Solitaire Chess: Simple Chess
By Bruce Pandolfini   
October 1, 2007
Winning by simplification and maintaining control is skillfully highlighted in  this Queens’ Gambit (D32) game between George Koltanowski and Mrs. Ritchie (Black), played in Edinburgh in 1937. (Scroll down to the end of the article to play through the game) “Kolti” the blindfold king quickly gains a pawn and the rest seems to be a matter of technique. The game began this way: 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 c5 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. d4 c4 6. e4 Be6 7. exd5 Bxd5 8. Qa4+ Nc6 9. Bxc4 Bxc4 10. Qxc4 Nf6 11. 0-0 Be7 12. d5 Na5 13. Qb5+ Nd7

Your starting position

Now make sure you have the above position set up on your chessboard. As you play through the remaining moves in this game, use a piece of paper to cover the article, exposing White’s next move only after trying to guess it. If you guess correctly, give yourself the par score. Sometimes points are also rewarded for second-best moves, and there may be bonus points—or deductions —for other moves and variations. Note that ** means that the note to Black’s move is over and White’s move is on the next line.

14.          Re1          Par Score: 5


On 14. ... a6 15. Qb4 (1 bonus point), the general picture remains the same. **

15.          Rxe7          Par Score: 6

With this exchanging transaction, White gains bishop and knight for a rook. Accept 1 bonus point if you had it in mind when playing 14. Re1.

15.                                                            Qxe7

Black has little choice, since White threatens to take at d7 (1 bonus point). **

16.          Qxa5          Par Score: 4

The transaction is completed. It’s important to finish off what you’ve started.

16.                                                            Nf6

          Bg5          Par Score: 5

Kolti develops a new piece, releases the rook in the corner, and pins a knight. What more can be asked from a move? Okay, checkmate! But that only happens once in a game, at the very end. Stay tuned.

17.                                                            Rfe8

          h3          Par Score: 5

A precaution against back-rank tricks. For example, on 18. Re1? (deduct 5 points), there follows 18. ... Qxe1+ 19. Nxe1 Rxe1 mate. Not much better is 18. Nd4?, which is met by 18. … Qe1+ etc.

18.                                                            h6

          Bxf6          Par Score: 5

There’s nothing really wrong with 19. Bh4 or 19. Bf4 (3 points part credit), but it’s best to follow the principles: trade pieces when ahead. Accept only 2 points part credit for 19. Re1. White doesn’t get mated, but after 19. ... Qxe1+ 20. Nxe1 Rxe1+ 21. Kh2 hxg5, he’s given up three pieces for the queen. Why give anything back when one doesn’t have to?

19.                                                            Qxf6

          Rd1          Par Score: 5

The try 20. Re1 (3 points part credit) overdoes the exchanging bit. White gets more mileage from his rook by backing up the passed d-pawn.

20.                                                            b6

This and Black’s next move are designed to place her queenside pawns on protected squares, releasing her a8-rook from defense. **

21.          Qa3          Par Score: 4


          d6          Par Score: 5

Again, White follows general guidelines: passed pawns must be pushed. The pawn is in no real danger, backed up by the queen and rook. Plus, there are other benefits.

22.                                                            Rad8

          Nd5          Par Score: 6

This invasion is one of the benefits. Advancing the pawn opened up d5 for the knight. Add 1 bonus point if you had it in mind when playing 22. d6. From its strong central position the knight attacks enemy units at f6 and b6, while assailing other squares as well. The d-pawn is indirectly defended, for if 23. ... Qxd6, then 24. Qxd6 Rxd6 25. Ne7+ wins the Exchange (2 bonus points).

23.                                                            Qe6

          Nxb6          Par Score: 5

Full credit for 24. Nc7, winning the Exchange. If 24. ... Qe2, then 25. Rd2. Koltanowski prefers to take the pawn, figuring more will come later. He’s right. Of course, he may have simply missed or dismissed 24. Nc7.

24.                                                            Kh7

The king leaves the back row just in case something gets taken with check. **

25.          Qxa5          Par Score: 5

Accept only 3 points part credit for 25. Re1 or 25. d7. These two tries cannot be bad. But the text, removing Black’s last queenside pawn, while retaining all threats, is even better. Keeping the tension works to White’s advantage, as witnessed by Black’s next move.

25.                                                            Rxd6

Black removes the pawn before it can advance any further. But now a skewer awaits on the e-file. **

26.          Re1          Par Score: 6

And White wins the Exchange. Accept 1 bonus point if you saw it in advance.

26.                                                            Qf6

There’s no way for the queen to come back and guard the rook as the white knight covers both c8 and d7. **

27.          Rxe8          Par Score: 4


White’s advantage has grown to a full piece and a couple of pawns. Both pawns cannot be held (28. b3 Ra6 29. Qd2 Qa1+ 30. Kh2 Rxa2), so Koltanowski turns his attention to the enemy king. **

28.          Qa8          Par Score: 5

Koltanowski obviously is looking to drive the opposing king out into the open board.

28.                                                            Rxb2

Or 28. ... Qxb2, which has the merit ofclearing f6 for the king. In that case, White continues 29. Rh8+ Kg6 30. Qe4+ Kf6 31. Qf4+ Ke7 32. Qc7+ Kf6 33. Qd8+ Kf5 34. Re8, and Black’s king is not long for this world. For example, on 34. ... Kg6, there follows 35. Nh4+ and mate next move. Black can of course play 28. ... g6, guarding h8. In this case, White calls off his attack and guards his pawns, 29. b3, answering 29. ... Ra6 with 30. Rh8+ Qxh8 31. Qxa6 (2 bonus points). Kolti would have to play an endgame, but with an extra knight, and two passed pawns, it shouldn’t be a problem. **

29.          Rh8+          Par Score: 6

Deduct 4 points for 29. Ne5? True, it threatens Rh8 mate, but it allows Black to turn the tables with 29. ... Qxf2+ 30. Kh1 Qf1+ 31. Kh2 Qf4+ 32. Kg1 Rb1 mate.

29.                                                            Kg6

          Qe4+          Par Score: 5


On 30. ... Kh5, there follows 31. Qg4 mate, as well as 31. g4 mate (1 bonus point total for finding both). **

31.          Nh4+          Par Score: 5

Thus White wins the queen, at the very least (1 bonus point if seen in advance).

31.                                                            Kg5

Or 31. ... Kf6, when 32. Qxf5+ Ke7 33. Qe5+ picks off the rook (1 bonus point). **

32.          Qxf5+          Par Score: 4


          Qg4          Par Score: 5

Mate! It turns out that 33. g3 is also mate (1 bonus point total for finding both mates).

Here is the complete game:

Now add up your points and see "how you rate" by checking the scoring box at the end of this page.

Total your score to determine your approximate rating below:

Total Score    Rating
95+             2400+
81-94          2200-2399
66-80          2000-2199
51-65          1800-1999
36-50          1600-1799
21-35          1400-1599
06-20          1200-1399
0-05            under 1200

ABCs of Chess

These problems are all related to key positions in this month’s game. In each case, Black is to move.

October Exercise: On an otherwise empty board, play out miniature advantages of three pawns vs. two (f2-g2-h2 vs. g7-h7, kings on g1 and g8) against a partner or software, until becoming familiar with key features and ideas. As you grasp more, play with some pawns having already moved. For example, White’s h-pawn could start on h3 and Black’s g-pawn on g6. Thereafter, add pairs of pawns. At first add a white e-pawn to offset a black f-pawn, then a white d-pawn to balance a black e-pawn, and so on. Play out each new situation until you’ve grasped its fine points. Constantly practicing such exercise should improve endgame understanding.

Problem I.


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Problem II.


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Problem III.
Mating net


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Problem IV.


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Problem V.
Mating net


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Problem VI.
Mating net


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