian Wing Gambit.

The first thing to notice is that the b pawn is irremediably lost. Declining the gambit brings no advantages to Black whatsoever, so they must take. After c5xb4, you have lost a pawn and also blocked the c3 square, the traditional best starting point of the queen's knight. So, as white, you have moved two pawns, lost one and also the best square for one of the minor pieces, while developing none. It doesn't look good and, for that reason, this gambit has been scorned in the past as unprincipled. It has made a comeback, though. It is not something you should expect to see at world chess championships, but it is good for blitz games and for throwing your opponent off track.

Even if White appears to have lost time, material and positional advantage, there is no clear way for Black to punish them. We will examine some of the options that Black has and where they led in various database and computer simulated games. The next move of White's is a3, attacking the pawn and preparing to open the a file. Another option of White's is to immediately challenge the center with d4. We will examine both options, as well as some rare variations (of such a rare gambit), like Nf3. So here is the PGN file I've compiled. Move carefully through all variations and read the comments. It might intrigue you enough that you would adopt the Sicilian Wing Gambit as a permanent part of your chess repertoire:
1. e4 c5 2. b4 {challenges c5 in order to deflect it from d4} cxb4
(2... b6 3. bxc5
(3. Bc4 {White is not forced to take.} e6)
(3. Nf3 {A normal development plan can be attempted while deciding what to do on c5} Bb7)
(3. b5 {Or even push the pawn forward, blocking the b knight and the rook for a while} Bb7
(3... a6 {although I don't particularly like the possibilities after a6.})
4. Nc3 e6 5. Nf3 Nf6)
3... bxc5 {Here Black declined the gambit and maintained a pawn on c4.} 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Rb1 {But White gets first to control the open b file.} g6 6. g3 Bg7 7. Bg2 Ba6 {Black has tried to revert to their original Sicilian plan, but some parts are clearly different because of the lack of the b pawns})
3. a3
(3. d4 {White might want to move for the center immediately} d5 4. e5 {But here the engines give almost one full pawn to black}
(4. exd5 Qxd5 {while here the Black queen is safe from harassment because the b4 pawn is still there.})
4... Nc6)
(3. Nf3 {This is the line suggested by a chess engine. I'll follow it through a little more.} Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. a3 d6 6. Bc4 dxe5 7. Nxe5 e6 8. axb4 Bxb4 9. Bb2 O-O 10. O-O Qg5 11. Re1 Nc6 12. Qf3 Bd6 {No humans have played a game like this. From here the engine mercilessly simplifies the situation.} 13. Nxc6 bxc6 14. g3 Qf5 15. Qxf5 exf5 16. Bxd5 cxd5 17. Ba3 Bxa3 18. Rxa3 {Black has managed to control the center, even if the White rooks are really active.} Be6 19. Ra5 d4 20. Na3 Rfc8 21. d3 {At this point I ended the simulation. Clearly White has failed to control the center and gained only limited mobility. Black has an extra doubled pawn and the game will probably draw.})
(3. c4 {Santasiere variation: an even more gambity move, baiting b4xc3 followed by Nc3 and gaining development and center control. The few games that played like this did not finish well for White, though.} bxc3 4. Nxc3 g6 5. Bc4 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. O-O Nf6 8. e5 Ng4 9. d4 O-O 10. h3 Nh6 11. Bf4 d6 12. Qe2 Nf5 13. Rfd1 Qa5 14. Rac1 e6 {This is an entire game that ended in an agreed draw - Rainer-Guenter 1995})
3... bxa3
(3... d5 4. exd5 {this is the main move}
(4. f3 e5 {A single game with this situation. White has delayed too much piece development and pushing of the d pawn. Black won.})
(4. e5 {But this is met more and more in Blitz games.} Nc6 5. d4 Bf5
(5... Qb6 6. Be3 Bf5 7. Bd3 Bxd3 8. Qxd3 e6 {This is the recommendation in the video, with Black having a better game.} 9. Ne2 Nge7 10. O-O Nf5 11. axb4 Bxb4 12. c3 Be7 13. Nd2 O-O 14. Nf4 Rfd8 15. g4 Nxe3 16. Qxe3 {Black is better with the a and b passed pawns.})
6. axb4 Nxb4 7. Bb5+
(7. Na3 e6 8. c3 Nc6 {This is the situation covered in the video, Black has extra development, but difficulty in continuing it. White eyes b5 and has everything wide open.})
7... Bd7)
4... Qxd5
(4... Nf6 5. axb4 Nxd5 6. Nf3 Nxb4 7. d4 Bf5 8. Na3 e6)
5. Nf3 {Marshall variation}
(5. Bb2 {Marienbad variation} e5 6. axb4)
5... e5 6. axb4
(6. Bb2 Nc6 7. c4 {en passant would be a bad move, due to Nc3} Qe6 8. Bd3 Nf6 9. O-O Bd6 10. Re1 O-O 11. axb4 Nxb4 12. Bf1 e4 13. d3 Qd7 14. dxe4 Bc5 15. Bxf6 Qxd1 16. Rxd1 gxf6 {Another variation from the video, stopped here as it didn't look very promising for Black.})
6... Bxb4 {White's plan backfired. Instead of a strong center and fast development, Black has the center and a strong center queen. The engines, however, show a mere 0.2pawns in advantage for Black.})
(3... e6 4. axb4 Bxb4 5. c3 Be7 {Another win for Black: a silly dark bishop, a blocked knight, but White keeps control over part of the center and controls one open semifile.})
(3... Qa5 {A possible annoying move} 4. Bb2 {But this solves most of the issues.} Nc6 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 {Yet not all. The d pawn is effectively pinned.})
(3... Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. axb4 Nxb4 6. c3 N4c6 7. d4 {Black has a knight out, but White has a monster pawn chain, an open semi file and a lot of open avenues. Black will attempt to control the light squares, while White will be busy trying to achieve some sort of king safety.})
4. Nxa3 {A knight on the rim is dim, but here it prepares to go to b5, where it would force the queen to defend c7 and threaten a7} d6 5. d4 {Black wanted to stop White from having a two pawn center. Instead, even a three pawn center is possible.} Nf6 6. Bd3 {this seems to be the mainline, but even so, there are only 43 games starting like this in my game database} Nc6 {From here, engines and database, all three games, show equality between players.} *


Take notice that I am still a beginner in chess and my analysis is based on what I've compiled from the database of chess games and a video. Here is a video and the PGN of a game that played along the main line in my analysis (Vladimir Grabinsky 2361 - Albert Lyubimtsev 2148, from 2003) where White won.



1. e4 c5 2. b4 cxb4 3. a3 bxa3 4. Nxa3 d6 5. d4 Nf6 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. c3 g6 8. Ne2 Bg7 9. O-O O-O 10. f4 Ne8 11. Kh1 Nc7 12. Qe1 a6 13. f5 b5 14. Nc2 Bd7 15. Qh4 Ne8 16. Rf3 e6 17. Qg3 {White missed an opportunity here, according to the chess engine.}
(17. Bg5 f6 18. Rh3 fxg5 19. Qxh7+ Kf7 20. Qxg6+ Ke7 21. Qxg5+ Rf6 22. Nf4 exf5 23. Re1 Kf8 24. exf5 Rh6 25. Rxe8+ Bxe8
(25. .. Qxe8 {This would have been a blunder leading to massive material loss and/or mate in about 15 moves.})
26. Qxh6 Bxh6 27. Ne6+ Ke7 28. Nxd8 Nxd8 29. Rxh6 {A much simplified position, where White has two extra pawns and Black has an exposed king.})
17. .. e5 18. Be3 Bf6 19. Raf1 Ng7 20. Bh6 {This move maintains both sides to a near equality, with a slight advantage for White.}
(20. d5 {The computer sees this option, which wins almost a pawn immediately and locks the king side from the defence of Black's pieces} Bh4 21. Qh3 Nb8 22. g4 Ne8 23. Bh6 g5 24. f6 b4 25. Ne3 a5 26. cxb4 Qc8 27. bxa5 Na6 28. Ng3 Qc5 29. Ngf5 Ra7 30. Ne7+ Kh8 31. Bxf8 h5 32. Bh6 Qxe3 33. Rxe3 Bxg4 34. Qg2 Kh7 35. Bxg5 Rxe7
(35. .. Bxg5 36. Rh3 Nxf6
(36. .. Bxh3 37. Qxg5 Bg2+ 38. Qxg2 Nxf6 39. Rxf6 Rxe7 40. Qg5 Re6 41. dxe6 fxe6 42. Rh6#)
37. Rxf6 Kg7
(37. .. Bxf6 38. Qxg4 h4 39. Qg8+ Kh6 40. Nf5+ Kh5 41. Be2#)
(37. .. Rxe7 38. Qxg4 Kg8 39. Qxg5+ Kf8 40. Rxh5 Ke8 41. Rxd6 f6 42. Qg8#) 38. Rxh5 Rc7 39. Qxg4 Rc1+ 40. Rf1 Rxf1+ 41. Bxf1 f5 42. Qxf5 Bxe7 43. Rh7+ Kg8 44. Qf7#)
36. Bxh4 Nac7 37. fxe7 f6 38. Be2 f5 39. Bxg4 hxg4 40. Rxf5 Ng7 41. Qxg4 Nce6 42. Rh5+ Nxh5 43. Qxh5+ Kg8 44. dxe6 d5 45. Rg3#)
20. .. Qe7 {-2.11/15 10 The engine recommends Ne3, which leads to a variation where for more than 20 moves white appears to be a minor piece ahead, only the score is positional only. Queens come off the board, too.} 21. Qf2 {+0.26/14 10 Alekhin's Gun always looks impressive. From here it goes downhill for Black.} gxf5 22. Rg3 f4 23. Nxf4 exf4 24. Qxf4 Nd8 25. e5 *


Update: I've updated the above game with some computer analysis.

It is important to understand that Black did not lose because of the wing gambit, but because of their own mistakes further on. According to the computer, both players had almost complete equality up to almost the 20th move, which does not bode well for White. Most chess engines give about 0.25 points to White for having the first move, so somewhere that advantage was lost. However, we are not computers.

For what I see in the various games that were played using this anti Sicilian opening, I see several key points where each side is trying to reach. A common theme is the pushing of the e pawn from e4 to e5, defending it with d4 and defending that (while cutting access to the White king) with c3. Other variations see a strong three pawn center for White, making a sham of Black's attempted Sicilian. Moving the e pawn prematurely, before getting rid of the Black b4 pawn seems to be a mistake, though, even if it immediately achieves the classic two pawn center. The a3 move seems to want to open up the a file for the rook, but in the simulations I've run, the rook doesn't seem to have an important role. Also to note is that the queen side knight will most likely take the Black pawn on a3, which takes it to the rim of the board and away from the center. So even if control of the center is achieved, maintaining it might become problematic. Gutsy c4 pawn push, goading Black to take it en passant, only works if Black falls for it and even so, not very well: the knight on c3 will remain undefended on a move like d4. The computers recommend Black ignoring that pawn and pushing to e5 with more than half a point advantage.

On Black's side, it appears as there are several strategies as well. Defending with b6 declines the gambit and leads to something similar to the original Sicilian, regardless of the desired flavour of it. Even if White is pushing the pawn to b5 and hinders the development of the Black queen side knight. While the Black pawn is still on b4, attempts to break out the center, like the Scandinavian looking d5 work better, as an exchange on that square can end with a comfortable Black queen on d5 without the threat of Nc3. In general, taking the pawn on a3 seems to be a mistake, as White will only aid in the dark bishop's development if they take and the Black pawn on b4 can be defended in multiple ways further on, invalidating the gambit. A possible annoying move for White is moving the Queen to a5 and the recommendation of the guy in the video is to move it on b6, an intriguing strategy that seems to break the opening principle of not bringing the queen out too soon. Moving the e pawn at least to e6 seems to bring benefits as well.

Even if the Sicilian Wing Gambit is not very common and thus not analysed in depth so much, it doesn't mean it can't be a useful tool. I know that most chess opening videos have more to offer than what I posted above, but given the rarity of the gambit, it only makes sense to have less information on it, no tested traps, etc. If you play this opening, please let me know. I could update this post with your real life experience playing it.

Update: I've found a page where GM Roman Dzindzichashvili considers the Wing Gambit in the Sicilian a reason to seek psychiatric help :) Here is the link.
Also, I have updated the PGN with the official names for some of the variations of the gambit.

Update 8 March 2016: I've revisited this gambit with more research and computer analysis, check it out: Sicilian Wing Gambit - Revisited

In a previous post I've written about my thoughts on how to learn chess, with the main emphasis being on game analysis. But how that is done is a matter of time, taste and budget. This post is about how I do it. I don't know how other people are analysing chess games, except from hearing them talk about it, so I am not an authority in the matter, but it will save you some time figuring it out for yourself (which you still have to do even if you read the post :) ).

The easiest way of all is to get a game in PGN form, load it in a chess program, then watch it unfold, while you think about what you would have done differently and highlight what you thought was a good move and a bad move. Of course, that relies on your own thinking, which may be flawed, so you can gain help from a chess engine that will analyse the variations and tell you what it thinks of what you thought. It sounds complicated, but it is not. You ask yourself why the player didn't fork the queen and the rook with the knight, you can do it for them (creating what is called a variation). While you are moving the pieces, a chess engine can suggest, based on the time you let it analyse, what is the best move in that situation.

For this I use Arena Chess GUI, a free chess program, and load up the free chess engine versions of Houdini and Rybka. Arena comes with more engines, so you can try them all, but really it's a matter of taste. I once did a championship of chess with the chess engines available in order to see which is best, but there is no real way of giving both chess engines the same computer resources, so the programming style of each engine makes this only a fun comparison, not a scientific one. There are videos on YouTube with competitions of chess engines; those are fun in their own right. Unfortunately, Arena is not really bug free. There are a few gotchas that you learn the hard way, like don't use the Minimize to tray option if you have the default "load PGN at startup" on, or don't use "save back into PGN", etc.

Of course, most chess engines have a free version and a commercial one. Depending on your seriousness, you can choose to pay money for them and get the advantages of new development in chess computing, but don't expect too much. After all, a computer engine only takes a formula that gives a value for a position and then makes a tree of possible move orders in order to minimize their opponent's advantage and maximize theirs. The algorithm is pretty standard and the formula, which really makes the difference between engines, is the outcome of centuries of chess analysis. The game hasn't changed that much in a few years. And exactly this difference between how humans process a game and how a computer does it, makes this analysis a little flawed. A computer will tell you where you went wrong, but won't be able to devise a winning strategy for you, as it is examining every move like it would be the first. So we move to plan B.

Another option for analysing a game, thanks to the vast database of chess games ever played, is to see what other players, human grandmasters and below, have done in the same situation. A software that was built to do this is ChessBase. And it is true that there is a gazillion of possible chess games, but they all begin kind of the same. The opening principles restrict the way a game can start and for the first 20 or 30 moves, there are a lot of players that did the same thing (and played a decent game). ChessBase is a great program, just like Chess Arena, because it allows flexibility in the way you use it without bundling it all. The program is small to download, then you get to download whatever chess engines you want, game databases, video tutorials, etc. To give you an example of size difference: ChessBase 11 is 150MB, the chess player base is 640MB, a video tutorial of chess openings in ChessBase format is 1500MB, while the MegaDatabase of chess games is 2700MB. You can imagine that there are a lot of games in that database, over five million of them. Unfortunately, ChessBase, the databases and the tutorials are not legally free. They cost around 200 euros, plus a few more for the tutorials. Not much for the effort that was put into them.

The chess blog posts that I am using to publicize games are done by using these kinds of scenarios. I am taking a game that I played with someone or with my phone, I am analysing the game so see where changes in the score have occurred (those are the interesting bits in a game) and then try out variations, using engines or databases to see what else could have been done. It is a good practice to analyse the game as soon as possible, as the ideas that led to the moves are still fresh in your mind. It may seem like a drag, but commenting why you did the moves allows you to understand the game later on, when you are revisiting it. Also a good idea is to have your chess partner do the same thing and then merge the two PGNs into one, that makes clear the overall play. A chess analysis engine will comment every move with what it thought would have been the best continuation and the value of the board at that time. It makes a PGN horrible to read, because even if you put it into a visual display of the PGN, you still want to have a clean, readable PGN file. What you want to do is analyse a single move with the engine, see were it goes, then write a humanly understandable statement like "which would have been disastrous because of the sacrifice of the rook on f8, followed by Qxf7, mate".

As examples, try to compare the following blog post PGNs. My first chess game post, was annotated automatically by ChessMaster XI, which has a human readable annotation engine which I first thought was great. But look at the texts: they are either obvious or resort to stuff like "Leads to 15...Kf7 16.Bh4 h6 17.b4 Rab8 18.a4 Bxf3 19.Qxf3 Be7 20.Ng4 Bxh4 21.Nxe5+ Kg7 22.bxc5, which wins a bishopand two pawns for a bishop and a knight.". Unless used to read PGN like English (which most professional players can, btw, complete with a chess board in their heads), you see a lot of mambo jumbo. A later game post, that contained annotated moves by me, as translated from chess engine analysis.Or this one, which contains no annotations at all. Which one do you like best?

A word of warning, analysing chess games is not a short process. The advantages of the ChessMaster XI auto analysis was that you could leave it on at night, then come back in the morning and see it unfurl before you (and audio read by the chess software). To do it manually, or even let the auto analysis run at night and then decode the best move suggested by the computer and translate, takes a lot of time. I've spent an hour per game to annotate a match (two games) that two coworkers had and that I dutifully stored on my cell phone while they were playing. It was satisfying, but time wasting. A lot like blog posting... I leave you at that. Have fun dissecting chess games.

There is, of course, a long tried method of learning chess: find a bunch of people that want to play chess and go fight with them. Like that old Army line: join the Army, meet interesting people, kill them. But also obvious is that this is not the best method there is. You meet old men that play chess every day with other old men that have a lot of time on their hands and, even if they kick your ass rather quickly, you often find ways of defeating them because all their play is organic, lacking a principled structure. And that is what this post is about. I am the least principled player out there, as I have a ridiculously leaky memory and am rather greedy (I want fun games, now, not dirty principles), and therefore I get often beaten by people that should not have been able to defeat me. And, like in the old adventure games: So, you want to be a (principled) chess player - this is the quest.

First of all, don't google "how to learn chess" as you will get swamped by all the chess players that think they can teach you for money and all the software that you need to buy and all the DVDs that you absolutely need to buy. That doesn't mean that if you are patient you wouldn't eventually find what you need and, being a wannabe chess player, you should have a little patience. But if you are like me (why do I want to play chess again?) you don't have patience. Second of all, don't start with chess books. You can find zillions of them on the web, but in order to read them you will have to become very familiar with a chess board. Unlike a video, they will require to read the book with a chess board at hand and do the moves as you read. That pretty much means you can read them only in specific settings and you will feel like an idiot for reading a page a day. Books are great, but not for beginners.

Then there are some free online resources that one can use, lovely chess sites like JRobiChess.com, theChessWebsite or ChessVideos.tv, where one can get multiple opportunities to learn: grandmaster games, videos, tutorial, references. These are great, and I thoroughly recommend them. Also, look for "chess" on YouTube and you will find a plethora of people discussing and teaching chess, some of them completely for passion alone. On JRobi's site you can even find a chess study time recommendation: Opening Study – 10%, Tactical Puzzles - 20%, Endgame Study – 10%, Analyzing Your Games – 30%,Analyzing Master Games – 30% of Time. Let's analyse this plan a little bit and some very interesting ideas will emerge.

As you can see, there is time allotted for openings, only a tenth of the time, and the same amount of time for endgames. This leads to the first very important idea: endgames are (at least) just as important as openings. If you think about it, most of the amateur games, played for fun and not for some chess rating, are spectacularly inaccurate and end in quick mates. That means that most of the "go get'em" practice will teach you about openings and some of the middle game. Once in endgame territory, we are suddenly beginners again, trying to get by and failing miserably. That's why it is important to spend time with endgames. Josh Waitzkin, a US champion at chess, recommended learning endgames even more than openings. He described how, by careful study of just a few pieces on the board (two kings and a pawn, or some other piece, the usual endgame scenarios) he would emerge slightly disadvantaged in the endgame, then crush his opponent, less instructed in this most important part of a chess game. The opening and endgame learning is only a fifth of all learning time, though. Other things are even more important.

20% tactical puzzles. This is the equivalent of learning karate moves out of context. You are not fighting anybody, but you learn to hit them in a particular way. You don't have the pressure of a game, you have all the time in the world, find the best move! Both JRobi's site and Kevin's (theChessWebsite) have daily tactical puzzles. This is actually one of the few exercises that I do almost every work day: I open their sites and do those puzzles. But let me tell you something: if you open a chess book with tactical puzzles, you get some really nasty, mind boggling stuff. These online ones, at least the two I mentioned, are made for people that if they don't immediately see the answer, they start trying moves until they get them right. I should know; that hint button also gets heavy use. So this is one of the moments when I can recommend books, but start with the online ones first and try to see them through before moving.

Now comes the heavy part. We've covered a little more than a third of the time one should spend on chess learning, according to JRobi. The other two thirds are analysing games. That is it. Take the game out of the competition and clinically dissect it until you learn everything there is to learn. A major idea comes out of this, though: if you need to analyse your own games, that means someone must record them as you play. Professional and club games have score cards: they write every move they and their opponent make, the score, even small comments (you will see what I mean when we get to PGNs) and they sign each other's cards at the end of the game. I've never done it, but I imagine it is satisfying to get your adversary to sign their own defeat while you desecrate their own card with your victory scribble (heh!). I also imagine it adds to one's motivation, getting this kind of direct recognition of your effort in the game. Another option, much easily available, is to load a chess game on your mobile phone and set it to two player game. Once you make a move, you make it on the phone as well. At the end, you download the PGN file on your computer for later analysis. With a chess engine at hand and all the time in the world you can see where mistakes were made, where good moves changed the score balance and what was missed. A spectator of the game can do that for you, as well. I originally planned to write in this blog about analysing games, but it has become too long already. I will, therefore, detail that particular part in another blog post.

Of course, analysing the games played at grandmaster level shows how other people are thinking when playing the game. It's not unlike reading material relevant to your line of work. You may be smart, but you are not expecting to think of everything that may be of use to you in a specific context. You read what other wrote on the subject and gain inspiration. And when you see a giant chess player sacrifice a queen for two knights and then mating the other guy in another ten moves, you also gain humility (or you close the bloody game and go watch a movie or something). Indeed, try not to let it get to you. Grandmasters are not geniuses that can outthink you at every step, monsters that can intellectually squash you like a bug, they are people just like you that also dedicated their lives to the game of chess. Professional chess players do it for life. Expecting to understand what they did without a lot of effort is a stupid expectation. It is important to analyse their games and learn from both their mistakes and brilliant moves.

That leaves us with the endgame of this post: computer chess tutors. That is different from playing chess with your computer or pad or cell phone. That enters the first category of just playing. Computers also play differently than people, they are great at not making mistakes and punishing yours, but their design also allows for moves that would mate you in 235 moves or something like that, which is insane for any human being. Don't get me wrong, computers are great practice, but consider that if you beat them at a certain difficulty level, it is because they were programmed to let you. With the computing power available today, a cell phone would probably be able to beat Kasparov. So, back to chess tutors. I've only found one that I liked, and that is the ChessMaster XI game. Incidentally, there is where I've learned of Josh Waitzkin, as he is the voice and mind behind the game tutorials. I've also heard a lot of Fritz, but I haven't found a context where it really tutors you. Fritz is bundled with ChessBase and there are some tutorials with board, PGN games and video that use ChessBase to teach you stuff. There are probably some ChessBase based tutorials, but I haven't searched for them yet.

So, I leave you with this little research I've done, I hope it helps you get better and encourages me to heed my own advice.

I found this game on The Kenilworthian blog, a game between Nona Gaprindashvili and Alexander Blagidze. What fascinated me about this particular game is the position after 12... Nc6. Only twelve moves into the game, a position that seems normal, like something one would see when studying a particular opening, and then Bam! Can you see the bam? That is the challenge. Try to find it yourself.

I've analysed the game (very superficially) using Houdini and I've added two variations, just to see what would have happened in the more obvious situations. One question remains: what was really black's downfall? What was black's bad move and what could have been done instead of it? You can see it in the analysed PGN, but try to see it, it's a deceptively silent move.

[Event "USSR"]
[Site "USSR"]
[Date "1963.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Nona Gaprindashvili"]
[Black "Alexander Blagidze"]
[Result "1-0"]
[BlackElo "2400"]
[ECO "B23"]
[Opening "Sicilian"]
[Variation "Closed, 2...Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4"]
[WhiteElo "2400"]
[TimeControl "600"]
[Termination "normal"]
[PlyCount "47"]
[WhiteType "human"]
[BlackType "human"]

1. e4 {(e7-e5) +0.10/16 20}
...c5 {(Ng1-f3 Nb8-c6 Nb1-c3 Ng8-f6 d2-d4 c5xd4 Nf3xd4 e7-e6 Bf1-e2 Bf8-b4 Nd4xc6 b7xc6 0-0 Qd8-a5 Qd1-d3 0-0 Bc1-e3 Bc8-b7 Be3-d4 e6-e5) -0.20/16 20}
2. Nc3 {(Nb8-c6 Ng1-f3 Ng8-f6 d2-d4 c5xd4 Nf3xd4 e7-e6 Bf1-e2 Bf8-b4 Nd4xc6 b7xc6 0-0 Qd8-a5 Qd1-d3 0-0 Bc1-e3 Bc8-b7 Ra1-d1 Bb4xc3 Qd3xc3 Qa5xc3 b2xc3 Nf6xe4 Rd1xd7 Ne4xc3) +0.22/17 20}
...Nc6 {(Ng1-f3 Ng8-f6 d2-d4 c5xd4 Nf3xd4 e7-e6 Bf1-e2 Bf8-b4 Nd4xc6 b7xc6 0-0 Qd8-a5 Qd1-d3 0-0 Bc1-e3 d7-d6 Qd3-c4 d6-d5 Qc4xc6 Bc8-d7 Qc6-b7 Bb4xc3 b2xc3 d5xe4) -0.19/16 20}
3. f4 {(d7-d6 Ng1-f3 g7-g6 Bf1-c4 Ng8-f6 d2-d3 Bf8-g7 h2-h3 0-0 0-0 a7-a6 a2-a4 Nf6-h5 Nc3-e2 e7-e6 c2-c3 Bc8-d7 Bc1-e3) 0.00/15 20}
...g6 {(g2-g4 Bf8-g7 g4-g5 a7-a6 Ng1-f3 b7-b5 d2-d3 h7-h6 a2-a4 b5-b4 Nc3-d5 h6xg5 f4xg5 e7-e6 Nd5-e3 Ng8-e7 Ne3-c4) 0.00/15 20}
4. Bb5 {(Nc6-d4 Ng1-f3 Nd4xb5 Nc3xb5 d7-d6 0-0 Bc8-d7 c2-c4 Bd7xb5 c4xb5 Qd8-b6 d2-d4 c5xd4 Qd1xd4 Qb6xd4+ Nf3xd4 Ng8-f6 e4-e5 Nf6-e4 Bc1-e3) -0.02/14 20}
...Nd4 {(Ng1-f3 Nd4xb5) +0.08/14 20}
5. Bc4 {(a7-a6 a2-a4 e7-e6 Ng1-f3 Ng8-e7 e4-e5 d7-d5 e5xd6/ep Ne7-f5 0-0 Nf5xd6 d2-d3 Bf8-g7 Nc3-e4 0-0 Bc1-e3 Nd6xc4 d3xc4 Nd4xf3+ Qd1xf3 Bg7xb2 Be3xc5 Bb2xa1 Bc5xf8) 0.00/14 20}
...Bg7 {(Ng1-f3 d7-d6 0-0 Ng8-f6 e4-e5 d6xe5 f4xe5 Nd4xf3+ Qd1xf3 Qd8-d4+ Qf3-e3 Nf6-g4 Qe3xd4 c5xd4 Bc4xf7+ Ke8-d8 Nc3-e4 Bg7xe5 h2-h3 Ng4-h2 Rf1-e1 Rh8-f8 Ne4-g5 Be5-g3) -0.05/15 20}
6. Nge2 {(d7-d6 0-0) -0.05/13 20}
...e6 {(b2-b3 a7-a6 e4-e5 d7-d5 Bc4-d3 Nd4xe2 Bd3xe2 Ng8-e7 Bc1-b2 Bc8-d7 h2-h4 Ne7-f5 h4-h5 Nf5-g3 Rh1-h3 Ng3xe2 Qd1xe2) +0.01/14 20}
7. Nxd4 {(c5xd4 Nc3-e2 d7-d6 b2-b3 Ng8-f6 Bc4-d3 Bc8-d7 Bc1-a3 Qd8-b6 h2-h3 Bd7-c6 Ne2-g3 0-0 Ba3xd6 Rf8-d8 Bd6-e7 Rd8-d7) -0.09/15 20}
...cxd4 {(Nc3-e2 d7-d6 b2-b3 Ng8-f6 Bc4-d3 Bc8-d7 Bc1-a3 Qd8-b6 h2-h3 Bd7-c6 Ne2-g3 0-0 Ba3xd6 Rf8-d8 Bd6-e7 Rd8-d7) +0.09/16 20}
8. Ne2 {(d7-d6 b2-b3 Ng8-f6 Ne2-g3 h7-h5 Bc4-d3 h5-h4 Ng3-e2 Bc8-d7 Bc1-b2 e6-e5 0-0 Bd7-c6 c2-c3 Bc6xe4 Bd3-b5+ Ke8-f8 f4xe5 d6xe5 c3xd4) -0.15/16 20}
...Qh4+ {(g2-g3 Qh4-e7 a2-a4 d7-d6 d2-d3 Ng8-h6 c2-c3 d4xc3 b2xc3 0-0 0-0 Nh6-g4 h2-h3 Ng4-f6 e4-e5 Nf6-d7 d3-d4 Nd7-b6) 0.00/16 20}
9. Ng3 {(Ng8-f6 Qd1-f3) -0.29/15 20}
...Qxf4 {(d2-d3 Qf4-f6 Rh1-f1 Qf6-e7 Qd1-f3 d7-d5 Bc4-b3 Ng8-h6 e4xd5 e6xd5+ Qf3-e2 Qe7xe2+ Ng3xe2 Nh6-g4 Bb3xd5 0-0 Bc1-f4 Ng4-e3 Bf4xe3 d4xe3 d3-d4 a7-a5 a2-a4) +0.12/16 20}
10. d3 {(Qf4-d6 0-0 Ng8-e7 Bc1-f4 Qd6-b6 a2-a4 0-0 a4-a5 Qb6-c5 Qd1-e1 d7-d6 Bf4-d2 Bc8-d7 Ng3-e2 b7-b5 a5xb6/ep a7xb6 Qe1-h4 Ra8xa1 Rf1xa1) -0.22/16 20}
...Qc7 {(0-0) +0.11/15 20}
11. O-O {(Ng8-e7 Bc1-g5 Qc7-c5 Qd1-d2 b7-b5 b2-b4 Qc5-b6 Bg5xe7 Ke8xe7 Bc4-b3 f7-f6 a2-a4 b5xa4 Bb3xa4 Bc8-b7 Qd2-f4 Ke7-e8 e4-e5 f6-f5 Ng3-e2 g6-g5) -0.21/16 20}
...Ne7 {(Bc1-g5 Qc7-c5 Qd1-d2 b7-b5 b2-b4 Qc5-b6 Bg5xe7 Ke8xe7 Bc4-b3 Bc8-b7 Qd2-f4 f7-f6 a2-a4 b5xa4 Bb3xa4 Ke7-e8 e4-e5 f6-f5 Ng3-e2 g6-g5) +0.21/16 20}
12. Bg5 {(Qc7-c5 Qd1-f3 0-0 Bg5-f6 Bg7xf6 Qf3xf6 b7-b6 a2-a3 Ne7-c6 Rf1-f5 Qc5-e7 Ng3-h5 Qe7xf6 Nh5xf6+ Kg8-g7 Rf5-f4 Nc6-e5 Ra1-f1 Ne5xc4 d3xc4 Bc8-a6 b2-b3 g6-g5 Rf4-f3) -0.10/16 20}
...Nc6 {(Ng3-h5 g6xh5 Rf1xf7 h7-h6 Bg5-f4 Bg7-e5 Qd1xh5 Ke8-d8 Qh5-h4+ Kd8-e8 Qh4-h5 Ke8-d8 Qh5-h4+) 0.00/16 20}
13. Nh5 {(g6xh5 Rf1xf7 h7-h6 Bg5-f4 Bg7-e5 Qd1xh5 Ke8-d8 Qh5-h4+ Kd8-e8 Qh4-h5 Ke8-d8 Qh5-h4+) 0.00/17 20}
...gxh5 {(Rf1xf7 h7-h6 Bg5-f4 Bg7-e5 Qd1xh5 Ke8-d8 Qh5-h4+ Kd8-e8 Qh4-h5 Ke8-d8 Qh5-h4+) 0.00/18 20}
14. Rxf7 {(h7-h6 Bg5-f4 Bg7-e5 Qd1xh5 Ke8-d8 Qh5-h4+ Kd8-e8 Qh4-h5 Ke8-d8 Qh5-h4+) 0.00/18 20}
...Qe5 {(Rf7-f5 Qe5xf5 e4xf5 0-0 f5xe6 d7xe6 Qd1xh5 Bc8-d7 Qh5-g4 Ra8-e8 Bg5-h6 Re8-e7 Bh6xg7 Re7xg7 Bc4xe6+ Kg8-h8 Qg4-h3 Bd7xe6 Qh3xe6 Rg7-f7 Qe6-b3 Rf7-e7 Ra1-f1 Rf8xf1+ Kg1xf1 Kh8-g7 Qb3-d5 h7-h6 Kf1-f2 Re7-f7+ Kf2-g3) -4.44/16 20}
(14. .. Kxf7 15. Qxh5+ Kf8 16. Rf1+ Qf4 17. Rxf4+ Bf6 18. Rxf6+ Ke7 19. Rxe6+ Kf8 20. Re8+ Kg7 21. Qh6#)
15. Rf5
(15. Rf5 Qxf5 16. exf5 O-O 17. fxe6 dxe6 18. Qxh5 Bd7 19. Qg4 Rae8 20. Bh6 Re7 21. Bxg7 Rxg7 22. Bxe6+ Kh8 23. Qh3 Bxe6 24. Qxe6 )
1-0

I've stumbled upon the Latvian Gambit and wanted to test it immediately against my colleagues. As you will see in the video, it seems a wonderfully aggressive opening, something akin to Shock and Awe, riddled with traps against your opponent. The truth is that it is an unprincipled opening, abandoning material advantage in the hope that your adversary will slip up and expecting you to have the skills to attack and defend accurately as the game progresses. I did manage to capture the queen once, but only after pointing out to my opponent that he could have forked my king and rook, so that the trap would work - he hadn't noticed. In the rest of the games, none of them running the course of the video you will see, the lack of skill on both sides of the table forced me to abandon this gambit for now, instead looking for something more principled and more appropriate for my playing level.

So here is the game from TheChessWebsite:

I've experimented with chess engines and watched other videos about the gambit and constructed a rather complex PGN file. You can play with it here. Don't forget to click on the variations to see how the game could progress. There is even a full game there, from a video that has the link in the comment.
[Event "The Latvian Gambit"]
[Site "Siderite's Blog"]
[Date "2012.04.18"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Siderite"]
[Black "Siderite"]
[Result "0-1"]
[BlackElo "2400"]
[ECO "C63"]
[Opening "Spanish"]
[Time "13:45:38"]
[Variation "Schliemann, 4.Nc3 fxe4 5.Nxe4 Nf6"]
[WhiteElo "2400"]
[TimeControl "0+60"]
[Termination "normal"]
[PlyCount "11"]
[WhiteType "human"]
[BlackType "human"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5 3. Nxe5 (3. Bc4 3. .. fxe4 4. Nxe5 Nf6 (4. .. Qg5 5. d4
Qxg2 6. Qh5+ g6 7. Bf7+ Kd8 8. Bxg6 Qxh1+ 9. Ke2 c6) (4. .. d5 5. Qh5+ g6
6. Nxg6 hxg6 7. Qxg6+ (7. Qxh8 Kf7 8. Qd4 Be6 9. Bb3 Nc6 10. Qe3 Bh6 11. f4
Nge7) 7. .. Kd7 8. Bxd5 Nf6 9. Nc3 Qe7) 5. Nf7 Qe7 6. Nxh8 d5 7. Be2 (7.
Bb3 Bg4 {White loses the queen, one way or another} 8. f3 exf3+ 9. Kf2 Ne4+
10. Kf1 (10. Kg1 f2+ 11. Kf1 Bxd1) 10. .. fxg2+ 11. Kxg2 Bxd1)) (3. Nc3 3.
.. Nf6 {Continue as for the king gambit (reversed)}) (3. exf5 3. .. e4 4.
Ne5 Nf6 5. Be2 d6 6. Bh5+ Ke7 7. Nf7 Qe8 8. Nxh8 Qxh5 9. Qxh5 Nxh5) (3. d4
fxe4 4. Nxe5 Nf6 5. Bg5 d6 6. Nc3 dxe5 7. dxe5 Qxd1+ 8. Rxd1 h6 9. Bxf6
gxf6) 3. .. Qf6 (3. .. Nc6 4. Qh5+
{https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZHGgEGM6SQ} (4. Nxc6 bxc6 5. exf5 Nf6 6.
d4 d5 7. Bd3 Bd6 8. Be3 O-O 9. Nd2 Rb8 10. Rb1 Qe7 11. O-O h5 12. Nf3 Ne4
13. Bxe4 dxe4 14. Ng5 Bxf5 15. Qxh5 Rf6 16. Nh3 Qd7 17. Bg5 g6 18. Qh4 Rf7
19. Nf4 Rh7 20. Qg3 Kg7 21. Qc3 Rbh8 22. d5+ Kg8 23. h3 {correct move dxc6}
Bxh3 24. Qxc6 (24. Nxh3 Rxh3 25. gxh3 Rxh3) 24. .. Bf5 25. Nh3 Bxh3 26. Bf6
Bxg2 {Bh2+ would have been mate in 4} (26. .. Bh2+ 27. Kxh2 Bxg2+ 28. Kg3
Rh3+ 29. Kxg2 Qg4#) 27. f4 Qxc6 28. dxc6 Bf3 29. b4 Bxf4 30. Rbe1 Rh1+ 31.
Kf2 R8h2#) 4. .. g6 5. Nxg6 (5. Nxc6 dxc6) 5. .. Nf6 6. Qh4 Rg8 7. Nxf8 Rg4
8. Qh6 Rxe4+ 9. Kd1 (9. Be2 Nd4 10. Nc3 Nxe2 11. Nxe2 Qe7) 9. .. Ng4) (3.
.. Bc5 4. exf5 Bxf2+ 5. Kxf2 Qh4+ 6. Kf3 (6. Kg1 6. .. Qd4#) (6. Ke2 6. ..
Qe4+) (6. g3 Qd4+ 7. Kg2 Qxe5 8. Nc3 Qxf5 9. Bd3 Qf7 10. b3 Nf6 11. Re1+
Kd8 12. Qf3 Nc6 13. Ne4 Qe7 14. Nxf6 Qxf6 15. Qxf6+ gxf6 16. Bb2) 6. .. Nf6
(6. .. Ne7 7. Nc3 d6 8. g3 Qh5+ 9. g4 Qh4 10. Qe1 Qxe1 11. Bb5+ Nbc6 (11.
.. c6 12. Rxe1 cxb5 13. Nd3 Nc6 14. Nxb5) 12. Rxe1 dxe5 13. Rxe5 O-O 14.
Re4 h5 15. h3 Nxf5 16. Bc4+ Kh7 17. gxf5 Bxf5 18. Kg2 Bxe4+ 19. Nxe4 Rae8)
(6. .. b5)) (3. .. fxe4 4. Qh5+ g6 5. Nxg6 Nf6 6. Qe5+) (3. .. d6 4. Qh5+
g6 5. Nxg6 Nf6 6. Qh4) 4. Nc4 (4. d4 d6 5. Nc4 fxe4 6. Nc3 Qg6 7. f3 exf3
8. Qxf3 Nc6 9. Bd3 Qg4) 4. .. fxe4 5. Nc3 Qf7 (5. .. Qg6 6. d3 exd3 7. Bxd3
Qxg2 8. Be4 Qh3 {At this point black has not developed and is lost}) 6. d4
(6. Nxe4 d5) 0-1



Update: Here is another analysis of the Latvian Gambit, by Abby Marshall.
Roman Dzindzichashvili considers the Latvian gambit a sign of mental illness.
Chessexplained also has a video about it.

It was a while since I've written about chess. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, I was left with no friends to play with and it all kind of flopped. However, I've met several people at the office that are interested and even passionate about chess. So it may be that many nice chess blog posts could be coming.

This one is about the Bryntse Gambit. I wanted to write about it because it is relatively unknown. Here is the short version of it: 1. e4 c5 2. f4 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 4. Ng5 Nf6 5. Bc4 Bg4 6. Bxf7+ Kd7 7. Qxg4+ Nxg4 8. Be6+

At this point, the king has only two reasonable options: Kc7 or Kc6. I've continued the game a few moves from there using the Rybka and Houdini chess engines. The extended game with the respective variations is here: 1. e4 c5 2. f4 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 4. Ng5 Nf6 5. Bc4 Bg4 6. Bxf7+ (6. Be2 6. .. Bf5 7. g4 Bd7 8. Nc3 Bc6 9. Bc4 e6 10. Qe2 h6 11. Ngxe4 Nxe4 12. Nxe4 Qh4+ 13. Kd1) (6. Be2 Bxe2 7. Qxe2 Nc6 8. Na3 Nd4 9. Qc4 Qd5 10. Qxd5 Nxd5 11. c3 Ne6 12. Nxe6 fxe6) 6. .. Kd7 7. Qxg4+ Nxg4 8. Be6+ Kc7 (8. .. Kc6 9. Bxg4 g6 10. Nc3 Bg7 11. Ncxe4 e5 12. O-O exf4 13. d3 Be5 14. Ne6 Qh4 15. h3) 9. Bxg4 Qe8 10. Ne6+ Kb6 11. Na3 a6 12. Nc4+ Ka7 13. b3 Nc6 14. Bb2 h5 15. Bh3 Qf7 16. O-O-O Rh6 17. f5 b6 18. Rhf1 Nd8 19. g3 Nxe6 20. fxe6 Qg8 21. Bf5 Rxe6 22. Bxe6 Qxe6 *

The article that prompted this post can be found here: Bryntse Gambit Revisited

What I find interesting about this gambit is the voluntary sacrifice of the queen in order to gain a positional advantage. It is true, the black king is harassed all over the board and left with almost no safety, the black pieces are undeveloped and the pawns are scattered in three islands, but white has no queen anymore, exchanged for a knight and a bishop. I wish I was confident enough to play this gambit and know what I am doing after losing the queen. Just in case you were wondering what could one do if suddenly afraid of going on with the Bryntse, I've added two possible continuations where the queen is not sacrificed.

Finally I have found the chess game viewer I wanted in order to publish my own PGN games in the blog! The name is Chess Tempo PGN Viewer and it is well written, fast, supports annotations and variations and is very configurable. Most of all, it is all Javascript (sorry for the occasional Java prompts. I almost caved in and did what I swore I wouldn't ever do: have Java applets in my blog).

Please tell me if you have issues with the new chess viewer.

Luckily for me, some chess videos are for beginners like me. Here is one from OnlineChessLessons, describing a simple, clear opening called The Stonewall Attack. After watching the video I played a game with my trusted Nokia phone and managed to create a game starting with this opening. I then analysed it using chess engines Houdini and Rybka and annotated it manually. Check it out, including the variations.

Video first:

Make sure you also follow the article attached to the video.

And now my game:
[Event "29/10/2011 1:08:49 pm"]
[Date "29/10/2011"]
[White "Siderite"]
[Black "Nokia Easy5"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D05"]
[Opening "Colle"]
[Variation "5.c3 Nc6 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.O-O O-O"]
[TimeControl "600"]
[Termination "normal"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[WhiteType "human"]
[BlackType "computer"]


1.d4 e6 2.e3 d5 3.Bd3 Bd6 4.f4 Nf6 5.Nd2 O-O 6.Ngf3 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.O-O c4 9.Bc2 Ng4
{At this point, the engines suggest Bxh7, a classic sacrifice.}
10.Qe2
{However, I moved the queen to defend e3.}
( 10.Bxh7+ Kxh7 11.Ng5+ Kg8 12.Qxg4
{This variation wins the h7 pawn, but moves away from the spirit of the original game.}
12...Qf6 13.e4 ) 10...f5
{At this point, engines suggest Ne5, followed by knight exchange from black.}
11.h3
{I chose to shoo the knight away, but weakening g3, where the knight would love to come later.}
( 11.Ne5 Ngxe5 12.dxe5 Be7 13.b4 ) 11...Nf6 12.Ne5 Qa5 13.g4 fxg4 14.hxg4 Qb6
{engines would want me to attack the knight on f6 before moving the rook out.}
15.Rf2 ( 15.g5 Bxe5 16.dxe5 Ne8 17.Kg2 g6 18.b3
{Engines decide to try a queen side attack as well, in order to weaken the black pawn chain. I was not interested in that.}
) 15...h6
{engines suggest attacking the rook and with Ng6, which is a natural attacking move and a lovely outpost.}
16.Rh2 ( 16.Ng6 Rf7 17.g5 Nh7 18.Qh5 Ne7 19.Nxe7+ Rxe7 20.gxh6 Nf8 21.Rg2 Qc7 22.Qg5
{However at this point the game moves into queen side attacks and a slower attacking pace.}
) 16...Ne7 17.g5 hxg5 18.fxg5 Bxe5 19.dxe5 Nd7
{engines suggest now a beautiful move: Rh8, followed by a munching of black pieces or/and mate. Make sure you check out the variation.}
20.Nf3 ( 20.Rh8+ Kf7 ( 20...Kxh8
{Taking the rook leads to a quick mate.}
21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.Bh7+ Kh8 23.Bg6+ Kg8 24.Qh7# ) 21.Qh5+ g6 22.Bxg6+ Nxg6 23.Qh7+ Ke8 24.Qxg6+ Kd8 25.Rxf8+ Nxf8 26.Qf6+ Ke8 27.Nf3
{Try this variation on a chess engine to see it to the end. White is only one pawn up, but it is a passed one. The king is safe as well.}
) 20...Rb8 21.g6 Nf5 22.Rh3 Nh6 23.Kh1
{I felt like the pin on e3 was annoying and stopping me from using the black bishop. The engines recommend moving Qh2 instead, which is much better.}
( 23.Qh2 Nc5 24.Ng5 Ne4 25.Bxe4 dxe4 26.Nh7 Qc7 ( 26...Rd8
{If you wanted to know why black did not move the rook when attacked by the knight, follow this variation through.}
27.Rxh6 Rd1+ 28.Kg2 Qd8 29.Nf6+ Kf8 30.Rh8+ Ke7 31.Qh4 Rd2+ 32.Bxd2 b6 33.a4 Qxd2+ 34.Kh1 Qe1+ 35.Rxe1 Bb7 36.Rxb8 Bc8 37.Rxc8
gxf6 38.Qh7# ) 27.Nxf8 Qd8 28.Rxh6 Qg5+ 29.Kf2 Qxh6 30.Qxh6 gxh6 31.Nh7
{At this point white is a knight up, but what a boring continuation.}
) 23...Nf5 24.Qh2 Ng3+
{Engines suggest I move the king and concentrating on the attack, but I took the knight with the rook.}
25.Rxg3 ( 25.Kg1 Qxe3+ 26.Bxe3 Ne2+ 27.Kg2 Nf4+ 28.Bxf4 Rf5 29.Rh8# ) 25...Re8 26.Qh7+ Kf8 27.e4
{At this point, a mate in 8 is found.}
27...Qc7
{But with this move, mate will happen in 4.}
28.Bg5 Nf6 29.exf6 Rd8 30.Qh8# 1-0


Enjoy!

P.S. I am currently looking for a method of displaying the game as I want it on the blog: dynamic, with annotation and variation support, preferably something that is not Java and optimally something that reads the PGN from a span and replaces it with a nice looking chess interface. Right now, the usual game engine fails for some reason I need to analyse.


The complete title of the book is How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves, from the Board to the Boardroom, which is a mouthful, but very precise. It does explain how principles of chess, economics and politics apply in all three fields and how Garry Kasparov has evolved from chess player to world champion and, nowadays, into a political anti-Putin figure.

If you ask me, abandoning chess to get into business and worse, politics, it's a complete loss. However I do understand the guy, he got bored. Someday I may abandon computer programming.

Back to the book, though, it felt a lot like The Art of Learning, also written by a brilliant chess player (who incidentally also abandoned chess... hmm). It was more precise, most logical, though, looking at things from a more of a clinical perspective. I would have wanted to learn more about Kasparov's relationship with Karpov, for example, since he is always calling him his nemesis, but never says anything about how he felt about the guy.

This book is peppered with good advice, historic comparisons and great quotes from chess players and great men. Also, short descriptions of the relationship between famous "chess pairs" are giving the book an extra chess dimension. All in all I recommend it highly, although it felt more like a useful reference than a soul book like The Art of Learning.

Short version: here is the link to the uploaded .NET regular expression. (look in the comment for the updated version)

I noticed that the javascript code that I am using to parse PGN chess games and display it is rather slow and I wanted to create my own PGN parser, one that would be optimal in speed. "It should be easy", I thought, as I was imagining getting the BNF syntax for PGN, copy pasting it into a parser generator and effortlessly getting the Javascript parser that would spit out all secrets of the game. It wasn't easy.

First of all, the BNF notation for Portable Game Notation was not complete. Sure, text was used to explain the left overs, but there was no real information about it in any of the "official" PGN pages or Wikipedia. Software and chess related FTPs and websites seemed to be terrible obsolete or missing altogether.

Then there was the parser generator. Wikipedia tells me that ANTLR is pretty good, as it can spew Javascript code on the other end. I downloaded it (a .jar Java file - ugh!), ran it, pasted BNF into it... got a generic error. 10 minutes later I was learning that ANTLR does not support BNF, but only its own notation. Searches for tools that would do the conversion automatically led me to smartass RTFM people who explained how easy it is to do it manually. Maybe they should have done for me, then.

After all this (and many fruitless searches on Google) I decided to use regular expressions. After all, it might make a lot of sense to have a parser in a language like C#, but the difference in speed between a Javascript implementation and a native regular expression should be pretty large, no matter how much they optimize the engine. Ok, let's define the rules of a PGN file then.

In a PGN file, a game always starts with some tags, explaining what the event is, who played, when, etc. The format of a tag is [name "value"]. There are PGN files that do not have this marker, but then there wouldn't be more than one game inside. The regular expression for a tag is: (\[\s*(?<tagName>\w+)\s*"(?<tagValue>[^"]*)"\s*\]\s*)+. Don't be scared, it only means some empty space maybe, then a word, some empty space again, then a quoted string that does not contain quotes, then some empty space again, all in square brackets and maybe followed by more empty space, all of this appearing at least once.

So far so good, now comes the list of moves. The simplest possible move looks like 1. e4, so a move number and a move. But there are more things that can be added to a move. For starters, the move for black could be following next (1. e4 e5) or a bit after, maybe if there are commentaries or variations for the move of the white player (1... e5). The move itself has a variety of possible forms:
  • e4 - pawn moved to e4
  • Nf3 - knight moved to f3
  • Qxe5 - queen captured on e5
  • R6xf6 - the rook on the 6 rank captured on f6
  • Raa8 - The rook on file a moved to a8
  • Ka1xc2 - the knight at a1 captured on c2
  • f8=Q - pawn moved to f8 and promoted to queen
  • dxe8=B - pawn on the d file captured on e8 and promoted to bishop


There is more information about the moves. If you give check, you must end it with a + sign, if you mate you end with #, if the move is weird, special, very good, very bad, you can end it with stuff like !!, !?, ?, !, etc which are the PGN version of WTF?!. And if that is not enough, there are some numbers called NAG which are supposed to represent a numeric, language independent, status code. Also, the letters that represent the pieces are not language independent, so a French PGN might look completely different from an English one. So let's attempt a regular expression for the move only. I will not implement NAG or other pieces for non-English languages: (?:[PNBRQK]?[a-h]?[1-8]?x?[a-h][1-8](?:\=[PNBRQK])?|O(-?O){1,2})[\+#]?(\s*[\!\?]+)?). I know, scary. But it means a letter in the list PNBRQK, one for each possible type of chess piece, which may appear or it may not, then a letter between a and h, which would represent a file, then a number between 1 and 8 which would represent a rank. Both letter and number might not appear, since they represent hints on where the piece that moved was coming from. Then there is a possible letter x, indicating a capture, then, finally, the destination coordinates for the move. There follows an equal sign and another piece, in case of promotion. An astute reader might observe that this also matches a rook that promotes to something else, for example. This is not completely strict. If this long expression is not matched, maybe something that looks like OO, O-O, OOO or O-O-O could be matched, representing the two possible types of castling, when a rook and a king move at the same time around each other, provided neither had not moved yet. And to top it off, we allow for some empty space and the characters ! and ? in order to let chess annotators express their feelings.

It's not over yet. PGN notation allows for commentaries, which are bits of text inside curly brackets {what an incredibly bad move!} and also variations. The variations show possible outcomes from the main branch. They are lists of moves that are enclosed in round brackets. The branches can be multiple and they can branch themselves! Now, this is a problem, as regular expressions are not recursive. But we only need to match variations and then reparse them in code when found. So, let's attempt a regular expression. It is getting quite big already, so let's add some tokens that can represent already discussed bits. I will use a @ sign to enclose the tokens. Here we go:
  • @tags@ - we will use this as a marker for one or more tags
  • @move@ - we will use this as a marker for the complicated move syntax explained above
  • (?<moveNumber>\d+)(?<moveMarker>\.|\.{3})\s*(?<moveValue>@move@)(?:\s*(?<moveValue2>@move@))?\s* - the move number, 1 or 3 dots, some empty space, then a move. It can be followed directly by another move, for black. Lets call this @line@
  • (?:\{(?<varComment>[^\}]*?)\}\s*)? - this is a comment match, something enclosed in curly brackets; we'll call it @comment@
  • (?:@line@@variations@@comment@)* - wow, so simple! Multiple lines, each maybe followed by variations and a comment. This would be a @list@ of moves.
  • (?<endMarker>1\-?0|0\-?1|1/2\-?1/2|\*)?\s* - this is the end marker of a game. It should be there, but in some cases it is not. It shows the final score or an unfinished match. We'll call it @ender@
  • (?<pgnGame>\s*@tags@@list@@ender@) - The final tokenised regular expression, containing an entire PGN game.


But it is not over yet. Remember @variations@ ? We did not define it and with good reason. A good approximation would be (?:\((?<variation>.*)\)\s*)*, which defines something enclosed in parenthesis. But it would not work well. Regular expressions are greedy by default, so it would just get the first round bracket and everything till the last found in the file! Using the non greedy marker ? would not work either, as the match will stop after the first closing bracket inside a variation. Comments might contain parenthesis characters as well.

The only solution is to better match a variation so that some sort of syntax checking is being performed. We know that a variation contains a list of moves, so we can use that, by defining @variations@ as (?:\((?<variation>@list@)\)\s*)*. @list@ already contains @variations@, though, so we can do this a number of times, to the maximum supported branch depth, then replace the final variation with the generic "everything goes" approximation from above. When we read the results of the match, we just take the variation matches and reparse them with the list subexpression, programatically, and check extra syntax features, like the number of moves being subsequent.

It is no wonder that at the Regular Expressions Library site there was no expression for PGN. I made the effort to upload it, maybe other people refine it and make it even better. Here is the link to the uploaded regular expression. The complete regular expression is here:
(?<pgnGame>\s*(?:\[\s*(?<tagName>\w+)\s*"(?<tagValue>[^"]*)"\s*\]\s*)+(?:(?<moveNumber>\d+)(?<moveMarker>\.|\.{3})\s*(?<moveValue>(?:[PNBRQK]?[a-h]?[1-8]?x?[a-h][1-8](?:\=[PNBRQK])?|O(-?O){1,2})[\+#]?(\s*[\!\?]+)?)(?:\s*(?<moveValue2>(?:[PNBRQK]?[a-h]?[1-8]?x?[a-h][1-8](?:\=[PNBRQK])?|O(-?O){1,2})[\+#]?(\s*[\!\?]+)?))?\s*(?:\(\s*(?<variation>(?:(?<varMoveNumber>\d+)(?<varMoveMarker>\.|\.{3})\s*(?<varMoveValue>(?:[PNBRQK]?[a-h]?[1-8]?x?[a-h][1-8](?:\=[PNBRQK])?|O(-?O){1,2})[\+#]?(\s*[\!\?]+)?)(?:\s*(?<varMoveValue2>(?:[PNBRQK]?[a-h]?[1-8]?x?[a-h][1-8](?:\=[PNBRQK])?|O(-?O){1,2})[\+#]?(\s*[\!\?]+)?))?\s*(?:\((?<varVariation>.*)\)\s*)?(?:\{(?<varComment>[^\}]*?)\}\s*)?)*)\s*\)\s*)*(?:\{(?<comment>[^\}]*?)\}\s*)?)*(?<endMarker>1\-?0|0\-?1|1/2\-?1/2|\*)?\s*)


Note: the flavour of the regular expression above is .Net. Javascript does not support named tags, the things between the angle brackets, so if you want to make it work for js, remove ?<name> constructs from it.

Now to work on the actual javascript (ouch!)

Update: I took my glorious regular expression and used it in a javascript code only to find out that groups in Javascript do not act like collections of found items, but only the last match. In other words, if you match 'abc' with (.)* (match as many characters in a row, and capture each character in part) you will get an array that contains 'abc' as the first item and 'c' as the second. That's insane!

Update: As per Matty's suggestion, I've added the less used RxQ move syntax (I do have a hunch that it is not complete, for example stuff like RxN2, RxNa or RxNa2 might also be accepted, but they are not implemented in the regex). I also removed the need for at least one PGN tag. To avoid false positives you might still want to use the + versus the * notation after the tagName/tagValue construct. The final version is here:

(?<pgnGame>\s*(?:\[\s*(?<tagName>\w+)\s*"(?<tagValue>[^"]*)"\s*\]\s*)*(?:(?<moveNumber>\d+)(?<moveMarker>\.|\.{3})\s*(?<moveValue>(?:[PNBRQK]?[a-h]?[1-8]?x?(?:[a-h][1-8]|[NBRQK])(?:\=[PNBRQK])?|O(-?O){1,2})[\+#]?(\s*[\!\?]+)?)(?:\s*(?<moveValue2>(?:[PNBRQK]?[a-h]?[1-8]?x?(?:[a-h][1-8]|[NBRQK])(?:\=[PNBRQK])?|O(-?O){1,2})[\+#]?(\s*[\!\?]+)?))?\s*(?:\(\s*(?<variation>(?:(?<varMoveNumber>\d+)(?<varMoveMarker>\.|\.{3})\s*(?<varMoveValue>(?:[PNBRQK]?[a-h]?[1-8]?x?(?:[a-h][1-8]|[NBRQK])(?:\=[PNBRQK])?|O(-?O){1,2})[\+#]?(\s*[\!\?]+)?)(?:\s*(?<varMoveValue2>(?:[PNBRQK]?[a-h]?[1-8]?x?(?:[a-h][1-8]|[NBRQK])(?:\=[PNBRQK])?|O(-?O){1,2})[\+#]?(\s*[\!\?]+)?))?\s*(?:\((?<varVariation>.*)\)\s*)?(?:\{(?<varComment>[^\}]*?)\}\s*)?)*)\s*\)\s*)*(?:\{(?<comment>[^\}]*?)\}\s*)?)*(?<endMarker>1\-?0|0\-?1|1/2\-?1/2|\*)?\s*)

The Regexlib version has also been updated in a comment (I don't know how - or if it is possible - to edit the original).