27 October, 2017

The downside of Blitz

I'm sure we've all experienced the downside of blitz chess.

Not the mistake you make because of a lack of time or calculation, but the painful game where you realise after a few moves that your opponent is a complete novice  at chess and either you choose to resign, to save more suffering on both parties, or you play on and prove that you know what you are doing !

Below a recent 'play on' choice which produced the obvious result in 8 moves. It was Rh3 that confirmed I was up against an almost complete novice, although the big clues were 1.h3 and 2.a3, despite the fact that these are sometimes played by bullish players as a psychological prod to the opposition.

A blitz mate !

As minor compensation the next game in the session gave an opportunity for a nice mate. Yes, I realise Black is way ahead on material, but serious blitz players rarely give up !

Black to play


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