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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Hawaiian Orangutan Attack

     It's been said that any opening is playable below the master level and I believe it. Just take a gander at the following silly online G15 against a 1600 rated opponent. 
     I have seen this “opening” called the Hawaiian Orangutan Attack and the Kadas Opening, but generally it's referred to after the Desprez Opening named after the French player Marcel Desprez. Gabor Kadas is a fairly strong Hungarian master who has picked up quite a few GM scalps using 1.h4; I do not know anything about Desprez. 
     The Chess For Novices site explains it thus: the Desprez is complete garbage for several reasons:
1) White has not furthered the development of any pieces - save his King's Rook, which actually is better developed through castling K-side. 
2) White has not claimed a share of the center. 
3) White has handed the initiative over to black. 
4) White has weakened his King's castled position by moving a K-side pawn. 

     For a GM example of how to play this opening visit the Chess Academy of Timur (Cat). That's GM Timur Gareev's blog and he annotates a real game using this opening! In that game a 2500 rated GM defeats an Expert (2000 rated) player which shows that the difference in playing strength trumps the merits of the opening. 
 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Classic Lunge of the Isolated d-Pawn

     One of my favorite P-structures is the isolated d-Pawn and the best book on the subject I ever read was GM Alex Baburin's tome, Winning Pawn Structures which has more instructions on how to play this position than you will ever want to know. I see on Amazon that there are 17 used books available from $70.95, 4 new from $169.80 and one collectable from $142.84. Seriously, who is going to be foolish enough to pay that kind of money for a book published in 2004? True, it's the best book ever on the subject of isolated d-Pawn formations, but the price is ridiculous! 
     Knowing how to play the Isolated d-Pawn formation is important because it can arise from the Queen's Gambit Accepted and Declined), the Reti Opening, French Defense, the Caro-Kann or many others and either side can end up with one. Many players will avoid the isolated d-Pawn, especially if they have ever read Nimzovich's My System, but this is wrong because these positions are very dynamic and offer good attacking chances.

The basic ideas are:
White 
1) Avoid simplification 
2) Position your pieces to support the advance of the P to d5 
3) Occupy e5 with a N and attack on the K-side or occupy c5 and operate on the c-file 

Black 
1) Prevent the advance of the d-Pawn. This is usually best done by posting a N (or in rare cases a B) on d5 
2) Post pieces to force white to defend the P. For example a N on c6 and a B on f6. 
3) Try to simplify and reach an ending 

     The following instructive game played in the West European Zonal tournament demonstrates these principles. The tournament was won by O'Kelly in the last round when he defeated Charles Doerner of Luxemburg while Pachman lost to the Bulgarian Alexander Cvetkov. The final standing were: 


1) O'Kelly 10.5 
2-3) Pachman and Trifunovic 9.5 
4) van Scheltinga 9.0 
5-6) Alexander and Szabo 7.5 
7-8) Blau and Rossolimo 6.5 
9) Castaldi 6.0 
10) Cvetkov 5.5 
11) Foerder 5.5 
12) Plater 4.5 
13) Doerner 3.0 
14) O'Sullivan 0.0 (!) 

     Originally, Tartakower was supposed to represent France but he couldn’t come and the Scottish champion Combe canceled. A Romanian player didn’t show up. 
 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Short and Sharp

     Usually when a King has lost the right to castle an attack against it is in order, but not always. To be successful with an attack against an uncastled K there must also be other weaknesses in the K's position such as weak squares around it or open files or diagonals that lead to it.       
     In some cases going hog wild with violent moves and checks won't work; the attacker must take time to make sure the K can't escape or he must slowly build up a mating net.  In this game Chistiakov prudently prepares for action against Belavenets' K starting at move 12.       
     It should be noted though that even though this game was used as an example of such by Vladimir Vukovic in his excellent classic, The Art of Attack in Chess, his analysis is superficial. As often happens in such games a careful analysis will reveal that they were not the grossly one-sided slaughters that they appear.   They are often a titanic struggle of ideas or sometimes as happens here, the loser is in the game right until the end when he makes a mistake that brings about a sudden decision. In this game Belavenets was still in the game when he overlooked his opponent's reply on his 22nd move and lost immediately.       
     Sergey Belavenets (July 8, 1910 – March 7, 1942) was a Soviet master, theoretician, and chess journalist. He was born in Smolensk to a noble family and along with fellow master Mikhail Yudovich were known as the Smolensk twins because they had been close friends since meeting in a school match in 1925. Over the next few years they studied with Belavenets's uncle, Konstantin Vygodchikov.
     He finished 4th in the 1925 Belarusian Championship and throughout the 1930s and early 1940s he participated in tournaments held in Moscow, always finishing well. He was killed in an action at Staraya, Russa in 1942 while fighting with the Soviet Army. Staraya was occupied by the Germans between August 9, 1941 and February 18, 1944. Totally destroyed during the war, it was later restored. Since 1984, international chess competitions "In Memoriam of S.V. Belavenets" have been held in Smolensk. His daughter Liudmila held the title of women's world correspondence chess champion from 1984 to 1992. 
     His opponent, Alexander Chistiakov was born in Moscow on January 22, 1914 and died in 1990 at the age of 76, gained the Soviet Master title in 1938 and shared the Moscow Championship in 1950 with Yuri Averbakh.
 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Lechenincher SchachServer 10th Anniversary Tournament

The Lechenicher SchachServer is run by Dr. Ortwin Paetzold. Its name was derived from the name of the small town where it has been programmed, Erftstadt-Lechenich near Cologne, Germany and the tower of the ruins of Castle Lechenich looks like a rook. Lechenicher SchachServer came about in January, 2006 after IECG, which conducted e-mail only tournaments, shut down. IECG was one of the first sites I played on when I returned to chess after a long absence and was looking for an online correspondence site. They started me at my old CCLA rating of 2060 and in my first tournament I finished +0 -4 =2. At first I put the poor results down to the fact that European players were probably better than US players with a similar rating, but after analyzing the finished games with Fritz I realized it was the program my opponents were using! Checking the IECG rules I discovered that they didn't have any rules against engine use and so that's when I got into engine-assisted correspondence chess. 

This type of chess is a different game altogether and it's not for everybody. Blunders are rare and so are tactics. What this type of chess is good for is opening experimentation and for toying around with engines. It's also a good way to study endings because you'll play a lot of them. 

After his 1998 Advanced Chess match against Topalov (3-3 tie) Garry Kasparov observed that “it's all over once someone gets a won position.”  For the most part he was exactly right because once you get in a position where the engine is showing you are about 1.50 Ps behind in the evaluation, resignation is probably in order. However, that may not always be the case, especially in the endgame and on occasion I have won, lost or drawn positions where the engine evaluation was incorrect!  Sometimes opening evaluations are way off, too.

LSS also offers Chess 960 and no-engine tournaments as well as a variety of regular tournaments at different time limits, all for free. So even if you don't want to play engine-assisted games, it has something to offer.  I have never played in their no-engine cup events, but the time limit is 120 days for the whole game and it appears that the majority of the players are lower rated. The LSS interface is also very clean and easy to use.


Registration for the 10th LSS Anniversary is due to start on April 15, 2016 is now open for anyone interested in this type of chess. So far almost 300 players are registered with ratings from under 1000 to over 2200. The event consists of two stages, the Preliminary and the Finals (which will start in January 2017). All players who do not withdraw or not suspended in January can attend both stages. They suspend players who abandon games or make a habit of withdrawing.

Musketeer Chess

For anyone that is interested…. 

     I received an e-mail today from       Dr. Zied Haddad, an anesthesiologist living in Paris, informing me that he is promoting a new chess variant he has created called Musketeer Chess with new pieces and is looking for local clubs to promote this variation through tournaments, etc. 
     He is also looking for interested persons and/or federations to promote chess, variants and board games through a new international federation to be called the Unorthodox Chess and Board Games Society. He is also looking into the possibility of on line play. 
     In order to promote Musketeer Chess he is willing to help sponsor tournaments and for clubs, individuals or federations he is offering 5 free kits containing the extra pieces for each 10 kits purchased. You can buy the pieces at the houseofstaunton.com. To get the free kits please mail him your invoice and he will make arrangements with HOS to mail the free kits of extra pieces.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ponziani's Gambit

     In recent weeks I have been intrigued by playing certain lines in my online games at my favorite time limit of G15. As white I have played 1.e4 and met the Sicilian with 1...c5 2.Nc3 d6 (or 2...Nc6) with 3.g4. This move is not as aggressive as it first appears if black plays correctly. In fact, it turns out to be rather passive. On the other hand, against incorrect play white can develop a ferocious K-side attack.



     As black I have enjoyed experimenting with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 b5. Of course 2...b5 is not good, but most opponents have spent a little time trying to decide which P to take. 

     If white plays 3. Bxb5 c6 where should he play his B? Surprisingly, most of my opponents (generally lower rated ones) have retreated it back which allows me to play 4...d5. 4.Ba4 is best.

     
     Black can try either after 4...Ba6 or 4...Nf6. White is clearly better; if white now captures the e-Pawn black is still at a disadvantage, but he has a choice of either 5...Qa4 attacking two pieces or playing 5...Qe7. In either case white has the advantage, but against a tactically challenged opponent it can be very discombobulating.
     Apparently white does best to capture the e-Pawn. Does this not makes sense? The center P is more important than a flank P. After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 b5 3. Nxe5 Qe7 4. d4 

     Black must avoid 4...d6 because of 5.Bxb5, but he can try either 4...Nc6 or 4...f6. Neither move is really very good, but if black is overly concerned about that, then he should not play 2...b5. Admittedly, none of this stuff is good, but things generally get rather tactical and IF you are better at them than your opponent, you'll probably win; if not you won't. But, for us non-masters that's the case even if we were playing the Ruy Lopez or Najdorf Sicilian. 
     This game features a rather better opening that I have been messing around with and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of theory on it.  I Googled Bishop's Opening Ponziani Gambit and got nothing more than some games in various databases. It's a good line to make your own opening book on so you will be familiar with the main lines then give it a try. 
 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Pitschak Nicks Fischer for a Draw

     Not much is known about Fischer's opponent in this game, Rudolf Pitschak (5 August 1902 – 23 September 1988), a Czech–German master. He was born in the small town of Rumburk, Czechoslovakia.
     During the late 1920s and early 1930s Pitschak played in many European tournaments with success. His best results were in 1929 when he won in Venice with a score of 8.5 – 2.5. Carl Ahues finished second and Pitschak drew their individual game. 
     In 1929 he finished second behind Flohr at Kralicky. The same year he finished second at Munchengratz behind Bogoljubow. He finished second at Breslau in 1930. This event was part of the Silesian Chess Congress which was first held in 1922. In 1877 the Breslau Chess Association was founded and after World War I Germany had to cede a part of the Ostprovinzen, mainly Posen (Poznań). 
     In 1922 the new Silesian Chess Federation was founded and held a great number of congresses till 1939. Members of this federation and the German Chess Federation in Czechoslovakia played in each others championships. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Heinz Josef Foerder, being a Jew, lost his job, and moved to Riga, Latvia. In 1934 he emigrated to British Mandate of Palestine where he had changed his name to Yosef Porath. Foerder won the championship in 1930, 1931 (tied) and 1932 1930) 3rd-4th at Bílina 1930 1930) 
     After World War II, Pitschak played in the U.S. Open which was held in Cleveland, Ohio in 1957. The tournament was won by 13-year-old Bobby Fischer. I wrote about this tournament a few years ago because there was a big brouhaha about who actually won the event, Fischer or Bisguier: Hey, Art! Give back that trophy!
     In the '57 Open  Pitschak scored 7.5-4.5 and tied for places 24-31 with John W. Collins, Victor Guala, Lawrence Lipkin, James R. Schroeder, Bozidar Pehnec, Raymond Weinstein and Boris Garfinkel. 
   His score consisted of +4 -2 =6.  Losses were to Saul Wanetick (who tied for 8th-12th) and Lev Blonarovych (tied for 13th-23rd). In addition to his draw with Fischer, he drew with Walter Shipman (who tied for places 4-7) and Raymond Weinstein. His other games were against non-masters. 
    This game was played in August and Pitschak came within a hair of defeating Fischer. Not long after this game in the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York City on October 17 Fischer defeated Donald Byrne in the famous “Game of the Century." 
     In the era before ratings it's hard to say with any certainty how strong players were but Chessmetrics puts Fischer's rating at the time of this game somewhere between 2500-2550. Chessmetrics also gives the following data on Pitschak. 

Best World Rank: #79 (on the February 1935 rating list with his highest ever rating of 2486)
Best Individual Performance: 2577 in Bad Liebenwerda, 1934, scoring 4.5/8 (56%) vs 2557-rated opposition.
 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Simple Looking, yet Complicated

     In the 40s, 50s and 60s the Dutch psychologist and chess master conducted a number of ground-breaking experiments in the cognitive processes that occur in the brains of strong chess players. A recent Scientific American article bears testimony to this research. Adriaan de Groot died in Schiermonnikoog, Holland on August 14. He was 91. In memoriam.
     Adrianus Dingeman de Groot, commonly known as Adriaan de Groot, was born on October 26, 1914 in Santpoort, Netherlands. He was a psychologist and chess master, and became famous for conducting cognitive chess experiments in the 40s, 50s and 60s. His initial thesis on the subject, Het denken van den schaker, was published in 1946. The English translation, Thought and Choice in Chess, appeared in 1965. Read more in ChessBase article.  
     Recently while looking through Thought and Choice in Chess I came across a position that looked rather intriguing so took the time to play over the whole game. de Groot analyzed the position after white 17th move which was one of the test positions that he gave to subjects to solve, but what is really fascinating is the position after white's 23rd move. 
     In the game de Groot played 23...Kh8? which only lead to a draw. However, had he played 23...Kf8 he could have won, but ONLY if he had discovered the incredible line found by Stockfish. In that variation white, though lost, has to walk a tightrope to avoid getting mated and, at the same time, there are a couple of black's moves that are the only ones that win.
     The line discovered by Stockfish is almost like a composed endgame study and it's worth taking the time to take a look at it. Besides that, analysis with Stockfish and Komodo showed the game to be a lot more complicated that it appears on the surface. 
 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Chess Assistant vs. Chessbase

     After having spent the last few days recovering from eye surgery I have been toying around with my recently purchased Chess Assistant. I had been debating whether or not to buy a chess set but decided against it because it's been ages since I've played an OTB game so there's no real need for a set. I also considered updating Fritz 12 but finally determined it would best be replaced with a database program which is more likely to be useful in correspondence play. The question was should it be Chess Assistant or Chessbase? I like Chessbase products and their learning curve is likely to be shorter because of my familiarity with Fritz, but from experience I know Chess Assistant has excellent customer service in case their might be a problem, which, based on my experience with Aquarium, there was likely to be and that's exactly what happened.
     After ordering CA16 download from the USCF over the weekend I had to wait until the link came on Monday. After several tries I got the link to work, but the serial number I was given generated a massage saying that it was expired!! So, that afternoon I sent an e-mail to Chess Assistant explaining the problem and by 7:00 am the next morning I had a link that worked, but there was still a problem. The 6.45 million game database that was supposed to come with the program was nowhere to be found. That generated another e-mail to Chessbase Support and the next morning I got a reply directing me to the location on their site where the database plus several other components could be downloaded. I am not sure whether the need to do this is poorly documented or if I just missed it. 
    Learning all the secrets of Aquarium which was lost when my old laptop crashed was time consuming and at times confusing. I still had the CD for Fritz 12, but not the serial code because that got lost when our house flooded. I e-mailed Chessbase and explained the problem. They told me to go pound salt...buy a new program, they said. In any case, Chessbase has a lot of stuff in which I have no interest...like the Let’s Check and Engine Cloud (which requires a playchess.com membership) and half a year’s subscription to ChessBase Magazine. 
     Price was also a big consideration: CA16 Basic can be downloaded for $85 from the USCF and the CB13 Starter package is much higher at $219, plus there is no download version available. I finally decided that the basic Chess Assistant would do just fine. 

CHESS ASSISTANT features: 
  • Database of about 6.45 million games 
  • Access to 7-piece Lomonosov Tablebases , but only until the end of the year - this is not too important because EGDBs are available free online. 
  • Automatic opening annotation that searches for novelties, adds annotations from the Opening Encyclopedia, CAP evaluations, inserts reference games etc. (Good for CC play) 
  • Multi-pass game analysis is an advanced analysis method to fine-tune each step of the search. (Good for CC play) 
  • Interactive analysis allows you guide the engine in its analysis and pick lines and it remembers the results. With Fritz once you leave the analysis and come back, it starts from scratch, so this feature is a very handy one. 
  • Chess Opening Encyclopedia with more than 8000 annotations and 40 million evaluations by strongest engines key positions. 
  • Search by position, header, maneuvers, material, comments, novelty search, advanced search by material
     CA has a feature called Background Analysis which is different than Fritz' Infinite Analysis. With the BA feature the engine calculates the position "behind the scenes" so you can use other functions while the engine is at work. It has a search for current P-structure and material feature that promises to be very useful. I also like the idea of being able to delete duplicate games which is something I can't do with my Fritz 12 program. I am not sure if this feature is available in CB13. 
     One nice thing is that you can download a restricted function version of Chess Assistant that makes it possible to experiment with.  Playing around with this version for a few days is what convinced me to go ahead with the purchase of the full version. On the downside, the interface is a lot more cluttered that Fritz, but a lot of that is, I suppose, due to it having a lot more features. So far it looks like CA16 will be very useful, but it is going to take a lot of time learning how to use all its features. Download demo

Addendum 3-25-16...I have discovered that you cannot delete games in pgn which is rather odd as well as somewhat annoying, but so far I am liking this program a lot. The only other thing is that I do wish it had a wider choice of boards and pieces.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Botvinnik and Missed Two Move Variations

     After WWII in 1945 a US team played the Soviet team in a radio match and while the US team expected stiff competition, they believed they would win. But, they were destroyed by a score of 15.5-4.5. Then in 1954 a team of Soviet players came to New York City for a week-long match which they again won by an overwhelming score of 20-12. 
     A rematch was planed for 1953, but the Soviets had problems with visas, so the match was postponed and was eventually played in Moscow in 1955. The Soviets won again by a score of 25-7. But the highlight of the match was on board 1 where Reshevsky defeated Botvinnik by a score of 2.5-1.5. Reshevsky's victory made him a hero in the Soviet Union and he was mobbed by autograph seekers in Moscow and was even introduced to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. 
     After his defeat in the following game Botvinnik made the comment that his loss showed that he needed to perfect his play in two move variations. That's an amazing statement! A world champion of Botvinnik's caliber saying his lacks proficiency in seeing two-movers! It makes you think...if he had trouble spotting them, what hope is there for the rest of us? This game with its head-whirling complications shows why Botvinnik felt he had to improve in that area. 
     In his book The Inner Game of Chess Andrew Soltis says Botvinnik overlooked four two-movers and that's why he lost. I have never seen any annotations on this game by Botvinnik, but I assume Soltis was able to consult some. Anyway, the missed two-movers supposedly were 28...Rbc8, 31...Nc7 and 33...f6 plus Botvinnik missed Reshevsky's 35.Ra3 when he played 33...f6. 
     With the help of Stockfish 6 and Komodo 8 which were not available to Soltis who wrote the book back in 1994, it seems that Botvinnik actually let the win slip into a draw with 29...R8c6 which Soltis did not comment on. Both engines found a stunning win with 29...e5!! And, they both found the draw that Botvinnik could have had with 34...Kc5!! 
     We have seen a phenomenal rise in engine strength not only in the area of tactics, but in their “strategy” and endgame play, but does that mean they have also destroyed our respect for famous players of the past? Nowadays we armchair Grandmasters can go over a game like this one with Stockfish and Komodo and learn the greats of yesteryear were not perfect, but that's about all. I will never forget watching a garden variety GM, Miguel Quinteros, playing a local master for $20 stakes. The master had 5 minutes on his clock and Quinteros had one. Quinteros mopped the floor with the guy! 
     Or take the time a local master was analyzing a game in progress at an international tournament for a group spectators and he was claiming that white was helpless. A participant in the tournament, GM Jim Tarjan, passed by on the way to the coffee machine, glanced at the board and bashed out a few moves that left the master and the rest of us stunned because the master's assessment was completely wrong! Tarjan saw in a couple of seconds a resource everybody else missed. 
     Sometimes a Grandmaster's understanding and vision defies imagination. So, no, their play still commands respect even if an engine finds something better than they did. Seriously, who among us would not want to play like these two giants?! Or, for that matter, Andy Soltis or Miguel Quinteros or Jim Tarjan?