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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Albéric O'Kelly de Galway

 
    Count Albéric Joseph Rodolphe Marie Robert Ghislain O'Kelly de Galway, a descendent of Charlemagne, (17 May 1911, Anderlecht – 3 October 1980, Brussels) was a Belgian Grandmaster and International Correspondence  Grandmaster. He won the third ICCF World Correspondence Championship (1959-1962).  O’Kelly was also a well-known chess author.
     His name started to appear in the chess columns in 1934 and in 1937 he won the first of many Belgian championships. He won the Belgian championships thirteen times between 1937 and 1959. He placed first at Beverwijk 1946 and by 1947 he was one of Europe's leading players, finishing first at the 1947 European Zonal tournament at Hilversum, tied for first place with Pirc at Teplice Sanov, tied for second at Venice. The next year O'Kelly de Galway finished first at São Paulo ahead of Eliskases and Rossetto.
     He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and the GM title in 1956. He placed first at Dortmund 1951. He finished first at the round-robin Utrecht 1961 with 6.5 – 2.5 ahead of Karl Robatsch second with 6 points and Arthur Bisguier and Aleksandar Matanović tied for third and fourth with 5.5. O'Kelly was made an International Arbiter in 1962 and was the chief arbiter of the world championship matches between Tigran Petrosian and Boris Spassky in 1966 and 1969. In 1974 he was the arbiter for the Moscow Karpov–Korchnoi match.
     He spoke French, Dutch, German, English, Spanish, and Russian well, and also some Italian. Chessmetrics puts his highest rating at 2644 in 1957, but his best ever performance was probably at Zagreb in 1955 where is performance rating was 2675 where he scored 10.5 – 7.5 against players whose average rating was 2619.
     The following feisty little game shows how easy it can be for a GM to handle a "mere" IM.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Who (or What) Do You Trust?

     I have always been a big fan of playing over games and most of the chess books I have owned have been of the ‘My Best Games’ type and tournament books. These days it’s a lot better because we have engines that we can use to try out different lines on our own and of course engines will be quick to point out what’s wrong with our moves. At first I had a lot of difficulty playing over games on the computer screen and it made chess feel like a video game, but eventually I grew to like it. No more setting up pieces and fumbling around resetting everything at the end of a long note! They are also helpful in finding faulty analysis in annotations, especially in older books.
     Before we get too harsh on those old time annotators we have to remember they didn’t have engines to check for tactical errors and sometimes one wonders just how much time they actually spent on preparing their annotations. There is also the fudge factor…sometimes they annotated based on results; the winner got all the kudos even though he may not have played perfectly, but sometimes that’s the impression you are left with. Need I mention some of Alekhine’s fake games and his notes could leave you with the impression that he saw everything from move 12 right through to the mate at move 46. Errors in annotations usually don’t detract from the games though. But, sometimes when it comes to evaluating a position on its strategic merits GM’s give a completely different opinion than an engine. When there aren’t any tactics in a position and it has to be judged strictly on who stands better positionally, I always trust the GM rather than the engine.
     So, recently I was going over a game Pachman – Donner with Stockfish and Houdini and came across a couple of lines where Pachman’s analysis was in complete disagreement with the two engines. Not being sure who was correct, I subjected the positions to Shootouts using Houdini 2 and the results confirmed the correctness of the engine evaluations.
     In the following position White played 12.h3 to which Donner replied 12…Nh5 and Pachman gave it a “?” stating that even though 12…d5 was better White was left with a superior position. His criticism of 12…Nh5 was the move withdraws a piece from the center in favor of an “unjustified flank attack.” He also wrote that 12…Nh5, instead of preventing 13.f4, enhanced its value. Pachman was using the game for its instructional value in demonstrating center control so he may have overemphasized some points and ignored others.
     

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Follow up on the previous post…

     I stumbled across a Blog by Daniel Simons, a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois. Simons conducts research on visual perception, attention, and awareness, and is co-author of The Invisible Gorilla: How Our intuitions Deceive Us. He made comments on de Groot’s research and has posted an interesting 5 minute video of former US Champion GM Patrick Wolff being tested to see how well he could remember positions after a brief look. What was interesting were Wolff’s comments attempting to explain how he remembered the positions.

Grandmaster Thinking and The Rest of Us

In 1946 Dutch Master and psychologist Adriaan de Groot published Though and Choice in Chess. It was based on studies he conducted from 1938 to 1943 and was designed to see the way chess players think. GM's used in the experiment were Keres, Alekhine, Flohr, Fine, Euwe and Tartakower. The IM’s were Prins, Cortlever, Landau and van Scheltinga and two Dutch women champions, Heemskerk and Roodzant. In addition five players in the ‘Expert’ (2000-2199) category and five players ranging from 1600-1900 were also used. The players were asked to speak their thoughts out loud during their analysis of a number of positions. Here’s the thought processes of Euwe, Keres and one of the class players on the following position (White to move). I have presented the players’ thoughts in a somewhat condensed form. I will leave it up to the readers to draw any conclusions but it’s clear how quickly GM’s zero in on the essence of the position while the rest of us, like the class player, sometimes have really muddled thinking.


Dr. Max Euwe took 15 minutes
     First impression: isolated Pawn. White has more freedom. Black threatens …Qxb2. Is it worthwhie to parry that? It probably is; if he takes the Qa3 is also attacked. Can White then take advantage of the open file? Does not look like it. Still again, 2.Nxc6 and then by exchange the P at a3 is defended by the Q.
     Indirectly in connection with the hanging position of the N on c6 and possibly because of the overburdening of the B on e7. But wait a moment, no, …Qxb2 is rather unpleasant after all because the B at a2 is undefended. Can I do something myself? Investigate that first.
     The pieces on f6 and d5 are both somewhat tied down. Lets look at the consequences of some specific moves.
     1.Nxd5, possibly proceeded by 1.Nxc6 then 1…Rxc6 is probably impossible because of White taking on d5. Black has a number of forced moves; it may be possible to take advantage of that. It’s not yet quite clear. Let’s look at other attacks.
     1.Bh6 in connection with f7, but I don’t really see how to get at it. 1.b4 in order to parry the threat. But then exchange on c3 will give some difficulties in connection with …Bb5; Oh, no. That is not correct; one can take back with the Q. So far a somewhat disorderly preliminary investigation. Now let’s look in some more detail at the possibilities for exchange: 1.Nc6 or 1.Nd5 or maybe 1.Bxd5 or maybe first 1.Bxf6.
     Euwe then analyzed 1.Nxc6 and came to the conclusion there was no immediate advantage. He then analyzed 1.Nxd5 and came to the conclusion that White gets a good position, but there was no way to make anything out of it. He then moved on to 1.Bxd5 and his thoughts continued…
     1.Bxd5 this must be looked in to. Does it make any difference? 1.Bxd5 Bxd5 is again impossible because of 2.Nd7. That is to say we will have to look out for 2…Bb5, but that we can probably cope with: the worst that can happen to me is that he regains the exchange, but then I have in any case some gain of time.
     1.Bxd5 Nxd5 Same difference as just before. No, that is now impossible: 2.Nxd5 wins a piece. 1.Bxd5 Bxd5 2.Bxf6 Bxf6 3.Nd7 Qd8. Let’s have a closer look at that: 4.Nxd5 exd5 and I’m an exchange o the good. But that’s good for White. The N on f6 is weak, the B on e6 hangs and the B on c6 stands badly. On positional grounds one could already decide on 1.Bxd5. Is there some immediate gain? 1.Bxd5 exd5; it looks bad for Black. 
     Probably some more accidents will soon happen. Much is still up in the air. One plays 2.Qb3. Defending the N on f6 is not do easy; 2…Kg7 looks very unpleasant. Yes, I play 1.Bxd5.

     Paul Keres took 6 minutes looked at 1.Bh6, 1.Bxc6, 1.Nxc6 and quickly concluded ‘White wins after 1.Bxd5. Notice how the GM’s homed in on the correct move 1.Bxd5 and how concise there analysis was.  Looking three moves deep seems to be the norm. Compare that to a typical class player’s analysis. 
     A Class player who took 28 minutes summarized the position as being a maze of pieces with White attacking and having a concentration of Q, B’s, N on e5 on the Black K’s position and he didn’t think there was anything for Black to fear because of his slightly weakened K’s position due to the P on g6.
     He then stated he had to begin thinking of a combination even though he did not think there were any immediate winning possibilities. He began by looking at ‘combinational stuff.’
     He first looked at 1.Bh6 and 1. Qh3 quickly concluding that 1.Bh6 was not satisfactory because Black could easily defend and 1.Qh3 allowed Black to capture on d4.
     He then thought he should try to open up Black’s K more and so first had to play 1.Nxd4 Nxd4 then he would have to trade the with 2.Bxe7 but that allowed too many exchanges.
     Then he went back to 1.Bh6. Next he looked at 1.Ne4 but quickly concluded it also allowed too many exchanges which was not good for him. 
     He then looked at 1.Nxd5 and almost immediately switched back to 1.Qh3 reasoning ‘to start kind of a pin on the P on e6 – after the P takes on d5, the diagonal was open, then he suddenly remembered the d4 Pawn was hanging and was somewhat disgusted with the situation. At that point the examiner asked him what he was thinking about and he replied the d-Pawn again then finally observed the b-Pawn was hanging but didn’t think it was important, but on second thought he could not allow it to be captured.
     He then voiced the opinion that everything he had looked at resulted in simplification and his attack was gone so perhaps he should look at positional move, but if he did that then Black himself could simplify.
     He suggested 1.b4 (safe), 1.h4 (attacks, but too slow), 1.Bb1 (but with the Q in front of the P no sacrifice on g6 was possible), 1.Ne2 (and then Ng3 followed by h4-5 but then Black captures on b2 and White needs to keep the attack going) so it was back to 1.Bh6 and 2.b4.
     He then considered 1.a4 to prevent …Bb4. Then he examined the possibility of getting rid of Black’s B on c6 with 1.Nxc6. If 1…Qxc6 then 2.b4 is unnecessary and on 2…Rxc6 or bxc6 then he has lost the Bishop pair. After that White could get his N on c3 into the game.
     He then mentioned again that simplification was not a good idea and concluded 1.Nxd4 and then 2.Re1 ‘in case holes turn up on the K-fie.’ He concluded the best move was 1.Nxd4.
     I let Stockfish, Houdini 2, Critter, Deep Rybka 4, Gull 3, Fritz 12 and Komodo 5 examine this position and they all immediately selected 1.Bxd5 as the best move and that White had an approximate 1.0 to 1.25 P advantage. Fritz and Naum 4.2 thought Black should play 1…Bxd5 while the others selected 1…exd5. 
     After 1.Bxd5 exd5 then 2.Qf3 was selected by all the engines except Houdini 2 which recommended 2.Rfe1.
     I was curious about how the class player’s move of 1.Nxd4 turned out. The evaluation dropped to -0.25 after 1…Nxd5. Now White can’t play the intended 2.Re1; he has to move the B. Simplification starting with 2…Bxe7 does mean his advantage has dissipated and Black is better so White needs to play 2.Bh6 but after 2…Rfd8 3.Rfe1 (3.Qd2 is roughly equal) 3...Qxb2 4.Qf3 Nf6 5.d5 exd5 the advantage has swung to Black!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jack S. Battell

     Battell, born in New York City in 1909, was an author, correspondence player and organizer. He was not only talented in chess but also gifted in music, literature and science. According to USCF director of correspondence play, Joan DuBois who succeeded him at the USCF, Battell “showered all of us with chocolate treats everyday at 4pm and never forgot us on our birthdays and holidays. Jack also never forgot the anniversary of our being hired! Every month, when the monthly cycle of work was complete for the magazine, he took us across the street to the soda fountain and everyone celebrated!” In October 1985 Battell suffered a heart attack and passed away on November 3, 1985.
     Battell was a pioneer in American postal chess play. He joined the Correspondence Chess League of America in 1935 and in 1946 became its highest rated player. He won the 35th Grant National Championship of CCLA. Battell worked for many years as coeditor of Al Horowitz’ Chess Review and when it was sold to the USCF, he continued as Postal Director.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tactics Don’t Just Happen…There’s a Reason for Them

     I keep running into forums posters who claim they work tactic problems over and over and some even have high scores on servers and spot them pretty quickly in books but when it comes to their own games it seems they are never able to pull them off. They seem not to know tactical situations don't arise from nowhere, not even in games by Morphy, Alekhine or Tahl. Tactics are created. Rudolf Spielmann once claimed he could see a combination as well as Alekhine, but he just couldn't get the positions Alekhine did!
     Also, some players seem to think you either play like those guys or you play like Botvinnik, Petrosian, Karpov or Ulf Andersson; for those that don’t remember him, old Ulf used to bore everybody to death with solid positional play, long, long endings (especially Rook endings) and a lot of draws against fellow grandmasters.
     One of the most interesting world championships matches I remember was Botvinnik vs. Tahl, the strategist against the tactician. It wasn’t really that way at all though…they hammered away at each other with every trick they could think of; Botvinnik played tactically and Tahl employed strategy and they both exhibited superb endgame ability.  “Style” is a matter of preference.
     You can make a gross oversight any time, like hanging a piece or overlooking a mate; those may come in a completely won position and I prefer to call taking advantage of those kinds of mistakes as "being alert to blunders," not strictly speaking, tactical play. Generally speaking though, positional play leads up to the tactics. I think just playing simple, solid moves and being careful not to make any gross blunders while waiting for your opponent to make one will probably get you to 1800 without much of a problem.
      My opponent in this game is apparently one of those fellows who tries to make tactics happen by just willy-nilly sacrificing stuff…in this case a N on f7…thinking he is playing tactically. Personally, I call it blundering with the hope that it works. Someone, Dan Heisman I think, called it "hope chess." You play a move and hope it works.
     So now, after I have harshly criticized his play, what about mine? There is a lesson here, too, about never relaxing until your opponent resigns. I gave him unwarranted chances with my 24th move when I relaxed too soon. Fortunately, my opponent wasn’t aware he still had a chance to cloud the issue by counterattacking. Instead he chose to react to threats that were real, but some distance away, when he scurried to the Q-side with his K instead for heading the other direction.
 

Updating Your Database

 
If you have any chess program you should keep your database updated and an excellent source of downloads is ChessOK. Every Friday since October 2011, new database updates of about 2000 games played in latest tournaments are available for download in Chess Assistant and PGN formats. If you have an Aquarium product then all the updates before that date are already included. You should also include correspondence game because the ones played by strong CC players are a good source of openings that have most likely been engine-checked. You will have to register with the ICCF to download the games, but registration is free.

Just a reminder: There are two types of computer users…those who make frequent backups and those who will learn to make frequent backups. I have lost databases, among other things, a couple of times for a variety of reasons. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time reconstructing your database, make a back up. In fact investing in an external hard drive so you can backup all your stuff is probably a good idea. When my old laptop croaked the computer store wanted a $100 to retrieve my data! I went to Radio Shack and for about $30 got an IOCell i251U2B i-Portable Hard Drive Enclosure and installed the old hard drive in it and recovered everything myself.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Couldn't resist...

This reminds me of somebody...just can't think who...


Online Endgame Training

    
 
Karpov's advice was to study endgames more. Ulf Andersson said to 'learn chess backwards' meaning endings first. Here are some sites that will make it less painful.

ChessVideos TV-You can practice chess endgames against the Crafty engine against a large variety of puzzles in all difficulties.

Chess Endgames-Thousands of interactive endgames, 32-round endgame challenge, mate in 2, 3 and 4 and problems. Sign Up required. It's Free!

ChessTempo-Tactics training site including endgame training.

Chess Kit-basic endings, Pawn endings, Rook and Pawn, Four pawn endings, and more.

Shredder Endgame Database-allows you to setup any position with 6 men or less to get the true results of the position.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Stonewall Attack

     This opening, characterized by White playing 1.d4, 2.e3, 3.f4 and 4.c3, and 5.Bd3 is a system White sets up, rather than a specific variation. It’s a solid formation which is hard to refute, but Black has several ways to meet it. Many years ago I read a book by Horowitz and Reinfeld titled How to Think Ahead in Chess in which they recommended the Stonewall. They also covered the Sicilian Dragon and QGD Lasker’s Defense as the recommended defenses as Black.
     I tried Lasker’s Defense and found it satisfactory; it doesn’t offer much play, but it’s solid. I never cared for the Dragon though. However, I did play a lot of Stonewall’s. The problem was my opponents never seemed to succumb like they did in the book; they defended better and there wasn’t much in the way for alternative “plans” for White to pursue. I lost a lot of games before giving it up. The same thing happened when I tried to play the Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. I was well-booked up on it and had played over a lot of games by Reshevsky who played in occasionally and won with ease. Apparently since Reshevsky’s day even average players had learned how to handle the Minority Attack that he used so effectively. Still, I think the Stonewall Attack may be OK at the club level.
     The following game by Santasiere shows how easily White can win if Black doesn’t know how to meet it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Vicious Attack by Flohr

    Salomon Flohr (November 21, 1908 – July 18, 1983) was a Czech player who became a national hero in Czechoslovakia during the 1930s. His name was used to sell many products of the time, including Salo Flohr cigarettes, slippers and eau-de-cologne. Major successes in international tournaments between 1931 and 1939 propelled him into the ranks of the best players of the period.
     Flohr had a troubled childhood beset by personal crises. He was born in a Jewish family in what was then Austria-Hungary (now in Ukraine). He and his brother were orphaned during World War I after their parents were killed in a massacre and they fled to the newly formed nation of Czechoslovakia. Flohr settled in Prague and gradually acquired a reputation as a strong player by playing for stakes in the city's cafés. During 1924, he participated in simultaneous exhibitions by Richard Réti and Rudolf Spielmann.
     By the mid-1930’s Flohr was one of the world's strongest players and a leading contender for the World Championship. He became champion of Czechoslovakia in 1933 and 1936 and played in many tournaments throughout Europe, generally finishing in the top three. In 1937 FIDE had nominated him as the official candidate to play Alekhine for the World Championship. However, with World War II looming, it proved impossible for Flohr to raise the stake money in Czechoslovakia, so the plans were dropped.
     The next year Flohr was one of the eight players invited to the AVRO tournament of November 1938. He finished last and this put an end to his chances of a World Championship match with Alekhine. AVRO was a super strong tournament and Flohr's last-place finish was no disgrace but his result may also be explained in part by his difficult personal circumstances at the time.
     The German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 had left Flohr, as a Polish-Ukrainian Jew, in grave personal danger. Flohr remained in the Netherlands in early 1939, playing in several small events. Then, he and his family fled, first to Sweden, and then to Moscow with the help of his friend Botvinnik. He became a naturalized Soviet citizen in 1942, and developed his writing career by contributing articles to a number of Soviet newspapers and magazines.
     In typical propaganda of the day Flohr wrote, “I led the hard life of a professional chess players in capitalist Europe where chess depends on the whims of patrons, where creative chess does not command respect and is not part of the life of the people. When I first came to the Soviet Union in 1933 I saw chess occupying its place in cultural education. Society and the state supported the chess movement. This made a tremendous impression on me at the time. Now, when I have been a citizen of the great Soviet Union since 1942, I regard as the flowering of chess in the USSR as a natural and logical consequence of the general advancement of culture.”
     Flohr recovered his form somewhat after reaching safety in Moscow, scoring very well in several tournaments. After the War, he was still considered a contender for a possible World Championship match and finished 6th at the 1948 Interzonal in Saltsjöbaden thereby qualifying to play in the 1950 Candidates Tournament in Budapest. However, he finished joint last with 7 out of 18, and never entered the World Championship cycle again, preferring to concentrate on journalism. He also developed a role as a chess organizer. On occasion he did play at high levels both within the Soviet Union and abroad, with some success, until the late 1960s. He was awarded the title of International Arbiter in 1963.
     In his early days his play was known for its vigor and imagination in attack and tenacity in defense. In fact, he was known as a master of combinations and many of his games were exceedingly complex and filled with ingenious traps lurking in seemingly innocuous moves. However, gradually a change took place as be began participating in international tournaments where there was a mix of strong players and considerably weaker masters. He was able to score well simply using his technical superiority and so began evading complications in favor of quiet positional struggles devoid of any tactical possibilities.
     Most of his games came to be decided by sheer technique. This worked well against weaker players but when he faced world class opponents most of his games ended up as colorless draws. As he got older he began avoiding complications and frequently lost games to more aggressive players. Flohr died in Moscow on July 18, 1983.
     In this game his opponent was Victor Goglidze (1905-1964) who is mostly unknown today. Goglidze was one of the best players in the USSR during the 1930's but he played very little competitive chess during World War II or beyond. He won the championship of Tbilisi in 1925 and showed himself to be an excellent strategist and was known for his tenacious defensive abilities. After a number of tournament successes he played a match against Nikolay Grigoriev for the Soviet Master title but was unsuccessful, losing an exciting match +4 -5 =1. 
     After that he made a good showing in a tournament of Ukrainian, Uzbek and Transcaucasian masters and defeated Vladimir Nenarokov +6 -3 +2 and as a result was promoted to Soviet Master. After that he won first in an International Masters Tournament in 1934, won the championship of Georgia and played in the 1931, 1933 and 1937 USSR Championships. In the Second Moscow International Tournament in 1935 he scored 9.5 – 9.5. Shortly after WW2 he was awarded the Soviet title of Honored Master and in 1950 a collection of his games was published in the Soviet Union.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chess Art For Sale

Fineartamerica has over 2000 works of chess art of every conceivable description for sale. Worth a visit even if you just want to browse.

An Instructive Game: Botvinnik vs. Euwe Leningrad 1934

     The following game was presented in Euwe’s book, Strategy and Tactics in Chess, and is instructive because it contains a mixture of both strategy and tactics. I have for the most part followed Euwe’s excellent notes but have had to condensed them because in most cases his explanations were quite lengthy and detailed.
     In 1934, the Soviet Union was still a largely unknown factor in world chess circles. Botvinnik was making a reputation for himself, mostly due to his repeated wins in the USSR Championship and his drawn match against Flohr in 1933. 
     An international tournament was arranged in Leningrad from August 17-September 1, 1934 with outsiders Max Euwe and Hans Kmoch invited. Both Euwe and Kmoch started well, and were tied for first place with Botvinnik and Romanovsky after six rounds but then Euwe, fresh from an excellent showing at Zurich (1934), was unable to win another game for the rest of the tournament, while Kmoch, after one more win, lost his last four in a row. Botvinnik took the lead in round 10 with a victory then held onto it by drawing Riumin in the last round.

1 Botvinnik * = = 1 = = 1 1 1 0 = 1 7.5
2 Riumin = * = 1 = 1 0 = = 1 = 1 7.0
3 Romanovsky = = * 0 = = 1 1 = 1 = 1 7.0
4 Rabinovich 0 0 1 * = 1 = = 1 = 1 = 6.5
5 Kan = = = = * 0 1 = = 1 = = 6.0
6 Euwe = 0 = 0 1 * = = = = = 1 5.5
7 Kmoch 0 1 0 = 0 = * 1 0 1 1 0 5.0
8 Yudovich 0 = 0 = = = 0 * 1 = = 1 5.0
9 Alatortsev 0 = = 0 = = 1 0 * = 1 0 4.5
10 Lisitsin 1 0 0 = 0 = 0 = = * = 1 4.5
11 Levenfish = = = 0 = = 0 = 0 = * = 4.0
12 Chekhover 0 0 0 = = 0 1 0 1 0 = * 3.5

This game can be divided into seven parts:

Moves 9-11 White drives the enemy N away from e4
Moves 14-18 White prevents Black from playing …c5
Moves 17-18 Black retains the two B’s
Moves 18-20 Black positions his pieces to attack without playing …c5
Moves 21-24 Black enforces …c5 Moves
27-31 White advances his f-Pawn Moves
38-49 Black renders White’s K-side P-majority ineffective