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Archive for July, 2011

Levon Aronian, picture from Wikipedia

 

An interesting interview with Aronian can be found at crestbook (part 1, part 2).

I’m 18 and play at approximately a 1950-2000 level. Can I reach 2300 Elo?

2300 isn’t the kind of summit that’s hard to conquer. Even if you only devote 3-4 hours a week to chess you should be able to reach that level in a couple of years, as long as you have the chance to play in tournaments.

If these are not good news! As you know, I have set myself the goal to reach ELO 1800 first and then, well, FIDE master would be nice. 🙂 Playing in tournaments is not so easy at the moment and I don’t know how much the internet counts. At least it gives me the chance to face stronger opposition and to lose a lot.

– How do you find them [unexpected moves] in advance? Is it really by an exhaustive search?

It’s not something you want to admit, but good and unexpected moves very often occur to you out of despair. When you think for a long time and simple continuations don’t work for some reason or other then you start getting angry and at that point you find the most unexpected solutions.

This takes away the common illusion that GMs calculate 20 moves in advance. Personally, when I look for a plan the most difficult part is to find all dangerous responses. It’s too easy to get carried away and to miss a surprising pawn move.

Playing White you usually have the right to make one mistake, and that’s a great plus.

Nice one.

If you really want to play for a win with Black then it’s better not to allow the Ruy Lopez or the Scotch. Perhaps it would make sense to avoid symmetry on the very first move.

This is in line with the statement that to get winning chances on the highest level you must seek imbalances (material, asymmetric pawn structures). Below master level it’s enough to play good moves, sooner or later the weaker player will make a mistake that can be exploited. This won’t happen between two masters and you must do more to play for a win.

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Not much to report about my own training (just some tactics now and then) but strong events are currently ongoing or have just finished. First I recommend to look at the games from the World Chess Teamchampionship 2011. It was very interesting to see how the 2600er and 2700er players fought it out with dangerous tactics and counter blows.

In the game “Ganguly – Svidler” (round 9) White has set up deadly mating threats:

White to move

The final blow came with 22. Bg8 and Svidler resigned 2 moves later.

In Dortmund Kramnik is on a hot streak and in Biel Carlsen has the strongest nerves so far although he lost rather surprisingly against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The French manoeuvered for a long time in a position where he stood slightly better until Carlsen made a decisive mistake. Watching how the pieces are coordinated for attack and defense is very instructive.

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Not much chess study last week, and this week neither. I am not so motivated at the moment and rather read a book (just arrived: All My Sins remembered) or enjoy quick Blitz games.

Talking about Blitz, after watching how Nakamura won the ICC chess open I decided to try out 1. b3 myself. This helps to create a line between serious chess and having fun. When I want to have fun I simply choose a dubious opening line and force my opponents to think for themselves. And it works! Fianchetto lines are very tactical and in worst case you reach an endgame with mutual chances.

Here is a funny position where I had Black. White’s queen is under attack and he thought he could raise the stakes by counter attacking my queen:

Position after 22. Na4

Not only can Black savely capture the queen to win White’s knight, in addition both rooks are under attack from the bishops. This is not what you want.

Here is another example of a funny position I had recently. Black more or less went all-in and tried to mate the king. The result was this:

White's king has just captured a bishop on h2.

No pieces on the first rank and only king+pawn on the 2nd. 🙂

And finally another well-known tactic:

What to do after Blacks Qd3?

 Rd1! forces Black to give up his queen for rook and knight, and as he was already down in material this was completely losing. Well, it didn’t went that way – Black thought he could counter attack with Qc4 but now Rxe8 is already mate.

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The Hugo is one of the big awards in the SF scene. One could discuss forever if it really reflects the best what the genre has to offer but at least it’s something worth looking at. Links to online stories can be found here. I use my proven rating system with A for great, B for good (enjoyed it) and C for “didn’t like it”.

BEST NOVELLA

BEST NOVELETTE

  • (A) “Eight Miles” by Sean McMullen
    We write the year 1840. Eight miles straight up is the height that a man wants to reach to perform a secret experiment, a height that would kill a man… What starts as a classic, old-fashioned SF story quickly turns into a mystery with lots of action. Recommended!
  • (B) “The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele
    This is an hommage to the Mars with many references to novels and stories. It’s interesting and fun to read but nothing special and it didn’t make an everlasting impression.
  • (C) “The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard
    I didn’t get very far in the story. The names confused me and I finally stopped reading after 10 pages. Maybe I will pick it up again, other people liked it very much.
  • (C) “Plus or Minus” by James Patrick Kelly
    A big disappointment. On a space ship the oxygene won’t last long enough and drastic measures are required to survive. Half of the story nothing exciting happens, it’s all preparation for the big bang. After that it gets only slightly better – not enough for me. I highly recommend the author’s old story Think like a Dinosaur instead!
  • (C) “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone
    In three words, it’s about religion, space and aliens. An absolute awful main character spoiled the story for me and the plot wasn’t something I was interested in. Not for me.

BEST SHORT STORY

  • (A) “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn
    Lovely story about a girl who is an outsider in her society and who finally decides to fight for her right. The interesting background with a well drawn society made this an enjoyable read. The story is nothing special, by no means, but I had a good time with it.
  • (-) “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal
    Awful begin, couldn’t get into the story. I hesitate to give it a C, maybe I will try again.
  • (-) “Ponies” by Kij Johnson
    Haven’t read yet.
  • (C) “The Things” by Peter Watts
    It’s a retelling of the events in the movie “The Thing”, which I haven’t seen. Maybe it would make more sense to see it first because the story was quite a mess. The ingredients were good and the alien fantastic, however, the plot didn’t do much for me and I never got into it.

 

There is still time left to read the remaining nominees. So far Troika and The Lady who Plucked Red Flowers… alone outweight the negative impressions from the weaker stories and I am glad that I read them.

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…not by me, I have to add. I stumbled upon the list here and was almost shocked (in a positive way) about the selection. Someone has read the same novels and authors that I did when I tried to catch up with the classics and masterpieces. Gene Wolfe, Dan Simmons, Philip K. Dick, Jack Vance, Robert Heinlein, Ursula K. LeGuin – they are all there.

Let’s look at the books that are not so well known:

Joe Haldeman: All my sins remembered.

I know the brilliant Mindbridge  and of course Forever War but not this one.

Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Magerita

Does anyone know this book? I have never heard of it before…

Vladimir Nabokov: Pale Fire

Another, rather unusual book that I will try to read in the next months. The summary sounds very weird, let’s see how this all works out.

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How Nakamura won the ICC Chess Open 2011

Cool video by kingscrusher who looks at Nakamura’s games. It’s long (more than 1:30 h) but very funny. You will love it and if you play 1. b3 or 1…b6 you definitely have to watch it – these were Nakamura’s main weapons to beat his opponents.

It’s available on YouTube. The tournament results can be found here.

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Slowly my training gets more structured again.

  • Daily 15-20min Tactics training at Chesstempo using my new “Puzzles between 1500 and 1700” set. This is the right difficulty, most of the puzzles can be solved in less than 1 minute and a forth of them is tricky enough to require up to 5 minutes. I really got bored by super simple tactics where you just need to play the obvious move. It’s much better now.
  • Analyzed 2 master games (one from Anderssen and another played between Keres and Kotov). Very instructive, both of them.
  • Played the last Team4545League game for this season. Another drama – I lost the game after being a whole rook up. I completely underestimated the danger in the endgame, and time trouble didn’t help either. Castling queen side was a risky decision and although it worked I need to pay more attention in future. Following my new ZEN attitude I wasn’t much worried by the loss although it was a pity for the team. I learnt a great deal and it was time well spent.
  • The national ELO list has calculated my entry rating with 1601. Looking at my current games I would say it’s overrated but I try my best to become more stable in my play. The next OTB season will start later in September and maybe I am able to play in more than one tournament.

There are no long games planned for this week, I am gonna focus on the study of master games for the next weeks. In parallel I have started to put my chess knowledge into a flashcard like system. Usually you read a book or study some material. Then you look at examples to understand how or if it works. Finally you draw the conclusions that you want to remember for your own game. As we are flooded with information, these conclusions are quickly forgotten. Organizing the knowledge and reviewing it regularely hopefully helps.

How does it look like? Actually it’s pretty simple.

Q: What are the goals in the chess opening?
A: Develop the pieces, castle and connect the rooks

Q: In the endgame, when up in material you should exchange …
A: pieces

I do the same for important endgame positions so that I can review them regularely. Let’s take this well-known position for example:

It’s White to move. If you don’t know the right plan it’s hard to find it on your own.

The winning idea is to sacrifice one pawn to use the opposition to win Black’s c-pawn and to enter a won K+P vs K endgame. The first moves are 1. Kf6 Kd8 2. d7! Kxd7 3. Kf7 and White wins.

There are a dozens of such must-know positions. Learning them from a book (or software) doesn’t really help unless they are practiced from time to time. As a non-professional I am not really motivated to set up the positions on a board every week, which would be the best way to burn them into the brain. Flashcards help to build a bridge. I extract the important pieces to make sure that they are easily accessible and truly important things can be drilled when there is time (like K+P vs K endgames).

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