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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

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Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess: A Knowledge-Based Approach


by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie (USCF Press)
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The first thing any chess teacher must do, when meeting a new student, is to discover how much he already knows. Maybe you will ask him to demonstrate the basic mates with queen and with rook. After that, you may set up the pieces and play a few moves with him, to see if he knows to develop his pieces and castle. That will tell you a little, if the student is only a bit better than beginner. But what if he is a more advanced player? How can one determine, in an hour or so, exactly how much chess knowledge he has and where his deficiencies lie? One way to answer this question came as early as 1980, when Danny Kopec and Dr. Ivan Bratko developed a 24 position test for use in evaluating computer chess programs. The test, called the Bratko-Kopec (or BK) test, remained a standard tool for chess program developers for a number of years. The positions test for a number of common tactical and positional ideas.

Joel Channing
for USCF Executive Board

Shortly after it was devised, Danny Kopec discovered that the BK test, and a subsequent test called the New Positions test, could be used to test humans as well as computers. In the years since then, the tests have been given to hundreds of human players, revealing a remarkable correlation between test score and rating. It was natural, therefore, that we would find a use for these tests when we began the Kopec Chess Camp in 1994. We used the tests both to help assign campers to instruction groups of the appropriate level and to teach important tactical and positional ideas.

IM Danny Kopec

"A practical guide to making positional decisions."

One of the first things we learned at the camp was that the tests were too hard for some of the weaker young players. Even a player of 1500 rating could be expected to score only about 5 correct on the BK test. So for the second year of the camp, Hal Terrie devised a new test, specifically designed for those of beginner level up to about 1500 rating. In the years since then, four additional tests of varying levels have been constructed, with the goal of testing a wide range of middlegame and endgame concepts. In 1997, the first six tests and some research results were collected into a book, Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach. In 2003, the USCF published a new edition, containing revised and improved test solutions, a new seventh test and updated research from the years 1997-2002. Here now are some samples from these tests. In this article, we will show you some positions from the earliest tests and from the two designed specifically for novice and intermediate players. In a subsequent article, we may look at the other tests, two of which focus on endgame concepts. The BK and New Positions tests feature tactical ideas of varying difficulty. The student get two minutes to look at each position and list up to four moves in descending order of preference. Here are some samples:

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BK #15: Fischer - Mecking Palma de Mallorca Interzonal, 1970

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

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White to move [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]
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1.Qxg7+ Qxg7 2.Rxf6 After the further: 2...Qxg3 3.hxg3 later followed by g4g5-g6, Fischer managed to trade off his extra, doubled g-pawn to remain a pawn ahead. A relatively simple tactical pattern.

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BK #19: Euwe - Keres World Ch. Tnmt., The Hague, 1948


Annotated Games

Black to move [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

This one is more difficult. 1...Rxe4! The fork trick in action. After: 2.Rxe4 d5 3.Qxa6 dxe4 4.Be3 Qg4! Keres quickly translates his central advantage into a winning kingside attack. 5.Qc4 Rd3! 6.Bc1 6.Qxe4?? Qe2+ 6...Nh4! 7.Qxe4+ 7. g3 Rxg3++; 7.Rf2 Rd1++; 7.Qc2 f5! With the deadly threat of ...e3 (Kmoch). 7...f5 8.Qb7 c6 9.Qxc6 Rc3 10.Qd5 Rc5! To deflect the queen. The immediate 10...Rc2 would be met by 11.Bd2. 11.Qd2 To prevent ...Rc2 but now: Rxc1! The point being 12.Rxc1 Nf3+. Black won. (Source: Pawn Power in Chess, Diagram #154)

Here is one that tests a positional idea: BK #3: Bogoljubow - Spielmann Match Game, 1932

White to move [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

1.d5! cxd5 2.e5 R6d7 2...d4? 3.exd6 dxc3 4.dxe7+ wins a piece. 3.Nd4 This is an example of a very characteristic lever, the "sweeper sealer twist" (Kmoch, 1959). It involves a long term pawn sacrifice where, at the end of the principal variation (above):

White has: (1) gained full control of the open c-file, (2) sealed off Black's half open d-file, (3) gained a tremendous central post for his N, (4) weakened Black's pawns into three groups (three islands) and (5) gained a K-side majority of pawns. (Source: Pawn Power in Chess, Diagram 144)

Positions like these first three were much too difficult for novice players, so the Novice test looks for knowledge of a variety of simpler concepts. The test has eight positions each in the opening, middlegame and ending, at a variety of difficultly levels appropriate for less experienced players. Once again, the student gets two minutes to look at each position but this time writes down only one move choice.

Novtest #6: Simplify When Ahead

White to move [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

1.Bxd6 When ahead material in the endgame, always head for the simplest available position by exchanging the defending pieces. (Source: Hal Terrie composition, 1995) If White tries 1.Kd4 instead, then 1...Nc4 gives him real trouble.

Novtest #13: Only One Recapture

White to move [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

This position tests for simple tactical alertness. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6. Bc4 Qb6 7.Nxc6 Black should play 7...bxc6 but not 7...Qxc6?? 8.Bb5, losing the queen to a pin.

Novtest #9: Seventh Rank

White to move [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]

1.Rd1 1.Re1? allows Black to prevent White's rook from reaching the seventh rank by 1...Kf8

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

Analysis: After 1.Re1 Kf8

1...Kf8 2.Rd7 (Source: Hal Terrie composition, 1995).

Position after 2.Rd7

Novtest #22: Rook Behind Passed Pawn

Black to move [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

1...Rb2 = Rooks belong behind passed pawns! (Source: Hal Terrie composition, 1995) If 1...Rb8? 2.Rb1 and White gets to keep his pawn.

The most recent test is the Intermediate test, designed for those with playing strength between 1500 and about 1900. It looks for knowledge of more advanced concepts than those in the Novice test. Some samples: Intermediate Test #3: Activate Rook

Black to move [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]

Black must sacrifice a pawn to activate his rook: 1...Rb8 (or ... Rd8) Not 1... Re8? 2.Kf1. 2.Rxa5 Rb1+ 3.Kg2 Ra1.

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

With the rook behind the passed pawn, Black can draw. This is an example of the kind of specific endgame knowledge (R+3+a-pawn vs. R+3, rook behind apawn, (with ...h5) draws) which strong players must have.

Intermediate Test #11: Ruy Lopez, Noah's Ark Trap

White to move [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]

This arises after the opening moves 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 d6 5 d4

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

b5 6 Bb3 exd4. Now 7.Bd5 is the right move. White cannot play 7.Nxd4? Nxd4 8.Qxd4 c5 9.Qd5 Be6 10.Qc6+ Bd7 11.Qd5 c4 is the Noah's Ark trap. White could also play in gambit style, with 7.c3 dxc3 8.Nxc3 ( 8.Qd5 Qd7 is not convincing.) This is an example of a position which can be solved either by calculation or by simple knowledge having seen it in a book. Either way is equally valid for the purposes of the test.

Intermediate Test #22: Accurate Simplification

White to win [CV: After reviewing the position, scroll down for the commentary.]

This is a technique position, where the best way to avoid counterplay is not the most obvious. 1.Rxc6 is the most precise, simplifying to an immediate win: 1... bxc6 2.Rb8+ Kd7 3.Rb7+ Ke8 4.Rxf7 Kxf7 5.Bxc5

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

with the devastating threat of d7. This was the conclusion of Kopec - Bellin, 2nd Edinburgh Congress, 1981. Instead, after 1.Rxb7 Rxb7 ( 1...Bxd6? 2.Rxf7 Kxf7 3.Kd5; 1...Rxd6 also holds on.) 2.Rxb7 Bxd6 3.Kd5 Rc7 4.Rb6 Be7 White is winning but Black can still make some moves. In other words, White should win, but he may have to play for a number of more moves and hours. Hence, when a simplifying combination is available whereby you can convert to an "easier" endgame, it is important to find it.

In any book like this one, there are always improvements discovered too late for the press deadline. One such example is this one: BK #8: Alekhine - Yates, Hastings 1926

White to move Black suffers from a classic weakness of the dark squares, hence: 1.f5 eventually forces access to the f4 square for White's knight. The game now continued with 1...g5 2.h4 f6 3.hxg5 fxg5 4.Ng1 Bd7 4...h4 5.g4! Ba4 6.Ke2! c3 7.Nh3 c2 8.Kd2 Notice that Black's passed c-pawn is ineffective because of his inability to control the dark squares. 8...Bb5 9.Nxg5 Be2 10. f6+ Ke8 11.e6 Bxg4 12.f7+ Ke7 13.Nh7 and wins. 5.f6+ Ke8 6.Nf3 g4 7.Nh4 Be6 8.Ng6 Bf7 9.Nf4

9...Kd7 10.Ke2 a5 11.Ke3 Black has no useful moves and will soon have to move king or bishop. Reuben Fine spent a whole page in Basic Chess Endings (#256, page 247) discussing that after 1...gxf5 2.Nf4 Bc6 3.Nxh5 Kf8:

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Chessville - Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess, a Knowledge-Based Approach - by by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie

...he couldn't find a win for White. Shortly before the book went to press, Danny Kopec thought he had found the win and so we published this: I (DK) believe that we have found a straightforward winning plan for White as follows: 1) Play Nf4 and then e6 combined with h4. 2) Get the N to c3 via f4, e2. 3) Get the White king to f4. 4) After advancing the a-pawn as far as possible, use the hpawn as a decoy. 5) Win the a-pawn. White's a-pawn wins the game. Alas, too late we discovered that there is a defense to this plan. We remain convinced that there is a win and invite readers to join the search. E-mail your ideas to us and we will summarize the continuing discussion on our web site at www. kopecchess.com. (Source: Pawn Power in Chess, Diagram 65).

NOW AVAILABLE! Winning the Won Game


by IM Danny Kopec and GM Lubomir Ftacnik (with foreward by Paul M. Albert, Jr.) Paul Albert Brilliancy Prize-winning games from the last 20 years of U.S. Men's and Women's Championships Read excerpts from the introduction Order an autographed copy today!

Test, Evaluate and Improve Your Chess: A Knowledge-Based Approach


The second edition of this invaluable book by IM Danny Kopec and Hal Terrie (USCF Press) AVAILABLE NOW! Order your autographed copy today!

World Chess Title Contenders and their Styles has been released by Dover Publications. Written with Scottish IM Craig Pritchett, this book was originally published in 1980 as Best Games of the Young Grandmasters.
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Mastering the Sicilian Defense has been released by Chrysalis Publishers. This is Danny Kopec's comprehensive survey of the most popular defense in the e4 repertoire.

The Master Chess Series Videos

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