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.