Monday, October 01, 2007

2007 FIDE World Cup entries

Here is the list of current entries to the 2007 FIDE World Cup to be held from the 23d of November to the 18th of December 2007, in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia:

a) From World Championship Tournament 2007:

* CURRENT WORLD CHAMPION from MEXICO - 1. V. Anand (IND) - is replaced from the FIDE average rating list 7/2006 & 1/2007
2. A. Morozevich (RUS)
3. P. Leko (HUN)
4. L. Aronian (ARM)
5. P. Svidler (RUS)
6. B. Gelfand (ISR)
7. A. Grischuk (RUS)
* The 8th player - V. Kramnik - is replaced from the FIDE average rating list 7/2006 & 1/2007.

b) Women's World Champion 2006:
8. Xu Yuhua (CHN)

c) Junior World Champion 2006:
9. Z. Andriasian (ARM)

d) From FIDE Rating List, 21 players (20 qualifiers + replacement of GM Kramnik), average 7/2006 & 1/2007:

10. S. Mamedyarov (AZE) 2738,00
11. M. Adams (ENG) 2733,50
12. T. Radjabov (AZE) 2728,50
13. R. Ponomariov (UKR) 2722,00
14. D. Navara (CZE) 2719,00
15. J. Polgar (HUN) 2718,50
16. A. Shirov (ESP) 2715,50
17. V. Akopian (ARM) 2706,50
18. E. Bacrot (FRA) 2706,00
19. G. Kamsky (USA) 2701,00
20. L. Nisipeanu (ROM) 2692,50
21. K. Sasikiran (IND) 2687,50
22. N. Short (ENG) 2683,50
23. M. Carlsen (NOR) 2682,50
24. L. Van Wely (NED) 2679,00
25. D. Jakovenko (RUS) 2679,00
26. S. Karjakin (UKR) 2678,50
27. P. Harikrishna (IND) 2677,50
28. R. Kasimdzhanov (UZB) 2677,00
29. F. Vallejo Pons (ESP) 2676,50
30. V. Malakhov (RUS) 2676,50

e) 45 players from the European Championships 2006 & 2007:
31. Z. Kozul (CRO) 2006
32. V. Ivanchuk (UKR) 2006
33. Kir. Georgiev (BUL) 2006
34. A. Naiditsch (GER) 2006
35. Z. Izoria (GEO) 2006
36. E. Inarkiev (RUS) 2006
37. P. Nikolic (BIH) 2006
38. V. Belov (RUS) 2006
39. B. Macieja (POL) 2006
40. D. Baramidze (GER) 2006
41. R. Mamedov (AZE) 2006
42. L. Fressinet (FRA) 2006
43. Cs. Balogh (HUN) 2006
44. M. Gurevich (TUR) 2006
45. Em. Berg (SWE) 2006
46. M. Gagunashvili (GEO) 2006
47. V. Tkachiev (FRA) 2007
48. E. Sutovsky (ISR) 2007
49. D. Pavasovic (SLO) 2007
50. I. Cheparinov (BUL) 2007
51. K. Sakaev (RUS) 2007
52. A. Iljin (RUS) 2007
53. A. Volokitin (UKR) 2007
54. J. Gustafsson (GER) 2007
55. E. Tomashevsky (POL) 2007
56. Z. Almasi (HUN) 2007
57. A. Galkin (RUS) 2007
58. V. Laznicka (CZE) 2007
59. V. Nevednichy (ROM) 2007
60. K. Landa (RUS) 2007
61. S. Volkov (RUS) 2007
62. N. Vitiugov (RUS) 2007
63. P. Eljanov (UKR) 2007
64. B. Avrukh (ISR) 2007
65. M. Roiz (ISR) 2007
66. A. Iljushin (RUS) 2007
67. A. Motylev (RUS) 2007
68. R. Markus (SRB) 2007
69. S. Tiviakov (NED) 2007
70. B. Socko (POL) 2007
71. E. Najer (RUS) 2007
72. G. Gajewski (POL) 2007
73. M. Rodshtein (ISR) 2007
74. A. Khalifman (RUS) 2007
75. V. Georgiev (MKD) 2007

f) 19 players from the Zonals and Continetal of Americas:

76. A. Shabalov (USA) Zonal 2.1
77. A. Onischuk (USA) Zonal 2.1
78. G. Kaidanov (USA) Zonal 2.1
79. Y. Shulman (USA) Zonal 2.1
80. J. Becerra Rivero (USA) Zonal 2.1
81. L. Dominguez Perez (CUB) Zonal 2.3
82. L. Bruzon (CUB) Zonal 2.3
83. G. Milos (BRA) Zonal 2.4
84. R. Leitao (BRA) Zonal 2.4
85. D. Flores (ARG) Zonal 2.5
86. J. Hobaica (ARG) Zonal 2.5
87. J. Granda Zuniga (PER) Continental
88. A. Ivanov (USA) Continental
89. V. Akobian (USA) Continental
90. D. Lima (BRA) Continental
91. E. Iturrizaga (VEN) Continental
92. F. Peralta (ARG) Continental
93. E. Matsuura (BRA) Continental
94. I. Zugic (CAN) Zonal 2.2


f) 19 players from the Zonals and Continental of Asia/Oceania:
95. S. Ganguly (IND) Zonal 3.2
96. Le Quang Liem (VIE) Zonal 3.3
97. Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (VIE) Zonal 3.3
98. Bu Xiangzhi (CHN) Zonal 3.5
99. Wang Yue (CHN) Zonal 3.5
100. Z. Zhao (AUS) Zonal 3.6
101.
102.
103.
104.
105.
106.
107.
108.
109.
110.
111.
112.
113.

h) 6 players from the Continent of Africa:
114. R. Gwaze (ZIM) Continental
115. P. Aderito (ANG) Continental
116. E. El Gindy (EGY) Continental
117. B. Amin (EGY) Continental
118. A. Adly (EGY) Continental
119. K. Abdel Razik (EGY) Continental

i) 5 nominees of the FIDE President:
120. S. Rublevsky (RUS)
121. E. Bareev (RUS)
122. S. Zhigalko (BLR)
123. Z. Rahman (BAN)
124.

j) 4 nominees of the local Organising Committee:
125.
126.
127.
128.

Total = 128 players

Vishwanathan Anand crowned World Chess Champion!

And "the argument" has started already, and I will give a piece about both sides of "the argument" later, and explain why it matters not to either side.

Congratulations to Vishy Anand for a tremendous tournament. Congrats also go out to Gelfand for a strong performance, and Vladimir Kramnik for some great late-tournament chess to capture second place.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Finer Points of the World Chess Championship

Here is how the cycle will work through 2009:

The Winner of the World Chess Championship 2007 in Mexico ("MEXWinner") is crowned the current champion. The winner of The World Cup 2007, November 23 to December 16 the city of Khanty-Mansyisk, Russia, ("CUP2007Winner") plays Topalov in a "Challenger's Match". We will call the winner of this match the "CMWinner".

If MEXWinner is NOT Kramnik:
Kramnik plays MEXWinner in World Chess Championship match in 2008, known as "WCWinner". This satisfies the rematch clause for the former champion. In 2009, WCWinner plays CMWinner for the World Chess Championship of 2009.

If MEXWinner IS Kramnik:
Topalov plays Kramnik in a World Chess Championship match for 2008 ("WCWinner"). In 2009, CUP2007Winner plays WCWinner for the 2009 World Chess Championship.

Subsequently, the challenger for the world championship will be determined in a match between the winner of the FIDE World Cup and the new Grand Prix series.

Source: ChessBase

WCC2007: Round 12 - Kramnik Awakens

"Only he, who penetrates into the depth of the game, can express his personality in it."

-- Vladimir Kramnik

Round 12 at the WCC2007 saw no less than 3 of 4 games decided. Vladimir Kramnik, whom apparently reads this blog and my semi-scathing remarks on his 13-mover in round 11, found his cajones for round 12 and defeated Leko in a Closed Catalan. Unfortunately for the champ, Gelfand defeated Aronian via the Semi-Slav, to maintain his 1-point lead over Kramnik for 2nd place. Morozevich defeated Grischuk with an English Four Knights, and Svidler - Anand ended in a draw out of an Anti-Marshall Closed Ruy Lopez.

Mathematically, Gelfand (-1 off the lead) and Kramnik (-1.5 off the lead) are still in the hunt should Anand somehow lose both his remaining games. Today will see a defining game between Gelfand and Kramnik that will most likely decide 2nd place. Grischuk - Anand will probably be a flacid draw - Anand not willing to further risk anything for the Championship. Hopefully the other two contests will live up to the hype of the event!

Chessbase Express Report

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Components of Positional Evaluation

Our Goal is to try and answer these questions:
"how to acquire a firm knowledge of the basics of chess strategy: How a position's evaluation is developed and what are its components"

The actual answers are simple enough:

"White is better."
"Position is unclear."
"Black has a slight advantage."
"The Position is equal."
etc., etc.

These are all evaluations of a chess position. Each one of these assessments carries with it both short-term and long-term components. Examples of short-term components (components you need to address each move) are the placement of pieces, of pawns, and the construction of a reasonable plan ("I want to mate my opponent" is an example of an unreasonable plan). Examples of long-term components are open/closed positional decisions, queen-trades, material, do you trade into an endgame, where to place your king, exchange sacrifices, when and where to attack your opponent, to name several.

Strategic considerations also come into play such as minority attacks, isolated queen-pawns, open files, weak/strong squares, color complexes, initiative, dynamism, etc., many of the things we outlined when talking about 'classic' strategic theory vs. 'modern' strategic theory.

All these components, taken collectively, allow one to arrive at an evaluation of the position.

But *how* do you evaluate a chess position? I'd love to hear from you and how you evaluate positions at the board. Please also post your rating category.

Source: Chess Cafe

WCC 2007


After a rest day on Wednesday, September 27th, the eight contestants enter into the final leg of the World Chess Championships for 2007. The final three games are to be played Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with tiebreaks on Sunday if necessary. It would be of great surprise if Sunday is necessary to decide anything, as Vishwanathan Anand leads the tournament with a score of 7.5/11, a full 1.5 points ahead of Boris Gelfand with three rounds to play. Short of a total collapse by Anand, or 3-0 finale by Gelfand, we will be crowning a new World Chess Champion come Sunday evening.
Disappointment
Being a vocal Kramnik fan (I was smitten during his match against Leko for reasons still unknown to me), I can only express disappointment over his 35-minute, 13-move draw Tuesday against Alexander Grischuk. Given the circumstances of the standings Tuesday, a quick draw was the furthest thing that should have been from Kramnik's mind, even at the risk of 'insulting' a fellow countrymen. Grischuk, having just lost to Levon Aronian the round before, cannot be faulted for offering the draw. However, Kramnik, defending World Champion, must be scolded for accepting the offer. The position was hardly 'dead', with weaknesses in White's queenside with isolated doubled pawns and bishops of the same color, there was certainly something to play for, given the current standings. This is another example of contestants not giving it their all in the public arena of competition. It's very unfortunate to witness such weak-willed play from one of the top players in the world - and current reigning World Champion.
Kramnik will now need to prove something to us all and capture second place outright over the final three rounds. Anything less makes even a bigger mockery of the current W.C.C. cycle and puts no arguments to rest whatsoever. It will be hard to justify - regardless of contracts and FIDE obligations to the contrary - having Kramnik play Anand next year in a match for the W.C.C., even as much as I'd like to see it happen (it will). This was the glaring fault of having a tournament to determine the World Champion - with the current champion participating - instead of having it be the final test for a challenger to take Kramnik on in a match. But, business as usual for FIDE - live and don't learn - appears to be the creed.

The Tsar’s Opponent

The Tsar’s Opponent
Garry Kasparov takes aim at the power of Vladimir Putin

by David Remnick
On a recent summer evening, the greatest player in the history of chess, Garry Kasparov, wrapped up an exhausting series of meetings devoted to the defeat of the Kremlin regime. After days of debate, a motley pride of unlikely revolutionaries – bearded politicos, earnest academics, and multigrained environmentalists – collected their cigarettes and left Kasparov’s apartment, divided and worn out. Little had been accomplished. Crumpled drafts of fevered proclamations lay scattered on the kitchen table. Puffy-eyed and unsmiling, Kasparov grunted a curt farewell to his comrades and went off to make yet another urgent telephone call.
Kasparov is forty-four. He was the world chess champion for fifteen years. Until his retirement, two years ago, his dominance was unprecedented. Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Fischer – none came close. Chess has outsized meaning in Russia, and Kasparov at home was a cross between the greatest of athletes and a revered intellectual. Now he has volunteered for grim and, very likely, futile duty. As the most conspicuous leader of Drugaya Rossiya (the Other Russia), an umbrella group of liberals, neo-Bolsheviks, and just about anyone else wishing to speak ill of Vladimir Putin.

Full Story

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Recent Game

Black to move




Here Black played 55...Rxa2?? 56.Qf8+! Kd7 57.Qf7+ Kd8 58.Bb6+ 1-0. Black could have prolonged the game with the simple 55...Qg4+ but it seems that White's bishop pair will eventually succeed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ubisoft Announces Chess Instruction Games

Ubisoft Announces Chess Instruction Games
Learn how to play chess, or people will laugh at you.
by Ryan Geddes
August 10, 2007 - Two chess instruction games are on the way from Ubisoft - a portable version for the Nintendo DS as well as a PC version.

Chessmaster: The Art of Learning for the DS and Chessmaster: Grandmaster Edition for the PC are scheduled for an October release.

Both games feature Josh Waitzkin, International Master and eight-time National Chess Champion, who teaches the fundamentals of the game and walks players through chess courses and tutorials.

The DS version will include multiplayer wireless modes and six original minigames, including the mildly disturbing-sounding "Fork My Fruit."

Players will also have access to 900 of the world's most important chess games, which are analyzed to help players improve their tactics.

Moving On...

Today I want to throw some thoughts out on selection of your Opening Repertoire and when you might want to consider changing your selection of openings based on results and perceived style. At the end of this short discourse I have listed a few links that might be interesting to those who want to pursue this subject further.

As you may know (Or no know if you are not a reader of this blog), my current repertoire consists of 1.e4 heading towards a Ruy Lopez or a Bb5(+) Sicilian or a Kings Indian Attack against 1...e6 and the various hypermodern systems out there. From the White side, this is how I roll.

From the 'Dark Side', I currently employ a (safe, boring, drawish??) combination of the Caro-Kann and the Slav/Semi-Slav Defense setups that tend to have alot of common strategies between them. It is because of that fact that I made those choices, along with having a good book on this idea of an opening repertoire for Black by Andrew Soltis (a bit dated, but still generally valid, especially at my current level). Against something like the Reti (1.Nf3), I go for a Caro-like setup with d5/c6/Nf6 and bring the QB out to f5/g4 as required and try and get in e6/Nbd7. A simple and solid development scheme.

Most people measure the success of their opening choices based on the results and the level of playable positions they obtain from that opening. I am no different. My current (and soon to be changed) opening repertoire was a result of *years* of layoff from active tournament OTB chess, and a willingness to "protect that which I hold" - yes, I'm talking about rating points - to get myself back into the chess scene, so to speak, without decimating my rating. It is no wonder that I selected the Caro-Kann/Slav setup. It is a very solid system that is tactically sparse compared to other systems. Yet, in the past, I played very active, fighting openings such as the Sicilian Dragon, which tends to become a knockdown, drag-out racing, fighting game from the get-go. You just gotta love Rxc3...

So, why change now?

I have to go back to the reasons I selected my current repertoire to answer that question, and it is clear to me, as a player, that my current repertoire is good for times when I want to play close to the vest, as I did, in coming out of so-called retirement, and to avoid disasterous results and a major blow to ego. SO, at present, I have a opening repertoire that I can use to basically secure a draw with black when needed, and put *some* pressure without too much risk, on Black when I am White.

What is missing terribly from my repertoire now - the hole that is being filled - is an opening schema I can use when I need to play for a win as Black or White. To make this more clear, let's enumerate it here (it would benefit you to do the same - you might be surprised):

As White:
Calm: Exchange Ruy Lopez
Solid: Bb5(+) Sicilian, Closed Ruy Lopez
Attacking: ???

As Black:
Calm: Slav/Caro-Kann
Solid: Slav/Caro-Kann
Attacking: ???

As is evident, I have no real attacking style openings at my disposal at present. This is the hole I speak of right now in my Opening Repertoire.

Attacking Opening Selections from Both Sides

As Black, I am going to revert to my older opening selections that I played in a previous (life? career? decade?) configuration. To this end, against 1.e4 I am to play the Sicilian Defense and attempt to steer the game toward an Accelerated Dragon or Dragon. Against 1.d4, I am to dust off the Dutch Defense and give that a whirl. Both these openings are edgy, fast and dangerous for White if he does not know what he is doing, and do not tend to lend themselves to half-pointers. They also are a good compliment to my current opening repertoire. Of course, it pays to have alternatives in each category, so I will also employ the NimzoIndian against 1.d4. It will come as no surprise to the reader that I already have Everyman Press's "Starting Out" books on all these openings except the Dragon, which is in the mail today.

As White, I am going to follow the advice at first from the article below at chesspublishing.com, and go for:

vs French: Exchange Variation
vs Caro-Kann: Panov-Botvinnik Attack (I already play this)
vs Sicilian: 6.Be2 systems
vs 1...e5: Scotch (this will be totally new to me - I have always and forever been a Ruy Lopez guy)
vs Scandinavian: 3.Nf3
vs Pirc/Modern: 4.Bg5
vs Alekhine's: 4.Nf3

I hope this gives everyone some ideas on what you should be doing to improve your game. As a final word on the subject, there is a reason why I am deciding to do this today. Yesterday I probably had the worst day of chess ever in my history, simply dropping pieces, bad moves, missing simple tactics, etc., etc., probably due to complete fatigue due to a taxing work schedule lately. However, it got me thinking about the openings and how I really did not like the styles I was playing and needed a change of pace, so here it goes.

Web Resources
ChessPublishing.com: Repertoire Suggestions
ChessClub.com: A Question of Personality
Chessit.net: How to Become a Chess Master
Chessville: What Makes a Strong Player Strong?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Repost: Generic Training Schedule

Putting together a training schedule for yourself sounds like an easy task. No problem! I'll just study openings on Monday, do some middlgame strategy on Tuesday, then perhaps some endgames on Wednesday, and sprinkle some online games here and there. But in reality, if you are like me, it's difficult to do because we, as chessplayers, are averse to doing anything that is not really fun. Half way through your opening sessions you find yourself suddenly emmersed in a bullet tournament on ICC or Playchess. Endings? Bah! I know Lucena's - good enough.

It is a lack of discipline in our non-playing activities that keep us right were we settle in the rating scale. ANY player can steadily improve if they apply a basic schedule to their studies and become persistent in executing those studies. In fact, I would venture that outside of any extraordinary talent, any player can see improvement up to the 2100-2200 rating level using this study plan as a guide.

This 4-day study plan encompasses all facets of chess study as well as playing blitz and rapid games on a steady basis, which is important if you want to get feedback from your play for obvious reasons. The study plan rotates on this 4-day schedule. After you complete Day4, revert back to Day1 the next day.

Day1 - SO2, VT1, SG1
Day2 - VE2, PL1, VT1
Day3 - SG1, VG1, PL1, VT1
Day4 - SO2, VE1, VT1

Key:
S = Study
V = Solve
G= Strategy
E = Endings
T = Tactics
O = Openings
PL= Play (4x 5min, 3x 10min, 2x 15min games)
# = Units of Time

The first step in any study plan is to know how much time you have to spend doing it. This is where the # of units comes into play. If, for example, you can devote 4 hours a day to studying chess, then your Study unit of time would be 1 hour, as each day contains 4 study units of time. On Day1 you would:

Study Openings - 2 hours
Solve Tactics - 1 hour
Study Strategy - 1 hour

Of course, not everyone has 4 hours to put aside to study chess each day. If you have an hour a day, your time unit = 15 minutes. In this way, you can automatically customize your schedule depending on how much time you have. An alternative is to make the unit of time 30 minutes, and simply run the schedule as time permits. For example, you set 30 minutes of time as your unit:

Study Openings - 1 hour
Solve Tactics - 30 min
Study Strategy - 30 min

In this method, it does not matter that you complete all the activities for a particular day on that day, but it is important to maintain the order in which you do that activity. It may take you 2 days to complete the Day1 program, so be it.

To implement this study program effectively, we need to have at our disposal some good chess books on each subject. Consider obtaining a good Opening, Strategy, and Endgame book, as well as a tactical puzzles book.

For openings, I personally like the "Starting Out" series by Everyman Chess. For strategy, Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy or Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by Watson are good books. For endgames, A Guide to Chess Endings by Euwe and Hooper, Fundamental Chess Endings by Muller and Lamprecht, or Just The Facts by Alburt are all good books and all very readable. You might prefer other books. These are just suggestions.

For more details, see the source of this summary at ChessOk.com

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

GM Maxim Sorokin dies after traffic accident

GM Maxim Sorokin dies after traffic accident 03.07.2007 – The chief trainer of the Elista Grandmaster School, and second of Candidates finalist Sergei Rublevsky, was on his way from the Kalmykian capital to the airport in Volgograd when his car was involved in a traffic accident. Max Sorokin was taken to hospital and diagnosed as having non-life threatening injuries. But a week later, just as he seemed on the path to recovery, he suddenly passed away.

See link above for complete story.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Summertime, Summertime, Sum-Sum-Summertime!

Even hard-working chess-playing bloggers get some time off!

I'll be posting less frequently over the summer months. My idea is to get into a weekly update on Sundays as time allows. Meanwhile, if anyone would like to share their training experiences, ideas or thoughts, feel freel to add comments to any of the relevant posts here.

Good Luck and Good Chess!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Position of the Bulgarian Chess Federation

Position of the Bulgarian Chess Federation

The forthcoming tournament for world championship in Mexico starting on 11th September 2007 represents the end of one cycle that extends over the period after the tournament in San Luis (Argentina). As it is well known, Veselin Topalov became World Champion there. Considering the great interest in the world he accepted to play a match with Vladimir Kramnik in Elista even though he was not obliged to do so. Moreover, Veselin Topalov agreed that the loser of that match would not be allowed to play in Mexico because, according to FIDE regulations, adopted on 10th January 2006, every former World Champion or a chess-player with a coefficient over 2700 could, under certain conditions, challenge the World Champion to a match.

On the basis of this position, the Bulgarian party asked for a new match for the world title and provided the required amount of two million US dollars for the purpose. The arguments FIDE submitted against playing a match for the world title, for which all requirements were met, were not convincing. Arguments of the kind that the bank guarantees were from a bank FIDE doesn’t recognize and later on that the time was short for organizing and performing such a match demonstrated that FIDE would compromise its own decisions lead by interests that may differ from those of chess. In order to substantiate its position, in the meantime FIDE approved a new system for electing the World Champion, which goes contrary to the rules, because the regulations may not be modified within one cycle. In this way, Veselin Topalov was definitely deprived of the possibility to take part in the competitions for the world title.

A new system for organizing the world championships should be adopted only after a thorough discussion with the participation of a maximum number of national federations; this new system has to be voted on a FIDE congress and to come into effect during the following cycle. Any other action and decision is a breach of democracy, it is intended to favor certain interests and doesn’t contribute to the development of the chess game.

The Bulgarian Chess Federation believes that with its last actions FIDE shows a bias attitude toward Veselin Topalov – one of the strongest chess players in the world. Depriving him of the possibility to participate in the competitions for world championship substantiates this belief.

Since Veselin Topalov was not allowed to play with V. Kramnik in 2007, it is most evident that he should be permitted to take part in the World Championship tournament in Mexico. In this way an injustice will be remedied – at least in part – and FIDE will prove that the world chess interests are its priority and that the World Champion should be elected in a competition between the best chess players in the world. Any argumentation for the non-admission of V. Topalov is deprived of any logic. The second, the third and the forth players from St. Louis will play there but the first one will not! The second in the world ranking list, the chess player who won seven super-tournaments during the last two years will not be allowed to play there! Why? Only because FIDE has changed its system in the meantime?!

We suggest a FIDE resolution is passed for nine participants to play in the tournament in Mexico. The organizers have no objections and they will be happy because Veselin Topalov is very popular not only in Mexico but in the whole of Latin America as well.

29 May 2007, Sofia
BULGARIAN CHESS FEDERATION
Stefan Sergiev, PhD.
President

Monday, May 28, 2007

Fighting Frustration and Disappointment

Every club player occasionally has to battle frustration and disappointment in his play and results. Part of the solution to this recurring problem is to examine your losses and discover, in a practical sense, what the biggest flaws in your game are at that moment. To simply think that you get beat by 'tactical tricks' is a cop-out. It avoids answering the tough questions about your own play - something that humans, in general, have difficulty doing. In our own selfish way, people generally overlook their own flaws. Being self-critical is an important step to improving your game and creating a realistic assessment of your chess skills.

For example, I recently played a game in which I, as black, managed to get an advantageous position. Everyone knows the ideas behind the Poisoned Pawn variation of the Najdorf and the inherent risks involved in that variation. Of course, I was very much aware of it, and even though the actual opening was not the Sicilian, the same themes and ideas were present in this line of play. Temporary chess blindness led me to snap off the b-pawn and as my opponent slid his King Rook across the board to attack and trap my Queen, fear and anger gripped me immediately. How could I miss such a simple tactic? I had simply not assessed the specifics of the position and had (incorrectly) assumed he would move the *other* rook. Resignation followed soon, not to mention some chess books hurled across the room in anger.

Now, dropping your Queen happens to everyone on occasion, especially if you are not careful. But the real focus of this game had to be looked at closer - I had a winning position, my opponent was on the ropes, and I blundered after playing a pretty good opening. I had to take the positives from this game and *forget* about the negatives, *forget* meaning to not dwell on the actual blunder but to identify and address the reasons behind my fallacious play.

I did several things wrong prior to this real boner of a move:

1) I *fell in love* with a pawn grab idea that was superfluous to the position.
2) This love affair led me to assimilate the idea to a well-known opening variation.
3) Knowledge of that idea made me lazy in looking at the specifics of the position.

The specific position is not important here: suffice to say that doubling of my Rooks on the e-file was probably sufficient enough pressure on my opponent's position to gain the full point. That really simple strategic idea - nothing fancy mind you - instead of pawn-grabbing on a side of the board that I had no advantage, was the correct path to take.

Examining positions in chess to gather together information about the imbalances consistently leads to better play. In this instance, I got drawn into grabbing material away from the theatre of battle (the Center/Kingside). This could be the first chapter of any novice book on how not to play chess.

How to Recover?
So, I've gathered back the books I flung across the room, with minimum damage, luckily (I had the presence of mind not to hurl the signed Kasparov #4 My Great Predecessors copy I have), but a couple of Everyman Chess 'Starting Out' tomes did not fare so well. Live and Learn.

So, how does one recover from such impetulant play? My first reaction was to drop out of the next round in Team Play and spend the week gathering my thoughts and trying to figure out how a Cat. A player can foresake one's Queen so blatantly in an otherwise winning position. After doing that, I replayed that game half a dozen times up to the point of blunder to make sure I understood why I would make such a terrible, hasty move. Many players would just soon forget thier bad moves, but if you forget history, you are doomed to repeat it, so I self-tortured for several roundtrips on the game then moved on to assess what I actually did right in the game. Here I found that I played fairly well during the opening against a somewhat similar strength opponent (if you believe online ratings - who does?), as far as Fritz goes (-/+).

The point here is that for every loss you must:

1) Feel good about the things you did right
2) Be honestly critical about the things you did wrong
3) Fix the problem

Copping out with the excuse of being the victim of a tactical trick only underlines a flaw in your play and a lack of understanding of the tactics in the position you were in. Take those positions and play them out from both sides against the computer until you exhaust all the possibilities. It can only help.

Chess is forever a game of small tweaks and adjustments to ones' play. When you cease to adjust your play based on the best feedback mechanism in the game (your losses), you cease to improve in any capacity.

Take your lumps, and take your losses. But be sure to take something FROM your losses. This is vitally important for improving your play.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Recent Result

I had the pleasure of playing in the Category A section of the Eastern Class Championships this past month in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. This was the perfect opportunity for me to see if my self-training methods have come with any meaningful results. Being rated at 1819 entering the tournament, I was in the slightly unfortunate position of being rated just high enough to play in this category, so I knew I was in for some tough games throughout the event. I wanted to prove that I had improved enough over the past couple months of training to belong in this group of players, and being a fairly large event for this part of the country, there were going to be some tough fights ahead - I was ranked about 20th in a field of 29 players for this section.

First, let me recap how I trained the past couple of months.

I focused on the two areas I felt I needed the most help - plan construction and endgames.

Plan Construction
In reviewing my past several tournaments over the course of the previous months from July 2006, with results of +1=2-3 (U2000), +3=3-0 (U1900, 2nd Place), +1=1-1 (U2100), and +0=2-1 (Open), for a total of +5=8-5, it was plain to see that during the transition into the middlegame on many occasions my play lacked consistent plans. I often found myself in reasonable positions in the middlegame but clueless as to how to proceed. On several occasions I felt I had an advantage convertable to a win but failed to do so.

I used a combination of two books to improve my middlegame/plan construction. The primary guide used was "Reasses Your Chess" by Jeremy Silman, and my secondary reference was "How to Choose a Chess Move" by Andrew Soltis. I highly recommend both of these books. The Silman book is great for strategic thinking and decomposing a chess position into it's elements and imbalances, and the Soltis book will help you with your thought processes during a real game and how to use a practical method to select reasonable, practical moves. I think both books complement each other nicely, and are my primary study guides to date.

Within the framework of the Silman book, I did a fairly lengthy study of minor piece comparisons during actual games and how and when to trade, when to avoid a trade, when to recognize good, bad and active Bishops, useful, permanent outposts for Knights, and how to compare the different minor pieces between the Black and White armies. This really helped me get a good handle on the respective values of each minor piece in any position. If you find it difficult to sit and read a chess book completely, the best thing you can do for your game is to at least review the Silman Book and how he handles minor piece comparisons. This was the one area that helped me the most in my recent games and is higly recommended.

I also did a cursory examination of all the other elements of a position covered in the Silman Book - Pawn Structure, Space, Control of Files/Squares/Diagonals, Material, Development and Initiative.

Endgames
My endgame play was not stellar in my past recent tournaments so I sought out to fix and repair this phase of my game as much as I could within the timeframe I had. I felt I had a decent understanding of minor pieces as a carryover from the Silman Book, so I concentrated on Rook Endings and Pawn Endings. I examined various positions that related to Philidor's and Lucena Positions, and practiced those until I could not get it wrong. I also examined Outflanking, Opposition, and Triangulation techniques in Pawn Endings.

In addition, I played in several online, slow time control (G60, G45+45) tournaments the past couple of months, and avoided ALL blitz play.

Results
Happy to say, I scored 3.5 of 5 (+2=3-0) and finished in a tie for Second Place at the Eastern Class Championships, Class A, this year, and gained about 65 rating points in the process. The main difference in my play was my refusal to give up in endings that were objectively lost in two games. In the penultimate round, I was in a lost Rook ending when my opponent dropped a Rook *then* resigned in a drawn endgame! In the final round, I managed a draw in a losing minor piece endgame where I refused to give up and kept fighting. I managed, in time pressure, to secure a N vs. B + RP of wrong Color endgame.

Luck does play a good part in chess sometimes, and in this tournament, I was lucky. I turned two losses into 1.5 points in the final two rounds, and was also able to hold a tricky endgame in the first round against a mid-1900's player for a draw. But, my training gave me the confidence to do that, and I never gave up. That is what training is for.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Talk Exercises

Here is a useful training technique you can do with your chess partner as suggested by Jacob Aagaard in his great book Excelling At Chess.

Using a position from a master game, talk about the position in general terms to try and find the correct plan of action. Ask questions about the pieces and the pawn structure, open files and diagonals, outposts for knights, etc. It is important to vocalize these thoughts as, in general, we listen to ourselves much more than someone else (no surprise there, eh?).

A good methodology is to start with comparing the pieces. Select a piece from each army by deciding which ones will be likely traded for each other and compare them objectively. Is the bishop 'good', 'bad', or 'active'? Does the Knight have potential good outposts? Which files are likely to be opened and can any Rooks take advantage of them? Continue on to discuss plans of action, ideal squares for the pieces, which is your worst piece and how to improve it (as Aagaard says, this is the 'Russian Chess Secret'...they talk to their pieces...), and only then move on to discussing concrete action.
Vocalizing these ideas will build the foundation of your intuition in chess.

Good Luck and Good Training!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Kramnik - Aronian Rapid Match

Kramnik - Aronian Rapid Match

The Week In Chess reports World Champion Vladimir Kramnik plays World Cup Holder Levon Aronian in a rapid match May 4th-6th, 2007 in Yerevan, Armenia. Two games will be played each day. The time control will be 25 minutes for the whole game with an increment of 10 seconds per move. The match is organized by the Armenian Chess Federation.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Anti-Draw experiments

See what anti-draw measures result in the tournament in the fifth Breizh masters in Guingamp (France) between at Lyceum Le Restmeur a Pabu. The women's section had a total of 7(!) draws throught 9 rounds of play, for a draw percentage of 15.55%. The men's section resulted in 16 draws for a draw percentage of 33.33%. Although the men's section was more than twice the women's draw rate, it is still far below the usual ballpark 50% draw rates we see at IM/GM tournaments.

Players were required to play a minimum of 30 moves prior to a draw offer.

Breizh Masters

Friday, March 02, 2007

Statement by Randy Bauer for the USCF election

As a 30-year life member, I love the USCF. Please help me save it. With your support, I believe we can.

We face many important issues, including securing our finances, fostering chess interest in the US, and building and serving our membership. We must address these, but no Executive Board member is going to constructively change things based on our current circumstances -- we cannot make progress while our leadership is divided and divisive. We must focus on electing a Board that can collectively work to improve our organization.

Lately, the Board has been distracted from the work it needs to do. Important discussions and decisions have been sidetracked by internal dissension. We can no longer afford this politics as usual -- we need a change.

Change has to start with the people we elect. We must elect Board members who are honest, effective and accountable.

Our Board needs to convey and demonstrate professionalism, collective competence, teamwork and good judgment. We need to get beyond decisions based on the ability to get a majority vote on any one issue and move to a willingness to cooperate and communicate with all, an understanding of group dynamics and how to work collectively for the larger goals of the USCF.

Make no mistake -- this is a lot harder to accomplish than it sounds. There are candidates who can make it work, but others who cannot. We need Board members who are able to work with others: Lone Ranger types need not apply. We need Board members of sound judgment: people you can trust to make reasoned decisions, even under pressure. We also need a Board guided by a sense of service, not motivated by a desire for attention or to create a spectacle. Finally, we should elect people of solid character -- those who will act ethically and honestly toward each other and the USCF.

I’ve spent much of my professional career leading teams dedicated to improving finances and services for large, complex organizations. These have included balancing a $5 billion state budget without raising taxes, creating strategies that improve results and reporting, and supporting award-winning initiatives that cut bureaucracy and create innovative change. We can do the same for the USCF.

Two years ago, I was elected to a one-year term on the Executive Board. I am proud that during that year we balanced the budget (only the second time in nine years). We also voted to move the USCF office and successfully implemented that change. While I didn’t originally support the vote to move, I did everything I could to make it successful, and it was implemented without negatively impacting member services.

That is the focus I will bring to the Board: I will approach each issue on its merits – as an independent voice. However, once the Board has decided, I will work with all members to successfully implement those policies. Together, we can make a difference. I ask for your vote for constructive, positive change.

Middlegame Lab

White to move and win: Execute a nice series of moves here to reach a winning endgame.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

USCF Executive Board

There has been a great amount of talk and pandering around the upcoming vote by membership for the USCF Executive Board. Any attempt to summarize the past 4 years on this blog would require weeks of due diligence and hard work, and would serve to only infuriate current board members of the USCF, should I be so lucky they read this. I think it is sufficient to state that the membership has reaped what it has sowed in the election of certain board members and the (perhaps not) unanticipated behavior said members have engaged in the past 4 years. A quick perusal of the usenet news groups and USCF boards paints a broad picture of the real trouble our federation is in. Recent troubles with sponsorship of the US Championship only highlight a small portion of the underlying problems the USCF has endured recently.

In short, it's time for a change across the board, 'board' being taken in a literal and figurative sense here.

We, as the Voting USCF membership, have a great opportunity to put into power a new set of Executive Board members that bring to the table a long list of previous experiences in finance, organization, scholastic education of chess, and a great love for the game that the current Executive Board seem to not possess and act in an indifferent manner towards. How else could one rationalize some of their actions over the past few years, actions that hurt the USCF and it's membership directly and indirectly, and financially strapped the federation?

It's inconceivable.

I have been involved, as a member on and off, with the USCF since I was in my mid-teens, which makes that somewhere around 30 years. I have personally seen the USCF go through the ebb and floe all businesses go through due to economic circumstances generally beyond their control. As members, we feel for the corporation in those times of financial and 'chess environmental' difficulties. But to see an organization self-destruct from the inside, as has been the case over the past several years with the USCF, is something that we, AS VOTERS, need to step forward and make our voices be heard and make a much needed change.

There is much talk about the current failings of the executive board; the mistakes they have made, the (few) good things they (some would say) fell into. Being objective, it would be hard to hold them accountable if the reasons behind the current state of the USCF were out of their hands. But no matter how you spin, slice, dice or talk it in a Clintonesque manner, it IS their fault. They should be responsible, and it is up to us to speak loudly together with single votes and bring in a new group of administrators who possess a vision that is, at worst, fresh and restorative in nature to the USCF, and hold the current Executive Board responsible for their actions in the only way we can: removal.

If you are happy with the way the USCF has been run, then go ahead and vote to keep the current Executive Board in power. That is your right, your privilege, your responsibility as a member.

If you, like many, many members, are disgusted with the soap opera that has continued on and on, the bickering, the back-stabbing, the poor decision-making, the politicizing of those decisions, regardless of the damage it does to the federation, regardless of the damage it does to the membership (YOU), then I strongly urge you to cast your vote for any candidate that is currently NOT on the Executive Board.

There comes a time when change is something that is necessary, good and the right thing to do.

That time is NOW at the USCF.

I'll be back with a mixture of chess and USCF E.B. candidate statements over the next several weeks.

Let's tell them what we really think.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tactics


BLACK TO MOVE AND WIN


Highlight below to see solution:[

Levitt (2455) - Martin,A (2420), Great Britain (ch)


1...Be2!! 0-1
]

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

ACP Draws Offers Survey

The Association of Chess Professionals is conducting a survey about draw
offers it started on the 10th of January 2007.

They would like to thank everybody who has already taken part in it. As the
issue is very important, the deadline for sending back the completed survey
has been extended to the 5th of March 2007.

Questions:

1. A draw offer should be:
a) allowed at any stage of the game (current FIDE rules)
b) allowed after 30 moves of the game are completed
c) allowed after 40 moves of the game are completed
d) allowed after 50 moves of the game are completed
e) not allowed at all (Corsican rule)
f) abstain

2. A draw offer, at the stage where it is allowed, should imply a time penalty in the case it is rejected:
a) yes
b) no
c) abstain

Just add your name at the bottom.

ACP Members as well as all chess players having the FIDE title of
International Master (IM or WIM) or International Grandmaster (GM or WGM)
can send back the completed survey to the ACP Secretary Bartlomiej Macieja
at gmbartek@gmail.com

ACP members can do it online here.

Endgame Lab - The Rule of Square



White to move and win!

Highlight to see solution: [1.f6! gxf6 2.Kxg2! Kg5 3.a4 bxa3 4.bxa3 Kf5 5.a4 Ke5 6.d6! cxd6 7.c6! dxc6 8.a5+-]



White has the seemingly impossible task in this position of queening a pawn. Show how he can do it!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Common Plans

Reverting back to our original Training Article:

"familiarize with about 15-25 common plans from the chess classic examples"

Perusing any chess book on Chess Strategy will give you a good list of Strategic Elements (elements of a plan) one needs to be concerned with so you can develop a reasonable, effective plan. Planless play lacks consistency from move to move and tends to be like solving a series of one-move chess problems - it lacks coherency.

Below is the listing of Common Strategic and Dynamic Elements from Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy:

Common Strategic Elements


  • Minority Attack

  • Bishops and open diagonals

  • Good vs. Bad Bishop

  • Knights and bases of Operation

  • Superior Bishop vs Knight

  • Superior Knight vs Bishop

  • Creation of Open Files

  • Open Files in an Attack against the King

  • Open Files in the Center and on the Queen's Wing

  • Active Rooks in front of the Pawn Chain

  • The Passed Pawn

  • The Blockade

  • The Isolated Pawn

  • The Backward Pawn

  • The Isolated Pawn-pair

  • Doubled Pawns

  • The Classical Centre

  • The Little Centre

  • Tension in the Centre

  • Piece Centralization

  • Control of Central Squares

  • The Partly-Blocked Centre

  • Pawn Majority on the Wing

  • Piece Concentration on the Wing

  • Space superiority on the Wing

  • The Blocked Pawn Chain

  • The Flank Attack and the Centre

  • Forward Pieces

  • Advanced Pawns

  • Weak Squares in the Pawn Chain


Dynamic elements



  • Lead in Development

  • Gain in Time at the Cost of Material

  • Co-operation of Pieces and Pawns

  • The Positional Sacrifice

This list enumerates 30 strategic elements one NEEDS TO BE FAMILIAR WITH to build a plan around.


As an exercise, in a perfect world with no work to go to(!), it would benefit everybody to take their last 20 games and review the plans listed above involved in those games and try and enumerate them.



What is a plan?


Several definitions exist across the web for a chess plan. Here is one that fits for us:


Plan - A method or line of play designed to improve a position. A chess player should always have a plan. Your plan often lasts only as long as it takes for your opponent to make a move.

Jeremy Silman thoughts on finding a viable plan:

  1. Take note of the differences in the position (imbalances)

  2. Determine which side of the board you wish to play on. You can only play on the side of the board where a favorable imbalance exists or the possibility of creating a favorable imbalance exists.

  3. Find Candidate Moves. A Candidate move should always be directed at your positive imbalances unless you're being forced to play a purely defensive move.

  4. Calculate Candidate Moves.

Pachman articulates it in this manner:

  1. Material Relationship

  2. Power of individual pieces

  3. Quality of individual pawns

  4. Pawn Structure

  5. King Position

  6. Piece and pawn cooperation

So, the key to finding good plans in chess MUST exist in knowing what strategic elements exist in chess. Easy, eh?...


Let's take a simple example, the Isolated Queen Pawn Strategic Element.


If you, as white, own the IQP, there are several things you need to be aware of:

  1. Avoid simplification

  2. Arrange your pieces favorably to advance the pawn or to tie down the opponent's pieces in preventing the advance.

  3. Occupy e5 with a Knight and launch a Kingside Attack or occupy c5 and launch an attack along the c-file.

This is basic, classical IQP stuff you can look up in any decent classical strategy book, and can qualify as a 'plan' framework. The difference between the classical and modern view of the IQP is that the modern view does not stress so much about the simplification rule if other factors in the position exist that make it tenable. That is 'Rule Independence' for you...

When encountered with an IQP, these simple rules should immediately become aware to you perfectly.

Here I have fleshed out (barely) the strategic elements that a player needs to be aware of and can identify perfectly in order to come up with the proper plan in a chess position. Note I said 'position'. Chess is a very complex game and your plans can switch several times over several moves, and usually do in some positions. The ability to recognize when the pursuit of one plan over another (or the pursuit of an integrated plan) is a skill that we, as students, need to work on with vigor.


You'll note that Day1 and Day3 have SG1's assigned to them. This gives us a good, solid 2 segments of study per training cycle (of the 16 total) to study strategic elements.


What to study first?


With over 30 basic strategic elements, how do we know which ones to study first? As usual, we will let our own games determine this. If you have decided to play a few correspondence games, then you can use those games as catalysts to figure out which strategic elements to study first off. Most of these 'studies' are fairly simple in nature and can be completed superficially in an hour. Of course, deep understanding comes with experience. But it will be valuable to us to perhaps scan over each strategic element and define it with a simple example. If time permits me, I will attempt to articulate such a thing in the near future. Now, I'll give you one example from the Pachman Book:
White: Material Disadvantage; Active Q, N and B; Rooks ready to go to open files.

Black: Material Advantage; Behind in development; passivly placed pieces.

This enumeration of the strategic elements gives each side great clues in what their respective plans will be:

White: Use his better placed pieces and create tactical threats and launch an attack against the black king

Black: Parry any immediate threats, complete development, convert material advantage by simplification.

This may seem simple to alot of players and it really is in most positions. Often when one watches games at tournaments we see players completely disregard the strategic aspects of a position. We want to eliminate that type of play from our games and concentrate on creating good strategic-based plans we can execute.

I hope this helps everyone get a better grasp on what strategic thinking is and do use your "SG" time to address these flaws in your game.

As usual, please post and comments here at the blog!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

White to move and win.














Black appears to have all the bases covered in this nice tactical shot.

The Importance of Being a Good Tactician

Here at the Chess Training Blog, we like to think that we can, in some small way, help sub-2000 chess players improve their game by helping them focus on the weak areas of your game. Invariably, this leads us to Tactics.

Books have been written (Rapid Chess Improvement, for one) on how to construct a training program to improve your tactical vision. Often this leads to a deficiency in other areas of your game: Opening Repertoire, Plan Construction, Endgame Play, Strategical considerations, etc. But the reality is, how important are those other aspects of play when compared to tactics, or lack thereof?

I've said, and repeated here, the common phrase that 'Chess is 90% tactics'. Some famous GM originated that phrase. Who it is, I have no idea. But the truth still exists within it. One only needs to go back and look over your own games and take note how each game was won or lost by you or your opponent. Were you to write in plain english each critical error, your log would read something like this:

Game 1: Missed a pin, dropped the d-pawn. Never recovered.
Game 2: Opponent missed my Knight Fork. Won Exchange and Game.
Game 3: Pawn Stormed his king position forcing the loss of a piece.
Game 4: Opponent missed a Rook Skewer. Won a piece for a pawn and game.
...

Look familiar? Try an experiment and do the same with your last 10 games. I can almost (I said ALMOST) guarantee your log will be very similar. What you WON'T see in your log in majority is stuff like this:

Game 1: Strategically squeezed opponent on Q-side. Won long endgame.
Game 2: Had Good Bishop vs. Bad Knight endgame. Could not convert. Draw.
...

You get the idea, I'm sure!

Back to my original Question: how important are those other aspects of play when compared to tactics? Well, if tactics decide 90% of chess games, then it stands to reason that tactics are, at LEAST, 9-times more important than any other aspect of chess. Put another way, a player that plays sound tactical chess will need to be defeated in another manner. Are you with me?

Introducing Pareto's Principle - the 80/20 Rule!

Pareto's Principle essentially reminds us to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent of your work that is really important. In chess, what is 'important' is results - wins, or a lack of losses. Since 90% of losses are attributed to inferior tactics via our quote from above (the actual number may vary, but we are dealing with ballpark numbers here, and is highly subjective in any event), it stands to reason that, following Pareto's Principle, chess students at our level should focus 80% of their time initially on tactics improvement as this will result in a reduction of losses due to an improved tactical sense. In actuality, what this means is that you may lose just as many games, but you should find that your losses via missed tactical shots will be reduced substantially. Fix your biggest weakness first then move on to the next....!

What this will do is give you the biggest bang for the buck in improvement in your game. Tactics, unlike positional sense, can be learned. It is mostly pattern recognition and having solved a similar problem in the past.

So, what to do?

I will repeat what I do to get the juices flowing on a daily basis. In general, I will go to the Chess Tactics Server and solve puzzles for at least 30 minutes during AM, or during lunch if I do not get to it in the AM. The Chess Tactics Server gives puzzles that are really straight forward tactical shots involving pins, forks, skewers, double/discovered attacks, etc., that are at most 3 moves deep in most cases, and theyt expect you to solve them within seconds. Think Blitz! In the evening, I like to solve more difficult puzzles taken for game play via Intensive Course Tactics by George Renko (Chessbase), or the book Imagination In Chess. I additionally will use Polgar's 5334 Chess Puzzles book as well.

The point of this all is that Tactics in Chess is like taking Ground Balls in the infield, shagging flies in the outfield, or batting practice. It is something that we NEED to do every day so that when we are in a game situation, we do not have to THINK about how to do it: we simply know.

Pattern Recognition.
Familiarity with tactical shots.

Remember our creed:
AMATEURS PRACTICE UNTIL THEY GET IT RIGHT
PROFESSIONALS PRACTICE UNTIL THEY CAN'T GET IT WRONG.

Good Day and Happy Solving!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Short Draws

Short Draw

Hi all,

Let's get a discussion rolling about the current status of short draws in chess. I define short draw as a draw under 30 moves for this discussion. I want some constructive discussion here, and not a plethora of whining and crying. If you have a SUGGESTION, articulate it. If you seek to just slam GM's for short draws, save your fingers the work as I will delete any post that does not make at least one suggestion to resolve the *growing* problem of the short GM draw in chess. Also, be sure that RULE CHANGES as to how the game is played are not acceptable as we all know that is not going to happen. The Rules of Chess are firm and unwavering, including threefold repetition.

For me, the short draw short-changes the viewing public in two ways. First, we are robbed of ideas and strategies that need to be pursued in even/near-equal positions from some of the finest players in the game. Second, in allowing short draws, sponsors may feel they are not getting their money's worth from the Chess Athletes they invite to these high-profile, invitational tournaments. Please note: INVITATIONAL. I have NO PROBLEM with short draws in tournaments where you are footing the bill, so this does not apply to your run of the mill Weekender.

I personally believe no offer of a draw should be allowed prior to the 31st move. This means both players must make 30 moves on board before either can offer a draw.

Let me hear your ideas!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bobby Fischer - Greatest Chess Player of All Time?

By Errol Tiwari, Stabroek News

The debate was already raging when I joined the small group downtown, well-wishers of chess who enjoy discussing the literature of the game, and the people who play it. The question was: Who is the greatest chess player of all time?

I could not answer the question then and I cannot do so now. The argument is futile. Some would say Fischer, some would say Kasparov. Before Fischer, the last supermaster was Alekhine. Preceding him, in reverse order, were Capablanca, Lasker and Steintz, all world champions who comprised a magic circle of greatness. Players like Tal and Spassky have touched the perimeters of the circle and even entered it on occasion, but were never card-carrying members. Bobby Fischer is.

There is a mystique about Fischer which continues to fascinate people who are not even remotely connected to chess. No other chess player alive or dead has succeeded in capturing the imagination of people around the world like Fischer did.

He did more to popularise chess than any other player who has ever lived. His tantrums and inexplicable actions were front-page news wherever he went. Bobby Fischer the eccentric, the rebel against authority, the monomaniac, the enfant terrible, the ego-crushing titan of chess whose intransigence approached sublimity, the brilliant, temperamental, self-centred genius from Brooklyn who singlehandedly broke the Soviet hegemony on chess -- he was already a legend before he even played for the World Championship.

US champion at 14; Grandmaster at 15, at the time the youngest in the history of the game; US champion eight times; winner of tournament after tournament; and, finally, chess champion of the world after beating Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, 1972. In his march to secure the World Championship title, Fischer lost five games,(one of them a forfeit because playing conditions did not suit him), out of sixty-five.

At the rigorous Interzonal tournament at Palma de Majorca, where the strongest Grandmasters in the world were present with the exception of the World Champion, Fischer crushed the opposition with 15 wins, seven draws and one loss--to Bent Larsen. Russia's Yefim Geller was 3/½ points behind in second place. Then Fischer started his series of candidates' matches. He had to play the three top finishers of the Interzonal. The rest is history. Fischer mauled the opposition in an unprecedented manner. In Vancouver he blanked Russia's Mark Taimanov 6 to 0. In Denver, Fischer shut out the Dane Bent Larsen who had beaten him in the Interzonal, 6 to 0. Even the Russians at the time hailed the feat as a miracle. Fischer had accumulated a streak of nineteen consecutive victories in Grandmaster play. This was unheard of in the history of chess.

The Fischer-Petrosian Match was held in Buenos Aires in 1971. Tigran Petrosian was arguably the best defensive player in the world at the time and was known as 'The Rock.' Fischer smashed the rock in the first game taking his tally to 20 consecutive victories. But Petrosian, the immovable object, retaliated in the second game and claimed victory giving Fischer his first loss since the Interzonal. He had accomplished what the finest players in the world had been unable to do on twenty occasions in the previous nine months: he had won a game from Bobby Fischer. Three draws followed. Then the mighty Fischer struck back. He took the next four games and won the match handsomely at 6/½ to 2/½. His next stop was Boris Spassky and the World Championship. Did Fischer falter against Petrosian by losing a game and drawing three in the light of his shut-outs over Taimanov and Larsen? Maybe if he had succeeded in winning all his games against Petrosian, his match with Spassky would have been easy to predict. If the tightrope walker slips just a little, it makes his performance that much more believable.

The commotion generated over Fischer's conquest of the awesome Soviet chess machine was unprecedented. A genuine chess renaissance occured practically overnight. Sales of chess sets increased. Virtually every major newspaper and magazine at the time carried a story about Fischer. The New York Times published a news story on its front page the day after the match ended complete with a diagram of Fischer's final position against Petrosian. Chess had rarely been so honoured. Besides becoming a national hero in his country, Bobby Fischer had become a household name.

For over a decade, even longer, Fischer, like another American original, Mohammad Ali, had boasted that he was the "greatest." Fischer told the world the Russians had his title and he wanted it back. People were amused. Imagine a 28-year-old chess upstart from Brooklyn challenging the awesome Soviet empire. But still, the whole world, not only the chess world, was eager to see if he could beat the Russians, especially against such a formidable opponent as Boris Spassky.

The interest of people who knew nothing of chess rose to such an extent that they made efforts to learn the game, perhaps to better understand Fischer. They were impressed by his pure individualism, fascinated by his charisma and attracted by his vitality. Those who did not know the difference between a pawn and a ping-pong ball felt impelled to appreciate fully the artistic expression of the young genius from Brooklyn.

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, was the location for the encounter between Fischer and Spassky. For over two months the attention of the world was focused on that tiny city in that island. Reykjavik had suddenly become the capital of the world. Termke Poisoned Pawn, the Sicilian Defence, and the Queen's Gambit entered the international consciousness. All over the world moves were relayed by the wire services and through the air to radio and television stations. In Guyana we got results and details of the games from the radio and newspapers.

As the match was being played, the Guyana Chess Federation was established. The year was 1972. Fischer had brought the match to fever pitch and made of it a thrilling drama that far transcended a mere chess match, first by not showing up in Reykjavik; then by appearing and starting his usual round of demands (he wanted sole use of his hotel's swimming pool in Reykjavik), threats and complaints; by being party to the most hysterical theatrics ever witnessed in a sporting event; and by losing the first two games (the second on a forfeit), yet coming from behind and completely smashing the champion. Of such deeds are legends made.

For a delirious period of time, chess was front-page news in the civilized countries of the world. People sat entranced while two great players fought each other, tried to outmanoeuvre each other, tried to dominate and psychically destroy each other. The match between Fischer of the United States and Spassky of the Soviet Union became much more than a match between two players. It became an international incident, a struggle between two societies, a symbol of confrontation between East and West. Both players denied any political implications. But the world ignored their remarks. America and Russia were facing each other in the persons of the two players.

More than anybody else Fischer seemed to know what he represented in relation to the spirit of the time. No one paid attention to chess before Fischer. When Spassky won the World Championship title in 1969, he received US$1400 as his prize money. Before his match with Spassky, Fischer let it be known that he would not play unless the purse was at least US$50,000. There was tolerant laughter. Everybody thought Fischer was out of his mind. US$50,000 for a chess match? Who on earth would be willing to put up that sum?

But when it was all over and he was declared chess champion of the world, Fischer walked away with the winner's share of a purse of US$250,000. It was, prizefight purses excepted, the largest single purse for a sporting event ever recorded. For the first time in the 2,000-year history of the game, chess had entered the Age of Opulence.

Fischer's 21 games that he played with Spassky to this day are beauties to behold. Fischer played the Queen's Gambit Declined as White in Round Six of the championship for the first time in his life. Fischer had senselessly wandered into Spassky's milieu. But the result was a total defeat for the Russian. Experts felt Fischer kept the improvements he worked out in this game for 10 years to unleash it at the right moment and at the right time. Harry Golombeck, covering the match for the Times of London likened the game to a "Mozart Symphony," so perfect was it in its execution.

Fischer possessed an extraordinary memory. It is said he has never forgotten a game he has played or an analysis he has read. He had the ability to merely glance at a chess position and grasp its nuances and difficulties. In a flash he knew what was true and should be absorbed, and what was false and should be ruthlessly discarded. Frank Brady told a story of Fischer's extraordinary mental capacity.

In 1963, at age 20, Fischer won the New York Open State Championship. Fischer glanced momentarily, Brady said, for about five seconds at a difficult ending he was playing with Frank Meyer. Months later Fischer met Brady in his office and inquired how the game turned out. Brady said he won but with difficulty. Then Fischer asked if he had played Q-B5. Quite frankly, Brady said, he could not remember what he had played. Fischer immediately set up the exact position to 'help' Brady remember and demonstrated the variation he should have played to gain the most economical win.

Fischer could also recall most of his speed games in which both players are limited to five minutes to make all the moves. After the World Speed Chess Championship at Yugoslavia in 1970, which he won, Fischer replayed all 22 of his games which he had played in the tournament from memory. Not only did he remember speed games directly after a match, he remembered them for years and could replay a particular game at a moment's notice. Fischer met the Russian chess player Vasiukov and showed him a speed game that the two had played in Moscow 15 years before. Fischer recalled the game move by move.

Fischer's IQ was in the range of 180, genius level. But this is not exceptional to Fischer alone. Brilliant chess players have been known to have high IQ's. However, there is probably no topic that intrigues chess players as much as the inner machinations of the mind of Bobby Fischer. Chess players universally feel they can improve their own game by understanding how Fischer's mind operated.

But Fischer's enormous memory, and his incredible retention was not limited to chess alone. One day when he was in Iceland, Fischer called Frederick Olaffson, Iceland's only Grandmaster. Olaffson's Icelandic-speaking daughter answered the phone and explained her parents were out and would return at suppertime. Fischer understood nothing that was said because he did not know the language. But he listened, apologized and hung up. Later that day Fischer met with another Icelandic player who spoke English. He explained what had happened and repeated every Icelandic word he had heard on the phone, imitating the sounds with perfect inflection. The Icelandic player translated the message word for word for Fischer.

Following his match with Spassky, Fischer had achieved the highest rating of any player in history. Professor Arpad Elo's International Rating System, a thoroughly reliable system that is used to this day, rated Fischer at 2810. He was the only player in the history of the game to have reached the magic 2800 mark. Rating points are given for wins against strong Grandmasters and are taken away for draws and losses. Fischer's record remained unbroken for twenty years. And to this day only two players have succeeded in reaching 2800--Garry Kasparov and Veselin Topalov. Although he is the current world champion, Vladimir Kramnik is rated at 2750 and Viswanathan Anand is rated number two in the world at 2779. Kasparov has retired from chess and is not active so he is currently not rated. And by the way, Professor Elo had correctly predicted that Fischer would beat Spassky by a 12/½ to 8/½ margin and the contest would end on the twenty-first game.

Fischer had produced an energy on the chess board that apparently disturbed his opponents. Some people called it the Fischer "aura," implying that, like Tal, Capablanca and Alekhine before him, he virtually hypnotized his opponents by striking fear into their hearts, thus making them play below their usual standard.

It is hard to describe the Fischer aura. Harold Schonberg described it in the New York Times: "…the Fischer aura is the will to dominate, to humiliate, to take over an opponent's mind." When the Fischer aura enveloped an opponent terrible things happened. Combinations turned out faulty. Exchanges were lost. Players ended up in Zugzwang (chess term for a hopeless position). Well tested openings developed flaws and outright blunders were made.

No one really knew what the Fischer aura was but it terrified seasoned Grandmasters. It was relentless, merciless and pitiless. It was the aura of a killer. Some accused him of psychic murder. He took the Alekhine Defence as Black in Game 13 of his championship match against Sapssky, chess champion of the world, the player supposedly without nerves, the suave gentleman admired by all who came into contact with him, and destroyed him. The Alekhine Defence was unplayed in World Championship matches and was considered a weak defence against the White King Pawn. The loss of that game produced a psychological shock from which Spassky never recovered. He was finished forever, psychologically ground down by a deadly ego-crusher from Brooklyn.

In 1992, Fischer violated a US ban to play chess in Yugoslavia. It was reported he was offered a US$5 million purse to play a return match with Spassky which he won again. After the match he took up residence outside the US. In 2004 he was detained in Japan. He currently resides in Iceland.

Fischer refused to defend his title against Anotoly Karpov in 1975. He had become a recluse. If he had continued to play, chess, I believe, would have remained a glamorous, intoxicating, internationally publicized sport/art/science/game.

It was Bobby Fischer who had singlehandedly made the world recognize that chess on its highest level was as competitive as soccer, as thrilling as a duel to the death, as aesthetically satisfying as a fine work of art, and as intellectually demanding as any other form of human activity. It was Fischer and Fischer alone.

When Fischer disappeared in the seventies, people were devastated. Some cried openly when they spoke of him. He lost his title by default after refuting the playing conditions set out by FIDE. There was something ignoble about his refusal to play and something pathetic about it. Slowly, sadly, people came to the realization that he would never play again. Fischer, possibly the greatest chess player who has ever lived, had retired not only from chess. The Prince had retired from the human race.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Paul Keres Memorial

Hi all,

It's been a while since I have been able to post due the busy holidays. I hope all of you enjoyed Christ*mas 2006 and had a great New Year!

One of my all-time favorite players, Paul Keres, had his namesake memorial tournament during the first couple weeks of 2007. GM Timoshenko won the event with a score of 6/9.

Paul Keres, along with David Bronstein, must be considered as the two best players ever to not win the World Championship.

What other players do you think should be part of this group historically?