16 August, 2017

Tactics : A new high

I exceeded my old "highest rating" in standard tactics this week after solving the below problem.

Not only that but I also manged the solution in less than the average time of 4m 5s, and calculated the whole sequence of moves required.

Well, I was pleased with myself, anyway, especially as in the game it was taken from, White missed the tactic.

White to play


I was also happy with finding the solution to the following, as it was another area I fail often, the quiet move ( ah, given you a hint there).

Black to Play

For this one, Chess Tempo required an extra move for a change. 

In many CT problems, having calculated a sequence of moves, when you play them, the solution ends much earlier than expected, leaving you feeling a bit cheated, as if the time hasn't been invested properly.

This is particularly frustrating when CT stops after one move played. Having spent some time satisfying yourself that it is correct, you feel you want to show CT that you have actually worked it out, and not just guessed !

Finally, below is the highest rated problem I've solved so far ( standard 1656, Blitz 1899 )

White to play

 I spent some time on the 'wrong' solution, but have to give myself credit, in that I looked for something else, since the "solution" I had wasn't really good enough.

A fresh look produced the required result !


09 August, 2017

August Update

Its August, Summer holiday-time, and the majority of my work-colleagues are either on them, or about to take them, so probably a good time to recap on what I’m doing in the chess arena.

ChessTempo (CT) is ongoing, and with the change of approach I made, ie not focusing completely on what CT calls rated “standard tactics”, its proving to be a success for me.

So far, I have managed 47 days continuous tactics, averaging about 40 minutes per day.

Weekends more, weekdays less, but spending time daily on some sort of tactics training has done me good.

I can’t put that in rating terms, but I can say that I have reduced the tendency to re-capture automatically, I appear to see the opportunity for targets better, perhaps meaning a geometrical view on combinations such as pins and skewers, and it seems that more ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas are bubbling up to the surface as well.

Here, for example, although I ended up playing 16...Ra8, I actually considered the exchange Rxf3, which I doubt I would have thought about 6 months ago. Its not a bad move, but I didn't feel confident enough playing it at the time.

Black to play

Of course, there are days when I feel there is not enough time to do justice to a number of new tactics problems, in which case I have a set of ‘failed’ problems that I can practice with, consisting of about 15 or so that I can solve in less than 10 minutes.

I try to include at least one standard rated problem each day, but its no longer essential, as long as the daily workout is done.

Apart from tactics, I’m also working my way through Valeri Broznik’s “Techniques of Positional Play” after it was recommended to me by my local chess shop. So far still in chapter1 – Restricting the enemy pieces – but it does cover 7 of the 45 techniques he discusses in the book.

Lastly, to cover the opening phase of the game, I’m also working through Nigel Davies’ DVD “b6 for practical players”.

This is most enjoyable.

Although ostensibly a DVD on Owen’s Defence ( 1...b6) , he is actually showing how to use b6 as a useful transpositional move within your existing repertoire, or a move to ‘spruce up your repertoire’ and throw your opponent onto his own resources early in the game.

He particularly shows how it can be used as an adjunct to a French Defence (which is useful to me, since that it what I play as Black) but also offers what he calls economical or theory-light lines in the actual Owen's and in the English Defence against d4, c4 and Nf3.

In this way, the DVD can also offer a relatively complete Black repertoire, should you wish it.

In my opinion, Davies has an excellent presentation technique, and is a great teacher, especially as he aims most of his material at the player who has limited time to study.

To finish off, here’s an example that he gave of a tactic arising from a Tony Miles game.

Black to Play
Black to play [ Solution  14...Qxg2 15. Kxg2 Nxe4+ ]

02 August, 2017

Tactics : A beautiful combination

A beautiful combination...

Black to play


26 July, 2017

Tactics : Desperado

Another tactical motif weakness has shown itself and it is proving a slippery one to grab hold of and digest.

Its important to understand how ChessTempo defines it, since that will affect the way you view such problems. In particular it's the phrase "...in order to gain a more favourable material balance at the end of the sequence of captures" that I feel is key.

It may be obvious, but the action of solving problems on ChessTempo should be to arrive at the solution via a large dose of logical analysis, with perhaps a sprinkling of intuition/experience, rather than the other way around.

In which case a Desperado problem might seem to be the opposite, ie illogical and emotional, as its name suggests a situation where you hit out desperately for a solution.

Actually, as I have discovered via my many initial failures, it isn't illogical at all.  

Unlike the historical  "Desperado", the outlaw of the American West, the solution is  to gain a benefit via planning and analysis of exchanges that eliminate the main threat, and leave you with material up or an overwhelming position.

That's the clue as to why this has arisen as a weakness for me, because most of the time it will involve the motif of counting, and ensuring that the move order of the exchanges is correct as well.

After all, there's no point in blowing a hole in the jailhouse, if the timing means that the prisoner is still standing against it !

Here are a couple of examples of the motif in action...

White to Play
The White Queen is under attack, while at the same time White hits the Black Queen, both involving a knight. You can just exchange the Queens, but that won't fulfill the requirements of the motif, namely "more favourable material balance at the end of the sequence of captures".

I saw the key idea, but jumped to a conclusion and didn't re-check. I was wrong via a move -order error.


Black to play
Seemed to me that I couldn't go wrong in this case, and I didn't !

Since Desperado reminded me of the Eagles, and I couldn't find their BBC "Whistle Test" performance, here's something even better !


19 July, 2017

Black to Play 3

Maybe practicing tactics does pay off ....

From a recent game

Black to play
 Solution [  23...Nxc5   ]

12 July, 2017

Tactic : ChessTempo 2

Here's an example of one of my 'problem areas', classed as "Pins" by ChessTempo.

Black to play
The current problem rating is 1455 and average time to solve is 2 minutes .


I took a little longer than average, and saw the main thread and solution, but not the depth that chesstempo gives as the full continuation after the solution (and here I mean 11 moves in this case ).

Its also worth noting that the tactical motif  isn't always straightforward. It will be there, but not always the obvious one you see on display (or even if it is on display).  Often the solution is to extract yourself from it, or to create it for your advantage, all of which add variation to the solutions.

The comments, as always, are illuminating, in that there is a wide range of thinking on display. 

As a paid up member I see the full solution, with all ( well, a lot ) of incorrect moves and variations available to check, which answer many of the comments posted.

However, there is often an instructive comment giving an underlying explanation, expanding on the variation solutions given : well worth reading.