Monday, February 24, 2014

Understanding the nuances!

After some festive reporting, its now time to get back to serious work. Its a study that will make you work hard and force you to find the little nuances! 
As they say the real mastery lies in the eye which can spot the details!
B- Ka8 b3 c5 b7

For the serious player I recommend taking 20 mins on the clock and writing down all the variations and then check them with my answer to see how you fared!

This position I found from the book Fundamental Chess Endings by Karsten Mueller and Frank Lamprecht.
It  has become my night time companion as I can read the book even without a board. Its a nice book and I would say a good competitor to the very popular Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. I have given links for this book in as well as on the left of this blog.

So lets get back to the problem!
The above problem is given in a note in the book but I was quite fascinated by it and found that it really was a gem! So lets get it started.
How should we approach the problem?
As I always say, we must start off with the most natural variation. If you are looking at flashy variations from the start, you are not trying to solve the study, you are just trying to grope in the dark.
The most natural move of course is to take the pawn on c5. So lets see the initial moves

The Million dollar Question is how should black react to the check? Kb2 or Qa2

I think it was more natural for me to investigate the move Kb2 first. I dont know why but when in check, first reaction is to move the king. So lets see this variation.

The position that we have reached now is critical for this entire study

Very important for us to understand what is the result of this position.

As always lets start with the most natural idea of running towards the black pawn.

White loses the game, because of the very famous concept of mined squares!

This variation should give us the idea that white has to defend not by attacking the black pawn but he has swallow his pride and go underneath the black king so that when black takes the pawn on b6, white is ready to take the opposition with Kb4!

Hence the right move is:

So does our variation really draw? Is this the right answer! Let us not forget that we have yet to check the other variation when the White rook checks from a5!

The queen interpose starts to look more logical after we have analyzed the above variation!

Thus we see that after Qa2 there is absolutely no chance for White to make a draw. Hence white must seek improvement on the first move itself. Lets have a look at the problem once again.

We are back at the start of the position. Some might say we have wasted time, but I disagree. Now we have a feel for a position and a lot of ideas have come to our mind due to preliminary analysis. This means that when we will start calculating other variations we will have some positions in our mind that we can relate to.

So let us see how the Rook check on a8 works out.
1.Ra8 Kb2! and we see that the check has been pointless. Black now threatens c4,c3 queening his pawn.
Hence we must play 2.Rc8 when black has the good move 2...Ka3 3.Rc5 (Ra8 Kb4) 3...b2 and the pawn queens. 

So Rc5 doesnt work nor does Ra8+. Hence the right move for white is 1.b6!!
After you see this move things start becoming obvious. White threatens Rc5 and then can move to b5 square as he has cleared that square now. So blacks choices are limited now. He has to push his b pawn. Lets see how the game will continue:

The position of black king on a2 instead of on a1 makes the move Qa2 impossible! A subtle change but one that changes the result of the game!!

Now after Kb2 Rb5 Kc2 Rb1 Kb1 we reach the position that we have already analysed to a draw!

The move Kg3!! now gives white a draw as we had seen in our preliminary analysis!

The first move b6 cannot be found just like that! Not even Magnus Carlsen can do that! You first have to calculate the most natural move Rc5, understand the subtleties in that position, create certain memory markers i.e point of references in your head. This will help you to find the critical move 1.b6! 

But one thing that GMs will do better than us when presented with this position is to be objective. They will immediately realize that its white who is fighting for a draw here and will try to direct their analysis in that direction. I hope for a long time you didn't try to win for white! Thats the reason why I didnt write at the start, white to play and draw. Because during a game no one tells us whether it will be a win or a draw!
I hope you enjoyed the position and just for the completeness sake, I will put the entire analysis in one board here.

If you liked the analysis, dont forget to become a member of this blog by clicking on the top left tab on this blog:  "join this site".

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Chess themed Indian Wedding!

Sagar Shah elo 2304 (2 IM norms) and Amruta Mokal elo 2041 (4 IWM norms) 

It is said that Marriages are made in heaven but are celebrated on Earth!
When I met Amruta Mokal back in 2008, I was not sure that she was the girl that I wanted to marry! But over time, the attraction developed into liking and liking developed into love! And after 5 and a half years, on 5th of february 2014, we both tied the knot!
The wedding was held in the city of Pune which is the hometown of the bride!

The Wedding Invitation cards were designed by Amruta keeping the overall chess theme in mind!

This article is based on specifically one day of my life i.e the 5th of February which is the most special to me! To know more about how our relationship developed, you can read the article on my love story. But right now lets focus on the wedding!

Let me first put things into perspective. Both Me and Amruta wanted a different sort of wedding! Indian weddings are not only known for their pompous nature but also for their excruciatingly long ceremonies and rituals. We wanted to break the monotony and what better way than to celebrate the very reason of us coming together i.e the game of CHESS!

We had already shown our chessic innovation in July 2013 when Amruta specifically designed our engagement rings in the shape of the chess King and Queen!

But this time it was bigger! There were going to be nearly 500 people who would attend the wedding. In order to give tribute to the game of chess, we decided to decorate the stage with the Chess Pieces!

You can see the King and the Queen in the Center with the Bishop knight Rook and Pawn besides it.
The S near the King stands for the name of the groom i.e Sagar and the A near the Queen stands for the name of the bride Amruta!

Usually the wedding dresses of the Bridegroom and Bride are quite elaborate in an Indian wedding! So, Lets have a look at how the protagonists dressed up for the event!

The Bridegroom i.e me, came well prepared for this game! The turban on the head is usually worn by kings and hence gives a royal look to the groom. The Shirt which I have worn is known as a Sherwani. Green in Colour, its quite intricately woven! You can also see a red scarf like thing around my neck. It is called a Dupatta and makes the dress aesthetically pleasing.
In place of trousers, I am wearing a dhoti! In the earlier days tying a dhoti was an art in itself, nowadays you can find readymade dhotis tailormade for amateurs like me!
And finally in place of shoes, I have worn something known as Mojdi. They are designer chappals which go well with the overall dress.
On that particular day, I did feel like a King because of my attire!


Amruta looked nothing short of a princess! There were so many minute details in her dressing that it will take many lines to describe it. Let me make an attempt!
The dress that Amruta has worn is known as a Saree. Its the most popular kind of attire for women in India. The material of the saree is silk and the green colour is considered auspicious during rituals.
She has worn a lot of jewellery, for eg the one of her head, connected to the nose, in her ears, around her neck, fore arms and around her waist. The bangles in her hand made up of green and gold colour are known as "Chuda" which is supposed to be worn by a newly wed bride.
The brown colour on her hands is known as Mehendi. Almost each and every bride applies it in order to look beautiful.
Do not miss the chess king on Amruta's right forearm and a chess queen on her left!


If you see the image of Amruta, you will observe that she has worn a lot of jewellery. In Indian weddings its a tradition that the bride should wear all her jewellery made of gold. Due to this tradition, many poor families are under a lot of stress when it comes to the marriage of their daughters. Thus whenever a girl is born in traditional families it is still considered a burden.
Wearing Jewellery which is aritificial and not made of gold in any ceremony, Amruta in her own little way tried to change the prevailing rigid traditions of Indian marriage. Maybe this little act of hers will give other girls the confidence that its not always necessary to spend a lot during wedding, thus reducing the burden on their parents.

Saying no to gold may reduce female infanticide in India.

The wedding was well attended by a lot of chess players! Most notable amongst them were India no.9 GM Vidit Gujarathi (2602), GM Abhijit Kunte (2439) IM Swapnl Dhopade (2424), Indias Latest IM Sameer Kathmale (2398), IM C.S. Gokhale (2248) and many other strong players like Aniruddh Deshpande, Abhishek Kelkar, Chinmay Kulkarni,Shashikant Kutwal, Sohan Phadke, Vinod Bhagwat, Atul Dahale and Niklesh Jain.

The attendance of strong chess players was pretty high!

The groom flanked by 2 GMs Vidit (L) and Kunte (R)

One IM who was definitely going to be present at the wedding was IM and Fide Trainer Prathamesh Mokal, Amruta's brother!

A unique way for the guests to convey their best wishes!

These chess players definitely had some more work to do at the wedding. I will come to the most interesting part of the wedding in a bit. But first a few things about the caste system in India.

Every person just on the basis of his birth is attached to a specific caste. The castes in Hindu religion are Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Kshudras. Then there are sub castes and I think this classification goes on and on. Though the awareness is increasing now, many people still try to find their partner from the same caste in order to lead a similar family life before and after marriage. However the problem is very simple. People from one caste think that their caste is superior to the other. Clear lines have been drawn. The Caste System is one of the prime reasons for inequality in the Indian society.
Aamir Khan, a very famous Indian actor says inter caste marriage is the only way to get rid of this caste system in India.

Caste system is such a outdated concept, I still wonder why people follow it!

I and Amruta not only are from different castes but also speak different languages at home. While she is a Maharashtrian, I am a Gujarati. The thing which binds us is not any caste or religion but love! {and to some extent the game of chess! :)} And the advantage is that each one of us can learn the other person's language,rituals, traditions and customs and thereby increase our knowledge!
In any case the bottom line is simple: You marry the boy/girl you like without thinking about the caste or religion.

The wedding ceremony was done in Vedic format which is common for all castes and religions. I have tried to explain some of the most important moments of the ceremony through the pictures.

mangala sutra (from Sanskrit mangal, meaning "holy, auspicious", and sutra, meaning "thread") is a sacred necklace that a groom ties around the bride's neck, which identifies her as a married woman.

By putting the puffed rice in the fire, Amruta asks God to keep us united and prays for my long life!

Throwing rice grains over Amruta which symbolizes that I am agreement with whatever she is asking and I will fulfill it!

Taking Pheras (circles) around the fire, pledging our devotion and loyalty to each other.

The Saptapadi! Taking 7 steps with Amruta we together prayed for food, strength, piety, progeny, wealth, comfort and health.

The antarpath: Before the final step of exchanging garlands, we both are separated from each other by a flowered veil.

The Garlands are exchanged and finally we are married!!

As it was a union of two chess players we tried to do something bold! We organised a small chess event which lasted for 6 minutes.(3 mins each)
We made 2 teams. Team Amruta and Team Sagar. Each team had 6 members. So there were 6 boards. 
In order to make the game more interesting and less serious we tweaked the rules a little by interchanging the place of the King and the Queen and Black making the first move. Also castling was not allowed! This resulted in some original chess.

The two GMs were pitted against each other on board 1.

Team Amruta consisted of all the pune players as she is from Pune. They were Abhijit Kunte, Shashikant Kutwal, Anirudh Deshpande, Sohan Phadke, Abhishek Kelkar and Kiran Panditrao.
Team Sagar had players from different places. They were Vidit Gujarathi, Sameer Kathmale, Vinod Bhagwat, Chinmay Kulkarni, Nikhil Joshi and Omkar Patwardhan.

The interest generated amongst the crowd was simply mind blowing! People were extremely excited seeing top players of the country in action and forgot that a wedding was actually going on.

The players too enjoyed playing but as you always know chess players hate to lose! 
I wont get into individual results but Team Amruta emerged victorious by a score of 3.5-2.5.
It was a very closely fought match and many people said that now Amruta will dominate over me for the rest of the life! I personally think the scenario would not have changed even if my team would have won the match!! :D
I and Amruta take this opportunity to thank each of the 12 players for being such a good sport and playing the game in the right spirit to make it a unique and memorable event! 
A special thanks to Niklesh Jain for organizing this event as well as he organizes tournaments in his state of Madhya Pradesh! :)

His Rook is hanging on g5 and his king is in check, yet he has the audacity to pose for a picture!!

Many people played chess! In our own little way we were able to popularize the game!

The best chess players of Maharashtra in one frame!

No appearance money for these top players! :D

My very good friend Shailesh Nerlikar, who is 100% disabled travelled all the way from Kolhapur to attend the wedding!

A very colourful picture of beautiful women at the wedding! (unfortunately,dear readers, all are married!!)

Much needed energy after hard days work!
It was wonderful Maharashtrian food in silver dishes which included Roti, Puri, Shrikhand, Potato sabji, Vegetable rice, Gulab Jamun, Ice cream and much more!

We were happy that our wedding was covered by the popular Marathi newspaper Loksatta because of the uniqueness in the way the arrangements at the wedding were made. The headline was:
 "The game begins now!"

A huge thanks to my and Amruta's parents who allowed all this madness to happen! Without their permission and support it would have been simply impossible!

Now that I and Amruta are married we would like to work together and become better chess players. There are a lot of strong chess couples in the world. Many of them add upto a combined elo of 5000 points.  So who holds the title of strongest chess couple in the world? ..... any guesses?

Alexander Grischuk and Natalia Zhukova

Their combined rating is 2786+ 2499 = 5285 while me and Amruta tally upto 2304+2041= 4345!
Thats a whooping difference of 940 points!! We have a lot of work to do now in order to become the strongest chess couple in the world! :D 

Thank you dear friends, for patiently reading about our wedding! I hope you found it unique and enjoyed it! Do send us your blessings. I look forward to a happy and fulfilling life with my wife!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My favourite chess book!

When I was a 12 year old boy learning about chess, (Lets say my strength would be around 1700 by current standards) a wonderful thing happened to me. My cousins in USA sent a chess book to me. It was called the 62 most instructive games of chess ever played by Irving Chernev.

When someone asks me the Question: "Sagar whats your favourite book on chess?" I close my eyes and try to remember from all the books I have read.
And I have to say the moment I close my eyes only one thing flashes in front of my eyes and that is the cover of this book.
The book that was sent by my cousins from USA had become my best companion for a month! I would sit inside a room locked in solace, open carefully a page of this book and make the moves on the chessboard. The annotations were not as in depth as Dvoretsky's nor were they as humorous as Aagaard's. But there was something about this book which attracted me! It was the introduction to each game, The perfectly selected Masterpieces and the wonderful words used by the author! Oh I fell in love with each and every game! I have replayed these 62 games again and again and I still find them so beautiful even till this date! I salute the author ,Irving Chernev for this wonderful work and I take this opportunity to bring towards you my favourite game of the book which I have annotated!

Though Chernev was only a National Master strength, his books were so well written that I would recommend it to anyone taking their first steps in the game of chess. 

The game which I loved the most in the book is the game number 19. Its not the most accurate of games but yet its extremely beautiful.


(1) Kupferstich - Andreassen [C27]
Denmark 1953
This is what Irving Chernev has to say about this game: "Wonderful things go on in this game! There is a series of see saw checks that is remarkable, an imprisonment of King and Rook that is unique, and a threat of mate requiring at least ten moves to excecute, yest so clear cut a child could carry it out. Question: Does this game played so Brilliantly come under the heading of entertainment or Instruction?"

 I would like to add a few things to this: This game sort of made me realize how beautiful the game of chess was! I had previously seen devastating attacks by Morphy. There were the immortal games and the evergreen games but somehow this game catches my fancy even till date. I just don't know what it is that attracts me to this game? I think its just the clarity of the combination. When the combination is played we are all left in a state of shock and surprise but the beauty of the combination is such that once it is on the board, you understand its power in an instant. I think such clarity is what I feel is chess beauty! A perfect game to illustrate the maxim: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication! 

Just the most brilliant concept ever! Both the white pieces box in the black king. As the king cannot move, the rook on h8 cannot move and hence only the bishop can keep moving. And look at the further beauty! The white pieces are on dark squares, Hence the bishop cannot disturb them! Meanwhile the white king goes from d2-c3-b4-c5-b6-c7-d8-e7 and then with Ne8 or Ne4 he gives a mate on f6. Some might say the black bishop is useless. Yes he is useless for black but for white he is a huge asset. Without him it would have been stalemate if black gives up his pawns!! This last position made such an impression on my 12 year old mind that I immediately fell in love with this royal game! 1–0

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Is there any way to beat Carlsen!!

I wrote this post when the game between Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen was going on.

NAKAMURA(2789) vs CARLSEN (2872)

BLINDFOLD TRAINING! Lets do some calculation. 
In the given position white has an overwhelming advantage. Ok lets leave all our thoughts regarding top level chess and stuff like that and focus only on the position. Its white to play. say you start with the most obvious move. take 1.hg6 immediately you notice that game is over after 1...hg6 2.Qh4+-.
So that leaves 1.hg6 fg6 so now you just give a check. 2.Qe6+ now king moves are just stupid. 1...Kh8 loses to 2.Rdh1 and 1...Kg7 is crushed by 2.Rh7! So lets move to 2...Qf7 is out of the window because 3.Qd6 hangs (instead of Qd6, 3.Rdh1 is super strong and the end is faster). So 2...Qf7 is bad. That leaves 2...Rf7 but terminal is 3.Nf5! (3.Rdh1 is also strong) Now 3...gf5 is met with 4.g6! all over! and 3.Nf5 Nf5 is met with ef5 with crushing attack. Lastly to 2.Qe6 there is only 2...Nf7 but hey even we can see that 3.Rh7 is a bone crusher!
Is it really possible for a super strong 2789 player like Nakamura to miss such an easy win. I mean 1.hg6 is so obvious and the following variations are just forced and so easy to calculate that even we could do it in blindfold. 
My only explanation is that after losing so many games to Carlsen, Nakamura doesn't believe that an easy win exists against the world No.1!! Mental block you can say!!
As things stand right now, Carlsen has the advantage and I am sure he will not be as benevolent as Nakamura was!! 

PS: Magnus Carlsen was really not so kind hearted as he beat the USA no.1! Quite a heartbreak for Nakamura!