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Time is flying by at the moment, July is already over and I am enjoying the beautiful weather here in Austria. You can’t do much else but swimming in the lake and hoping that the air conditioner in the office has one of its good days! As you may already guess from the introduction, chess took a backseat and I am not even feeling bad about it. It gives me time to relax my mind and think about other things. Or reading a good comic:

saga2

I am slowly getting back into the right mood though and started to play through some true chess classics, partly guessing the moves. It’s interesting that I now see new things so playing through them a second or third time is still valuable. I have also started to train my calculation skill at Chesstempo and to my surprise I am not sucking badly as expected. A new trend? We will see. 🙂

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Thanks to my readers for their comments about how to do tactics. As mentioned I have started to work on pins, forks and double attacks and solved 68 of them in the range of 1400-1600 on ChessTempo. The 1400er puzzles are pretty simple but the 1500+ gave me some headaches. This was exactly what I was worrying about. You start solving higher rated puzzles that rely more on calculation but fail much easier ones. Or maybe it’s just a lack of focus because I know that the puzzles are not so hard but I really try to solve them to the end. Sometimes it’s possible, sometimes not. It seems to be a good training and I will stick to it for some more time. Here is an example:

diagram043

My last Team4545League game can be replayed here. After a pretty lucky win in round 3 where my opponent run into a mate-in-1, we fought a more tactical battle. I actually didn’t expect to be able to try out my beloved Benko and I was right. We ended in a sideline and the position was complicated:

diagram044

What to do here? I couldn’t calculate the 20…Nxc4 line to the end so I played the safe 20…Kg8 instead. After 21…Bf5 I already had the next chance to win material and this time it worked out. The endgame wasn’t too difficult after exchanging more pieces and restricting White’s knight. A satisfying win. 🙂

More thoughts about ELO 1800

In my blog I have posted my goal to reach ELO 1800 by summer 2013. I can already say that I won’t be able to reach this goal but I am not worried. I will do a review at the beginning of next year and set a new goal. A big drawback is that I am not able to play many rated OTB games. There are league games from time to time and one or two tournaments but this is not enough. On the other hand I really like the Team4545League and I think I will use my rating there as measurement for future goals. Not that rating is that much important. I found the following words of ZEN wisdom and couldn’t agree more.

“My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success.

She said that achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you.
Success is being praised by others. That is nice but not as important or satisfying.

Always aim for achievement and forget about success.” –Helen Hayes

With this attitude nothing can stop you. Nobody will care about the rating or if you have lost against weak players. What counts is that you have worked hard and that you know what to do in the future.

With these words I want to say good by for 2012 and wish you all a merry christmas!

merry-xmas-snoopy

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One of my chess buddies mentioned to me that he now has to focus more on tactics because he has started to miss simple things. This brought up the old question how to practice tactics. There are different approaches:

No more than 10-15min per day but be consistent

Solve simple (!) puzzles at the start of the training and rather analyze games of tactical players like Alekhine, Tal, Shirov, Kasparov, Mamedyarov. The advantage is that when you play through the games you will face many tactical positions and you also learn how to coordinate your pieces so that the opportunities arise. An obvious drawback is that a game only provides a handfull of tactics so picking up patterns will take time.

The other approach is:

Solve as many puzzles as possible

Here we talk about thousands of puzzles. Sites like ChessTempo generate them in huge amounts and by using a sophisticated rating system you can easily select between easy and hard puzzles. The obvious advantage is that you get to see all kind of patterns that sooner or later will be helpful in your own games. The biggest drawbacks are that it can get pretty boring if you do a lot of simple puzzles and it’s very time consuming. Time that you could spend on analysing master games.

Somewhere in-between is a third approach:

Learn selected puzzles by heart

There are many books about tactics available and the authors have been very careful in selecting examples that teach you the fundamentals of an idea. Wouldn’t it be enough to just learn them by heart so that your normal thought process will pick up a tactical motif during a game?

Learn Tactics

What is the best method? There is no definite answer. From a scientific point of view I would say that it should be enough to understand an idea to be able to apply it but this doesn’t take into consideration the complexity of chess. While thinking about the best move in a position you will dismiss an idea entirely if you don’t see an advantage. Depending on the tactical skill this will be at 4 or 5 plies. If you have solved similar problems already then this will increase the number of plies considerably because your subconsious will tell you that there is something in this position and you keep on looking.

With an ideal thought process you won’t need it but, again, chess is complex and in the heat of the battle it’s easy to miss something. There are surely some patterns that don’t require a lot of repetition but I think it’s helpful for critical patterns like pins, forks and double attacks. I have used ChessTempo to create a set with exactly these problems and will train them in the next weeks. Let’s see how long my motivation will last. 🙂

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Beautiful Spring

It’s been some time since my last post. I didn’t feel like blogging and there wasn’t so much to share. From time to time I was impressed by positions or games but one day later it didn’t feel so important anymore. Doesn’t make sense? Never mind. 🙂

In February I had a tough time to focus on chess. I lost games because of simple tactics and didn’t do much to study the game. This showed in the results. I chatted with some people about my situation and got overwhelming positive feedback. Everyone is going through such phases and has a receipt or two to get out of it – and it worked! Special kudos to Henry who was very helpful.

A quick look back:

  • My tournament is over. The result was pretty bad with 2/7 (two wins, five losses). Chess-wise it was a great experience and I learnt a lot. Even more important I enjoyed all the games and met nice people.
  • As a big contrast to the tourney, I won my 3 games in the lower league in Carinthia. Players were rated between 1400 and 1730 and I had interesting positions on the board. Next game is in 2.5 weeks.
  • The last round of the Team4545League is over and the Dreadful Knights made it into the play-offs! A great achievement and I am very proud of the team.
  • I am playing in the 9030 Candidates Swiss and got a hard fought draw last night. My opponent had chances to win but couldn’t break through. The computer showed me some nasty ideas so next time I will be better prepared for such positions.

My own performance in the Team4545League was okay. I got outplayed in game #1 and lost, made a tactical blunder in a good position in #2 and lost, got a lucky draw in a lost endgame in #3, converted my opening advantage in #4 and used a late mistake in #5 to win the game.

It’s time to get back on track and to do some serious study. I am currently looking at some games from Bent Larsen and will share my findings with you (in case there are any). Stay tuned!

Last but not least some impressions from my recent games.

Here I played 34…Rxd3! with a beautiful position. My opponent didn’t resign and I had to checkmate him but that wasn’t difficult.

My opponent has blundered a piece and just realized it but 23…exf4? wasn’t the best move and allowed another tactical shot that ended the game immediately.

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Last Saturday was another test for my Ruy-Lopez as White. The rest of the family was at home baking cookies and I would have loved to join them but my chess club needed me. My opponent made some dubious moves and finally even lost a piece. He didn’t give up though, pushed his pawns and without any reason I blundered a piece back and finally lost. Unbelievable, you can replay the whole desaster here. When the chess heavy season is over I will take out all the endgames that I have lost and play them against a computer to understand them better. This will boost my confidence so that I am not scared anymore once someone is starting to move a pawn here and another there.

X-mas is getting close and I decided to upgrade my old Aquarium to the latest version 2011. A really neat feature is that you can store the evaluation of different engines in different trees now, so a possible configuration looks like this (the position is taken from the game above, a variation where Black plays 11…f5):

If the position was already played in other games, you will see a CAP entry as well, a database with millions of computer evaluations. IDEA is an Aquarium specific feature that allows interactive, computer-assisted exploration of variations. There are a couple of articles on the webpage if you want to know more.

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Just a quick update from my side. The OTB tournament finished last sunday. I struggled in round 4, losing against a 2020er who finally came in second, and drew the last game against a 1560er. It was an interesting Scandinavian game where I managed to outplay my opponent and even got a winning position:

c5 was the last try from Black to achieve something. In time scramble I completely missed that I had an easy win by pushing my g-pawn. Taking the pawn is bad, and not taking is bad either. After some more exchanges and a final mistake from my side the game was drawn. As a conclusion, I need to work on my time management and on my endgame skills, especially simple pawn  endings.

In the Team4545League I got a surprisingly easy win after an early mistake from my opponent. Last night I played another game and I must confess that this was one of the most boring games ever. Drawing with Black is okay but chess should also be fun and of course I play to win, not to draw. In the post-mortem analysis the computer came up with a nice idea: push the g-pawn and start a kingside assault. This is something I could try out next time but I will rather choose a different setup against the English opening where I have better winning chances.

Tomorrow is another OTB league game (I will have White) and on Tuesday the next TL game (I will have Black). Wish me luck. 🙂

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This was a chess heavy week with a lot of study and three long games. The most outrageous loss happened on Friday. In the following position White is two healthy pawns up with all advantages:

White to play

Here I uncorked the stunning 25. Qa8?? and resigned immediately. An unbelievable blunder caused by excitement and a non existing mate-in-one.

In my game last night, which you can replay here, everything was pretty even until something went wrong for me. Usually White should attack but instead I found myself in the tough position to defend my IQP. Fortunately I survived the late middlegame stage and found myself in a superior endgame with bishop + 2 pawns against knight. Here I gave my opponent the chance for a draw:

Black to move after 75. Kf6

We were both in time trouble and Black missed the chance. Nxb7 Bxb7 and stalemate! Now it was up to me to find a way to win the game:

White to move after 80...Nb8

The knight simply jumps back and forth and is ready to capture the pawn.What I had to do was to reach the same position that I had now but with Black to move. 3 moves later Black resigned.

A sweet victory and much brain food about how to play with an IQP. Usually I try to avoid it but in this game I have seen its power if you manage to coordinate your pieces in the right way.

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