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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blog Statistics

    I began Blogging about chess in 2008 but had to start over in 2010. One Friday in February of 2010 I made a post then checked it out and discovered my Blog had been hacked and anyone signing in to it was redirected to a whole bunch of those pay per click online shopping sites. I contacted Blogger and received a ‘no reply’ e-mail that essentially told me they can't help and suggesting I delete the old Blog and start a new one. You get what you pay for, I guess. Initially I was miffed but then considering that my Blog didn't have a lot of visitors, I was honest with myself an admitted it was no big deal but the thing that left me puzzled was who would want to hack a Blog with almost no visitors?
     I debated about starting another Blog and finally decided that even if there are no visitors it gives me something to do. Since then I have published 1218 posts, have had almost 300,000 visitors and now get around 200-300 hits per day which isn’t too bad.
     The most popular posts have been Strange Adjudication Policy on LSS, a non-chess post I did about Michelina’s TV dinners (!), a post on free pdf chess book downloads, the Rybka opening book online and one on chess engine styles.
     Most viewers come from the United States...60%. The next highest number of hits are from the Ukraine (8%) and Turkey (7%). Trailing considerably behind are Germany, Italy, France, Russia, Romania and Canada.
     The book/equipment review Blog was started two years ago and has had over 20,000 hits. Again the leading countries for visitors have been the US and Turkey (nearly tied) and Spain. The Blog on free stuff which was started about the same time as the book/equipment review Blog has had almost 18,000 visitors. Again, most of them from the US, but a surprisingly large number of visitors have been from China.
     I’ve been asked a few times if I make any money doing this stuff and the answer is “Yes.” But that needs qualification! The most expensive thing anybody bought by linking from this Blog was Chess Assistant Starter Package which netted me $2.80. The oddest purchase (to me) was a bottle of Paul Mitchell shampoo for men which netted me $0.67. So, on rare occasions I may get a $10 Amazon gift card, but that’s all.  Hardly raking in the cash, but I don't do it for the money. I do it because...well, now that I think about it, there's no good reason to do it.  
     I like to keep things interesting, so here's a picture of our cat, Millie.

7th annual Continental Chess Cleveland Open

     This event was played over Labor Day weekend last month in Cleveland, Ohio. A few weeks ago I almost decided to return to over the board play and enter this one which would have been my first tournament since I can’t remember when. Instead, I decided not to play when I remembered how much I disliked the grind of having to play chess 10-12 hours a day for 2-3 days. Also, since it was Labor Day weekend, the last holiday of the summer, I decided I’d rather stay home, spend it with the family and grill a lot of food. Looking at the crosstable I realize just how out of touch with tournament chess I am; I recognized only two names in the whole event; IM Calvin Blocker who finished tied for 13-17th with 3-2 and one other player, an expert.
     The event was won by IM Ron Burnett with +3 -0 =2 on tie breaks over IM Jay Bonin, Walker Griggs (2335), Gabriel Petesch (2379), IM Florian Felecan, John Ahlborg (2227), John Marcsik (2205) and Ben Li (2170).
     Unfortunately I could not find any games from the tournament online, but the winner, IM Ron Burnett, is a 47-year old IM from Tennessee with a USCF rating of 2472. Here is a Burnett win against IM Danny Kopec from a tournament in 2006. Kopec has been a semi-professional player since 1976. He lived in Canada for several years during the 1980s. He has written numerous books on chess, produced eight chess instructional DVDs, and has run chess camps since 1994. Kopec has also worked out a popular variation against the Sicilian, the Kopec System: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bd3. Outside of chess, he has published notable academic pieces in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine error reduction, intelligent tutoring systems, and computer education. In the following game they got into a position containing, as Botvinnik used to say, head whirling complications. In the end Burnett kept his head better than Kopec. A fascinating and complicated game.

Positional Q Sac by Ivanchuk

While playing over some games from Shirov’s Fire On Board I came across the following game from Wijk aan Zee, 1996 where Shirov played the complicated QGD, Semi-Slav, Botvinnik Variation, a defense he eventually came to analyze deeply and play quite often. Many contemporary players have used the Botvinnik Variation: Tahl, Bagirov, Polugayevsky and Shabalov. Shirov’s first experience with this line was in the 1987 Soviet Junior Championship when he defeated Gata Kamsky (playing White). Ivanchuk’s Q-sac for positional compensation at move 21 was found over the board but has since become well known theory. What is amazing is that the position is so complicated that when looking at the came with Fritz, none of the engines could agree on the best lines. An amazing game with many complications.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Here's a Non-Chess Book I Found Interesting

What do you want to learn? The First 20 Hours How to Learn Anything... FAST! by Josh Kaufman, bestselling author of The Personal MBA Research suggests it takes 10,000 hours to develop a new skill. In this nonstop world when will you ever find that much time and energy? To make matters worse, the early hours of practicing something new are always the most frustrating. That's why it's difficult to learn how to speak a new language, play an instrument, hit a golf ball, or shoot great photos. It's so much easier to watch TV or surf the web...

In The First 20 Hours Kaufman offers a systematic approach to rapid skill acquisition: how to learn any new skill as quickly as possible. His method shows you how to deconstruct complex skills, maximize productive practice, and remove common learning barriers. By completing just 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice you'll go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well. This method isn't theoretical: it's field-tested. Kaufman invites readers to join him as he field tests his approach by learning to program a Web application, play the ukulele, practice yoga, re-learn to touch type, get the hang of windsurfing, and study the world's oldest and most complex board game.

     I recently picked up this book and found it extremely interesting. Kaufman set aside the time for learning six new things in an experiment he describes in The First 20 Hours. In his case it was yoga poses, computer programming, windsurfing, the game of Go, touch typing, and playing the ukulele.
     If you're not interested in or don’t have 10,000 hours to become an expert, Kaufman suggests you can break down learning into a systematic practice of about an hour a day for a little less than a month. In this book Kaufman describes how he learned the subjects he was interested in, but the techniques he used can be applied to anything. 
     Don’t kid yourself…there’s no way you are going to become an expert (or even good) at something, anything, in 20 hours, but what’s important is learning how to apply general principles of rapid skill acquisition and effective learning and a careful study of this book explains how the author applied those principles. For a more complete review you can visit Pablo's Miscellany.
     From the reviews I read, a lot of people who purchased this book were like a lot of chess players who buy books like Become a Grandmaster in One Hour; they’re looking for the magic bullet and when they find there isn’t any, they whine about being defrauded. Even if you spend only 20 hours learning a subject it’s still going to be 20 hours of effort! Anyway, I liked the book and recommend it as long as you aren’t looking for a magic shortcut to becoming an expert at anything.

Further Thoughts on the Monte Carlo Evaluation Function in the Fritz 12 GUI

     As I mentioned in the post on August 27th “Alarmed Centipede” the Monte Carlo analysis function is best used in positions where the right move is a matter of positional judgment rather than tactical situations. I am not sure if any top CC players use this method or even if it’s still being offered, but I am intrigued by its possibilities as an analysis tool. In the following position from one of my correspondence games...

...it’s my move (White) and Stockfish 5’s top three choices were:
13.Qxa8 (0.15)
13.Nh4 (-0.38)
13.Be3 (-0.39)

Houdini 2.0c x64’s top choices were:
13.Qxa8 (0.10)
13.a5 (-0.15)
13.Be3 (-0.17)

     My main concern with both engine’s first choice of 13.Qxa8 is that after 13…Nc6 the White Q is trapped and will have to be sacrificed for 2R’s which is evaluated nearly equal, but I am always very skeptical of engine evaluations in unbalanced material situations because they tend to put a lot of emphasis on material. As for 13.Nh4, it was played in Gorovykh (2409)-Jedlicka (2265), Pardubice 2007 and Black won though there were some improvements in White’s play that were worth considering. It’s also interesting that in that game White also did not give up his Q for 2R’s when the possibility presented itself.
     Houdini’s 13.a4, isolating Black’s b-Pawn may be worth considering also, but it simply does not appeal to me and 13.Nh4 looks too risky. So, that leaves 13.Be3 which my gut feeling says is best because, if nothing else, it develops a piece. This seems to be a good place to try the MCA to see what the trends of each move might be so I plugged in Deep Rybka 4 and let it play about a thousand games with each move with the following results:

13.Bd2 – Black wins 3:1
13.Qxa8 - Black wins 2:1
13.a5 – This resulted in about a 50/50 result
13.Nh4 - Black wins 2:1 13.Be3 - White scores +21% -29% =50%

     Basically the MCA results will inform you how drawish a position is or whether one side is winning but it's not good at telling you what move is the actually the best. So, in the end, even though 13.a4 scored the best for White, I selected 13.Be3 because it’s a developing move and deeper analysis convinced me it offers White better chances than 13.a5.
     I think this feature, if you have access to it, could be a handy analysis tool in those situations where you need a second opinion, but I would not rely entirely on the moves it produces as being the best.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Difficult Win

     In the following game I did something I have almost never done…accepted the King’s Gambit. I left my engine book at move 11 in favor of an engine recommended move which I later discovered had been previously played in a Lechenicher SchachServer game. But then at move 13 I found an improvement in that game. 
     During the course of the game I used several different engines (Stockfish, Houdini, Critter and Komodo) and things were not as easy as you might think. More often than not they recommended different moves and gave conflicting evaluations so a lot of effort had to go into analyzing the long term effects of different moves, especially in the ending. As a result, the game turned out to be quite challenging since there were very few times when one move stood out as being clearly the best. This often necessitated analyzing many variations deep into the ending.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Alarmed Centipede

     In the book Grandmasters of Chess Harold Schonberg wrote of Petrosian, “As a young man he played like an old one…Petrosian had antennae that could sense danger, he was like an alarmed centipede who would scuttle for the dark and lurk there, dangerous, ready to bite when threatened. But it was not going to be he who would initiate the attack.”
     Side bar: I didn’t know a lot about centipedes, so here goes: They have small mouths and have large, claw-like structures that contain a venom gland. Because most centipedes are carnivorous creatures that forage for food at night, they use their claws to paralyze their victims, such as worms, spiders and small vertebrates. Adult centipedes hide in moist, dark and secluded areas during winter. Centipedes detect prey through the use of their antennae and prey is immobilized by venom injected from their fangs. Centipedes are venomous. Their venom allows them to attack prey and defend themselves against predators and other natural enemies. Centipede venom is not normally life endangering to humans, although the bite can be painful. Back to Petrosian…
     In the game Petrosian vs. Bisguier in the Stockholm Interzonal in 1962, Petrosian made a double N sacrifice and Bisguier saw that his Q was going to be trapped. When he realized what was happening, Bisguier concluded that in order to save the Q he would end up with Petrosian having 3 Pawns for a N and a superior position which he would likely win. As a result Bisguier decided to let Petrosian have his Q for three pieces and two Pawns. They reached the position below and without making his move Petrosian offered a draw which was accepted. Bisguier wrote that white’s position appears to be somewhat better after 23.h4 and that his only plan was to keep his pieces active and react to whatever Petrosian played, believing he had good fighting chances.
     Discussing the game later, Petrosian told Bisguier that the decision to give up the Q shocked him and, not liking complications, he offered the draw. Petrosian also added that Tahl and Keres were watching the game and by not making the N sacrifices it might have made him look like a sissy to them. At the same time he was afraid he might lose so he offered the draw. Both Stockfish and Houdini think White is about 1.00 Pawn better, but I was interested to see the Monte Carlo analysis results and that’s sort of what this post is really about...Monte Carlo analysis.
     I was tinkering with my Fritz 12 program the other day and noticed the “Monte Carlo” analysis function again. I had never used it because it only works with Rybka engines which I never had. However, have purchasing ChessOK Aquarium some time back one of its engines was Deep Rybka 4 w32, so I thought I would go back and see how the Monte Carlo Method works.
     Apparently in the financial world you can’t always make precise judgments of situations so the Monte Carlo method is used to get a feel for different circumstances. Actually this method can be used in any complex situation where precise analysis is impossible…say an unclear chess position and this is what the Monte Carlo method tries to do. Monte Carlo plays thousands of ultra-fast games in a few minutes in a given position and gives result statistics. It’s supposed to be useful in endgames because it recognizes fortresses and other situations where no progress can be made and it’s also supposed to be good in Rook endings. It’s also good in evaluating exchange sacrifices or other types of sacrifices that have been made for positional compensation. Using this method of analysis you’ll know the moves that give you the best odds. It’s not good for tactical situations though, but rather those where positional judgment is called for. Another situation where it might be good is a position that doesn’t have a lot of theory.
     Sometimes the real truth of a position may not be apparent for many, many moves and in the infinite analysis mode the engines may not be able to see that far ahead, but if it plays enough games from the starting position a trend might develop. Another thing it does is it stores its analysis (if you want to save it) in a tree formation, so this could be handy for some opening positions. The big question is of what practical use is this information? I entered a Rapid tournament on LSS and being intrigued by the risky (unsound) Urusov Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4) I played it in two games and used the Monte Carlo method in conjunction with the usual engine analysis. The result was I played a lot of opening moves that were not in the engine’s top several choices and ended up with positions that give better than even winning chances. In one position the results were based on nearly 69,000 games!! The games are still ongoing, so I will have to hold my final opinion of the method in abeyance.

In this position I let it play 2047 games with the following results:
23.Rc3 was played in 1779 games and white won 47% lost 19% and drew 34%
23.Rc7 was played in 135 games and White won 62% lost 18% and drew 20%
23.h4 as suggested by Bisguier was played in 133 games and resulted in white winning 38% losing 25% and drawing 37%

Based on this it appears that white’s best move is 23.Rc7 as suggested by SF5 and H2, but as I experienced in the Urusov Gambit games, it does not always work out that the engine's top suggestion gives the best results. In any case, had he played on Petrosian most likely would have won. I am curious if any readers have experience with the Monte Carlo Method.

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.