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Archive for March, 2011

  • 2 long games. A descent TL game where I missed a tactical idea (fortunately my opponent missed it at well) and won when my opponent gave up in sight of losing a minor piece. This made the whole season okay with a new TL rating of 1600 – and there will be at least one more game. The other game was an OTB game on Friday featuring my beloved Sicilian Kan…which I lost against a 1650er. More about it later this week.
  • Chesstempo rating now at stable 1940. Learnt some new patterns and also started to solve more easy puzzles (<1200, rated 5 stars) on a daily base.
  • Continued with the Chessbase Strategy course. An interesting chapter about the Isolated Queen Pawn. This will be very useful for my next Caro-Kann Panov attack.

This week will be chess heavy again. The OTB tournament is going to end with the penultimate round on Friday (against a 1560er) and the final one on Sunday. Looking at my latest games I really need to work on my thought process and avoid any premature attack.

On the non-chess side I am currently listening again to some old musicals again. There is a fantastic edition of the soundtrack of the Wizard of Oz, completely remixed in stereo and with a lot of dialogue as well. The sound quality is great for such an old recording.

The ultimate collection for every fan of old MGM musicals is the 6-CD Anthology That’s Entertainment. I used to have the 2CD edition (and a couple of other collections like Musical Wonderland, or soundtracks like Hit the Deck or Brigadoon) and only few things were missing – not anymore!

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While browsing the internet I found an interesting article about the ELO rating and how a chess player makes progress. It’s undeniable that every player hits certain plateaus in his carreer, and sometimes he is stuck forever. To understand why this happens one needs to look at the distribution along the ELO scale. Here as an example from Austria (Jan 2011) with national ratings:

You can see how many players fall into which category. With national ELO 1600 you are better than ~48% of all rated players in Austria, for ELO 1800 it’s 67%, for ELO 2000 it’s 83% and for ELO 2200 it’s 93%.

The USCF distribution from 2008 doesn’t look that much different:

With serious effort and enough focus it should be possible to reach ELO 1800. On that level it’s enough to avoid blunders and to have a good tactical eye. If you don’t find the winning plan, well, then it’s a draw but you won’t lose many rating points.

With more effort ELO 1900-2000 is reasonable as well although a different kind of training is required and tough competition is waiting. Don’t expect hanging knights or mates-in-3, these guys know the game and have fought their way up the ladder. A trainer could be useful at this stage to speed up the progress.

In my club there are many players rated between 1800 and 2000 and from their games I can see that you need some extra skill to win against a player of the same group. It’s not uncommon that in team matches (8 players per team) we see 4-6 draws. This will be the time to pull out middlegame books to understand the finer details of positional chess to score the whole point. Once this knowledge has been acquired – and this can easily take a couple of years (or forever) – the results should improve and the next stage has been reached.

Beyond ELO 2000 it will get really difficult and a trainer might be a must.

So what does it mean for me? Nothing. I will continue with my program as planned and should hit 1800 sooner or later – hopefully sooner. 🙂

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5 Books you would rescue…

Over there at Inside the Blogosphere the old question of books for the lone island has been rephrased into:

If you had to leave your house in a hurry, and you could only grab five volumes off your shelf, which five would they be and why?

1+2. Gene Wolfe “Book of the New Sun” (actually there are 4 volumes but I have the omnibus editions)

A brilliant series that can (and must) be read a couple of times. Gene Wolfe uses an unreliable narrator and the reader needs to figure out himself where something is hidden from him.

3. Dan Simmons “Hyperion”

When I read the book for the first time I wasn’t much impressed. Maybe it was the bad translation, or I had to get a little bit older, I don’t know. The second time (reading the original and not the translation) it blew me away. An incredible set of connected stories, very emotional and embedded in a fantastic background. A true SF classic.

4. John C. Wright “The Golden Age”

An original look into the far future told in a baroque language. This book brought back the good old sense-of-wonder, which I thought was gone forever.

5. Vernor Vinge “A Fire upon the Deep”

A large scale space opera with original aliens and a nice story.

There are other books that I really love but these are the onese that I would grab immediately.

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TL Playoffs, here we come!

Yes, we made it! After losing the first two games in our TL division, the Dreadful Knights performed great and have entered the playoffs as wildcard team.

Everything is possible. 🙂

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A turbulent week!

  • Chesstempo rating stuck at 1930. I really like the puzzles at that level.
  • 2 TL games: here and here. I forgot that my opponent on Sunday plays the Petroff and wasn’t prepared. Fortunately he blundered in the tactical complications and I was finally up a rook + 2 pawns.
  • An exciting OTB game on Saturday (replayable here) that I lost against my 1509 rated opponent. That’s what I would call a typical amateur game where the advantage goes back and forth and where I made the last mistake.
  • Analysed 2 more master games. One of them featured the Alekhine Defense with some typical positions where it’s not easy to find the next move. Quite interesting to see what a master plays.

The weather is beautiful outside, it’s a pleasure to sit on a bench and read a book – or a comic like the Sandman series. Part 7 is brilliant and highly recommended, much better than Part 4.

What I like is how the Elder Ones bring madness into the world. They cause irrational feelings that are hard to explain by a logical mind but without them we are not humans.

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A busy week with 4 games in 8 days is over. This left no time for middlegame training but I continued to solve tactical puzzles and was able to keep a Chesstempo rating of around 1920. Tactics has the biggest impact on my play at the moment and I try to use this skill to more extent.

My results in the TL have improved – 2 draws (see here and here) and 1 win (here). The draw against JWB was interesting, we reached a double rook ending and my opponent offered a draw. The result of our game was meaningless for the match so instead of calling it a day I decided to play the ending out to the end. Not a bad decision but maybe I should stop giving away pawns for nothing. 30 moves and a lot of inaccuracies later the game was drawn and I think we both learnt a lot.

The highlight last week was an OTB win against my 1798 rated 15yo opponent. He surprised me with the Pirc and in the tactical battle I finally reached the upper head. In sight of mate in 1 my opponent resigned. You can replay the game online (Note: when you follow a side variation, don’t use the arrows. They will bring you back to the main line. Click on the moves instead).

The final attack started in this position:

Position after Qd2-Qa5

White is threatening to win the queen after Rg5. Black couldn’t resist here to play Qc2+ and after Rd2, Qc1 White has a beautiful mate in 4. Open files and lines are very important in chess and it’s worth sacrificing material.

This week the final round of the TL will be played. My team has a tiny chance to reach the play-offs so we will give our best. On the non chess side I have picked up another crazy hobby: I plan to read Shakespeare’s Sonnets. The first had the rather surprising topic of convincing a man to look for a wife and give birth to a child so that his beauty can live on.

I can’t really say that I expected that, however, the language is beautiful and not so difficult to understand. Here is Sonnet #5:

Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel:
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter and confounds him there;
Sap check’d with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o’ersnow’d and bareness every where:
Then, were not summer’s distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it nor no remembrance what it was:
    But flowers distill’d though they with winter meet,
    Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.

I like it. 🙂

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Weekly Progress #9 – 2011

Spring is coming, it’s still cold where I live but the sun is already shining in the morning when I get up. This makes a huge difference.

Chess training is going steady:

  • Regular Chesstempo puzzle solving, maintaining a rating above 1910.
  • Opening preparation as Black. I looked at the Sicilian Kan and gained more insight into the variations. The drawback of playing a flexible system is…its flexibility. Depending on White’s plans the pieces will go to different squares to provide the best defense.
  • More chapters in the Chessbase Strategy course. Interesting stuff about the different center types.
  • A draw in my OTB game against a young 1664 rated player (see below).
  • A loss in the Team4545League. I feel so bad, this season doesn’t go well for me. I made different mistakes than in the games before so there is still hope.

This week I will have White in my OTB tournament against another young (14yo) player rated 1798. I don’t expect the Petroff but will prepare for the French and the Najdorf, just in case. Usually the youngsters play the Ruy Lopez, however, I was able to find one game where my opponent played the French.

The game last Friday was an interesting test for my Sicilian Kan. I made a small inaccuracy, wasting a precious tempo, and we reached the following position:

Position after 16...Nd7

My opponent used a lot of time for the first 15 moves, almost 45 minutes. I expected Bf4 here and was thinking about Nb4 or a way to get another attack at e5. White is slightly better but Black is doing fine.

Instead of something calm, White played the stunning 17. Bxh7! What a blow and suddenly 6 other players were standing around our table.

Position after 17. Bxh7

I couldn’t believe that Black is suddenly lost after the bishop sacrifice and the study of wild combinations à la Tal has taught me one thing: the defender can often save the game if he plays precisely.

This is the moment of truth – chess player or patzer. Well, dear readers, what is the right move? Ignore the sacrifice or accept it? It’s your turn. 🙂

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