18 October, 2017

Calculation in Chess

Calculation in chess is a wonderful skill to develop, as well as being an essential one in almost any position.

Its probably a major difference between the various levels of chess player, with a GM seemingly displaying a grasp of calculation that is far in excess of anything an amateur can achieve.

This is perhaps the key : a GM is a professional chess player, so although a GM displays this incredible skill, it is probably not innate. 

There might well be a natural core available, but I suspect it is extensive practice and experience that allows the skill to develop to the levels seen in GM-play.

I found the below demonstration and exposition of calculating skills by GM Nadezhda Kosintseva to be quite amazing.

She takes a position (shown below) and proceeds to analyse it deeply and fully, bringing out a remarkable amount of information from what appears to be a straightforward position at first glance.

Its a long video ( an hour ) but worth watching for the way she analyses and how the methods can be learned.

Helpful ( or maybe, educational ) to think about the position first, before watching. 

White to play [1rb3nr/1pN1kppp/p7/4p3/3nq3/4B3/PPP1BPPP/R2QK2R w KQ - 0 1]

Chess calculation by Nadezhda Kosintseva


11 October, 2017

Tactics : White - Queen's Play

I am told that variety is needed in training, so, as a change from my usual d4 & London System I have started to play 1.e4 as white, .

It is quite pleasant meeting king pawn openings again, though I admit that since I am playing e4 to aim for my own choice of openings, although I do encounter the Sicilian at times ( met by a twist of the Réti Gambit ) or the French ( met with the plain Réti Gambit ), I usually see e5, and end up playing a variation of the Centre Game, at one time the preferred way for me to avoid main e4 openings.

An enjoyable, and tactic-filled opening, especially if Black follows the 'main line' and accepts the gambit pawn. 

Declining it, or playing less known variations allows a more placid and manoeuvring game, which is perfectly enjoyable.

In a recent 15 minute game, I had much the better of the play, but in the position below, I missed a lovely opportunity to display my tactical genius, as well as take a significant advantage in the game.

White to Play
As I was putting the focus on my Queen, and the plans around the attack down the g-file, I missed the best move.

I had considered Black's response of b4, so that was uppermost in my mind, but the major failing was not to replay previous analysis, and sticking with a pre-planned and fixed idea.

I played the decent move of Qe3, but if I had looked all around the board and thought a bit more I would have found a much better move, as I am sure, dear reader, you will  !

04 October, 2017

Tactics : White to Play

Although I wonder about the direct link between training tactics, and actual improvement over the board, not having the time ( or direct experience)  to perform a controlled self-experiment to check this, I can go only by impression and feeling.

Using these, I feel the biggest improvement is in my behaviour at the board. 

Generally, I take more time to look around it board before I move, and try to check more often if tactics are present.  

This doesn't mean that I always "see" the tactics on the board, but I feel sure it helps my game overall.

Sometimes, though, my mind deceives me

It sees a solution, and something clicks that overrides the trigger to check again, resulting in a poor move.

For example, in this Chess Tempo problem below, I saw what had to be the solution, as I was looking for checkmate. 

37.a4   Black to play

I played and was wrong, the solution was about winning material ( so if you already thought 37...Nc5, intending Nd3 to cover the King's escape square, just re-think that ! )

Maybe my chess mind is still in its 'romantic 19th Century style' for a lot of the time and wants flamboyant and crowd-pleasing checkmates, rather than steady modern moves gaining material or positional advantage ? Who knows.

I can take some small comfort in the fact that 4500 others ( a third of the attempts ) made the same mistake on the above problem, but it doesn't help that much, and that comforting 'all-failures-together' feeling lasts even less.

Below is a rapid game played recently. 

My play had been to focus along the d-file ( in fact aiming at the d8 square) and also re-position pieces that were preventing this.

When Black played the natural 19...Rd8, my tactic-sense spotted what proved to be a resign-provoking move ! 

Not too hard to see, but good to spot it, and even better to play it !

White to play

27 September, 2017

Tactics : Black to Play...carefully

I know that if this was in a blitz game, there would be a very high chance of me failing to play this correctly.

I think its a great problem, where a solution jumps out at you, but when you calculate it, you see the lurking issue that stops your idea and have to re-think.

Well, at least I did. 

My re-appraisal found a better solution, then I had to go through it again as, in my mind, I saw the king on the 'wrong' square, so that solution didn't work either. Except it did, when I adjusted my vision !

Its probably simpler for you...

Black to play

20 September, 2017

Tactic :White to Play

A holiday, and other less pleasant distractions, kept me on a low run-rate with Chess Tempo, and has driven my RD ( Rating deviation ) up, meaning that failures cost a lot of rating points !

However, a recent dedicated run of 20+ problems in a single session has put me back on track, gaining few points with it, but some interesting positions.

I suspect tiredness played its part in taking far too long on the below.

The point of the problem was whether White could take the hanging Rook on a3.

There is no White mate ( Ng8 will stop it ) and the passed pawn cannot win the Rook via any Queen sacrifice, but I could not get past the fact that after 1. Qxa3 Qc1+ and Black would regain the Rook.

Maybe in a real game I wouldn't have looked for longer, but knowing that ChessTempo only views +1.75 pawns as a correct solution, eventually, it clicked...

White to play

Enjoy, and here's the solution.

30 August, 2017

Tactic : Black to Play

If this isn't in ChessTempo's database already, I am sure it will arrive soon.

Black to play

As with so many "real game' tactics, its always easy to see after the fact.

Doubtless Kasparov had little time left on his clock if the reports of his comeback tournament are to be believed !