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Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review...sort of

I recent reader asked my recommendations for books for someone rated ~1400. That’s a tough question and everybody has their opinion. Most players recommend something on tactics, but I’ve never agreed with that because of my own experience.

When I learned to play chess I learned strategy and played over a lot of games from different players’ games collections. A couple years after learning the game I played correspondence chess successfully at the Class C (1500) level before entering my first tournament in which I finished +1 -2 =2, which included a draw against an 1800+ and an initial rating of 1667 which never went any lower. This was without the benefit of studying tactics at all.

I think the reason I was successful was because from the beginning I played solid mainline openings; the same ones played by the GM’s in my game collection books. Also I’d played over so many games that even without realizing it, I had developed some semblance of pattern recognition and some endgame ability and tried to play solid moves and for the most part avoid losing material. I can remember in my postal games searching books for similar positions to see how to play them without realizing what I was trying to apply was pattern recognition only without the benefit of having the positions stored in my head.

In regards to the question on books for 1400’s, in addition to my recommendation of CJS Purdy and Jeremy Silmans’ books I ran across mention of a book called Excelling at Chess by Jacob Aagaard. During my research of this book I found an interesting review by John Watson on Silman’s website.

What was interesting was that Watson made some comments that I agree with when it comes to the question of should one study the games of today’s players or the old masters. I always recommend the latter.

The reason for the old masters is that modern players, as Watson points out, have a willingness to consistently ignore classical rules and conceptions that have characterized modern chess and they have indicated their preference for concrete discussions. Watson states, “Note too that concrete calculation doesn't mean just lining up moves in your head. It can involve seeing further into the position and understanding that at one point the opponent won't be able to stop you from getting passed pawns or some such. That is a positional insight, and not a rule.” For example, modern players are increasingly aware how often compensation (sometimes very subtle) exists for the exchange, i.e. they are increasingly independent of the older conceptions of material.

Watson addressed the question of “How do strong players know where the pieces belong?” He wrote, “I suggest that in most cases they employ: (a) pattern recognition (Rowson mentions 100,00 positions absorbed on the basis of experience -- I suspect that these days the number is even higher); (b) calculation, e.g., however attractive an elegantly placed piece may be, calculation can and often does lead to the conclusion than an awkward placement is the superior one; and finally, players will use their (c) judgment/intuition (hard-to-define but sometimes unavoidable words), these last are also strongly informed by pattern recognition and by concrete examination of lines, of course, but in addition by creative balancing of many often subtle positional factors that would only be describable in words by a lengthy essay (i.e., not by abstract generalities).”

My whole point is that if you play solid moves, avoid losing material and have a smidgen of knowledge of basic endings you will defeat most of the lower rated players you face. Even today, playing opponents rated under, say 1600, on places like Chess,com, I found that this methods works quite well because I know that usually no matter how well they play, that at some point they are going to blunder. This method, coincidently, is the exact same way strong players all the way up to GM’s have played against me! In an otb event once I caught a 2500+ rated IM in an opening trap and won a Knight. He didn’t resign but played on, complicating the position, and guess what? I started seeing ghosts, blundered the piece back and ended up losing. What I remember most about that game was both of our hands were shaking so badly we could hardly move the pieces. His because he was a N down against a much lower rated player and me because I had a titled player on the ropes. Oh, there was one other thing I remember about the game…we were both so upset with our play that on the way out of the tournament hall we both threw our scoresheets in the wastebasket!

The point in learning basic strategy is to increase one’s understanding of chess and that’s why strong players beat the rest of us…they have a better understanding of the game.

Price Line Warning

This has nothing to do with chess, but is a warning to anyone negotiating on Price Line. We were planning a trip to New York City this weekend and I rented a car at LaGuardia Airport on Price Line. I was very pleased with the cost compared to regular rates. However, after considering the travel time to the airport from home, required early arrival, flight time, time to pick up the car at LaGuardia and drive to our destination, I realized that it was going to take us 8 hours. It is only a two hour flight to New York City but is going to take 8 hours; we can drive it in the same amout of time! Plus there is no hassle involved that you encounter in flying these days and we avoid the hectic drive out of New York City. I say hectic because Google maps printed 3 pages of driving directions. Driving from our house required less than one page and we don’t have to leave the house at 3am Saturday morning to make the flight.

Thus I canceled the flight and called the car rental company at LaGuardia to cancel the car reservation. I was informed that because the reservation was made through Price Line I had to call them. That’s when I discovered there is a cancellation fee of $65 for a medical emergency and you have to supply the name of the doctor and other information. Otherwise the fee is non-refundable! They are going to charge us $260 even though we will not be using the car. An expensive lesson. Be aware that if you use Price Line you had better not cancel your reservations!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Simple Chess

I was looking through the book Simple Chess by British GM John Emms again and every time I do, I must admit I’m pretty impressed with it. In the introduction Emms writes, “This book is aimed as an introduction to positional chess; what to do when you reach a level where the phrase ‘chess is 99% tactics’ is no longer applicable; what to think about when your opponents see your traps even before you’ve set them; how to exploit a minute advantage such as a better P-structure or an opponent’s badly placed piece.”

Emms splits the book into three sections. Section 1 covers how and how not to take care of your pieces. This includes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ B’s, outposts and open files. Section 2 covers Pawns and P-structures including isolated, doubled, backward P’s, IQP’s and hanging P’s. Section 3 deals with such things as space, color complexes, opposite B’s and positional sacs.

Early on in the book where he is discussing outposts, he gives several sample games using the Najdorf Sicilian. Yes, he uses these games as examples and not some unusual, weird, offbeat or unsound opening. Using these games puts Emms in the same class as GM Alex Yermolinsky who advocates that aspiring players should not shun mainline openings played by GM’s. I would highly recommend this book to players who are stuck in the range of, say, 1400-1600, or maybe 1700, who have been devoting time to nothing but openings and tactics. The material contained in it should be enough to push them over 1800.

Speaking of the Najdorf Sicilian, he states, “this particular battle often revolves around the d5 square. If White can secure the d5 square as an outpost then his chances of success usually increase.” I found the following short game particularly instructive. You’ll notice that playing well positionally gave White enough of an edge that he can finish off the game tactically.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Correspondence Chess Etiquette

In view of the recent discussion of chess engines on this blog, I feel compelled to once again publish John C. Knudsen’s excellent article on the CC player’s creed.

I also think it would be good if all CC players adhered to J. Franklin Campbell’s essay on CC etiquette. While most of his article concerns postal play much of it also apples to server play. Being gracious in both victory and defeat never hurt anybody and it makes your opponent feel better about himself.

The Correspondence Chess Player's Creed By John C. Knudsen
There is more to correspondence chess than playing the game. If I were just interested in the game itself, I would be satisfied playing my computer all day and night, or by replaying the games of famous masters. I play correspondence chess because I enjoy the stimulation of the contest and interaction with other people. I will attempt to treat each of my opponents with respect and courtesy. If my opponent is a beginner, and I am experienced, I will not become annoyed when my opponent does not resign. I will prove my superior skills by making strong moves and ending the game. I will become familiar with the rules and try my best to abide by them. I will not be a "silent withdrawal" from my games and will promptly notify my opponents and the tournament secretary if I can no longer continue in a tournament. When the game is over, I will always send a thank-you card to my opponent, regardless of the result. I will also remain tolerant of opponents who must withdraw from their games, because sometimes the troubles of life interfere with avocations.

I will at all times respect the correspondence chess administrators who have been selected to watch over and regulate an event. If I disagree with a decision, I will gracefully appeal to a higher authority. I will not become involved in petty disputes with dedicated administrators who are trying their best to do the right thing. On the other hand, I will always expect the rules to be enforced on an equal basis. There is virtually no situation where politics and correspondence chess can exist with each other peacefully. The game is the thing, along with the interaction with my opponents - many of whom will become my friends. There is no place in correspondence chess for the legal beagle, or the person who is always on guard for some vague insult. It is, after all, a game, and should be treated as such.

I will only use a computer to analyze in my correspondence chess games if it is allowed by the rules and my conscience will permit it. In that event, I will at least have the decency to inform my opponent. Perhaps, then, my opponent will want to buy a better program, and then the game could evolve to a higher level.

If my correspondence game is published when it is over, I will not gloat over my opponent's mistakes, but will attempt to clarify the ideas in an impartial way. I will not assume that my reader is skilled or understands the ideas involved, but will attempt to show how and why things happened as they did. I will give credit where credit is due.
I will try and give something back to the game I love so much. Whether it is in encouraging a beginning player, writing an article, annotating a game for publication, editing a magazine, or serving as an administrator, I will try and promote all that is good about correspondence chess. At this moment I will realize that it is true - we are all friends.

Good Correspondence Chess Etiquette By J. Franklin Campbell

There are many motivations for playing correspondence chess. One is to play outstanding chess. Another is to experience the intense competition available through CC events. True chess enthusiasts can also enjoy the special pleasure of sharing our enthusiasm with fellow competitors. This pleasure is at its best when both players follow good rules of CC etiquette. It is important to show the proper respect and consideration for our opponents.
Here are a few suggestions for the conduct of a CC game. Some are fairly obvious. A few are personal and may not find universal agreement. Use this list as a starting point and form your own conclusions about proper CC etiquette.

Respect your opponent
Correspondence can be interesting and stimulating. However, I suggest avoiding unpleasant subjects of correspondence. Subjects such as politics and religion may of great interest to you but can lead to bitter disagreements and unpleasantness. I really don't like it when an opponent feels it his duty to convert me to his religious view. At times it seems as though I put more effort into writing my responses to the message than to the chess moves. Do not create a situation where your opponent dreads receiving your messages (it's OK if he dreads receiving your powerful moves).

Respond to correspondence
When an opponent asks a question, respond with an answer. However, there is nothing wrong with playing without regular correspondence. Respect an opponent's desire to simply play without (what some competitors have described as) the distraction of correspondence. Personally, I love to chat with my opponents and find it a significant part of my pleasure in CC.

Play strictly by the rules
It is not bad sportsmanship to expect your opponents to play strictly by the rules, and you should do the same without question. If your opponent oversteps the time limit, do not hesitate to follow the specified procedure and report the overstep. If an error occurs that calls for a time penalty (such as sending an illegal move) record the extra time, whether for you or your opponent. Such an action should be a non-issue. If there is a dispute about a violation then submit it to the proper authority, such as the Tournament Secretary (TS) or Controller. This is not an insult to either player. Remember this if your opponent reports your violation.

Write clearly and be complete
It's frustrating to receive a reply with difficult to read information. It should not be necessary for an opponent to resort to using a magnifying glass and consulting friends to decipher your writing. This seems obvious, but bad writing is not unusual in my experience.

Record proper dates
Do not cheat on recording dates. Part of the skill required for success in CC is the discipline of playing within the time limits.

Record all required information
It is often a requirement that you record information (your opponent's last move[s], postmark, dates received and replied and time used by both players). A surprising number of my opponents do not go to the trouble, though.

Taking advantage of mistakes
There is absolutely nothing improper about taking full advantage of an opponent's mistake. CC measures not only pure chess skill but also consistency, accurate record keeping, developing and following a good methodology and other skills. Notation errors, oversights, ill-advised "if" moves, recording errors, etc. are all the responsibility of the players.
An example: I started a game with 1. d4. My opponent replied 1...g6 if "any" then 2...Bg7. After 1. d4 g6 2. Bh6 Bg7 3. Bxg7 he resigned gracefully. Mistakes are a big part of chess competition. If you are on the wrong end of an error, accept it without complaint. If you make a bad move, even one based on a notation error, do not ask your opponent to let you take it back.

Avoid excessive "gamesmanship"
One example: a player wrote an opponent claiming to be his own wife. "She" said her husband was dying and his last wish was to obtain a Master rating, which would occur if he won this game. Would he resign? Though he did not resign he was quite distracted and lost the game. I believe "gamesmanship" of this type is bad CC etiquette indeed!

Send a final message
When an opponent resigns or agrees to a draw, send a final "good-bye" message to furnish some closure. After playing for months or years it is not very nice to just "take the point and run".

Leave off the Question Marks
If your opponent makes a terrible move he will suffer enough in the play of the game. Do not embarrass him further by applying a question mark (or exclaims to your own moves). I see nothing wrong with giving your own move a "?" or an opponent's move an "!" when appropriate. Of course, it is possible that your opponent may take offence if you blame all of his successes on your bad moves!

Do not ask your opponent to resign
Although it is sometimes annoying when an opponent plays on in a lost position, it is never appropriate to ask an opponent to resign. In this case you should let your chess moves do your talking.

Playing on in a bad position
If you are totally busted then it may be best to resign. If you feel that you can still learn something, still have a defensive resource, the position is complex or can be made complex (inviting a mistake by your opponent) or you are unsure that your opponent really has a won game, you need make no excuses for playing on.

Avoid analyzing the current game
I dislike it when an opponent discusses the details of our current game position. General remarks such as "the attack begins!" or "it looks like you've won a pawn" do not bother me. Listing possible lines of play or giving detailed evaluations of positions seems inappropriate. Leave such comments till after the game has finished.

Silent withdrawal scum
The worse thing a CC player can do, in my opinion, is to disappear without trace. If you choose to quit for any reason you must notify your opponents and tournament secretaries. For those who violate this simple rule of etiquette all sorts of reasonable punishments come to mind. I shall not repeat them here. You know what I mean! Never be a "withdrawal scum"!

Remember the "Golden Rule"
In your correspondence, treat your opponent as you would like to be treated. We are all friends sharing this wonderful experience that is called correspondence chess.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Houdini Chess Engine

I’m no expert on chess engines or computers and for several years the only chess playing program I had was Chessmaster. Eventually I got around to using Fritz, versions 6 through 10, Shredder and Chessbase Light 2007, Premium Edition. I’ve used many different free engines including Rybka and Stockfish. The latest purchase was when I got my new laptop. I found Fritz 12 at Office Max for $20! It sells online for more than 3 times that price. Fritz is my first choice simply because I like its printouts. In any case these days I really can’t see actually paying for chess software when there’s so much good free stuff available.

On the post concerning TobyTal and anonymous poster mentioned the Houdini engine which I have never heard of, so I did some very quick research on it. I downloaded it to my old Windows XP computer and played a very unscientific match of 5 games against Firebird. The results were somewhat surprising for me: Houdini 3 wins, no losses and two draws. That’s enough to convince me that Houdini deserves to be downloaded to my Windows 7 laptop and used with Fritz 12.

ADDENDUM: In a 6-game blitz match Houdini defeated Fritz 12 by a score of +4 -0 =2!

You can download a whole bunch of free engines, including Houdini, at Zarkon Fischer’s Free Chess Programs page.

The Houdini website has the following blurb:

Houdini is a state-of-the-art chess engine for Windows that competes with the best commercial and free software. The current version is Houdini 1.03a (release date July 17, 2010). The program has no graphical interface but can be used with any UCI-compatible chess graphical user interface (GUI) like the free Arena and Winboard chess interfaces or the commercial Shredder chess interface.

If you haven't already, first download the chess GUI of your choice.
Then download the Houdini version that suits your environment (32 or 64-bit, number of cores), copy it to a local directory on your computer, and install it in the chess GUI.

The site advises In 64-bit Windows Vista/7 Houdini can benefit from so-called large memory pages. Depending on the hash table size the speed improvement may be between 5% and 20%.

To enable this feature, you need to modify the Group Policy for your account on your computer:
1.Run: gpedit.msc (or search for "Group Policy")
2.Under "Computer Configuration", "Windows Settings", "Security Settings", "Local Policies" click on "User Rights Assignment"
3.In the right pane double-click the option "Lock Pages in Memory"
4.Click on "Add User or Group" and add your account or "Everyone"
5.You may have to logoff or reboot for the change to take effect
Run your chess GUI with administrative rights ("Run as Administrator"), and check the "Large_Pages" UCI option for Houdini.
Note: If memory is fragmented the Large Page allocation may fail and Houdini will fall back to standard memory page usage.

I have no idea what all that means, but I guess I’ll find out. As they say in ICCF master tournaments, “Happy computing!”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Multiple pins and a Weak Back Rank

I reached the following position from a Sicilian Defense – Wing Gambit in a 20 minute game on Chess.com and found it interesting because of the multiple pins and back rank weakness. I used about 5 minutes on my 25th move just to make sure I wasn’t making any nasty miscalculations.

I played a couple other games against the same opponent and my final score was +2 -0 =1, but I don’t think it should have been that good. One game saw me losing but we eventually reached a Q+P vs. Q+P ending that is going to take me some time to analyze…maybe I’ll post it if it’s interesting enough.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Instructive R & P Ending

I’ve always liked R and P endings for some reason and have spent a great deal of time studying them. They are one of the most common endings (along with K & P endings) so getting to know some of their nuances will bring you a fair share of points.

In the following position my opponent allowed me to simplify from a lost R&P ending into this one which I knew was drawn. Still, White was right to play on just to make sure I didn’t fall into one of the common traps the defender often makes in these positions.

As pointed out in the notes, the three errors for the defender are 1) immobilizing his R 2)allowing the K to be chased away from the queening square and 3) playing the K to the wrong side of the P. Of course there a lot of exceptions and it’s easy for the defender to go wrong, so you should always play these endings out if you are the guy with the P!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reshevsky on Bobby Fischer and Others

I recently came across an interview with Samuel Reshevsky that was conducted by Hanon Russell in 1991 which I give in part here.

In the interview Reshevsky answered questions about Bobby Fischer and some of the events for which Fischer’s conduct is now famous. In the interview Reshevsky also gave his opinion of many famous players of the past.

HWR: Let's take this from another perspective. In a dispute with the organizers, Fischer withdrew while leading the tournament. What was your opinion of what happened at Sousse? Exclusive of your game.
SR: I think you might say that this was typical of Fischer. That is the way he handled himself generally. He always surprised everybody. The fact for example that he doesn't play anymore is also a surprise.
HWR: Do you have an opinion as to why, when he was leading the Interzonal, dominating it, he would quit?
SR: There is no answer to that. It is unexplainable.
HWR: When we were in Palma de Mallorca in December, 1989, you told me that you and Fischer were the first two players to arrive for the 1970 Interzonal, also held at Palma and that you two spent several days together sightseeing around Palma. You also told me that you were a bit surprised because, until then, you two had not been on such great terms, but then, you found him very friendly. Tell me a little bit about that experience.
SR: There was no one else there we knew, so we walked together, talked together. I thought he was quite friendly.
HWR: By this time, however, his extreme views on religion, Jews, Communists and everything else that Fischer did not agree with were well known. Were you uncomfortable with him? After all, you are an orthodox Jew and here is a fellow, he may be Bobby Fischer, but he certainly has nothing kind to say about Jewish people.
SR: I was not uncomfortable with his views at all. He has his views, I have my views. It didn't bother me. I tried to make him see the light. I didn't succeed, but I tried.
HWR: After his win over Spassky, he (Fischer) stopped playing. There are some people out there who think that even if FIDE had met his every demand, that he still would not have played. What is your opinion?
SR: My opinion is that the reason he never wanted to play again was because he wanted to remain an undefeated champion.
HWR: You are one of the very few people around who have seen and met such a wide range of players. I would like to give you the names of players and I would like your view of them. First, Capablanca.
SR: Very strong. His endgame was far above most players.
HWR: Alekhine.
SR: Very original. Especially in the openings. Whenever I saw him, and that was many times, he always had a pocket set in front of him. Even in the hotel lobby. He was always trying to find something new in the openings. And of course, he was brilliant in the middle game. A real attacking player.
HWR: Euwe.
SR: Euwe was strong of course. He was outstanding in the opening but insufficient in the endgame.
HWR: Botvinnik.
SR: An all-around player. It almost speaks for itself. World Champion for quite a few years, right?
HWR: Keres.
SR: Keres had only one weakness. He was not steady. Other than that, very strong.
HWR: Emanuel Lasker.
SR: [Smiles] World Champion for 27 years. I was fortunate to play him once when he was past his prime. He was considered the greatest player for many, many years. His strength, I think, was in the middle game. Not so much in the opening or endgame.
HWR: Smyslov.
SR: A great player and still is, positionally. ~ A lot of knowledge.
HWR: Najdorf.
SR: Najdorf was an attacking player, but unsteady. ~
HWR: Fine.
SR: Fine was a fine player. (Laughs]. Good in every aspect, endgame, openings but he too ~ was not steady. Strong, but not strong in every tournament.
HWR: Spassky.
SR: A fine player.
HWR: They say he is lazy.
SR: Yes, he sometimes does not like to work too hard. Maybe he's right! [Laughs].
HWR: Fischer.
SR: Outstanding, one of the greatest ever. A lot of talent, a lot of originality in the opening and middle game. I think his weakness was the endgame.
HWR: Karpov.
SR: Karpov is like a rock. Steady, steady, steady. He works hard and he succeeds. He's equipped in every phase of the game. A hard man to beat.
HWR: Kasparov.
SR: Very, very, very strong in all phases of the game. I think if I were to mention the greatest players ever, I probably would consider him one of them.
HWR: Speaking of the greatest, you are aware of the fact that when Fischer wrote an article for Frank Brady's magazine Chessworld he listed you as one of the ten greatest chessplayers ever. What did you think about that?
SR: I think he was right! (Laughs].

The following comment is from an article by Reshevsky’s daughter, Shaindel Reshevsky, describing his retirement.

Upon turning 70 he asked the Rebbe if he should retire. The Rebbe told him to continue playing because it was a Kiddush Hashem- a proud demonstration of a Jew succeeding without compromising. My father complied and never retired.

Reshevsky’s Talk with Fischer

In 1984, Reshevsky was proclaimed the joint winner of a major chess tournament which took place in Iceland, a victory for which he had prepared by asking for the Rebbe's blessing.

Following his victory in Iceland, Sammy received a letter from the Rebbe in which the Rebbe warmly praised him for his success in the tournament: "I was doubly gratified because it was good to know that you continue to participate in international tournaments, and especially that you shared the first prize in the tournament at Reykjavik. Needless to say, the most gratifying point is that you continue to display a Kiddush HaShem Barabim, insisting upon your right not to play on the holy Shabbat, and that your stance was recognized and accepted..."

At the end of the letter, the Rebbe wrote: "P.S. The following lines may appear strange, but I consider it my duty not to miss the opportunity to bring it to your attention. You surely are familiar with the life story of Bobby Fischer, of whom nothing has been heard in quite some time.

"Unfortunately, he did not have the proper Jewish education, which is probably the reason for his being so alienated from the Jewish way of life or the Jewish people. However, being a Jew, he should be helped by whomever possible. I am writing to you about this, since you are probably better informed about him than many other persons, and perhaps you may find some way in which he could be brought back to the Jewish fold, either through your personal efforts, or in some other way..."

When Reshevsky received the Rebbe's letter, his first reaction was one of joy: the Rebbe had chosen him for a special task. However, he understood that this mission would not be easily fulfilled. Bobby had already been out of public life for a few years, and was known to be living reclusively in Los Angeles. Soon after Reshevsky received the Rebbe's letter, he traveled to Los Angeles to play at a tournament. As soon as he arrived, he phoned Bobby and related the Rebbe's request to him. Bobby immediately agreed to see him. This was very unusual, since he did not often receive visitors. Their meeting lasted three hours, during which Bobby asked many serious questions about Judaism.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Idiots on Yahoo

As I've said before, I'm not very good at blitz, but I've been playing a few 10 minute games (preferably with an increment) and 20 minute games on both chess.com and Yahoo. I’ve never heard anything good about Yahoo chess and I can see why.

After accepting people’s open challenges, I keep getting kicked off the table. Apparently if they think your rating is too high and they might lose, they don’t want to play. We’re not talking monster ratings here…after about 20 games I only weigh in at mid-1600,s. I get a lot of disconnects also…when guys start losing they just abandon the game. I also challenged some guy rated around 2100 and he also kicked me off the table...don't know what he was afraid of. Losing a gob of Yahoo rating points while only getting a couple if he won? Those Yahoo points must be more valuable than I thought.

This afternoon I was playing Black against some retard in a 10-minute game. He played the Tromp and I met it with a very conservative line and the game was pretty equal for about 40-some moves then he blundered a B and resigned. I thought his play was pretty good except for that mistake so I send him a message saying “gg” for good game. That started his diatribe of name calling…guess he was upset. I didn’t reply, but the more I thought about his nasty attitude the more annoyed I got.

So anyway I challenged him to another game and he played the Tromp again only this time I met it with the rather unorthodox line: 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5 f6. In this game he didn’t play so good and I built up a strong center culminating in a mating attack. Unfortunately he left the table before I could make a snide remark of my own. Something like: ha-ha-ha! you should study tactics more. i’m going to go find a table with a GOOD player now...bye. Anyway, you get the idea.

Random Thought & Chesslodge

Just a random thought: Solving chess positions and problems only in your mind without a board is a useful method of chess training. It increases your calculation ability and helps you avoid missing long moves on the ranks, files and diagonals. One thing beginners, and even stronger players, fail to appreciate is the geometry (lines, diagonals, etc.) of the chessboard itself. Very few books even touch on this subject but masters do not actually “see” future positions in their mind’s eye. The see patterns, lines of force and “auras” of the pieces.

I discovered a site called Chesslodge that features some free lessons. The authors, IM Miodrag Perunovic and GM Alex Finkel, cover different topics on strategy. They also offer private lessons in pdf format and links to longer video instructions for a fee, of course. The free stuff is pretty good; I wouldn’t recommend paying for anything as a matter of principle, but that’s just me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Half a Brilliancy

I arrived at the position below in a game on Playchess and blew an opportunity to score a brilliant two Rook sacrifice to win and ended up losing. I got half of the combination right, but didn’t realize I had to sac the second R so that I could play Qh5 with check. It hurts!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Svetozar Gligorić Interview

Svetozar Gligorić was one of the most popular players in the world in the 1950's and '60's. Today, at age 87, he's no longer playing chess, but apparently is active and in good health. You can read an interesting interview with him HERE.  Play over some of his games HERE.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Q&P Ending

I recently arrived at this ending and thought it might be worthwhile to examine it more closely. My endgame books, including Fine’s Basic Chess Endings, don’t even mention it. Not surprising, I guess, since it would seem that normally it should be a draw unless there are exceptional circumstances. But that’s always the case!

We arrived at the position below after Black’s 43rd move. I felt I had a small advantage and therefore some winning chances because my P was further advanced and my K has more room. The “plan” was to run the K to the vicinity of the K & P to seek shelter. Running the position through the Shredder Endgame Database revealed that the position is only a draw, but it seems, for the reasons mentioned, that the burden of holding the draw is on Black. On his 47th move, Black played the only move that loses! On my next move there is only one move that wins, but of course I didn’t find it. Fortunately Black did not find the only drawing move and after that the outcome was never in doubt.

Black made a brief comment after the game that he thought he lost because of his P moves. Evidently he thought he should have been checking with the Q. However, it turned out the real reason for his loss was when he played his 48th move and decided to defend the P and at the same time use his K to shepherd its advance. It seems counterintuitive to abandon the P by playing 48…Kb7, but that was the only move that would hold the draw. Apparently this is so because with 48…Kb7 he would be moving the K towards my P and thereby be able to hold up its advance.

Optical Illusion

Friday, July 9, 2010


Added a new pdf booklet on Yefim Geller. 50 annofritzed games & brief bio.

TobyTal Chess Engine

I saw a small ad in the last issue of Chess Life listing the website for this “new” chess engine. I visited the site and they claim it plays at 3200 and it costs $59.00. They also advise they market a vast database collections, specialized training programs and cutting edge resources for coaches & teachers as well.

The developer also makes a claim that in 4-6 years there will be no more chess engines as chess will be solved and the moves will simply be looked up in tables. I won’t bother with commenting on this other than to say it seems like a nonsense statement considering the enormous size of 6-man tablebases, let alone a 32-man tablebase.

The developer claims that his engine easily defeats Rybka 3 and gives some sample games. I’m not sure what conditions the games were played under. Nor could I find a decent review of this engine when I Googled it. I also went to the SSDF rating list to see how TobyTal fares against other engines…it’s not listed. One would think that if the engine is as good as the author claims he would have entered it in one of their competitions.

Personally, I wouldn’t bother with it until there’s more proof available than the unsubstantiated claims of the developer. If anybody has any more information on this engine, please post it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Occasionally I like to take a look at some of my early games. Sometimes I cringe at the moves and other times I’m surprised to find that I actually came up with some pretty good ones. The following game was pretty typical of my play in the old days.

I was only about a year out of the US military and was attending school in Toledo, Ohio. I remember having a tiny one room apartment and having to share the bathroom with the guy in the next apartment. It wouldn’t have been so bad except he had a nasty habit of forgetting to flush the toilet. Fortunately he was not there long and an Army sergeant who was taking classes at the University of Toledo moved in and he was, as we used to say in the military, “squared away” and we became friends.

I remember my opponent as an older gentleman who lived, I think, in Kansas or Nebraska. I believe we were both rated as “Class A” players in Al Horowitz’ postal chess organization. There were some really good players who played in the Golden Knight events: guys like Hans Berliner, Robert H. Steinmeyer, Arthur Feuerstein, all of whom had played in the US Championship at one time or another as well as a couple of others who were very strong in both OTB and CC play.

Blitz Chess

I’ve never been a fan of blitz…back in the old days we called them 5-minute games. I was never very quick on my mental feet I guess because as a postal player (i.e. correspondence chess these days) I’ve always needed 3 days for a move, not 3 seconds. I’ve tried my hand at online games at chess.com and have discovered one’s ability to play blitz does not improve with age; I’m just as bad as I ever was.

I’m not sure what exactly constitutes “blitz” as opposed to “standard” on Chess.com, but my blitz results there is +28 -6 =4. The highest rated player I’ve beaten was 1780. I lost a one minute game to some guy rated over 2500 where I managed to bash out all of about 25 moves in 60 seconds before losing on time. Rating= 1863. My results in “standard” chess, which I think are 15-20 minute games, is +9 -1 =2, so I’ve done a little better but against weaker opponents. Rating = 1759.

Like all sites, there have been accusations of rampant cheating at Chess.com. One guy wrote a forum post last month where he referred to Chess.com as a "cheater-friendly" site. According to the site’s owner their policy is to ban engine users only if they are 100 % sure. He went on to say below the level of 2200, the percentage of cheaters on his site is below 1 %. How he arrived at that 1% figure, who knows? Chess.com publishes a list of caught cheaters and the majority of them are rated below 2000 but I seriously wonder how closely they actually check their top players.

One site that prides itself on its success in banning engine users was offered positive proof that their number one player had a 100% matchup rate against Rybka and the six piece endgame tablebase. Now this guy has been a CC IM since way before computers so there’s no doubt he’s good. But good enough to win hundreds of CC games on a couple of different sites while playing dozens of games at a time with only a couple of losses? Not likely. So far as I know the site did not ban him for engine use. Probably because, as a “name” player, he adds prestige to their site.

But I think there’s another factor at play in a situation like this. Sort of a mental agreement if you will. It is an established fact that at top levels of CC play everybody, and I mean everybody, uses an engine. Of course the best players don’t use them to actually select their move, but they do use them. If we are going to say that at the top level of CC play, because you can’t stop engine us and everybody does it, then it’s OK, where do you draw the line? Players rated 1200-2400 get banned for using engines but 2500’s and up don’t. Titled players can use them but untitled players can’t. Again, where do you draw the line? I don’t have an answer.

To continue:
The forum poster didn’t believe it so he actually went to the trouble of conducting an experiment. Some people have nothing better to do, I guess. He registered a new account built up a profile with a correspondence chess rating of around 1900 and then started to cheat.

He used Pocket Fritz which supposedly has reached an ELO performance of 2900 meaning that it plays better than any GM. He allowed Pocket Fritz a few seconds to ponder its moves and played 50 correspondence games on Chess.com. He sometimes used the second best move instead of the best one against opponents rated from 1700 to 1900. He believed he should have won all 50 games but 7 games were either drawn or lost. He claimed that against opponents rated 1700 to 1900 that’s a pretty high percentage.

I’m sure there are many engine users on Chess.com just like every other site you can name, but the fact that a 1700-1900 rated player occasionally draws (or wins) a game against Pocket Fritz which was making the 2nd best move at only seconds per move should not be too shocking.

Looking back over my CC career I’ve had some pretty good results against very strong players in both CC and OTB play…wins and draws that if I played them in today’s computer era, would raise suspicions. Of course if those games were checked with an engine our matchup rate would have been nowhere near suspicious. I’m not really sure how to use a program like Fritz to compare matchup rates nor am I interested. I have better things to do than determine if someone with a 1200-2400 server rating is using an engine.

Grob Attack

I’ve long advocated playing solid, mainline openings for everybody, even beginners, but I have a confession to make. Sometimes I play the Grob Attack…1.g4.

I’ve successfully played it even in correspondence games against players up to about 1900, but I wouldn’t advocate playing it against anybody above that unless you want your head handed to you on a plate. When I first got into playing server chess I played on a site that had an unusually larger number of beginners and it became my favorite weapon. None of the games lasted more than 20 moves and there were a couple as short as 5 or 6 moves. It’s surprising how befuddled low rated players get and succumb to the attack on the long diagonal and end up losing the R on a8. However, nothing will ever compare to my shortest game ever. It was an OTB game against a mid-1600 player that went. 1.g4 Nf6? 2.g5 d5??? 3.gxf6. My opponent stared at the board a few seconds then looked up and asked, “What did you do?” I told him, “I took your N.” to which he replied, “How?” After demonstrating how I removed his N, he thought for a few more seconds then resigned.

The Grob Attack can be very tricky tactically and it’s worth a shot especially in blitz. You can download a copy of Claude Bloodgood’s The Tactical Grob, originally a database of his games, I made it into a pdf booklet and added a short bio. I’d advise that before purchasing a more serious work on the opening such as The Killer Grob (Pergamon Chess Series)

In this game my 1600ish opponent befuddled me on the first move when he played 1…h5. Nobody ever did that before and I didn’t have any “book” knowledge on it. As it turned out Bloodgood barely mentioned it so I was on my own after move one.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lucky Win

Analyzing this game with Fritz leaves the impression that I played a brilliant sacrifice, but it wasn’t that easy. First when Black gave up a piece for 2P’s at move at move 19 to free his game I don’t think Fritz’ evaluation of a 3.5 to 4 Pawn advantage for White is quite accurate. Maybe if I was a GM, but in practical play and had Black played a little better, it would have taken more technique than I possess to win and I was positive we were going to be playing a long, hard game that I wasn’t sure I could win.

As for the tactical shot at move 31, I only saw the possibility at the last second and truthfully, I don’t know what drew my attention to it. Not that it was terribly difficult once you noticed his f7 was vulnerable …and that’s where I was lucky because I wasn’t even thinking of action on the K-side. I think my habit of scanning ranks, files and diagonals after my opponent moves and before I move is what allowed me to notice the possibility despite my fixation on a Q-side attack.

As for successfully making it through the complications I was, well…lucky. Had Black found the most difficult defense the outcome might have been different.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Kenneth Smith

Chess Digest began as a hobby business in 1962 in Dallas, Texas. Ken's primary business was S & S Utility Contracting Company, Inc., but chess was an avid vocation. Since chess books were not readily available in the United States unless imported from Europe, Ken saw a need and filled it by starting Chess Digest Magazine in his spare bedroom. Working nights and weekends using an old typewriter he produced his magazine once a month.By 1997, Chess Digest, Inc. no longer published a magazine but instead had grown into a major chess book publisher and supplier with chess titles from both the U.S. and Europe. Many of the books were written by Smith himself'

Ken "Top Hat" Smith (1930--1999) was both a Chess Master (FIDE 2360) and a World Class Poker Player (3rd one year and 4th another year in the World Championship Of Poker). He believes, practices, and teaches that chess players versed in gambits can become outstanding poker players "Both are a calculated risk. As you play your gambit, you are projecting all the confidence in the world. You move all your poker chips to the middle of the table when you think you have the best hand." -Smith.

In chess, a gambit player for 33 years, Ken Smith wrote nine books and 49 articles on the Smith-Morra Gambit 1 e4, c5 2 d4, cxd 3 c3. The gambit now bares half its name from Ken Smith, Texas and Pierre Morra, France (deceased).

Smith won over 200 chess tournaments including 8 times Texas Champion, 7 times Southwest Champion, 1 time British Major Open, 1 time Championship of Mexico and 4 times Southern Open Champion.

In poker Smith won in Las Vegas the "Stairway to the Stars" tournament, Amarillo Slim's "Omaha" tournament, Amarillo Slim's "Eight or Better High-Low Split" tournament, and came in second in the "Low-Ball Draw" tournament sponsored by Amarillo Slim. These are in addition to his 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the Poker World Championship.

Excerpts from Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold'em by T.J. Cloutier with Tom McElvoy :

"Kenny (Ken Smith of Chess Digest, Inc., Dallas, TX) was a big chess player in Texas and he just loved to play poker... ...played poker for years. He always wore a silk top hat that was supposed to have been from the theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated; he had certification on it, too. Kenny would wear that hat in all the big tournaments, and every time he won a pot he would stand up on the table and yell, `What a player!, And that's how he got his nickname.

Smith began his new monthly publication Chess Digest in 1968. He was a great exponent of gambit play and did much to rekindle interest in opening gambits, especially his beloved Smith-Morra Gambit vs the Sicilian Defense and to a lesser extent the Goring Gambit. In return for the pawn white achieves all the classical goals of opening play very quickly, and the ancient battle of "time vs material" begins.

For the record I’m quoting his plan for improvement here. Needless to say many of the books he recommended were those he either authored or published, but as a whole his plan is a good one. Perhaps he overemphasizes gambit play and tactics at the expense of other areas, but his recommendation of playing over hundreds of unannotated master games, spending 5-10 minutes on each game, while trying to guess the next move has great merit. The goal was to build up one’s pattern recognition skills. He also authored some helpful books on the endings. There may be better books available today, but back when Smith was in business, Chess Digest was the about the only source of chess literature and his contribution to US chess cannot be overlooked.

Improving Your Chess
by Ken Smith

Behind a door that many, if not most will never look, is Romantic chess. This Romantic chess starts with the opening or defense. For example: White will play the King's Gambit, Vienna Gambit, BDG, Scotch Gambit, Danish-Goring Gambit, or the Evan's Gambit, and there are more.

Black will play the Albin-Counter Gambit, Henning-Schara Gambit, Englund Gambit, Latvian, Elephant and many more. The ones playing gambits are examining the Romantic side of chess beyond a closed door. HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY LIVE YOUR CHESS LIFE LOOKING AT A DOOR AND NOT OPEN IT??

Psyching yourself up prior to playing puts you in an aggressive frame of mind. In most fields of competition, aggression is a virtue. Chess is a game to be played with an aggressive mentality. Grandmaster Portisch takes a walk before each round to clear his mind and prepare himself mentally for the coming game. He works on his intensity in that way. When Bobby Fischer was late for most of his games, he was taking a little extra time in his hotel room preparing mentally for the game. He also thought it might psyche-out or disturb his opponent. Whether it did or not did not matter, he believed it would.

What is it that winning players have that sets them apart? I think that chess involves more than just knowing the game. What winners have that sets them apart from other knowledgeable players is intensity. Have you ever watched Jack Nicklaus' eyes during a putt? Mike Tyson's just before a fight? Earl Anthony's over a bowling shot? Something special is going on behind those eyes, something that translates into the success that each of these players has had in his given field. They are in tune with what they are doing; they're focused, and they exclude all else from their minds. Totally absorbed in what they are doing, they operate at a higher level.

This intensity and focus also is a characteristic of winning chess players. Many people know how to play and what to do in certain situations, yet they have difficulty applying that knowledge consistently at the board. Emotions take control of them. Focus and concentration are intermittent at best. Even some of the world's technically and intellectually best players remain stagnate most of the time due to flaws in this area. Lack of intensity can be fatal.

You need to get psyched up within your own mind. Get your competitive juices flowing. Get your ego involved-although it also is important to keep it under control Heighten your sense of awareness. Get your animal instincts involved. You will be amazed at the level of focus and awareness that you can condition your mind to develop.

When you truly focus your energies and apply your concentration, you will see more, and will develop a sense of feel. By definition, instincts are something with which we are born - but they also are honed with practice, sharpened by concentration, and developed over the course of many similar trials in your games.

First comes your basics: Play and Study, then Study and Play followed by Play and Study, then Study and Play. Second, develop the mentality of always trying your best - don't give up! Intensity!! Intensity!!

In the next couple of pages you will find recommended opening and defensive systems for each class of players. You will learn forcing systems that you can know as good as anyone in the world. Then as you reach high Class A or Expert, start playing the dynamic 1 e4 and maybe, if you choose, answering 1 e4 with 1...e5 but there is recent grandmaster opinion, due to faster speed limits, you should start a little earlier. Maybe a high Class B or when you reach low Class A.

In GM Andrew Soltis' 1995 revised Giuoco Piano and the Max Lange, he writes: "As the tempo of tournament chess speeds up, the ranks of players are being divided into two opposing camps based on how they approach the opening. One camp holds that in faster games, the priority should be on reaching a playable middlegame position as fast as possible - even if that risks a failure to obtain an edge for White or obtaining a small but clear disadvantage as Black. For example the elastic series of hypermodern moves (1 Nf3, 2 g3, 3 Bg2, 4 0-0 and 5 d3 or 5 b3) is not likely to get you a plus-over-minus advantage. It's not likely to get you a plus-over anything against a player of about the same rating unless you're both beginners. But it won't get you the worst of it in the six or seven seconds it may take to play those moves. The other school argues that chess is chess. This way of thinking maintains that you should always try to find the best move in a position. The most challenging move in the starting position is, by most accounts 1 e4. The most resistant answer is, arguable, 1...e5" -Soltis.

It is my belief that chess is an amazingly accurate model for many situations in life. The strategies, the competition and the challenges of living. In 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to three mathematicians for their work on game theory, largely based on the study of such games as chess (and poker). Game theory is a mathematical model of human behavior that analyses how people make decisions in competitive situations. One of the three Nobel Prize winners, John Harsanji, was asked to join a group of ten game theorists to advise the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency on tactics. Harsanyi said, "Game theory has become a significant tool for analyzing real life conflicts."

This little essay on my personal openings and defenses is for players above the rating of 1799 that have mastered tactics and the endgame. Beginners and novices should have simple forcing openings. A little stronger players can go for the King's Indian Attack. I give you those suggestions in the following pages under "1599 and below" and "1799 and below". Then also you might prefer positional openings. These come to me only in my declining years. My FIDE rating is 2365.

If you are going to play my Black defensive system, you must have mastered tactics and have a positive attitude and the ability to draw anyone a pawn down in the endgame. This has been the secret of my chess success. Along with a strong White opening based on gambits and confidence in a Black defensive system with a gambit or an active variation of the Slav Defense. I have always had a strong, strong opening and defensive system that I know as well as anyone in the world. Then fake the middlegame followed by endgame mastery. This plan may not be for you. If not, read the next page and pick one for yourself.

As Black against the English Opening 1 c4, I play 1...e6, then on 2 Nc3 play 2...d5 forcing the game into a Reti or a Queen's Gambit. Get a Reti book and learn one line you like for Black. For other Flank Openings like the King's Indian Attack, Birds 1 f4, or Sokolsky's 1 b4, you must have C-1499 Winning Against Flank Openings-Tangborn.

Against the Queen's Gambit, I always try to play the Schara-Henning Gambit 1 d4, d5 2 c4, e6 3 Nc3, c5 4 cxd5, cxd4 which I wrote a book about. I have never lost with this gambit-only wins and draws. The last illustrated game is where I played it against GM Robert Byrne (Buckeye Open, Toledo, Ohio 1964). Everyone was gathered around the board to see me lose. Not so-it was a draw with great theoretical values. Most players will not let me play it by playing 3 Nf3 (1 d4, d5 2 c4, e6 3 Nf3). Then I go into a Slav Defense Noteboom Variation (my favorite) or a Semi-Slav if they will not let me play the Noteboom (they play an early White e3). Also note if White plays 4 e3 or 4 Nf3 instead of 4 cxd5, you must be ready to enter a Tarrasch Defense.

Against 1 e4, my reply has always 1...c5 the Sicilian Defense Scheveningen Variation. Get the book C-1558 The Sicilian Scheveningen For Black –Soltis on this variation. Before you can get into the Scheveningen, you need to know what to do against the anti-Sicilians on move 2. You must have Beating The Anti-Sicilian-Gallaghe rand Trends in The Anti-Sicilian

In my early years, if I knew White was going to play 1 e4, e5 2 Nf3, the Latvian Gambit 2...f5 was my choice. Usually I played this against weaker players to get a quick win as Black.

My White opening system has served me for 47 years. Now I am going to give you that system. You can copy it or use it as an example for your system. Is it for you? Unless you have taken my advice and concentrate on tactics and the art of attack, you will not be successful (you will not be successful quickly, period).

Your first move is 1 e4. Against 1...e5 you will play 2 d4 after 2...exd4 play 3 Nf3. From this position you will go either into the Goring Gambit, Scotch Gambit or Max Lange Attack. Choose one.

Against 1...c5 play my Smith-Morra Gambit, vs 1...c6 play Advance Variation or Blackmar Diemer Gambit (1 e4, c6 2 d4, d5 3 Nc3, dxe4 4 f3), French 1...e6 play the Advance Variation either the gambit line or regular advance lines, vs Alekhine 1...Nf6 the King's Indian Attack, against 1...d5 just learn a main line against the Center Counter, and when Black plays the Pirc/Modern, you are on your own as these are the hardest for me to meet.

There are two things that overpower most players when learning their opening and defensive system. Let's discuss some of the questions for help that cross my desk.
Question: Most opening books have so much material that I can never seem to learn enough of it. Can you help?
Answer: The first thing you do is turn to the Index and/or Table of Contents. You play through the moves over and over, then over again until you learn what the variations are. You learn the variations before you tackle the analysis. If a Table of Contents does not give the moves you need, go to each chapter and just learn the variation. After you have mastered the variations, play over only the main line moves in each chapter. Again-repetition is the key-again and again. After the main lines are retained in your mind, start to tackle the notes.

Question: Why can't I ever learn a complete White Opening System or a complete Black Defensive System?

Answer: There are probably two problems: (a) You don't start out with a complete system and (b) When you run into a variation you can't solve with a White plus or Black equal or can't learn how to play, you give up, and maybe give up on the complete opening or defense.

To solve (a) get a complete repertoire book for White and one for Black. Turn to repertoire books in this catalog and pick one for each side. You are not going to like some of the variations suggested - that does not matter. Learn what you are given, then and only then, change to something you like better. The secret is to learn a complete one - do you hear me? - a complete one - then and only then slip in your changes.

To solve (b) be realistic. You are going to run into a variation you don't like. You are going to have your opening or defense fall out of favor. Grandmasters have that problem all the time. They play an opening or defense until they fear their opponent is well prepared for that particular one. Then they drop it until it is "hopefully" forgotten. But they usually go back to it since every major opening or defense is good. You do not have that problem. Pick one, I assure you it is good. Stay with it until you learn it. Don't let one or two problems in that variation stop you. Learn the best that variation has to offer and let stand a slight disadvantage as Black or equal when you are White. Research until you are complete.

Question: How can I learn all that I have to learn about chess? I already feel overwhelmed.
Answer: These feelings are normal for beginners, but strong players have them as well.

I am going to tell you a secret and it is simple: Just play, lose a lot, win a few and study a little THEN, as if by magic, chess will start coming to you. Be proud of your accomplishments within your class. You are just as much a hero when you do well with players your own strength. Then when you add a few points to that rating with a balanced study program, you are MY hero.

Give yourself a chance, master tactics. Make combination study your priority. In chess opportunity does not knock once, it's knocking all the time. You must learn to take advantage of it when it is there. Keep a book on combinations by the bed, in your car, even in the throne room. Become a destroyer.

Everyone has tactical weaknesses. It's what you do about them that counts. This series will make sure you are exposed to all the basics of checkmates, endgames, middlegames and combinations. To make sure you like this series, start with Theme Artistry.

MIDDLEGAME ARTISTRY-750 diagrams to challenge you.
THEME ARTISTRY-654 combinations to learn themes as you solve.
ENDGAME ARTISTRY-664 diagrams to make you study the tactics of the endgame.
PAWN ARTISTRY-734 pawn positions you must know. 308 pages.
CHECKMATE ARTISTRY-615 diagrams to teach you forced mates.

When you finish with all five, I will know you have the basics. You must have the basics! I am talking directly to you - to no one else when I say: you will never let your creativity come to a standstill and with each game you will try to perform beyond expectation. It's unbelievable!It's a shame!!

Watching row after row of tournament players I realize how badly, repeat - how badly - nearly every player was playing his White opening or his Black defense. With just a little study time, you can realize a difference.

Make these promises to yourself:
1) "I will learn one White opening and know it as well as anyone in the world! My White repertoire will answer any defense Black can play!"
2) "I will have a Black defense to anything White can throw at me. Of course White will get the small advantage due him with the first move, but my choice will have counterchances."

Remember you can not pick a wrong opening or defense -- all the major ones are good. It is just that they come and go because of the trend set by the Masters. They play one for awhile, then when they think their opponents have prepared, another one is brought forward. You can always be certain that they will go back to the original opening or defense after they think others have forgotten it. You have no such problem--worrying about "trends". Make a decision and stay with it.

A beginning golfer doesn't come out swinging with Arnold Palmer, nor does an amateur boxer slug it out with Mike Tyson. Yet we expect a novice chess player to play in a tournament with strong players, even masters. After losing time after time, many new players drop by the wayside. Little do they realize that with a modest study program and continued play, a miracle will happen - ALL OF A SUDDEN, AS IF BY MAGIC, CHESS WILL START COMING TO HIM AND HE WILL START TO WIN IN HIS CLASS. That is what is important, the exultation of victory, no matter what your playing strength. You will gradually edge upward. Follow my instructions and you will be a winner - even when you lose - every time you sit down to play.

No matter your strength, from beginner to master, no matter your age, ten to ninety, I want you to be a threat to anyone you play. This requires study. Here's some tips from IM Nigel Davies (Pergamon Chess) for making studying more effective:

a. Break the work up into periods of half an hour to 40 minutes: it is difficult to maintain concentration for longer than this.
b. At the end of each period, have a 10-15 minute break. Make a drink, listen to some music, or get some fresh air.
c. Make sure there are no interruptions or disturbances, earplugs might be useful! Before you start work, make sure you have all the information you need in front of you.

When Grandmasters put me on the carpet with the following reflections and recommendations, I urge you to pay close attention:
1. Keep emphasizing "tactics". This part of chess will overcome a bad opening, a poor middlegame and lack of endgame knowledge. Only until you reach "Expert" can you stop devouring everything on combinations and tactics. You put fear into your opponent when you are known as not letting anyone escape.
2. Every chess book should be saved and gone over a second time. There was no consensus of how much time between readings. Only that you be at a different level of strength. There must be a balance between this study and play.
3. Be exposed to different authors--even on the same subject--even on the same variation of an opening.
4. Master a complete White opening system and a complete Black defensive system. It does not matter what they are -- a complete simple one is better than an incomplete superior one.

Since this course in improving your chess was first written some years ago, there have been some important changes. First, many of the books I recommended have gone out of print, second new books have been printed, and third, in working with pupils and getting feedback from readers, I have found that not enough "intermediate" books were recommended. The "heavy" material was given too early for the lower rated players to comprehend. My suggestion to them, and now to you, is to save every chess book you buy & study it each rating jump of 200 points. At a higher level you will pick up, as well as review, all the essential material. Your comprehension improves as you improve.

Until you are at least a high Class A player:
Your first name is "Tactics", your middle name is "Tactics", and your last name is "Tactics". You can overcome a weak opening and be so far ahead in material that the endgame is mopping up. I demand that you get every book on tactics and combinations that you can afford and study it as if your life depended on it! Also, there is nothing like a complete game to school you in these tactics as well as the rest of the elements of chess.

The expression of chess talent--of chess progress--goes over a series of hills as you develop and grow towards being a better player. Some players are too slow getting over the first hill; then of course, all players eventually reach that slope of a chess hill they can no longer climb. The very essence of quick chess progress is what you study and in the order that you study it, in relation to your playing strength at that time. We want no "glitches". Those that have all the basics will not only improve faster, they will overtake and pass the ones that left out an important book.

Remember these truths--for they apply to you like no others:
1. CHESS REQUIRES TOTAL CONCENTRATION. Don't use just a fraction of your energy and clock time-keep your mind completely on the game. Play to win because no one is interested in excuses when you lose.
2. COMBINE STUDY WITH PLAY. An unbalanced program will stifle development even in a genius.
3. RECORD YOUR GAMES, EVEN YOUR SKIDDLES. Later, try to find where you made your mistakes. Loses should be concentrated on even more than your wins!
• Forcing Opening and Defenses
• Basic Opening System
• Add Gambits
• Sharp critical lines-the so called "long variations"
• Evolution to closed lines, if this suits your style

5. MAKE MY FOLLOWING BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS A MINIMUM BASIS TO BUILD ON. There is no one best book as there is no one worthless book. You must learn to take a little from each book, hopefully learning to recognize the best from each

There are many books that will teach the moves and rules. There are a few that give the moves, rules, mates and basic pointers to get you out of the beginner stage. In this second group I recommend:
COMPREHENSIVE CHESS COURSE Volume One & Two -Pelts & Albert.

(1399 and Below)
There is a question if players between 1000 and 1399 had to take the test given in the below books E-1 and E-184---would they pass? Most of the time the answer would be, no. Those that I have tested had large holes in their chess knowledge. If you can pass and assure me that you have all those important "basics", then and only then do I say "go on"!.

There is a doubt if you are ready to move into manuals, even basic manuals, unless you can score well in the positions covered by these books. Leave out a couple, maybe the most expensive.
1. CHECKMATE -Koltanowski
2. BETTER CHESS #1 –Gillam. Teaches combinations.
3. IMPROVE YOUR CHESS #2 – Gillam. Combinations.

Now you should be ready for at least four of the six titles listed below:
3. MY SYSTEM - Nimzovich (Study only pages 1 thru 101 The Elements). (Study 2nd part of book after you are rated over 1700).
6. THE GAME OF CHESS - Tarrasch.