Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reader's Choice

It’s been a while since I did a series of posts highlighting an old tournament. When I last left you, I was stuck in the seventies with Lone Pine 1975 and left Pal Benko in the barber’s chair.

I’m looking for inspiration and direction at this point. I decided to put it out to my readers and will tally the votes over the next week or so.

Here are the Choices(due to my library):

A: Finish what I started with Lone Pine 1975 picking up where I left off?

B: St. Petersburg 1909 ( Book notated by Lasker who played. Other top players include Rubinstein, Speilmann, Teichman, and Schlecter to name only a few)

C: A review of some of the classic games out of Howard Staunton’s Chess Player’s Handbook ( vintage stuff but sure to please the Romantic and Classical era buffs).

D: A Deep dive of the games of Emanuel Lasker’s games of 1889-1914 ( I probably would round it off to include NY 1924 games as well).

School’s back in session. Blunderprone’s Magical History tour steam locomotive is stoking the burners with a fresh pile of coal and taking on passengers. Let me know which destination you prefer and I will set the course and clear the tracks.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thinking during the Opening.

I’ve been asked to show a couple wins once in a while. Today I will showcase a couple of recent games that weren’t all too blunder-full. First. a little insight on the training update. Aside from a ridiculous dose of daily tactical puzzles, I believe I found a coach I can afford which equates to a stronger player than myself who recently went through a fairly sharp rise in playing strength as a class player ( now expert) after some coaching from another friend and candidate GM Dennis Shmelov. We had one online “discussion” covering one of my losses at the recent Eastern Class championship where I was just thrown out of the opening and left to my own failing devices to find the right ideas. My play resembled more like a chess board version of the science channel’s show, Survivor-man but without the battery and steel wool to create a fire. The new coach showed me how I could have created some fire had I rubbed two pieces the correct way and watched for the direction of the wind.

The first game has an interesting tactical exchange in the middle after I take a deliberate risk. I played white into an orthodox QGD. I found my opponent moving the Q-bishop 3 times which allowed me time to get into a good position. I really didn’t want to squander it. I anticipated Black preparing to castle Q-side so attempted to shift gears in that direction but then he consciously decided to leave his king in the center. Despite a splitting headache in the last round of the weekend swiss, I was feeling pretty excited about the new prospects by move 16.

I had a choice of creating a battery with Queen and Bishop and target a knight tossed in the corner or shoring up the center with the f-pawn which created risk. My headache wanted more pain as I took the more risky approach of 16.f2-f4 instead of the safer 16. Qc2. I had gulped a couple of advil around move 7 and the throbbing hadn’t quite subsided. Now, when I do tactical training, I make sure I do this under ALL conditions. When I am tired, I will do tactics. When I had a great day, I will do tactics. When I am sick…When I am under attack by all kinds of distractions… you get the picture. You never know what the conditions will be like at a tournament. So I saw if playing 16 f4 black had the response 16..d4. But here I calculated through my headache. 17Ne4 to 18Nc5 with Black’s counterplay 18..Qc5 ready to create a discovered check as I drop a pawn and he forks my rook and queen. WHY, you might ask do I play such risky lines? Its what makes me blunderprone. I am a RISK taker and I also saw beyond the discovered check with a 19 Nxe6 e2+ 20 Nxd4 exd1=Q 21Rxd1 and I am up a piece! That was the line played BUT I SAW THIS BEFORE I PLAYED MOVE 16!

Next up, is a recent win at my chess club. The game ended in my opponent playing a blunder that I have played all too often. Blinded by a strong attack he dropped a rook. Before that howler, the game was pretty solid and what was different for me was that I had spent several hours watching a series of videos by David Pruess on Development and the finer points of counting tempi, how it is in closed versus open positions and how to turn it into an advantage. I played this game focused on these principles instead of playing blindly by rote in the first few moves. The first few moves of the game has been a slippery lazy slope for me as I tend to move quickly and snap moves according to a bad memory. Having something to *think* about during the opening stage gave me a chance to snap out of zombie moves. I consciously weighed the benefits of entering against an IQP on the Black side of a C-K Pannov variation. I played cautiously and deliberately played a couple extra pawn moves mid way through as I focused on blockading the IQP on d5 with my knight. Without utilizing or mobilizing the d-pawn, I knew my opponent didn’t have a target in the closed position and really could not open it. Exchanges were in my favor too. The only area he could open was on the queenside and I was ready for that and it allowed me to regain tempi once the position opened.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blinded by winning

I recently competed at the Eastern Class Championships. First off, I did not gain another 100+ points of ratings. Rather, I walked away with some valuable lessons. One I will share here is my first round loss. It left a big impression as it was a game where I had a won position only to play like a caveman and turn a full point to a zero. As we say, “Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

The game started as a Benoni but quickly transposed the Saemisch variation of the KID where I have some “familiarity” of the position. Out of the opening, I ended up with a Space advantage in compensation for a slight Tempi in development disadvantage. Since the position was closed I was fine with this. As Black counter-attacked on the Q-side, I managed to set up a giant wedge pawn formation with the leader at d5. I think a part of me played for the artistic appeal of the pawn chain rather than the practical nature of it. There were stronger moves, I am sure, with risks. But having a flying geese pattern was “cool”.

As Black challenged my Q-side I was able to drive the menace back as he didn’t have enough attacking forces and I was setting up some tactical traps. An exchange occurred on the queenside liquidating the pawns, one set of rooks and Queens. It gave me a an advanced rook position where I challenged two pawns and won the blockading pawn of the massive geese pawn formation.

Here I was intoxicated with queening and started advancing throwing caution to the wind. Arrogantly thinking my position was so strong and my opponent was so un prepared that winning was inevitable.

What really happened was I stopped calculating as I was “so sure” this was a winning line I was blind to what counter chances my opponent had. ALWAYS consider the defensive powers of the side fighting for their lives as they could be as tenacious as …well.. me. I underestimated my opponent and lost the game with a couple of quick moves that over extended my advantage.

When you inherit a winning position, the first thing you need to do is take inventory of how well your pieces are coordinated. After winning material, the attacker is typically thrown into a square that is not ideal and requires a Tempo or two to restore balance in the position. I forgot all about that rule and thought I could simply “intimidate” my opponent. This sort of emotional rationalization is what blocked me from the proper thought process required to follow through with the right plan.

Do as I say, not as I have done.

Hard lesson shared here.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Chess Blog Carnival III: The Renaissance Faire Edition

Welcome to the third installment of the Chess Improvement Blog Carnival meant to stir up some interest and traffic. I’m following some big shoes with Chess Blog Carnival I and Carnival II. We have yet to have a host for April’s installment of the carnival. So feel free to step up to the plate it’s pretty cool and you will get introduced to new bloggers.

First up is Chris Harrington’s Humanity and Chess Blog entry He takes a “private eye” approach and cleverly disguises this annotated game as if it were Guy Noir himself reporting about a swindle on dark and rainy night in Reno. Its an interesting game with lots of action. A nice sample of creative chess annotations. He Also drew my attention to another “creative writing piece relating a game to a crusade:

The Pied Chessman, Bob Lenning , gives us a look at the finer details of a Bishop’s of opposite colors and how it actually favors the Attacker. Typically these games tend to draw, but as he points out, having the initiative and the attack could turn that game into a full point on the score board. The illustrative example of Rubinstein versus Speilmann underscores Rubiunstein’s contributions to the world of endgame theory in this Slav Defense game.

Chess Blogger, fellow knight errant, Temposchlucker always has some insightful reflections of his own inner workings. In this submission , he gets into the finer details of how he practices visualizing the board through Blindfold practice. His convincing claim is that it helps solve a calculation problem of keeping track of pieces without having to physically see them. The exercise of blindfold play is not meant to be an impressive parlor trick when you have guests over, rather its another useful tool to transfer anther task from a thinking skill. Taking some leads from Dan Heisman, he gets into some detail on the differences of the 3 types of vision DH suggests: Board Vision, Visualization, and Tactical Vision.

If that isn’t enough, Chaos Monolith takes us down a variant path called Crazy Chess which introduces a concept called “denial” where the opponent can “deny” one move at any time in the game. It’s an interesting concept and sometimes I wish I could throw that one at my opponent AFTER I blunder.

Derek Slater at Reassembler submits this rather Zen-like approach to facing the French by denying the hostility that the troubled Black player seeks. “Don’t try to win. Just Play good moves and accept that a draw may be the logical outcome.” He goes on to mention how this Zen-like approach goes on to CRUSH the exchange variation.

Next up is a Blogger at Chess Skills who submitted a post about Keeping it simple .James relates a simple concept from Baseball to chess. Since it’s spring training time, I welcome this analogy and his tactical volley “when the ball is thrown” is a nice example.

Lastly, the one I call the energize, the empirical rabbit, keeps going and going with is tireless Design of Experiment approach to tactical training and how he is concentrating on memory training using a methodical staggered refresh interval. His post tests the Dan Heisman’s tactical advice of learning the Bain tactics. With all those charts and results, I was almost expecting a Cpk on his process. I admire this discipline and rigor he brings to pattern training. Bravo.

As always, I respect Mark Weeks input. This month he submits a behind the scenes look at looking at Chess improvement blog content and gives the pros and cons of blogs at versus elsewhere. In an effort to distill the volatile nature of the chess blog world in general he presents a short list of quality blogs based on the following criteria: Written in English, On topic, at least one post in the last month, more content than a single uncommented game in a viewer, at least five posts total, and (as specified for the carnival) instructional. This is all very good input and meant to help the chess improvement blog world in a qualitative way. Thanks for the feedback Mark!

Well, that wraps things up here. I hope you all enjoy this month’s Renaissance Faire edition and visit the links presented here. If you do visit, please drop a comment or two and add to the community! Until next time , HUZZAH!