31 January, 2011

Réti Endgame re-visited

Not being a serious student of the endgame, I was unaware that the Réti endgame puzzle that I gave here  (with
solution here)  is actually much more than famous, its seminal !

Relatively recently, I discovered Lubomir Kavalek's blog on the Huffington post ( itself an interesting amalgam of newspaper-style reportage ).

He's interesting , with a colourful past, and writer of one of the longest-running newspaper chess columns [ from the Washington Post ( 1986 - 2010 ) ].

In this older post he gives the endgame puzzle with a bit more on the solution than me, showing the 'queening square' that the study is based around, and augments it with others from composers that used Réti's fine idea.

Worth a look, along with his other posts.

As an exercise, its worth setting up the position and playing as White against an engine...educational, and excellent practise.

In addition here's one of my recent endgames.

White to play and win
The same theory of the 'queening square' applies ( modified of course by the f2-pawn). In the game White played the wrong move, and after Black's d4 realised too late that he could not stop the queening operation : a successful swindle on my part !

Can you win as White ?

Update: highlight the brackets [ The simple Kg4 stops Black queening. White played Kh4 and lost ! ]

30 January, 2011

I'm just a normal Teenager !

When I saw the headline "Chess Protegé : I'm just a normal teenager", I thought this was another story about the relatively 'normal' Anish Giri, or even more likely, a focus on Ray Robson, the teenage American who, at 15, had his biography published !

I knew it couldn't be about Magnus Carlsen, as he is no longer a teenager !

However, it was a very pleasant surprise to read about Hou Yifan, at 16, the most recent Women's World Champion.

You can never really tell with journalists, but here Hou Yifan comes across as a real person who has succeeded simply because she loves chess, and has worked hard to nurture her talent in it.

25 January, 2011

Book of the Year - Time to vote !

I might have predicted the winner !

Final voting round here.

I go for the Chess Queen, on the basis that we have enough 'strategy guides', Seirawan is bound to win something else, and its written by a World Champion !

Shame that my nomination, Colin Crouch's "Why we lose at Chess" didn't make it through, as its an excellent educator, and a decent "real games" collection as a sideline, mainly of Colin Crouch's own, which, since he was analysing after a period away from the game as a way of re-assessing and re-gaining his own chess strength, is extremely useful for any aspiring chess improver.

For a better review than I could give see here. It is probably fair to say that it could be a better book, but as its about my sort of games, and improving from them, I am happy to accept it as it is. Make your mind up and then go and buy it !

However,  if I was a betting man, my euros would probably be placed on Chess Duels, whose author needs no promotion from me !

23 January, 2011

Indian Adventures

"Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom time wasted"

Well, true, but sometimes, you just wish your opponent would follow the same plan as yourself !

In checking out the opposition before playing this back in March last year, I could guarantee that my opponent played 1.d4, a move that I don't particularly enjoy meeting.

Mostly, I have responded 1...f5, the Dutch, which has been relatively good to me.

However, I recognise that its not quite as flexible as some opening moves, and can also be quite particular and precise, so its probably better, at this stage of my playing, to aim for more main-line openings.

When I played chess as at school, the King's Indian was the opening that we all wanted to play. No sensible "chess reason", but mainly because it consisted of a 'fianchetto', which sounded incredibly exciting, let alone the "Indian" part, which was exotic too.

I can't recall if this was also prompted by players at the time, or, as is more likely, it was based on the influence from the school chess club teacher, whose name I can't even remember !!

Mind you, I must have inherited a cult memory, or 'desire' to use it, as I have played it a few times over the years, but never really invested time in learning what it was all about.

I used to play the Old Indian variation, probably because of either romantic notions or a (wrong) belief that it was so obscure that no-one would know it: how many of us amateurs do that ?

Crazy, really. At my chess level opening knowledge is fairly irrelevant ( mine is aimed at reaching the middlegame without losing ! ) , most things are decided by a mistake in the middlegame, and even then, there's a chance of redemption through a future opponent  mistake...

Enough of memories, and onto the game in question.

17 January, 2011

Do you have an Opening for me ?

Currently running in the chess blogosphere, is a variation of the eternal and probably unresolvable "Use of Opening Theory" discussion : Super-GMs vs the rest.

Dennis Monokroussos and Dana Mackenzie, are debating the process/benefits/methods of opening theory ( or "Opening Theory" as they have now re-defined it) and particularly how non-Super-GMs, including Amateurs, should, or should not, use it in our chess games: self-discovery vs re-use of previous experience (in a nutshell) plus a few more complications.

Happily, it seems much more of a discussion than a serious spat. Here's the original 2008 post and the recent response, both to keep you entertained, and thinking.

I have to say I agree with parts of both arguments.

My games rarely follow established opening lines for long, so, yes, I would probably be better off with sensible developing rules (does that mean 'classical' ? ) rather than slavishly trying to remember a variation in my opponent's chosen line or sideline. This should enable me to spend more time on what matters, ie playing a decent middlegame and spotting tactics and combinations !

Definitely, I should also look in more detail at the opening moves. Not necessarily to find novelties, or to derive my own opening moves, but more that I understand reasons behind the 'theory' moves, so can eventually begin to appreciate why "Opening Theory" is there, and how to use the benefits it brings ( ie how to hack into and re-use all the exploration and thought that previous players have bequeathed to us ).

One area that I do think is useful ( and enjoyable ) is the re-discovery ( or re-use ) of old variations. Such lines, probably unplayable at GM level these days, are highly suitable to us Amateurs. Rolling out a 'forgotten' 1890s move in a supposedly modern opening is very satisfactory.

So, what do we Internet amateurs play ?

Since I  find it interesting knowing what openings to expect in my next TL4545 match, I spent a morning looking at the recently finished T47 season in the Team4545 League.  ( Note that I also carried this out a few months later for T50 )

What would you think to be the most popular ? Have a guess before reading more !

13 January, 2011

Book of the Year ?

The Chess Cafe web site is running its Book of the Year contest.

My nomination is for Colin Crouch's "Why we lose at chess", which I enjoyed last year.

Another nominated book that I read was Karpov's "Find the Right Plan". Its not had the greatest reviews, but I was fine with it. Most other books nominated, I haven't read.

My guess is that, if he doesn't win this Chess Cafe vote, Yasser Seirawan will win someone's book-of-the-year for his "Chess Duels",  as there seems to be too much "groundswell" about it.

I've not read it, nor any other of his, so I have no opinion to state !

Looking forward to the votes and next round.

12 January, 2011

Team League 4545 - T47 - Final

Its now official, as the last playoff  round 2 game is over, and Magnum Ignotum slipped at the penultimate fence ( let's not mention forfeits again ! )

A round up of my T47 season is here and I have little to add, except that I enjoyed all the games, particularly those in the U1800.

My league rating has dropped a small amount from 1600 to 1592, which implies that I am probably playing at an appropriate level over the past 4-6 months.

I feel I can do better, so, along with many others will state the intention to try to do more 'chess study' with the idea that I do actually improve, either ratings-wise and enjoyment or even in some other unmeasurable way !

The obvious route is tactics and calculation, as I plainly miss many combinations.

Other areas are general endgame knowledge and technique, and what I will call positional "know-how".

In practice this 'know-how' may boil down to learning some standard positional plans and techniques, such as the 'minority attack', or 'playing against an Isolated Queen Pawn', with the intention of actually understanding what these mean !

As to posting a regular update...I will have to see how it goes. I have many good intentions, but as we all know, sometimes all these intentions do is pave the road to hell.

11 January, 2011

Team League 4545 : Season T47 - Playoff 2

Well, that's it for T47....

In the end a bit of an anti-climax, as my game was redundant, since no matter the result, the team would be out : the effect of one too many forfeits in the main rounds.

I again pulled out a Philidor, but as my opponent was not that interested in playing, after 12 moves we agreed a draw.  Not very honourable, but when someone doesn't want to play, there's not much to do !

Here is the final position...

12. e5 
In his parting comment White suggested that he was ahead, but I disagree.

I'm sure there is an edge to White, but Black has either dxe ( with some interesting forcing options ) or Ne8 ( with a slower game ).

I had decided on Ne8, but now I think that the more direct dxe is the better move.

Previously, in fact against the the same opponent, I had seen 12.g4, which I'm not sure is much better than e5, but I made a mistake and allowed a dark-bishop move hitting my rook on f8, that also uncovered an attack on d5, forcing me to lose a pawn.

The same bishop-move threat is present here, but I think dxe defuses it.

Plenty to think about, but for now, the next move is to recruit a reliable 5th ( & 6th ? ) team member so we don't suffer forfeit losses in T48.

I intend to play both U1600 and U1800 next season, so we will see how it goes.