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I’ve moved!

Posted by pablito15 on July 8, 2010

Sad times! I like wordpress but because it doesn’t allow flash/java I can’t post a PGN on the blog, which is annoying. It is equally unfortunate that in moving I’ve hastily chosen the new address:

http://checkmateendsthegame.blogspot.com

So all my internet savvy future opponents can look there for misleading opening information and the array of bizarre gambits that I am not preparing!

Anyway… in the words of the late great Mikhail Tal:

Catch ya on the flip side!

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Book Recommendations:

Posted by pablito15 on June 6, 2010

Some book recommendations🙂 The ratings are in FIDE, so slightly lower them for ACF. And also, as everyone thinks their *real* rating is higher than their actual one, the ratings suggested should be challenging for that level. (In my somewhat informed opinion. Feel free to disagree!)

Two of the "hits" in Pandolfini's often hit and miss literary career! and yes... I'm aware that's not him...

Checkmate:

  • Pandolfini’s Chessercizes: ELO 1600-1900 (48 quite difficult checkmates with short explanations)
  • Pandolfini’s More Chessercizes, Checkmate: ELO 1400-1800 (around 300 mates, no text, some repetitive problems that have become clichés  but a good book all the same- the sheer volume of the mates is the trump and it’s nice for pattern recognition)
  • Vukovic’s Art of Attack: 1600+ (Part IV is 12 pages or so on mating patterns, and this book is generally great to annotate games from)
  • Kotov’s Chess Tactics (Chapter 3 is 50 mating patterns)
  • http://www.ideachess.com/ (22000 checkmates allegedly!)

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Pawn Structure:

Andrew Soltis’ Pawn Structure Chess (1976). 1400-IM. Put bluntly, the best chess book I’ve ever read. Has revolutionised the way I think about chess, the beauty I manage to occasionally see in it and even my opening repertoire. The pawn structures are divided into 10 ‘families’ by opening and he uses entirely games from these openings to illustrate the structures and the typical plans associated with them.

Read this book!

General themes & Principles:

Openings:

  • Lasker, chess strategy 1915. (Yes really.) The only book I’ve come across that explains openings in a way that is reasonable, useful, and broadly illuminating on chess for the 14-1800 player. His explanations on the Chigorin Defense to the Ruy Lopez, and the Classical defense to the King’s Gambit are still used today, and no matter what is looked at it is done in a way that will teach you about structure, the logic of the openings and how we maintain and lose control with pawns in the center. You might not base an entire repertoire on it, but it will provide you with the fundamental understanding of openings that most players skip learning and waste hours with un-aided attempts at memory throughout their careers.

Tactics:

I’ll separate this into ‘pure problem’ books, with diagrams only and no explanations, and ‘understanding type books’ with thematic explanations, opening background and more ‘selected’ problems from various authors.

Problems only:

1300-1500

  • Susan Polgar’s Chess Tactics for Champions (A nice book sorted by theme which I still go over for pattern recognition purposes.)
  • This website: http://www.entertainmentjourney.com/tactics.htm (Which I posted on in a tactics training post not long ago) It can be used as either a beginner tactics course or a pattern recognition resource for anyone up to 2000. The guy who runs it recommends printing them out and going through a set number of them [a quite high number!], and when you can reach that number in 20 minutes he gives what rating he achieved when he could do the same. This is really great for improving your blitz and important in general to drill in simple ideas.)

1400-1700

  • Lou Hays’ Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors (Excellent book of 535 mid strength tactics, perfectly placed to help you make the jump from 1500 to 1800 in tactical strength)
  • Sharpen your chess tactics by Archangelsky & Lein- I can’t give a rating for this one as I’ve just started but it begins with simple patterns and progresses up to #1125!
  • Reinfield’s 1001 Brilliant Chess Sacrifices & Combinations. 1500-2200. Organised by theme and with some quite imaginative combos rather than the mass-reproduced ones you usually find, beware that the problems are not at all sorted by difficulty however, so you may find a 1500 level problem next to a 2100 level one.

Understanding tactics type books:

  • Palatnik & Alburt’s Chess Tactics for the Tournament Player. An excellent book with a long instructive section on each tactical theme and 12 problems after each section. Tough to say what level it would be for- i’ll let the title do that for you! Upper limit would be 1900-2000 though.
  • Neishtadt’s Test your tactical ability. A great book which proposes problems to you, ie. White has left his e4 pawn unguarded, is it safe for black to play Bxe4? It really forces you to calculate in a way that is far closer to how you would in a game, than your average tactics book which is just drilling (sometimes irrelevant) patterns into the mind.
  • Neil McDonald’s Mastering Chess Tactics. Tough to give a rating for this one too, i’ll say 1550-1900, what I can say is that these books give you more ‘hand picked’ and realisitic problems, for example:

From the Queen's Gambit, White to play.

End Game:

  • Lamprecht & Mueller’s Secret of Pawn Endings (1600-GM). A very detailed study of King & Pawn endings, if you are a visual learner this book is far more helpful than Silman’s book in my opinion (see my https://pablito15.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/die-final/ on it). Each chapter has a theme, 20 instructive positions, then 15 tests. The perfect end game book really, even if about 20% of the positions are too difficult for sub 2000 players to consider.
  • Lamprecht & Mueller’s Fundamental Chess Endings (1500-GM) A more concise look at King & Pawn endings as minor piece and rook endings are covered too. The format is the same, with excellent visual aids, instructive positions then tests, however everything is a little less detailed. Perhaps better for a player just beginning to look the end game.

Posted in Book Recommendations | 1 Comment »

Tactics training

Posted by pablito15 on May 29, 2010

You can load up your ICC games file in Fritz and get a list of your blunders very easily!

Thousands of them! Thousands of them lined up waiting for you. The game is won. A scatter of books from Nimzowitzsch, Soltis, Emms rejoyce in your mind as they have brought you safely up to this point…… But.. can you see it? A moment passes… Nimzowitzsch slowly stops his giddy dance Soltis puts away the celebratory crack pipe… they look at each other… “oh no… oh…oh come on! He… oh!!!!!”

That’s how I feel when I look through a tactics book! Thousands of positions where a win is waiting, a forcing combination, and.. after all the hard work has been done…………… can you see it? In a sense all of your chess training: opening, middle game, strategy, pawn structure has been leading up to it. I’m always astounded when I think of books full of readily won positions, page after page of them, and if you took them out of a tactics book I’d probably not even notice anything in half of them…

I’ve gone through 3 distinct stages in my relationship to “tactics”: To begin with, I thought of them as a dirty word. A cheap trick to beat a “poor, undeserving loser“, who was automatically assumed to be the embattled “true chess player” undeservedly beaten by this anomaly in chess- that we can be far worse than our opponent across the board, but if we’re stronger tactically we still can and probably will beat him.

Secondly, I came around to the view that tactics are a beautiful part of chess- “unique, imaginative, inexhaustable and never-ending”, and that as such, we should study as many different problems as we can to work on our imagination and ability to think out (with themes) these tactical brilliancies, rather than with some memory regime that sucks the beauty out of them. I think this view too is a little too utopic for the purposes of learning/gaining a tactical skill.

And finally, the point I am at now, where I believe that most tactical power is founded on a base of recognition rather than imagination. It’s sad to say, but an idealistic view where we’d like to analyse each position and tease out with words what tactical possibilities lie within it is not really going to work. I think it is fair to say that tactical knowledge is not verbal. David Beaumont wrote on ozchess.com.au

“What a lot of improving chess players need to understand is that chess is actually a language. Also it is not one language but two, Calculation and Positional judgement.
The calculative part is often done pictorially with the mind. This denigrates without practice. I have found that verbalising the process actually slows you down here, but helps comprehension.”…

I think this is true, and as such I’m basing my study of tactics far more on developing a base recognition of certain patterns than I once was. Whilst it is always very useful to keep account of a position verbally (“Ok the pawn is now pinned and the Knight is running out of squares…”), usually when we see a tactic what clicks is not verbal, it is something found in the very word we use to describe it- combinational.

From a recent ICC game: Fritz's "Blunder Check" option

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Some Tactical resources:

(1) http://www.entertainmentjourney.com/tactics.htm

White to play

Black to play

A great site for elementary pattern recognition combinations. This is a site with positions that could be considered as elementary tactics, however it is much more than that too. The site progresses, showing you the basic forms of mating/capturing patterns in the first 3-600 problems, and then moves on to use those patterns in more difficult situations. Used in conjunction with a more difficult book, this is a GREAT resource to help ground your tactical ability (even for a 1700+ player). I also find the way he’s organised the problems very clever and great for memory.

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(2) “The Encyclopedia of Opening Blunders!” (ELO 1400-2100)

Similar to CT-Art, "The Encyclopedia of Opening Blunders" can be a nice change.

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Method & Results

My method basically revolves around diversifying how I study. This week I’ve been using Neil McDonald’s Mastering Chess Tactics (1700-1900 ELO, a long-explanation book using games and words) chapter 9 on Skewers. I’ve taken Susan Polgar’s (ELO 1400) tactics book sorted by theme and gone through the Skewers section, I’ve done some of the simple assorted problems from the link I gave above, and I’ve also done my weekly quota of Pandolfini’s Chessercizes, Checkmate. I hope that all these things combined compliment each other and I keep on seeing the patterns popping up. Next week, I might use another book with far more difficult unsorted problems.

There are so many questions on “how to best study tactics”:

  • Should you be like a weightlifter- lifting the heaviest weights he can in order to improve, or should you be focussed on simple patterns and drilling them in? After all, the end goal is too see the most difficult tactics we can.

Is just one. I’m of the opinion that we can only ever really approximate how we best learn in chess and therefore that diversifying our methods is the best bet.

  • I study 105 tactical problems a week
  • When my error count reaches 105, I go back and the next week’s study is the 105 errors I’ve made
  • Occasionally, like this week with skewers, I will devote a week to the study of a ‘problem’ theme.
  • When I don’t feel like doing tough problems I do 20 minutes from http://www.entertainmentjourney.com/tactics.htm to reinforce fundamental patterns.
  • I use Pandolfini’s “More Chessercizes, Checkmate” and “Chessercizes” to focus on mating patterns which so often reappear in tactical threats.
  • I do a mix of elementary, easy, difficult, theme based, verbal and non-verbal problems.

My rating is now around 1700 on the ICC which is not bad, as I’ve been so busy in the last 6 weeks I’ve only been able to keep up with the tactical part of my schedule.

In conclusion,

  1. learn the base patterns of combinations and mates, from there, diversify what and how you study.
  2. Set yourself a weekly goal for problems completed. The goal should be X number of the highest difficulty problems you can reasonably do. For me on a scale of 1-7 this is level 3, so I have a goal of 105 “level 3” tactics per week. This way, if I’m feeling tired or out of time, I can use some easier level problems to reach my goal.
  3. Keep a log of your errors and go back over them.

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Post Script! A comment from IM David Pruess on learning tactical patterns:

…when i give players in the 1000-1800 range advice on improving their tactics, viz: 10-15 min per day of solving simple tactical puzzles. the goal is to increase your store of basic patterns, not to work on your visualization, deep calculation. remember that is your goal. you are not trying to prove that you can solve every problem. if you don’t solve a problem within 1 minute, stop. it’s probably a new pattern or you would have gotten it by now. (with private students i’ll take the time to demonstrate this to them: show them through examples that they can find a 3-4 move problem in 10 seconds if they know the pattern, and that they can fail to find a mate in 2 for 10 minutes if they don’t know the pattern). look at the answer, and now go over the answer 3 more times in your head to help the pattern take hold. your brain can probably take on 2-3 new patterns between sleeping, so you should stop once you’ve been stumped by 2 or 3 problems (usually will take about 10-15 min). there is no point in doing more than that in one day. and any day you miss, you can’t make up for. a semi-random estimate on my part is that you need about 2000 of these patterns to become a master. so you need to do this for 2 years or more.

You can find his writing at the Novice Nook, Chesscafe.com where he gives a lot of suggestions for the improving player, and make your own judgements. Personally i’m 50/50 on the guy due to some questionable book suggestions.

Posted in Part 4: Tactics, Attack & Combination. | 3 Comments »

The Program in full:

Posted by pablito15 on April 15, 2010

Hey there!! Before going specifically into parts of our study, I thought I’d put up our “program” in full. For anyone interested in structured study, I think we have a couple of nice ideas.  The picture below is the central hub of our study, a shared gmail spreadsheet, which we can both access, view and update through our email accounts- a great innovation!

On this shared spreadsheet, we detail everything from our progress with shared texts, to our tactical studies (which you can see above- I’ve crunched it together to make it fit on the page), to a page dedicated to ICC games we play. But you’ll see all that later on in picture form (if you choose to read on!!)

  • Page 1: Tactics etc : As you can see this is just a record of tactical problems attempted & completed. The week highlighted in green is “errors week”- I’ve set myself a reasonable goal of 105 tactics a week, and once the error count reads 105 I go back and that week’s study is all the previous errors I made.

Perhaps the most useful sheet is sheet #6, where we’ve created a detailed record of any games we play on the ICC or over-the-board (OTB). I did this in an attempt to start making the time I spent playing games online not just mindless time-filling:

As you can see, I’ve tried to get an idea of the specific (ie. A poor response to an inaccuracy in the Lopez) and the general (type of tactics i’m missing [so… many… skewers…] / type of games i’m losing). This has been fantastic- before this spreadsheet the time I spent playing games on the ICC was largely “relaxing time” – games I wouldn’t take seriously that usually blew out into an hour of “chess” I’d gain nothing from- it would be better called “filling in time” than “relaxing”. In any case- after starting this sheet I have a clear record of what type of positions I’m playing comfortably against, any specific opening inaccuracies I failed to exploit or made (ie. on row 8,  I played black and lost to “Kingsryche” where white made the common mistake 12. d5 against the Keres variation of the Lopez- which I knew was a mistake, but responded with the incorrect 12. f5?! This is now noted and I’ve made a “to-do” to go back and annotate Fischer-Keres 1962 0-1) I’ve been able to notice the recurrence of specific tactical mistakes, like skewers, and also the good effects of playing positions I’ve annotated deeply, which has lead to wins against players rated 1800-2000. All in all, the biggest positive in this is that it’s helped me take something from my online games, and greatly improved my concentration & calculation effort online, which I have always had problems taking seriously. I will use this sheet a great deal before playing tournaments this year.

Next up, (my) schedule itself. At the moment(January-July 2010) I have a lot of time for chess, so I can devote about 14 hours a week to study. That may sound a lot or a little to you (depending on how much time you waste playing blitz!), personally I am overseas at the moment, single & working part-time. Also being away from family and the raucous scenes of Melbourne gives a little more space. The schedule is no different from any other, apart from two things:

  1. Each month, we have a “focus area”, represented by the coloured ranks in our weekly plan, which we vary from month to month. The idea of this is not to “cast the net” so wide that we don’t really take in anything, and to make use of our mind’s love of repetition and really focus on a topic per month (without neglecting the rest of the schedule and letting it waste away). Repetition is a bad word, what we’re really looking for is to go through the same themes with many different teachers & books, from many different angles and in many different shades of light! I believe repetition and memory have a place in chess, but a far smaller one than most give it- all this Michael De La Maza tactical repetition nonsense gives you some false ideas about chess training- repetition should just be one tiny technique you use occasionally in a tapestry of learning. Anyway- more on that later.
  2. The other idea is I’ve picked two interlinking end game texts and placed the corresponding chapters within 48 hours of one another (Bernd Rosen’s “Chess end game training” & Lamprecht & Mueller’s “Secret of pawn endings/Fundamental Chess endings” which are basically brother-sister books; the Rosen just provides examples on the same themes). “They” say, “study something once, look at it again within 24-48 hours, then once again within a week and it’s yours forever,” well.. I’m taking the first half of that advice.

This month, the theme (chosen by me) is combination & tactics, so on Tuesday/Wednesday the variable session we’re giving to Pandolfini’s Chessercizes Checkmate- basically a book on mating patterns from 2-7 moves. This will naturally overlap with some of our normal study of tactics, and the message will hopefully repeat and sink in. Next month the focus is annotation, we’ll be looking at 4 games we picked (I picked Keres V Kotov from Vukovic’s Art of Attack, & Tal Botvinnik from Tal’s 1960 book on their  match): first we’ll annotate them by hand, then go through the book, then with fritz.

Wednesday night fixed opening series V Andreas

I had to chop this one down a bit! This is a page on our hugely useful Wednesday night fixed opening series. It’s amazing how beneficial playing several fixed opening games against the same opponent can be, you both get an idea of each other’s style, strengths and weaknesses and help motivate each other to study certain strategies (strategies -not openings! Never ever openings…). We alternate picking the opening every week, for week 7 I’ve chosen the classical Sicilian, which I know very little about as a GP Attack player, so i’ll use the Monday “annotation” time to go through some middle game books looking at Sicilian games. The graphs I don’t waste too much time with (there is another one with a small pie chart- a breakdown of exactly what type of tactical blunders/opportunities we are missing [double attacks & skewers, by the way;]), but when i’m annotating the games I quickly update this graph occasionally- not every week. It does give some useful infromation though; in all of the last 5 weeks I’ve given away a pawn for free, which really makes me think I need to develop some sort of “thinking process” I go through before every move.

The categories of errors include: Structural, Calculation, Opening, End Game, “Misunderstanding of Position”, Missing counter-play, Removing an active piece needlessly, Ignoring development too much, Missing a simplification, Missing a stronger move, Dropping a pawn & “Mistakes of tempo”.

As I said, I don’t waste too much time with this, but I find the process of monitoring your training, results and progress not only helpful but fun too. It’s rewarding to have a log of the training you’ve done and some nice colours as it stacks up.

The other categories include scores from tests we’ve taken (ie. these “bratko-kopec” tactics tests), which we’ll repeat in a few months and look for any improvements, a section for the exercise based end-game training we’re doing, Andreas’ sections on his games which are cool (but i’ll leave them for his blog!) and a small sheet just saying what page # we’re up to in the books we’re studying.

Questions?!

Posted in Details on the Program | Leave a Comment »

The End Game!

Posted by pablito15 on April 5, 2010

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Won’t help with your End Game……

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Might help with your end game...

Lamprecht & Mueller?

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Might help with your End Game…..

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Definitely WILL help with

your end game!

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Why study the end game at 1600 level? At the club I play at, being 1600 often means not getting to an end game. I think this question is a valid one, and it uncovers an unfortunate truth about club chess: most players, to survive their opening 20 games at club level, and maintain their morale/enthusiasm for chess, will have to study openings. If I didn’t, i’m certain that all of my first 15 games would have been effectively over in under 20 moves. Also, it must be said that thanks to “opening study” I took a great deal of joy and motivation from playing out challenging games with 2000+ players. In any case, thanks to this study, I ended up winning 2 of my first 14 club games. My lack of understanding of simple middle/ending/tactical concepts ensured that I had few reference points/help to remember much of the theory I studied back then, and the loudest voice in me tells me that this time in my chess development, studying openings before I was ready to, actually hurt my chess as I stopped calculating. I found myself leaving entire pieces unprotected in rapid games and yes, I actually got worse.

I know now that all of the opening study I did at the beginning of my reintegration into tournament chess in 2007, did almost nothing for my game. I no longer play the same openings, I have never encountered any of the tactical tricks I learnt in the Scotch (in Blitz, tournament, allegro, blindfold, internet, simultaneous, or chess-boxing matches). If I could go back in time I would happily be crushed in my first 15 games of club chess, but have studied something that would now form part of my chess makeup, rather than the wasted hours of opening study that, yes, won me TWO of my first 14 club games, but now is just dead skin I’ve shed and I’m starting from the beginning all over again. So my advice, if you have thick enough skin for it, is to lose your first 15 club games, but don’t waste time studying openings before you can understand them. It will take you about 1/50th of the time to learn opening theory after you understand pawn structure, than it would have before that, and what’s more you’ll be more effective at understanding/taking in what you’re studying.

So in that spirit I present to you chapter IV of Karsten Mueller & Frank Lamprecht’s Secrets of Pawn Endings: the best end game book I’ve studied. I am of the opinion that it is much clearer than Silman’s complete end game course, and that the concepts are drilled in with visual/spatial aids rather than the lingual process that Silman uses. In general, my confidence, and ability to retain material reguardless of not playing hundreds of end games is incomparable after looking through Lamprecht & Mueller. If you are a visual rather than a lingual learner, I can guarantee this is the book for you.

I’m doing one chapter of end game study per week, this week you can find my study online as follows. These are the 17 “learning positions” given before the 14 tests/exercises at the end of the chapter. I believe there is something in here for every player (I don’t believe anyone is so strong that they can look at 4.04 and tell me all the corresponding squares without thinking), it is the first “non-beginner” chapter in my opinion, where the key concept of corresponding squares is introduced.

You can find a very quick glance at elementary “blocked pawn” rules as an appendix at the very bottom if you need it, I won’t include it in the main body though.

4.01: + / -

– 4.01: White is not concerned with Queening the the g-pawn, he has on his mind 6 (or 7) crucial squares. Two banks of 3 squares (and b7 is also important) They are: c5, d5 & e5. If he can stand on any of these squares he has won the black b5 pawn. And the other bank of 3 squares he is focussed on is a6, b6 & c6. Once he captures the b5 pawn, he must be able to advance to one of his b4 pawn’s critical squares, the only way black can stop him doing so is if he can move onto the b7 square the move after white takes the b5 pawn, when he holds the opposition and the game is drawn.

White wins simply by immidiately abandonning the g-pawn with 1. Kf2, Kh3, 2. Ke3, Kxg3, 3. Kd4, Kf4, 4. Kc5, Ke5, 5. Kxb5, Kd6 when he steps on to either the winning a6 or b6 square.

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4.02: = / -

– A position to remember. L & M always start with these key positions that you have to keep in mind as the fundamentals in more difficult situations.

White to play draws: 1. Kf3!? Kd4, 2. Kf4, Kxc4, 3. e5, Kb3!, 4. e6, c4, 5. e7, c3, 6. e8=Q, c2. Draw. Black draws using the stalemating trick unique to c & f-pawns. Once again, if you don’t know it, it’s tough to go on learning more advanced concepts that depend on it.

Black to play loses, & we learn that e3 & e6 are what we call corresponding squares: meaning, when the white King is on e3 the black King must be on “it’s corresponding square” e6 so as to be able to restrict all the critical squares available from white.

1. Ke6, Kf4, 2. Kf6, e5+, 3. Ke6, Ke4! (repeating the won position for white) 4. Ke7, Kd5! 1-0

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4.03: = / +

– White to move miraculously holds this position. This is a case because the white g2 pawn controls one of the three critical squares or the e5 pawn.

1. Kc3! Ke4, 2. Kd2! Kd4 (taking the opposition, but it doesn’t matter) 3. Ke2! Kc3 (e4? here just makes it easy for white, with one move he plays Kd2 and gains the opposition and a simple draw) 4. Ke1! (Ke3 is also possible but this move is more instructive) e4, 5. Ke2, Kc2, 6. Ke2, e4!? 7. Ke1!! (Question #2: Why does Ke3 lose?) Kd3, 8. Kd1, Ke3, 9. Ke1, And black cannot advance. We saw here the importance of keeping one’s mind focussed on the critical squares, even when the opportunity of winning a past pawn is offered, these squares are the most important thing:)

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4.04: + / - an introduction to "corresponding squares"

– This chapter introduces the concept of corresponding squares, the first topic I consider “non-beginner” that i’m looking at.

– Corresponding squares are, as the name suggests, squares that are linked to each other: the defending side must occupy a/the corresponding square relative to the square that it’s white counterpart is on, at the right time, to “be drawing” as they say.

-To work out what the corresponding squares are, we first need to understand what the key & critical squares are. Critical squares are: c5, d5, e5- the three adjacent squares to the blocked opponent’s pawn. As before, b7 is a crucial square protecting the critical a6/b6/c6 squares. But more importantly, to make any of that matter, we must recognise that e2, e3 & obviously d4 are key squares in this position. Why? (1) From e2 black cannot maintain the opposition from e4, (2) From e3, even if the black King stands in opposition, white can push d4+, when the only way black has of protecting the b5 pawn’s critical squares is by playing Kd5, whereupon white plays Kd3!! Giving us the fundamental winning position with black to move from 4.02. So! Now that we understand why e2/e3/d4 are critical squares, we need to examine the corresponding squares black needs to be on when the white king is on: d2 (threatening Ke3 & Ke2), c3 (threatening Kd4/Kd2), with the king on b3, b2 and so on. This notion is absolutely critical and the first advanced end game technique you’ll need to learn. It’s not immediately evident how it works which is why you might need to repeat, or write a blog about it, like me!

The white King on d2: On d2, the white King threatens to get to the key squares e2 & e3. We know black loses if white steps on these squares for the reasons mentioned above, so black must stand on a square that prevents the white King from doing so. Can you see the only square from which black can stop Ke2/Ke3 from? Exactly… Kf3- which makes Kd2 & Kf3 corresponding squares. For the rest of the game, it will be white’s goal to manouver, triangulate and do whatever he can to get black off these drawing corresponding squares.

The white King on c3: On c3 the white King is threatening Kd4 & Kd2. If the black King is on d5 or e5 he draws by counter attacking the b4 pawn if white tries to go from c3 to e2, but in terms of pure restriction of white from getting to his key squares, there’s only one square he can do it from (the answer’s in white after the brackets!): e3!

The white King on c2: On c2 the white King is threatening c3 & d2, the only square black can defend both these threats from is: f4! Did you get the corresponding square? If not suicide immediately. What about the black King on f2? This works… on one level… After 1. Kd2 black can repeat the initial position with Kf3, and he can reply to Kc3 with the crucial Ke3. But what’s the problem? He’s stepped out of the square of the passed pawn: d4! looks pretty tough to match!?

The white King on b3: On b3, the white King threatens Kc3 & Kc2. Now it starts to get difficult. On f4 black can effectively meet 1. Kc3 with Ke3! But, he cannot meet Kc2 in any way that will protect e2 from f4: 1. Kc2! Ke3? Kc3! 1-0, or: 1. Kc2, Kf3, 2. Kd2! and with the move Black is in Zugzwang and has lost control of e2: 1-0. The only square black can stop the King on b3 from is: f3!!! Where he meets Kc3 with Ke3, and Kc2 with Kf4. Well done if you got that one, it’s getting difficult.

The white King on b2: Threatening c3 & c2. As the King’s get further away it becomes more and more difficult to calculate the corresponding squares, on b2 I don’t believe there is any corresponding defensive square for black. From f4, black responds well to Kc3 but not to Kc2, with: 1. Kc2, Ke3?, 2. Kd3! 1-0, or, 1. Kc2, Kf3, 2. Kd2! 1-0. Even from d4 black fails to 1. Kc2, Ke3, 2. Kc3!

White wins with: 1. Kc2, Kf4!, 2. Kb3?! Kf3!, 3. Kb2! Kf4, 4. Kc2! Ke5, and now another crucial move: 5. Kd1!! (5. Kd2??, Kd4 1/2:12)  (5. Kc3?? Kd5, 6. d4, Ke4! 1/2:1/2) Kd4, 6. Kd2!, Ke5!?, 7. Ke3, Kd5, 8. d4!, Kc4, 9. Ke4!, Kxb4, 10. d5!, Kc5, 11. Ke5!, b4, 12. d6!, b3, 13. d7!, b2, 14. d8=Q!, b8=Q. And white wins with: Qc8+!

The purpose of all this was to introduce the concept of corresponding squares, which L & M go deeper into with Chapter 12. This concept is explained clearly enough for a dimwitted chessman like myself to understand, therefore, these people are genius’.

4.05: + / -

White to play: cannot win on the King side, as black just maintains the opposition. He has to, as if so often the case, use the innaccessible b5 square to win the key squares from black.

The critical squares are: e4/f4/g4 (for the d4 pawn), b6/c6/d6 (for the c-pawn) and a crucial square is d6: If we decide to give up the c-pawn for a ‘won’ King/Pawn VS King ending, can black step onto it the moment after we take the d4 pawn?

1. Ke2, Ke5, 2. Kd2 (Kf3?, Kf5 = ) Kd6, 3. Kc2, Kc5, 4. Kb3, Kc5, 5. Ka4, Kc6, 6. Kb4, Kb6, 7. c5+, Kc6, 8. Kc4, 1-0. We don’t need to give up that c-pawn after all, due to winning the opposition on the QS using c5.

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4.06: + / - Two things to keep in mind for black.

– Black has to not only keep the white King from the marked critical squares, but he also has to remember to stay in the square of the passed pawn while doing it! In this position it is too hard for black as “the square” of the passed pawn is too tight with it so close to Queening. White wins easily with: 1. Kf3, because: black cannot defend both the critical squares with Kf5 and stay within the square of the pawn.

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4.07: = / =

– With the position moved 1 square back, it becomes infinitely more interesting. Black has enough scope to defend the critical squares and stay within reach of the passed b-pawn. The variation: 1. Kd2, Kd6!, 2. Ke3, Ke5! 3. Kf3, Kf5! 4. Kg3!? Ke5! (Kg4?? b5! 1-0) 5. Kg4, Ke4! 6. Kg5 Ke5! 7. Kg6, Ke6! and white cannot win the opposition.

– What if white tries to go around the QS? 1. Kb2, Kb6, 2. Ka3, Kb5! And now white could take the diagonal opposition, but the chess board doesn’t have enough files for him this time!

– With black to move, white has “the opposition”, so black has to use the unoccupiable d3 square to win it back. 1. Kd5!, Kd2, 2.Kd6! Ke3! 3. Ke5!

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4.08: = / -

– They move on to discuss backward pawns. The problem for black here is that he must not only keep to the corresponding squares to keep white off the critical squares, but as the pawn is close to Queening, he must keep the c5 pawn sac in mind too, and be in range of the b-pawn. White wins easily with black to move with: 1. Ke6, c5! However white to move, he can’t progress as black can just keep the distant opposition/corresponding squares.

If the pawns were 1 square forward, white could win by drawing the black king away from the pawns and pushing the c-pawn.

One can see an analagous position on the h & g-files in this chapter, between Steinitz & Lasker, a drawn world championship match.

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4.09: Timman V Yusupov 1994: = / -

– White to move draws by maintaining the distant opposition. Often there are too many obstacles in the way to maintain a direct opposition.

Timman drew by: 1. Kg2, Kg7, 2. Kg1, Kf7, 3. Kf1, Ke6, 4. Ke2, Kd5, 5. Kd2 (cheeky, using the protected d4 square) Kd6, 6. Kd1, Kc6, 7. Kc2, Kc5, 8. Kc1 1/2: 1/2

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4.10: + / -

– Ah! Now you’re giving me some information I can use L & M! The positions are starting to feel like end games I may actually see in the future!

– Here, it is crucial to remember one thing to avoid a very red face. Kc4?? is met by: d5+ 1/2:1/2

– In this case white wins regardless of who is to move, in cases like these he can usually use the spare tempo offered by his ability to move the pawn to gain the opposition & win the critical squares of the d6 pawn. For example:

1. Kc3! Kd7, 2. Kb4, Kc7, 3. Ka5!, Kc6, 4. Ka6 (white can also win with d5+) , Kc7, 5. Kb5, Kb7, 6. d5! (wasting a tempo) Kc7, 7. Ka6. 1-0

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4.11: + / -

– My instant thought when I saw this was “ah!! g4! Giving me a position I know from the last diagram.”

g4?? of course throws away the win immediately due to the position of the King. 1. g4?? f4+!, 2. gxf4, Kf6! 3. Kf3, Kxf5 1/2:1/2

– White wins simply by wrestling the opposition from black using the spare tempi. He can be fancy and play 1. Kd4, allowing Kf5, but why not simply play Kf3 and find a familiar position we know how to win with: 1. Kf3, Kf5, 2. g4+, or, 1. Kf3, f5, 2. Ke3 and so on, eventually using the tempo g2-g3 to win the opposition.

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I’ve told a lie! After 1. Kf3 black can draw I believe- will fix that shortly!

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4.12: + / =

– Passed pawn on an open file. White wins easily enough by making his way to d4. Black to play on the other hand, makes use of the proximity of white’s two pawns: 1. Kf3!, Ke1, 2. e3!!, fxe3, Kxe3. 1/2:1/2

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4.13: = / =

– Lamprecht & Mueller finish the chapter with a study of split pawns.

– Black holds the position by thinking ahead and making a couple of accurate moves:

1. Kc3, Kd4, 2. Kd3, Kc6!! 3. Ke4, Kd6!, 4. d5, exd5+, 5. Kf5, d4!, 6. Ke4, Ke6, 7. Kxd4, Kf5. 1/2:1/2

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4.14: = / -

– Funnily enough, black has to worry about e8, and not letting the white King penetrate and push him away from the defense of his own pawn. Black to move:

1. Kd5?, Ke7, 2. Kxd4, Kxe6. 1-0

1. Kd7? Kf7!, 2. Kd6, Ke8, 3. Kc4, Kd7!. 1-0

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4.15: = / =

– Doubled pawns are tougher to win with, but there are two main winning ideas that should be kept in mind. The first, is that white usually has a spare tempo: in the position on the left, if white were to play 1. f4, he would ensure that he could play f2-f3 any time he liked to waste a move and win the opposition.

– The critical squares are different with doubled pawns: the doubled pawns take away critical squares from the black king. the critical squares of white’s f3 pawn would normally be e3, d3, c3, however given that the f-pawn control one of these critical squares I think we can say that there are no critical squares for the f3 pawn.

1. f4 (white gives himself the option to waste a tempo, but also introduces 3 new critical squares for the f4 pawn). White must now guard the 3 critical squares of the f-pawn. If it were white to move again after f4, he would lose the f-pawn by force (Ke3, Kc4!, Kf3, Kd4!, Kg3, Ke4! f3+, Ke3 – and the f-pawn falls). In any case- on with the game:

1. f4, Kc5! and now, as we have seen, allowing black to capture the c4 square loses the f4 pawn reguardless of the f2-f3 tempo , so white is simply forced to play Kc3, Kd5, and again, white is forced to play Kd3. So f4 doesn’t work, what about relying on the other idea- keeping the pawns close and taking the critical squares from the black king.

1. Ke3, (Now, a move like Ke6?? trying to take back the opposition after 2. Kd4, Kd6, obviously loses to f4, wasting a move and winning control of critical squares. Black has only one possibility:) Ke5. Playing Kd3 achieves nothing, as white can just repeat the position with Kd5! So, 2. f4+, Kd5, 3. Kd3, Kc5. And the king’s just keep going sideways- white can make no progress. 1/2:1/2

4.16: + / -

– We saw in the previous version, white can’t win because his King cannot even get into touching distance of the critical squares, he can forget about standing on them!

– Looking at this position, we can logically say that white’s best chances of winning lie on the Queenside of the f-pawn, where he has 3 critical squares to aim at. He should therefore, keep his mind on the 3 squares adjacent to the black pawn, as it is very easy for black to blunder and lose control of them.

-If black doesn’t blunder, white blocks the pawns, making sure to leave himself some spare tempi with the other pawn, and he threatens too many winning methods for black to defend against. He has to be slightly tricky to win, for example:

1. Kf4!, Kf6, 2. Kg4! Kg6, 3. f4! (Now, if black plays f5+? white must think: “how many moves will it take me to get to d4?” With an extra tempo, we can effectively increase the critical squares of the black f5 pawn to: e5/d5/c5 and d4/c4. [eg. f5+? Kf3, Kf6, Ke3, Ke6, Kd4, Kd6, f3! 1-0.]) f6, 4.f5+ (white can now get to d5 in & moves, meaning black must be able to defend that by getting to d6 within 3) Kf7, 5. Kf4 (threatening Ke4-d5) Ke7, (defending the threat.) Which brings us to the tricky move and the critical position. White uses the threat of a different winning technique, in conjunction with the critical squares on the QS. 6. Kf3!! Now, if we look at the position white can still get to d4 in 2 moves, but he can also infiltrate on h5 within two moves. Black can defend against the threat of Ke4 by playing Kd7, or, he can defend against the threat on h5, by Kf7, but choosing one defense keeps the other one lacking. Kd7, 7. Kg4!, Ke7, 8. Kh5, Kf7, 9. Kh6 Kf8, 10. Kg6, Ke7, 11. f3/Kg7 1-0.

4.17: + / =

My hat goes off to anyone who can explain this one…

————————————————————————————————————————————————

Appendix: Basic blocked pawn knowledge.

-A quick look at prerequisite knowledge for chapter 4, the basic blocked pawns concept is explained in 2.02.

– This is what I like about this book, the information is visual. I am a visual learner: when I read a book, I remember the part of the page my favourite phrases were on, if i’m looking for it I flip over the pages looking at the same spot on every page until I find it- I don’t remember where it is in the story or what chapter it’s in. When Silman explains opposition to me saying “the 3 squares in front of the pawn when the pawn is on the 5th rank are the winning squares…” it means absolutely nothing to me. Lamprecht & Mueller explain every concept visually using “key & critical squares” for varying positions, which are marked for you.

– In this position, if the white King can manouver into any of these 3 adjacent squares to the blocked passed pawn, he has an easy win.

White to play: 1. Ka5! Kb7, 2. Kb5! Kc7, 3. Kc5! Kd7, 4. Kd5! Ke7, Kc6! and white has won the critical d6 square.

Black draws simply by maintaining the opposition: 1. Ka6! and so on… If this concept is beyond you then so will chapter IV be- you should go over chapter 1 and fundamental King VS King & pawn endings.

Posted in Program Part 1: End game study | Leave a Comment »

The program: week 6

Posted by pablito15 on April 3, 2010

6 weeks into the training plan embarked on with Andre, I’ve notched up:

  • 1000 tactical problems
  • 5 chapters of Meuller & Lamprecht’s “Fundamental chess endings”
  • 5 chapters of Bernd Rosen’s “chess end game training”
  • Chapter II: The Slav Formation of Soltis’ Pawn Structure Chess
  • 4 consequetive weeks of our Wednesday night fixed opening game where i’ve played:
    • The white side of the c3. Italian game:  1-1
    • The black side of the Worall attack: 1-1
    • The black side of the classical Ruy Lopez: 0-2
    • The white side of 2 crazy Sicilians & one Taimanov Sicilian: 3-0
  • 2+ annotations of master games from these systems.
  • 2 Correspondence games
  • Some middle game training with Mr. Bent Larsen. (not personally)

Which i’m very happy with. I’ve done at least 15 tactical problems daily for the last 6 weeks, which for me, is incredibly constant! It’s all improving our chess a lot, and whilst we might not see some of the gains instantly (ie. with the end game stuff), it will all come out in the end. In the next few posts i’ll try to go over each of these sections above, telling you what these great books have done for my chess & why I suggest you follow suit! I’ll start… as the masters suggest, with the end game!

Posted in Details on the Program | Leave a Comment »

Time out: remember to have fun!

Posted by pablito15 on March 16, 2010

Chess is a game of ups and downs, we will all have moments of great pride and also a feeling of disappointment unique to chess. There’s nothing quite like that odd mixture of exhaustion and desperation that comes after putting everything into two hours of calculation, then blundering. That is why it’s important to savour the good moments, to remember to have fun, and also remember that after a bad result hopefully a good one is just around the corner.

The reason I bring it up is that, every so often we have a game that reinvigorates us, and I’ve been lucky enough to play two such games recently. They are both correspondence games, one against Andreas & one against Mr. Carl Gorka (surely an FM in waiting) whose blog you can see listed on the right there. Both games stray from the theory a little, which is probably why they’re fun!

Game #1: Paul V Andreas
Evans Gambit
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Be7 6. d4 Na5 7. Be2 exd4 8. Qxd4 Nf6 9. e5 Nc6 10. Qh4 Nd5 11. Qg3 g6 12. 0-0 Nb6 13. c4 d6: and we have arrived at your standard Evans gambit position with white to play:

14. Bh6?!

I tried something a little different, though in keeping with the themes of the opening: 14. Bh6?!
preventing castling. (Rd1 is normal) Andreas refuted it well; Be6! I followed up with: 15. c5? :

15. c5?   (Making too many assumptions about dxc5)
Another poor move, but one nice thing about the Evans is that white has the luxury of making some
average moves and staying in the game, black does not!

… dxc5 16. Bb5!? (realising that Rd1 was not as strong as I thought) Qd7?!:

16. Qd7?! or “How to commit Evans Gambit Suicide, Step 1” by Andreas! 😉

When I first saw this move I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt (it does set up QS castling after all). The continuation makes it clear why this move, though not weak in itself, makes things tricky for black.

17.  Nc3 Bc4?

17. Bc4?
Looks logical, black is two pawns up and looks to liquify any danger in the position. It is however
the third time the bishop has moved before castling and the “chess logic” so prized by the
old masters who played the evans brings black down in a blaze!
White to play & “win” (“win” at GM level- he’ll end up at least a couple of pawns up with
a great position against perfect defense) in all variations:

18. e6!! A “clearance sac” for the ages, made possible by the position of black’s queen.

(The correct continuation for black was 0-0-0, when the game is won. If black castles in the Evans, it’s all over!)

…Bxe6 19. Ne5!  Qd6??

19. Qd6?? Again bringing the poor queen into a narrow valley about to be hit with artillery!!

What a position!! e5-e6 catches a few unfamiliar players by surprise, the only problem is you either need to be Morphy, or be on “correspondence time control” to get the winning sequences right!

20. Rd1!

(logically better than Ne4, as if black puts a piece between the Queen & Rook [which he must], white can bring the knight to e4 anyway, when he will have to two pieces into the middle with tempo) The game hasn’t finished yet, but being too excited about it (and also being pretty sure it is essentially finished) I’m posting this anyway! :->

The game finished; 20… Nd5 21. Ne4 Qd1

22. Nxc3     1-0

Andreas is right not to continue after bxc3, Bxc3+ when the beauty of the h6 bishop & cramped King position comes into play: black can play either Bd7 which is followed by Rxd5, or give up the Queen.

Other games with the Evans gambit:

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1018648 Kasparov – Anand, 1-0 (1995)

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1043992 Fischer – Fine, 1-0 (1963)

Black fails to castle in both 😉

To sum up, particularly between 15 & 1800 chess is tough on the ego, you’ve reached a stage when you know a great deal about the principles of time, space, pawn structure, are capable of some brilliant sequences, but can still lose to anyone. The road to improvement is surely to assume your mistakes, not blame tiredness noise your pet iguana hungry at home ruining your concentration, learn from them, and work hard for the next one!

16. Qd7?! or “How to commit Evans Gambit Suicide, Step 1” by Andreas! 😉

When I first saw this move I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt,the continuation

makes it clear why this move, though not weak in itself, makes things tricky for black.

Posted in My games! | Leave a Comment »

A bit more on our program

Posted by pablito15 on March 12, 2010

So as I say, I’ve recently teamed up with Andreas, an enthusiastic Austrian player of around 1700 strength, we’ve made a weekly schedule covering most aspects of chess from tactical to end-game, and it is proving not only motivating & fun to have a partner waiting to discuss & exchange annotations on certain chapters/themes/games at certain dates but it’s the most focussed I’ve been on improving my chess in a long time. A brief run down on what we’re currently doing:

  • Bent Larsen’s: “Good move guide: Section II: Find a plan“, for this we are going through the 50 exercises, and after, creating a pgn mini-test with 10 positions analogous to those in the 50 that taught us the most.  The idea is to reinforce the themes & provide a test/exercise for our partner.
  • Wednesday night: Fixed opening game. 20+5. Each week Andreas or I pick an opening, prepare for it as we please and play as many games with it as time permits. This week we played a 4. c3 Italian game, which I prepared for by annotating ancient and modern master games. This gave me a considerable advantage in the first game (Andreas studied only the “opening lines” due to time constraints) where I took him by surprise down the c-file. You can see our annotations of the game as an appendix, just copy them into Fritz/Rybka. I’ve also created a brief visual summary of our errors in the game:

Which doesn’t show much after one game, but eventually will give us a practical idea of average moves we’re making.

  • 1 chapter of Bernd Rosen’s Chess End-Game Training per week, which is not a very instructive text, but we use it for it’s 15 test positions per chapter, which we learn about first using a different manual of our choice. I use Mueller/Lamprecht, Andreas uses Silman. The Rosen certainly could not be studied alone. For each aspect of our program we have a shared googlemail excel spreadsheet which we udpate accordingly:
  • 115 tactical problems per week. We try to use some of the same texts but Andreas prefers the C.T Art format whereas I find non-moving images more usefu!l (as you can see I have been a little more focussed on tactics recently!)
  • One chapter of Andrew Soltis’ Pawn Structure Chess monthly; a book that has taught me more about chess in one chapter than any other text I have ever studied. We have both been inspired & have been enjoying reading this text by one of Chess’ best pedagouges.
  • And we also try to annotate one game of our partner’s monthly.

Here’s our game from wednesday, I won’t show the second one, as I was soundly beaten- you may find that on some kind of Andreas’ motivated blog…!

  • 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 d5 7. Bb5 Ne4 8. cxd4
    Bb6 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Bxc6 bxc6 11. Be3 Bf5 {A nice diagonal for the bishop.
    After Bg4 white has Qa4 with some tactical chances. NxN is also interesting,
    “blocking” the black weakness at c6.} 12. O-O Qe7 13. Rc1 Qb4 {Not a bad move.
    Whatever black does it must be active, as after white plays Nd2 followed by f3
    he will have a total domination on the c-file.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: The
    queen move had no real plan behind it, which is bad. Playing on the queen side
    seems to be Black’s best option though.} 14. Na4 $1 {In tune with the white
    strategy.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: annoying move for Black but the exchange
    knight-bishop cannot be avoided.} Ba5 $2 {Most likely played to try something
    along the dark squares, however a3 is coming so that will be quickly finished.
    Obviously there is no threat of NxB realigning the pawns.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10
    Andreas: right. I should have thought about a different plan. Actually the
    exchange wouldn’t be too bad because the pawns will be undoubled.} (14… Bg4 {
    Andreas. Trying to create some tactics based on the overloaded queen.}) (14…
    h6 {Rybka. Nice idea!} 15. Rxc6 Bd7) 15. a3 Qb5 (15… Qe7) 16. b4 Bb6 17. Nc3
    $2 {Played to simplify the position, I thought this was a strong move. It
    bring’s the rook to the third rank where it can (a) be doubled (b) switch to a
    KS attack. Also a nice black piece is removed from the board. Perhaps the
    reason it is weak is that on a4, after black plays a5, the knight can take the
    bishop, followed by Queen to e1 where white hopes that he will end up with a
    pawn on the closed b-file and black with a backward pawn on the open c-file.} (
    17. h3 a5 {10 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} 18. Nxb6 {6 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00}
    cxb6 19. Qe1 (19. Qe1 {7 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} Bd7 {3 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:
    00:00} 20. Nd2 {15 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} axb4 {2 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00}
    21. Nxe4 {2 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} dxe4 22. Qxb4)) 17… Nxc3 18. Rxc3 a5 $1
    {Very strong move- I felt losing after this. You had some excellent tactics
    based on Ra1 when the Queen is pinned due to the black queen also attacking f1.
    After simply doubling rooks on the a-file black has excellent practical
    chances.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: This is a nice freeing move. I have to open
    the position to make use of my bishop pair.} 19. bxa5 {With which piece should
    Black capture???} Rxa5 (19… Bxa5 20. Rc5) (19… Qxa5 20. Rb3 Qa4) 20. Qc1 (
    20. Nh4) (20. Bd2) 20… Bd7 $2 {A bit of a let-off. Again the tactical shot:
    Ra8, Rxc6, Rxa3, and now Ra1 is coming & black generally will have an
    excellent position with rooks storming down the a-file.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas:
    holding on to the pawn. I completely missed the dynamic of my pieces so I
    should have looked for a stronger, more active move. And always remember: try
    to avoid backward moves…} (20… Rfa8 $1 {[%t bLon] Proceed with the plan:
    double the rooks and put pressure on White.}) (20… Ra4 {Rybka. Hard to find
    move.}) 21. e6 {“Clearance sac” as in the evans gambit- I like this
    manouver!^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: yeah, but is the move good??? White gives up
    all hopes to win a pawn and opens the position. I don’t know if the
    “clearance” is in White’s favour!} (21. Bh6 $1 gxh6 22. Nh4 {29 [%clko -0:00:
    00] 0:00:00} Bxd4 23. Rg3+ Kh8 24. Qxh6 {2 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} Rg8 25.
    Qf6+) 21… Bxe6 22. Ne5 c5 $2 {The position is still in black’s favour but c5
    was perhaps a miscalculation.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: right, I didn’t
    calculate the move to the end and I agree that this is almost a blunder.} (
    22… Raa8 {I have to move the rook anyway after Nxc6 so this might have been
    an idea.}) 23. dxc5 (23. Bh6 {Rybka. Going for nasty tactics. Paul, you can
    see that all strategical ideas are worth nothing when it comes to tactics. :-)}
    ) 23… Ba7 24. Qc2 (24. Bh6 $1 {If you have the rook on the third rank, you
    should be aware of moves like this!}) 24… c6 $2 {“Securing” the position but
    there was no danger around.} (24… Rb8 {The better idea! Pile up with queen
    and rook to create some threats.}) 25. Rb1 Qa6 26. Bd4 (26. Bh6) 26… f6 $1
    27. Nd3 Bf5 {Two attacking moves in a row. Black is better again.} 28. Qd2 {A
    pawn up, black may have a winning position after simplification & the doubling
    rooks.} Rxa3 (28… Bxd3) 29. Nb4 {Andreas: completely missed the knight move.}
    Qa4 $4 {Missing the tactical threat.} (29… Bxb1 30. Nxa6 Rxa6 {Almost even
    material wise. I should look at the piece value better next time.}) 30. Rxa3 $1
    Qxa3 31. Ra1 Qb3 {Andreas: and it’s basically over.} 32. Nxc6 Bb8 33. Ne7+ Kh8
    34. Nxf5 Bc7 35. Qe3 (35. Nxg7 $3 Kxg7 36. Qg5+ Kh8 37. Bxf6+ Rxf6 38. Qxf6+)
    35… Qb4 36. h4 (36. Qe7 $1 {“ah i’ll play it next move!” I think as I notice
    it.}) 36… Rb8 37. Qe7 $4 {White is saved by the x-ray defense.} Be5 (37…
    Qb1+ {1 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} 38. Qe1 {11 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} Qxf5 {
    1 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00}) 38. Qxg7# {2010 Summary: A good contrast of our
    differing styles, with you playing for strong diagonals with Bf5 & Ba5 coming
    naturally to you, and moves like Nc3 trying to “improve the relative position
    with tempo” coming naturally to me. I got myself into some real trouble
    against a5 and you had an active & strong position. Perhaps moves like Rb1-Qa6
    let the initiative slip a little to me, whereas agressive moves like
    threatening a1 would probably have seen me blunder. A nice game & a nice
    exercise. I think we’re both learning something about our play from doing it,
    and improving too. How do you feel about the two games? Enough or would you
    like to play more c3. Italians?} 1-0

Posted in Details on the Program | 3 Comments »

First thoughts on chess improvement

Posted by pablito15 on March 11, 2010

Leaving aside the infinite why of chess improvement, let’s jump straight into the how. Today, more “self-help” style books, noisomely telling you “what they are going to do for you” or “what is going to happen” after you’ve read them, than books that will genuinely help you improve your chess, appear on the market. Let’s be clear, one does not improve at chess by reading 200 pages of text in a 300 page Moskalenko book, chess improvement is example & test based, and there is no substitute for hard work– you will gain more from studying 500 tactical problems than all the 200 page Neil McDonald talk-fests in the world.

There have been many famous quotes on chess in it’s long history, “pawns are the soul of chess” (Philidor), “chess is 99% tactics” (Teichmann), “modern chess is far too concerned with things like pawn structure- forget it! Checkmate wins the game.” (Nigel Short during his ’93 World Title match with Garri Kasparov, much to the horror of spectating GM’s!) However the one I find most accurate is from that adonis of a teacher Andrew Soltis: “chess is 99% calculation”.

Calculation of what exactly? It is equally true to say that one cannot usefully annotate a game, or calculate properly until after one understands things like pawn structure strengths and weaknesses (and a plethora of other concepts that lie pushing and pulling like currents under the placid surface of this game). In any case, that is the simplification  I will put to you: Chess is primarily a game of calculation, and to calculate we need not only spatial ability/mental muscles (which come from hard work and nothing else!) but also the base understandings of the game in order to know what will be positive and negative for us.

Back on topic: Towards this end, with my training partner Andreas we have developed a training plan based on example & test based teaching, that require you to first study a position, calculate as best you can, offer a move, and then read the brilliantly instructive explanations of these hand picked positions. This is not only building our mental muscles, but improving our understanding of the game too. We have hit on several excellent books we feel are improving not just our ability but also our enjoyment of chess too. The two principle books we are using are:

  • Bent Larsen’s: Good move guide (1982)
  • Andrew Soltis’: Pawn Structure chess (1976)

Any serious player with a penchant for chess study should pick up Larsen’s book and work through the examples. He has a section with 100 mid-strength tactics, 50 invaluable (to any level) “find the plan” positions with instructive conclusions, a “find the master move” section with games, and a “practical end game” section- as I said what is invaluable in it is that it asks you to work rather than read. It is a no-nonsense book.

There are two types of genuine improvement in chess. Improvement of your “base strength” with things like tactics study, end game study, pawn structure study/knowledge. This is knowledge that doesn’t go away and doesn’t lie- before one hopes to understand any opening book, or even remember the moves properly, one must have a decent “base strength”, as this is what helps us understand the opening moves! It should be the primary focus in chess improvement as everything flows on from your end game, pawn structure and tactical understandings. And secondly, improvement of your “practical chances” via the annotated study of games in your chosen opening. This will not “improve your chess” as much as pure study of those basic chess materials, but may help you win some games anyway.

So my first message on chess improvement is this: ask yourself if you really want to work hard, or quit pretending now!

Posted in General thoughts on chess learning | 2 Comments »