Queen’s Gambit Netflix TV Series

The chess games played in the series to the extent that they can be followed have been analyzed on YouTube. Most of them are based on real games played by Grandmasters. I recognized the final position from a famous Paul Morphy game from around 1859. One difference is that Paul Morphy played the brilliant game while blindfolded.

At one point in the show someone presents Beth Harmon with a 3 move chess problem. This problem appeared online somewhere. This particular problem should have been at least somewhat difficult, but I just happened to pick up on the answer within a few seconds.

Composed chess problems have a rule where the first move can't be a capture or a check. This sometimes means that the losing side is placed in zugzwang, which means that it is unfavorable for him to have to make a move. These problems are much more subtle than positions from real games.

Because these problems are often very difficult, I have a technique where I imagine a couple of moves for the losing side and then given those moves I look for a way to win. If I can't solve it then I know that the solution involves preventing those moves from happening.

I have some thoughts on what the possible symbolism of the ending of the show might mean. I would like to discuss it with somebody who has seen it.

Best wishes,

John Coffey


Queen's Gambit

Hollywood tends to make fictional movies about people who are so talented that they quickly rise to the top of some competitive sport without really having to earn it. In reality, a game like chess is immensely difficult to master, and the top-level players spend decades of full-time effort to get to that level. You almost have to be a little bit crazy to be a top tier chess player.

So I resisted at first watching Queen's Gambit, but as a drama about chess, it is good. There is also a major theme about substance abuse. These together make a pretty good story.

Obviously, there is also a theme of female empowerment. This is interesting because during the 1950s and 1960s in which this story takes place, there weren't that many women chess players and none at the higher levels. Things have improved quite a bit since then, first with the Polgar sisters becoming top tier players, and more recently with Chinese star Hou Yifan. Yet, chess is still a game dominated by men, maybe because women find it less interesting. Men more than women prefer competitive sports, especially one as egotistical as chess.

Best wishes,

John Coffey



My Only Game vs. Magnus Carlsen - YouTube

I think that this is a very interesting game worth studying.


The ending is a draw as stated, but I think that if the pawns are on f4 and f5 instead of g4 and g5, then it is a win for White.  (After putting the pawn on a7 and the rook on a8 then the Black King can't go to f7 because Rh8! wins for White, because after Rxa7 White has Rh7+.)  So White eventually wins the f5 pawn with his King, and then White marches the f pawn up to f6 throwing the Black King off his g7 and h7 defensive squares.  I just confirmed this with endgame tablebases.

What I have a hard time wrapping my head around, is why doesn't this same strategy work with a G pawn?  The answer is that Black can set his king on g7 and give checks with the rook. With an F pawn then the Black King either ends up on f7 which loses to Rh8, or it ends up h7 allowing White to play f7 threatening to queen.

However, I am just assuming that the Black King just goes between g7 and h7.  There are other possibilities, but these are winning for White as well.  https://syzygy-tables.info/?fen=8/6k1/R7/P4p2/5P2/r7/6K1/8_w_-_-_0_1

How I Surprised A Grandmaster On The 2nd Move... - YouTube

This game is interesting, along with the nervous emotion of the presenter.



Dinesh D'Souza: Netflix’s New Feminist Series “The Queen’s Gambit” Needs a Heavy Dose of Reality


I find the name Dinesh D'Souza on the U.S. Chess Federation website.  I don't know if this is the same person because it could be a common Indian name, and a great many people from India play chess.   The membership of the person on the USCF website expired in 2005 and he lived in California where Dinesh D'Souza also lived at the time so it could be the same person.


In response to the video I wrote the following comment:  

"Speaking as someone who is barely ranked at the Expert level, I think that men and women have different inclinations toward competitive sports, where chess is a somewhat ego-driven sport. Women by their nature prefer activities that are more cooperative. Studies have shown that women are less inclined to engage in analytical thinking even though they are equally capable of it.

I haven't watched the show yet, but my concern is that Hollywood movies are full of heroes who rise to the top with little or no effort.  This is not reality, and chess is an incredibly difficult game to master."


Mate in 3 chess problem from the Netflix series "The Queen's Gambit".

I have not yet watched the Netflix series, "The Queen's Gambit", but in episode 6 this composed chess problem was presented to the character Beth Harmon to solve. White to play and mate in 3 moves. I saw it on a youtube video. Almost every chess game in that show has been analyzed extensively on youtube.

Composed mate in 3 problems can be quite difficult to solve, but I've solved this one faster than any composed mate in 3 that I have solved before. Like 20 seconds. The Black pieces have few moves available making the puzzle easier. I asked myself, what would happen if the Black King ran away to h6 or f8, or what if the Black King just ended up on its original square?

Some really difficult composed chess problems have taken me 30 to 60 minutes to solve. I have a knack for Mate in 2 problems, but Mate in 3's can be exponentially more complicated.



KQvKR Philidor Posiiton

This is the Philidor Position in the Queen versus Rook ending, not to be confused with the Rook and Pawn ending by the same name.


It is possible to play the ending out on this website, which tells you the best moves on the righthand side.

This ending is normally thought to be quite difficult, but this is one of the critical positions and it is fairly easy if you know what to do.  (The other critical position is called the 3rd rank defense, and it is harder.)  

White easily wins is with a triangulation after 1. Qe5+ Ka7 2. Qa1+ Kb8 3. Qa5 arriving at the starting position with it being Black to move instead of White to move.  Now Black is forced to move his rook away from the king.  Then White can check the king until he is able to fork the rook.

God Level Move By Carlsen's Opponent (Carlsen could not believe this) WO...


Best wishes,

John Coffey


"WOW! He is FIGHTING So Well!" | Magnus Carlsen vs Narayanan | Banter Series

For those interested in these things, Mangus Carlsen explains his thinking.  As I entered the game into the computer, the analysis indicated that Magnus had the advantage but threw it away, and then his opponent gave it back to him.


[Event "Banter Chess Series"]
[Site "?"] [Date "2020.10.28"] [Round "1"] [White "Carlsen, Mangus"] [Black "Narayana, S.L.."] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2863"] [BlackElo "2618"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventType "schev (blitz)"] [TimeControl "180"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. Qa4+ Nc6 8. e3 O-O 9. Rc1 Rd8 10. a3 Bf8 11. Be2 a6 12. O-O Rb8 13. Rfd1 dxc4 14. Qxc4 Bd7 15. Ne4 Qf5 16. Nc5 Be8 17. Bd3 Qd5 18. Qc2 Bxc5 19. Be4 Qd6 20. Qxc5 Rbc8 21. h4 f5 22. Bb1 Bh5 23. Ba2 Bxf3 24. gxf3 Kh8 25. Qxd6 Rxd6 26. Rc5 g6 27. Rdc1 Kg7 28. Bb3 Kf6 29. Ba4 Rb8 30. b4 g5 31. hxg5+ hxg5 32. Bxc6 bxc6 33. Rxc6 a5 34. bxa5 Ra8 35. Rxc7 Rxa5 36. Rh7 Kg6 37. Rcc7 Rxa3 38. Rcg7+ Kf6 39. Rg8 f4 40. e4 Rxd4 41. Kg2 Rdd3 42. Rh6+ Kf7 43. Rxg5 Rxf3 44. 
Rgg6 Rfd3 45. Rf6+ Kg7 46. Rhg6+ Kh7 47. Rxe6 Rd4 48. Rgf6 Kg7 49. Rxf4 1-0


Tricky Ending

Most King and Pawn endings are relatively simple to play, but there are exceptions called "corresponding square" positions that are technically very complicated. Most players below the level of Expert wouldn't even know that these endings exist. I have had a couple of these kinds of endings memorized for around 25 years, but this particular ending I did not know. My first impression looking at the position is that the game would be a draw. As White, Grandmaster Firouzja lost to the world champion Magnus Carlsen because he did not find the correct move here. The right move is counterintuitive. However, I would assume that most professional players would know these positions by heart.  


This combination is interesting

A bad opening goes very bad

[Event "Casual Game"]
[Site "https://itsyourturn.com"]
[Date "2020.09.22"]
[Round "?"]
[White "John Coffey"]
[Black "francishenryd"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D07"]
[WhiteElo "2016"]
[PlyCount "33"]
[EventDate "2020.09.22"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nc6 3. c4 Nf6 4. cxd5 Qxd5 5. Nc3 Qd8 6. d5 Nb4 7. Qa4+ Bd7 8.
Qxb4 b6 9. Qb3 e6 10. e4 exd5 11. e5 Ne4 12. Qxd5 Nxc3 13. bxc3 Be6 14. Bb5+
Bd7 15. Bxd7+ Ke7 16. Ba3+ c5 17. Qd6# 1-0


Chessmaster, The (NES) - Online Game | OldGameShelf.com

Before the internet, the only way to play chess was in person or with a dedicated chess computer, and the dedicated chess computers didn't start to get good until about 1983, when the best one was about 1800 strength.

From 1984 to mid-1990's I owned 3 chess-playing computers.   I sold them when I switched over to desktop computers, but I kind of regret not having them any more.  Part of me wonders if they would still beat me today like they did back then?   I am wondering if I could now give them a better game?

The 1984 Novag Super Constellation was pretty impressive considering that it was running on just a 4 MhZ 6502 8-bit processor.  The USCF assigned it a rating of 2000, which is likely a little high.  It is my understanding that the program only looked at 500 moves per second   Compare that to my 64 bit 3.4 GHZ iMac with 4 cores.  Stockfish on this computer looks at around 5 million moves per second.

Nevertheless, I had trouble beating the Super Constellation at level 1 which was 5 seconds per move.   At the time, I was rated in the 1700's.  I could win most of the time, but the higher levels game me trouble.

I am surprised to find my name on a webpage about the Super Constellation.    https://www.chessprogramming.org/Super_Constellation    Apparently in 1998 I made a forum post where I was wondering the exact same things that I am wondering now.  Even then I referred to this as an old chess computer.

The 1988 Fidelity Designer 2100 (http://www.spacious-mind.com/html/designer_2100.html)  series running an 8-bit 6502 at 5 MHZ was a slight improvement over the Super Constellation.  The USCF gave it a rating of 2100 which some claim is too high.  I certainly found it a challenge, but I wasn't content to stop there.   Later got the 16-bit Fidelity Designer Mach III 2265.  For its time, this thing was a beast.  I played it a ton of games at G/30 and only won once.  At the time I was rated 1800.

I can't go back play these old chess computers, but I can run some older videogame software through emulation.

I found a website that runs The Chessmaster program from 19991 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  This is emulating a 1.79 MHZ 8 bit 6502 processor.  This should be a little weaker than the Novag Super Constellation.  

First of all, I am surprised that a website can emulate an old videogame system.  I also found this fun to play.  The controls take a little getting used to.  You have to press "Select" (shift key) to get to the options where you can control the difficulty.  There is also an option to make it full screen.  The graphics aren't the best, but are okay.

As as I said, I found this fun to play.  There are a couple of beginner levels, and then level 1, 2, 3 etc.  After beating level 1 at 5 seconds per move, I only barely beat level 2 at 7.5 seconds per move.  I had to outsmart it in the endgame to win.

I am able to run the SNES version of this program through emulation on my NES Classic videogame system and on the PC.  The SNES 65816 processor is twice as fast and a little more sophisticated, so the SNES version should be as good as the Novag Super Constellation.   At the time that these Chess Master programs were released for the videogame consoles, which was around 1991, the version of Chess Master for computers was called Chess Master 2100.  I later owned a copy of Chess Master 3000 which seems extremely crude now.

In the 1990's I programmed SNES videogames for a living.

John Coffey



This Happens To All of Us || Morphy vs Löwenthal (1858)

I find the endgame interesting.  There is also a very interesting pawn sacrifice by Morphy that his opponent wisely doesn't accept.



chess.com changes to their rating system today

Earlier today I noticed that my chess.com bullet rating was 1900.  This could not be correct, and later it showed up as 1649.  However, my bullet rating had been at a record low of 1499.  Chess.com decided to add 150 points to all bullet ratings to make the average match the average of their blitz ratings.  I still think that their ratings are too low, but this is a welcome improvement.

Prior to the adjustment, my highest bullet rating was over 1700.

In addition, chess.com has decided to start counting G/10 as Rapid instead of Blitz.  This would have affected how some of the games I played tonight were rated.  I thought that the USCF considered G/10 to be Quick and not Blitz, but I was wrong.  It appears that the USCF considers G/10 to be Blitz and maybe Quick as well, although I personally think that Blitz should be considered less than 10 minutes.

Chess.com considers anything longer than 9 minutes to be "Rapid", except for "turn based" postal like games.

From what I can tell, the USCF considers 10 to 29 minutes to be "Quick".  Anything from 30 to 59 minutes was traditionally called "Action Chess", although the USCF now rates 30 to 60 minutes as dual rated both Quick and Regular.  The USCF considers anything over 59 minutes as "Regular."


chess.com and cheating

So chess.com has some sophisticated method of detecting people who cheat, and they are kicking 500 people a day off their site for cheating. So far they have kicked off 400,000 people. https://www.chess.com/article/view/online-chess-cheating  


Automated Chess board - Losing to a Ghost


This automated chess board has a feature where you can play other humans on the internet.  Or you can play against a computer. However, this is far easier on a computer screen.  Even a phone or tablet is not so bad, and you have to use a phone app anyway to drive the board.

I saw something in the video that made it looked like the app is integrated with the chess.com website.

The presenter is a pretty terrible chess player.   He was getting crushed by a computer at "level 1".  This was most likely Stockfish at level 1.  Both the websites chess.com and lichess.org let you play Stockfish at multiple levels if you don't want to be humiliated by a human being, so I just now tested this out.  Levels 1 to 4 played so poorly that I couldn't stand to play them. I had to get up to level 6 just to be a little bit challenged but won anyway. 


Get Free Coffee at Panera Bread

I've been getting free coffee for about 3 weeks.  I need to cancel the coffee subscription by the end of September in order not to be charged.


George R.R. Martin

On this day in 1996, George R.R. Martin published A Game of Thrones. Did you know he is a USCF life member and earned his living as a tournament director in the early 70s? Working on weekends 2 days a week gave him 5 days a week to write!  



Magnus Carlsen is back in the ring | Titled Arena

This is really fun to watch.

The world champion plays this online tournament as "Dr. Nykterstein".  This is an "arena" tournament, which is like a "Battle Royal" to see who can get the most points over a two hour period.  The tournament is mostly Grandmasters, making the level of play high.  It looks like Magnus Carlsen may have started late but then slowly moved up the standings until he was on top.

What is amazing is that this is a "bullet" tournament, where each player only has 1 minute to make all their moves. The players are averaging 1 to 2 seconds per move.  It is all I can do to keep up the games.  I get the impression that Magnus Carlsen's moves are at least equal to what I can do with two hours at my disposal.  It is amazing and instructive to watch.

The video gets off to a slow start but gets really entertaining 3 to 4 minutes into it.



I had to share this crazy and funny chess problem.

Much to my surprise, Stockfish gets it right away.  I figured that it would be too deep or too obscure.


Cheaters on chess.com

I got a notice from chess.com that one of my opponents had violated the Fair Play Policy, and therefore they were adding 16 points to my rating, which doesn't matter that much because chess.com ratings are always changing.  They didn't tell me which opponent was the culprit, but I was extremely curious as to who it was, so I looked to see which one of my previous opponents had his account suspended.  

It was from an online tournament that I was playing, which makes me wonder if they only check tournaments for cheating.  It seems to me that it would take way too much computer power to check the millions of games that are played daily on chess.com.

Oddly enough, this was a game that I lost because my Comcast Internet went down in the middle of my game and stayed down for a couple of hours.   What I heard was that the service was down for the entire midwest.   This was particularly painful because my opponent was only rated 600.

One way they determine if someone is cheating is to look at the accuracy of their moves with computer analysis.  Anything over 98% is probably suspicious, especially if a low rated player does it on multiple games.  

The accuracy of my games tends to vary from 60% to 99%, with many games over 90% and the vast majority over 80%.  I have a few occasional games that are 98 to 99% accurate and I am sure that chess masters do too.  I hope that if I were to have a really good day that they would not think that I was cheating.

I read that cheating on backgammon web sites has mostly been eliminated by checking the games with computer analysis.

Maybe ideally they would use webcams to watch everyone as they play.  It is pretty hard to cheat if they are watching you, or even if just your opponent can see you.  It's not very private, but they do this for some online matches with top-level players.


Greenwood chess club five year anniversary today. Online play tonight. Future reopen date.

I started the Greenwood Chess Club five years ago today.

On Monday, February 1st, 2016 we moved the club to the Kroger on South Emmerson.

The Columbus Chess Club will open again on June 18th.  However, I plan to wait till July 6th to reopen the Greenwood Chess Club.  I want to wait and see what is going to happen with the COVID-19 pandemic.  I also have to check with the Kroger on South Emmerson to see if it is still okay for us to meet there.

Meanwhile, on Mondays, I will be available from 5 to 9:30 to play online at this page on chess .com:  https://www.chess.com/club/greenwood-chess-club23   

This is a page that you can join.
We usually get between 2 to 5 players.  I suggest trying to rotate players.  You can use the "Members" link to see who is online and challenge them.  It is helpful to become friends with other members so as to see their games and more easily challenge them.

On Thursday nights a few of us meet here:  https://www.chess.com/club/columbus-chess-club

I hope that everyone is healthy and safe.



Happy with my accuracy on chess.com in ten minute games

Overall I am pleased with my accuracy on 5+5 (or G/10) games.  I played 17 games tonight.  I lost two.  According to the chess.com analysis feature,
I had 9 games with over 90% accuracy, with my best two games scoring 99%.  I have five games in the '80s.  Two games in the '70s and my worst game was 61.%

I feel like I am playing more accurately than I have in the past.  I'm obviously not perfect, and I do have some bad games.  However, the games are almost speed chess.   I would be happy to get these percentages in longer games. 

I think that the chess.com accuracy numbers might be arbitrary.  I also think that if I played tougher competition that I would be more likely to make mistakes because really strong players have ways of pressuring their opponents into making errors.  (Imagine playing a pro football team.  No matter how good you are, they are going to make you look bad.)

My rating on chess.com has been hovering in the 1900's when it was previously in the mid to high 1800's.  Compared to US Chess Federation ratings, I think that this would be equal to somewhere between 2000 and 2150 (Expert) because I have always thought that chess.com ratings were low.  I can't be sure though.



English Analysis

Somebody on Facebook was looking for advice on how to play against the English.   The first 9 moves is pretty much what I play, and everything after that is very speculative using computer analysis that I just did.

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2020.05.02"]
[Round "?"]
[White "English"]
[Black "Analysis"]
[Result "*"]
[PlyCount "40"]
[TimeControl "720+3"]

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 c6 4. Bg2 d5 5. cxd5
cxd5 {Black might be slightly better. Now if ...} 6. Qb3 Nc6 7. Nxd5 (7. Bxd5 Nd4 8. Bxf7+
Ke7 9. Qc4 b5 10. Nxb5 Nxb5 11. Qxb5 Kxf7) 7... Nd4 8. Nxf6+ Qxf6 9. Qd3 {
Black has slight compensation for his pawn. For example, we can get into some
wild lines after...} Be7 10. e3 (10. Qc3 Bd7 11. Bxb7 Rb8 12. Bd5 Rc8 13. Bc4
O-O 14. b3 Bc6 15. f3 Bb4 16. Qb2 e4) 10... Nc6 11. Ne2 Nb4 12. Qb1 Qa6 13. Be4
f5 14. a3 fxe4 15. axb4 Qc4 16. b3 Qf7 17. Qxe4 O-O 18. f4 (18. O-O Bh3) 18...
exf4 19. Nxf4 (19. Qxf4 Bf6 (19... Qxb3) 20. Ra2 Bh3 (20... b5) (20... Qxb3)) (
19. Rf1 f3 20. Nd4 f2+ 21. Ke2 Bh3) 19... g5 20. Nd5 Bd6 *  



P vs. NP - The Biggest Unsolved Problem in Computer Science


A crude chess program in order to look 10 half moves ahead would take the hypothetical 25 moves possible and do roughly 25 to the 10nth power calculations, which would take a very long time. However, the alpha-beta algorithm eliminates mathematically unnecessary calculations making this more like 5 or 6 to the tenth power, which is a huge difference.

What surprises me is that program Stockfish reduces this to more like 2 to the N power, which is considerably less. Exactly how it does this I'm not sure, although I have some idea.

I would contend that looking deeper in chess will always involve an exponential increase, by definition. To not be exponential means that we could look infinitely far ahead and completely solve chess. This is kind of the point of the video.


Judit Polgár

Many years ago I had the privilege of seeing all three Polgar sisters walking together at the National Open.  Almost 20 years ago I played Susan Polgar in a blitz tournament and got creamed. 

I noticed that none of the Polgar sisters are on the top Woman players list, even though they really should be.  https://ratings.fide.com/top.phtml?list=women

"On 13 August 2014, she announced her retirement from competitive chess."

Old joke

A joke I heard maybe 30 to 40 years ago in the
pages of Chess Life:

There are 4 types of chess players:

1. Jewish players.
2. Russian Players.
3. Jewish and Russian players.
4. Everyone else.

During the 13 years I went to the National Open in Vegas, I have lost to people in all 4 categories. I knew that when my 1900+ rated opponent was named Kasparov that I was in trouble.

Best wishes,

John Coffey