Monday, January 18, 2010

Reassessing my Chess (Part 3)

PART 3: Calculations and Combinations


Promises to introduce Kotov’s method of calculation and a system that allows you to understand when combinations may or may not exist.

Chapter 1: Calculation

How many moves ahead does a GM see? Reti says one move but examples from Alekhine display many, many more. The trick is “you only bother calculating once the correct plan is clear and once you settle upon a plan that helps your plan come to fruition.” Normally you need to at least calculate at least a couple of moves ahead to make sure everything is in order and sometimes you have to look much deeper. Silman uses a couple of his own games as examples and then shows the famous Reti-Alekhine 1929 game. I followed the game in one of my databases with Kasporov’s along with Silman’s analysis. One thing Silman mention that I hadn’t considered before was that in a game with one player attacking queenside and the other kingside, a trade of queens usually helps the player attacking queenside. This seems obvious but the Reti-Alekhine game is an exception.

Silman suggests two things to improve calculation:
     1. Go through a GM game collection looking at possible candidate moves and writing down all your analysis in a notebook.
     2. Read Kotov’s book “Think Like a Grandmaster.”

Chapter 2: Rules of Combination

For a combination to exist one of these factors must be present:
     1. Open or weakened King
     2. Undefended pieces
     3. Inadequately defended pieces

So don’t look for a combination all the time but rather only when you see one of these factors in a given position. A position from Alekhine-Junge 1942 is used to demonstrate. GM Averbach has stated that the vast majority of combinations are based in one way or another on the theme of double attack. A Aronin-Kantarovich miniature is used as an example and demonstrates the rule that you shouldn’t open the position if your are behind in development.

Two problems finish the chapter from Kolvick-Silman 1989 and Amateur-Muller corr 1928-29.

Over all it gave me some new ways to think about positions, which is always good, but nothing too concrete yet.  I feel there needs to flesh added to the bones of ideas presented so far.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wijk aan Zee Super-GM Starts on Saturday

Looking at the list of players I noticed something interesting.

Title Player                      Nat.     Rating  rank   born
GM Magnus Carlsen       NOR    2810     1     1990
GM Viswanathan Anand  IND     2790     3     1969
GM Vladimir Kramnik    RUS      2788     4     1975
GM Vassily Ivanchuk     UKR      2749     8     1969
GM Peter Leko              HUN     2739    12    1979
GM Alexei Shirov           SPA      2723    20    1972
GM Sergey Karjakin       RUS     2720    21    1990
GM Leinier Dominguez    CUB    2712    25    1983
GM Hikaru Nakamura    USA     2708    28    1987
GM Nigel Short              ENG     2696    38    1965
GM Fabiano Caruana     ITA      2675     51    1992
GM Sergey Tiviakov      NED     2662    62     1973
GM Jan Smeets              NED     2657    73    1985
GM Loek van Wely        NED     2641   104   1972
Average rating: 2719 – Category: 19

If you rearrange the players by age you see there is four decades of players representated and they if they were teams they would be fairly evenly matched. 

GM Fabiano Caruana ITA 2675 51 1992
GM Magnus Carlsen NOR 2810 1 1990
GM Sergey Karjakin RUS 2720 21 1990

GM Hikaru Nakamura USA 2708 28 1987
GM Jan Smeets NED 2657 73 1985
GM Leinier Dominguez CUB 2712 25 1983

GM Peter Leko HUN 2739 12 1979
GM Vladimir Kramnik RUS 2788 4 1975
GM Sergey Tiviakov NED 2662 62 1973
GM Loek van Wely NED 2641 104 1972
GM Alexei Shirov SPA 2723 20 1972

GM Vassily Ivanchuk UKR 2749 8 1969
GM Viswanathan Anand IND 2790 3 1969
GM Nigel Short ENG 2696 38 1965

So which decade contains the winner?
I'm cheering for the youngsters because they play exciting chess, and for the old timers because they are my age.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reassessing My Chess (Part Two)

PART TWO: Thinking Techniques and the List of Imbalances


Silman’s advice in the first paragraph of this section is sage: “If you want to be successful, you have to base your plans on specific criteria on the board, not on your mood at any given time.” I have to admit that at times, this is particularly failing of mine. In my last tournament I decided I was going to play aggressively before I even showed up. Not surprisingly, I did well in games where my position justified my style but suffered in the games where my position did not lend itself to this strategy.

Chapter 1 - What is A Plan:

Silman borrows Golombeck’s definition. “Planning is the process by which a player utilizes the advantages and minimizes the drawbacks of his position...always based on a diagnosis of the existing characteristics of a position...most difficult when the position is evenly matched and easiest when there is only one plan that satisfies the demands of the position.”

Chapter 2 – Imbalances and the ‘Silman Thinking Technique’

Another quote: “The real goal of a game is too create an imbalance and try to build a situation in which it is favourable for you”. In the book, seven types of imbalances are listed:

1. Superior minor piece
2. Pawn structure
3. Space
4. Material
5. Control of a key file or square (what about diagonal?)
6. Lead in development
7. Initiative

Next the Silman thinking technique is introduced.  This is a 5 Stages process.

1. Figure out the positve and negative imbalances for both sides
2. Figure out which side of the board you should play on. (only where you have favourable imbalance).
3. Don’t calculate. Instead dream up your fantasy position.
4. Figure out how to achieve your fantasy position. If it’s not possible, find another dream position.
5. Only now calculate your candidate moves that help you achieve your dream position.

The remainder of the chapter follows one of Silman’s games in which he explains his thinking process as the game progresses and at the end a problem to solve in which you must identify the favourable imbalances and come up with a plan. The solution at the end of the book continues from the problem position (another Silman game) and again explains the thinking process. I found that by going to I was able to locate the games and then follow them while reading along with the book without requiring a chessboard and pieces.

The second chapter of this Part of the book I found extremely insightful and by itself worth the price of the book - (If I had bought it and not borrowed it). I noticed that I am reading the 3rd edition from 1994 and I see that there is a 4th edition coming out soon. When I return the book maybe I will order my own 4th edition copy.

Coming next....... Part Three : Calculation and Combinations

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reassessing my Chess (PART ONE)

Last Friday I got together with Jamin for a few quick games and to borrow his copy of "How to Reassess Your Chess" by Jeremy Silman. Jamin highly recommended the book for me and told me it would improve my play. Although I am a skeptic at heart, I plan on reading it thoroughly and I do expect to see some significant improvement. I will track my progress here a section at a time.

Explanation of the purpose of the book and who it aimed for. The targeted reader description seems to describe me to a tee. It states that if I want to improve, I will have to destroy and then rebuild from scratch my chess foundation. It also states I might get worse before I get better!

Review of the most important endgame theories.
Chapter 1 Understanding the King: Opposition, Outflanking.
Chapter 2 King and Pawn Endgames: Basic K + 1p vs. K positions
Chapter 3 Rook and Pawn Endgames: Lucena & Philidor positions
Overall Part One was rather basic with nothing that I haven't already seen and learned elsewhere.

Coming next: Part Two. This looks more interesting.

ps. If your wondering about the games we played, Jamin skunked me 4-0 even though he had 10 min to my 15 min. None of the games were very close but in the 3rd, after blundering a pawn, I thought I had a piece winning combination but missed a queen check that recaptured the lost piece after trading many pieces. I guess I need to read more.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Chess Predictions

My annual list of predictions on the global and local chess level

1. There will be a change at the top this year as I believe the world champion will be dethroned. Although I really admire Anand and will be cheering for him I don't think he will hang onto his crown.

2. Carlsen will once again end the year as the highest rated chess player in the world. He will even extend his lead in the rating list and while others will battle for the world championship he will become the unofficial world champion.

3. Kevin Spraggett is on top of the Canadian FIDE rating list by 3 points but I predict he will not be the highest rated Canadian by the end of the year.

4. Speaking of Spraggett, I predict his long awaited article on the problems in the Canadian chess world will finally be published on his webpage (Apr 1st would be a good day). It will be filled with lots of innuendo and some new info to me about what happened to Canadian chess when I was no longer an active chess player (1994-2007). It will lead to lots of discussion and accusations on "chesstalk" but not much else.

5. In 2010 Eric Hansen will pass Proper to become the highest FIDE rated Albertan. It may be some time before he relinquishes this position. He will get his IM title and be working on a GM title.

6. Robert Sasata will hold off MacKinnon to maintain the top spot on The Saskatchewan rating list. I hope he has a chance to play more chess this year but with a young family I know how difficult that can be. Mackinnon will continue his rating climb but will have to wait to overtake the master.

7. The 2010 Battle at the Border chess tournament will be the biggest and best by far and will draw stong players from all over western Canada.

8. Richard Wang will become the youngest Alberta master in some time and surpass Hughey and Rekhson on the rating list. They, of course, will continue the decade long bickering over the single digit difference between them and ignore the fact they have been passed by a preteen.

9. Two of the biggest rating gainers will be Wang in Alberta Jason Xiao in Sask.  It's no coincidence that they are both juniors.

10. I will defeat a higher rated opponent this year. I have to put this in because I failed to accomplish this in 2009, but I'm not sure how much chess I will get to play this year.

There it is. Do you agree, disagree? Let me know.