Lessons From an Informal Chess Game

By the chess coach in Murray, Utah: Jonathan Whitcomb

The following game I played yesterday at the Harman Chess Club in West Valley City, Utah, with a tactical combination that allowed me to quickly win.

White: Jonathan

Black: Jerry

1) d4    d5

2) Nf3  f6

Black made an unusual move: f6

Diagram-1: White to move

Black’s move f6 is unusual. It prepares the way for advancing the e-pawn to e5, but Black needs more than that f6 pawn to accomplish that advance. On the surface, it may appear that eventually moving e5 would be good for Black, but the move f6 gives Black problems:

  • It blocks the natural square for the King’s knight: f6
  • It gives no immediate help for developing the bishop at f8
  • It allows White to get into a very favorable variation of the Queen’s Gambit

3) e3     c6

4) c4     e6

Strange variation of Queen's Gambit

Diagram-2: White to move

From a brief calculation by the chess engine Stockfish, that was Black’s best move in the above position (c6). That d5 pawn will soon need that support if Black is to play e5.

5) Bd3   g6

6) O-O   Qc7

White has a clear positional advantage

Diagram-3: Black is behind in development

There’s a lesson to be learned from this unusual chess opening: Don’t get far behind in developing your knights and bishops. Yet the lesson runs deeper: If your opponent has castled and you have not, and you are behind in development, don’t break open the center. It will probably make it easier for your opponent to attack your king.

7) Nc3   Bd6

8) c5     Be7

9) e4    . . . .

White has a clear lead in development in this unorthodox Queen's Gambit

Diagram-4: Black to move

9) . . . .   e5   This was not one of the best moves available for Black

10) exd5   cxd5

11) Nxd5  . . . .

The center is opening up, White has won a pawn, and Black still is not close to being able to get his king to safety by castling. With all those problems for Black, however, White soon wins with an unexpected tactical combination, not directly related to king safety.

Black is about to make the mistake of Qc6Diagram-5: Black needs to move the queen to safety

Black has three reasonable escape squares for the queen:

  • Qd8
  • Qd7
  • Qa5

So why not move the black queen to c6? That’s actually the move that was made in this chess club game:

11) . . . .   Qc6

White is about to make a chess combination

Diagram-6: White to move and win

White has a combination available in Diagram-6, although many chess players would not see it while playing a game. Let’s examine this position from the point of view of a master.

How does a chess master look at a position? A typical master in a typical middle-game position will look for tactical possibilities. He or she would notice that the d5 knight can move to c7, forking the black king and rook. But that’s where the similarity ends between a master and an average chess player.

A lower-ranked player could see that knight-fork possibility but then would dismiss it because the black queen would capture the knight. He or she would then look for another move and forget about that knight-fork tactic.

A master, on the other hand, would set that forking tactic on the sidelines but ready to jump on back into the game if appropriate. In other words, a master would only dismiss the immediate move Nc7+, holding onto the possibility that it might work later.

With a knight fork on the sidelines, the master would also notice that the black queen and king are lined up on a diagonal. The d3 bishop could move to b5, pinning that queen.

A lower-ranked player could also see that lineup of black queen and king. He or she would then notice that the queen would simply capture the white bishop, after it had moved to b5. That move would then be dismissed: another tactic that almost works but not quite.

On the other hand, a master would notice that after Bb5 the black queen would be practically forced to capture that bishop, otherwise Black would lose the queen. That’s when the master would remember the knight fork, but he or she would see much more than a possibility of winning the rook at a8. The black queen will be on a forking square after it captures the bishop on b5. The solution is then easy: Bb5 wins the queen.

12) Bb5!   Qxb5

Nc7+ will now win Black's queenDiagram-7: White now wins the black queen with Nc7+

13) Nc7+   Kd8

14) Nxb5    and Black soon resigned


Jonathan Whitcomb is a chess instructor in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, offering chess lessons for $25 per one-hour session. The first getting-acquainted session, however, is free. For more information about chess instruction in Utah call 801-590-9692.


Five Chess Puzzles

In this first post of Chess Test, “The Art of Chess,” let’s look at a variety of chess positions. Test yourself by trying to find the best move in each position.

Avoiding Blunders in Chess

1) Tactical ignorance for a particular position
2) Temporary weakness of body or mind (including fatigue)

Chess Books for Beginners and Others

◾Are you a beginner, post-beginner, lower-ranked club player, or tournament player?
◾Do you need a book on openings, middle games, or end games?
◾Are you looking for help with tactics or strategy?
◾How old are you? (child, teenager, or adult?)

At least two of the above four factors can make a big different in wisely choosing a chess book that can most benefit you.

Salt Lake Chess Tutor – Whitcomb

[Your private chess lessons] will very likely include looking at specially constructed nearly-identical positions (NIP), a new system of chess instruction that I introduced in my book Beat That Kid in Chess.


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