Selected Questions and Answers

If you have a question about any of the content of this website, feel free to email me at . I will attempt to personally reply to all email. However, I am best equipped to address questions about the content of this website. If you ask me some other question about opening theory, books, authors, or great players, my answer will probably be, "I don't know, but here's my guess..."

Unless you advise me otherwise, I will assume that it would be okay to include your question on this page but that your name and location should not appear.

If enough time passes since the last question was received, I may invent a question. Click here if you wish to scroll down to the last entry.

Question #1—Posted 11/27/10
Do you ship books outside the United States? How much does it cost?

Orders outside the US are usually shipped by First Class International. If you contact us with the quantities you might be ordering and the country where the order would be shipped, we will be glad to provide a shipping quote.

Question #2—Posted 12/13/10
In the King's Indian line 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O Nbd7 7. Nc3 e5 8. e4 c6 9. h3, I've been having trouble as Black. I usually exchange pawns at d4 and pressure the e-pawn, but White always seems to consolidate and put me on the defensive by attacking my backward d-pawn. Any suggestions?

After 9. h3, I recommend that Black refrain from ...exd4 until Black can gain by it. In the meantime, Black should acquire space on the queenside by pushing the a-pawn. One possible continuation is 9...a5 10. Be3 a4 11. Qc2 Qa5 12. Rfd1 (Ippolito–Levin, New Jersey Open 1997), when 12...b5 seems to give Black a comfortable game.

Question #3—Posted 12/19/10
What do you like to think about whenever it's the opponent's turn?

The kind of thinking I do when it's the opponent's turn is the same as what I do at my own turn, even though the positions that I'm thinking about are different.

When it's my turn, I consider whatever seems necessary for deciding what move to play at that turn. This may involve making calculations or reviewing the main variations I'd calculated earlier. Or it may involve formulating a plan that's based on the strategic elements of the position (as discussed in several articles under "Instruction" on this website).

When it's my opponent's turn, what position I think about depends on how much latitude I believe my opponent has at his or her present turn.

If at this turn, my opponent has at least one reasonable move to which I hadn't yet decided how to respond, I might think about the position resulting from such a move.

But if my opponent's reasonable moves are severely constrained and I'd already decided how I would respond to each, then I wouldn't think about what my opponent might play at this turn. Instead, I would think about a position that could arise later in the game, in which (1) the opponent would have a reasonable move to which I hadn't yet decided how to respond, or (2) I would need to formulate a plan.

Question #4—Posted 1/24/11
Your website seemed to be unavailable for much of the first two weeks of this month. I didn't know if you were aware of this.

I became aware of it on January 16. Investigation revealed the cause to be an administrative error. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Question #5—Posted 1/24/11
I can see that you've done a lot of theoretical work to rehabilitate the Alekhin Defense. But even if I were convinced that the opening gives Black equality, I'd be reluctant to play it because it demands so much ingenuity of the player having Black. I'd be interested in how strong you feel a player needs to be to use the Alekhin Defense successfully.

Despite the untold hours I've spent over the years analyzing this defense, I actually share your concern! If White does not aim to prove an advantage against the Alekhine Defense but opts to play solidly, Black will often need to find a profoundly subtle move, plan, or tactic, which even World Champions often have trouble with. Yet, unlike Black, White typically has latitude in meeting a given move by Black in the Alekhine Defense.

The bright side is that because of the opening's reputation for giving White an edge, most White players will press for an advantage (and thereby incur difficulties), especially when they encounter the disreputable 5...g5 against the Four Pawns Attack. I feel that this makes the Alekhine Defense viable for over-the-board play until such time that mainstream opening theory catches up with my discoveries (to the extent that those discoveries are valid).

Question #6—Posted 1/28/11
It seems that whenever I read the commentary to a chess game (even yours), there are moves that weren't played or discussed but still seem plausible to me. Also, I find that chess commentary rarely explains the player's presumed train of thought or does so in a way I don't understand. I was wondering if you could try to explain things so that those of us who are fairly new to chess might understand. Thank you.

I think you make a good point. I just finished an article called "A Game with My Moves Explained," in which I tried to provide unusually thorough explanations. It's posted under "Instruction." I'd appreciate feedback on it.

Question #7—Posted 2/9/11
In the Sicilian line 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 d5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. d4 cxd4 6. cxd4 e5 7. Nc3 Bb4 8. Bd2 Bxc3 9. Bxc3 e4 10. Ne5 Nxe5 11. dxe5 Ne7 12. Be2, White has the two bishops and I'm not sure how to do anything constructive as Black. Any suggestions?

In the game Lunna–Levin (New Jersey Open, 1998), I maneuvered so that my knight could reach the d5-square, to try to offset White's dark-square bishop: 12...O-O 13. O-O Qe6 14. Qd4 Qg6 (not merely protecting the e-pawn but threatening to win the exchange by 15...Bh3) 15. Rfe1 Be6 16. Bf1 Nd5 17. Qxe4 Qxe4 18. Rxe4 Nxc3 19. bxc3 Rfc8 20. Rb4 b6 21. c4 Rc5 22. f4, and here I erred by playing 22...Ra5, which led to a difficult position that I was fortunate to draw.

Natural (after 22. f4) would have been 22...Rac8 (when 23. Rc1 would fail to save the pawn after 23...b5, due to the pin along the c-file), but I gave up on this because 23. Rd1 would apparently give White time for 24. Rd4, due to the weakness of Black's back rank. I had overlooked that 23. Rd1 would be strongly met by 23...g5. Then 24. fxg5 (else Black would regain the pawn immediately) 24...Rxe5 25. h4 Re4 26. g3 (26. h5 Rg4 again would regain the pawn) 26...Re3 (26...Bxc4 27. Rc1 b5 28. Rxb5 would regain the extra pawn, due to another pin along the c-file) 27. Kf2 (27. Rd3 would provide "x-ray" defense of the g3-pawn but would permit the pinning 27...Re1, when 28. Kf2 would lose the extra pawn by 28...Rxf1+ 29. Kxf1 Bxc4, regaining the exchange) 27...Rc3 (the point of this rook's tiny steps down the e-file), when Black would threaten to regain the pawn by either 28...Bxc4 or 28...Rc2+ and 29...Rxa2.

Provided that Black's play, culminating with the pawn sacrifice at move 16, is correct, the entire variation has the drawback (if one player is much stronger than the other) of reaching a simplified ending that offers neither side much chance of outplaying the opponent sufficiently to win.

Question #8—Posted 2/18/11
I enjoyed your recent article "A Game with My Moves Explained," especially how it conveys knowledge in layers so that the reader doesn't get overwhelmed. Do you have any plans to do a book in this style?

Thanks for the compliment.

Another book by me on this or any other subject is unlikely unless a publisher contacts me about such a project. Although I'm glad to have self-published three books (two on chess and one on contract bridge), it requires a lot more energy than I find myself inclined to devote. Merely writing a decent book is hard enough! Also, an established publisher should be able to give the book far more exposure than I could as a self-publisher.

Question #9—Posted 3/2/11
A book I once read on the Alekhin Defense cited the game Levin-Chernin (World Open, 1982) for the variation 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. f4 dxe5 6. fxe5 c5 7. d5 e6 8. Nc3 exd5 9. cxd5 c4 10. e6. Did you come up with 10. e6 over the board or did it result from opening preparation? Has this idea been played in any other games, by you or by others?

The game Levin-Wagstaff (World Open, 1981) was actually the first in which I was confronted with 6...c5, a move unfamiliar to me at the time. The continuation 7. d5 e6 8. Nc3 exd5 9. cxd5 seemed evident, but after 9...c4, I thought for a while. I realized that White's center pawns, being advanced, were vulnerable to attack (starting with ...Bb4). Hence, I felt that I needed to use the center pawns right away, which suggested the move 10. e6. Seeing that 10...fxe6 would give up kingside castling (due to 11. Qh5+ g6 12. Qe5 Rg8) was enough to persuade me to play 10. e6, despite having spent only about 10 minutes on the move.

That game continued 10...Bb4 11. exf7+ Kxf7 12. Nf3 Re8+ 13. Be2 Bxc3+ 14. bxc3 Qxd5 15. Qxd5+ Nxd5 16. O-O (indirectly protecting the bishop: 16...Rxe2 17. Nd4+) 16...b5 17. Nd4+ Kg8 18. Bf3 Bb7 19. Nxb5 Bc6 20. Bxd5+ 1-0

Levin-Chernin followed this sequence up to 13. Be2, when Black instead tried 13...Qxd5 14. Qxd5+ Nxd5 15. O-O Nb6 16. Nb5 (stronger would be 16. Ng5+ Kg8 17. Bh5 g6 18. Bf3, when the nasty threat of 19. Nd5 and Black's many square weaknesses provide White more than enough for the pawn) 16...Na6 17. a4 Kg8 18. Nfd4 Bc5 19. Kh1 Bd7 20. Bf3, after which White managed to outplay his opponent and win in 58 moves.

In the mid-1980s, an article I wrote analyzing 10. e6 was published in Theory and Analysis, published by Players Chess News.

The only other game I'm aware of in which 10. e6 was tried was a correspondence game from the late 1980s. My recollection is that it deviated from the above games with 13...Kg8 14. O-O Bxc3 15. bxc3 Bg4 16. Qd4 Rxe2 17. Qxg4 Qxd5 18. Ng5 1-0

Question #10—Posted 3/13/11
In your article "Alekhine Defense, Four Pawns Attack", variation C5 considers the sequence 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. f4 g5 6. d5 dxe5 7. fxe5 Bg7 8. e6 O-O 9. Qh5 h6 10. h4 Qd6 11. hxg5 Qg3+ 12. Kd1 fxe6 13. Nf3 exd5 14. Rh4 dxc4 15. gxh6 Bf6 and makes the assessment, "White's attack seems to have run out of steam." But after 14. gxh6 (instead of 14. Rh4) 14...Bg4 15. hxg7 Bxh5 16. gxf8Q+ Kxf8 17. Rxh5, I haven't been able to come up with compensation for Black.

I agree. Sometime in the past year, I discovered 13...e5 (intended to improve on 13...exd5), which creates a passed pawn that can become an attacking unit to complement Black's queen. This role becomes evident in the continuation 13...e5 14. gxh6 Bg4 15. hxg7 Bxh5 16. gxf8Q+ Kxf8 17. Rxh5 Qf2 18. Bh6+ Ke8 19. Nbd2 e4. I hope soon to have my analysis on this suitable to post.

Question #11—Posted 3/23/11
In teaching chess to youngsters, I find it hard to explain the concept of "threat." I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

To avoid using the term "threat," you could ask each youngster to try to find the following.

  1. The ways that the player could check in one move
  2. The ways that the player could capture in one move
  3. The ways that the opponent could check in one move
  4. The ways that the opponent could capture in one move
  5. The ways that the player could check in two moves (assuming that the opponent made a neutral move in between)
  6. The ways that the player could capture in two moves (likewise)

For each move that qualifies as one of the above, you might ask the player whether there would be any good responses.

This method encourages the student to look for tactics in a systematic way. Although it omits "threats" that are neither checks nor captures, these could be introduced when students become sufficiently advanced.

Question #12—Posted 4/6/11
In Question #8, you mentioned some of the difficulties in self-publishing a physical book. Have you considered doing an e-book instead?

Funny you should ask that. Less than a week ago, I decided to write an e-book tentatively titled "Chess Strategy for Children." When I am ready to make all or portions of it available (at what seems to me a reasonable price), I will announce it on this website.

Question #13—Posted 4/21/11
Can you tell us more about your e-book "Chess Strategy for Children"? How many pages? Price? When will it be available? Can we order it in advance?

Here is some information about my e-book.

Thank you for your interest.

Question #14—Posted 5/7/11
Your online instructions for acquisition of the ebook are confusing. You say: "If you would like to order this e-book, click on "Availability" (in the "frame" just to the left) for information on how to send payment." But the Availability link does not mention ebooks and it's not clear whether you can get the ebook from Syllogism.

You're right. It was a mess. I've changed it to distinguish clearly between the e-book and the paperbook books. Thanks for letting me know!

Question #15—Posted 6/16/11
I liked your article "A Game with My Moves Explained." Do you plan to annotate other games using the same writing style?

Having recently written the e-book Chess Strategy for Children, I've decided to aim my annotations at those who are familiar with the ideas in that e-book. In that spirit, I've just posted my notes to the game Sevillano-Levin, which may be found under "Annotated Games."

Question #16—Posted 6/16/11
Your website isn't working right. The articles I looked at under "Annotated Games" don't display the diagrams, and the articles under "Opening Theory" give a "not found" message.

I'm sorry about that. My internet service provider recently moved my website to another hosting platform, and this has apparently caused those problems. I only just noticed these problems myself because I hadn't thought to verify that my usually capable ISP did this right. I'll contact them and try to have it fixed right away. Again, sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for letting me know.

Question #17—Posted 7/2/11
I'm looking at your game Betaneli-Levin from the '93 US Open. I found it interesting because its exactly the type of game where I'm not sure what to do. In fact, I had the exact same position in a game I played a couple of months ago after 6...Be7. White refused to engage in the centre in the opening with d4 and I couldn't come up with a good plan.

Although there are probably many moves that I probably wouldn't have found, the one that sticks out is 8...e5. Although it does let the queen's bishop out and clamps down on d4, I would be worried that it weakens d5, when, after an exchange of pawns, White's fianchettoed bishop has a nice long diagonal to rake down. Also, rightly or wrongly, I'd be loathe to "lose" a move by playing the e pawn a second time. I'd probably try to oppose bishops by playing ...b6 and ...Bb7 (although I suppose that's the same amount of moves). Can you explain what your plan was, and what was the 'trigger' (if there is one) that let you know it was appropriate to abandon the idea of a strong point on d5? Did you expect him to move his knight to e3 right away? I would have expected some sort of bishop development move.

Thanks for your query about Betaneli-Levin.

In general, if the opponent makes it feasible for me to put pawns in the center, I do so because it gives me a sector of the board where I control at least as much space as the opponent does. This allows me to eventually trade pawns advantageously to open lines for my pieces (especially the rooks). If an opponent persisted in avoiding "pawn tension," he would get squashed. I even included an example of this in my e-book so that the reader could appreciate how a space advantage can yield material gain.

Establishing a "strong point" on d5 by playing 1...e6 and 2...d5 controls the center but isn't a sufficient strategy by itself because it doesn't open a file for Black's rooks.

This is precisely why I played 8...e5 in Betaneli-Levin. True, it makes a second move with that pawn, but how does White take advantage of this? If White's queen's knight were at c3 instead of c2, do you see what White might be able to play? (Answer in the next paragraph.)

With the knight at c3, White might have 9. cxd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5, a tactic found in the King's Indian Defense except with colors reversed. But White's knight is actually at c2, where it seems misplaced because it doesn't control d5.

With White's knight at c2, if Black were to advance the d-pawn to d4 (reaching a sort of Benoni Reversed), White's knight at c2 would support the b4-break, and Black's loss of essentially two tempi (that is, two "moves"—one for ...e6 and ...e5, and one for being Black) might give White an edge. But I was comfortable playing 9...d4 because the combination of 9. Ne3 with 10. Nc2 forfeited those two "extra" tempi that White had.

8...e5 does weaken d5 and would give White's fianchettoed bishop more scope after 9. cxd5 Nxd5. But how could White exploit this? White's knight at f3 blocks the bishop at g2, and his knight at c2 blocks his queen (which might have gone to b3 to pressure the d5-knight). This means that it would take White several moves to threaten the d5-knight, which could if necessary retreat to c7.

Therefore, I don't see the increased mobility of White's fianchettoed bishop as a reason not to play 8...e5, nor does it seem necessary to play ...b6 and ...Bb7 to "oppose" White's bishop. The bishop's being on b7 would tend to self-pin Black's knights along the diagonal. Also, the bishop seems misplaced on b7 because it doesn't directly control d5 (as it would from the e6-square) or e4 (as it would from the f5-square). Where possible, pieces should be placed where they support a desired pawn advance or exchange.

I thought fairly likely that White would play 9. Ne3, given that his seventh and eighth moves seemed headed for a Benoni Reversed formation. If he had played 9. Bg5 (which may eventually threaten Bxf6... to weaken Black's control of the d5-square and enable a White knight to occupy the d5-square), a sensible reply seems 9...Be6, which would reinforce the d5-square and threaten White's c-pawn. Black's eventual plan could be to open the center by ...dxc4 or ...e4 or to expand on the queenside by ...a6 and ...b5. Black's space along the c-, d-, and e-files makes these plans worth considering.

Question #18—Posted 7/15/11
Your note to 14...Qc7 of Betaneli-Levin ('93 US Open) mentions the plan of ...Nh6 followed by ...Nf5. I was wondering why you didn't play 14...Nh6 immediately. Also, how did you decide to develop the queen to c7 rather than to d7 (for example)?

I refrained from 14...Nh6 because it would allow 15. Ne5. If Black replied 15...Nxe5 to prevent his getting doubled c-pawns due to an exchange of pieces at c6, then 16. fxe5 would leave Black's b-pawn under attack and give White the possibility of breaking up Black's kingside pawns by 17. Bxh6 gxh6. Although this isn't necessarily bad for Black, he'd conserve thinking time by making a desirable move that happens to prevent 15. Ne5.

Such a move is 14...Qc7, to meet 15. Ne5 by 15...Ngxe5 16. fxe5 Nxe5. 16...Nxe5 seems preferable to 16...Qxe5 because the latter invites 17. Bf4, which would temporarily dominate the h2/b8 diagonal (preventing, for example, ...Rab8 to prepare ...b5) and chase Black's queen to the kingside—where she'd be exposed and yet unlikely to accomplish anything. After 16...Nxe5, the opening of the f-file and h2/b8 diagonal wouldn't seem to give White sufficient compensation for the pawn, especially with several of White's pieces being far removed from the kingside.

After 14...Qc7, White could instead interpolate 15. h3 Nh6 and then play 16. Ne5. He'd again be in position to give Black doubled c-pawns (although at the price of giving Black an open b-file), but the control of the g3-square by 16...Nf5 would be more significant than if White had refrained from 15. h3 (which created a hole at g3). 16...Nf5 seems much better than 16...Nxe5, because the latter move, by enabling 17. fxe5, would increase the scope of White's c1-bishop and f1-rook.

14...Qc7 also prevents 15. Ng5 because of 15...Bxg5 (16. fxg5 Qxh2 mate). Although White could then regain the piece by 16. h3 (because if Black retreated the knight from g4, White could safely play 17. fxg5), he'd still end up behind in material after a continuation such as 16...Bh4 17. hxg4 Bxg4.

The alternative 14...Qd7 would create a "battery" along the h3/c8 diagonal and might facilitate the trade of light-square bishops by ...Bh3. But I felt that Black should retain that bishop because it could in principle attack White's e-pawn. If White's e-pawn were to be liquidated (for example, by White's playing e3... and Black's replying ...dxe3), then Black's light-square bishop could attack White's d-pawn.

If Black isn't going to try to trade light-square bishops, then his queen's being on the same diagonal as his light-square bishop seems kind of redundant. But Black's queen at c7 controls two diagonals that aren't controlled by a Black bishop, as well as the e5-square (the significance of which was noted above).

An advantage of putting Black's queen at d7 is that it exerts latent pressure against White's d-pawn (were White to play e3... and permit ...dxe3). But I judged that this wasn't sufficient to offset the benefits of putting the queen on c7 instead.

Finally, although the g4-square is only a temporary post for Black's knight, the piece there does control the e3 and e5 squares, both of which are strategically important in this position (as discussed above). Hence, redeploying the g4-knight did not seem urgent.

Question #19—Posted 7/26/11
I enjoy the Q&A section, but it seems that not many questions get posted. What can your readers do to increase the chance that their questions will be addressed on your website?

The best thing would be to send them to me! I've posted all the questions I've received, but there haven't been many. As a result, the vast majority of the posted questions (including this one) were invented by me.

Question #20—Posted 8/7/11
Some of the chess material you've produced is specifically meant for children. How do you tailor your writing to the age of the intended audience?

When I'm writing for children, I try to avoid words that I suspect are beyond their vocabulary and try to keep the sentence structure simple. But the content of whatever I write is targeted for readers of a particular range of playing strength rather than age. For example, I imagine that my e-book Chess Strategy for Children would help beginning adults about as much as beginning children, but I'll know better as I receive reader feedback.

Question #21—Posted 8/18/11
On the Helpful Hints page (part of the "Instruction" section), item #1 mentions "technical difficulties." Could you explain that term.

"Technique" is the ability to win when you have a winning position or to draw when you have an inferior position that's not quite losing. "Technical difficulties" are said to be present if a winning position can be converted into a win only by unusual precision or subtlety.

The game that prompted Hint #1 was where I had a winning position but my opponent was threatening to exchange certain pieces that I thought would make it hard for me to win. I was able to avoid the threatened exchange only by wrecking my position, and I eventually lost the game. I should have allowed the exchange because even if it would have created technical difficulties (which I later realized were not nearly as significant as I had thought during the game), I would have either won or drawn the game instead of losing.

Question #22—Posted 8/31/11
In your game with Della Sella (see "Annotated Games"), White's 19. e3!! was shown by the game continuation to be practically the winning move. Yet, were I White, I probably would have rejected it because of the following:

The move 19. e3 also seems contrary to Helpful Hint #11.

So, I'm interested in how you came to decide on 19. e3 despite the move's deficiencies.

What made me think of 19. e3 was Black's space advantage along the d- and e-files. So long as Black had pressure against White's e-pawn, White would be distracted from attacking Black's c-pawn. But I realized that clearing the pawns from the two central files would give both sides the same amount of space there (eight squares on each file, using the space-counting technique described elsewhere on this website). Once I became convinced that this would be a positional gain for White, I still had to verify that 19. e3 worked tactically (that is, that the move did not lose material).

Having done the above, I had to assess the deficiencies of 19. e3. I judged that after the exchange of queens and a pair of rooks (reaching the position after White's twenty-third move in the game), the deficiencies you mentioned would be unexploitable:

After all that, I was fully comfortable playing 19. e3.

Question #23—Posted 9/11/11
There seem to be a lot of games where I reach a winning position but end up drawing or even losing. What's a good way to avoid this?

I think it's natural for someone who gets a winning position, to feel that he or she "deserves" to win and therefore is entitled to relax. But this attitude makes a player vulnerable.

Throughout a game, I try to maintain the same level of effort and discipline in thinking—whether I'm winning, losing, or in between. Perhaps adopting this approach will help you.

Question #24—Posted 9/15/11
I was wondering if you could post a sample page or two from your e-book.

Yes, good idea. Thanks for the suggestion.

Question #25—Posted 10/5/11
I was impressed by your reasoning (see Question #22) behind the move 19. e3 in your game agsinst Della Sella (see "Annotated Games"). I was wondering how much of it you had forseen prior to Black's 18th move.

The short answer is, almost none.

In contemplating 11. Nd5, I had calculated up to 18. b3 and assessed that position as clearly better for White due to Black's two queenside "pawn islands" and isolated c-pawn on a half-open file. Only after Black played 18...Rfe8 did I begin to realize that Black's pressure against my e-pawn could impede my exploiting the weakness of his c-pawn. This led me to find 19. e3.

I can't really fault myself for having been tardy in considering Black's pressure along the e-file. When you've thoroughly examined the tactics in a position and find several apparently playable options, they can be assessed only by applying judgment to the "end" positions, even though judgment tends to be imperfect.

Question #26—Posted 10/19/11
In the game Levin-Koval (posted under "Annotated Games"), you adorned 9. Nf5 with an exclamation point. But I don't understand why. The move doesn't win material or seem to give White any great advantage.

I gave 9. Nf5 an exclamation point because in drawing Black's e-pawn to the f5-square, it created a "hole" at Black's d5-square. This allowed a White minor piece (the bishop) to occupy the d5-square, and Black's exchanging it would have simply brought White's knight to that square. Either way, White would have a piece anchored on the d5-square for a long time, which not only would control multiple squares in Black's position but would give White a space advantage along the d-file (since White would have four squares behind the knight, and Black would have only three squares in front of it).

A persistently centralized piece usually causes prolonged discomfort to the opponent. Levin-Koval was unusual in how quickly such a piece helped decide the game.

Question #27—Posted 10/25/11
In the game Levin-Koval (posted under "Annotated Games"), did you consider 13. Qxb6 (instead of 13. Qc2), to give Black doubled pawns (after Black recaptured by 13...axb6)?

Also, in the note to Black's 14th move, should "bring" be changed to "bringing"?

Thanks for letting me know about the typo, which I've fixed.

I considered 13. Qxb6, but Black's doubled b-pawns didn't seem easy to attack. For example, 13. Qxb6 axb6 14. Be3 could be met by 14...Bc5.

Although giving Black doubled b-pawns might have been good for White, I believed that White's lead in development and space advantage in the center (as explained in the answer to Question #26) would yield a stronger initiative if the queens were still on the board, especially since White's Be3... would gain a further "tempo" by attacking Black's queen. By refraining from trading queens, White saddled Black with another piece to try to fit harmoniously within his relatively cramped position. In contrast, White's queen was easy to deploy effectively, as mentioned in the note to Black's 14th move.

Question #28—Posted 11/11/11
Number 5 of your Helpful Hints (under "Instruction") states, "Don't be too eager to sacrifice; be eager enough." I'm not sure how to apply this suggestion. Could you elaborate.

I have to agree that the hint is vague. Whatever I might have meant, my advice now would be to make sure that any sacrifice is evaluated objectively, based on the position. A sacrifice is not justified by rationales such as thinking the opponent's unsound play deserves it, a belief that it will impress a spectator, or irritation at the opponent's stiff resistance.

I rarely sacrifice without there being a clear, calculable gain in material or position. My sacrifices are usually preceded by an accumulation of positional advantages that suddenly yield a winning combination. Also, I seldom sacrifice if I can gain a comparable advantage without sacrificing.

It's an interesting topic. Perhaps I'll do an article about how I make decisions about sacrificing.

Question #29—Posted 11/23/11
With the holiday season almost upon us, will you be offering any discounts on books?

Through the end of 2011, we're offering a "Chess for Children" Special. Click on this phrase in the middle "pane" for more information.

Question #30—Posted 12/9/11
I'm confused about what to do when ahead in material. Many authors say you should try to trade pieces but not pawns, but my opponents seldom cooperate. Do you have any suggestions?

My advice on that is very different. Under "Instruction," I've just posted an article called, "How to Play when Ahead in Material." I'd be interested in any feedback.

Question #31—Posted 1/3/12
I like how you provide systematic ways for determining who has more space, finding tactical moves, and so on. I had a question about the list of tactical moves ("threats") in your answer to Question 11.

Sometimes in a timed game, as I'm going through that list of "threat" moves, I'll find a move I could play that gains me material by force. When this happens, should I just make this move or should I continue looking for an even better move? Let's assume that I have enough time left for either option.

If I have the time to keep looking, I usually do. The exception would be if I find a move that would result in a position that I am 100% sure I would win "in my sleep." By that, I mean that I would win even if the rest of my moves were inaccurate by my standard, so long as none of them would be an actual blunder (again, by my standard). Another way to express this is that the move under consideration would give my opponent a position that's resignable at our level. This means that I would play the move not with the hope that my opponent would resign, but with the assurance that the technique for winning is trivial.

Question #32—Posted 1/28/12
How would you suggest teaching chess to someone who does not know even the rules of the game?

I quite like and have successfully used the approach in Chess for Children, Step by Step by Grandmaster William Lombardy and Bette Marshall. They have the reader play variants of chess that involve the pawns and only one other kind of piece. I am convinced that this method helps to ingrain how the chessmen move, enabling the beginner's conscious thinking to be devoted to more advanced concepts, without having to stop every few seconds to recall how a piece moves.

This book is long out of print, but there may be recent books that employ a similar approach.

Question #33—Posted 2/11/12
Based on your suggestion, I've been trying to look for "threats" at every turn, but I still feel that I'm overlooking too many. I know that I could look for every possible legal move and then decide which ones are threats, but that seems so inefficient. How do you do it?

I look for every possible legal move! It may be inefficient, but it helps a player become an extremely steady tactician. And the more experience you have in looking for every move, the less time it will take. Most important, I have found that the time expended is more than offset by the frequency of finding a tactic that greatly improves my position, often giving me a decisive advantage.

Question #34—Posted 2/22/12
I was wondering whether your becoming proficient at bridge helped your chess.

I suspect that it did. One component of bridge is to visualize a layout of the hidden cards that will allow your side to succeed, to assume (until proven otherwise) that this is the actual layout, and to conduct the play accordingly. Chess has a parallel in that a player often needs to identify and assess the possible long-term consequences of a move or plan, and my ability to do this might well have been reinforced by my having acquired the bridge skill mentioned in the previous sentence.

Question #35—Posted 3/12/12
Helpful Hints (under "Instruction") #42 ("An unusual, even inferior plan by the opponent doesn't mean you'll win, especially if he's White.") and #45 ("A better position isn't necessarily a winning one.") are clear and make sense to me. But I wasn't sure how you intended them to be applied. Could you comment.

Those two hints were meant to caution against overconfidence. When a player believes that he or she has obtained an advantage, there's a tendency to lose objectivity and overlook the opponent's resources. This has resulted in many unnecessary losses, as evident from my own experience! Therefore, the advice here is to strive to maintain alertness and to remain objective no matter how good your position may be.

Question #36—Posted 3/28/12
To follow up on Question #34, one stark difference between chess and bridge is that in chess, each player can see the complete state of the game (that is, where all the pieces and pawns are). But at the start of a bridge deal, you can see only 13 cards out of 52. Also, the odds are that in a lifetime of playing bridge, a player will not be dealt exactly the same hand twice.

Those are excellent points. Subtle differences between bridge deals (that is, in how the cards are distributed) can dramatically affect the proper strategy. This means that to excel at bridge requires approaching each deal without preconceptions, and I think that this way of thinking is good also for one's chess.

Question #37—Posted 4/8/12
In your game against Sevillano (see "Annotated Games"), I was surprised by his risky sacrifice at move six, given that he needed only a draw to clinch sole first place in the tournament. Did you ever find out what led to his decision?

He and I didn't discuss the game, but I found out later that since moving to Atlanta almost a year earlier, IM Sevillano had not lost a tournament game in Georgia. Perhaps he played 6. Nc3 in our game as a way of giving himself a difficult test. It was a bit unlucky for him to find me in such splendid form, especially since this was my first tournament in more than a year and a half. I hadn't played this well in my previous games, even though my play seemed to be improving each round.

Question #38—Posted 4/18/12
In your game against Ivins (see "Annotated Games"), your note to 11. Nxd2 said that you wanted to avoid the maneuver of White's knight to the c5-square. But after 11...cxd4 12. cxd4, how would that redeployment of White's knight have impeded Black from conducting a "minority attack" along the a- and b-files (rather than the game's 12...c5)?

After 11...cxd4 12. cxd4, if White were permitted to play the moves Nb3..., Nc5..., and b3..., then I don't see how Black could have made progress on the queenside. To effectively attack White's b3-pawn would require playing ...a5 and ...a4, but to avoid simply losing the pawn to Nxa4..., Black would need to control the a4-square with a minor piece, which could only be done by playing ...Ba6 and ...Bb5. But White could answer ...Bb5 by a4..., which would close the queenside while retaining the ability either to play on the kingside, where White holds a space advantage, or to play for b4... in order to create a passed a-pawn.

Being that this all sounds dismal for Black, it would seem that Black's playing on the queenside would require preventing White from playing Nb3, Nc5, and b3. This suggests the continuation 11...cxd4 12. cxd4 a5 13. Nb3 a4 14. Nc5 Qa5, with the idea of meeting 15. b3 by 15...axb3 16. Nxb3 (White's only safe recapture) 16...Qa4, which gives Black some activity. However, rather than playing the abrupt 15. b3, White could patiently exploit the two weaknesses created by the advance of Black's a-pawn: the b4-square and Black's a-pawn itself.

The weakness of Black's b4-square (after 11...cxd4 12. cxd4 a5 13. Nb3 a4 14. Nc5 Qa5) could be exploited by 15. Bd2 Qb5 16. a3, intending to bind the queenside by 17. Bb4. 16...Qxb2 would then fail to 17. Bb4 Ba6 (to prevent 18. Re2) 18. Nxa4. The weakness of Black's a-pawn (again, after 11...cxd4 12. cxd4 a5 13. Nb3 a4 14. Nc5 Qa5) could be exploited by 15. Re3 (intending 16. Ra3) 15...Ba6 16. Ra3 Bb5 17. Bd2 Qb6 (intending 18. Nxa4 Bxa4 19. Rxa4 Rxa4 20. Qxa4 Qxb2 or 18. Nd7 Qxd4 19. Nxf8 Qxb2) 18. Bc3 (renewing the threats of 19. Nd7 or 19. Nxa4) 18...Qa7 (threatening 19...Bxe5, as White's d-pawn would be "overloaded") 19. Bb4 (threatening 20. b3, to exploit the pin against Black's a-pawn), and it appears that Black must lose material.

The game continuation 11...cxd4 12. cxd4 c5 avoided all of these difficulties, while opening the position for Black's bishops.

Question #39—Posted 5/1/12
This is probably a really basic question, but it's been bothering me for a long time. From reading your website, I understand the importance of having more space than the opponent does. And a lot of books say that controlling the center is important. But I've yet to see an explanation for why it's better to control the d- and e-files than, for example, the a- and b-files. Can you help me understand this?

That's actually a very good question, which I probably hadn't thought deeply about until I was working on Chess Strategy for Children. It was intuitive to me to control the center, but I needed a solid, clear reason to persuade potential readers of that e-book.

The answer I came up with is that if you control space along the edge of the chessboard (such as along the a- and b-files), that leaves five adjacent files (the d- through h-files) for the opponent to try to control space. Since a space advantage tends to be more effective along three adjacent files than along two adjacent files (one reason being that the former provides more squares on which to aggressively post pieces), the opponent's attack might well be stronger than yours.

However, if you control space along the d- and e-files, this leaves the opponent only two adjacent files (either the a- and b-files or the g- and h-files) to try to control space. This is why having a space advantage in the center tends to give a player more control of a position than if the player had a space advantage along the a- and b-files or along the g- and h-files.

Question #40—Posted 5/15/12
I'm trying to decide what openings to play as White and as Black. I've looked at some of the repertoire books, but I don't know how to select among them. What openings do you think help a player improve the most?

I would suggest the following opening sequences (which might be termed "Level I") for a player new to the game or who isn't thoroughly familiar with them:

For players who have established and become comfortable with a repertoire based on the sequences suggested above, see the following (which might be termed "Level II"): A repertoire based on the above sequences would be sound and could serve a player indefinitely. However, for players who have established, become comfortable with, and wish to expand upon a repertoire based on the sequences suggested above, see the following (which might be termed Level III): There might well be alternatives (especially for Level III) that are as good as those I've suggested above, but I think it would be hard to do better. Also, there are sequences I could suggest for beyond Level III, but a player who has reached that stage probably doesn't need my help.

Question #41—Posted 6/3/12
In your answer to Question 33, you suggested identifying tactics by examining every possible legal move. For those of us who cannot seem to come anywhere close to achieving that, what might we do?

One obviously sensible "shortcut" which I probably failed to mention would be to start looking for every possible legal move only after your opponent has made a move that takes you out of your opening preparation. Whether you are doing that or not, I'd also suggest that before a game, you decide how much clock time you will devote to looking for every possible legal move.

For example, if the time limit per player were two hours for the entire game, you might decide to look thoroughly for legal moves until you have made a move that leaves you with less than one hour remaining. For the rest of the game, you would play at whatever speed is necessary to avoid time pressure. This may require looking thoroughly at tactics only when you sense that the position might contain a decisive blow either for you (in which case you'd want to play it) or against you (in which case you'd want to avoid it).

Question #42—Posted 6/16/12
In "A Game with My Moves Explained" (under "Instruction"), your note to 9...a6 begins, "White threatened to exchange Black's dark square bishop..." I'd like to draw an analogy with the position reached from the Nimzo-Indian Defense after the following sequence: 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Bd3 Nc6 6. Nf3 d5 7. O-O O-O 8. a3 Bxc3 9. bxc3 dxc4 10. Bxc4 Qc7 11. Bd3 e5 12. Qc2 Re8 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Qxe5. This position has long been considered equal, even though White has the two bishops.

So, my question is, why in Marchand-Levin did you consider it unfavorable for Black to have his dark-square bishop exchanged for one of White's knights?

It is true that in Marchand-Levin, Black's anticipated ...c5 or ...e5 would likely result in a second pair of pawns being traded, which would bring about six pawns per side, the same as in your Nimzo-Indian position after 14...Qxe5. However, there would be a significant difference in the pawn structures of the two positions. In your Nimzo-Indian position, White has two "pawn islands" on the queenside, which makes those pawns less mobile (because an advance of either pawn would be with the support of pieces only) and more difficult for White to defend (because no other pawn is available to defend either pawn) than if the two pawns were on adjacent files (for example, on the a- and b-files). But in Marchand-Levin after 9. Nc3, White could have subsequently avoided an isolated pawn by answering ...c5 by dxc5... or ...e5 by dxe5...

In your Nimzo-Indian position, the pawns' being isolated makes them more prone to being "blockaded" (that is, an enemy chessman's occupying the square directly in front of the pawn) because White lacks an adjacent pawn to attack the blockader. That Black has retained a knight is actually fortunate because that piece's span of control not only is not impeded by the pawn it's blockading, but includes the squares that would have been controlled by Black pawns adjacent to the knight.

For example, imagine a White pawn at c4, a Black knight at c5, and Black pawns at a5 and e5. Black's knight would control the a4 square, just as a Black pawn at b5 would, as well as the e4 square, just as a Black pawn at d5 would. As a result, the Black chessmen at a5, c5, and e5 would control the a4, b4, d4, and e4 squares, which would not be the case if c5 were occupied by a different Black piece.

In summary, White's split queenside pawns in your Nimzo-Indian position offset White's possession of the "two bishops." But in Marchand-Levin, 10. Nb5, if permitted, would have given White the two bishops without his queenside pawns being split. The significance of split pawns was shown in my game against Della Sella (under "Annotated Games"), in which their possession literally caused Black to lose.

Question #43—Posted 8/15/12
How do you evaluate this position, which is considered theoretically best play in the 9...cxd4 line of the Tarrasch Defense?

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.g3 Nf6 7.Bg2 Be7 8.00 00 9.Bg5 cxd4 10.Nxd4 h6 11.Be3 Re8 12.Rc1 Bf8 13.Na4 Bd7 14.Nc5 Bxc5 15.Rxc5 Qe7 16.Nxc6 bxc6 17.Rc2 Ne4 18.Qd4 a5 19.Rfc1.

The consensus is that nobody wants to play Black.

Black's position after 18...a5 seems static and therefore vulnerable. It struck me that the culprit might be 13...Bd7, which is hardly in the active spirit of the Tarrasch defense. Here's what I've come up with. This analysis was tested by my playing Black against a chess program.

13...Ng4 (This virtually forces the exchange at c6, which permits Black's light-square bishop to go to a6 and hit e2.) 14. Nxc6 (14. Bf4 g5 15. Nxc6 bxc6 16. Bd2 seems less challenging to Black.) 14...bxc6 15. Bd4 Ba6 16. Bf3 Ne5 (Black's play seemed to fizzle out when I tried 16...Qd7. He needs instead to continue seeking tactics to justify his play.) 17. Bxe5 Rxe5 18. Rxc6 Qa5 (I had tried 18...Bb5 19. Rc1 d4, containing the knight and intending 20. Bxa8 Bxe2 21. Qd2 Bxf1 22. Rxf1 Qxa8 23. Qxd4 Re4 24. Qd7 h5, when Black intends ...h4 and has extremely mobile pieces. But the chess program defused this by playing 20. b3 followed by Nb2. In retrospect, 18...Bb5 should have been suspect because it coaxed White's rook to a less-exposed square.) 19. Qd4 Rxe2 20. Rxa6 (20. Bxe2 Bxe2 would regain the exchange, through the threat of 21...Bb5, a vindication of the earlier comment regarding 18...Bb5 being premature.) 20...Qxa6 21. Bxe2 Qxe2 22. Qxd5 Re8 (This might look unnatural, but Black's "battery" allows his rook access to vital ranks. 22...Rc8 would be met by 23. Qd7.) 23. Rc1 Re5 24. Qa8 Rf5 (Now it gets hairy.) 25. Qxa7 Bc5 (A bit of "interference.") 26. Qa8+ (26. Nxc5 would concede an immediate draw after 26...Qxf2+ 27. Kh1 Qf3+.) 26...Kh7 27. Nxc5 Qxf2+ 28. Kh1 Rxc5 29. Qe4+ f5 30. Qe1 Rxc1 31. Qxc1 g5 (Black is down a pawn, but having only queens remaining is ideal for supporting the passed pawn that Black is about to create.) 32. a4 f4 33. gxf4 gxf4 34. b4 f3 35. Qc7+, and White must take a draw by perpetual check.

If this is sound, it would appear to rehabilitate 9...cxd4, which had recently been eclipsed by 9...c4. But just before posting this Q&A entry, I looked in my old volume of ECO and found a note that gives up to 18...Qa5 of the above sequence, assessing that position as unclear. So, I guess I didn't "discover" as much as I'd thought.

Question #44—Posted 9/27/12
In your game against Della Sella (under "Annotated Games"), could you explain the purpose of 8. h3. Also, that seemed to be the only instance where you moved an h-pawn in any of your games posted under "Annotated Games." Is there a lesson in this, or was it just coincidence?

Agsinst Della Sella, I played 8. h3 to prevent 9...Bh3 as a followup to 8...Qc8. I wanted to retain the light-square bishops because it seemed to me that Black's would be difficult to find a strategically useful post for, whereas White's covers the hole at h3 and could "discover" against the light squares in the center or further along the long diagonal.

The absence of posted games where I moved my h-pawn is partly attributable to the posted games' having involved sharp openings and middlegames in which a slow move like h3... or ...h6 would have been pointless. But even in general, I try to avoid such "preventive" moves unless they seem indispensable.

I've seen numerous games where a player sees an apparently dangerous possibility available to the opponent, and rather than analyze it, the player makes a "safe" move just in case the possibility might be a genuine threat. But the "safety" of such a move is an illusion. First, the move consumes a tempo that might have been used constructively. Second, the move often creates a weakness (which is true of all pawn moves) or places a chessman where it doesn't ideally belong. The cumulative damage caused by such "safe" moves over several games could easily reach a half point or more.

Therefore, I suggest that if you see a dangerous possibility for the opponent, don't impulsively make a "safe" move to prevent it. Instead, analyze it, and if you don't find the move to be a concrete threat, assume that it isn't one and make a constructive move rather than a "safe" move. True, you will occasionally lose a game where you fail to perceive actual danger, but far more often you will gain from not having defended against an imaginary threat.

Question #45—Posted 11/16/12
How would you convey to a beginner that it's valuable to occupy the center with pawns?

Incidentally, given your answer in #44, I thought you might like the following quote attributed to GM Neil McDonald: "Don't be afraid of ghosts! Always play the moves you want to play unless you see a genuine tactical drawback."

Thanks for sharing that quote. I think it's great.

To address your question, I would guide the student in discovering that on an otherwise empty board, the center is where a queen, bishop, or knight can reach the most squares. Then I would show that if you try to occupy the center with a piece near the start of a game, the opponent can chase it away by advancing a pawn. The conclusion is that it's necessary to use one's center pawns as a shield to help one's pieces approach the center safely.

A more detailed discussion on this may be found in my e-book, Chess Strategy for Children.

Question #46—Posted 12/12/12
I have trouble visualizing the movement of knights more than 1-2 moves ahead. One move is an L-shape, two moves is like a tetris-block turning, three moves is abstract art, four moves is spaghetti!

Can you suggest an exercise to improve one's ability to visualize a series of knight moves. I suspect that many players rated under 2000 would benefit. Thanks.

An issue of Chess Review magazine from the 1960s discussed the following exercise. On an empty board, place Black pawns at c3, c6, f3, and f6, and a White knight at a1. Then maneuver the knight to each square on the board that isn't controlled or occupied by a pawn, while taking care never to land on any square controlled or occupied by a pawn.

For example, to begin by maneuvering the knight from a1 to b1, you could play Na1-c2-a3-b1. But to then maneuver the knight from b1 to c1, you can't mimic the Na1-c2-a3-b1 path by Nb1-d2-b3-c1 because d2 is controlled by the pawn at c3. After reaching c1, maneuver the knight to d1, e1, f1, g1, and h1. Then maneuver to h2, f2 (skipping g2 because it's controlled by the f3-pawn), c2, and a2. Then maneuver to a3 and along the third rank (skipping the c3 and f3 squares), and then maneuver along each rank until eventually maneuvering to a8.

The article suggested timing oneself in making the entire trip from a1 to a8, and adding a penalty (which I believe was 10 seconds) for each illegal move (if any). The writer said that the time required might indicate one's extent of chess talent, and it gave the times taken by several prominent grandmasters (which ranged from 2 to 5 minutes, as I recall). But the exercise strikes me also as a good way to master visualizing a series of knight moves.

If you have a video camera, you might record yourself doing the exercise and then view the video to spot any illegal moves.

Question #47—Posted 1/2/13
I was wondering what your opinion was of Wojo's Weapons, Volume 1, by Jonathan Hilton and Dean Ippolito. It seems to have gotten especially positive reviews.

I've read some of the book, and I feel that the authors did an exceptional job in researching, selecting, organizing, and explaining the repertoire.

The one flaw I see: too many instances of superficial commentary to particular moves in the middle game or end game. Here are examples.

All things considered, I think it's a fine book.

Question #48—Posted 2/7/13
Many authors discuss opening principles while neglecting to address exceptions. For example, "develop knights before bishops" is contradicted by the well-established sequence 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 (French Defense, Winawer Variation).

I would like to be able to discern when such a principle applies and when it doesn't apply.

I'm not sure how the advice "knights before bishops" became popular. Perhaps in the majority of opening lines, a player develops a knight before a bishop. I've seen this principle cited as a reason for the sequence 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3, even though 2. Bc4 seems reasonable also. Let's disregard that principle for now and instead consider possible strategies for White after 1. e4 e5, and how they are aided or impeded by various moves.

Proper middlegame strategy usually includes creating at least one open or half-open file for one's rooks. (For elaboration on this, see some of my writings at this website or my e-book Chess Strategy for Children.) After 1. e4 e5, White could achieve this by preparing the advance d4... or f4... and eventually trading that pawn for Black's e-pawn. Moreover, the advance d4... might be preceded by c3..., to enable White to answer ...exd4 by cxd4... and thereby maintain pawns at d4 at e4.

2. Bc4, by blocking neither White's d-pawn nor White's f-pawn, would retain the option of soon playing d4... or f4... In addition, 2. Bc4 would bring a second White chessman to where it controls the d5-square, in anticipation that Black might prepare ...d5, to do to White what White wants to do to Black. However, 2. Bc4 does not increase White's control of the d4- or f4-squares. Nor does 2. Bc4 carry a tactical threat, for 3. Qh5 (assuming an irrelevant second move by Black), threatening 4. Qxe5+ or 4. Qxf7 mate, could be met by 3...Qe7, followed by ...Nf6 to dislodge White's queen from her aggressive post.

In comparison, 2. Nf3 would block White's f-pawn, leaving d4... as the only readily viable pawn advance against Black's e-pawn. However, 2. Nf3 would control the d4-square. Although also controlling the e5-square, 2. Nf3 does not threaten to win a pawn permanently, because 3. Nxe5 (assuming an irrelevant second move by Black) could be answered by 3...Qe7 4. d4 d6 5. Nf3 Qxe4+, regaining the pawn. Even so, 6. Be3 would leave Black's queen subject to attack by Bd3..., which would put White way ahead in development.

Therefore, after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3, Black would be advised to avoid his/her queen's being drawn to where it's subject to attack. This calls for protecting the e-pawn by 2...Nc6 or 2...d6, or attacking White's e-pawn by 2...Nf6.

Although this discussion has not resolved whether 2. Nf3 is truly superior to 2. Bc4 (after 1. e4 e5), it has illustrated some of the considerations that determine whether a move makes sense. This type of thinking would be far more beneficial than blindly following a principle that is faulty much of the time. I'd suggest that a player decide whether to play for d4... or f4..., and then deploy pieces to facilitate that pawn move. After having played some games that way, reading published opening analysis will be much more meaningful than if the player hadn't first experimented in his/her own games.

Question #49—Posted 3/1/13
After the sequence 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d5 (the Neo-Gruenfeld) 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. O-O Nb6 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. d5 Na5 10. Qc2 Nxd5 11. Rd1 c6 12. Ne1 Bd7 13. Nxd5 cxd5 14. Rxd5 e6 15. Rd3 Qc8, Wojo's Weapons, Volume 3 claims an edge for White after either 16. Bd2 or 16. Qxc8 Bxc8 17. Rd1 e5 18. Nd3 Nc6 19. Be3. I was wondering whether you agree with that assessment or see any improvement for Black.

I believe that 16. Bd2 can be soundly answered by 16...Qxc2 17. Nxc2 Ba4, even though it's complicated. When I tested this by playing Black against a chess program, the game ultimately simplified to a drawn ending.

And after 16. Qxc8 Bxc8 17. Rd1 e5 18. Nd3, 18...Nc6 seems wrong. A drawback of White's kingside fianchetto is that the light-square bishop does not control the c4-square, which makes White prone to the occupation of that square by Black's knight. Therefore, returning Black's knight to the c6-square seems counterproductive. In contrast, 18...Bg4 would develop a piece with tempo (by attacking the e-pawn) and intend 19. Kf1 Rac8. A subsequent ...b6 would prevent Black's queenside pawns from being attacked by a White bishop along the g1/a7 or h1/a8 diagonal.

In light of the above, 15...Qc8 seems to equalize.

Question #50—Posted 3/31/13
I am interested in learning to play Black in the Sicilian Scheveningen position that can be reached by either of the following sequences:

  1. 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6
  2. 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6
Which of these sequences would be more correct?

Both sequences are valid, but they differ in how they permit White to reasonably deviate. For example, your sequence A would permit the deviation 3. Bb5+ (Moscow Variation). But in sequence B, the deviation 3. Bb5 would merely provoke 3...a6, a useful move for Black in the Sicilian because it prepares a later ...b5, which would further the queenside expansion that was initiated by 1...c5. That 3...a6 here would gain a tempo by attacking White's bishop would be gravy.

On the other hand, sequence B would permit the deviation 3. c3 (preparing the sequence d4 cxd4, cxd4), because 3...Nf6 could be reasonably answered by 4. e5 Nd5 5. d4. In contrast, the deviation 3. c3 in sequence A could be rendered innocuous by 3...Nf6 4. e5 dxe5 5. Nxe5, because the liquidation of White's e-pawn takes away the possibility of White's typical middlegame pawn push of e5... to dislodge Black's f6-knight from its strong kingside defensive post.

When there are multiple valid opening sequences that transpose to a desired position, a player should choose the sequence for which he/she would be more comfortable encountering deviations by the opponent.

Question #51—Posted 5/6/13
It seems that at tournaments I've attended in which two players are tied for the lead going into the last round and would play each other in that round, the game is usually a draw in fewer than 25 moves (and sometimes far fewer). There seems to be controversy about this practice, and I would be interested in your opinion. Please assume that each player acts spontaneously in agreeing to a draw (that is, this result is not "fixed" in advance).

In general, I think that the two players in a chess game have the right to spontaneously agree to a draw at any point during the game. The primary criticism of quick last-round draws between co-leaders is that it disappoints the spectators. But being tied for the lead going into the last round isn't a gift; a player has to perform extremely well to reach that point. Also, in most tournaments, the additional prize money to be gained by a co-leader by winning instead of drawing, is less than the prize money that would be sacrificed by losing instead of drawing.

Unless a tournament organizer has arranged to adequately compensate players for taking the risk of losing a crucial last-round game (for example, by guaranteeing a satisfactory minimum payout to a player), I think that trying to compel co-leaders to play for a decisive result is grossly unfair to those players. If quick last-round draws displease spectators, they are free to refrain from attending future events.

But it would be advisable for young players to avoid such draws. This would help train them to treat a critical last-round game in the same way as any other game, which is easier when the stakes are relatively modest. Once a player has conquered the anxiety associated with playing a critical last-round game, he or she would be empowered to decide on draw offers or acceptances according to practicality rather than fear.

Question #52—Posted 6/6/13
When an opponent plays a move or idea I wasn't expecting, my thinking tends not to be as systematic as I would like. Any suggestions?

Start by looking for any immediate tactics, that is, look for moves that check, capture, or attack. If you find such moves, analyze them. If there aren't any such moves (or if there are, but none of them bears fruit), then consider what might be a reasonable strategy. If you find one, then think about what moves you would need to play to achieve it, and what moves the opponent might play to try to prevent this. These considerations can help in identifying the move that should now be played.

If a position seems to contain neither relevant tactics nor an obvious strategy, then try to formulate a strategy by examining where either side has a territorial advantage or other asset. Further guidance can be found in my Read the Pawn Structure series and in IM Evans's The Evans' Method, which are in the Instruction section of this website.

Question #53—Posted 7/2/13
The image you provide of a two-page sample of Chess Strategy for Children is of poor quality. I was wondering whether you had considered making these two pages available in pdf format instead, which would also allow people to verify that they could view that type of file.

Egad, you are absolutely right about the image. I have replaced it with a pdf file, as you suggested. Thank you!

Question #54—Posted 8/11/13
On your webpage that describes the e-book version of Position and Pawn Tension in Chess, you mention that the paperback version had errors in diagrams. Could you tell us what they were.

Certainly. In the paperback version, Diagram 70 wrongly omitted a White knight at f3 and a Black knight at c6, and Diagram 83 should have had White's a-pawn on the third rank instead of the second rank. I implied that these errors were "minor" because the correct position in either case could be inferred from the text. Of course, I'd have preferred not having made those mistakes, but that's publishing.

Question #55—Posted 9/22/13
Diagram 66 of Position and Pawn Tension in Chess shows the following position (given here in Forsyth-Edwards notation).

In regard to this position's pawn configuration (White: a2, b2, c3, e4, f2, g3, h2; Black: a7, b6, c5, d6, f7, g6, h7), you note that White has a "kingside territorial advantage." But applying your method of determining space by counting squares along a file (described in your article To Plan for the Middlegame, Read the Pawn Structure, posted at your website), it seems that Black has more space along the e-file and the same space as White on the f-, g-, and h-files. I'd appreciate if you would address this apparent contradiction.

I agree. In discussing Diagram 66, I probably should have written instead that White has obtained a kingside majority and that none of its pawns is immediately obstructed by an opposing pawn (in contrast to when Black had a pawn at e5, which had obstructed White's e4-pawn).

Question #56—Posted 10/2/13
I emailed you several weeks ago with a question about one of your books, but I haven't received a reply. I was wondering what might have happened.

I tried replying, but my email was rejected by your email provider (gmail) due to "no such user" matching the intended recipient's username. Perhaps the gmail server interpreted my email as spam and sent me the alleged error notification in order to discourage further attempts.

If you were to insert my email address into your "address book" or "whitelist" (or whatever gmail calls it) and then contact me again, I would be glad to try resending my reply.

Question #57—Posted 11/10/13
On your "Welcome" frame, there seems to be a broken link that was for the U.S. Chess Federation's page on algebraic notation.

Thank you for letting me know. I have modified the "Welcome" frame to eliminate the broken link.

Question #58—Posted 1/17/14
Your "Availability" frame (under "Published Books and E-books") says to contact you if one wishes to use PayPal to pay for an order. I was wondering if you had considered posting your PayPal account name (email address), which would be more expedient for the prospective buyer.

Although I will accept PayPal if someone would otherwise have no means of conveying payment, it has certain aspects that I find an imposition. Constraining people to contact me before placing their initial order using PayPal helps keep its usage below my threshold. Thank you for understanding.

Question #59—Posted 2/20/14
In the game Sevillano–Levin (under "Annotated Games"), your note to 18...Bb6 says that you're not sure why you preferred this to 18...Bf6. But the game continuation (as well as some of the unplayed variations) demonstrates how placing the bishop on the a5- or b6-square often created a threat and ultimately won the exchange. In contrast, at the f6-square, the bishop would have loads of mobility but would be striking at emptiness. Might your opting to play 18...Bb6 rather than 18...Bf6 have been prompted by such considerations?

Those are good points, and they probably did influence my decision to play 18...Bb6. Another consideration was the need to inhibit a White knight's reaching the d4-square, which would have centralized it, obstructed the d-file, and made it awkward for Black to avoid the exchange of that knight for one of Black's bishops.

Question #60—Posted 3/17/14
I see on your "Published Books and E-books" menu, that the paperback Chess Puzzles for Children is no longer available. I was wondering when it would become available again.

I don't know. I have stopped reprinting this book because I would like for another publisher to handle the reprints and pay me an author royalty. Even though my net earnings per unit sold would presumably be considerably less than I have been earning as the publisher, this reduction would be more than offset by the virtual elimination of the time I spend preparing shipments or otherwise being involved in the book's distribution. I've contacted a literary agent, and I'm awaiting the person's reply.

Question #61—Posted 4/22/14
Your webpage about the paperback Position and Pawn Tension in Chess refers to a review at by "Musiquewand", but I just looked at amazon's page and didn't see that or any other review.

Thanks for letting me know. I'm not sure why the review was removed, but I've revised my Position and Pawn Tension in Chess page so that it instead cites the review at

Question #62—Posted 5/9/14
I agree with your suggestion to try to systematically look for any "threatening" moves. But it doesn't seem feasible for speed chess (for example, 5 minutes/game), at least for us mere mortals. Any suggestions?

Yes. In speed chess, rather than systematically examine every possible "threatening" move, I try to be aware of the lines that are being opened and closed by a given move, in the hope that this will help me spot any relevant "threatening" moves. For example, the move 1. Nf3 contributes toward opening the lines that intersect at the g1-square (that is, the first rank, the g-file, the g1/a7 diagonal, and the g1/h2 diagonal) and contributes toward closing the lines that intersect at the f3-square (that is, the third rank, the f-file, the h1/a8 diagonal, and the d1/h5 diagonal).

Actually, the above would be a good idea even for more generous time controls.

Question #63—Posted 6/3/14
Item #30 of your Helpful Hints (under Instruction) says, "Watch for interference themes." Could you explain the term "interference."

The term "interference" refers to a type of tactic that involves obstructing a key rank, file, or diagonal. A classic example occurred in the game Reti-Bogoljubow (New York, 1924) after 24...Kh8 (resulting in the position that's given below in Forsyth-Edwards notation).

At this point, White prompted his opponent's resignation by playing 25. Be8!. This not only cleared the f-file (thereby enabling two White pieces to attack the f8-square), but obstructed the rank (thereby giving Black zero defenders of the f8-square). After 25...Bxc5+ 26. Qxc5, White's queen would still be attacking the f8-square, resulting in mate after 26...Rxe8 27. Rf8+ Rxf8 28. Qxf8.

Question #64—Posted 7/3/14
I'm interested in learning the Nimzo-Indian (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4) as Black. But I'm baffled by this opening's numerous variations and transpositions. I can't seem to figure out what move sequences to use that will ensure that I don't end up in a variation that I haven't studied. I'd really appreciate some guidance.

I would suggest aiming for the following sequence (after 3...Bb4): 4. e3 c5 5. Bd3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bxc3+ (the Huebner Variation). This line, which I'll call our "main line," avoids the intricacies of 6...O-O 7. O-O d5.

If White plays the moves of our "main line" in a different order, try to transpose back into our "main line." For example, answer 4. Nf3 with 4...c5.

In studying how to respond to other variations of the Nimzo-Indian, try to select moves that a different sequence might have "forced" you to play anyway. For example, after the moves 4. e3 c5 of our "main line," White could transpose into the Saemisch Variation (normally reached by 4. a3) by playing 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3. This implies that among Black's reasonable alternatives after 4. a3 Bxc3+ 5. bxc3, Black should select 5...c5 because 6. e3 would reach a position that Black would have had to study anyway (because it could arise by 4. e3 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3). White is of course not obliged to play 6. e3, but the approach I'm suggesting nonetheless seems to constrain what Black has to know.

Question #65—Posted 7/20/14
I noticed that a review (which I'm afraid wasn't favorable) of your music track The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena) has been posted by the Recorded A Cappella Review Board (RARB) at I would be interested in your opinion of the reviewer's comments.

I thought that the review was poorly conceived.

The reviewer's main premise seemed to be that for a one-person a cappella track, a lush arrangement is categorically better than a spare arrangement.

If this were valid, it would seem to apply also to a multi-person a cappella track. Having several singers doesn't preclude one or more of them from recording more than one vocal part.

Yet, there have been numerous exquisite a cappella tracks in which four singers each sang just one vocal part, such as A Foreign Affair by The Manhattan Transfer. I suspect that any improvement from adding vocal parts to that track would have been negligible. Moreover, that such a satisfying track could be created with only four vocal parts is a testament to the group's talent and musicianship.

Listening enjoyment can be derived not only from the sound produced but from the economy with which it was produced. Having more notes is not necessarily more satisfying than having fewer notes. This applies just as well to a one-person a cappella group as to a four-person a cappella group and influenced my decision to have only four vocal parts on my track.

The reviewer criticized my having used a "transcriptional arrangement" for the track. I'm not sure why he didn't mention that this might have been my way of paying tribute to Jan & Dean's rendition, which in fact it was, as I stated in the notes to my track at CD Baby.

I think that the reviewer crossed the line between critique and insult when he characterized my rendition as, at best a "vanity track." I take this to mean that my track would be unfit for a record company to have released.

It doesn't take much exposure to music to realize that the extent of a track's commercial success is not necessarily an indicator of its artistic or musical value. The corollary is that a track of intrinsic merit doesn't necessarily attract the interest of the music industry. Therefore, I don't see why the music industry's hypothesized degree of interest in a track should be relevant in a review of that track.

In practice, the "vanity track" characterization has been disproved by my having received positive feedback from purchasers of my track.

The reviewer felt that there wasn't enough energy in the non-bass vocal parts of my track. I'm not sure that I agree, but it seems a legitimate criticism.

In summary, I'd say that the review deserves a 2 on a 5-point scale, the same as the reviewer gave my track. But I don't regret having had the RARB review it, being that this constitutes free publicity.

Question #66—Posted 8/20/14
My question concerns the recent book Openings for Amateurs by Pete Tamburro. On page 145, the author lists 10 tips for how to study openings. They seem excellent (as does the book in general), but I was curious as to whether you had any additional suggestions, assuming that you've seen the book.

Yes, I received a copy from the author, and I share your enthusiasm for the book. Concerning your question, I recently posted the article How to Play through a Game's Pawn Structures, which proposed that a player who wants to deeply understand a published game examine the series of pawn structures that arose in that game. I think that doing this before applying Pete's 10 tips would magnify the benefit obtained from those tips, because the player would have already formed a set of opinions that he or she can test against published discussions of the strategy in that opening and against grandmaster games in that opening.

Question #67—Posted 9/8/14
I find interesting (and beneficial to the reader) that the game given in your article How to Play through a Game's Pawn Structures is also "Model Game 6" in the book Openings for Amateurs by Pete Tamburro.

I'm glad that you mentioned this, because I had intended to address it in answering Question #66 but forgot. I had gotten the idea for the article several months earlier but did not have time to start working on it. Then Pete's book arrived, and I decided to see whether it contained a game that would be suitable for my article. I did not recall having previously seen the Smyslov–Denker game, but I thought it excellent for my article because many of White's moves in the middlegame can be understood from the pawn structure. Tactics in this game seem to arise mainly as justification for moves that would be positionally desirable anyway, in contrast to the many games in which the correctness of a move in the middlegame can be determined only by painstaking analysis.

Question #68—Posted 9/29/14
I have been working on a theory that if the king were to be forced to move to take a piece, thereby removing any chance of castling, most strategies are rendered almost useless. Do you think this is a viable plan of attack?

Depending on how one defines "a strategy," most positions reached by sound play will allow each side very few strategies, sometimes only one. These strategies usually involve trying to gain space, provoke weaknesses, and attain other positional advantages whose accumulation might eventually bring about a winning position.

But, if one side sacrifices the equivalent of two pawns, even if it prompts the opponent's king to move, the opponent might be able to attain a winning position without having to accumulate positional advantages—simply by defending carefully and defusing the attack.

Nonetheless, there are positions in published opening analysis where exposing the opponent's king is deemed worth two pawns. An example is reached in the Alekhin Defense after 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 dxe5 5. Nxe5 Nd7 6. Nxf7 Kxf7 7. Qh5+ Ke6. Here, Black's king has been drawn to the third rank, where many White chessmen could reach it in only one or two moves. This allows White to make developing moves that also carry threats, which constrains Black from making otherwise desirable moves.

But if Black were to play more sanely, such as 5...g6 (instead of 5...Nd7), then 6. Nxf7 would not expose Black's king nearly enough to justify the sacrifice, because with White's having no way to force Black's king to the third rank, it could be readily shielded by Black's other chessmen. Also, some of White's chessmen, especially pawns, would need more moves to reach Black's king than if it were on the third rank.

Preventing the opponent from castling is much more likely to justify the sacrifice of only one pawn than sacrificing more than that.

Consequently, I would say that your idea for attacking wouldn't be viable except possibly after the opponent has played badly or provocatively.

Question #69—Posted 11/3/14
I tried out your diagram-pair tool (under "Instruction"), and it worked fine. I entered a game manually because I couldn't get my computer to open anything that was in .pgn format.

I didn't see any way of saving or printing the diagrams and game score. Did I miss something or is that a next step in the development? For study purposes, some way of doing that would be useful.

I refrained from creating a "Save" function because the web browsers with which I'm familiar provide one. For example, in the version of Firefox that I use, the function is "Save Page As" and then "Web Page, complete" in the resulting window ("complete" being necessary to include the diagrams, else only the HTML would be saved). Similarly, my impression is that most browsers have a "Print" capability with an option to include images.

If you had a "pgn" file on your computer but couldn't open it (for example, by double-clicking on the file's icon), this would suggest that the "pgn" filetype had not been associated with an application. This can be gotten around by opening Notepad or Wordpad (or the equivalent) and then from within that application, opening the pgn file.

Question #70—Posted 12/13/14
Your books and articles often emphasize that a player should try to attack where he/she has a space advantage. Yet, even though White gets a space advantage throughout the c- through f-files after 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. f4, you've stated that 5...g5 seems playable (for example, in your article Alekhine Defense, Four Pawns Attack under the Opening Theory menu). I'm guessing that there are other considerations besides space, but I'd be most interested in your perspective.

Having more space is often an asset because it allows its owner to deploy more pieces behind the owner's pawns than the opponent can deploy behind the opponent's pawns. Then the owner of the space advantage would typically trade at least one pair of pawns so that his/her preponderance of pieces could dominate the opponent's.

However, because every pawn advance weakens the squares that it can no longer control, the side with the space advantage also tends to have more square weaknesses on those files than the opponent does. If that sector of the board were to open when the player with the space disadvantage had at least as many pieces in that sector as the opponent did, then the position of the player with the space advantage might well be more vulnerable.

In the sequence you asked about, neither side has any developed pieces in the central files or on the kingside (Black's king's knight's having relocated to the queenside). White's not having established a preponderance of developed pieces in either of these sectors makes 5...g5 more reasonable than it would otherwise be.

There are certainly many other considerations in evaluating 5...g5. What prompted my decades-long investigation of that move was that White seemed to have the advantage in the book lines, yet Black's play from moves 1 through 4 put White's center under pressure immediately and therefore seemed correct. This convinced me that Black must have an improvement at or after move 5, and I soon came to examine 5...g5.

Question #71—Posted 12/29/14
I was wondering whether you have found an improvement for Black in the variation of the Alekhin Defense mentioned in Question #10: 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4 g5 6. d5 dxe5 7. fxe5 Bg7 8. e6 O-O 9. Qh5 h6 10. h4 Qd6 11. hxg5 Qg3+ 12. Kd1 fxe6 13. Nf3 e5 (or 13...fxe6) 14. gxh6 Bg4 15. hxg7 Bxh5 16. gxf8Q+ Kxf8 17. Rxh5.

I took a fresh look at this recently and decided that 9...h6 was the likely culprit, because in a position as tactical as this one is, Black probably cannot afford to devote a move to defending against a threat that is not yet real (namely, mate at the h7-square). This led to the following (obtained with silicon assistance): 9...fxe6 10. Bd3 h6 11. Bxg5 Nxc4 (11...Bxb2 12. Qg6+ would lead to mate) 12. Bxh6 (12. Bxc4 hxg5 13. Bd3 Rf6; 12. Qg6 Ne5) 12...Nxb2 13. Be4 Qe8 14. Bg6 Qb5 15. Bh7+ (15. Bxg7 Qf1+ 16. Kd2 Nc4+ 17. Kc3 [17. Kc2 Rf2+] 17...Qc1+ 18. Bc2 Qe3+ 19. Bd3 Qc1+, with a draw by perpetual check) 15...Kxh7 (15...Kh8 16. Bf4 would interfere along the file while threatening 17. Bd3+) 16. Bxg7+ Kxg7 17. Qg5+ Kh7 (17...Kf7 18. dxe6+ with 19. Qxb5; 17...Kh8 would result in perpetual check) 18. Qh5+ (18. Qxe7+ Kg8 would also lead to perpetual check), with perpetual check.

Question #72—Posted 1/30/15
I've emailed you a game score for which your diagram-pair tool unexpectedly stopped displaying diagram-pairs. I was wondering if you could advise as to the cause.

Thank you for writing. I had been intending to mention this.

The problem seems to be that when indicating castling, this game score uses dashes (for example, "0–0") rather than hyphens (for example, "0-0"). If you were to simply change the dashes to hyphens before clicking "Create Diagrams", then the diagram-pair tool should work as expected.

Question #73—Posted 2/22/15
In the Lasker Sicilian line 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Qa5+ 10. Bd2 Qd8 11. Nxf6+ Qxf6, I'd be interested in what you'd suggest for Black after 12. c4.

My game from the 1995 Eastern Open against Ron Henry (White) continued 12...Nd4 13. Be3, and about an hour's thought led me to discover 13...d5!!, which I believe was a theoretical novelty and should have given Black the advantage. Being short of time after that, I was unable to work out the correct continuation and was fortunate to draw.

Question #74—Posted 3/27/15
I've recently taken up bridge and started playing in duplicate games. When a session of bridge has ended, I try to examine the deals where my partner and I got a bad score, analogous to analyzing the chess games that one has lost. But on many of these deals, I can't seem to figure out what either of us did that was bad. I was wondering if you could shed light on this.

The connection between a player's result and the quality of the player's decisions is more tenuous in bridge than in chess. In bridge, impeccable technique sometimes results in a "bottom" (meaning that every other "pair" [that is, two people playing as partners] holding the same cards got a better score than did the player and his or her partner), and poor technique sometimes results in a "top" (meaning that the player and his or her partner got a better score than did every other pair holding the same cards).

A player who uses only results to gauge the quality of his or her decisions is likely to flounder. The player's pair might get a zero from going down in a small slam no one else reached, and being unaware that the contract would have succeeded on most layouts, the player might resolve to bid more conservatively. This might well cause the pair to later get a zero from failing to reach an obvious slam, and the player will likely be perplexed and frustrated.

In bridge, one's goal should not be to earn a good score on every board, but to consistently make decisions that in the long run will be correct for most layouts. It's okay if some of one's decisions fail; in fact, it's impossible for all of one's decisions to succeed.

When analyzing the deals of a session, it would be best to study every deal. If time doesn't allow this, then I would suggest studying the deals where your result was either extremely good or extremely poor, because these tend to be caused by one or more players' taking actions that differed significantly from those taken when the deal was played by other pairs.

Question #75—Posted 4/13/15
I've read numerous books on chess over the decades, but my play doesn't seem to have improved very much. I was wondering whether you had any suggestions.

I think that deriving the most value from a chess book requires studying it as if it were assigned reading for a college course, except that one wouldn't necessarily have to finish studying the book within a quarter, a semester, or even a year.

Learning a new concept encompasses many levels: understanding the superficial meaning, grasping the deeper intent, using other positions or examples to test the concept's robustness, assimilating it into one's chess knowledge, and integrating it into one's thinking during a game. Progressing through all these stages would typically require reading the material more than once or twice.

An enterprising student of the game who has read the brief chapter on exchanging in Nimzovich's book My System might create a list of reasons to exchange, resolve to apply it whenever he or she was confronted with a decision on whether to exchange or to permit an exchange, and scrutinize these decisions when conducting a post mortem of his or her games.

A player who applies this advice won't get to "read" nearly as many chess books as he or she would otherwise, but the person will likely have gained a far deeper understanding of the game and greatly increased his or her playing strength.

Question #76—Posted 5/2/15
On the page of your website that discusses the e-book Position and Pawn Tension in Chess, the link for the review at results in "Not found." It seems to now be part of the subscriber-only content.

Thank you for letting me know. I have changed the link to instead point to a publicly accessible excerpt from the review.

Question #77—Posted 3/7/16
I was wondering if the complete game score was available for Peterson–Levin (New Jersey Open, 1992), which is mentioned at the start of your e-book Position and Pawn Tension in Chess. Thank you.

I still have the game score and have transcribed it below:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 e5 6. O-O Nge7 7. c3 O-O 8. Na3 d6 9. Be3 b6 10. d4 exd4 11. cxd4 Bg4 12. Nc2 Qc8 13. dxc5 dxc5 14. Qc1 Bxf3 15. Bxf3 Qe6 16. Bg2 Ne5 17. Ne1 Rad8 18. Bh6 Bxh6 19. Qxh6 Qf6 20. Qc1 Nd3 21. Nxd3 Rxd3 22. Qc2 Qd4 23. Rfd1 Rd8 24. Bf3 Nc6 25. Be2 Rd2 26. Rxd2 Qxd2 27. Bd1 Qxc2 28. Bxc2 Rd2 29. Ba4 Nd4 30. Rb1 Re2 31. b4 Rxa2 32. bxc5 Rxa4 33. cxb6 axb6 34. Rxb6 Nf3+ 35. Kg2 Ne1+ 36. Kf1 Rxe4 37. h4 h5 38. Rb3 Nc2 39. Rb7 Nd4 40. Kg2 Nf5 41. Kh3 Re2 0-1

Incidentally, the paperback edition of my pawn tension book misspells the White player's name as "Petersen". I must have assumed that he was related to the organizer, director, writer, and editor, Glenn Petersen.

Question #78—Posted 10/7/16
Your article on 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. f4 g5 doesn't mention 6. Qh5, which seems dangerous for Black. How do you think Black should respond?

I've concluded that Black should play 6...gxf4, after which I haven't found a way for White to obtain an advantage. Here are some lines.

A 7. Nc3 dxe5
A1 8. Qxe5 Rg8
A11 9. Bxf4 Nc6 10. Qxc7 Qxc7 11. Bxc7 Nxd4 12. Rd1 Bg7
A12 9. Nb5 Nc6 10. Nxc7+ Kd7 11. Qxf4 Qxc7 12. Qxf7 Rh8 13. Bf4 Nd8 14. Qf5+ e6 15. Qf6 Bb4+ 16. Kf2 Rf8 17. Qxf8 Bxf8 18. Bxc7 Kxc7 19. Bd3 h6 20. Nf3 Nc6 21. c5 Nd5 22. Be4 Bg7 23. Rad1 Bd7
A2 8. c5 Nd5 9. Qxe5 Nf6
A21 10. Bxf4 Nc6 11. Bb5 Bd7 12. Bxc6 Bxc6 13. Nf3 Rg8 14. O-O Ng4
A22 10. Nb5 Nc6
A221 11. Qxc7 a6 12. Qxd8+ Kxd8 13. Na3 Nxd4 14. Bxf4 Ne6 15. Be3 Ng4
A222 11. Nxc7+ Qxc7 12. Qxc7 Nd5 13. Qxf4 Nxf4 14. Bxf4 Nxd4 15. O-O-O Nc6 16. Nf3 Bg7 17. Bb5 Be6 18. a3 O-O
A3 8. Nf3 Bg7
A31 9. Ng5 Rf8 10. dxe5 Qd4 11. Nf3 Qc5 12. b3 Nc6 13. Bxf4 Nd4 14. Rd1 Ne6 15. Bd2 h6 16. Bd3 Bd7 17. Be4 O-O-O 18. Nd5 Nxd5 19. cxd5 Nd4
A32 9. dxe5 Be6 10. b3 c6 11. Bxf4 N6d7 12. O-O-O Qa5 13. Kb2 Na6
A321 14. Qg5 Rg8 15. a3 O-O-O 16. Qh5 h6 17. b4 Nxb4 18. axb4 Qxb4+ 19. Kc2 Nb6 20. Nd2 Na4 21. Nxa4 Qxa4+ 22. Kb2 Qb4+
A322 14. a3 O-O-O 15. Bd3 h6 16. Bf5 Bxf5 17. Qxf5 Rhf8 18. Qg4 Rg8 19. Qh5 Rgf8 20. Rhe1 Nc7
B 7. Nf3 h6
B1 8. Ng5 hxg5 9. Qxh8 dxe5`10. Qxe5 e6 11. h4 Nc6 12. Qxg5 Qxg5 13. hxg5 Nxd4 14. Bd3 e5 15. g6 Be6 16. gxf7+ Bxf7 17. b3 O-O-O 18. Nc3 Bb4 19. Bd2 Be6 20. Be4 Nd7
B2 8. exd6 exd6 9. Bxf4 Qf6 10. Be3 Nc6 11. Nc3 Rg8 12. Ne4 Qe7 13. Qh4 Qxh4+ 14. Nxh4 Bg7 15. O-O-O d5 16. cxd5 Nxd5 17. Bf2 Bg4 18. Nf3 O-O-O
B3 8. Bxf4 Rg8 9. Nc3 Nc6 10. O-O-O Bg4 11. Qh4 Qc8 12. exd6 cxd6 13. Qe1 Qf5 14. Qd2 e5 15. dxe5 dxe5 16. Be3 Bxf3 17. gxf3 Bb4
C 7. Bxf4 Qd7 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. Nf3 Qg4 10. Qxg4 Bxg4 11. exd6 cxd6 12. O-O-O Bg7 13. Be3 Rc8 14. Be2 O-O

In analyzing the 6. Qh5 variation, I found that it gives White much more latitude than it does Black, which isn't unusual for the Alekhine Defense.

Question #79—Posted 11/21/19
In My System, Nimzovich annotates Klein–Capablanca (New York, 1913), which began 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d6 3. c3 Nbd7 4. Bf4 c6 5. Qc2 Qc7 6. e4 e5 7. Bg3 Be7 8. Bd3 O-O 9. Nbd2 Re8 10. O-O Nh5 11. Nc4 Bf6 12. Ne3 Nf8 13. dxe5 dxe5 14. Bh4 Qe7 15. Bxf6 Qxf6 16. Ne1 Nf4 17. g3 Nh3+ 18. Kh1 h5 19. N3g2 g5 20. f3 Ng6 21. Ne3 h4 22. g4. At this point, he claims that 22. Nf5 would have won and gives a continuation starting with 22...hxg3 23. hxg3 Bxf5 24. exf5 Ne7.

But Black's prior moves seemed aimed at depriving White of a pawn at g3 so as to gain control of the f4-square, and 22...hxg3 gives up on this. I was wondering whether you see a way for Black to achieve it.

22...hxg3 (in reply to 22. Nf5) seems wrong to me too. More logical is 22...Qh8, pinning the h-pawn and therefore threatening to gain control of the f4-square by 23...hxg3. This forces 23. Kg2. Then tempting is 23...hxg3 24. hxg3 Bxf5 25. exf5 Ngf4+ 26. gxf4 Nxf4+ 27. Kg1 (27. Kg3 Qh4 mate; 27. Kf2 Qh2+ 28. Ke3 Nd5+ 29. Ke4 Qf4 mate) 27...Rad8 (27...Nh3+ 28. Kh1 threatens 29. Qh2, and 28...Nf2+ 29. Kg2 leaves Black without an effective continuation), threatening to draw by 28...Nh3+ 29. Kg2 (29. Kh1 Rxd3 30. Nxd3 Nf2+ 31. Kg2 Qh3+ 32. Kg1 Qh1+ 33. Kxf2 Qh2+ and White's queen is lost) 29...Nf4+. But 28. Be4 (28. Rd1 Nh3+ draws by 29. Kg2 Nf4+ or wins the exchange after 29. Kh1 Nf2+) overprotects White's queen. Then 28...Re7 (intending to double on the d-file) 29. Nd3 Rxd3 (White's king escapes after the hair-raising 29...Red7 30. Rfd1 Nh3+ 31. Kf1 Nf4 32. Nxf4 Qh1+ 33. Ke2 Qh2+ 34. Ng2 Qxg2+ 35. Ke3 Qg3 36. Rxd7 Qf4+ 37. Kd3 Rxd7+ 38. Kc4) 30. Bxd3 Nh3+ 31. Kh1 Nf4+ 32. Qh2 Nxd3 leaves Black without sufficient compensation for the material.

Then it occurred to me that 24...Bxf5 might have been premature because White's recapture vacated the e4-square. Omitting that exchange leads to 24...Ngf4+ 25. gxf4 Nxf4+ 26. Kg1. Because Black's a-rook cannot yet access the d8-square, Black must try 26...Rd8, even though loses control of the e7-square. Trying to exploit this by 27. Ne7+ could lead to 27...Kf8 28. Nxc8 Raxc8 29. Bc4 b5 30. Bb3 Rd6 31. Rf2 (to meet 31...Rh6 with 32. Rh2) 31...Nh3+ 32. Kf1 Nxf2 33. Qxf2 Qh1+ 34. Qg1 Qxg1+ 35. Kxg1 Rd2, with Black's activity providing some advantage.

Worse for White seems 27. Bc4 Bxf5 28. exf5 Rd6 29. f6 Rxf6 (29...Rad8 30. Rf2 Nh3+ 31. Kf1 Nxf2 32. Qg6+ and mate next), with a strong attack.

Perhaps White should return the extra material with 27. Rd1 in order to defuse the attack. Then 27...Bxf5 28. exf5 Nh3+ 29. Kh1 Nf2+ 30. Kg2 Nxd1 31. Qxd1 Rd6 32. Rh1 Rh6 33. Rxh6 Qxh6 34. Be4 Kg7 35. Qd7 Rh8 36. f6+ Kxf6 37. Qd6+ Kg7 38. Qxe5+ Kg8 39. Kf2 Qh2+ 40. Qxh2 Rxh2+ 41. Ng2 Rh1 gives Black a tenable ending.

So, it seems that against best defense, 22. Nf5 would have given White a slightly better ending. I wouldn't be surprised if Capablanca had forseen that his kingside play did not risk a serious disadvantage.

Question #80—Posted 2/1/21
In the Alekhine Defense after 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. Be2 e6 6. c4 Nb6 7. O-O Be7 8. Nc3 O-O 9. Be3 Nc6 10. exd6 cxd6 11. d5 Bxf3 12. Bxf3 Ne5 13. dxe6 fxe6 14. Bg4 Qc8, I was wondering whether you have analyzed 15. Bh3 or 15. b3 d5 16. Bh3.

I hadn't until recently, when these possibilities were brought to my attention by IM Justin Sarkar.

After 15. Bh3, one continuation (silicon-aided) is 15...Nbxc4 16. Bd4 Ng6 17. Qg4 Rf5 18. Nd5 Bg5 19. Rac1 exd5 20. Qxf5 Qxf5 21. Bxf5 Bxc1 22. Rxc1 Nf4 23. Re1 g6 24. Bg4 Kf7, when White seems to have full compensation for the pawn.

But 15. b3 d5 16. Bh3 seems stronger. The game might proceed, 16...dxc4 17. Qe2 Ng6 18. Bg5 Kh8 19. Bxe7 Nxe7 20. Bxe6 Qc5 21. bxc4 Ng6 22. Bd5 Nxd5 23. Nxd5 b5 24. Rac1 Rac8 25. Ne3 Ne5 26. cxb5 Qxc1 27. Rxc1 Rxc1+ 28. Nf1 Nc4 29. Qe7 Kg8 30. Qd7, with good winning chances for White.

So, after 15. b3, it seems that that Black must find an improvement over 15...d5. It might be necessary to interpolate 15...Nxg4 16. Qxg4 before playing 16...d5. Then the game might go, 17. Bxb6 axb6 18. Rac1 Bc5 19. a4 d4 20. Nb5 e5 21. Qe4 Qf5 22. Qd5+ Kh8 23. Rce1 d3 24. Rxe5 Qf6, which is characteristically sharp but seems about equal.

Question #81—Posted 3/7/22
I was wondering whether there are other websites where your chess writing can be found.

I've posted quite a few articles recently at Red Hot Pawn. For a list, see