Monthly Archives: May 2015

Audentes fortuna iuvat

Fortune helps those who take risks. That’s the view of the crest of the Mackinnon clan, probably formulated before we were mown down at Culloden. In any case I am not sure it holds good in club chess. In all three of these games one player offers a piece early in the game. Two of the offers are sound, but they all end up losing.

In the first I am playing White for Pimlico.

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1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. e3 Nf6 4. Qc2 {After some difficulties in the English against the Slav setup, I decided to try a more aggressive approach.} 4... Nbd7 5. b3 (5. Nc3 {may be better here when} 5... e5 {can be met by} 6. cxd5 Nxd5 ({now} 6... cxd5 {runs into} 7. Nb5) {with a reversed Sicilian which looks OK for White. One possibility is} 7. Bc4 N7b6 ({or} 7... Bd6) 8. Nxe5 Nxc4 9. Nxc4 Nb4 10. Qe4+ Be7 {and the computer seems to think Black has fair compensation for the pawn}) (5. d4 {heads for a semi-Slav}) 5... e5 6. Bb2 Bd6 7. Nc3 a6 8. g4 {The Corporal Jones variation. They don&#8217;t like it up&#8217;em. It can work (in a strictly chess sense) for the English against the Slav, but may not be right here when Black has got e5 in in a single move.} 8... e4 {My opponent had a long think here.} (8... h6 {is possible and if} 9. h4 {the computer gives Black a big advantage with} 9... e4 {e.g.} 10. Nd4 Ne5) (8... Nxg4 {can be met by} 9. cxd5 (9. Rg1 {, which I may have had in mind, runs into} 9... Ndf6 10. h3 Nh6 {when} 11. Rxg7 {is met by} 11... Bf5 12. Qc1 Bg6) 9... cxd5 10. Nxd5) 9. Nd4 h6 {My opening has successfully confused my opponent.Now White gets an advantage.} (9... Ne5 10. cxd5 cxd5 {looks threatening but seems OK for White after} ({or} 10... c5 11. Nf5 Nf3+ 12. Ke2) 11. g5 Nfd7) (9... Nc5 {is fine.}) 10. cxd5 cxd5 { <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> } (10... c5 {is strongly met by} 11. Nxe4 ({or} 11. Nf5)) 11. Nxd5 {Offering the knight, justifiably, for three pawns and an initiative.} 11... Nxd5 ({Not} 11... Ne5 12. Nxf6+ Qxf6 13. Qxe4) ({The computer recommends} 11... O-O {e.g.} 12. Nf5 Be5 13. Nde7+ Kh7 14. g5) 12. Qxe4+ Ne7 ({Again not} 12... Ne5 13. Qxd5) 13. Nf5 Nc5 14. Nxg7+ Kf8 15. Qf3 (15. Qc2 {is another possibility.}) 15... Rg8 (15... Nc6 {is better when} 16. Nf5 (16. Ne6+ Bxe6 17. Bxh8 {loses to} 17... Be5 18. Bxe5 Nxe5 {and Black&#8217;s piece activity is overwhelming.}) 16... Be5 17. d4 Nb4 18. Be2 Nbd3+ 19. Kf1 Nxb2 20. dxe5 Bxf5 21. gxf5 Qh4 {is a murky computer line}) { <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> Now I had seen I had Bc4 and felt very confident. Unfortunately I decided to make sure and had a long think.} 16. b4 {An awful move, intended as a refinement on the right line, but simply missing Black&#8217;s obvious reply.} ({Both players saw there was a perpetual after} 16. Bc4 {but I wasn&#8217;t sure if there was more. There is: White is probably winning with} 16... Rxg7 17. Bxg7+ Kxg7 18. Qxf7+ Kh8 19. Qf6+ Kh7 20. b4 {(only now)} 20... Na4 ({or} 20... Qh8 21. Qxh8+ Kxh8 22. bxc5 Bxc5) 21. Bd3+ Kg8 22. Bg6 Qf8 23. Bh7+) 16... Ne6 {Now Black is better, but the position is very fluid.} ({I had only looked at} 16... Na4 17. Bc4 Rxg7 18. Bxg7+ Kxg7 19. Qxf7+ Kh8 {transposing into the line above. I was planning to play into this and see whether a win materialised when I got there.}) 17. Nh5 Bxb4 18. O-O-O {A slightly extravagant way to defend d2.} (18. Rd1 {may be better though given that White needs to create complications my choice is reasonable.}) 18... Qd5 (18... Qa5 {gives a powerful attack, but Black decides to consolidate.}) 19. Qf6 {Another long think, and another mistake.} (19. Qxd5 {is necessary.}) 19... Qc6+ {Missing a chance, but keeping the advantage.} (19... Ng6 {shields h6 and leaves Black winning with the attack on the h1 rook and mating threats on the c file e.g} 20. Rg1 Qxa2 21. Bd3 Bd7 22. Bb1 Rc8+ 23. Bc3 Ba3#) (19... Qxh1 {loses to} 20. Qxh6+) 20. Kb1 Ng5 {Giving White a chance.} ({Black is better after} 20... Ng6 21. Be2) 21. Qxc6 ({Missing} 21. Bg2 Qxf6 ({not} 21... Qxg2 22. Qxh6+) 22. Nxf6 {and White is slightly better than in the game.}) 21... Nxc6 {White has only two pawns for the piece, but Black still faces some difficulties getting organised.} 22. Nf6 Rg7 (22... Rg6 {is better when Black can refute White&#8217;s idea of} 23. f4 {with} 23... Rxf6 ({or} 23... Nf3) 24. Bxf6 Ne4 25. Bh4 ({or} 25. g5 hxg5 26. fxg5 Bg4) 25... Bxg4 {and Black&#8217;s active pieces will win material back.}) 23. Bg2 Be7 24. Nd5 Rg6 ({The computer prefers} 24... Bxg4 25. Nxe7 Nxe7 26. Bxg7+ Kxg7 27. Rc1) 25. h3 Rd6 26. f4 {White is now doing OK, but both players are short of time.} 26... Nh7 27. Rc1 Be6 28. Nb6 { <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> The fatal mistake, as the knight will be exposed on b6.} ({White is probably fine after} 28. Nxe7 Nxe7 29.d4 {when the two bishops and strong pawns compensate for the material disadvantage} ({not} 29. Bxb7 {when the threats of pins on the b file and second rank are too strong e.g.} 29... Rb8 30. Be4 Nf6 31. d3 ({or} 31. Bc2 Rdb6) 31... Nxe4 32. dxe4 Rd2 33. Rc2 Bxa2+ 34. Kc1 Rd3)) 28... Rad8 29. Bc3 (29.d4 {fails to} 29... Bxa2+ ({not} 29... Nxd4 30. Bxd4) 30. Kxa2 Nb4+) 29... Bf6 30. f5 (30. Bxc6 {is somewhat better}) ({or} 30. d4) 30... Bxc3 31. Rxc3 Bxa2+ {The rest is mopping up with some nice tactics from Black.} 32. Kc1 Nb4 33. Nc4 Bxc4 34. Rxc4 Na2+ 35. Kb1 b5 36. Rc2 Rxd2 37. Rxa2 Rxa2 38. Kxa2 Rd2+ 39. Kb3 Rxg2 40. Ra1 Rg3 41. Rxa6 Rxe3+ 42. Kb4 Rxh3 43. f6 Ke8 44. Kxb5 {and Black won.} *
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In the second game, where I play White for Dulwich, it’s my opponent who plays a correct sacrifice and then doesn’t know quite what to do with it. I recall a Liverpool footballer asking his coaches: ‘we’ve passed the ball twenty times and we’re standing in the same positions as we started’ to be told ‘yes, but they’re not’. Unfortunately, it’s always possible the opponents have found better positions in the interim.

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1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3 {I have taken this line up recently.} 4... Bb4 5. Qc2 O-O 6. Nd5 d6 {A rare though natural move which scores well in a small sample.} (6... Re8 {is the main line, allowing the bishop back to f8 if need be}) 7. a3 Bc5 8. b4 (8. Bd3 g6 (8... Nxd5 9. cxd5 Ne7 10. Bxh7+ Kh8 11. Bd3 Nxd5 12. Nxe5 Qg5 13. Nc4) 9. b4 Bb6 10. Nxf6+ Qxf6 11. Bb2) 8... Bb6 9. Nxb6 {White gets the two bishops, but Black is compact, well-developed and free of weaknesses, and e4 and d5 are both supported by the f6 knight.} (9. Nxf6+ {may be better.}) 9... axb6 10. Bb2 Re8 11. d3 Bf5 12. b5 {Here I hatched a probably over-ambitious plan to play e4 and f4 opening the diagonal for my bishop, and decided I wanted to reduce the pressure on d4 first.} ({After} 12. e4 {I was worried about} 12... Bg4 {and Nd4 becomes possible.}) (12. Be2 {is reasonable}) (12. Qc3 {deterring e4 is possible, but Black looks comfortable with} 12... d5 ({Not} 12... Nd4 13. Nxd4) 13. cxd5 Nxd5 14. Qd2 Bg6) 12... Nb8 (12... Nd4 {fails to} 13. exd4 exd4+ 14. Be2 Qe7 15. Nxd4) 13. e4 Bg6 {More aggressive than it looks.} (13... Bg4) 14. g3 {This is too slow, I think.} (14. Be2 {is safer.}) 14... Nbd7 15. Bg2 Nc5 {Now I realised his knight could come to a4, and decided I wanted to preserve my dark-squared bishop, which was a large part of the point of my play.} 16. Ra2 { <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> This is obviously a bit artificial, but I wrongly thought I could still find time to consolidate. Now my opponent had a long think and I noticed he was staring at the middle of the board. Suddenly I realised my structure might be a bit rickety.} ({If} 16. O-O {then} 16... Na4 {is annoying}) (16. a4 {ties the queen and rook to the defence of a4.}) 16... Nfxe4 {This sacrifice is good but not the best. It came as a relief because I was worried about something else and thought this didn&#8217;t work. But throughout the next few moves I continue to underestimate the urgency of getting my king off the e file, and my opponent misses some chances to take advantage.} (16... Nxd3+) (16... d5 {, which may have been what I feared, is very good.} 17. cxd5 Nfxe4 18. dxe4 Bxe4 19. Qd2 Nd3+ 20. Kf1 Qxd5 {, though not forced, illustrates the problem; the availability of d5 for the queen strengthens the sacrifice.}) 17. dxe4 Bxe4 (17... Nxe4 18. Qc1 {is better for White.}) 18. Qc3{ <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> } (18. Qd1 {is also possible}) 18... Nd3+ ({Better than} 18... Bd3 {e.g.} 19. Bf1) 19. Ke2 {Played too fast without sensing the danger. I wanted to free the rook, but it&#8217;s too risky.} (19. Kf1 {is better when} 19... d5 {can be met by} 20. Ne1) 19... Nc5 {Letting the advantage slip.} (19... d5 {is strong and if} 20. cxd5 {Black is winning with} 20... Qxd5 21. Raa1 Qxb5) 20. Rd1 {Defending against intrusions on d3.} 20... Na4 ({If} 20... Nd3 {then} 21. Rxd3 Bxd3+ 22. Kxd3 e4+ 23. Kc2) ({or} 20... Bd3+ 21. Rxd3 Nxd3 22. Kxd3 e4+ 23. Kc2) 21. Qe3 {Giving Black another chance.} (21. Qc1 {may be better}) 21... Nc5 {It was only after the game that I noticed Black had taken four moves to put his knight back where it started. White, meanwhile, has made some rather tentative progress.} ({Black gets good play with} 21... Bc2 22. Rc1 e4 23. Nd4 Bd3+ 24. Ke1) 22. Ne1 {Eight minutes here, but probably another mistake.} ({White can consolidate with} 22. Kf1 {e.g.} 22... Bc2 23. Rc1 ({not} 23. Rd2 Bb3) 23... Bd3+ 24. Kg1) ({not} 22. Rc1 Bd3+) 22... Bg6 {Missing his last chance.} ({After} 22... Bxg2 23. Nxg2 Ra4 24. Rc1 ({better} 24. Kf1) ({or} 24. Qc1 Qf6 {and White may have to ditch the c pawn anyway e.g.} 25. Kf1 ({if} 25. Ne3 {Black can go for the kingside pawns with} 25... Qh6 26. h4 f5) 25... Ne4 26. Qc2 Rxc4) {I had missed} 24... d5 {with good play for Black.}) 23. Kf1 {Now White consolidates without further excitement.} 23... Qd7 24. Bc3 Qe6 25. Bd5 Qh3+ 26. Kg1 Qd7 { <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> Now Black&#8217;s queen has spent three moves returning to the same place. Black&#8217;s last nine moves amount to Bg6 and Qd7. Admittedly his position is very harmonious, but being material down with a temporary initiative, he needed something more swashbuckling.} 27. Bb4 c6 {Probably hoping that the diversion of the bishop to d5 has allowed his central pawns to start rolling, but White can restrain them.} 28. Bg2 (28. Bxc5 {is interesting but unnecessary.}) 28... Qc7 29. Rad2 Rad8 30. Bxc5 {I had to override my liking for this bishop, as Black&#8217;s knight is an important defender.} 30... bxc5 31. bxc6 bxc6 32. Nf3 f6 33. Nh4 Bf7 34. Nf5 { <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> Somehow White&#8217;s pieces have arrived at a very harmonious arrangement.} 34... Bh5 ({I am not sure if I noticed} 34... Bxc4 {but} 35. Nxd6 {deals with it.}) 35. Bf3 Bxf3 36. Qxf3 Re6 37. Qg4 Kh8 ({I originally posted this game with} 39...Kf8 {but an alert teammate remembers Kh8 and my score sheet has an illegible correction, so an emendation seems justified.} ) 38. Nxg7 ({38.Nxd6 also wins as my teammate saw.}) 38...Re7 39. Nf5 Red7 40. Qh4 {and Black resigned.} *
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In the last, the piece offer is probably not intentional.

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1. Nf3 {I am playing Black for Pimlico. My opponent seems to be ungraded, but our opponents were generally graded rather below us.} 1... c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e6 4. d4 (4. g3 {scores rather better}) 4... cxd4 5. Nxd4 b6 {Intending a hedgehog. But this move order is rare and probably dubious.} (5... a6) 6. Bg5 (6. Ndb5 {exploits Black&#8217;s move order and scores well e.g.} 6... d6 7. Bf4 e5 8. Bg5 {when Black has lost all six games in the chesstempo database. I saw the idea of attacking d6 but probably underestimated it.}) 6... Be7 (6... Bb7 {produces a more frequent position by an unusual order.}) 7. g3 {This leads to some awkwardness.} 7... Bb7 8. f3 a6 9. Bg2 (9. e4 {can now be met by} 9... Nxe4 10. Bxe7 ({or} 10. Nxe4 Bxg5 11. Nd6+ Kf8 12. Nxb7 Qc7 {though I had missed this line}) 10... Nxc3 11. Bxd8 Nxd1 12. Bxb6 Nxb2) 9... Qc7 10. b3 (10. Qd3 {looks better to me}) ({or} 10. Qb3) 10... d5 {Now Black has some edge.} 11. O-O dxc4 12. bxc4 O-O (12... Qxc4 13. Rc1 {looked a bit risky.}) 13. Qb3 Qe5 { <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> I thought this won a piece.} 14. Bxf6 {Now it does.} ({Both players miss} 14. e3 {e.g.} 14... Qxg5 (14... Nbd7 {is better e.g.} 15. Bf4 ({not} 15. f4 Qxe3+) 15... Qa5) 15. f4 Qa5 16. Bxb7 Ra7) (14. Qxb6 {loses e.g.} 14... Bc5 15. Qxb7 Ra7 16. Qb3 Qxg5 {and the d4 knight will drop.} ({not} 16... Bxd4+ 17. e3)) 14... Bxf6 {From now on Black has a winning advantage, but my opponent puts up a good fight.} 15. Rad1 Qe3+ 16. Kh1 Bxd4 17. Rd3 Qe5 18. Rfd1 Nc6 (18... Bxc3 {seems to be best}) (18... Bc5) 19. f4 Qf6 (19... Qc7 {may be better}) 20. Ne4 {I had missed this when playing Nc6. My opponent rather optimistically offered a draw here.} 20... Qg6 (20... Qe7 {may be better}) 21. Qb1 {I think his idea was to avoid Na5.} (21. Rxd4 {is probably best e.g.} 21... Nxd4 22. Rxd4 e5) 21... e5 22. e3 f5 ({Missing} 22... Na5 {with a huge advantage e.g.} 23. exd4 Bxe4 24. Bxe4 Qxe4+) 23. Ng5 e4 {Now Black must settle for the exchange rather than a whole piece.} (23... Bc5 {runs into some counterplay with} 24. Rd7 Rab8 25. Bd5+ Kh8 26. Nf7+ ({or} 26. Ne6)) 24. Rxd4 Nxd4 25. exd4 h6 26. Nh3 {Black has some positional advantage as well as the exchange.} 26... Qc6 27. Qb3 Kh7 ({Since White has a light-squared bishop,} 27... Kh8 {would allow fewer tactical resources; one of those tiny points that sometimes make strong players&#8217; wins look easy.}) 28. Nf2 Rac8 29. Rc1 Rfd8 30. Qe3 {Unfortunately White has no time for Nd1-e3, which would make his position much harder to crack.} 30... Qa4 31. Bf1 Qxa2 32. d5 Qb2 {Fine, but not the sharpest.} ({I spent eight minutes here mainly on} 32... Rxd5 {which is indeed strong e.g.} 33. cxd5 Rxc1 34. Qxc1 Qxf2 {and White cannot defend against the combination of the diagonal and the passed pawn.} ({I had been thinking of} 34... e3 {?? not noticing that the d5 pawn was still on the board. When I saw this I backed off the whole line.})) 33. Rd1 a5 {Simply planning to run the a pawn, but the a3-f1 diagonal also proves useful.} 34. Rd2 Qc1 35. Kg2 ({or} 35. Qe2 {e.g.} 35... e3 36. Rd1 {when} 36... Qc3 {seems best}) 35... Ba6 36. g4 ({ <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> Against} 36. Nxe4 {at various points I had planned} 36... Re8 (36... Bxc4 {is better}) {missing} 37. Qc3) 36... Rxd5 {Starting the final attack, though it should merely achieve exchanges into a good ending.} 37. Nxe4 {The best response. With ten minutes&#8217; thought here my opponent caught up with me on the clock.} ({Against} 37. cxd5 {I planned} 37... Bxf1+ (37... Qxf1+ {also wins}) 38. Kg1 ({or} 38. Kg3 Rc3) 38... Be2+ 39. Kg2 Bf3+ 40. Kg3 Qg1+ 41. Kh3 {when my calculation petered out but Black has} 41... fxg4+ 42. Kh4 Qxh2+ 43. Nh3 Qxh3#) 37... Rxd2+ (37... Bxc4 {may be better}) 38. Nxd2 Rd8 39. Bd3 {I had missed this, thinking he was simply losing another piece. White&#8217;s position should be past saving anyway, but time was short.} 39... Bb7+ (39... Kh8 {reinvigorating the pins is probably the clearest.}) (39... Bxc4 {runs into} 40. Bxf5+) 40. Kg3 (40. Kf2 {gives a little fight when I think I had} 40... Be4 (40... Kh8 {is also possible}) {in mind e.g.} 41. Nxe4 Qxe3+ 42. Kxe3 fxe4 43. Bxe4+ g6) (40. Kh3 {is similar e.g.} 40... Be4 41. Bxe4 Qxd2 42. Bxf5+ Kh8 43. Qxb6 Qc3+ 44. Kh4 Qf6+ 45. Qxf6 gxf6 46. c5 Rd5 ({or even} 46... a4 47. c6 a3 48. c7 Rf8 49. c8=Q Rxc8 50. Bxc8 a2)) { <span class="PgnWidget-anchor-diagram">[]</span> With four minutes left plus increments, I was glad to see this. } 40... Rxd3 {The end.} 41. Qxd3 Qg1+ 42. Kh4 Qxg4# 0-1
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Why the left lost

This blog was started a year so, but it’s taken all that time to gather my thoughts – now taking shape as a short book on politics. In any case, the aftermath of an election defeat seems a good time to start enunciating the basis of a better politics for the left.

I voted Liberal democrat in 2010, because I thought they were more committed to equality than Labour, and because of electoral reform and Iraq. The election of Ed Miliband made it possible for me to vote Labour again, but in the event my MP (Harriet Harman) was safe and I voted Green because I liked the universal basic income which they had, if not exactly proposed, at least put on the table.

On the 7th of May, the Conservatives won the election: and half the electorate voted for clearly right-wing parties (the Conservatives and UKIP). Oddly, these two things have little to do with each other. The Tories won in 2015 not because they gained votes but because the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed; even if the Liberal Democrat votes migrate to Labour (as some must have done, since the national Labour share held despite Scotland), under our electoral system this can help the Conservatives. And the outright left (counting Labour, the SNP and Greens but not counting the Liberal Democrats) did better in 2015 than 2010, in both seats and votes.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

But this is small comfort to the left. Labour did not poll enough to come close to winning, and the left as a whole is not prevailing. What has gone wrong ? Four things strike me:

- Labour is seen as ‘unsafe’ on the economy and on Scotland
- the Tories are good at stigmatising the people they are going to hurt, making it harder to argue for protecting them. They are also good at building their own constituency, whereas Labour, when its policies succeed, can find it has worked itself out of a job.
- our current economic instutions mean that there can be a tension between the left’s liberal instincts on immigration and the interests of the indigenous working class in the labour and housing markets
- Labour looked reactive rather than creative. To look both reactive and unsafe is problematic. Even the SNP’s and Greens’ attack on ‘austerity’ and ‘cuts’ can sound like an attempt to preserve existing institutions rather than improve them.

It is said, truly, that Labour needs to appeal to a broader range of people: and, more dubiously, that this means moving to the centre – though the centre was a dangerous place for a party to be last week.

The left draws on a sense of injustice. That’s right, but not enough. The left needs to identify what is wrong with people’s lives, and how politics might change that.

I suggest: many people are working too hard, at jobs over which they have little control, on things they do not believe in and do not love. The inequality of wealth and income matters because it affects what people can do with their lives.

A politics that addresses this might include a universal basic income, worker ownership and management, and institutions that encourage a shorter working week. These are radical ideas, but ones of broad appeal; and it is always possible to start small.

Can such a politics be sustained within our existing electoral system ? Electoral reform could help, provided it doesn’t increase the control of party managers within parties. These policies will appeal to many already on the left; but, presented on their merits they could appeal to many who have never thought of themselves as left-wing at all. The left needs to surprise.