Archive for January, 2011

Home Fires

It’s there! After months of waiting the new book from Gene Wolfe is out. I got the hardcover for rather cheap 13 Euros although I was tempted to buy the limited edition (~34 Euros as a pre-order). The Tor cover image looks like this:

Not too bad BUT after reading 90 pages one detail is wrong: the cruise ship in the book has sails, squared sails to be exact (that’s why she is called SQ Rani). Compare this to the cover from the limited edition:

It captures the mood much better although I wonder what the meaning of the arrangement is with the head in the middle.

For the previous book it was much worse. The cover of the TOR edition of The Sorcerer’s House looks very ugly:

Someone has played too much with the effects in Photoshop, if you ask me, absolutely awful. The limited edition instead features this wonderful cover:

That one is nice, especially when you hold the book in your hands, and easily worth the price of the edition alone. Not to forget that it’s signed by the author.

While we are at it, together with the Gene Wolfe book I ordered the trade paperback of Hardwired by Walter Jon Willams and to my pleasant surprise it was signed as well.

After my chess game on Saturday I will need to take a break and start reading.


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Weekly progress #3 – 2011

  • Played 2 long games (rahulr and frankly).
  • Daily tactics training. CT rating is now 1879.
  • Finished CB Strategy course until chapter 6
  • Analyzed a master game in 2 sessions.
  • Played two games against my 7yr old boy. I made a mistake and helped him to find the right moves to exploit it. He had a lot of fun and me too.

So far so good. This week I have planned another two long games on ICC and a (hopefully) tough OTB game on saturday.

On the non-chess side I earned some trophies in Sega’s Ultimate Genesis Collection on the PS3. If you are old enough to remember the Genesis console then this collection might be for you. Some of the games are better forgotten but  Phantasy Star 1-4, Shining Force 1-2, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Columns (similar to Tetris) or the Sonic games are very enjoyable.

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King assault in the Ruy-Lopez

In my OTB game last Saturday I had to face an aggressive player who threw all pieces against my poor king. I was gifted a bishop early in the game, missed my chance for simplification and suddenly had the following position on the board:

White to move

Black’s second knight is ready to head to h4, attacking g2, and the queen is ready to join the party from g4. I was quite scared when I looked at some of the variations. Defending such a position is something that has to be learnt. I saw threats everywhere and didn’t calculate all exchanges correctly to the end.

According to Rybka, Qf3 is the best move, but I didn’t like it. I thought that after a knight sac on g2 Black will have a pretty strong attack against my open king. The silicon brain showed me that this is not the case so in future I have to put more effort into the game.

Fortunately for me my opponent didn’t look at a sac and gave me time to build up my defense:

Black to move

No mate in sight anymore, everything is protected and I am ready to exchange some minor pieces. Here my opponent missed the discovered attack on her queen, lost more material and finally gave up.

This was a good lesson in calculating exchanges properly. I don’t want to get into such a mess again if I can avoid it.

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Weekly Progress #2 – 2011

The 2nd week is over and I am motivated like never before.

  • Played 2 long games. The first a 30+30 game against my chess buddy Andrea. An embarrassing game where I played like a moron. Anyway, it was a good wake-up call to follow the thought process all the time. The 2nd game was an OTB league game against a 1200er player. I had to face a strong attack, survived and won easily.
  • regular ChessTempo training, reaching astonishing 1850 points.
  • Started with the Chessbase Strategy 2 course, did the first chapters – extremely interesting, opened my eyes for piece activity, weak squares and piece coordination.
  • had a session with FM Rabren on ICC, going through my 1st game of the year. Incredible deep insight, there were so many things that I could have done better! Made me realize 1) weak squares 2) piece coordination and 3) how to build an attack. This is what I need right now to bring it all together. I showed the same game to a 2000er player of my club, he found some points as well but the educational value on ICC with color markers, arrows and quick check of variation was much higher. Being a good player and being a good teacher/mentor are two different things.
  • Analyzed 2 master games (main idea in both games was to develop with an attack and then to look for attacking moves first of all)
  • as preparation to my OTB games, looked up some opening lines in my repertoire, especially the Sic Sveshnikov (the early e5 move surprised me already twice in Blitz games), a recap of the French and a quick glance at the Petroff.

For next week I have scheduled a long game on ICC against rahulr, might play another one against Andrea and will continue with my normal training.

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I have too many books and I don’t like the idea of storing my chess books in the sitting room so I had to do something against it. In the next weeks I will critically inspect every chess book that I have and decide if the right place is close to me or….

Don’t worry, these are not my books. 🙂

Let’s start with “Amateur becomes Master”.

This is not “Amateur vs. Master” but the 2nd book in the series (and not available in English). I bought it some years ago and thought that it could help me, an amateur, to find better moves and to play better chess. I was completely wrong! The word “amateur” in the title is totally misleading. Euwe is addressing the advanced, close-to-master player. He puts the focus on explaining the strategic ideas and lays out useful middlegame plans.

I looked at game #7 featuring the Worrall attack of the Ruy Lopez. Crystal clear Euwe points out the ideas behind the moves, shows you how the strategic elements work together and how the master executes his plan. Wow, what an example! In a sense this book doesn’t explain much, e.g. it doesn’t discuss the different candidate moves in great detail. Like a catalog it shows you what kind of plan is useful in a middlegame position and you will get a feeling for critical moments, e.g. when to push a pawn, when to exchange pieces etc. The master wins because he executes his plan better and because the “amateur” didn’t prevent it actively.

Conclusion: definitely a book to keep close to me. I will at least go through the games that are part of my opening repertoire.
ELO: My impression is that you should have at least ELO 1600, rather 1800.

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Weekly Progress #1 – 2011

As promised I will post a weekly progress report about my training. Despite having a week off there wasn’t much time for chess – social life is too important to be neglected.

  • played a long (90+30) game on Monday and analyzed it in several sessions. A draw against a 1900er player on ICC and I even had a winning attack! It’s necessary to go through it another time to look more deeply at some of the variations.
  • did some ChessTempo puzzles and also used CT-Art and “Tactics for the intermediate player”
  • picked up the “Chess Exam 2 Tactics” book again, solving 6 puzzles. They are very demanding and I fear that at the end of the book my rating will be around 1400 or even lower.
  • looked at game #7 and #8 from Euwe’s “Amateur wird Meister”  (there doesn’t seem to be an English  translation, “Master vs amateur” is a different book), more about this later

I am on track. 🙂

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Call me Mr Draw

My second 90+30 tournament (4 player double round robin, U1800 section) is about to end and I am in the last spot. From the first 3 games I lost 2 because of blundering a piece and going down without a fight. My last three games were all drawn. Trivia: do you know the most drawish endings?

1) Opposite coloured bishops. In an incredible game in round 5 I made a big mistake in the opening and had to sac two pawns to avoid getting mated. In the other two games I went down but this time I took up the fight. We reached the following obviously lost position for Black (me):

Black to move

Some moves later I sacrificed a piece to stop the passed pawn and fortunately my opponent blundered! Fighting has paid off and I was satisfied. We reached the following position (yes, it’s the same game):

White to move

The plan here was to create a passed pawn and then to push it. White’s h-pawn can be easily stopped by the king and we have a  draw. I don’t know yet if Black even had a winning chance but after all the excitement I was satisfied with a draw. Here is the key position shortly before the draw has been agreed:

White to move

If you want to see the whole game, leave a comment and I will upload it.

2) Do you know another endgame that is difficult to win? Yes, queen with pawns vs queen with pawns. Round 4 saw such a game. After careless play from my side I was a pawn down (hmm, there seems to be a pattern), avoided the exchange of queens and got a draw. This time I had White.

3) Rook endings! In the last round I almost had a winning attack, couldn’t realize it and had to face my first double rook ending. Holding on to the old rule “as defender, don’t move pawns” I was able to ensure a draw. King activity is important but two rooks mean firepower! I had White:

Black to move

Despite a lot of efforts from Black, a draw was agreed after exchanging a pair of rooks and all pawns. A good start into the year against my 1900er opponent! It’s time to play better in the middlegame so that I can use my obviously not too bad endgame skill to win games, not only to draw them.

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