31 December, 2012

DIY Blunders and Tactics

I was looking at the Chess Cafe Books of the year nominations, and saw a new nomination, namely Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics from the Games of Everyday Chess Players by Tim Brennan.

A quick search tells me that, probably, this is a book of tactics( er, technically, a Kindle )  taken from games of us amateurs, although its probably beefed-up/fleshed-out as well. [ I can't check it as I am not a kindle owner, so if anyone has it and can comment ? ]

This reminded me of what I started a couple of years ago, namely using Chess Assistant to find errors in my games and possible tactics.

So I did it again, and its quite fun !  I'd have to refine it, and spend some time looking at the results, but the initial run was interesting.

Here was an example of what I found,.  Its a typical sort of blunder that us patzers make, and similarly the type of simple tactic that we should be spotting !

White has chased the Black Queen, and has played b5. Black has just re-captured with the c-pawn.

In the game, White replied with Rxb5. Is this a good move ? If not, what should he play ?

White to play

Solution [ Rxb5 is losing !  There followed Qxb5, Nxb5, Rxc2 and White resigned. Better was Qb2 ]

30 December, 2012

Chess Cafe Book of the Year ?

That time of year is coming around again : 2012 will be assessed and categorised in all areas that we can think of, and that includes chess !

As always, the Chess Cafe site has put up the first batch of nominated candidates ( with more to come no doubt ).

Looking through the suggestions offered so fa,r I hope that an opening book is not selected.

I have no doubt that Watson's latest French Defence book is detailed and precise, but I would rather these sorts of awards showcased the less theoretical ( and obsessive ?) parts of the chess arena to encourage us amateurs to think outside the opening phase of the game.

Unless I'm allowed to include the original and excellent edition of  Martin Weteschnik's  Chess Tactics from Scratch,   I own only one of the current candidates, Tim Harding's detailed and  intriguing look at Eminent Victorian Chess Players.  

I enjoyed what I have read so far ( I started with Captain Evans, but then jumped to Lowenthal and Zukertort ) and would recommend it , but I somehow doubt it will win, being a touch too specialised.

Reviews of the Nimzowitsch biography (  Aron Nimzowitsch, Path to Mastery : 1886-1924 by Per Skjoldager and Jørn Erik Nielsen ) are resplendent in praise for it, so despite it being more history/biography than pure chess, I would give that a great chance of success, since it deals with a giant among chess players, and seems well on the way to being the standard work on Nimzowitsch's life.

The Hawkins book ( Amateur to IM )  has had many good reviews, and seems to offer a good mix for a winner, consisting of a good tale ( his progress to International Master and now Grand Master in all but name as he is rated 2507 at present ), plus how he did it by a focus on endgames : both feelgood and didactic !

In the same mould, I would expect that a similar book from Matthew Sadler, explaining his preparation for his "chess comeback" , will also appear as a candidate soon, as he is a very readable author, although I admit, I haven't seen the level of reviews that the Hawkins book has.

However, I suspect that the provocative and perhaps controversial Willy Hendriks offering ( Move First, Think Later ) may well grab the prize, even though it has already won the ECF award.

This is a book that has generated a lot of interest and discussion, as it seems to indicate that intuition probably plays a large part in chess than previously thought  ( although no doubt structured by a huge chess knowledge in the case of Grandmasters ! ).  A short opinion  is here, a longer one here.

For us lazy amateurs, this also appears to offer the ideal antidote to the 10,000 and more hours of work that we should put in to make master-level, but I have no doubt that amongst his anarchistic and provocative words, he will also tell us that guessing ( which is what my intuitive move would be currently )  is no substitute for the insight that hard work brings !

I'll have to wait until 23rd January and see what the result is !

17 December, 2012

Study vs Game

Here's a simple, but interesting study....

I would guess that  in a game situation, I might well play the wrong move for white, but as it was in a series about knights, I didn't.

White to play 

15 December, 2012

Bronstein 1950

I enjoyed this one....

White to Play

10 December, 2012

Bad Vision #1

Don't know exactly why, but this puzzle took me almost three minutes to solve.

Usually its less than a minute for this type and level in CTB, but I became fixated on NxB as  part of the solution, and kept trying to make it work.

Once I moved away from that thought, the answer was very quick.

Possibly this was because I had spent the previous 30 minutes on Knight mates and tactics.

Two lessons learned.

White to move and Gain a Rook

05 December, 2012

Mate in Three from 1869

Here's a study from 1869, by William Grimshaw.

White to Play: Mate in Three
Took me a while, and I thought it was a mistake, as I found a mate in four, but no, its mate in 3 !

30 November, 2012

Pawn down and winning ?

Puzzle time...

I've seen this a few times in various books, generally from Soviet sources, with the players given as Fuchter - Balogh or Fuster-Balogh, from Budapest, 1964.

I've never found the full game, so don't know which of the many Baloghs it could be, or even if this is actually a study, rather than from an real game.

Regardless, its a neat position.  I've been in similar ones, but never quite the same. For me, its a sort of position that says "There are 3 rooks and a Queen together : so much power ! I must be able to do something good here" , but obvious moves don't seem to work.

Black to move and win....what would you do ?

Fuster-Balogh, Budapest, 1964

27 November, 2012

T55 Round 2 : Missed opportunities

I missed out on Round 1 because of incompatible times, so this was my first standard game in a while.

I could give the excuse that I lost because I wasn't 100% fit ( echoing  Zsusza Polgar's remark that she "never won a game against a healthy man" according to her sister, Judit's recent interview :)  but that wouldn't be entirely true.

I have to confess that recently ( er, read last couple of months ! ) I have not put much effort into keeping up the key part of chess improvement at my level ( ie tactics ), but there again I've done quite a few other things outside of chess in "real life".

That means it's not just "work-home" balance to strive after, but "chess-others", or even more accurately chess as part of a range of things I want to do that are not work : sometimes that quite a few things !

So reasons to lose ? Plenty, and mainly around missing tactics.

Reasons to win ? Not too many, and mainly around knowing the opening and resultant positions better than my opponent.

Here's a "win reason"...

9. Qf3
Not really sure why Qf3 was played here. At the time, I assumed it was to allow prompt Queenside castling, with the added benefit of defending e4, but since he castled King-side later, I wonder !

Better would be Nf3 or even 0-0.

I didn't capitalise on this, which leads neatly to a reason to lose ( or maybe one not to win, being slightly pedantic :)
10. h3  What should Black play ?
Considering my plan with Nc5 was targeting e4, how come I didn't follow through ?

Much later in the game (move 40 ! ) I have a chance, not only to regain the pawn I am down, but also to strike a rapier-like psychological blow, just when White must feel he has me on the ropes.
40. Qd4 Black to play and at least equalise !
Its obvious in hindsight, but I missed it at the time.   I'm sure all my avid readers will spot it in under 2 seconds and embarrass me !

Never mind. Make an effort to play through the game and see what can be learned.

Next round, I will be more ready !

25 November, 2012

Judit Polgár Interview

This caught me by surprise, but I dare say its a combination of her new book and her forthcoming appearance at the London Classic that has prompted it.

An interview in the London Independent with Judit Polgár , who turns out to be a more than interesting person, as well as a great chess player.

Enjoy it, I did !

20 October, 2012

New York Chess Scene ?

More a social and travel perspective, but of interest none-the-less.

See here.

Apparently New York is the Capital of the Chess world...some might disagree !

21 August, 2012

T54, Round 1 : Centre and on target !!

T54 began last week and I had the best start possible : a win !

How did I manage this considering I have done very little, chess-wise, in the past 6 weeks ?

Simple really:
                     1) My opponent made two serious mistakes.
                     2) I spotted them and took advantage.
                     3) I thought about the positions in front of me, and played them, rather than react more automatically 

I'm pretty certain my opponent had done his homework since he knocked out his initial moves quickly. By the time we reached move 7, he was up to 50 minutes, compared to my 45, and I think he already had his initial plan in mind, which seemed to be a straightforward assault on the f2-square, intending,  after my queenside castling , a knight-fork threat to win a rook.


 However, is Ng4 a good move here ?

13 July, 2012

Andrew Paulson, who's he ?

All you need to know about the next chess impresario.....well almost 

22 May, 2012

T53 Round 1 U1600

The next Team League season started last week and I didn't start that well ( again :).

I can't complain about the ( minimal ) preparation and opening as I had exactly what I expected, trawling out my old Philidor against the expected e4.

Overall, I certainly felt that I gained some sort of equality here on move 9.

9. h3 ..Black to decide

A decision to exchange, rather than retreat the Bishop, and my placement of the Knight on e4 ( which I thought was a great square, but my opponent described it as inconvenient, but not that intrusive ! ), left me a touch worse off.

However, a disastrous mis-calculation after 12. Bf4 led me to play g5 ??

12. Bf4
It seemed like a good move at the time ( although now it seems evident that 0-0 or Qe7 are better ) , I went through the possibilities of various exchanges and concluded that g4 was an OK move.

But I didn't go the extra ply and, although I certainly did see Nxe4, I missed the very important fact that  of the threatened Nf6 gave a very nasty check !

Of course, after the initial exchanges, I did see that I was really wrong, but elected for a defensive Qe7, rather than exchanging Queens, or even Be7 to defend f6. The latter moves may have left me down material, but certainly not dead and buried !

As you can guess, I collapsed very quickly as there was no decent defence.

It is some vague form of comfort that Boris Gelfand also missed seeing the extra move(s) and lasted the same number of moves as me ( 17 ) against Anand before he resigned and left the World Championship  equal again, and with very interesting times ahead in the next 4 games.

Not that I am in any way comparing games, but it is comforting to realise that even Grandmasters overlook moves.

03 May, 2012

Short and sweet

Nigel Short's recent good form has pushed his rating back above 2700 and put him (just) in the world's top 40 : not bad for an old geezer in this world of young chess players !

He also seems to enjoy his life as a chess player and seems willing to promote chess in unexpected countries according to this chessvibes article.

In his chess, he often plays some older openings and interesting sidelines.

Here he is from a few years ago winning with my favourite anti-Sicilian line...


8 8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1

Short Nigel D (ENG) - Prasad Devaki V (IND)
1-0, 2004.
[#] 1.e4 c5 2.b3 Nc6 3.Bb2 e5 4.Bc4

[4.f4 A sort of King's Gambit style...threatening to open the a1-h8 diagonal for the bishop. Nearly always played at some point.]
4...Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Nc3 Be7 7.Nge2 Intending f4 7...O-O 8.O-O a6 9.a4 I'm a fan of the a-pawn move..stops b5 and keeps the Bishop on c4, for d5 and f7 9...Nd4 If you play in Reti Gambit-style with Qe2, you need to be aware that the Black Knight can arrive at d4 ! 10.h3 Be6 11.f4 Nd7 12.f5 Forcing a bishop exchange, which is probably good for White 12...Bxc4 13.dxc4 Bg5 14.Nd5 Nf6 15.Nec3 Kh8 16.Nxf6 Qxf6 17.Nd5 Qh6 18.Kh2 g6 19.c3 Nc6 20.f6 Nice. The Queen and bishop are stuck ! 20...Qh5 21.Rf3 Rae8 22.g3 Re6 23.Kg2 Rc8 24.a5 Nb8 25.Qd3 Nd7 26.Raf1 Bh6 27.b4 Bg5 28.Ba3 Bh6 29.R3f2 Bg5 30.bxc5 Nxc5 31.Bxc5 dxc5 32.h4 Bh6 33.Qe2 Qxe2 34.Rxe2 g5 35.Kh3 gxh4 36.Kxh4 Rg8 37.Rf5 Rd8 38.Rb2 Rd7 39.Rf1 Re8 40.Rfb1 Rb8 41.Rb6 [1-0]

A fine game where Short ends with Black having nowhere to go !