Friday, June 24, 2011

Igor Khmelnitsky's Chess Exam in 1 day

So I decided to go through the exam yesterday, and set about creating an excel spreadsheet to keep track of the scores. I didn't initially plan to blaze right through the test, but after completing the spreadsheet I started in, and then kept working the problems. I just finished it about an hour ago. I imagine the best way to do it is work 1 or 2 problems a day until you are done. I don't know how much impact that would have had on my results.

Here is how it went:

last night:
Problems   1-10: 71%   2051
Problems 11-20: 65%   2077
Problems 21-30: 34%   1084
Problems 31-40: 67%   1871
Problems 41-50: 45%   1605
Problems 51-60: 60%   2101

this morning:
Problems 61-70: 43%   1582
Problems 71-80: 56%   1904
Problems 81-90: 32%   1409
Problems 91-100: 50% 1648

Overall: 52% 1647

The different categories sorted by rating:

Openings               2155
Defense                 1834
Standard Positions 1793
Endgame               1726
Tactics                  1711
Strategy                1647
Sacrifice                1616
Attack                   1616
Threats                  1592
Middlegame          1455
Counter-attack      1253
Calculation            1199

The book says more than looking at the ratings you should look at what they are relative to each other. Calculation was definitely a disappointment. Some of that could be attributed to the pace at which I did the test, but it is also a factor of my poor thought process. The openings score is funny. I never study openings, and I think the sample size is very small, like 6 positions, and they mostly have to do with recognizing tactics in the opening. So I don't put much stock in that category being highest. I think the main thing to take away from this is that I need to focus on calculation/visualization work, counter attacking, and middle games.

It would be great if he would continue to publish more of these type of exams. I know that there is the tactics based book, and the book about Fischer, but I am talking about exams that touch many different areas and assess where you need improvement.

Edit: Speaking of more tests, I just found out he has a new website.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Initial Thoughts on New Ideas in Chess

The new algebraic edition of Larry Evans book New Ideas in Chess arrived today. I'm not the biggest fan of chess books from Cardoza, but Evans book is highly thought of so I went ahead and pre-ordered when it first showed up on Amazon.

As far as the content goes, the book seems to be very good. Evans breaks the game down into four basic elements: Time, Space, Force, and Pawn Structure. I believe Yasser Seirawan used the same breakdown later on when he wrote his Winning Chess series. Prior to discussing the elements, Evans takes readers on a walk through the history of the evolution of chess. He tends to use game fragments instead of giving the full game score for the different examples he uses. It is easy enough to look them up in a database, but surprisingly not all the games are in Chessbase, or which was a slight problem.

So far I have just read through the chapter on the evolution of chess, and skimmed through most of the remaining chapters of the book. My only complaint so far is that editing seemed to be lacking in the production of the book. Out of the first 6 diagrams, 2 are screwed up. Diagram 2 is visually screwed up, with the first and last ranks horizontally offset by about half a square. Diagram 6, has the wrong position. Since the book suggests that you work the examples from the diagrams instead of setting them up on a board, it is a problem when you can't be sure the position you are analyzing is correct. The game diagram 6 comes from is Steinitz - Golmayo, Havana 1889 which unfortunately is not is Big Database 2010, or I did find it online, and was able to play through it. Funnily when I played through it I recognized some of the game. It turns out I have played through the game before in Herman Grooten's Chess Strategy for Club Players. I have included the game below.

Once I seriously work through the whole book, and determine if the editing is better in the rest of the book I will decide whether or not it is better to get this edition or track down the Dover edition.

Nigel Davies Blog and other tidbits

Speaking of GM Nigel Davies, I just found his chess blog today.

It looks like he will be discussing lots of different things about improving your chess, so it should definitely be worth reading. As pointed out below I enjoyed his book 10 Great Ways to Get Better at Chess. My only wish was that there had been some more discussion of the 10 topics he covered, but then I'm not really sure what else could have been said as he made his points quite well.

I will be working on coming up with a pre-game ritual as he suggests. Interestingly, Andy Soltis' column in this month's Chess Life touches on that as well as training. I have been playing correspondence chess on the LSS server, but I need to view more as training for otb than I have been. That was my original intent, but I need to keep that as the focus for that work. It is just a method of training.

I also plan to follow his advice of choosing events, in particular the time control you choose. By his algorithm I should not be playing games faster than G/25 in order to improve. Actually G/25 is very fast for improvement and I should be looking to play much longer games, but that is the low end for time controls. No Blitz!!

I have been playing some blitz though against the cpu with it having a Scotch Game book containing lines for:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 e:d4 4.N:d4 and 4..N:d4 , 4..Nge7 , and 4..d5.

This corresponds to the 1st chapter of Vladimir Barsky's book The Scotch Game for White. The format of the book is interesting. It contains a quick repertoire section that gives a quick outline of the line, a step-by-step section that goes into the theory, and a complete game section that gives complete games in the line.

Another key area for improvement that GM Davies covers is improving your fitness level, and to that end I am working on running again, and looking to learn tai-chi.

I still manage to get my daily dose of tactics on, and I have been working through Silman's Endgame Course which is another of the 10 areas that Nigel recommends working on.

10 Great Ways to Get Better at Chess

10 Great Ways to Get Better at Chess (Everyman Chess)10 Great Ways to Get Better at Chess by Nigel Davies

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting book by GM Davies. The vast majority of the book is annotated games. There are 10 sections dealing with different ways for people to improve. In each section in addition to giving some advice, he has a case study and then shows some games from that person where they were having a certain problem, and some games after they had worked on or resolved those issues. Each section then ends with a set of key points about the subject it discussed. The section on pre-game rituals was interesting, as was his discussion of choosing events.

View all my reviews

Edit: I should point out that the goodreads rating system isn't granular enough to do justice to this book (or many other books). I probably should have bumped it up to 4 because of that. I think it is a good book and provides good advice to a player looking to improve.

A couple of recent quick wins on the LSS correspondence server

Here are a couple of games that finished in the last day or so. In the first case, I'm not sure what he calculated when he played 14..Nc7, but he just dropped a piece and had my rook deep into his position. In the second game we went from the 2.c3 Sicilian into a French Advance structure, and he castled right into a nasty attack. The 2 games have gotten me off to quick start in my prelim section, but I am in a crazy King's Gambit game against the top rated player in the section and an exchange Grunfeld against the #2 player. So it will be interesting to see how the rest of the round turns out.

For anyone looking for a place to play correspondence chess, I highly recommend the Lechenicher Schach Server site. It is an outgrowth of one of the older internet correspondence organizations, the Internet Email Chess Group. So it has a lot of history behind it, and it is free. They have no engine events as well as events where engines are allowed. The no engine cups seem to be pretty popular, and new ones are starting all the time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Czech Mate

Where can one find the writings of Mikhail Botvinnik in English? It turns out that a little publisher in the Czech Republic has been publishing a 6 volume series of his games and writings. Moravian Chess Publishing has hired Ken Neat to do the translations. A few years ago I picked up the first three volumes, which were titled Botvinnik's Best Games. This past week on to my surprise there was a book review of a new addition to the series, and in addition to games it contained some of Botvinnik's writings so I of course had to add it to the collection.

The book is fairly expensive through, and I imagine most other places at around $40. It has a sturdy hardback cover though and the binding seems to be pretty nice. The paper quality isn't the best, but it will hopefully be able to survive well due to the cover. The 1st 150 or so pages contains various things Botvinnik has written, while the rest of the book is games played from 1924-1941. They are not all annotated. Also if a game has already appeared in the Best Games volumes, then only a reference to it is given in this volume.

Other than the games, the main things I wanted to see were the article 'My methods of preparing for competitions', and the article 'How does a chess player develop'. The first discusses the methods he perfected in the 1930s for training himself. The latter article discusses a bit about how he ran his famous school. Both articles are fairly short, and I believe the first article was already in the Dover publication of his 100 Best Games.

I can't really comment on the games since the book just arrived today, but it is Botvinnik so it can't be bad.

In addition to the Botvinnik books, it should be pointed out that Moravian Chess Publishing has also published a 2 volume set of Smyslov's Best Games. Both sets of books should provide a diligent student with plenty of important lessons.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Road to Chess Mastery

Another book arrived in the mail today. It is a 1973 hardcover edition of Euwe's The Road to Chess Mastery. It seems to have a similar format to Chess Master vs Chess Amateur and is a highly regarded book. I wonder why Dover never obtained the rights to print this one. The book itself is in pretty good condition especially considering it is at most 2 years younger than myself. It still has dustcover which has a plastic protector, which will help it stay in decent shape.

I am looking forward to working through this collection of games.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recent arrivals for the library

Here are some recent additions to my collection the past few months.

Capablanca's 100 Best Games - Golombek
10 Greatest Ways To Get Better At Chess - Nigel Davies
Complete c3 Sicilian - Sveshnikov
Nunn's Chess Endings vol. 1 & 2 - Nunn
King and Pawn Endings - Fishbein
Pawn Power in Chess (algebraic) - Kmoch
Grandmaster Chess Strategy - Kaufeld & Kern
A Contemporary Approach to the Middlegame - Suetin
Chess Lessons - Popov
Boost Your Chess: Mastery - Yusupov
Chess Duels - Seirawan
Vienna 1922 - Evans
New York 1927 - Alekhine
Rate Your Endgame - Mednis & Crouch

The c3 Sicilian book is a rare thing for me. I tend to avoid buying opening books, but I am very interested in the c3 Sicilian and Sveshnikov's book is highly regarded.

Tactics training pays off

Here is a game that ends with a tactic when my opponent apparently doesn't see the threat involved with his 20th move.

Phaedrus Exercise

Found this training idea online today when looking for more info on Stoyko exercises. A Dutch chess trainer going by the name of Phaedrus likes to do a Stoyko exercise with a position, and then do the following:

Setup the diagram position in Fritz or any other chess engine you have. Fritz has the option to chose a level. For starters chose a level with a fixed depth. Start with 1 ply, or if this is not challenging enough for you, with 3 ply, and try to win the position against Fritz. If you do, move up a level and play out the position with the engine set to 3 ply. Than 5 ply, and so on until you can't beat the machine anymore. As soon as you stop winning, analyze the games. What went wrong, and where. As soon as you think you know how to do it better, try again at the same level. At one time or another, no matter what you do, you will not win anymore. This is the time to stop and move on to another position.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Shades of Saavedra

I have continued to play Guess the Move as I work through Colin Crouch's Modern Chess: Move by Move. In addition to guessing a move to play I list my candidate moves. I set up the pieces on a board, load up the game in Chessbase with it opened to the training tab, and play through the opening 10 or so moves. Then I start to come up with candidate moves, decide on a move to play, and then check it against what was played, sometimes scream in frustration, and then continue on to the next move.

Once I am done with the game, I tally up how many I got correct and enter the data into an excel spreadsheet to keep track of my progress over time to see if my % correct will improve. Once I am done with that, I then play through the game on the board again reading through Crouch's notes from the book, and then play through it a 3rd time from memory as much as possible, checking when I get stumped on a move.

My last 3 games I have had a 48% success rate, so there is definitely room for improvement. The latest game I played through was Svidler - Topalov, from Morelia/Linares 2006. The game is below. It has an interesting position come up where white sacrifices his rook to get a position similar to the Saavedra position, which in this case allows white to promote his pawn to a queen (the original Saavedra position required an underpromotion to a rook). I was happy that I saw the sequence 49.Re5 R:h4+ 50.Kg5 Rh5+ 51.K:g6 R:e5 52.f7 and chose 49.Re5 for my move.

One thing I have noticed in this training is that I have a tendency sometimes to not consider moves as candidates that I had considered as candidates on a previous move. That is something to work on, I should at least consider them again.

As far as other training goes, I am still doing my tactics training on I have slipped a few times and allowed myself to go way over my 10-20 problems a day limit. To the detriment of my rating on there. It usually happens when I am doing poorly, either because I am tired or just having an off day, but I get stubborn and don't want to end on a down note so I keep going. The end result being a 70 point rating drop that I then spend the next few days gaining back. I am hovering around 1800 right now. I have to remember that I should only be doing a small amount unless I am doing it for pure fun. If I am not having fun then just stop and pick it up the next day. Going on tilt doesn't help anything.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another Quote

Another quote from Artur Yusupov that kind of ties in to the quote from Karpov that I posted yesterday.

Artur Jussupow: “In order to learn how to deal with bitter loss, you need to suffer many of them.”

I found this on Susan Polgar's website when sent there by a link for an interview with Yusupov.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Interesting Karpov Quote

I read this today while looking at some posts on self improvement on the chessblogger blog (link on the right side of this page).

“Some chess players, would give up after a loss or two, but a real player would realize that a series of defeats has to be followed by better luck, and wait for his chance”.

Good quote to remember to shake off losses and continue on to your next game. Bronstein has also said many good things with regards to handling losses as well, basically stating that each loss is an opportunity to learn.

I have kept up my daily tactics solving routine. I have been hovering around 1820-1830 on chesstempo, but took a drop today and I am sitting around 1810. I was being too superficial in my analysis and it cost me.

I have finished the section on fixed centers in Kotov's article on pawn formations, so I only have the section on dynamic centers left. I have also finished the section on knights and bishops in Silman's Reassess Your Chess 4th edition, and I  am currently working on the chapter dealing with the interaction of knights and bishops. I have decided to work on calculation by working through Donaldson and Minev's book on Rubinstein using Silman's study regime for calculation given in the 3rd edition of his book. It should really help with organizing my thought process and improving my analysis.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Kasimdzhanov–Kasparov, Linares 2005

This week I have managed to get in my daily tactics workout, and I read through Andrew Soltis’ Studying Chess Made Easy once again to refresh my memory on suggestions for studying. The book should really be titled Studying Chess Efficiently, but that doesn’t have as nice a marketing sound to it as the other.

Last night I worked on identifying threats using a method proposed by Soltis. You play through a game from white side stopping at each black move, and identify any threats being made by black. Once through the game flip the board and do it again, identifying threats being made by white. I was using a issue of TWIC for this and worked through 3 games.

I also decided to work through Crouch’s Modern Chess: Move by Move using Soltis’ recommendations on working through master games. Last night’s game was Kasimdzhanov – Kasparov, Linares 2005. What struck me was Kasparov giving up the exchange for White’s most active piece, and the nice example of exchanging material for the opponent’s king safety. Also exchanging the correct pieces. I imagine a lot of people would have traded off their knight instead of the light squared bishop, but Kasparov wanted to keep the knight because it could attack dark squares.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Some notes from studying

These are some notes I wrote down when reading through some different texts a while back. I am posting them here as a refresher for myself since there was a study break since I had written these down in my training journal.

Dvoretsky on Calculation

I. Technique of move selection and variation calculation

   1. Immediately decide on all possible candidate moves. (each ply)

      - Establish an optimum order in which they should be considered

      - Sometimes we don’t look for candidate moves, but candidate possibilities (concepts in Aagaard’s terms)

   2. What might I have not seen?

       - cast off burden of variations calculated earlier and look at the position with fresh eyes.

       - look for improvements earlier in variations. It is more important and can save time.

       - Don’t hurry into deep calculation. Ask yourself if it is necessary, or if it is possible to find an improvement earlier.

   3. Should you check your calculations?

      - In general, NO!

      - After deciding on candidate moves, do a rapid appraisal – check them superficially. The preliminary conclusions will come in handy in later calculation. Perhaps it will help clarify the order in which to consider them.

   4. Register the results of your calculations, and end the variations with a definite conclusion.

   5. Prophylactic Thinking

      - Often useful to look at the position from p.o.v. of your opponent, what does he want? Try to deny him his ambitions!

   6. What is the drawback of my opponent’s move?

      - If the opponent makes an unexpected, or uncomfortable move, answering this question can help determine how to combat it.

   7. What do I want to achieve?

       - Clarify your aims!

       - Good technique is largely based on concise and accurate tactical play.

II. Principles of rational, economic thinking

   - When thinking about a move, the objective is not to calculate all the variations to the end and obtain an exhaustive impression of the position. You have only one objective: To take the correct decision, to make the best move! Try as far as possible to minimize expenditure of time and energy. Calculate the minimum number of variations needed for taking the correct decision.

  1. With what to begin thinking?

      - Generally, is it advisable to immediately begin considering forcing moves.

      - If you sense that a combinative idea is probably correct, it makes sense to first examine the opponent’s weakest replies.  ***

      - If you suspect a combination does not work immediately concentrate on the best defense.

  2. Emergency Exit

      - After beginning calculation of a complicated combo, if you notice that at some point you can, if you wish, force perpetual check, or go into an equal endgame, go for the combo.

  3. Method of Elimination

      - Often it is not necessary to make an accurate calculation of the intended continuation; it is sufficient merely to satisfy yourself that it makes sense, it cannot be immediately refuted, the remaining moves are all bad and all the same you have nothing better. This can save a mass of time and energy.

      - It is not essential to analyze lengthy and complicated variations ‘to the end’ – it is far more important to check accurately the necessary short variations, endeavoring in doing so to take account of all the significant playing resources for both sides.

  4. Comparison

     - Sometimes you should quickly choose a move, only because you see that the situation arising after it is nowhere worse, and is in some places better, than another possible continuation.

  5. Don’t calculate ultra-complicated variations for too long – in these cases rely on intuition.

     - In which cases does it make sense to spend a lot of time and energy on a move? When you realize that an exact solution may be found to the problem facing you and it will decisively influence the further course of the game. Critical moments!!


Krasenkow on calculation

1. Decide on the aim of calculation

   - The criteria by which we will assess the variations we calculate.

   - Aim should be realistic

2. Search for ideas to achieve the aim. Choose appropriate candidate moves and order their priority.

3. Calculate variations in their order of priority

4. If continuation leading to aim is found. Play on.

5. If not, lower aim or continue new search for candidate moves to achieve aim.


Aagaard on being practical

1. When you have a drawn endgame against a weaker player, doing nothing is often the best policy.

2. Another good tip for beating a weaker player is to exchange a knight for a bishop, or the other way around. Create an imbalance between the armies.

3. Bore your opponent.

4. Don’t exchange pieces yourself, let the opponent do it.

5. Make as many decisions as possible at home (prep).

6. Know where you are going when you sit down at the board. What is your goal?


Aagaard on analysis

- Tisdall (Improve your Chess Now!) and Dvoretsky

- Always end calculation on the move of your opponent.


Aagaard  Exercises/Training

1. Compare pieces

2. Talking exercises

3. Look over should exercises

4. Study the endgame. Ideas and understanding are what is important.


Soltis:  4 Basic kinds of middle game moves

1. Tactical moves

2. Repositioning moves (by far the most common)

3. Exchanging moves

4. Moves that change the pawn structure.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Various Pawn Positions in the Center: Open Center

I’m working through the section on open centers in Kotov’s article on central pawn formations. He has the following to say about open centers:

The attacking side usually tries to conjure up weaknesses in the opponent’s position by piece play and then to attack these vulnerable points. Usually, too, no pawn storms occur, since a pawn weakness in one’s own position becomes risky once the center is open. It must be added  that the offensive should only be carried out when and where the attacker has a clear advantage.

The defense aims at warding off the opponent’s attack, while avoiding as much as possible weaknesses in the pawn position. In the best of these cases the defense itself goes over to the counter-attack, or else exploits the opponent’s excessively bold play to gain a material advantage.


He summarizes at the end of the section:

In positions where the center is open play with the pieces takes place; on the other hand, as a rule, no pawn attacks, since pawn advances expose one’s own King. The attacker tries to create weaknesses in the enemy position and to exploit these to obtain either a mating attack or else decisive material advantage. The defense attempts to ward off the enemy attack and then to go over to the counter-attack. Sometimes one can utilize the attacker’s rashness or foolhardy taking-of-chances to obtain material superiority.


Kotov uses this beautiful game below between Alekhine and Lasker at Zurich 1934 as an example of an attack being successfully carried out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Various Pawn Positions in the Center: Closed Center

Tonight I worked through the first section of Kotov’s article about central pawn formations from the book The Art of the Middle Game. Kotov discusses the different types of pawn centers and the typical plans and responses for those pawn centers.

A closed center is where the opposing pawns are interlocked. Kotov says that play therefore must be sought on the wings.

In positions with a closed center it is usually a question of an advantage on the wings. It is there that an attacker tends to be superior in matters of space, powers of mobility, and numbers of pawns. To utilize this advantage, the attacker must advance these pawns until the lines are opened up and breaches have been made by an assault with the major pieces.

The opponent can in this case organize his defense passively by lying in wait for the adversary’s pawns and preventing his pieces from ensconcing themselves in their positions, even if the lines are opened up. But there also exists another type of game. That consists in quickly organizing a powerful counter-attack on the opposite wing. This counter-thrust completely diverts the opponent’s forces and compels him to suspend his offensive on the other side of the board for a time, short or long.

Sometimes it is necessary to set in motion a counter-attack in the center. With a closed center this happens most often by a piece sacrifice, with the aim of breaking down the pawn position; or else it may be done by blasting it with the aid of one or more pawns. An attacker must be careful to maintain a watch on such counter-thrusts since a counter-attack in the center is the most effective answer to all the blows of a flank attack.

He uses the game Kotov – Spassky, from the USSR Ch 1958 as an example of a counter-thrust in the center. He also uses Janowski – Nimzovich, St. Petersburg 1914 as an example, and Alekhine – Capablanca, AVRO 1938. He summarizes the section with the following:

In positions where the center is closed play must proceed slowly and is always situated on the flanks. The player who is attacked organizes a counter-attack on the other wing and at the same time he constructs special obstructions to impede the oncoming infantry. As quickly as the opportunity allows a counter-attack in the center must be carried out, almost always in conjunction with a sacrifice, so as to get at the enemy King which eventually will be left in the lurch by its own pieces under the pressure of the attack.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tarrasch - Gunsberg, Hamburg Chess Congress 1885

An interesting game I played through this evening. Tarrasch ends up on the losing end of this affair. A nice pawn break by Black with 28..e5