Archive for October, 2010

So long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Another STTourney is over and my score is 1.5/4. I had two fine games with White and two losses with Black. In the last round I faced Packerfan (rating 1770) and he countered my Sicilian attempt with 2. c3. You can replay the game here online.

I was out of book already at move 2, made some mistakes and was quickly two pawns down. My moment of fame came at move 13:

Position after 13. Rd1

The stunning 13…Nxb4!! would have turned the tables. I looked at it of course but couldn’t find the right continuation. With my ongoing tactics training at Chess Tempo I hopefully won’t miss such a chance in future.

There was a second chance to turn a lost endgame into an equal one:

Position after 27. Nc2

I am sure that every 1400er will find 27…Ne2+ 28. Kf1 (or Kh1) Bxg2+ 29. Kxg2 Rxc2 by following the simple rule “check all checks”.

After that it was basically over although it’s instructing to know the endgame King + knight + pawn vs. King + bishop + pawn:

Position after 52. a5

The idea here is to use the knight to block the h1-a8 diagonale. To do this, the king has to go to b6 or c7 and the knight to b7, or c6 if the bishop can’t reach c8 in time. When you replay the game, look at the variation at move 53. It took my opponent a little bit longer to reach the winning position but I had to resign at move 63.

It sounds weird but these losses are very important at my current stage: to complete my opening repertoire, to boost my confidence and lower frustration after making mistakes, to always look for tactics, to never give up…

It’s more satisfying to win than to lose, nevertheless, every game is a lesson so I say Thanks for all the fish and will try harder next time.

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London is a nice city, no doubt. I have been there once and unfortunately only one day but I plan another trip within the next years.

But we don’t want to talk about the city. There is an all-purpose, easy to learn defensive system where White almost always makes the same moves. It’s called the London System and I had to face it as Black in my last Chess 9030 game (round 4 of tournament 16) against farbror. You can replay it here.

It was an interesting positional battle, very equal until move 17.

(Position after 17...Rf7)

White hasn’t much but Black neither. Having the bishop pair helps so the next moves are clear. I need to rip open the center by preparing the move e5. The rook needs to go to e8, the dark bishop can go to d6, f6 or g7. Once the center is mine, it will be easy to attack White’s weak pawns.

According to Rybka, the best move in this position for White was 18. e4!? but even then Black stands slightly better. It’s not easy to come up with something good for White and it’s no wonder that he now goes wrong by pushing the g-pawn. Only 3 moves later we end up here:

(Position after 21. g5)

Black has now the powerful counter-blow 21…e5! and it’s almost game over. There is one very nasty knight fork if the game goes 22. gxf6 (hard to find) e4 23. Kd2 exf3 24. Nxf3:

(Variation after 24. Nxf3)

Farbror missed the idea and quickly lost material. And now I have a puzzle for you.

Find the best move in this position:

(Position after 24. cxd4: find the best move!)

Let’s celebrate. šŸ™‚

It was an interesting session because I expect the same level of play in my OTB games (at least in the lower league). In the past it often was the other way round, I used to play well up to move 20 and then made a positional blunder or missed something. Having a plan really helps, the moves just came to me and I just had to check if the defense holds. It did.

This puts me in clear first in the tournament. I will have White against Signalman (time for revenge) and Black against Ilre.

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Chess Tempo, here I come

The Chess Exam book was very clear, I need to work on my tactical skills. Usually I use CT-Art on the Pocket PC to solve 10-15 random puzzles (difficulty 20 is just about right for me). I even own Pocket Chess Combinations where the puzzles are much harder (they are aimed at intermediate players). However, I find it difficult to do tons of such puzzles in a row. After a while it’s tiring to look at the small screen and I stop.

Farbror and some other people mentioned that they use Chess Tempo to get their daily potion of tactics. I tried it some time ago but wasn’t impressed. I looked at it again this week and wow, it’s not too bad. What I really like is that you get puzzles according to your strength. This must have been a real pain when they started the system or when new puzzles are added but now it works great. The statistics are nice as well, you can see how many puzzles have been solved on which day so I can easily keep track of my progress.

As usual the actual rating cannot be compared to something else, they only make sense within the local pool. Obviously there are attempts to get a rough estimation based on the actual FIDE ratings of the users but this is rather for fun and cannot be taken seriously.

My current Chess Tempo rating is 1587 (yes, that poor), let’s see when I can beat my buddy farbror.

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TL46 U1800 Champion!

We made it! TheĀ  Sonambulist Gambit is TL46 U1800 Champion after a 3-1 in the tiebreak.

We had a clear advantage at the lower boards. It was the first season of christinaa and his entry rating was way too low. His opponents were not very happy to face a 2000+ player at board 4 (later board 3 after the mysterious disappearanceĀ  of one of our players) but that’s life. My chess buddy Paul won all his games at board 4 and I also won 2 games out of 3 although one win could have been a draw and the loss, well, bad opening preparation.

Next season I will be captain of the Dreadful Knights in the U1600 section and the Sonambulist Gambit will enter the U2000 section with two new players.

I have updated the annotations of my win against Ilre and will post something later. I played some bad moves that gave away the advantage in the early middlegame, but the endgame was excellent.

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An exhausting game last night against Ilre, we played almost 3.5 hours and it was past midnight when I finally managed to win. We reached a complicated endgame with pawns on both sides of the board and each of us having one knight. I was one pawn up and later two but the knight is a terrific piece and requires much attention. A nice exercise in winning a won game.

Later more.

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Update: The author got in touch with me to check my calculation – and he was right. My overall rating is 1750 and not, as originally reported, 1980.

A new chess exam rating! 1750! You play 5 matches against Bobby Fischer, each consisting of 12 games (actually 12 positions from Bobby’s games against famous opponents but also from simuls where he made some errors). Amazon.de has it for less than 10 Euros.

6 months ago I had 1450, which means that I have “gained” 300 points. Not too bad – the time spent wasn’t wasted.

The weakest areas are by far Attack and Counterattack, this cries for Vukovic’s “Art of Attack in Chess” or a collection of games from Alekhine and Tal. It’s an interesting finding, especially taken together with the low rating in Equal positions. Too often I run out of attacking ideas and give away a possible slight advantage.

The rather high Endgame rating is astonishing. Or maybe not. Stopping to guess and working hard on the calculation of variations is bearing fruits and leads to the correct move. Now I only need to take the time during real games instead of pushing wood.

Category Score % ELO
Overall 356 67.7 1750
Middlegame 221 58.1 1710
Endgame 135 61.3 1780
Calculation 111 61.7 1835
Strategy 92 57.5 1670
Tactics 153 58.8 1680
Attack 89 55.6 1400
Counterattack 110 55 1565
Defense 155 64.5 2128
Better 149 67.7 1810
Equal 126 57.2 1630
Worse 81 50.6 1730
No Sacrifice 164 58.6 1660
Sacrifice 192 60 1800

I liked the first Chess exam book a little bit more but this one deserves my recommendation as well. Most of the 60 positions are very interesting and it was a lot of fun to calculate the variations.

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Update: added more entries starting with 6.

It goes without saying that the endgame is an important part of the chessgame, and one that many players (me included) like to postpone until one reaches this stage of the game more often. Anyway, I have decided to invest more time in the near future and started to look around which book would be best for me. A huge amount is available, here are the ones that I currently consider. If you have other recommendations, please leave a comment.

1.”Silman’s Complete Endgame course” by Jeremy Silman


  • Target group: Beginner to Master
  • Easy to understand: yes
  • Short practical rules: yes
  • Comprehensive: no

Many things can be said about this book. What I like is that Silman structures the material according to the player’s strength. Instead of going through hundred of pages about king and pawn endings, you learn enough to get started and can come back later to deepen your knowledge. Finding stuff isn’t so easy but that’s not what the book is about. You should absorb the knowledge and practice it in real games.

If you like Silman’s chatty style (he uses a lot of words) then this seems to be one of the best books for beginners.

2. “Chess Endings made simple” by Ian Snape


  • Target group: Intermediate to Master (?)
  • Easy to understand: no
  • Short practical rules: no, the whole text is considered to be “practical”
  • Comprehensive: no

The title is misleading. I thought that the books is about explaining chess endings in a simple way, however, it’s rather a practical handbook for club players (and above). Snape breaks down typical positions, explains the plans and shows the winning technique. This seems to be a good 2nd endgame book.

3. “Chess Endgame Training” by Bernd Rosen


  • Target group: Advanced (1800+) to Master
  • Easy to understand: no
  • Short practical rules: no
  • Comprehensive: no

The title has to be taken literally, this book will train your endgame skill but not really teach you basic principles. Instead the author expects that you work hard to solve the many exercises that he provides. Useful plans are shown as part of the solution and not before you start. This can be very frustrating if you have no idea how to make progress in a position but it will force you to think first on your own, which will deepen the learning process.

4. “Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual” by Mark Dvoretsky


  • Target group: Intermediate to Grand Master
  • Easy to understand: yes
  • Short practical rules: yes
  • Comprehensive: yes

A huge volume that covers a lot of material (an electronic version in Chessbase format is available as well) and a useful addition to every chess library. The biggest challenge is how to use the book to improve the endgame skill. Reading it from beginning to end is very dry and it will be very hard to remember the rules. As a reference book it’s great though.

5. “Fundamental Chess Endings” by Lamprecht and Mueller


  • Target group: Intermediate to Grand Master
  • Easy to understand: yes
  • Short practical rules: yes
  • Comprehensive: yes

This book is very similar to Dvoretsky’s and it doesn’t matter which one you choose. It covers a lot of material and has great explanations but it’s not the book to read from beginning to end.

Are there other or better books to consider?

Update: thanks for your comments. šŸ™‚

6. “Just the Facts” by Lev Alburt, Nikolay Krogius

  • Target group: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Easy to understand: yes
  • Short practical rules: yes
  • Comprehensive: no, but contains many practical positions

Good overview about the most important endgame types. Easy to study, quite chatty (but not as much as the Silman book). You can’t go wrong with it as long as you study it carefully.

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