Check is in the Mail, February 2024: Tactical Treats

Hello chess friends! I recently had a nice tactical end to what was otherwise a very strategic game, and it made me think of the old saying, attributed to Richard Teichmann: “Chess is 99% tactics.”

When I was young, I thought this meant that if you weren’t finding tactics, you weren’t playing correctly (I can be a slow learner!). Now I understand it to mean that the overwhelming majority of decisive games are decided by tactics. In fact, many draws are decided by tactics as well. I can remember a game I studied back in the 80s in a book by Raymond Keene.

The game was from a Candidates Match between GM Lajos Portisch, one of the world’s strongest players for decades, and former World Champion Boris Spassky. The game was in a main line of the Nimzo-Indian Defense, and the players were barely out of the opening, when Spassky suddenly forced a draw after Portisch's 21. g3:


21. g3


This example (the solution is presented after this paragraph) is intended to show that tactics can radically change the game quickly and are therefore worthy of our attention – even from those among us who prefer strategic play to sharp tactical play. When I was playing in OTB tournaments in my youth I was much better at finding tactics against my opponents than I was at preventing my opponents from finding them against me, which more than once turned an otherwise good game into an early trip home. It is a part of my game that I continue to work on.



Our first game this month comes from a recent section of the Victor Palciauskas tournaments. Michael Burrus plays the Alekhine Defense against Sophie Argetsinger, who came prepared. Burrus resigns early after a second piece becomes unwillingly sacrificed.



Our second game is a slugfest from the Electronic Knights tournaments. Philip Krummrich essays the King’s Gambit, and Gregory Hall responds by lasting open the center. After castling, Hall starts an attack against Krummrich’s king. One slip on move 12 is enough to tip the balance in Hall’s favor. A second on move 13 is fatal.



Game three, McCaffery – Renfroe, also comes from the Victor Palciauskas tournaments. McCaffery’s Queen’s Gambit is answered with the Albin Counter-Gambit. Here we have an example of an over-eager gambiter; Renfroe walks into a tactic on move 10 and continues to fight until move 23 before laying down arms.



Our previous games show tactics in the opening or early middlegame, and I wanted to show some examples from the endgame as well. I recently played a game in the Victor Palciauskas tournament with just such an ending. Paul Shannon prevented me from playing c2-c4 to reach a Catalan structure, so I chose to go after targets on the light squares on the queenside. The tactical sequence that begins on move 31 forces through a passed pawn.



Game five, Iglesias – Conti, starts as a Pirc but quickly morphs into a Philidor’s Defense. White exchanges queens on move five, and both players hold their own in the queenless middlegame that follows. A few more exchanges leaves them in a knight-versus-bishop endgame where Iglesias has a bind on the queenside while Conti has a similar bind on the kingside. However, Conti slips with a poorly times bishop move that loses a pawn. Unwilling to give it up so easily, he unfortunately walks into a game-ending tactic.



Game six is another Victor Palciauskas entry. Akshay Kotamraju grabs the center against Kevin Green’s delayed King’s Indian Defense. Green closes the center and then attacks White’s b-pawn with his queen (a classic no-no). Kotamraju finds a nice tactic that trades a knight for three pawns and a rook on the seventh rank. In a few more moves Kotamraju sets his sights on Green’s king, and shortly after Green succumbs to a back rank tactic.



Our final game is Sloan – Prigodich, another one from the Victor Palciauskas ranks. It is an Alapin Sicilian that ends up with an isolated d-pawn for Sloan, the lower rated player. Prigodich makes a risky choice to maintain a vertical attack on the isolated pawn. Prigodich redevelops to blockade and attack the isolated pawn, while Sloan takes advantage of the uncoordinated Black pieces to initiate a nice sacrificial attack against the king. Prigodich attempts to trade queens to reduce the attack, but Sloan responds with a check that leads directly to mate.



Effective strategy can lead to superior positions, and as Bobby Fischer stated, tactics flow from superior positions. Identify the superior positions, and you have found your opportunities for tactics!

Good skill in your games,



News From the Front Office

Michael D. Buss, US Chess Correspondence Coordinator


2024 Absolute

Invitations have been extended to the top 13 rated Correspondence Chess players to compete in the 49th edition of the tournament. Play will be on the ICCF webserver beginning in early March.


Golden Knights and Electronic Knights Championships

The 82nd annual Golden Knights Championship 2024 (postal) and 21st annual Electronic Knights 2023 (ICCF webserver) commenced play on January 1. More information can be found at


2021 Electronic Knights Championship

The final section began play on January 19, 2024. One hundred and forty players competed in 20 preliminary sections followed by 28 players playing in four semi-final sections. Competing in the championship in player order are Dean Barclay, 2284; Michael Buss, 2407; Jeffrey Reger, 2292; Egbert Schroeer, 2056; Tim Corkum, 2367; Gerald Weiner, 2241; and Matthew Nohr, 2081


This is the first Electronic Knights championship to be hosted on the ICCF webserver. The cross table is at


Recent Event Winners

Walter Muir E-Quad

23W17, John Chirillo & Michael Vera, 4–2

23W22, Tom Castle, 6–0

23W23, Gerardo Iglesias, 6–0

23W25, Josh Pruett, 5½–½


John W. Collins Memorial

21C09, Edwin Carerro, 5–1

21C18, Steven Salerno, 6–0

22C07, Greg Whitlock, 5–1