Archive for the ‘Chess’ Category

Chess Motivation

As a DIY improver it can be pretty hard to keep up the motivation. There are tricks, e.g. “form a group”, “talk about it in public”, “follow a strict plan”, “surround yourself with masters” but we all know that it’s not easy especially when the results don’t come. Nobody expects to improve much in 3 or 6 months but what about 1 year? Or 3? How much dedication is needed to master the game?


It’s so easy to fall into a fruitless cycle. You think that with everything you have read and studied you should be much (at least 100 or 200 ELO points) stronger so you feel disappointed when you lose against better players. On the other hand winning against weaker players is no real challenge and you don’t get much joy because they are not on the same level. Don’t be like that!

Be proud of your achievements!

Every game must be won no matter how weak your opponent is so be happy with your good result and have others cheer for you. Allow yourself to feel good.

Treat every game as a lesson that brings you closer to mastery, and be grateful for that.

Of course everyone wants to win but the opponent wants the same and you cannot guarantee a victory. Instead use the opportunity to identify a weakness so that you can work on it in your future training.

In my first game this year for instance I ran into time trouble twice. This made me lose game #1 despite having winning and drawing chances, and I had to settle with a draw after messing up my winning chances in game #2. Strict time management became the rule of the day and this truly helped to play better in the following games.


Blunders are another typical problem. Keeping up the concentration after 2-3 hours is easy for some and harder for others. It’s important to find an anti-dote, a mental reminder that will slow you down when you are about to make a sub-par move. Tournament players are quite good these days and chances are low that you can recover easily.

What helped you most in your chess career?


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Chess Personalities

Some time ago a friend of mine sent me the link to the following interesting page:

What is your Chess Personality?

Answer 20 questions and you will know which master you should follow. After taking the test don’t forget to make a screenshot because the exact distribution in the 4 categories is not saved. I tried it back in January and another time right now and the result was always the same: I am a Chess Assassin like Bobby Fischer.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

If you want to post your own results in the comment section. 🙂

I don’t like the “recommended opening” part (although I already play the Ruy-Lopez and the Sicilian but not the Najdorf), this is far too simple to look at it that way. It might be true once you are an IM or GM but for us Patzers it’s too early to focus on a special “playing style”. Instead it makes more sense to identify your weaknesses and work on them. This allows you to play flexible at the board and chose a continuation that is inconvenient for your opponent.

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A week with the English Hedgehog

In round 2 of the city chess championship I knew that my opponent plays the English opening. It was time to prepare!

Day 1

I look at my resources. There is book 1 of the Complete Hedgehog, a marvelous effort by GM Sergey Shipov, and I have the Chessbase DVD by GM Lubomir Ftacnik. Both authors ensure me that the hedgehog is a viable system for Black so I decide to employ it against the English opening.

shipov_hedgehog1    ftacnik_igel

Day 2

I start to watch the Ftacnik videos. He shows the games rather quickly and I have to stop from time to time to explore move orders and variations. I get a good feeling of the weak points and learn the options that Black has to survive the critical opening phase but the pace is of the DVD requires a lot of concentration.

Day 3

More variations and in some White can exchange most of the pieces to get a drawn endgame. This means that this is not the all-purpose weapon for Black and once I am rated above 2000 I probably have to play different against weaker players. For now I don’t have to worry. 🙂

There are some remarkable games on the DVD, especially the one by Kasparov against Huebner, and I finally understand the idea behind the b5 break move. My mistake mainly was the futile try to calculate the resulting positions and to find an advantage. Calculation is of course necessary but you rather have to look for weaknesses in White’s camp that can be exploited when the position opens up. Pieces can be pinned or double attacked and the rooks have nice files to work on.

Day 4

In the last part of the DVD Ftacnik presents some common but dangerous sidelines that require a different approach from Black. Let’s hope that I can remember all of this, although it’s perfectly fine to lose games if I learn something in the process.

I checked the Zurich 1953 book and found 3 games in the English. Really useful was the one between Gligoric and Smyslov. White wanted too much and was outplayed in a fascinating endgame.

The Shipov book was too overwhelming. I played through some of the games but for a one-week-preparation this is hopeless. It’s better to use in the post-mortem analysis or after gaining more experience with the system.

Day 5

I finish the videos and feel confident.

The game starts in the evening and we play indeed the English Hedgehog. My 1850 rated opponent enters a more passive sideline with d3, e4 and Re1 that I wasn’t really prepared for. The game is pretty complicated but in the end I reach a winning position – the hedgehog has prevailed. 🙂

The critical mistake happened in the following position:


White played the tempting move Qf6, completely underestimating that he was under fire. I played the second best move which was 40…Rxe2. Together with the other kibitzers we later analyzed 40…Rd2 in more detail, which was even stronger.

You can play through it here (use the “Export” function if you want to save it as pgn).

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A game from the lower league

First of all a quick update: I have added a link to my game in the first round of the championship. Use the Export function to download the pgn if you wish.

Last Saturday my team faced the current top team in the lower league and we won the match. My game (which you can replay here) first looked like a quick disaster but turned into a convincing win. That’s chess!

A completely wrong evaluation happened in this position:



Here I played 7…Ng4??, an absolute terrible move. I can’t afford any aggression in the early part of the opening and in addition I exchange one of my strongest pieces. In such a setup with e6 I can’t give away the dark squared bishop like this. 

Fortunately my opponent now played without the pieces and just pushed the pawns so after a careless moment I was able to turn the game:


After 17…Nxf5 there are no real threats on the king side and the position is much easier to play for Black. The increasing pressure gave me the chance for a nice tactical blow:


29…Be4! wins another pawn but as I have found out later it’s a bit tricky if White replies with 30. Rc3 dxc3 31.Nxe4. Now the move Qg7 to push away the queen is not good and runs into a knight fork that wins back the rook.

After the text move 30.Rd2 I missed the killing 30…Nf7!!, which will immediately win White’s queen. We played on a bit longer but the win was never in doubt. At the end I could have finished the game with a clear mate-in-4 in the following position but one gets no extra points for beauty and after 57…Rg3 White gave up, made a rook move and so allowed 58…Qa1#.

Black to play and mate in 4

Black to play and mate in 4

That was a fine win to boost the confidence! Let’s see how my tournament continues on Friday.

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Update: link to game

The local city chess championships 2014 (link to the tournament) are on the way. The field is pretty even and many players have the chance to win the title. Ratingwise we have

  • 1900er: 5
  • 1800er: 6
  • 1700er: 6
  • 1600er: 3
  • 1500er: 3
  • 1400er: 3
  • 1300er: 1

In the first round I was paired against my 1863 rated team mate and we played the Ruy Lopez. He picked  an unusual King’s Indian like setup and the game was equal most of the time. I need to check where I can improve because I play the Spanish to win, not to draw. Or is it really maneuvering until someone blunders?

Well, it could have been much easier for me but in the following position I gave away a pawn for nothing:


41.fxg3?? Nxe4

Ouch, Nf2 or a king move would have been good. After that Black had an advantage but with two pairs of knights it’s extremely tricky and I was able to reach a drawn position where my team mate tried hard to win:


The knight can go back and forth between e6 and c5 so Black can’t make any progress. As a funny sidenote, Black cannot win with the a- or c-pawn alone, I hope everyone knows the drawing techniques. 🙂

Our game was the last to finish after 5h and it was a good start for me. My next opponent is a 1850er who seems to play the English opening. Time to prepare my hedgehog or something new.

I will upload the pgn in the next days.

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Chess Season 2014

My chess plan for this year is pretty simple: play many long games, if possible OTB. I have a hard time concentrating when I play in the internet (you know, sitting alone at the computer, it’s close to midnight, the family is sleeping and you play a game?!) so it doesn’t have the same learning effect. 15min games are fine and I have more or less stopped playing anything faster than that.

At the moment it’s not the knowledge that holds me back, it’s the practice against stronger players. Unfortunately when you have a full-time job it can be pretty hard to find opportunities to play in tournaments but there are always 2-3 here in the area where I live.

The first one is already over (5 rounds, time control 90+30) and although I only got 2 out of 5 points (+1, =2, -2) I have learnt quite a bit and can’t complain. I will share the games in the next weeks.

The next tournament starts today, it goes over 7 rounds with a time control of 90+30 with an additional 30 minutes after move 40. Participants are rated between 1300 and 2000, which will give me excellent chances to play good games. My main focus will be on avoiding blunders and improving clock handling. Recently I got too often into time trouble while looking for ways to get an advantage with the result that I was running out of time when the real complication started.

Something that also seems to help is meditation. Getting your head free and calming down helps with finding good moves. These 2000er players make strange mistakes too so I play every game with the will to win. If after 40 moves the position looks equal, well, then it will depend. I am not yet in the killer mood to play on forever – maybe this is something I should change for this tournament. As long as there is play and I am not worse I promise myself to play on, no matter if I have no idea how to handle certain positions.

Wish me luck. 🙂


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How many Blitz games do you need to gain 100 points?

Answer: 7 games

I was pretty lazy in the last weeks and don’t feel much motivated. There is always such a time, I know. The biggest problem is that there is no incentive at the moment. Getting better could be a goal but to whom would I prove that I got better? With an abstract rating on ICC? And always remember that this is time that could be used to achieve other things.

I have decided for myself to put chess aside for a while. I am waiting for the next OTB tournaments and when I know the schedule I will prepare for them. Playing in such social events is much better and when you are sitting at a table you focus much more on the game. Not like the half-hearted internet games that are mostly there for fun.

Coming back to today’s topic, how many games do you need to gain 100 points on ICC in the 5min category? My rating dropped pretty much recently. I played more on my iPad and lost a lot of games on time. A surprising winning streak of 7 games made my rating jump from 1200 to 1300. 🙂 Blitz is really only for fun, often I don’t care too much about my pawns but try to open lines for an attack. Here are snapshots of these 7 games. Enjoy!


A simple mate


Mutual time trouble but I managed to win 6 moves later with 2sec left on the clock.


This is won now but not with 32…Nxf2+? (Ng3+!). White blunders back with 33. Kg1 which is a mate in 4 but had the chance to exploit my weak backrank instead.


A messy Smith-Morra gambit that went totally wrong for me. I only tried to keep up some threats with queen and knight and after 24.Rae1?? White suddenly runs into a mate in 2. 🙂


I first spoilt a good position and had to win the game a 2nd time. Black resigned here.


Black lost on time here. Temporarely I even had a triple f-pawn. For some reason Black didn’t want to capture f5 during the game, he rather tried to develop pieced but never got a winning attack.


This was the beginning of the end for Black.

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