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
Stefan Sergiev, PhD.

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.