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Saturday, July 30, 2011

This Sticks In My Craw!

       Why is advice on improving that comes from 1400-1600 rated players always the most popular on forums?  Are these guys qualified to give advice?  I was furious when I read  one post where a strong US Master and in another post where an IM were told to go pound salt by several below average rated players because it was felt these two accomplished masters didn’t know what they were talking about!  Personally, I wouldn’t have the guts to tell a veteran master who was winning tournaments when I was a kid and an IM that they didn’t understand anything about how to improve.  Even though they may be old geezers well past their prime with ratings that have “dis-improved” over the years, they understand the game as well as they ever did even if their results are no longer that great.  I know of at least two GM’s who are barely rated 2200 these days, but they are both well over 70.  In their prime they both defeated world class players.  They haven’t gotten stupid with age.  They know as much about chess as they ever did, but at 70+ years old you just can’t stand the strain of tournament chess and calculate like you did 40 or 50 years ago!  In fact you can’t do anything like you did 40 or 50 years ago.
       I think this is the reason why so many masters I’ve met are reluctant to share what they know.  One chess instructor confessed that most of what he taught his students was worthless and would not help them very much.  Why did he do it?  Because students coming to him had preconceived ideas about what they needed and if he didn’t give it to them, they would simply find another coach.
      It reminds me of the time 20 years ago when I got a letter from someone in town asking me to coach him.  I don’t k now how he got my address, but I turned him down.  First I’m not good enough to actually accept money for coaching, second, I don’t have the patience, third, at the time I was working about a thousand hours a week, fourth I hadn’t played chess for about 10-12 years and finally, he outlined in the letter what he wanted help with.  BTW...if I give any advice in this Blog, it's not mine; it's from qualified players...masters and GM's.  It's real advice, not that crap you see today that's designed for no other reason than to sell books or CD's.  I'm not selling anything.  Well, actually I do have a Google Adsense account associated with this Blog...so far it has accumulated $0.86.

Exciting Houdini News

       The Cruxis Website has some exciting news about the new release (Version 2.0) scheduled for release sometime between September and December 2011.  Besides a number of minor bug fixes, and the ability to adjust its strength from beginner to full strength it will have some features that will aid the serious analyst.       
      Houdini 2.0 will focus on features that improve position analysis. One welcome feature will be the ability to save the complete hash table to a file and reload it later.  This means you can stop the analysis and save it then reload it at a later time and start from the point where you stopped. 
       A "Never Clear Hash" option will also be available. The "Position Learning" mode will automatically save analysis in a “learning database” that will be reused in future analysis.
       Houdini 2.0 will support Chess960(Fischer Random Chess). To speed up solving deep mates, you can fix a limit on the search depth during the mate search.  A Houdini version will be available to support the next generation of CPUs with 16 to 32 cores.
       The developers are not saying how many elo points the improvements will add to its strength, so we will just have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Salvaging a Draw from a Hopeless Position

…or Knowing When NOT to Trust an Engine.  In a recent correspondence game I reached the following position as Black:

It should be fairly obvious that Black is lost.  Houdini suggests that the position favors White by about one Pawn but it is probably won for White with correct play so should be a lot more than one P. However, here I began asking what would happen if you removed the minor pieces?  With just R’s on the board the game is easily won for White because my K is so far away as to be useless. Any elementary endgame book will show that if you remove the minor pieces, Black’s K must be at least on the c-file in order to draw. 
Then I asked what about if the R’s were off the board?  In the diagrammed position, if you remove the R’s the game is a draw. Finally a plan began to emerge: bring the King closer to the P’s and trade R’s at the right time.  Unfortunately the R trade cannot be forced so if White keeps them on the board he will probably win…eventually.  My hope was that in his haste to force the win he would believe the engine evaluations that after the trade of R’s White still has a large advantage…1-1/2 P’s.
In the above position it is obvious that the attacked N must move, but where? 41...Rg1+ 42.Kc2 Ne3+ 43.Kd3 Nd1 does not look too inviting.

My pieces are too scattered and far from the action. So I selected 41…Nb4 and play continued 42.Kc1 Kf7 Moving the K closer to the P’s.

If instead of 42…Kf7 I had played 42...Nd3+ then if 43.Kd2 Nb4 (Both 43...Nxe5? 44.Rxe5 and 43...Rb4? 44.Rxb4 Nxb4 win for White) we have this position:

Black could draw IF the K was on the f-file and it was his turn but it’s not so the position is lost.  Back to the game:

43.Bc3 Nc6 [Not 43...Na2+?? 44.Kb1 Nxc3+ 45.bxc3 wins] 44.Rb6 Ne7 45.Rd6 [45.Kd2 was probably better because it improves the position of his K. 45…Ke8 46.b4 Rg6 and now, not 47.Rxg6 because once again, White keeps winning chances by keeping the R’s on 47…Nxg6 Draw] 45...Rg6! Hoping he takes the bait.

46.Rxg6? He did!  He should have tried something like 46.Re3 and be prepared to slog it out another 50 moves or so, but he trusted his engine. 46...Nxg6

The engines favor White by 1–1/2 P's but that is because, due to their horizon effect, they can't see the draw...it's too far away. The interesting thing is that if White’s K were anywhere on the 2nd rank in the final position he would win. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Donald Byrne vs. James T. Sherwin

In the 1953 Lessing J. Rosenwald Tournament held in New York City the final scores were:
1. Reshevsky 7.5 – 2.5
2. Evans 6.5 -3.5
3. Bisguier 6 – 4
4. D. Byrne 5- 5
5. Sherwin 3 – 7
6. Kramer 2-8

Donald Byrne is a member of the US Chess Hall of Fame


This game was a hard fought draw where Byrne had the better of it all the way, but Sherwin’s bulldog-like defense held and in the end there just wasn’t any way for Byrne to make progress.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Youtube Videos

Alexander Tolush

Alexander Tolush (1 May 1910–3 March 1969) was a Soviet grandmaster and one of Boris Spassky's mentors. As Spassky’s trainer, Tolush is considered to have enhanced Spassky’s attacking play. Tolush earned the title of International Master (IM) in 1950, Grandmaster (GM) in 1953, and International Master of Correspondence Chess (IMC) in 1965.

Tolush won the Leningrad Championship in 1937, 1938, 1946, and 1947 and played in the USSR Championship ten times. His best result was second place (+8=6−3 shared with Aroninand Lipnitsky) behind Keresin 1950. He finished fourth in 1952 (+8=7−4, equal with Boleslavskyand behind Botvinnik, Taimanov, and Geller) and fourth 1957 (+10=6−5 equal with Spassky and behind Tal,Bronstein, and Keres).

His best international result was first place (+10=8−1) at Bucharest 1953, ahead of Petrosian,Smyslov, Boleslavsky, and Spassky. Bucharest 1953 was the first informal foreign tournament, in which several Soviet chess players participated. The marathon lasted from 25 January to 27 February 1953. László Szabó took the lead during the first part of the tournament. The five Soviet players were on top at the end. Tolush gained the title of international grandmaster and his pupil Spassky became international master. In 1968 he was second at Keszthely +7=3−1 behind Portisch.Tolush represented the USSR in two European Team Chess Championship.

Although he never reached the very highest level of chess, Tolush was an imaginative attacking player. He worked as a chess journalist and was a noted trainer whose pupils included Keres and Spassky.

Though he was an outstanding master of  attack, his play was never sound enough for the highest honors.  He became a Soviet national master in 1938, served in the Red Army in WW II, then really blossomed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Old pdf Book of the 1953 Reshevsky vs. Najdorf Match

You can download an old pdf book of the Reshevsky vs. Najdorf match held in Buenos Aires in 1953.  Reshevsky won: +5=9-4. 

The book is 57 pages in Spanish descriptive notation and the games and notes can easily be followed if one is familiar with descriptive notation.  Even if you don’t speak Spanish, the games are interesting and easy to follow.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Free Botvinnik Book

A 110 page pdf book titled Secret Matches: The Unknown Training Games of Mikhail Botvinnik edited by Hanon Russell with selected games annotated and a theoretical section by Jan Timman is available for download from Chess Café. There are 96 games (only 10 are annotated). This book was prepared for release as a small book, but Chess Café never published it so they finally decided to make it available free of charge. Here’s a hint: You can highlight the game and then copy and paste it into you chess program. If it’s an annotated game the notes won’t copy and you will have to fill in the game header yourself, but it’s a good way to play over these great games.  One of the ways Botvinnik prepared for matches and tournaments was to play serious games under actual tournament conditions but the games were kept secret. The games are against Averbakh, Balashov, Flohr, Furman, Kan, Rabinovich, Ragozin and Smyslov.

Youtube Videos

Friday, July 15, 2011

Abe Turner

Fischer and Turner playing in the 57-58 US Championship

       Abe Turner (1924–October 25, 1962) was an American master who, at the time when IM’s and garden variety GM’s were usually rated 2450-2500, had a USCF rating of over 2400, putting him in the “Senior Master” class.  Turner was good enough to be invited to play in several US Championships back when they were round robin events.  Turner was born in New York City and learned how to play chess in 1943 at a naval hospital while recovering from shrapnel wounds he received during World War Two. 
       He was best known for his prowess in blitz chess and had a reputation as a chess hustler.  His style of play consisted mostly of grabbing a pawn and then trading pieces to reach an endgame. He frequented the Chess and Checkers Club of New York in Times Square.  The club was better known as the "flea house" and was a place where anyone could play chess for ten cents an hour.  Fischer also hung out there in his early days and was a “student” of Turner's.
      Turner placed second in the Manhattan Chess Club championship on five occasions but his best performance was probably his fourth place finish in the US Open in 1955.  Shortly after that he tied for first at San Diego with William Lombardy and James T. Sherwin.
      Turner was found stabbed to death in the basement of the building where he had been working for Al Horowitz’ magazine, Chess Review.  He had only been employed there for about three weeks.  Turner, who weighed 280 pounds, had been stabbed nine times and his body had been dragged down a corridor and placed inside a safe where it was found that afternoon by the building superintendent, Miguel Vasquez.
      After the body was discovered, the police arrested a clerk-typist named Theodore Smith who was also employed by Chess Review. According to one version of the story, Smith, who had been recently released from an asylum, said he killed Turner while they were taking an elevator to a basement storeroom because Secret Service agents had told him Turner was a Communist spy and Smith needed to kill him. Smith told police he had thrown the knife away in Central Park but it was never found. Turner had only been off work half an hour before his body was found.

      The other version told by Arthur Bisguier, who was also employed as a writer by Chess Review at the same time, was that Smith killed Turner while they were in the elevator because Turner made a homosexual pass at Smith who then became enraged and killed Turner.  Bisguier said that he knew Smith and liked him, adding that whenever his (Bisguier’s) wife showed up at the Chess Review office, Smith was always very polite and would pull Mrs. Bisguier’s chair out for her to sit on.  Turner, who was 38, never married and lived with his father
       Shortly before his death Turner appeared on a television game show hosted by Johnny Carsen called Who Do You Trust where the interview went like this:

Turner:  If I lost 25 lbs. I could beat anybody in the world.
Carsen: Why would losing 25 lbs. help you win at chess?
Turner: It just would make me mentally alert and give me more vim and vigor.
Carsen: Why not go on a diet?
Turner: I don't eat much anyway.
Carsen: So how do you account for your weight? You're pretty heavy.
Turner: I drink lots of soda pop every day.
Carsen: What do you do to relax?
Turner: I go to the zoo. I like to watch the monkeys. It makes me feel superior to them, puts me at ease.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chess Violence and Crime

You have to check out Bill Wall's list! By the way, I witnessed one of the incidents listed. It was the one where Zuckerman threw a Bishop at a noisy spectator. Zuckerman kept asking the guy, who was really quite annoying, to be quiet and when he wouldn't, Zuckerman threw the Bishop at him.

Lucky Escape

       In a KGD, my opponent managed to work up what appeared to be a strong K-side attack while I was lacking any real chances on the other side of the board.  His play on the K-side was making me nervous despite the fact that the engines were saying his advantage was only minimal.  I had to do something though so made an incursion into his Q-side with my Q, all the while disbelieving the engine output saying I was OK. You know how it is?  Your opponent is massing his pieces against your King and all you’ve got is a lone Q harassing a couple of P’s on the other side of the board.  That just can’t be good. The alarming thing was that the evaluations started out about equal but as we went along, they started drifting more and more towards White and when you see a trend like that, it’s not a good sign. 
       Indeed, by move 35 White was clearly calling the shots and I have no explanation for his 36th move which missed the win.  Still, holding the draw required some analysis because I didn’t totally trust the engines. After all, earlier they had been reassuring me everything was OK despite my doubts.
       What I’m finding in these games is what I already knew.  Against strong players with good positional sense, you can’t totally rely on engine analysis alone. I got lucky…this time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Philippines requests to include chess in Olympic Games

From the FIDE website:

During a visit of the FIDE President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to the Philippines, the Head of the National Olympic Committee (NOC), Mr. Jose Cojuangco Jr., signed an appeal to the Head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Mr. Jacques Rogge, and IOC members, requesting the inclusion of chess in the program of the Olympic Games.  

Ilyumzhinov noted: "We are working towards the goal of including chess in the program of the Olympic Games. Following on from our longstanding consultations with the IOC and its Head, Mr. Jacques Rogge, it has become clear that we have good chances, but we need active support from the national federations and Olympic Committees. We set ourselves, as a priority, an ultimate goal to collect letters, containing such a request, from the NOCs of all 170 FIDE member countries. There is no obvious reason why these letters have not yet appeared; I have made great efforts. I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, Mr. Prospero A. Pichay Jr., and to the President of the Philippines NOC, Mr. Jose Cojuangco Jr., who were the first to respond to our request."

Isn’t there already a chess Olympiad?  Why add it to the Olympics?  Is chess a sport like other Olympic games?  Why not add poker and blackjack? Adding chess would increase exposure and bring in more money.  Ah…there it is…more money.  Not that bringing in money is a bad thing. One fly in the ointment for years that has had players in a snit though is the probability of mandatory drug testing.  I’m not sure how I feel about the whole idea. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wisdom from Fpawn

I was visiting Fpawn’s Blog and reading his post on the recent cheating accusations made against Rybka.  He said something there that left an impression on me that is worth repeating:

For you kids out there, this article does contain one moral to learn and follow: Always cite your sources and give credit where it is due.

Panov - Yudovich, Moscow, 1936

       I was thumbing through an old book by Irving Chernev the other day titled The Russians Play Chess.  The book, originally published in 1947, had 6 games added when it was republished in 1963 making the total games 56.  According to Chernev the criteria for the games were that they had to be reasonably short (averaging only 30 moves per game) and enjoyable with the accent on brilliancy. One of the games I chose to look at with an engine was Panov – Yudovich from Moscow, 1936.  It turned out the game was brilliant only based on Chernev’s notes which left a lot to be desired.  Many of his notes were so inaccurate as to be meaningless. 
       That’s not to say the game wasn’t interesting and it’s a good example of what you would see in a typical game played between journeyman masters.  The fact is most games you see in print aren’t typical and only appear in print because they have something special to offer.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Frustrating Incident on Lechenicher SchachServer

Actually I should say crazy opponent. No, I take that back, he's not crazy.. .just a snot-faced dirtbag.  We reached a K and P ending that had been an obvious draw for 10 moves or so but because he outrated me by 100 points, I thought it was only good etiquette to allow him to offer the draw. When it became apparent he wasn't going to make the offer, I offered one, but he refused. I figured it did not matter because as soon as we reached an ending with lone Kings it would be an automatic draw. Here's the position:

Apparently the system does not recognize this as a draw and my opponent will not accept a one.  What I am tempted to do is 1) Send him a derogatory e-mail and 2) reveal his real name here and on the site forum so that thousands of people will know what a jerk he is.  But, I won’t.  Instead I sent a complaint to the TD. Now I just have to Wait to see what happens.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Nigel Robson

The now defunct IECG World Championship 2006 was won by “IECG Grand Master” Nigel Robson (2682) from England. As of December, 2010 the IECG, which was e-mail only, closed down and everything was transferred to Lechenicher SchachServer where he remains the top rated player. Anatoli Sirota (2561) of Australia finished in the second place. Sirota is the former Ukraine Correspondence Champion and earlier this year came out of a 13 year retirement to play in the Melbourne club championship

As for Robsom, he began playing chess when he was about 5 and discovered he was gifted at the game and at the age of 10 defeated an English IM and played successfully in the upper levels of chess while at school.  After that he pursued a career in finance and had no time to play chess but did problem solving to pass the time while travelling to many parts of the world. He resumed play again in the early 1990's and in 1998 qualified for the final of the British Chess Solving Championship. He began play CC with the IECG in 2000. Here’s an interview with Robson that appeared on the IECG website shortly after he won the championship.

Let us talk about your successes. You won the IECG Cup 2000, you have been at the top of IECG's rating list for a long time, and you are the IECG's second and only active Grandmaster. Now by adding the WC Final at your third attempt, you have completed a list of successes. What are your feelings?

Very happy and satisfied, if a little tired, but perhaps my dominant feeling is one of surprise. When I joined the IECG I was still very rusty after a long break from the game. I felt that over time I could become very competitive again, but if you had told me that I would win these tournaments and achieve my rating I do not think I would have believed you.

The tournament was decided in January when you won against Frank Bendig and Anatoli Sirota drew with Horacio Rocca. But when did you know that the final result would favour you?

I started the tournament very badly with two clerical errors on one of my first visits to the server. It was just my third move against Milan Chovanec and my second against Jaroslav Fiala! I had intended to play a Ruy Lopez and King's Indian and found myself in a Scotch and a Nimzo-Indian! Not disastrous, but a bad day because I felt I could probably do no better than draw either of them. Then Anatoli Sirota claimed three early victories and I felt my chance of winning the tournament had probably gone. But of course it is a long tournament and I gradually made up ground and sometime in the middle of 2008 I became confident that I would score 10.5 points. In the later months of 2008 it was apparent that both Anatoli Sirota and Horacio Rocca could match but not beat that score if they won their remaining games. Then Horacio dropped half a point so I just had to worry about Anatoli, but my win against him had given me a good SB advantage. Certainly before Christmas I realised that whatever the final results of other games, Anatoli would not be able to overcome my SB. Of course I did not know until that last draw in January that I would have a clear lead, and that is much more satisfying than having to rely on the tie-break.

Looking at the tournament crosstable your win against the second placed Anatoli Sirota is easily identified as the most important game. It started as a calm Ruy Lopez and has a nice twin, your game with Dinesh De Silva. Would you like to tell us something about these games?

It was surprising that both Anatoli and Dinesh chose the same rather obscure defence ECO C84 against my Ruy Lopez. I managed to channel both games along the line followed in an earlier 2006 drawn game between Khairullin v Khalifman which I had studied quite carefully. I had two ideas to give white an improvement and I tried them both. 16.Be3 against Anatoli that appears in my commented game and later 17.Qb3 (getting a grip on d5, but not an original idea) against Dinesh. In retrospect I feel 16.Be3 is the better move. Against Dinesh my play was coloured by the fact that he was in very considerable time trouble and my chosen variation was perhaps more demanding of short term accuracy from black than was the case against Anatoli. Dinesh had a number of further brushes with the time control and in the end that allowed me to win quite comfortably.

Which of your other games of this final deserves our special attention and why?

In the 2005 Final I was taught a lesson as black in the English Attack by Sergei Bubir. On that occasion I escaped with a draw, but I was lucky. I was fortunate in being able to pass the same lesson on to John Claridge and Brigiliana Perez and claim two wins. I have to say I enjoy playing against John because he likes aggressive Sicilian setups as I do. The line in question used to be one of my favourites with the black pieces. A Najdorf with 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 Nb6 10.a4 Nc4 11.Bxc4 bxc4 12.g5! (very aggressive and rarely played) ... Nd7 13.f4! I analysed this position in great depth after my game with Sergei and resolved never to play it with black again! Of course f5 is coming and white has enough attacking options that I have been unable to find a satisfactory black response.

Your score with the White pieces is simply brilliant: 6 wins and only one draw! What do you think is the reason - maybe your playing style? How would you describe it?

We have already spoken about my two wins in the same line of Ruy Lopez and two wins in the same line of the Najdorf. To complete the symmetry I had two wins against the Richter-Rauzer attack. The Sicilians are fighting defences often producing complex dynamic positions which suit my natural game with both white and black pieces. As an over the board player I was very strong tactically. I had a limited opening repertoire outside the Sicilian, but relied on introducing complications where I could generally out-calculate my opponents. I find correspondence chess is a much more measured game where the knockout blow is rarely available and I have to discipline myself to be more patient, accumulating small advantages and most important, avoiding mistakes. But I still look for the aggressive move, though from an unnatural conservative mindset - a sort of chess schizophrenia!

You have played the 9th, 10th and 11th WC Final in a row. The 9th and 10th finals were won by players whose ratings at the beginning were clearly below the average of the tournament. The 11th final was dominated by the two most successful players attending. Can you please compare the three tournaments from your point of view? And how did your earlier experiences affect your approach to this tournament?

I found them all very difficult! There is a big step up in standard from the candidate finals. I made the mistake in the 9th WC Final of underestimating the eventual winner Andreas Strangmueller. I grabbed a pawn that I knew was risky, but felt with a 200 point rating advantage I would be alright. Well I deservedly lost the game and the Championship with that one bad move! So lesson one is to treat all your opponents with respect regardless of rating, after all anyone reaching the Final is going to be a strong player. For me the 10th WC Final was characterised by the high number of draws. If we exclude withdrawals only the two leading players scored more than two wins. I had nine draws and nearly all were hopeless draws, by which I mean I never saw a glimpse of a possible winning idea. So lesson two is the obvious one, you have to win six or seven games to have a chance of winning the Title and therefore you need a playing strategy which is geared to that objective. Choice of opening is very important, sufficiently aggressive to give winning opportunities but sufficiently solid to avoid losses. It is a dilemma we all know well.

Following the two previous WC Finals, I realised the need to score more wins, so I took a bit of a gamble in the 11th WC Final, like last years winner Miguel Canovas Pordomingo, and chose the King's Indian as my main defence against 1.d4, and it gave me that extra win against Frank Bendig for my last point. Fortunately none of my opponents took me into the darker corners of the defence which might have exposed my inexperience, though I had a few nervous moments against David Gordh when my knights got in a tangle. Carlos Pappier worried me a lot too, because I know from previous encounters just how talented he is, and he was clearly very comfortable as he raced through the first twenty moves or so at a dizzying pace. I wondered what might be waiting for me but in the end I think Carlos was content with a half point.

In truth there is a lot of luck in winning one of these WC Finals. Several of my opponents played into my strengths when they might have played safe. There were also ninety-one other games over which I had no influence, and if they had turned out differently another challenger might now be the Champion.

What are your chess plans for the future? Are you going to defend your title?

I think three Finals in a row enough for anyone, and for my opponents too who will be spared having to put up with me again! I also believe it is right and fair to let others have a chance at winning this Championship. But I will return to the World Championship (I need to check the qualification rules) subject of course to health, and at my age, the little grey cells continuing to function!

I am presently playing an ICCF WC semi-final. It is only my second ICCF tournament and I am keen to establish an ICCF rating. I expect to be playing again at IECG shortly. As you can see from my photograph I might experiment with 1.d4 - someone has told me it is not such a bad first move!

Thank you very much for this interview!

This interview was made by IECG correspondent Thomas Niessen.

Robson had this to say of his game in which he defeated the runner up: There were no killer moves or deep tactics in this game, just the gradual accumulation of small strategic advantages that is the staple of much correspondence chess. While we were playing this game, unknown to us, another correspondence game was being fought out between Szczepankiewicz and Kozlowski with some similar themes, and can be found in the Chessbase online database. There White controlled the only open a-file but Black avoided b4 and secured a draw through counterplay on the f-file.