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Archive for October, 2011

Spanish Galore

My first two OTB games after a long break are over. In both games I had White and the Ruy Lopez appeared on the board.

Game 1 was against a 50 year old player with a rating of 1942 (FIDE: 2029). My rating is 1601 so chances to win the game were rather slim but facing strong opposition is what brings you forward. I survived a dangerous kingside attack, equalized around move 24 and lost after bold pawn play by my opponent. You can replay the game here.

Game 2 was against a talented 10 year old boy who has already won the U10 county championship. He made no mistakes and when I got in serious time trouble I missed a great chance to win a rook. We played on, by far the longest game I’ve ever played (5 hours!) and reached the following position:

Position after 53...Qd6

Black is ready to play Ra3 to attack g3. It’s a dangerous idea but White has something better. I played 54. Qb5, rubbed my eyes and tried to look worn (no big deal after 5 hours). My opponent smiled, looked again and played 54…Ra3?? His face dropped after 55. Qe8+ with mate to follow soon. You can replay the whole game here.

Friday follows round 2 of my OTB tournament, I will have Black against another strong player (FIDE 1930, national ELO 1863). πŸ™‚

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Too much tactics = brain dead

If you have followed my blog recently you know about the never-ending search for the best balance. I had to made a decision regading ChessTempo. My silver membership has expired and I wasn’t sure if I should extend it. I focussed heavily on tactics this month and got my rating there back to 2000 (it has dropped to 1975 now), however, I had the strong feeling that I spend too much time with the site. A couple of chess teacher say that you should do it as warm-up, spend only 15-30 minutes but not more. Do it regularely, don’t miss a day and you will see progress.

A good reason for that, and I tend to agree, is that you burn out too much. Your brain will have a harder time to absorb the material from other sessions if you have already 2+ hours tactical drill behind you. A typical example that doing more isn’t really helpful.

Let’s see how it goes. πŸ™‚

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Chess and knowledge

Knowledge is a dangerous sword; in a weak hand that does not know how to wield it, it gets in its master’s way and wounds him. (Montaigne)

When I read this quote I immediately had to think about the game of chess. The positions that can appear on the board are almost infinite (I spare you the math) and solving the game seems to be far in the future. Nevertheless, there is the strong impression that the knowledge that you need to possess to master the game can be obtained in a short amount of time. Many GMs make a living with books that tell you the Secrets of Chess, willing to reveal Everything about Chess, to make YOU a Grandmaster. Know the right opening variation and you have almost won. πŸ™‚ In addition you will hear about 50 endgame position you have to know, 300 middlegame positions etc.

It’s the human nature to give in to such calls. Miracle healers exist since centuries, exploiting the wish for simple answers. Take this pill and you will become smarter. (The movie is worth watching.) In the same way, weak but motivated amateur players look for the easy road to chess mastery – but there is none. You have to work hard and nobody will take it away from you.

There will be enough chances in the next weeks. I will participate in a nearby city championship (5 rounds, one game per week, time control is 90min + 30 seconds increment from move one) and in November the next Team4545League will start. After that it will be time to check if I got closer to my goal to reach ELO 1800 or what I have to change in my training.

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Some online stuff

When I revived my chess 2 years ago, I bought the GM Secrets course from Igor Smirnov (by that time it was the only course from him, and it was a lot cheaper), which helped a lot to get my on the right track. Some of my chess buddies have purchased it as well and we are quite fond of the material. Igor regularely publishes free video lessons so if you haven’t checked it out you should do it now.

Another nice find this week was the new website from Igor Khmelnitsky, the author of the Chess Exam books. He has put some material online and you can even take the test if you want (I prefer the books though). I don’t know if it’s worth paying for something like that but I liked the following statement from the FAQ:

You can only take 2-3 exercises each day. The main reason is to encourage you to spend quality time (5-20 minutes) on each position. Solving problems is best when done regularly, yet it should only be a part of your chess training.

There is even a timer so that you must wait at least 3 minutes until you are allowed to check the solution. That’s a nice approach to force students to think long enough. It also made me think about the hours I have spent with ChessTempo. It’s a good site, no question, but what is the right amount of puzzles you should solve? 5? 10? 100?

It’s all about finding the right balance.

Finally, a new version of Fritz has been released this month.

Usually I am not so excited to see a new Fritz. It has a lot of features but often there is nothing that is really groundbreaking. This time it’s different. There is a cool feature called Let’s Check. Engine evaluations are stored online and shared with the community. In Aquarium storing the evaluations has been part of the product right from the beginning but only of your own analyses. Now imagine a large community sharing their results and making them available! Grand Masters will probably not use this feature to hide their ideas from others but I am sure that motivated amateurs or players with big egos will quickly jump on the train and start contributing. An evaluation by itself is nothing, as we all know, but it would be a good method to suggest candidates that you otherwise might have missed.

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Playing against the computer

Nowadays there are a lot of opportunities to play games against humans. Nevertheless I decided to play some games against the computer to get more practice with my opening repertoire. The silicon machine is a ruthless fellow and will exploit mistakes at once. This helps a lot to understand move orders and tactical threats.

A big disadvantage is that it’s hard to stay focussed. It’s something completely different when you sit at a real board and make your moves, or when you play in an online league where the result matters. For me it works if I first make up my mind with what I want to achieve in the trainings session. It will have an impact on the strength of the computer as well. To train an opening I don’t limit the computer much, it should play pretty strong to catch mistakes as soon as possible. When I want to train my general play I adjust the ELO level, for now 1800 is strong enough to kick my ass. πŸ™‚

Most modern programs have a feature to adjust the strength. Delfi is a good one, it doesn’t play like Kasparov for the first 15 moves and then blunders a piece or a pawn. It really seems to play like a decent amateur – or a strong one if you set the ELO to 2300. Other people prefer Chessmaster or Fritz.

If winning is really important to you, I suggest to use one of the fun programs:

May the force be with you. (Click on the picture to go see the old DOS game in action on YouTube.)

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Innovative Chess

Innovative Chess

What about a game of chess? πŸ™‚

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