Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Unknown Alekhine Simul Game (Alekhine - Czerniak, 1-0)

As said in previous posts, Moshe Czerniak, when a young man in Poland, kept notebooks with his games and analysis. I was allowed to photograph the one surviving notebook by its owner, Yochanan Afek, who in turn originaly got it from Czerniak's widow, Sofia Czerniak.
I have sent Tomasz Lissowski copies of the notebook. He discovered that, inter alia, Czerniak recorded a game he played -- in a simultaneous exhibition -- against the then-world champion, Alexander Alekhine. Mr. Lissowski had also translated the game score (with Czerniak's notes) into English. (I made a few minor stylistic changes). What's more, using the date (Dec. 2nd) and the location (l’aveugle in Warsaw) given by Czerniak, Mr. Lissowski was able to find the event:
'According to Swiat Szachowy (= Chess World), edited by D. Przepiorka, Alekhine played in Warsaw a simul on 2 December 1928 on 29 boards (including 2 blind, which he "elegantly won").
The total result +19 -4 =6.'

To the best of our knowledge, checking both contemporary and later sources (i.e., Alekhine's game collections, Czerniak's biography), this game has not been made public before. However, such claims are by their nature very hard to prove definitely.
Event: Simultaneous Display by Alekhine
Site: l'aveugle, Warsaw
Date: Dec. 2nd, 1928
White: Alekhine, Alexander
Black: Czerniak, Moshe
Result: 1-0
ECO: D61
Annotator: Czerniak, Moshe
1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 c6 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. Qc2 O-O 8. Rd1 Re8 9. a3

This line was especially popular during the Alekhine - Capablanca match.
(Czerniak overlined a previous note: 'White completely controls the game; Black's position is cramped and he's poorly developed.')
9... Nf8 10. Bd3 Qc7? 11. O-O?

Overlooking 11. Bxf6 would win a pawn: 11... Bxf6 12. cxd5 cxd5 (12... exd5? 13. Nxd5) 13. Nxd5 Qxc2 14. Nxf6+ gxf6 15. Bxc2 (Of course after 11... gxf6 the same, and 14. Nxe7+.)
11... Ng6 12. Rfe1 dxc4 13. Bxc4 h6 14. Bxf6 Bxf6 15. Ne4 Be7 16. Ba2

The most interesting move.
16... b6 17. Ng3 (17. d5! would probably give the better game; after 17... exd5 18. Bxd5 c6 and f7 are weaknesses.) 17... Bd7 18. Ne5! Nxe5 19. dxe5 Rad8 20. f4 c5 21. Rd2 Bc6 22. Red1 Rxd2
White's last move was too passive.
23. Rxd2 Rd8 24. Bb1 g6 25. Ba2

threatening Bxe6
25... Rxd2 26. Qxd2 Qd8 (Not 26... Qd7, which gives up control of the e4 square: 27. Qxd7 Bxd7 28. Ne4) 27. Qc2 (Threatening Bxe6 followed by Qxg6.) 27... Qd7 28. h3 Bb5 (Threatening 29... Qd3!) 29. Bb1 c4 30. Ne4 Qd3 31. Qc1 Qd7 32. Kh2 Kg7 33. Nd6 !?

White gives up a pawn, apparently in order to secure a draw by exchanging Black's active pieces.
33... Bxd6 34. exd6 Qxd6 35. Qc3+ f6 36. Be4 e5! 37. a4 Bxa4?

The beginning of a series of mistakes. 37... Ba6 should have been played, keeping the c-pawn, with a won game.
38. Qxc4 b5? (A second mistake -- a serious one this time. 38... Qd7 was necessary.) 39. Qc8! Qe7??

The final mistake. Black loses. After 39... f5! White probably would not win. The conclusion of the game is played by White in a very sharp and sparkling style.
40. Bd5!! f5 (After 40... Qf8 comes 41. Qb7+ Kh8 42. b3! and White wins.) 41. Qg8+!! Kf6 42. Qh8+!

And Black resigned (1-0), because after 42... Qg7 43. fxe5+ Black loses his queen.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

From the "Black Square in the Lower Right Corner" Mafia

Chigorin playing Steinitz, probably in one of their world championship matches (1889 or 1892). From Tomi Lapid's house. Photo: A.P.

Another man who loved both chess and art was the late Tomi Lapid, in whose house this photo was taken. If any reader can recognize the (barely decipherable) position, or what specific game the scene below it is describing, I would appreciate it. It is possibly based on a photograph taken during one of their games -- probably one of their world championship matches, though possibly from one of the tournaments in which both participated. But it might be an imaginary scene.

Note how, despite the fact that the artist obviously knows quite a bit about chess, he painted the board with the lower right hand corner being dark. In this particular case it is surely artistic license, not ignorance (after all, most chess boards don't have gold-plated squares, either) but it goes to prove Tim Krabbe's conjecture that "people think it looks better that way".

Samuel Bak's Chess Art

"Board Meeting", by Samuel Bak. Credit for image: University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies' web article, "Chess in the Art of Samuel Bak". .

Chess in art is an old theme -- from the chess pieces themselves to numerous paintings of a chess theme. Surely the most famous Israeli artist who used chess motifs in his art is the surrealist painter Samuel Bak. He used chess themes in many ways, as the link above shows. It is well worth visiting for a retrospective of his chess art.

For Bak, chess was more than a cliche -- a fallen king symbolizing defeat, a pawn next to a queen to indicate master-and-servant or romantic relationships, etc. They are used in much more sophisticated and interesting (indeed amusing) ways, as in the picture above. What's more, Bak correctly paints all the technical details: the demonstration board is (as often in real life) green and off-white, with the lower right-hand corner a white square; the pieces are in different shades of brown and red, as in real life, and are correctly proportioned; even the wear-and-tear and fading marks on the old pieces are accurate. (The blue pawns are artistic license: they appear in much of his chess art, as a symbol of hope.)

The avoidance of cliches and the accuracy in the depiction of the boards and pieces indicates that Bak probably plays chess. When non-playing artists use chess motifs, not only are these motifs often mere cliches, but the board and pieces are usually monochromatic black and white, and -- as a crowning achievement -- the lower right-hand corner is usually black. As Tim Krabbe noted, for some reason people think it looks better that way.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chess and Art

While on the subject of chess and art, as in the previous two posts, then -- against from the same source (the Netherlands' National Library online Chess & Draughts collection, "chess posters" section -- comes the following poster from the 1976 Haifa Olympiad.

Aloni and Oren, 1954

Itzchak Aloni (top) and Menachem Oren during the 1954 Amsterdam Olympiad. From the "Portraits of Chess Grandmasters" collection by Phokas Fokkens. Credit: The National Library of the Netherlands' online "chess and draughts" collection (

From the same source as in the previous post, come the following two portraits. The small -- but high-quality -- online collection of the National Library of the Netherlands (see link above) is well worth a visit.

Najdorf-Czerniak Match: Conclusion

Moshe Czerniak and Miguel Najdorf during the 1954 Olympiad in Amsterdam. From the collection, "Portraits of Chess Grandmasters", by Phocas Fokkens (1888-1965). Owned by the National Library of the Netherlands.

All of the match's games were interesting, hard-fought, and instructive. Not a single "grandmaster's draw" (to use the modern term). Whatever the games might lack in opening expertise compared to modern players, they more than make up for in excitement, combinations, and instructive endgame play.

As said before, Yochanan Afek had kindly let me copy Moshe Czerniak's notebook of his games in Poland in the 1920s. Marek Soszynski had kindly agreed to transcribe the games and the annotations into 'Chessbase' format. He, together with Tomasz Lissowski, encouraged me to publish the work on my blog and contact others about it. As a result Chessbase is going to add these games to its next database.

Thanks again to all who helped!

Najdorf-Czerniak 1929 Match, Game 8

(A. P. : How opposite-colored bishops' endings are won... and lost.)

Najdorf, Miguel - Czerniak, Moshe [C10]

Warsaw Match (Game 8), Oct. 1929

[Annotations: Czerniak]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Nf3 Ngf6 6. Nxf6+ Nxf6 7. Bd3 b6? Required first was ...Be7, ...0-0 and only then ...b6. 8. Ne5 Qd5 9. Be2! Bb7 10. Bf3 Ne4 A mistake. (What should have been played is 10... Qa5+ 11. Bd2 Bxf3! 12. Qxf3 Qd5 with an equal game.) 11. O-O Rd8 12. c4! Qxd4 13. Qa4+!

13... c6 The best defence. (13... Ke7 loses because of 14. Nc6+) 14. Nxc6 Qd7! Again, the best. (After 14... Nc5? there would come 15. Nxd4+ Nxa4 16. Bxb7 Rxd4 17. Bc6+ with a won game.) 15. Bxe4 Rc8! 16. Rd1!

Very good. (After 16. Qxa7 Bxc6 17. Qxd7+ Bxd7 18. b3 Black, although a pawn down, can still defend himself.) 16... Bxc6 17. Rxd7 Bxa4 18. Rxa7 White has achieved a decisive advantage. 18... Bd7 19. Be3 Rxc4 20. Bxb6! Rxe4 21. Rd1!

Threatening mate in four: 22. Ra8+ Bc8 (if 22...Ke7 then it is mate in three) 23.Rxc8+ Ke7 24.Bd8+ Ke8 25. Bf6#.) 21... Bd6 Black gives up a rook, but that doesn't improve the situation.
After 22.Ra8+ Ke7 23.Rxh8, 24.Bd8# is threatened. 22. f3? White needlessly complicates the game. The simple Ra8+ wins immediately. Difficulties arise after the text move. 22... Ra4 23. Rxd6 Rxa7 24. Bxa7 Ke7 25. Bc5 Rc8 26. b4 Kd8 27. a4 Ra8 28. a5 Kc7 29. Rb6 Bc8

Black threatens, by the exchange of rooks (...Ra6), to force a draw through the presence of opposite-coloured bishops... 30. Bf8! g6 31. Bg7 Ra6 32. Be5+ Kd7 33. Rb8 Ra7 34. Kf2 Rb7 35. b5! Rxb8 36. Bxb8 f6 37. a6 e5 38. Ke3 Ke6 39. Kd3? Kd5!

White's last move was very weak. The king should stick to the dark squares. Now ...Bd7! or ...Kc5 is threatened. 40. a7 Bb7 41. Bc7 Kc5 42. b6 Kd5 43. Kc3 f5 44. Kb4

44... g5? The decisive error. It was necessary to place all the black pawns on light squares and maintain the draw by ...Ba8-b7-a8, etc. 45. Kb5 e4 46. fxe4+ fxe4 47. g4! e3 48. Bg3 Ke4??

A fatal oversight. (The game could be prolonged by 48... Ba8, but even then White would win...)

Black resigned without waiting for the opponent's reply.

Najdorf-Czerniak 1929 Match, Game 7

(A. P. Notes: a very instructive game for amateurs like myself. The apparently "boring" middle game turns into very exciting knights' ending. In particular, we have an example from practical play of a stalemate defense securing the draw.)

Czerniak, Moshe- Najdorf, Miguel [A00]

Warsaw Match (Game 7), Oct. 1929

[Annotations: Czerniak]

1. e4 Nc6 2. d4 d5 3. Bb5 (Much better than 3. exd5 (see the 5th game of the match).) 3... dxe4 4. Nc3 (Better than the immediate 4. d5 a6 5. Ba4 b5 6. dxc6 Qxd1+ 7. Kxd1 bxa4 (-/+).) 4... Bd7 Best... 5. Bxc6 Bxc6 6. d5 Bd7 7. Nxe4 c6! 8. Nf3 cxd5 9. Qxd5 Bc6 10. Qe5 Qd5 11. Qxd5 Bxd5 12. Nc3 Bxf3?

In this position the exchange of the excellently developed bishop can be advantageous only for White. 13. gxf3 e6 14. Bd2 Nf6 15. O-O-O O-O-O 16. Bf4?

Weak. (16. Be3! should have been played, with the following play, 16... b6? (or if 16... a6 17.Bb6 with a strong positional advantage) 17. Nb5!) 16... Bc5 17. Be3 Bxe3+ 18. fxe3 Rxd1+

Black, heading for a draw, chooses the wrong road. Above all it was necessary to protect oneself (...a6!). 19. Rxd1 Rd8 $2 20. Rxd8+ Kxd8 21. Nb5

Wins a pawn. While the part of the game up till now was played quite weakly, the ending is conducted very precisely by both sides, particularly by Black. 21... Ne8! 22. Nxa7 Nd6 23. a4 To aid the trapped knight. 23... Nc4

Cutting the king off, and apparently winning a pawn... 24. Nb5! If Black takes a pawn now, Nd6 wins one back again. (If 24. e4 Ne5 25. f4 Ng6 etc.) 24... Kd7 25. e4 Ne3? 26. Kd2 Nc4+ (If 26... Nf1+ 27. Ke2 Nxh2 28. Kf2

and Black loses the knight.)

27. Kc3 Ne5 28. Nd4 g5 29. h3 h5 30. b4 f5 31. exf5 exf5 32. Nxf5 Nxf3 33. Ng3 g4 34. hxg4 hxg4

The ending reached is very hard to win; so it is no surprise that with precise play by Black the game ended drawn. 35. Kc4 Kc6 36. b5+ Kb6 37. Kb4 Nd4 38. a5+ Kc7 39. c4 Ne6 40. Ne4 Nd4 41. Ng3 Ne6 42. Nf5 At last White finds the right road. 42... Nf4

43. b6+? A mistake... (43. Kc3 led to victory.) 43... Kb8 44. Ng3 Nd3+ 45. Kb5 Ne5 46. c5

(Better was 46. Kc5 Nc6 47. a6 etc.) 46... Nc6 47. a6 Nd4+ 48. Kc4 Nc6 49. a7+ (49. axb7 gave slightly better winning chances.) 49... Ka8

(49... Nxa7 also gives a draw, as shown by Mr Przysiocki in his analysis, e.g. 50. bxa7+ Kxa7 51. Kd5 Ka8 52. Kd6 Kb8 53. Kd7 Ka7 54. Kc7 Ka8 , etc.) 50. Nf5 g3! 51. Nxg3 Ne5+ 52. Kb5 Nd7

Black threatens to capture with the knight on c5 or b6, and in either case achieves a stalemate position. 53. c6 bxc6+ 54. Ka6! Nc5+ 55. Ka5

55... Nb3+ Black carefully avoids the trap. (After 55... Nb7+? 56. Kb4 White is winning.) 56. Kb4 Nd4

Threatening ...Nb5 and ...Nxa7. 57. Ka5 Nb3+ 58. Kb4 Nd4 59. Ne4 Nb5 60. Ka5 Nxa7 61. Ka6!

61... Nb5! The only move. (After 61... Nc8 62. b7+ Kb8 63. Nf6! (63. Nc5? Nb6!!) 63... Na7 64. Nd7+ wins.) 62. Nf6 Nd6 Drawn.

Najdorf-Czerniak 1929 Match, Game 6

Najdorf, Miguel - Czerniak, Moshe [A00]

Warsaw Match (Game 6), Oct. 1929

[Annotations: Czerniak]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 Nbd7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O e5 8. dxe5 dxe5 9. Qc2 Qe7 (Better is 9... c6 and ...Qc7.) 10. Rd1 c6 11. Rb1

An interesting idea to create a pawn chain on the queenside (a3, b4,c5). 11... a5 12. a3 Nh5 13. b4 h6 14. c5 Rd8 15. Nd2!

The white knight scrambles to c4 controlling the important positional points d6 and b6. Now White's 11th move can be understood. 15... Nf4 16. Nc4 Nf8 17. Bxf4 exf4 18. Rxd8 Qxd8 19. Na4! Qg5! 

The last chance. Unable to defend himself against the invasion of white knights on d6 and b6, Black tries to create a counterattack on the kingside... 20. Nab6 Bh3 21. Bf3 Bxg2!

A hard to calculate piece sacrifice for two pawns. 22. h4! (Naturally 22. Bxg2 would be bad because of 22... f3 and so on.) 22... Qxh4 23. Bxg2 Re8 (Not allowing Nd6 which would be followed by ...Re5 with a sharp mating attack.) 24. Rd1 Ne6 25. f3 (...Nd4 was threatened and then ...f3. Because of that, White decides to return material in order to liquidate the dangerous black bishop.} 25... Bd4+ !?

This gains material but loses the game. The move should have been left as a threat... 26. Kf1 (Not immediately 26. Rxd4 because of Qe1+.) 26... Qh2 27. Rxd4 Nxd4 28. Qd3 Ne6 29. Nd6

Apart from the material imbalance, White stands positionally better and has an assured victory. 29... Rd8 30. Qc3! With the threat of Qf6. The move liquidates the real threat of the advance of the h-pawn since the black queen has to defend the f6-square. 30... Qh4 31. Nbc4? 

The first mistake so far of an excellently playing opponent. (The simple move 31. Qe5 eliminates all threats...) 31... axb4 32. axb4 h5 33. Na5? 

Again a mistake, and this time very serious. (Playing 33. Qe5 here too, White should win...) 33... b6!! A very subtle move, which after Nxc6, ...Ra8 prevents the return of the a5-knight to close the a-file in the face of the Ra2 threat... 34. Nxc6 (Relatively better was 34. Nb3, but White heads for a clarification of the situation.) 34... Ra8 35. Qe1 (No help was 35. cxb6 Ra2 36. Qe1 Qh2 winning.) 35... Qh2 36. Qb1 h4!

White resigned since there is no rescue against the threat of ...h3.