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Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Lucky Escape

I was playing Black in a blitz game against a mid-1400 rated player and played the Two Knights Defense. He was pretty well booked up on it and I ended up playing an inferior line and we left the “book” with my faulty 13th move. I was struggling, so in desperation made an unsound sacrifice. He defended well and traded off pieces in order to reach a won ending where I had no chances for counterplay and several times was ready to hit the “Resign” button, but then I saw a remote chance at a swindle.

If I could trade off my N for his g-Pawn, his B would be of the wrong color to force my K out of the corner and he would not be able to queen so I’d have a draw. We finally reached the following position with White to move:

The quickest win is: 54.Kd5 Kb8 55.Be5+ Ka8 56.Ke4 Ka7 57.Kf3 Kxa6 58.Kg4 and wins.

Unfortunately (for him) he played 54.Ke6? and after 54...Ng3 I am threatening to capture the P so it has to advance. But after 55.f6 Ne4 I again threaten to capture the P and this time if it advances 56.f7 I play 57…Ng5 with check and capture the P next move so the game is drawn. Moral of the story? First, against the Giuoco Piano avoid the Two Knight’s Defense unless you know what you are doing and play Purdy’s recommendation, The Hungarian Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7) because it is safe, solid and not much can go wrong. Secondly, study endings.

A Position to Analyze

Black to move

This is a position from a recent blitz game where I played the Stonewall Attack. Black played 16…Bxe4? and lost without a fight. Exchanges are not always mandatory: 17.Qxe4 Qd5 18.Qh4 Bd8 19.Qh6 Be7 20.Rh3 1–0

In these types of positions black almost always has to play …f5 and here he missed the opportunity twice. His last chance to try and salvage something was with 18…f5 but even then after 18...f5 19.e4 Qxe4 20.Qxe4 fxe4 21.Bh6 his position is not very good.

In the diagram he should have played 16…f5 forking by B and Q which would have forced me to capture ep. 17.exf6 Bxe4 18.Qxe4 Bxg3 winning the exchange

Then after 19.Qxe6+ Kh8 20.hxg3  he should continue 20…Rxf6 (which is better than 20...Qxf6 21.Qxf6+ (21.Qxc4?? is a blunder because after 21...Qf2+ 22.Kh2 Rf5 Black has a winning attack.) 21...Rxf6 22.e4 with an unclear position) 21.Qxc4 with an unbalanced position that is anybody’s game.

Remember that in these types of positions you almost always have to play …f5

Lesson on Hanging Pawns

In the P-structure below it is obvious that the P’s on c4 and d4 can be targets of attack. Black can place the d-Pawn under attack by moves line …Nc6, …Bf6 and …Rd8. Or he can attack the c-Pawn with moves like …Ba6, …Na5 and …Rc8. On the other hand both P’s have a certain dynamic power.

If you know anything about handling the Isolated d-Pawn you know it has a tendency to advance to d5 given the opportunity. With Hanging Pawns this tendency is much stronger. From the diagram you can see that there is a possibility of creating a passed P by the advance d5. A passed P could also be created by the advance c5, but this is much more rare.
From Black’s perspective the obligation to meet these threats prevents, or at least hinders, the attack on the hanging P’s. Also, the P’s control several center squares (c5, d5 and e5) so they create a strong P-center.

Knowing the possibilities and plans of both sides will allow you to play with or against this type of P-formation with confidence. The plans are:

1. Post pieces so that he threatens to create a strong passed –P by advancing on of them (usually the d-Pawn).

2. Occupy e5 with a N and prepare a K-side attack with the aid of the advance f2-f4-5. In this case, if Black exchanges …exf5 then he has opened up the f-file for White’s attack and gives White a passed d-Pawn. If he allows White to exchange (f5xe6) then Black’s P on e6 has become weak.

3. White can possibly carry out the advance a2-a4-5. In that case if Black exchanges White has a passed c-Pawn and, additionally, has prospects of attacking the P on a7. If Black avoids the exchange White will do so leaving Black with a weak P on b6.

1. By suitable placing of his pieces (e.g. Bb7, Be7, Nf6) Black can stop the P’s from advancing, ot, if they do, he can prepare a blockade of the resulting passed P. For example after 1.d5 exd5 2.cxd5, Black can play …Ne8-d6.

2. At a suitable moment Black can launch an attack on the hanging P’s and force White to tie his pieces to their defense.

3. In some cases Black can undertake the advance …e5 of …b5. In either case if White exchanges, he has an isolated P. If White pushes his P (d5 or c5) then Black can blockade the resulting passed P and attack the adjacent backward P.

The following game shows successful White strategy in addition to the tactical motifs that occur quite often in these types of positions. Playing over games of this type will pay dividends in that you will know the correct strategy and be familiar with the resulting tactical possibilities that result. This will bolster your confidence in these types of positions.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fritz 12 Review

As I pointed out in a previous post US players can find Fritz 12 at either Office Max or Best Buy for $19.95. I have had my version for a couple of months now and have been experimenting with some of its features. Some are quite valuable to me, some are entertaining and some are of no use, but it's a great program.

As a CC player I often use Fritz to search my database by position or openings. I have Chessbase Light 2007 also and the db features of Fritz 12 are not quite as good, so for this function, I still prefer CB Light. Of course the free SCID will do just about anything CB Light will do but I was unaware of the features of SCID when I bought CB Light. I was intending to do a review here, but soon realized there are far better ones available Personally I like the new version 12 a lot...much more than the older version and had I purchased it for $65-75 as seen most places instead of the $20 I paid at Office Max, I would still think it was worth the price. Anyway, in lieu of my review, I suggest you go to ChessCentral and check out all the features.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rybka WinFinder

Anonymous made reference to the above program so I went to the site. I have not heard of WinFinder or this site before.  Here is a link to the site he mentions: HERE.  Apparently it contains downloads to about every engine you can think of plus a lot of other related material. I was not familiar with WinFinder and discovered this site: WinFinder

The site gives the following information:
As its name implies, Rybka WinFinder can be used to look for wins. It can spot and evaluate long, complex tactical variations much faster than the normal Rybka engine. If you have some complex position and just want to know if one side can somehow win material or get a clear advantage, this is the tool you want.

1) Rybka WinFinder 1.0 is a very rough, proof-of-concept stage program. If you are not an expert computer chess user, it is probably better that you leave it alone.
2) Rybka WinFinder is not useful for the analysis of strategic positions.

Intended Use
If you are brave enough to use a program during its first release, you will probably find your own uses for this tool. I envision a situation where users use the normal Rybka engine to analyze chess positions, but if a position needs to be analyzed in which the user suspects that there might be some deep, convincing continuation, he or she switches to the WinFinder to get a faster answer.

This concept sounds interesting but I’m not a computer nerd so truthfully this scares me a little bit! Also it appears that WinFinder itself has been incorporated into Rybka itself. The Rybka website had this to say:
Q. What happened to Rybka WinFinder? A. Many WinFinder ideas made their way into the default Rybka 3, which is now quite strong tactically. In addition, a new "search for score" extension to UCI can further boost Rybka's tactical emphasis at the user's request.

Does anybody have more information on the download Anonymous recommended?

Evolution of Chess Style

Kingscrusher has posted an interesting series of videos on Youtube HERE.
Here is a sample video on overprotection:

Chess on BBC Radio

Simon Terrington, a self-confessed chess fanatic, explores the game in today's world in a 25 minute commentary on BBC Radio: LISTEN

Here's their blurb:
Is modern technology changing it and how it's played? In a world where there are more and more calls upon our time, do people still wish to devote hours to mastering it?

Simon reaffirms his love for chess by absorbing the passion it generates, from grandmasters to community club players; from the World Chess Championship to the chess boards of a Bulgarian park.

These programmes build a new picture of a game: a game with a wealth of beneficial attributes, but also one with a pugilistic, addictive hook that keeps players coming back to the board, again and again.
In part one, Simon assesses how computer technology has affected the game at the highest level and what this means for its future.

He looks at the moment when chess champion Garry Kasparov was beaten by the IBM computer Deep Blue and hears from experts about the impact that event had across the game.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Struggle of game helpful for elderly...

Are you a senior citizen? Wife complaining about the time you spend playing CC or Internet blitz or money spent on chess books? Read...

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Games such as bridge, Scrabble or chess are often recommended for senior citizens because they're thought to diminish the decline in cognitive capacity associated with aging.  Chess, in particular, has been called "the gymnasium of the mind." But an equally important reason to take up chess as we age might exist. Because struggle is central to chess, it can be a vital activity for those who find themselves unchallenged in the diminished world of retirement.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chess for Beginners

I discovered an interesting Blog that’s been around since 2005 called BeginChess.
Don’t let the fact that the title says it’s for beginners deter you from paying the site a visit because there is lots of interesting material in it and it’s definitely worth a visit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

King’s Indian Four Pawns Attack

In the words of National Master Randy Bauer, The Four Pawns Attack is, in some respects, white's most principled response to the King's Indian. White says, in effect, "If you don't want to stake a claim to the center, I will." While the pawns look imposing, standing four abreast and controlling or occupying literally the entire center, it does come at a price. White's development lags, and black will have his opportunities to take pot shots at that center. The f-pawn may also get in the way of the white pieces - the queen bishop in particular may be left to "stare at the backside" of the f4 pawn. For this reason, white often seeks to liberate that piece with either f4-f5 or e4-e5, intending to meet ...dxe5 with fxe5.”

The Four Pawns Attack was sometimes a weapon of GM Arthur Bisguier although if memory serves, he usually played Bg5 before advancing the f-Pawn. Many years ago while in Spain, I purchased a few small opening booklets and the K-Indian, 4 P’s Attack was one of them and I’ve liked it ever since. It may not be the best opening at the master level, but if you are playing anybody under that it may be worth giving a try. You can probably glean enough from the Wikipedia article to see if it’s something you’d like to try.
In the game that follows my mid-1600 opponent, who would no doubt be a couple hundred points higher if he wasn’t one of those fast movers, played the ill-considered 6…Nb6 and the N was immediately forced back with a loss of time.

Early Bobby Fischer Article

The following is a reprint of an article on Fischer that appeared in the January 1959 issue of Chess Review.


As a sample of what Soviet readers are told of us, and our chess, we quote this article by V. Parkhit'ko in Shakhmaty v SSSR late last year. It is a curiously ingenious blend of absolute truth in convincing detail on the one hand and propagandistic half-truths and sly innuendos on the other. One outright misrepresentation, the purpose of which is obscure to us, we mention in a footnote.

     Soon after my arrival in the U.S.A., I went around to the Manhattan Chess Club. This is the biggest chess club in the U.S., but it is housed in only two small rooms on the ground floor of the Woodrow Hotel.
"You want to meet our new champion, Fischer?" said Club Director Hans Kmoch, "I'm not surprised. A good many newspapermen have wanted to see him lately."
     Robert Fischer (for this is Bobby's full name) is often mentioned in the American press at the moment. This fourteen. year-old boy has had great success. As early as 1956 he won the title of Junior Champion of the country.
     In July, 1957, in San Francisco, he entered the tourney again. The result was eight wins and a draw, first place and the championship.
     In August, 1957, he played in the so-called "Open Tournament," in Cleveland. This tournament is held annually and is considered the second most important one in the country. In it the strongest American players take part. The result was eight wins and four draws for Robert: ten points and first place.
     In September, 1957, the Pepsi-Cola Company, which competes with Coca Cola and is trying to crowd the latter out of the Philippine market, arranged a match between Fischer and Cardoso, the Junior Champion of the Philippines. Pictures of the two young players appeared on the covers of the most popular American magazines, along with PepsiCola advertisements. Robert Fischer easily won the match.
     Finally, in December, 1957, and January, 1958, Fischer played for the national championship for the first time. And this time too the young player won, with a score of eight wins and five draws, 10% to 2%, taking first place and the title of U. S. Champion. Sammy Reshevsky, who lost two games, was second.
Robert Fischer lives in Brooklyn, a part of New York to which the American government denies access to Soviet citizens. Consequently I called him by phone. In the receiver, a boyish voice sounded.

"Who is it?"
"I am a Soviet newspaperman. I would like to meet you."
"You are from Moscow?" 
"You know Smyslov, Botvinnik, Bronstein, Taimanov, Tal, Spassky?" and in a single breath he fired a round dozen of the names of the best Soviet chess. players at me.

     We arranged to meet that same evening in the Manhattan Chess Club. When I arrived, a tall, well-knit boy rose to' meet me. He was wearing an old sweater, with a bandanna around his neck. He spoke in short sentences, bashfully, answering questions in monosyllables. Only on the subject of chess did he display any animation.
     Yes, he was a real New Yorker. He lived there all the time and rarely left the city. He was in his second year in high school. But chess is not his only diversion. He likes to skate and he is a' good skier.
     He learned chess when he was six and began to study it seriously at the age of ten. He quickly and easily memorized combinations, and analyzed the games of the best players.
     He lives with his mother and his sister Joan on the mother's modest earnings as a nurse. The sister is a student in the Brooklyn Medical School. Now Bobby is earning something too, with his tournament prizes, and, although the prizes are not great, they eke out the family income.
     Of the Soviet Union he knows very little. It is true that there is a chapter devoted to Soviet Russia in his geography, but this is not studied. So he asked and asked about our country.
     "Is it true that students get scholarships in your country? Is it really true that it doesn't cost much to go to school?"
     But about one topic he is magnificently well informed, about what goes on in the world of Soviet chess. Our works on chess reach America very tardily, but he manages to keep abreast of the most important happenings, and the best games of the Soviet masters. "You have nineteen grandmasters now, haven't you? I've heard that there are chess sections in the Palace of the Pioneers. Isn't that right?"
     No wonder that in Bobby's own collection of chess books more than half, forty volumes. are Soviet works. He doesn't know Russian, but he has learned to read the alphabet and he can make out notes and analysis.
     "I watch what your grandmasters do," he said. "I know their games and I'd like it a lot to get to play with them _ . ."
     I asked him for his opinion of Reshevsky. He thought .for a moment and showed some signs of hesitation but said quietly, "Reshevsky is an old-fashioned player. He belongs to the past. I've played him several times in off-hand games and always won. But, in the tournament we played a draw, because I made one bad move. I played in too much of a hurry." *
     He asked about chess life in our country and wondered at the answers. "Do you mean they play in the best auditoriums and even on the stage? Are there really so many chess fans in your country? Is it true they broadcast games by radio and television?"
     I asked him what he'd like to see in the Soviet Union. "Of course I want to meet the chessplayers," he said. "I want to see Moscow, Leningrad and, especially, the chess groups in the Palace of the Pioneers. They say there's a [chess] camp in your country, the 'Artek.' If I can, I'd like to spend a week there."
     He told me that I was the first Soviet newspaperman he had met. So he hoped that I would convey his warm greetings to the Soviet players.
     "I like them a lot." he added. "The way they play just suits me. It's sharp, attacking, full of fighting spirit. I sure do want to meet them and play against them."
     Bobby came to see me a number of times in my hotel. I am a weak chessplayer. But he insisted on playing. 1 asked for queen odds ~ and won. The next game he won at odds of the rook. And finally, the third game, in which he also gave me a rook, I managed to draw. "1-1/2 to 1-1/2 we're even and that's odd," I said and wouldn't play any further. He appreciated my little joke and didn't insist. In any case, it was no fun for him to play with a player like me.
     Once, in some embarrassment, Bobby asked whether they wouldn't publish a number of his games in the Soviet Union, with his annotations.
     I told him that I wasn't representing any chess journal, but that I would see what I could do. So, a few days later, he brought me a few games with notes.
     One of them we herewith bring to the attention of the Soviet reader. It is Fischer-Sherwin from the 1957 National Championship. The only point of special interest in the notes comes at White's ninth move.

Fischer   -   Sherwin
1 P-K4        P-QB4
2 N-KB3    P-Q3
3 P-Q4        PxP
4 NxP         N-KB3
5. N-QB3   P-QR3
6. B-QB4   P-K3
7. O-O        P-QN4
8. B-N3      P-N5
9. N-N1
     Bobby comments: "Where should the Knight go to Q,R4 or to QN1? Lipnitsky in his Problems in Contemporary Chess Theory recommends the move given in the game. But it seems to me that after 9 . . . NxP 10 Q-B3, B-N2 11 B-R4+, N-Q2 12 B-B6 (or 12 N-B6, KN-B4), BxB 13 NxB, Q-N3 14 QxN, P-Q4, Black keeps the Pawn with a good game. In case of 9 N~R4, the capture on K4 gives White a strong attack after 10 B-K3."
     Upon this, the editors of Shakmaty v SSSR remark that Bobby has not considered the line: 9 N-N1, NxP 10 Q-B3, B-N2 11 N-Q2 which is recommended by Lipnitsky (pp. 163•7 inclusive in Lipnitsky) .

* The record is fairly well known. Aside from the tournament game mentioned, Bobby won one game from Reshevsky when the latter was giving a blindfold simultaneous exhibition, as both of them confirm. Bob states he made nothing like this remark, nor was the comment in the interview as read back to him in English-Ed.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Correspondence Miniature

Of course I am aware that there is no correlation between server ratings and OTB ratings, but on every site I have played on, players rated around 1800 play a pretty decent game. So imagine my surprise when my opponent in this game, rated over 2100, made a couple of elementary strategic mistakes and lost quickly

Advice on Playing Correspondence Chess

Here’s some general advice on playing correspondence chess whether it is being played by mail or, as is more popular these days, servers. The same general advice applies. This is a condensed version written by US Senior Master Mark Morss; his comments are in blue.

To begin, then, I advise that you carefully read and try to understand the rules under which you are playing. You don't have to be a stickler for the rules, but be aware that some of your opponents may be, and that the TD must be.

Indeed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard players whining because their opponent claimed the game on a timeout. Hey! That’s the rules and you can’t claim they were acting unsportsmanlike if they were playing by the rules. In fact I’d go so far as to say it was the loser who was acting in an unsportsmanlike manner. If I sign up for a tournament that requires so many moves to be made in so many days, guess what? That’s the time limit I expect everybody to abide by and if they don’t and are trying to stretch the time limit beyond what the rules call for, that’s not fair to everybody who is keeping the T/L.

Be courteous and engage in friendly banter with your opponent if he is so disposed. Be charitable if your opponent sends you a remark that you don't appreciate; he was probably not intending to irritate you. If your opponent is obnoxious, don't be obnoxious in return. Just clam up and beat him.

You should be aware that social customs and sense of humor is not the same in all cultures. That said, I have noticed with the advent of the Internet a great increase in the number of genuine, obnoxious snots who are trying to irritate you. I you run into one, don’t answer a fool in his folly.

If you are fairly sure what the right move is, don't spend a lot of time agonizing, but simply play it. Even if you are highly uncertain which move to play, often the best policy is simply to select the move most consistent with basic chess principles and play it.

Analyzing the position for three more days, or thirty, will not increase your understanding of chess. But every game does have its highly critical phases, so save your time for the really important, difficult moves, and then use fully as much time as you need. When you have a move already prepared, don't send it if some new doubt emerges, but keep it and extra day or two and check the position to resolve your doubts.

The old saying, think long, think wrong applies.

Avoid too much reliance on analysis. It is very easy to be drawn down strange, unchesslike pathways if too much of your thinking is of the "if-then" type.

I noticed this phenomenon years ago when reading Thought and Choice in Chess. It seemed as though the lower rated the player was the more indecisive they were and they tended to look at many more moves and in many cases, analyze deeper than masters. The result of all the “if I play here, he plays there” type of thinking was that more often than not they ended up thoroughly confused. Unless there are a lot of forced tactical lines that must be examined, limit your attention to the first 3-4 moves that occur to you and don’t try to analyze more than maybe 3 or 4 moves deep. It’s more important to make a correct evaluation of the position after 3-4 moves than it is to try and calculate 10 moves ahead and be wrong. Also remember that unless the two players are very strong, more often than not they are thinking along completely different lines, thus rendering pags after page of variations useless.

It is important to develop a "chess conscience" that worries you when seductive possibilities violate good chess principles. If you know a strong player who has given you instruction in the principles of chess, try to hear in your head that player's voice commenting on your candidate moves (yes, I have a strong chessfriend whose voice I imagine I hear).

My favorite player is Samuel Reshevsky and I’ve played over many, many of his games. On occasion I’ve asked myself, “What would Reshevsky play?” I’m pretty sure I’m usually wrong, but it still helps me to be objective.

Unless it is demanded by the situation, do not risk defeat by trying to force a win. It is much better to play solid, principled moves, without much immediate purpose, than to play highly purposeful but less solid moves. The duration of a correspondence game is a long, long time to suffer in a bad position, so your main task is to avoid sending a bad move. If you just shift your pieces around and do nothing unprincipled, you'll be amazed how often your opponents will send you bad moves.

This works equally well in OTB chess, too!

Do not play a move because it is beautiful or interesting, but only because it is efficient. The object of this game is to score, whether the full point or the half, and he who is wise strives to score simply.

Avoid style. Avoid Positional Syndrome, the victims of which are dead to all possibilities of sacrifice and attack. Shun too the oppositely hideous Attacker's Dementia and its extreme form, Gambit Psychosis, whose victims believe that they must play gambits or die of boredom. These and many similar, other diseases of the chess mind are typically induced by the unconscious desire to avoid learning anything more about chess.

When your opponent sooner or later errs and you have a won or nearly won game, that is the time to bear down hard and try to find the very best moves. To win a won game is the most important task of chess. Devote more time to your won positions than your lost ones. A mistake in a lost position counts for very little, but you lose a full point if you blunder in a won position, and losing half the point is easier still.

When I have a lost or nearly lost position try to find ways to steer the game into complications. The test of a good move in a bad position is whether it sets the opponent difficult problems, not necessarily whether it saves the game. If there is absolutely no chance of its doing so. When the cause is truly lost and your opponent is strong, it is often best to give up and devote the time instead to your other games.

When, or even if you should resign, is always open to debate. Even former US CC Champions Ed Duliba advocated dragging lost games out as long as possible in an attempt to annoy or frustrate your opponent, thereby hoping they will make a mistake. Personally, it depends on my opponent when I resign. If he is lower rated, I won’t be so quick to resign, but if he is a master, once I see it’s an easy win, I have enough sense to know he can see it too. At that point there’s no point in wasting my time so I’ll congratulate him and resign.

Study of endings, study endings, study endings. Endings are extremely frequent in correspondence chess. At least they are when you get to the higher levels where people don’t make a lot of blunders.It is a serious error to think you can consult an endings reference when the situation comes up. Precisely because endings happen at the end, understanding endings is fundamental to evaluating almost any chess position.

Yes. A few years ago my 1400 rated opponent played very solid chess and we reached a R and P ending where I was having trouble finding as clear winning idea so I traded down to the Lucena Position. That’s when I broke out Basic Chess Endings only to realize I had forgotten that not all similar positions are wins and I had handed him a draw and a bunch of rating points.

At one time, my advice to correspondence players was that they spend a great deal of time preparing an openings repertoire, doing a lot of research in their databases. Now my solution has been simply to jump in and play new systems that interest me, more or less unprepared. Rather than working out answers to difficult questions in advance, I wait until problems come up in play before trying to tackle them.

The very strong correspondence chess player Stephen Ham took issue with my claim that detailed openings preparation is unnecessary. Ham wrote:

I recognize that if one's goal is merely to have fun, then this is OK. Of course rolling the dice to generate moves may be fun for some people too. If however, the goal is to win more games and improve results (which is fun in and of itself!), then I believe one MUST thoroughly research their openings prior to playing serious chess.

If I were to advise somebody who's preparing for opponents all rated at least at the master level, my advice would be: "Know your Openings". If instead, the level of opposition is weaker, this opening study should produce even greater dividends. Yes, one needs to know how to play the middle-game and endings, but all things being equal, an opening advantage conveys a head start in the race to win the game.

Personally I think this is important only at the titled level of CC play. I did a brief survey of my CC games and discovered that against masters and up we usually left the book (actually my 3 million game db) at around moves 10-12. Against lower rated players it was often moves 6 or 8! Thus, knowing the correct plan to adopt was what is really important.

I really don't think that detailed openings study is the best way to make oneself a better chess player. Nor do I agree that such study in necessary in CC.

What is important is understanding the tactical themes, strategic goals and typical formations that arise from your openings. That will carry you a long way.

One needs then to look ahead, reviewing all the games one can find, survey the theory books, and work hard to try to find new ideas for both sides.

Don't be afraid to accept a draw in an equal position! Your thinking time is probably better spent on winning good positions and saving bad ones than on trying to find ways to win an equal one. [so long as equal is understood as "flat." In positions that are equal but dynamic, you should play for the point.]

I might add that as you approach the master level in CC you are going to find players making fewer and fewer gross tactical blunders. What that means is that to successfully compete against them you have to study strategy and endings. By compete I don’t necessarily mean beat them. I’ve played some very strong CC players (I’m talking about in the days before engines when I wasn’t playing Fritz, but real humans) and I expected to lose. But I also expected to let them know they’d been in a fight and were going to have to work for the win. One of my most satisfying games was in an OTB tournament. At the time I was rated ~1700 and in the first round found myself paired against a well-known master. There were a dozen spectators throughout the whole game and we both worked very hard. Of course I ultimately lost but that wasn’t the point. He’d been a few minutes late and came in and sat down without looking at the wall chart so he was unaware of my rating. After the game he asked what it was and when I told him he said, “Are you (expletive deleted) me? I thought it was about 2000.” That was a real ego boost!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why I gave up OTB Chess

Looking back through my games database, this time from 1989, I came across some games that reminded me why I gave up tournament chess. I remembered one particular event quite well even though it was over 20 years ago. I hadn’t played in an OTB event for about 15 years when I decided to play in a small weekender; it was to be my last.

In the first round my opponent was a Soviet master who could not speak English and to this day I’m not sure whatever became of him because after a year or two of playing in local tournaments he just disappeared. After 5 hours play we adjourned a R and P ending. He had been doing what seemed to me a lot of aimless maneuvering and I was pretty confident that I was going to draw. I grabbed a quick fast food lunch and returned to my room and despite my splitting headache, started analyzing the ending. I quickly realized it wasn’t aimless maneuvering he’d been doing. He was pretty subtle about it, but he’d managed to tie down my R and K and I was lost; it was only a matter of time. So I went downstairs and advised the TD I was resigning without resuming play then went back up to my room for a short nap before the start of the second round.

When I showed up for the 2nd round, still with a headache, I discovered I was playing a 2100 rated player who was down from master. We produced a game that at first glance looked pretty interesting and I was going to show it here, but after letting Houdini analyze it I decided it was too embarrassing to show. For those who think 2000-rated players, even including low-rated masters play good games all the time…well, they don’t so take heart when you play one. They are capable of playing pretty badly some times.

I remember at one point near the end of the game thinking for a long time before playing a surprise move…one that I thought might catch him off guard. He in turn thought a long time, looked up, smiled and whispered, “Ya almost got me!” then he played a crusher that left me in a mating net. By this time there was only enough time to gulp down another fast food meal and take something for my headache that was coming back. I was also wishing I had something to correct what the two rushed fast food meals were doing to my stomach. So when I sat down around 8:00 PM to play round 3 against another 2000+ opponent I offered to trade off all the pieces and it was obvious he was pretty agreeable so we played a quick draw. He told me after the game that he hadn’t felt like playing…I understood completely.

Sunday wasn’t so bad. I had time for a leisurely breakfast and felt pretty good. The only thing that concerned me was the weather. They were predicting snow that afternoon. Anyway, rounds 4 and 5 went well as I had fairly easy wins over 1700’s.

The only problem Sunday was driving home in the dark with it snowing like crazy. Nothing had been done to the Interstate, it was slicker than snot, and there were numerous spin outs all the way home. A normal two hour drive had turned into nearly 4 hours. Of course by the time I got home I had another headache. That’s when I decided to stick to correspondence chess…I play when I feel like it and if I don’t feel like, I don’t have to.

Chess Review Magazine

This was billed as “the picture chess magazine” and was far superior to all other US magazines. What made it unique, really, were the photos. In those days there was no Internet and there were only about a hundred Grandmasters in the entire world. You rarely, if ever, actually saw one. In fact you rarely saw an actual master because the US only had 50 or 60 of them in the entire country and most of them lived in New York City of Califormnia. From Wikipedia:

Chess Review (January 1933 to April 1941: The Chess Review) is a U.S. chess magazine that was published from January 1933 until October 1969 (Volume 37 Number 10). Published in New York, it began on a schedule of at least ten issues a year but later became a monthly. Isaac Kashdan was the editor for the first year, with Al Horowitz and Fred Reinfeld as associate editors. After one year Kashdan left and Al Horowitz became editor, a position he retained for the remainder of the magazine's existence. Chess Review was virtually unchallenged as the premier U.S. chess periodical from its start in 1933 until a rival emerged in 1961 after a major revamp of the official United States Chess Federation magazine, Chess Life. The two magazines remained in competition until November 1969 when Horowitz retired and the magazines were merged to become Chess Life & Review.

The cover of the first issue featured a chess problem composed by Otto Wurzburg (1875–1951), a Grand Rapids, Michigan, postal worker. Kashdan was one of the world's premier problem solvers of the 1920s and 1930s. His interest in compositions influenced the magazine for years after he left, and the cover would feature a chess problem every issue until May 1941. Wurzburg served as problem editor and contributed a monthly column. The magazine staff also included art director Bertram Kadish who contributed cartoons and illustrations. An unusual feature of the first issue was a bridge column written by George Reith. Horowitz and Reinfeld were contract bridge devotees, but the column was dropped after three issues.

Horowitz became the editor in 1934 when Kashdan left the magazine. In the same year it became the first chess periodical to be sold on newsstands and leading department stores. For that reason, no June issue was printed and the magazine dated ahead one month.[1] In December 1935 the magazine began to put "The Official Organ of the American Chess Federation" on the cover. The American Chess Federation was a predecessor of the United States Chess Federation (USCF), established in 1939. Reinfeld would temporarily leave in 1936 to concentrate on his book writing. The August-September 1941 issue featured a new column by Reuben Fine, "Game of the Month". (His rival Samuel Reshevsky would not write for the magazine until some years later.) This column and format would later be continued by Max Euwe and Svetozar Gligorić. In the same issue, Irving Chernev started the column "Chess Quiz". Chernev had begun to contribute to the magazine in its first year but this marked the beginning of a larger role.

Jack Collins and Albert Pinkus joined the staff in 1943. In 1944 Chess Review began billing itself "The Picture Chess Magazine." Reinfeld returned to the magazine in 1945 as Executive Editor, and Horowitz and Kenneth Harkness were listed as Editors and Publishers. Hans Kmoch joined in 1948, contributing coverage of international tournaments, chess opening theory, and eulogies of great chess players. Fine retired from chess and his "Game of the Month" column in November 1949. Euwe resurrected the column in 1952. Savielly Tartakower also joined the magazine that year, providing portions of his memoirs at intermittent intervals.

Contributors later included Walter Korn (1953), Arthur Bisguier (1957), and Petar Trifunovic (1963).

From its beginning in 1933, Chess Review had been the leading U.S. chess periodical. In 1961 Frank Brady redesigned Chess Life, the official USCF publication, changing it from a newspaper format to a glossy magazine. The magazines would compete until November 1969 when Horowitz retired and the USCF purchased Chess Review to merge the magazines to form Chess Life & Review.

In conjunction with the magazine, Horowitz also conducted a number of correspondence tournaments in those days. The premier event was the “Golden Knights” which was billed as the US Open Correspondence Championship. It was conducted in three rounds; prelims, semi-finals and finals. I played in many of these events and if you made it to the finals you got a coveted Golden Knight lapel pin! Several years ago I threw out about a half dozen pins that had been corroding in a desk drawer for years.

The great thing about these events was that because of the scarcity of chess tournaments in those days, there were a lot of really strong OTB players participating. I played a couple of games against a former US Championship competitor (lost) and a player who was at the time a US Senior Master and rated in the top ten in CC (won). One incident stands out: In one game against an opponent I’d never heard of I decided to play the Grob Attack (1.g4). Not too long after we started I learned he was a Canadian master and had recently won a province championship. Needless to say the Grob turned out to be a very bad choice against him.

The USCF has carried on the Golden Knight events and a list of winners can be found HERE. BTW the 1958 winner was from my hometown and the correct spelling of his name was Jack Witeczek.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Brilliant but Bad

That’s the only way I can describe my 32nd move. I was positive my active pieces would outweigh my opponent’s Q. They should have if perfectly followed up, but unfortunately I don’t play perfect chess. In the variation on move 47 Black is supposed to have an advantage of about a P and a half. I don’t believe it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Purdy vs. Napolitano

I previously posted a game from the 1st world CC Championship that wasn’t a very good example of CC play at the highest levels. Here is an interesting game by the winner, C.J.S. Purdy against one of the world’s top CC players of the day. It was an interesting game and Purdy describes how he had pages and pages of analysis. Still, despite Purdy’s being an excellent writer with an uncanny knack for explaining chess, and superb analyst, by today’s standards of GM CC play, it wasn’t very well played as any engine can point out numerous improvements for both sides.

Purdy had an OTB IM title as well as a CC GM title. If memory serves, his FIDE rating was only in the low 2200’s, but considering he lived in Australia at a time when he had little opportunity to play in international tournaments, it’s hard to say, but that rating seems quite a bit low.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Using Engines to Improve Your Play

Steve Lopez at Chess Central wrote an excellent three part article describing how to correctly use an engine to actually improve your play. This is an important series of articles. For example, I always use “Full Analysis” mode because I never fully understood the “Blundercheck” feature, but Lopez describes how and why it’s such a valuable tool. And, if you're like me, I have always been content to just plug in a game and let the engine analyze it without paying much attention to the meaning of the results. Lopez explains what it all means.

In his series of three articles Lopez describes all of Fritz’ features and offers advice on their settings. He discusses things like full analysis, calculation time and threshold, graphical and training annotations, referencing databases, etc.

Most important, Lopez tells you how to actually use the engine to pinpoint areas of you play where you need improvement. Areas like, opening play, strategy, tactics and endings. As he points out, there are two major areas to look at here: the how and the where. Are you losing games tactically or positionally? And is this generally happening in the opening, the middlegame, or the endgame? He tells you how to use your engine to answer these questions.

Bottom line: Fritz (or any engine) will not explain theings like middleagme strategy and planning but what it will do is, as Lopez explains, “It all boils down to this: study a lot of your losses and see if any patterns are present. Look for where in the game you're doing badly (opening, middlegame, or endgame) and look for how you're doing badly (the sudden tactical lightning bolt that ruins your day or the slow positional python-like crush that gradually does you in). Play through your old games, follow Fritz' analysis and suggestions, and take careful note of the where and how. This will tell you the area(s) of your game on which you need to concentrate your study.”

Check out his article. HERE

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Grandmaster Puzzle Site

I stumbled on this site where the author gives 3 to 75 “White/Black to play and win” puzzles from what appears to be hundreds of players ranging from Mickey Adams to Vadim Zvjaginsev. He claims that he started solving chess puzzles and his rating rose 400 points. From his introduction: Best puzzles of 2010, 30 opening videos, endgame tactics videos, Interactive puzzles (mates in 2, 3, and 4), Read 50 chess books online. Interesting site...check it out...wtharvey

Saturday, October 2, 2010

World Correspondence Championship

I ran across an interesting site called Total Replay that allows you to replay online correspondence games from the world CC Championships as well as some other  major CC events. A brief history of “modern” CC play:
The Internationaler Fernschachbund (IFSB) was founded in Berlin in 1928 by 4 Germans and a Dutch player and organized about 200 CC tournaments in Europe during the 1930’s. Every year from 1929-38, a Bundesmeisterschaft (German Open) began. Eduard Dyckhoff, Marcel Duchamp and Paul Keres were the best known winners. The IFSB remained neutral towards Nazism and the war began, CC continued, but the main organizers were chess journals.
     The last Bundesmeister was Edmund Adam who, after the war, ran into problems but when it appeared that he had been in a concentration camp, he was allowed to take part in the world championship’s final in 1950. Adam was the winner of the last Bundesmeisterschaft.
     Olaf Barda (1909 – 1971) was the first Norwegian awarded the title of International Master in 1952. He won the Norwegian Championship six times under his birth name, Olaf Olsen. Barda won the Norwegian correspondence chess championships in 1946 and 1949/1950 and received the title of CC Grandmaster in 1953.

     You’ll notice the crosstable shows US Master and early Bobby Fischer mentor, John W. Collins, played but didn’t score too well. The 2nd World CC Championship was won by Soviet GM Ragozin followed by Endzelins and Lothar Schmid.
     There follows a horrible game from the first World CC Championship of 1950 between Barda and Adam. What makes this game interesting is mostly the fact that it’s a 24 move long blunderfest. I can’t imagine such a game being played in an event of this level today what with computers and all.