Archive for the ‘Tactics’ Category

October Puzzle of the Month

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In honor of the release of Brooklyn Castle this week, the October puzzle of the month comes from a game between IS 318k teacher Elizabeth Spiegel and former IS 318k student Rochelle Ballantyne. In the position below Elizabeth is playing black.

Can you find a way for black to win a piece?

Bring the solution to this puzzle to our October Family Chess Night and win a prize!









If you haven’t seen the trailer for Brooklyn Castle yet, watch it here.

Got tempo?

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Ladies of Tucson- do not miss a spectacular 9 Queens Academy this Sunday, March 21 from 2-4 pm at Bookmans on Grant and Campbell. National Master Leo Martinez will be teaching a tantalizing lesson on winning tempo in the opening, while expert Amanda Mateer will show you how to make the most out of exchanging pieces (especially the Queen). This workshop is free and open to female chess players of all ages and abilities. Many thanks to Bookmans for their continued sponsorship of our 9 Queens Academy Series. If you haven’t seen it, check out this great video from Bookmans featuring 9 Queens at the Tucson Festival of Books. So much fun!

9 Queens Prizes at the US Women’s

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The fight for 9 Queens Best Game Prizes at the US Women’s Championship (Saint Louis, October 3-14) was fierce!  A panel of four judges, including GM Ben Finegold, IM Greg Shahade, 9 Queens instructor Amanda Mateer and Author & WIM Dr.Alexey Root, ranked their top five games. The grand prize winner was Zatonskih-Melekhina ($300), and there was a tie for 2nd ($100 each) between Baginskaite- Abrahamyan, Abrahamyan-Melekhina and Abrahamyan-Krush. You can see all the judges’ comments and play through the contending games on the Chess Life Online story.

Choosing my own picks was very tough. This tournament saw a record-breaking twenty decisive games in a row and there were so many exciting battles. I went with my gut picks as a live commentator for the event. The links below take you to the play through games on the website of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, where you can also see final results, photos and some videos I hosted with Macauley Peterson of the ICC.

Zatonskih-Melekhina (round six)

Zatonskih’s fiercest battle of the event. Melekhina is a great fighter, so this was a battle between two equally determined players, but Zatonskih’s careful balancing of aggression and patience set her apart. In a post-tournament interview, Zatonskih mentioned the Karpovian restrictive move a4 as her favorite move of the event.


Foisor-Goletiani  (round six)

Foisor ruthlessly exploited Goletiani’s mistakes in this game with 14.Ng5! (threatening 15.Bxf6 xf6 16.Qh7++)


After 14…g6, Foisor followed it up with 15.Bxb7 Nxb7 16.Ne4! after which she quickly gained a winning position. Very well-played.

Krush-Zatonskih (round three)

This was the most anticipated game of the tournament due to last year’s controversial Armageddon playoff and also because of Krush and Zatonskih’s close ratings. They are often only a point or two away from each other (though Zatonskih will probably lead by a nice margin after the US Women’s) 22…b5 was in my eyes the decisive move of the tournament, signifying that it might not be a battle between Zatonskih and Krush after all.


22…b5 is an anti-positional move, permanently ceding the c5 square. However, it also happens to be winning! Now Black is threatening the crushing Nb7!, when White’s queen only retreat square a3 is inadequate due to …b4. Instead Krush tried 23.Rb3 Nb7 24.Qa3 b4 25.Qa4 but fell quickly after 25…c5! (threatening …c4) 26.dxc5 Nxc5 27.Qb5 Rab8 28.Qe2 a4 and White resigned.

In this game Zatonskih chose her opening well, equalized and managed to get her tricks in early.

Krush-Baginskaite (round eight)

Krush has a take no-prisoners attitude and she is the most vocal and confident of the players in the tournament. People expect her to play well, so when she does, it doesn’t cause many shock waves. But I was surprised that this pretty game, marked by the nice 0-0, didn’t get any votes by the Best Game Judges.


Now if Baginskaite grabs the pawn 16…exf3 the simple 17.Bxf3 and the triple skewer on the a3-f8 diagonal is impossible to defend (for instance the simple 18. dxc6 is a crushing threat). If Black plays 16…cxd5 17.Nxe4! wins instantly–A pretty demonstration of a double pin.


Black played 16…Bf5 instead but got a terrible position, which Krush exploited smoothly.

Fan-Goletiani(round eight)

Part of the reason I chose this game is for its mass audience appeal. The lowest rated player in the tournament (who is also a rock star!) beats an experienced IM. This is a straightforward game you can show students as an example of both opposite side castling positions and to reinforce skewers and pins.


Here Fan played 23.Nxe4, exploiting a current pin and a potential pin. 23…Nxe4 loses to 24.Qxe7 while 23…Qxe4 loses to 24.Bd3. A few moves later, we find ourselves another instructive tactical moment.


Fan played 28.h7 Rg7 and 29.Rxg2! and now if 29…Rxg2 30.Be4 snags a full rook. Normally, Black would be able to restore material equality by connecting rooks with Rg8, but here that square is guarded by the h7 pawn.

Many other master-level games have more complex tactics that are hard to show to beginner or intermediate students. Fan-Goletiani  is a great game for 9queens Academies across the country!

9 Queens was proud to sponsor this Best Game Prize Contest. Winning beautifully is different than just winning.

Judit Polgar and an upcoming chess workbook

A Lesson from Judit Polgar

As Jean mentioned in the last blog post, I taught the advanced group at the last Queens’ Academy about decoys. Below is my all-time favorite example of a decoy (actually a double-decoy!) from a game played between GM Yasser Seirawan (white) and GM Judit Polgar (black). Here is the position with black to move:

Judit sets up her trap with the move Nf3+, which forces the king to f2 (if Kh1, Qxh2++). Next, she plays Qxh2+, using the knight that is still on f3 as a decoy. White must play Kxf3 because if Kf1, black has the subtle Bh3++. After the mandatory Kxf3, the players reach the following position:

White seems to be out of danger, but not so fast. Judit whips out the double exclamation mark move (the second decoy) Bg4+!!, after which white has no response but Kxg4. Judit finishes it off with Qh5++.

This game is an excellent illustration of the concept of the decoy–luring one of your opponent’s pieces (in this case white’s king) to a bad square, and then taking advantage of it (in this case by checkmating white’s king). Hope you enjoyed it!


Coming Soon

If you’d like to see more tactics like this from world-class female players, you’re in luck! We are putting together a workbook highlighting the lives and games of some of the best female chess players in the world, including Judit Polgar, Humpy Koneru, and Alexandra Kosteniuk. More information about how to get a workbook will be available soon!

Drawing lesson from Judit

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Welcome to the 9queens blog! In this blog, I will often share my favorite illustrative tactics and positional ideas from top women players. Few books make a special effort to include games by women, but just like it’s important in English to use "she" as well as "he", it’s good if the brilliant sacrificier is not always a dude. Recently, a student of mine criticized me for accidentally using "he" when talking about a generic position that I had set up to prove a point. I think he was trying to turn the tables on the teacher to get a gasp of relief, but there’s some truth in his criticism. Even a vocal feminist like me has to pay attention so not to assume that the invisible man is a man.

In the elite tournament, Biel 2007, the Hungarian Grandmaster Judit Polgar, the top woman player in history, played an interesting endgame. At first glance, it seems dismal for Judit, who was playing Black against GM Alexander Grischuk from Russia. She is down two pawns, and knight endings are notoriously lacking in drawing chances. Can you figure out what she played?

Judit played 65…Ng4! If 66.Nxg4, it’s a draw by stalemate!

However, Judit had more digging to do after Grischuk declined the knight with 66. Nc4 Nh2+ 67. Ke4. Then we get the following position:

It still looks bad because the most obvious move, Kxg3 loses to Ne5! cutting both the knight and the knight from the action and allowing the king to usher the pawn in. However, Judit found the much stronger Nf1! in the above position allowing her to pick up the g-pawn and keep her king close to the f-pawn. A few moves later, Judit reaches the end of the line:

One student of mine asked me :"Don’t Ng7 and Ng3 both draw here?" Actually they both don’t draw. Black can go very wrong here. Ng7! was played in the game, and it draws due to f6 Ne8+ followed by Nxf6. But Ng3 loses to the smart Nf1!, and Black can no longer stop the f-pawn.





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Player Spotlight


Varga Luna

(playing for 4 years)

“I became interested in chess when I was about four. I like chess bc you get to have fun and learn some things. You get to be more patient. You get to focus and concentrate. ”