Saturday, August 17, 2013

Black/White to Move and Win

Here is a good exercise I lifted from a recent book I read. I've started doing this with the The Week in Chess files I download every week, located at The Week in Chess Downloads .

Load up the TWIC pgn file into your favorite database. Fire up a decent chess engine. Go through GM games (both sides) that are a win result (i.e., skip draws), starting about 10 moves or so back from the end. Note the victor - White or Black - that is who you will be playing. Find the point in the game where your chess engine shows the victor being up > 2.00. (This can be adjusted to a lower or higher value depending on how you want to set up your practice: +/- of 1.00 would more difficult to win, and higher values would be easier to win.)

Here is an example.

(26) Agdestein,S (2565) - Bacrot,E (2710) [E73]
FIDE World Cup (1), 2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5 Na6 7.Qd2 c6 8.Nf3 e5 9.0-0 exd4 10.Nxd4 Nc5 11.f3 Nfxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.fxe4 Bxd4+ 14.Qxd4 Qxg5 15.Qxd6 Rd8 16.Qa3 Rd2 17.Rfe1 Be6 18.Qc3 Rad8 19.c5 R8d4 20.b3 Rxe4 21.Bf3 Red4 22.Re3 Bd5 23.Re8+ ... 0-1

 After White made  the move 23.Re8+, the position evaluation went to -+(-2.59) on my machine using the Fritz 8 Engine, from under -+2.00), so this, for our purposes, is the "tipping point".  At this point you want to pick up the game as Black and attempt to win it against the computer. Don't look at the how the GM won, and don't be shy - let the computer play at a strength that is at least a class or two above your own. If you fail to win the game, try again.

This is terrific practice for your technique in winning won positions. And, what's great is it matters not what the opening was or any other aspects of the game. you are just trying to practice winning won positions.

If you are like me, you don't win all your won games! This attempts to improve your skills in this part of your game, and you get a good cross section of current events in chess, not to mention it is a whole lot of fun!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Specialization #6

Specialization #6

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.0-0 Bg7 5.c3 Nf6 6.e5 Nd5 7.d4 cxd4 8.cxd4 0-0 9.Nc3 Nc7 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bh4 *

Black has a couple choices here:
a) 11....Nxb5 12.Nxb5 a6 13.Nd6!? - What does white respond with after 13...g5.
b)11...g5 12.Bg3 Nxb5 13.Nxb5 a6 14.Nc3 d5!

This is a fun position to play against your computer from both sides.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Knight for a Bishop Exchanges

Here is something to think about. Exchanging a Knight for a Bishop usually has a profound effect on the game and the color complexes you should be seeking to forward your Initiative and play on. To get our minds thinking in the right direction, here are some general rules you can use.

Here we use the terms "Knight Side" and "Bishop Side" to denote the side that traded off that particular piece.

If you own the Knight, and you exchange it for an opponent's Bishop, then you will gain an advantage of the Initiative on the same color as the Bishop.
Ex.; Your N x wB = + White Initiative for "Knight Side".

This makes perfect sense as the opponent no longer has the Bishop of that color to defend with or play on that color squares.

If you own the Bishop, and you exchange it for an opponent's Knight, then you will gain an advantage of the Initiative on the opposite color of the Bishop. You should attempt to follow this exchange up with the trading off of the opponent's other Bishop.
Ex.; Your wB x N = + Black Initiative for the "Bishop Side".

This again makes perfect sense since you have traded off your bishop you will no longer have that bishop to defend with or play on those color squares.

These guidelines can often help you decide if you should be trading a minor piece or not.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Applying Squares Strategy

The Bangiev Method Decomposed

I do my best to operate within this strategic framework, with mixed results. So I've been trying to decompose this method into something a bit more concrete.

The B-Method begins by asking the same three questions at each move of the game:

1) The Strategy Question (SQ)
2) The Direction Question (DQ)
3) The Color Question (CQ)

After answering those three VITAL questions, we can continue with three more questions:
4) Put to Question which pieces, i.e., challenge. In turn, this will determine...
5) ...Candidate Moves, and one will be noted as ...
6) ...The Game Move.
Naturally, one has to understand the question before one asks, so lets try and decompose each question in simple(r) terms.
The Strategy Question (SQ)
 The Strategy Question is the starting point in Bangiev's B-Method. It seeks to give the player a consistent starting point from which to develop the correct plan from the central pawns based on the players' perspective, i.e., from his point of view. The position is only considered from the players persepctive. It takes into account only the true center of a chessboard: d4 and e4 (from the white perspective), and e5 and d5 (from the black perspective).
 Given that, White is restricted to two specific strategies: d4-Strategy and the e4-Strategy. Black, on the other hand, is restricted to two similar strategies: e5-Strategy and the d5-Strategy. Naturally, a different (but similar) strategy manifests itself depending on which square is taken into consideration. For example, after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 it makes perfect sense for White to consider an e4-strategy as the e4-pawn controls the white squares d5 and f5. Naturally White will want to occupy d5/f5. A similar idea exists for Black in the same position: he would consider the e5-strategy and direct his efforts along the black squares d4 or f4, and attempt to occupy those squares. As you may see at this point, this leads to the Question of Direction. Which way do I go?
The Direction Question (DQ)
 After establishing the SQ and the starting strategic point (d4/e4 from White's perspective or e5/d5 from Black's perspective), you are faced with a decision of which direction you should seek play in. As is well known in chess, you cannot attack in two directions effectively at the same time. Answering the Question fo Direction properly gives you the most likely and effective direction based on piece and pawn placement in the current position for both your pieces and your opponents pieces. But, to answer this question, you must make some assessments in the position. Here your task is to determine which direction (in our example of the e4-strategy above) your pieces cooperate the best in, i.e., which direction from e4 do your pieces concentrate their infuence the most in. Given the correct strategy from SQ, there can be only one of two answers for our e4-strategy example: d5 or f5.
The Color Question (CQ)
 Once here, we know two things: The strategy (e4), and the Direction (d5). Contrary to the Direction Question in which you ask 'which direction are MY pieces cooperating in?', here we look at the opponent's pieces and ask 'what color squares do my opponents pieces defend?'. If, in our e4 example, Black is defending the dark squares heavily, then you may want to consider a Color strategy on the opposite color, which makes sense because there will be less resistance on that color. Your decision here should be primarily based on the defender's piece placement and your ability to eliminate or neutralize defenders on the color you choose to play on. Also note that Pawns, Bishops and Knights all attack a single color at any one time. Coordination of these pieces and the selection of the proper color to play on is vital to success when using the "B-Method", and is its strength with regard to Color Complexes.
Put to Question (PQ)
This is more or less an intermediate question, or step. Consider this: which opponent's pieces are defending the color squares which we have chosen to occupy/attack from CQ? Here we look for candidate moves that will eliminate or get those pieces entangled or caught up in the action. This is obviously the most difficult part of the B-Method, but given the focus from the previous three questions, this should limit to only a few moves for consideration as candidate moves, the next step.
Candidate Moves (CM)
Your candidate moves are those moves you came up with in the PQ step. Enumerate them and analyze to determine which move meets the needs of the position the best.
Game Move (GM)
The Game move is the move that meets the needs of the position the best from your list of Candidate Moves.
Strategic Templates
As White:
SQ: d4-Strategy/e4-Strategy
 d4: c5-direction: S(d4>c5), e5-direction: S(d4>e5)
 e4: d5-direction: S(e4>d5), f5-direction: S(e4>f5)
As Black:
SQ: e5-Strategy/d5-Strategy
 e5: f4-direction, d4-direction;
 d5: e4-direction, c4-direction
CQ: Play on the Light/Dark Squares.
The basics of how to determine which color:
 1) Ask "what color do my opponents pieces defend?"
 2) Ask "what color do my pieces coordinate on?" This can be assessed by noting which color squares your pieces and pawns attack/operate on.
 3) Consider a color strategy on the opposite color your opponents pieces defend on.
 4) Consider your ability to eliminate or neutralize defenders on the color you choose to play on.
 5) Reassess after EVERY move. This could change at any time, especially after captures and pawn moves.
 4) Note that Pawns, Bishops and Knights all attack a single color at any one time.
CM: Determine reasonable candidate moves that remove defenders of the color you are attacking/playing on.
GM: Select the move that meets the needs of the position as your Game Move.

I'll update this entry as I get more familiar with this method of strategic thinking.

Friday, February 22, 2013


"...out of the lingering mist appeared the devil with a chess set..."

Not dead yet.

Because of my nature, I sometimes get carried away with trivial things that occupy my time, diving headlong into the fray only to come out the other end completely churned and sand-tossed by the surf. So was the past few years with regards to games. Euro games to be exact. They left a bad, unsatisfying taste. I ran the gamut. Found that I dislike them for the most part, prefer 2-player games of war, and so I have arrived back to where I belong. I did retain several 2-player war games in the process, which I hope to get played here and there.

I have to rediscover my love of chess. Today begins that journey.

In this post, I want to further define the GCTS and how it relates to actual chess books that I use. This is more for my own benefit than anything else. I find it useful to enumerate such things so I don't have to "reinvent the wheel" at a later date and not recall the details. I'm aging, and not so gracefully.

So, let's go day by day based on the following Generic Chess Training Schedule that appears earlier in this blog here.

[Keep in mind that mnemonics like "SO2" have specific translations, and the "2" is not literal. Each day is broken into 4 units of time. What that unit of time represents is up to you and the amount of study time available to you that day. for example, if you have 1 hour of study available, then "SO2" translates to "Study Openings for two units of time". Since we use 4 units per day, that means 30 minutes in real time, give or take. K.I.S.S.]

We will associate the following with specific books.

DAY1: SO2*, VT1*, SG1*
DAY2: VE2* PL1*, VT1*
DAY3: SG1*, VG1, PL1*, VT1*
DAY4: SO2*, VE1*, VT1*

S = Study

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

DAY1: SO2 DAY4: SO2:
SO2 - Study Openings, 2 units
My opening study relies on a pseudo-feedback method based on my current play, and based upon ongoing correspondence games I participate in. As the games progress, I review the played variations to determine my next move and what to study on an ongoing basis.
If you have money to burn (who does), an option might be , which allows you to practice your opening variations on a virtual chessboard. Otherwise, I have two books I use as a basis for my opening repertoire:

As Black:  Black Defensive System For The Rest Of Your Chess Career by Andrew Soltis - Dated, for sure, but I'm not using it as a Theoretical Reference.

As White: A Strategic Chess Opening Repertoire for White by John Watson

I recently chose this book because, historically, I have been a 1 e4 player for my entire chess career and have decided I think the time has come to switch. You'll notice there is some cross-pollination here between the colors. I could conceivably be on both sides of a Slav/Semi-Slav. This is a great way to gain a complete perspective on the opening in question. This repertoire now includes the Nimzo-Indian and the King's Indian, two gigantic theoretical undertakings, but I'm not going to worry about that because I don't plan on testing the theory very much.

DAY1-4 VT1:
VT1 - Solve Tactics
Tactics you should really do every day. I use several books:

The last two books get progressively more difficult. I also use George Renko's Chessbase "Intensive Course Tactics 1 & 2", organized thematically. There are free Internet resources as well, such as which provides you with a (questionable) rating.

SG1 - Study Chess Strategy
Here I tend towards both classic and modern texts and software as well:
Bangiev's Cd's have been given a bad rap from the few press outlets that have even bothered to attempt the course. I find it a refreshing way to look at any game situation and it works, but the amount of work you have to put in will scare most away. Everyone wants quick and easy. Nothing in Chess is quick and easy.

VE1/2 - Solve Endings
Solving endgames can be a real lot of fun. There are so many sources for this I will name just a couple: Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and Fundamental Chess Endings . Both books have challenging, thoughtful and highly education material. OK, a third: A Guide to Chess Endings . I particularly like this book as the examples are short and to the point.

PL1 - Play

We MUST play.

VG1 - Solve strategic Problems (Middlegames)
I use the Encyclopedia of Chess Middlegames: Combinations for this portion of my study. It's an older title from the publishers of Chess informant. Chessbase stuff will work too, or even Chess Informants and the diagrams they have near the back of the books in the older editions.

In any event, that is it in encapsulation. I have begun playing again at a local club, so that is good news. The results, not so good - .5-1.5. I was in position to score 2-0 and should have, so that is more good news.

Apparently my chess death has been overly exaggerated.