Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lone Pine 1975: Guðmundur Sigurjónsson Icelandic chess Grandmaster.

I’m back. I’ve turned the time machine back to this tournament so I can finish what I started. I searched hard for more biographical information for this Icelandic GM but all I could find was this short wiki blurb:

Guðmundur Sigurjónsson (September 25, 1947 Reykjavik) is an Icelandic chess Grandmaster.

He became International Master in 1970, grandmaster in 1975 and has won the Icelandic Chess Championship three times (1965, 1968 and 1972).[1] Played for Iceland in the Chess Olympiads of 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984 and 1986.[2] His tournament successes included 1st at Reykjavik 1970, =1st at Sant Feliu de Guíxols 1974, =2nd at Hastings 1974-75, =1st at Orense 1976, =2nd at Cienfuegos 1976 and =1st at Brighton 1982.

In the November 2009 FIDE list, he has an Elo rating of 2463, making him Iceland's number 10

Let’s dive into his games at Lone Pine. I’m highlighting three Sicilians. In Round 3, he plays into the veteran Svetozar Gligoric’s Najdorf variation of the Sicilian Defense. He keeps a steady hand with the typical themes of castling King side, and advancing pawns on the Queen side. Gligoric seemed to play a little less energetically and allowed Gudnubdur a chance to build up pressure on the d-file and in particular, the d5/d6 squares where black has a backward pawn.

By move 15, Black has a couple of weakness on b6 and d6. White also has good chances to occupy d5 as well. In light of this, Gligoric does an exchange sacrifice with his rook for the White’s threatening knight. The Icelandic GM simplifies the game in a series of exchanges as there was no real compensation for the exchange.
The next game I wish to highlight is the one in round 5 against Panno’s Sheveningen variation. As a side note from an amateur chess historian, the Scheveningen variation of the Sicilian, first was debuted by Max Euwe against Maroczy in the town of Scheveningen in 1923.
The general themes of this variation are as follows:
This is a variation of an Open Sicilian where Black gets an extra central pawn. The e6-d6 form a barrier so that Black can focus on counterplay on the Q-side along the c-file. Moving the a- and b-pawns to a6 and b5.
White gets a bit of a space advantage. He also usually gets play on the Kingside.

In the actual game a central exchange on e4 plants a passed pawn on e4 for Black while giving White some control over the d-file. With most of the minor pieces traded off, the middle game struggles with both sides having awkward bishops behind their own pawns on the same color. White’s advantage lies in an outpost rook on d6. Panno makes the poor choice of exchanging his active rook for White’s bad bishop with a weak threat to follow. The game quickly turns bad for Black after.

In round 6, Larry Evans deploys a Najdorf which Sigurjonsson responds with 6.f4 this time. Larry plays some interesting variations with a king side fianchetto and a move like Nc5 making for a pseudo-dragon variation. Black gets into some space trouble in the middle game but manages to hold the position. White gets a couple of strong shots in on the d-file and begins the process of simplification. Once the major pieces are off the board, a draw is eminent.

He finishes with 6 points ( 4 wins 4 draws and only 2 losses). He earned his GM title in the same year following his performance at Hastings and at Lone Pine.

It looks like he drops out of international chess altogether after 1986. I could not find out more on what this Icelandic Grandmaster is up to these days.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I’ve seen the future of chess improvement.

Most often, you have read here about my time machine traveling back in time to visit the famous chess tournaments over the past couple of hundred years. Since this IS a time machine, while I was at the world open, I dialed the Delorian to peer into the immediate future of chess improvement. I thought I’d enlighten you all with the vision that was presented to me just a short while ago.

First of all, imagine a clock that is as durable as a chronos, easier to set and doesn’t look like a something made from someone’s garage. That’s right, the future holds bright for a new line of products starting with a smart clock : An entrepreneur was looking for someone to partner with that could do some electronic wizardry. I had a pretty decent book of spells with me. That meant a partnership began. I’ll only tease you with that this will be a clock that will make a TD’s life much easier especially at a large scholastic event to make sure all the clocks are set right. And, it will look cool.

Speaking of a smarter chess experience, the biggest vision came from someone I once featured here recently, Andres Hortillosa, an author of chess improvement. He’s working on an interactive learning experience at Play Smart Chess . He demo’d an iPad with his software running on it. In his own words:

“Can you imagine reading your favorite chess book in a form where you get to see an interactive chess board in place of a diagram? How will the tool impact and deepen your learning experience? … Our application will allow you to replay the moves leading to every position of concern even right from the opening. “ A. Hortillosa

Here are some screen shots on an iPhone:

“In summary, we are changing the way chess knowledge is delivered, acquired and consumed.”- A. Hortillosa

I’ll be vacationing and taking a blogging break. Mull these ideas over while I’m gone. When I come back, I plan on picking up where I left off at Lone Pines. See you when I get back!

Monday, July 05, 2010

There’s Always a Silver Lining

Because I was sucking wind so bad in my section ( 4 losses in a row) I was sitting at a table that was either kids under twelve or grumpy old codgers trying desperately to salvage some dignity after a rather humiliating performance in the first 5 rounds. I was fortunate enough to discover my opponent was of the older type. It just so happened that Dan Heisman was coaching several of these adults and one of the kids around me. After I finally broke a perfectly good losing streak, I struck up a conversation with Howard Stern’s coach.

Dan Heisman is a very personable and approachable NM. Since he was in a waiting mode for his students he offered to go over a game of my choice and give me a free lesson! He covered a lot of ground and I did my best to jot down everything he had to say so I could share it with you. I’ll talk about some of the general advice he gave me and finish with some analysis on one of by Badness games.

Activity Safety and Time Management (A.S.T)

Dan’s first bit of advice had to do with making sure my pieces were active . “ Think of it like being a manager. You’ve got four of your who already moved once. The rooks haven’t moved yet. They are like new employees, you need to spend time with them.” Unless there is an obvious tactic, your first priority is to get your pieces active.

Safety is another consideration that needs to be adhered to. Counting techniques can eliminate most one move blunders. Knowing which side of the board your opponent is coming after you helps in determining which side to castle sometimes.

Time management was a strong topic Mr. Heisman drilled in me. Though I don’t have some problems with this, he pointed out the difference between what he called Micro Time Management versus Macro Time management. Micro time management is knowing when you can get away with making moves with less time versus using your time for critical positions. He advocates making the most out of the clock during each move. Most of my time management technique falls under the macro heading where I basically lump my playing into targeted time limits in 5 move increments. This discussion lead to the following topic.

Criticality Assessment:

What? This is knowing when a position is critical. “But isn’t this the Holy Grail for us patzers?” I asked. “How does one develop this skill?”

According to DH, the best to do this is to (1) PLAY BLITZ games and (2) Play over lots of annotated games. Now, he did say that just playing Blitz alone doesn’t do any justice unless you go over your mistakes. However, you develop a sense on when to spend your time on critical moves and decrease the time you spend on non-critical moves. Check your openings with the book after 3-4 games and see where you need to make improvements and go back for more. Sooner or later you will develop a sense for when critical positions come up. These are worth spending the time on.

Going over annotated games is the other half of this. In his words, “ After you play over hundreds of annotated games, you will have this voice in the back of your head as if it were your father telling you sage advice you never wanted to listen to when you were young. Only this time, you should listen.” He mentioned that its not a matter of memorization of the games, rather, with good annotations ( the verbose kind for us Class players), you get a better understanding of positions.


Dan didn’t have a good thing to say about CT-ART 3.0. “ How many times in your games do you get to sacrifice a queen?” He suggests John Bain’s book where there are more “removal of the guard” and gradual basic tactics. They may seem simple but getting to the point of really KNOWING these like your multiplication table gives you an opportunity to see the these kind of tactics when they come up in your games. Even if tactical shots only occur in 5% of your games, you are best to know them cold. It works the other way as well. Being able to see tactics coming at you will also save you from tripping up.

Now, on to my Badness game that he graced me with for analysis:

I had white, my opponent played a Benko Gambit. First off, he says “ You play 1.d4 2.c4? You know you need to know the tabias of 10 openings with that.” Of which I had about 7 (kind of sort of) under my belt given the latest series of posts ( QGA, QGD, Benoni, KID, NI, Grunfeld, and Dutch). The Benko-Gambit was not one of them and I gave it my best shot but underestimated the fact that Black has all his energy on the Queenside. With my passive moves and positional missteps, White was playing a totally defensive game.

Editor's notes 7-6-2010: Dan corrected me in that he is an NM and was coaching several of the adults around me and only one of the kids.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Let The Games Begin!!!

The 38th Annual World Open is underway!! There are 4 front runners in the open section: Francisco Vallejo Pons, P Harikrishna, Sandipan Chanda, and Luke McShane all have 2 points after the first couple of rounds in the 7-day event. More GMs are expected to come as the layered schedules unfold.

My games begin tonight as I play in the 5-day schedule. Come find me if you are here or wish me luck ( or at least not to blunder).

I'll try to keep you posted on the road from an Class B player's perspective.