17 March, 2018

Time and Tactics

My continued practice of tactics, mainly through the use of Chess Tempo, appears to be paying off for me, despite the difficulty of measuring this precisely.

I find that I can calculate better, and that I see more ideas. 

However, wanting to be confident that I have the correct solution often means that I spend more time than 'the average', which isn't bad per se ,as it means I am re-examining, re-calculating and probably reinforcing positions and variations that I see : extended practise, so to speak. It does mean that I look at fewer problems/positions per session though.

I notice this is in OTB play as well : thinking too long,  I tend to fall into time-trouble towards the end, often being 15 minutes behind my opponent, which naturally increases the risk of mistakes.

Lack of time is not always helped when I forget to stop my clock, since opponents ( especially in League matches ) will rarely remind you. 90 minutes with a 15 second increment sounds like a huge amount of time, but it can be eaten up very quickly.

In a recent game, I was a pawn up, I still had to win it, and it didn't look that simple when you have about 9 minutes to the opponent's 15.

After 34...Rb3

Eventually, after my opponent also burned time thinking, pushed the king-side pawns aggressively and gave me an opening, I ended up in the position below.

White to play after 48..Kxb7

Easy to win, I'm sure you will think, but with about a minute left, and with the Black King in front of the doubled pawns it looks daunting.

In reality, once I had decided on a plan, I just played quickly for 6 or so moves gaining time on the clock, and with a mistaken Kh8 from Black turning up, I could stop and spend some time to make sure of the win, and even more importantly, avoiding the stalemate !

Finally, just to show I can still fail miserably, I spent about 5 minutes staring at the following before making the wrong move. I just didn't consider the White response fully, but it was nice to have the correct idea !

Black to play

Solution if required

08 March, 2018

Over 1700 at Chess Tempo

I managed to creep over 1700 at ChessTempo.

In fact ,I achieved this earlier in the year, but then, even though I kept above 1700 for some time, I  hit a very variable streak, rocketing up, but just as quickly dropping back to almost 1600.

Its taken me a month to edge up to within 1700, but somehow just not quite making it.

However, re-focusing in the last week has allowed me to regain the last of those 100 points to go over that 1700 limit again.

In the process, I have managed a continuous 42 weeks of problem solving, and have just completed 89 consecutive days as part of that. Technically, the number of days is almost double, but a software glitch linked to a being in a different time-zone cost me a missed two days.

Below is the problem that took me above 1700 ( to 1700.9 to be precise ), and it is a satisfying one.

White to play
The pawn, Knight and Rook combine to suggest a confinement of the King, but is there enough to force a mate ? 

That is the question to be answered, and although it took me more than the average of 6:20, I found that the answer was "Yes", and proved it.


To show that pride does indeed come before a fall, the below diagram shows me as over-confident, assessing both the solutions I had found, but through a lack of proper calculation and blindness, over-looked an obvious Black response, chose the wrong move, and dropped nicely under 1700 again.

White to play

Solution if required.

Now, though, I'm back above the line and on a slow and steady upward course.

28 February, 2018

Moving forward

It is a great feeling to solve a problem correctly, but even better to take more than just the raw solution from it.

Here, in what is a simple problem, I stared for some minutes trying to decide between Qxh3 and Rxf3, but unable to choose one, the other or something else, I took a break, came back and actually thought about what I was trying to achieve.

As soon as I did that for each move, it was simple. "Qxh3 forces Kg1, which must be good" , but instead of saying " what move is next", it is so much better to visualise the final mating position ( Qg2 will mate the King ), and doing this gives an instant answer of how to get there, with some minimal calculation afterwards to prove the solution.

White to play
Solution if needed

Something similar below, in what appears to be a scary position for White, who has 4 pieces under threat, including the Queen !

White to play
There are many moves that present themselves, and calculating some of the obvious and initial ones, left me stuck.

For example, cxb3 threatens the Queen as well as taking a piece, but is met easily by either Qxb5 or even Qxb7.

Playing c6 to protect the Bishop on b7 and attack the Queen seems better, but Black responds easily to this as well.

Nc6 forks the Queen and Rook, but the response of Rxe2 seems to offer Black a way out.

So here, as well as verbalising the threats and position, because White is experiencing so many threats, the active moves need to both rescue White pieces and threaten Black, preferably with multiple, or stronger, threats on each move.

Once this is realised the solution unfolds...

As always, Chess is a straightforward and very logical game, but achieving this over the board in game conditions is not always easy to do !

As a final note, checking the full game of the last problem, just to see what was actually played in the game, it was somehow nice to see that White was not a super GM, but rather an enthusiastic IM called Cenek Kottnauer, a Czech player who emigrated to England in the 1950s. 

Not only did he find the correct combination, going on to win that game from 1946, but he also achieved a rare thing in a later tournament in that he won all his games (9 of them) in the 1961 Beverwijk Masters, now known as the Tata Challengers tournament in Wijk-aan-Zee.

An obituary from William Hartston reveals a bit more about the man.

"Despite these fine results, many will remember Cenek Kottnauer most fondly for the evening classes he gave at Morley College in London, when he would walk round demanding, not better chess from his class, but greater signs of emotion and enjoyment. 

If he did not hear shouts of joy and anguish and the crash of pieces being banged down, Kottnauer felt his pupils were not entering into the true spirit of 
the game. 

He was never quite able to transplant the fervour of Prague coffee-house chess to south London, but he did teach his colleagues in the English team a great deal about self-discipline and commitment" 

Difficult to argue with enjoyment, self-discipline and commitment, in chess or any other part of life.

21 February, 2018

Branded !

Examples like this should be burned into my brain, branded onto my left forearm, so I see it whenever I check the time.

It should be there so that I always remember to check all possible moves, or to remember that pawns are also active soldiers in the army of chessmen, 

I am not alone in this since the move I played, believing it to be the only possible winning move, was also the choice of 78% of the 2000 who failed at the problem

Overall, 64% of those who attempted it failed, which is quite something for a problem that appears very straightforward.

I'm sure you, dear readers, will not fail, since there is a big hint here, but spare a thought for those who did, and remember that pawns are more than the soul of the game, but are active players in their own right !

White to move

Solution, if needed

14 February, 2018

Re-focus and find a better move

Probably harkening back to this recent post and a much earlier one, I paid too much attention to the exposed king, which was acting like a beacon to me.

I did think of an alternative, but the initial moves of that didn't seem to work, so I gave it up and went back to the focus on combinations around the King, such Rxd1 or Bxe5 to remove a defender, but these just would not work.

I needed the Queen out of the way so she did not add protection to the d2 square, allowing Bc6.

Returning to one of the alternatives that I had dismissed, which was about pushing the Queen out of the way, I took the calculation further, and the answer was simple, and not to do with an attack on the king.

So, too much time spent on this, 10 minutes compared to the average of 5:38, but happy to know that I realised the king attack was not working and actively looked for something else.

A step forward.

White to play


The game it came from ( see move 45 )

...and maybe a chance to resurrect some more Focus?

Another wonderful  instrumental...

07 February, 2018

Round the Mulberry Bush : White to Play

A sweet problem that feels, initially, that its not quite resolvable, until you see the issues in the defence for Black.

I saw the problem with the Bishop interposition quite early, but it took me another set of calculations to see why interposing the Queen is also a failure.

It always intriguing to see what line the computer will choose, and in this case it went for the game line.

White to play