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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Franklin K. Young

Franklin K. Young occupies a unique niche in the chess world because of his serious effort to reduce chess to a mathematically exact system formulated on the principles of military science. He received some recognition around the late 1800’s and early 1900’s from world champion Emanuel Lasker, who referred to one of his books as "replete with logic and common sense," today Young's work is invariable treated with ridicule and scorn. For example:

"Whenever a point of junction is the vertex of a mathematical figure formed by the union of the ligistic symbol of a pawn with an oblique, diagonal, horizontal, or vertical from the logistic symbol of any kindred piece; then the given combination of two kindred pieces wins any given adverse piece"


“A Grand Strategic Front is formed by the extension of a salient two points along that diagonal upon which the minor strategic front already is established. It may properly be aligned and reinforced by the minor crochet, the major crochet, the crochet aligned, or supplemented by the formations, echelon, enceinte and en potence.”

You can do a Google book search and find copies of his books but don’t bother. They are all incomprehensible as the quotes indicate. Maybe they make sense if you have taken a professional course in military science as apparently White had in this game. He was a Colonel in the US Army and annotated the game for Chess Review magazine. Enjoy...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chess and Psychology

The interest of psychologists in chessplayers is twofold. First as a medium through which to study the thought processes, chess has a sufficient complexity and a sufficiently rigorous structure for it to be of use in discovering the precise mental processes through which a master reaches his decision about what move to play. Secondly, the chessmaster himself is an interesting subject for study to investigate what personality attributes (or defects) and what intellectual abilities are necessary to make a strong chess-player.

The first systematic attempt to test chessplayers was by Binet in 1894, when he applied his recent innovation, the intelligence test, to a number of the best players of the day. His conclusion that spatial ability is higher in chess-players than in those of comparable intelligence levels. This result he found to apply particularly to players of blindfold chess.

A more detailed investigation was undertaken at the Moscow" 1925 tournament, when eight of the competitors agreed to undergo several tests of intelligence and personality structure. The results are to be found in Djakov, Petrowski and Rudik, Psychologie des Schachspiels, Berlin/Leipzig 1927. Briefly, their conclusions were that chess-masters possessed a high degree of physical endurance together with a tolerance for frustration; their on tests of memory was no different from that of other groups of comparable intelligence levels.

Subsequent developments led to a deterioration in relations between chess and psychology when the Freudian school of psychoanalysis applied its methods to an interpretation of chess. The best known paper in this field was Reuben Fine's 'Psych-analytic observations on chess and chessmasters', in Psychoanalysis 1956. This was subsequently reprinted as The Psychology of the Chessplayer. This book attempted to generalize the conclusions of Ernest Jones’ 'The Problem of PauI Morphy' which drew heavily on an identification of the chess pieces with the components of the Oedipal drama. The objectives of the game are associated with subconscious fantasies based on the player want to kill his parents and we are all also accused of repressed homosexuality and paranoia. I remember purchasing Fine’s book when it first came out hoping to find some insights on how to play better chess. It was disappointing in that respect but laughable in Fine’s explanations as to why we play chess. While I’m on the subject of Fine, he basically quite chess because he no longer occupied a high place in the pecking order after World War 2. I’ve read his whining about why he should have been included in 1948 World Chess Championship tournament played to determine a new World Champion following the death of Alekhine. It was pathetic. Fine founded the Creative Living Center in New York City where he counseled people on marriage. Fine himself was married and divorced many times, so I’m skeptical that any advice he had to offer would have been of much value.

Fortunately these theories were never generally accepted either in psychoanalytic or chessplaying circles.

From the chessplayer’s point of view perhaps the most interesting work on the thought process of GM’s was done by Prof. Aadrian de Groot, a strong chessplayer from the University of Amsterdam. His work was based on experimental sessions conducted between 1938 and 1943 with subjects of various strengths ranging from amateurs to World Champions.

The principle test involved presenting the subject with an unfamiliar position taken from an actual game and asking him to provide a verbal report of his thought process. One interesting result was the measurement of a player’s ability to remember a position presented to him for a brief time (10-15 seconds). De Groot found this ability correlated very highly with playing strength. GM’s got nearly a 100% score while club players would only remember the position of half or less of the pieces. However, if the pieces were randomly placed with no resemblance to an actual game, the results bore no correlation to playing strength. This supports the theory that chess ability is allied to pattern recognition.

When reading this work I noticed GM’s tended to examine fewer moves and usually did not analyze as deeply as lower rated players. No doubt this is because they were able to zero in on what’s important and what isn’t by intuition or pattern recognition. I also noticed that in many cases in the analysis of many players that in the first couple of moves they looked at they did look at one of the moves the GM’s considered. The GM’s may have quickly dismissed the move, but they did consider it. This gave me the idea that maybe I was better than I thought, so when I looked at a position in my own games, the first three moves or so that popped into my head were the ones that got attention. OK, so maybe they weren’t moves a GM would play, but I figured they were likely moves he would at least consider however briefly. After all, I’ll play a GM’s rejected move over my own any time! The question is, “Did it work?” The answer is, “Yes.” Coupled along with some other training I did, I played in a large tournament in Chicago sometime back in the late 60’s or early 70’s and as a mid-1600 rated player, scored four straight wins against 1800-2000 rated players before losing in the last round to a 2400 rated master.

Here are links to some interesting articles, including the complete version of de Groot’s book.

deGroot’s Thought and Choice in Chess is available from Google books.
Time essay: Why They Play – The Psychology of Chess
A brief survey of psychological studies of chess
Psychology Today article: Chess: Not All About Logic?

QGD-Lasker’s Defense Revisited

In case anybody missed it I recently posted one of my games using the QGD-Lasker Defense on this Blog.

I said in that post it results in a sound but barren position but that’s exactly why I like it. World Champion Anand apparently agrees with me (maybe he read my post?) because he recently used it to defeat Topalov in their World Championship match.

I ran across an excellent video of this defense by FM Steve Stoyko can be viewed at the Kenilworth Chess Club. Watch Lecture

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Forum

I just ran across a new chess forum site called, imaginatively enough, Chess Forum. Apparently it just started recently. Pay them a visit and when you do, give them some support and write something!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jeff Sarwer

Who, you ask?

I remember him as an obnoxious little brat who always rubbed people the wrong way. He disappeared off the face of the earth, but resurfaced a while back. I’m sorry I thought so badly of him because I never knew his story. Sleeping in cars, hustling in parks, no school…no wonder he was such a nasty little kid;  he was never taught any better. Sometimes you never know people’s story. His story is interesting…and a might sad.

He was born in 1978 in Canada and was a child prodigy. I know, these days every other kid that comes along rates the title, but US Master Allen Kaufmann said , "Jeff at nine is stronger than Bobby was at 11." And none other than Bruce Pandolfini said , "Of the several thousand kids I've taught, Jeff is certainly the most amazing young player I've ever seen."

His Story on Youtube Part 1
His Story on Youtube Part 2
Interview with Jennifer Shahade
He’s playing poker these days...view article

Majnu Discusses His Thinking

Thoughts on Development and Planning

I was reading a couple of forum posts about openings again. Several people were discussing that most favorite of all topics: openings. The question was about the possibility of playing a particular “system” or series of moves that would be good against everything your opponent can throw at you.

Things like the Torre Attack (my personal favorite), the Colle and the King’s Indian Attack are all perfectly good and acceptable openings and you can play them against everything. What most players fail to understand is that even in those systems, you still have to know some opening theory. To play them correctly you have to know how to proceed depending on the defensive setup your opponent has used. For example if you play the KIA, you have to know the proper strategy against the French, Sicilian, K-Indian, Gruenfeld, QGD, etc. type Black formations. If you don’t you’re just bad off as if you know no opening theory at all because you are going to play it all wrong.

Anyway, it’s that transition from opening to middlegame that’s often most difficult to play because it’s at that point that you are on your own and have to start making plans and coming up with your own moves. Everybody knows that in the opening your general goal is to complete your development, but after that it gets tricky because the correct path will depend on the position.

One thing I’ve noticed is that players often think they’ve completed their development when they have, in fact, not. For example, what about the R still sitting on f1 after castling? It’s not doing anything there, and you can't open the f-file and there seems to be no other good file to put it on.

The correct reasoning is that even though the R can’t do anything at the moment, it should be placed on the file that is most likely to become open. For example, in the Queen's Gambit Declined you know that Black is bound to play ... c5 sooner or later, so that he can look forward to the d-file becoming open. Therefore White usually plays his KR to d1 and the QR to c1 because the c-file is likely to be opened after …d5.

Generally speaking, if you get your R’s ready by occupying future open files, you’ll be doing well. Taking time for this precaution is much better than launching a premature attack in the belief that you have completed your development. OK, I know you’ll see masters break this rule but it is best not to break it yourself without a good reason.

Sometimes it does happen that the opening allows for no good place for the R’s. A good example is in the Giuoco Piano. With the N’s on c3 and …c6 and f3 and …f6 both sides are blocked from playing either d4 and …d5 or f4 and …f5. One player has to undertake opening up a file up for himself, but usually in the process that means opening up the same file for his opponent. That is why in an opening like the Giuoco Piano the first move ceases to be an advantage. So my point is that before thinking your development is complete, make sure the R’s are on an open file or a potential opening file and, preferably, connected. You’ll rarely go wrong.

Now, suppose you have developed your R’s. This is where the middlegame really starts and you have to discover a good strategical plan. Right? Wrong!!

The first thing is to look around for any possibilities of a combination or a forcing line of play and if there are any, look to see if any of them are sound. A tactical possibility may appear at any time and even though a position (yours or your opponent’s) may look strategically good, the first thing you must do is make sure that his last move (or your contemplated move!) does not have some hidden flaw.

To this end of spotting a combination, many players simply start looking at moves and mentally trying them out to see if anything works. This isn’t a very good procedure. A better idea is to look for motifs.

If you spot any of the following things, your tactical antenna should be alerted.

1. Exposed king
2. Castled King without any pieces protecting it
3. Any undefended pieces
4. Any pieces that are sitting in a position that would allow them to be forked.
5. Masked pieces. For example the possibility of a discovered check or a Q sitting opposite a R.
6. An enemy piece without a retreat, or with only one retreat which can be cut off.
7. Q or R on same rank, file, or diagonal.
8. Pinned pieces
9. A pieces protecting another piece.

Any of these things will be a tip off that the possibility of a combination exists. Therefore these things are more important than positional weakness such as a backward Pawn. Of course if you’re opponent is a half way decent player these motifs will be the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately the lower the rating of the players, the greater the likelihood they will overlook or ignore such indicators.

For many player if the motifs are missing it doesn’t matter a whole lot because they’ll just sacrifice something so they can exercise their “tactical style.” These players are the one who have read “chess is 99% tactics” so think that strategy and planning are only important if you’re rated over 2200. They don’t know anything about planning and how to examine the weaknesses and strengths of each side.

Some positional weaknesses are:
1. weak squares
2. weak P’s
3. P’s moved in front of castled K
4. confined pieces;
5. generally cramped game

Some positional strengths are:
1. well-posted piece
2. more space
3. greater mobility
4. control of center

In the absence of any tactical possibilities strategical planning becomes a necessity. Your plan may have any or some or all of the following objectives:

1. Taking advantage of enemy weakness
2. Establishing your own strength.
3. Removing your own weakness
4. Removing enemy strengths
Some plans, in fact most, aren’t more than 2-3 moves. For example in a closed position trading your “bad” B for an opponents well placed N. Or maybe maneuvering a N to a strong outpost. If you follow these simple guidelines and avoid making any serious tactical errors, I think you can defeat most players and can probably get to at least 1800, or possibly 2000 without much difficulty. I urge you to go back and read my post of CC Chess the Duliba Way and read the part on anti-engine strategy strong correspondence players use. “You’re not interested in positions where a single tactical slip could be fatal. Try to keep the game level and equal exchanges. Rarely should you castle on opposite sides.” Look to keep the game simple and avoid tactical slips yourself while waiting for you opponent to make one…then pounce.

This strategy will work well until you start playing masters. My experience usually has been that tactical mistakes are rare in my play. I am far more likely to squeezed to death and outplayed in the ending by stronger players, but then they understand chess better than I do so are able to take advantage of the positional strengths and weaknesses. I remember as a mid-1600 playing losing a rather long ending to a master. After the game he asked me what my rating was and when I told him he said, “You’re (expletive deleted) me! I thought you were at least 2000.” See, my method works.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This is advice?!

On one forum some beginner asked a question to the effect of how good could you get at chess without studying openings. The advice he got was: 1) to study his own games. 2) learn a few opening basics.

First, how’s the poor guy to study his own games when he knows absolutely nothing about strategy, tactics, endings or openings? He won’t have the slightest idea of what he’s looking for. Second, so what if he plays the first few openings moves correctly? If he doesn’t understand anything about the requirements of the position, he’s still going to play like a beginner after running through the moves. I’ve played book openings 25 moves deep against some really strong players, achieved good positions, and then lost. One time I caught a 2500 rated IM in an opening trap and won a N on move 12. I lost the game. Why do things like that happen? They were all better players than me.

I read a couple opening books and a middlegame book or two and studied some endings but the thing that helped me most was just playing over master games. Hundreds or maybe thousands of them. I had books of games by Botvinnik, Reshevsky, Alekhine and an old Horowitz book with several hundred games in it. I always liked tournament books, too. The ones with all the games in them and maybe only a sprinkling of notes. The kind they don't publish any more.

I learned by osmosis maybe? There was always a vague recollection of having seen a particular opening and even more vague were the recollections of how the game went. Playing over those games was enjoyable and it must have worked because two years after learning the moves I played in my first tournament, drew with an 1800 in round one and got a 1667 rating and it never went any lower. I can remember in my early postal games pouring over books looking for similar positions just to see if I could ferret out an idea that would work in my own games.

It pains me to see guys giving and following the same old advice. Advice that really isn’t helping them improve either, but they keep trying.

C.J.S. Purdy

Cecil J.S. Purdy (27 March 1906 - 6 November 1979)
International Master and winner of four Australian Championships. Purdy was effective at winning important games and the important events, even against better opponents. Above all, he was extremely efficient in his play. He marshaled his talents and applied them in the most effective way and he never was different for the sake of being different, showiness or other forms of wasted effort. His skill was methodical organization of thought, and systematic application of one overall, overriding concept. These were the factors that made him one of the best writer on the game, ever.

His games were based on one idea. Running through all his writings is the theme that a bad positional mistake may sometimes be decisive, but almost always defeats arise from tactical errors, minor or major, so that the key to winning chess is to avoid such mistakes oneself and take advantage of the opponent's mistakes. Except perhaps at the very top levels, that proposition is undoubtedly correct. Purdy's great contribution to chess literature was to emphasize it, to classify the types of situations, and to provide a scheme which could be used by players of all strengths to at least minimize such tactical errors.

In non-tactical situations Purdy advocated finding the best piece-improvement move, but in games against top-flight players that method of play is found wanting. At lower levels it works very well.

Over the board, his concentration was renowned. Immersed under his famous eyeshade (to avoid distraction), it was rare to see him move. Chess was a struggle, and no matter who the opponent, how the game was going, what the event was, or whether he was in the running, all games were given full attention. He was the epitome of the fighter. He was the master of finding the best chance, and his games are full of sacrifices to provide counterplay.

Purdy placed great store in preparing the opening, not so much for gaining a theoretical advantage, as his own concepts would show how ephemeral that could be, but rather to run the game into the type of position he wanted and whose basic ideas were known to him. Despite all his preparation his slowness and consequent perennial time trouble were notorious.

His analytical ability was outstanding, as evidenced by his correspondence achievements. Purdy died playing chess over the board from a heart attack, his final words allegedly being, "I have a win, but it will take sometime" However Australian grandmaster Ian Rogers who was at the tournament, said Purdy's last words were, "I have to seal a move", and that Purdy "wasn't even winning in the final position — Cecil wouldn't have mistaken a drawn position for a winning position.

Australian Champion 1935-38, 1949-52
Australian Correspondence Champion 1940, 1948
Australasian Co-Champion 1952
International Master 1953
World Correspondence Champion 1953-58
Champion of New Zealand twice

Purdy never played in an OTB event outside of Australia and New Zealand.

His writings are among the best ever because he had a knack for explaining thing with words so that anyone could understand what was happening in the game. One of his best books is The Search for Chess Perfection. It’s a bio, collection of his games and a series of his magazine articles explaining various facets of the game. You can literally open the book anywhere, read an article and, best of all, actually learn something!

Here is one of his games with his own notes. I advise you to print out the game and play over it.

Radio Match v. France (1946)

C.J. S. Purdy – Dr. S. G. Tartakover
Nimzo-lndian Defense

1. d4 Had I expected to play the famous Tartakover, I should have prepared against Alekhine's Defense, which he has been playying lately, and adopted my usual e4. But I thought he was situated harmlessly in Enngland. 1... Nf6 2. e4 e6  3. Nc3 Bb4 Steiner had said that Tartakover was certain to spring a surprise in the opening, and when I now pointed out that he had played what is probably the theoretically most correct defense to the QP opening, Steiner answered, "That is his surprise." 4. e3 b6 This was to me the most worrying reply. I had designed to play not at once Rubinstein's Nge2 followed by a3, but first Bd3 and then that, so that if his B retired when hit by a3 my KN and I would not obstruct my B and I should have an easy development. Now it was goodbye to all that. Either I had to play Rubinstein's way, with a complicated game, or else develop in an easy way, but a way which would give Black no difficulties at all. I chose the latter because no one can make an opening difficult for Tartakover-though he sometimes likes to create difficulties for himself. Above all, I wanted to avoid clock trouble. 5. Bd3 Bb7 6. Nf3 Ne4! 7. Bd2 At once eliminating the strong N, as 7…f5 would lose a P. 7. ... Bxc3! 8. Bxc3 Nxc3 Black-of course-has chosen the only way that promised him chances, as Rc7 threatened to give White a very comfortable game. The point is that from now on White can secure his K-side from attack only by exposing the weakness of his doubled P’s. This will be explained later. 9. bxc3 f5 Must, else e4 gives White his ideal formation in this opening. 10. 0-0 0-0 11. Qe2 Qf6! In view of the coming e4, Black wants to avoid weakening his e-Pawn by ... d6, but not to play …Nc6 till he can exchange B’s. White has to dance to this tune, or Black might tie him up with ... Qg6. Or if 12. N-moves ... e5! 12. e4 fxe4 13. Bxe4 Bxe4 14. Qxe4 Ne6

The scene has changed. Black has a vital "pivot square" at/ f5; you must visualize a R ending, and a black R pirouetting on f5, then dancing off to as, battening on White's weak P’s. But by playing e4 White has nipped in the bud a K-side attack and created chances for central counterplay. A reliable critic-or was he a pundit?-said I had a "bad game," but I had some faith in my freer position in the center. 15. Radl! Qf4 16. Rfel Rae8 This came through just before 2 AM, and I had to seal with all the officials waiting patiently in the cold. However, there was too much at stake to hurry, and I had plenty of time on the clock for once. Tartakover wanted the Q’s off, and yet by accommodating him I could make use of my temporarily better R’s and attack him. Was it sound? At any rate, I thought it gave better chances than trying to hold the position intact, because the Q-side was permanently weak. 17. Qxf4 Rxf4 18. d5 Completely wrecked my Q-side, "yet there is method in't." 18. ... Na5 19. dxe6 dxe6 Not the obvious ... Rxe6 because of 20. Rxe6 dxe6 21. Rd7!, for if then 21 ... Rxe4, 22. Ne5! threatens mate and forces the R back to f4, and then 23. Rxe7 with advantage. And if 21 ... Rf7, 22. Rd8+ Rf8 23. Rd7 forces a draw. 20. Ng5!

20…e5 For if 20 ... Rxe4, 21. Rxe6 and Black cannot take because of mate. So 21 ... Rc8 (say) 22. Rd7!! Rxc3 23. h4 (to avoid mate). Now if Black stops White's threatened Re7 with 23 ... Nc6, comes 24. Rxe7!, offering the R. And if 23 ... h6, 24. Ree7! at least draws.

I fear that some students, when they see notes like this, are discouraged by thinking the player worked them all out before taking his plunge (17. Qxf4, in this case). Over the board, that is rarely done. The player relies mainly on his judgment of the attacking possibilities of a position, notes a few important tactical points (such as the mating threats in this example), works out a main line or two, and leaves a little to chance. To rely on sheer calculation, as opposed to judgment, is actually very risky. Even Alekhine admitted that he rarely worked out more than two or three variations. 21. c5! h6 Black admits the success of White's demonstration. For if his R crosses to the Q-side, 22. Rxe5!, offering the R for the old mate. And if 21 ... bxe5?, 22. Rd5 with advanntage. 22. Ne4 Nc6 23. f3 Rff8! The R has outlived his usefulness at f4 (if 23 ... bxe5, not 24. Nxe5 but 24. Rd7! Rf7 25. Rd5 with advantage). But why not 23 ... Rf7, preventing White from taking the seventh rank? Because Black wants to induce the exchange of one pair of R’s otherwise, White can threaten to control the only open file. Crafty! 24. Rd7 Rf7 Now White's best course was 25. Rd5! to double R’s. Black could force an exchange by ... Rd8, but less favorably. 25. Red1 Rxd7 26. Rxd7 Re7 27. Rd1 The N ending is bad for White with two P’s isolated, but with R’s on it should be a draw. 27. Rl7 28. Kf2 Ke6 29. Ke3 Rd7 The student will ask two questions. Why has White not undoubled the P’s? Because that would open a file for Black's R against the isolated a-Pawn it. And why did Black not try ... b5, keeping the its doubled? Because that would give counterplay for White's R. Thus, 29 ... b5!? 30. Rb1 a6 31. a4! bxa4 32. Ra1 Rd7 33. c4! a5 (to answer Rxa4 with ... Rd1) 34. Nc3! followed by Nb5 or Nd5, tying Black up lugubriously. I now exchanged the R’s because the N ending is better now, and I did not like to leave the open file to Black's R. 30. Rxd7 Kxd7 31. cxb6 exb6 Black wants to have a passed it as remote as possible in case he ever wins one of White's Q-side P’s. White's next "think" was his longest in the game. It is bad to play for a double attack on Black's e-Pawn. e.g., 32. Nf2? Ke6 33. Ke4 Na5 34. Nd3 Nc4 followed by ... Nd6+, driving the K back. 32. h4! Drawn
White offered the draw. The point of etiquette that one should not offer a grandmaster a draw but wait for him to do so would not be supported by the genial and logical Tartakover, we feel sure, for it is obviously unfair to deprive the weaker player of a right possessed by the stronger.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Server Site Review

Plastic Bishop This website has been designed to allow you to play online chess with no ads and no fuss. Games can be played at your own pace, so if you want to play games that span days or even weeks then that is fine. To start playing simply sign up and start playing right away!

My Site Rating: 1203 (+14 –0 =0)
Wins included this gem:
Me (1203) – Other Guy (1376)
1.g4 d5 2.Bg2 Bxg4 3.c4 Be6 4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxb7 1–0

While I’m sure the site has some pretty good players, I never played one. I think the longest game I had was 22 moves or something like that. Their forums don’t amount to much and are mostly discussions by what I would call ‘casual’ players. This is a good site for beginners because it’s likely you’ll be playing other beginners and won’t get mauled.

Red Hot Pawn Play online correspondence chess through a feature-rich, browser interface against your friends or other members. No downloads are required to play online chess, and it is completely free to sign up and play.

This was the first site I played on when I returned to chess back in 2004 after a long hiatus. I was using it to play a couple friends and all but two out of about 40 games were against them. Even after about 20 straight wins my rating there was only mid-1500's because I think they start you out at 1200. I took a quick look around the site and didn’t see anything listing cost of a subscription, but if memory serves, it was reasonable.

The site has some lively and interesting forums on everything from chess to the forbidden subjects on most sites: religion and politics. Things can get mean and vulgar though. Most subscribers sneer at non-subscribers and refuse to play them. They also have a ‘game moderation team’ that is always on the lookout for engine users. They boot a lot of people off, but how many are really engine users I couldn’t say. All in all, not a bad site though.

Chessworld Play an unlimited number of games - free! Play many games at the same time! Time limits from 1 day to 15 days per move. Meet players from all over the World! Improve your Chess with our Free Videos! Fully Customizable Interface! Wide range of features. No downloads required! Full membership is competitively priced! HelpDesk support at all times for all Members.
If you’re going to pay for a subscription, this is the site. I think subscription rates are about $30 per year. Your first game will be against a welcoming opponent in case you have any questions. What I like about this site is you can estimate your beginning rating and you welcoming opponent will be within that range. That means you won’t have to start at a low rating and slog through a hundred games before you reach your correct level.

They offer lots of training material, have good, well moderated forums…no profanity and no nasty name calling, etc. I was a paying member there for 6 years. The only reason I quit was because I could play decent opponents for free at Queen Alice. Chessworld is centered in England and run by a well known English player and they have ‘meetups’ from time to time at local pubs. What that means is a lot of the players there are known to each other; many have FIDE ratings and Woman'’ GM Yelna Dembo plays there (or did). Highly recommended.

Queen Alice  Queen Alice is a friendly community of correspondence chess players of all levels and ages. Playing chess at QueenAlice.com is great way to improve your game and have fun without having to invest a lot of your time.
Nice interface, easy signup and it’s totally free although they do accept freewill donations. Forums are pretty bland compared to most sites and I’ve never seen a real problem on them. Play unlimited games and they offer tournaments of various types and sizes and the maximum number of games you play at one time in any tournament is six. Most tournaments are double round affairs for the top scores.

I think you start out at 1400 but there are open challenges available so in my first few games I played opponents rated 1337, 2122, 1808, 2077 and 1733, so the games were challenging and within a short time I was playing opponents over 2200 on a regular basis including the site's top rated player. Highly recommended.

Chess.com Play live chess online any time from anywhere in any browser! Nothing to download. Just login, find a game, and go! We store your games, preferences, and ratings. Play 1 minute lightning games on up to 2 hours each - up to you! Chess.com's Online Chess (also called correspondence or turn-based chess) allows you play chess with your friends at any time!

I'm not really familiar with this site except occasionally I check out their forums which sometimes are interesting. They offer premium memberships on different levels starting as low as $4.99 per month ($2.49 per month if you pay for a full year). Again, most of the stuff you pay for you can get free elsewhere. I've never played there. One thing: if you are not a member the site is a little slow because of all the annoying pop ups; before visiting, better have them blocked.



I’ve heard of this site and it got some decent reviews from people who played there so I decided to check it out. Their site blub advertises: Over 1 million members, Play live tournaments, Free live games, Challenge your friends, Improve your rating Play at your level. Chat with others using text, audio and video. Watch how the masters play and improve your game.

Free is only relative. You don’t get many “benefits” with a free membership. Monthly membership is $4.95 with 3 and 6 month discounts. For example you have to pay to get benefits like game stats and history and custom pieces. I clicked on the icon to play a game and after 2 minutes the game board was still loading. My computer is rather old and a bit slow, but really!

I read on another site forum that they offer prize tournaments and probably because of that they monitor games for cheating. According to the forum poster if you frequently switch tasks during a game you get a couple warnings before getting kicked off. He said they also monitor moves with an engine to check match up rates and keep an eye on members rating progress.

Monitoring your rating progress means if you win a lot of games and your rating climbs quickly it’s viewed as a possible sign of cheating. Of course you could just be a really strong player, but you will still be a person of interest and it’s likely your games will be subjected to “review.” This happened all the time on Red Hot Pawn. Individuals would lose a game, check out their opponent’s rating history and if it looked suspicious, they’d fire up their engines and start checking out that person’s games then report the finding to the game mods. The mods would investigate then boot the suspected cheat off the site. The list of banned players got so long and their were so many forum posts making accusations that they quit listing banned players. I suppose there’s something to be said for trying to ferret out engine users but to me it is howling at the moon.

Anyway, I didn’t care for Chesscube. I can get the same thing free elsewhere. Besides that, like I said, the site was way to slow loading for me. Short version: Not interested in playing there.

I understand people trying to make money at chess and if they can do it more power to them. But personally I admire guys like “Ste” at Plastic Bishop and “Miguel” at Queen Alice a whole lot more. Their sites are free and they are in it for the love of the game.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Opposition

In this post I wanted to explain the term Opposition. Understanding the opposition is vital in playing K&P endings correctly and I encourage anyone who is unfamiliar with it to study the techniques and try some practice positions until thoroughly familiar with the procedure. Opposition is a term defining the relationship between the Kings. In the diagram the Kings stand in opposition, more precisely in vertical direct opposition (direct means as near as possible). The player who does not have the move is said to ‘have the opposition.’

In the diagram Black is on the move so White has the opposition and he wants to get to the 7th rank on the Queen's side:

1...Kc5 2.Kc3 Kb5 3.Kb3 Ka5 4.Kc4 This move represents another strategy one simply must know - outflanking. This is a maneuver with Kings which makes forward progress while at the same time prevents the opponent from taking the opposition. In order to outflank the Black K, White must temporarily giving up the opposition. In K&P endings it is important to be aware that this maneuver exists. 4...Kb6 If 4...Ka6 then Black has the opposition because it's White's move so White must play 5.Kc5 Ka7 (5...Kb7 6.Kb5) 6.Kc6 Ka8 7.Kc7] 5.Kb4 Retaking the opposition. 5...Ka6 6.Kc5 Outflanking again. 6...Kb7 7.Kb5 Retaking the opposition again. 7...Kc7 8.Ka6 Kb8 9.Kb6 Ka8 10.Kc7 and wins.
This maneuver is important to know because the player having the opposition can force his way to any part of the board.

Conversely in the diagram, if instead of seeking to advance, White might want to stop Black from advancing. So, if it is Black’s move, White has the opposition and he can prevent Black’s K from advancing. The player having the opposition can prevent the advance of his opponent's King by 1...Kc5 2.Kc3 or 1...Ke5 2.Ke3

Distant Opposition

If a rectangle is drawn large enough to contain the two Kings, and if it contains an odd number of squares, then the Kings are standing in opposition. This is so in the above diagram (Black to move) in which the rectangle of 5 x 7 square =35, an odd number.

Suppose White, who has the opposition, wants to get to King's side.

1...Ke7 2.Kc1 Kf7 3.Kd1 Ke7 4.Ke1 Now we see another term: Vertical Distant Opposition. There are an odd number of squares between the Kings. 4...Kf7 5.Kf1 Kg7 6.Kg1 Kh7 7.Kh2 Now we see the outflanking maneuver again. 7...Kg6 8.Kg2 Taking the vertical distant opposition again. Note there is an odd number of squares between the Kings. 8...Kf6 9.Kh3 Kg5 10.Kg3 Taking the direct opposition as explained earlier.

Practical Example

In the above position with Black to move White has the opposition so he wins because he can force the advance of his King and thus gain control of the queening square.

1...Ke7 2.Ke5 Kd7 3.Kd5 Kc7 4.Kc5 Kb7 5.Kb5 Another point to remember: Now that his King is on the queening file, White is ready to perform the outflanking maneuver. 5...Kc7 6.Ka6 Kb8 7.Kb6 Kc8 8.Ka7 and the Pawn will promote.

In the same position, If it is White’s move, Black has the opposition and will be able to prevent the Pawn from queening because White will be unable to advance his King.

1.Ke5 Ke7 2.Kd5 Kd7 3.Kc5 Kc7 4.Kb5 Kb7 5.Ka5 Ka7 There is no way White can queen. For example 6.b5 Kb7 7.b6 Kb8! This is the only move to hold the draw. Losing moves are:

7...Ka8 gives White the opposition after 8.Ka6 Kb8 9.b7 Kc7 10.Ka7
7...Kc8 This gives White the opposition after 8.Ka6 Kb8 9.b7 Kc7 10.Ka7

8.Ka6 Ka8 9.b7+ Kb8 10.Kb6 Stalemate

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Interesting Forum Question

A reader asked a question about the following position from Polugayevsky - Nezhmetdinov, Russian Federation Championship, Sochi, 1958.
Polugayevsky played 27.a4 which leads to a forced mate. The poster’s engine choice for the best move was 27.Ng1 which leads to a perpetual check. He said that he didn’t understand why one move leads to a mate and the other a perpetual check. He also asked why in both The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games and The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, the best defense of 27.Ng1 wasn’t mentioned.

I suppose he was asking the question why, if 27.Ng1 results in a perpetual, doesn’t 27.a4 also lead to a draw. I believe he was making the incorrect assumption that Black would play the same sequence of moves against both moves.

First, after 27.Ng1 c5+ 28.dxc6ep Ned3+ 29.e5 Bxe5+ 30.Kc4 b5+ 31.Kxb5 Rb8+ 32.Ka4 Nxb2+ 33.Ka3 Nc4+ 34.Ka4 Nb2+ the game is a draw.

Second, after 27.a4 c5+ 28.dxc6 bxc6 29.Bd3 Nexd3+ 30.Kc4 d5+ 31.exd5 cxd5+ 32.Kb5 Rb8+ 33.Ka5 Nc6+ 34.Ka6 Ndb4 mate

But if White plays 27.Ng1 and Black tries the same attacking moves then 27.Ng1 c5+ 28.dxc6 bxc6 29.Bd3 Nexd3+ 30.Kc4 d5+ 31.exd5 cxd5+ 32.Kb5 Rb8+ 33.Ka4 White can’t play the K to this square if he plays 27.a4 and his K has to go to a5 and gets mated. I should note that in this position Black still has a winning advantage.

The fly in the ointment is that in this line is that White does not play 29.Bd3? but instead plays 29.Nxf3 and after 29…Nxf3+ 30.Kc4 Bxb2 31.Rb1 it is White who is winning.

Why did the authors not mention a better defense than 27.a4? There are several possible explanations. I don’t know when these books were published so can’t be sure how strong engines were at the time or even if the games were checked with engines.

The same game appears in The World’s Greatest Chess Games by Burgess, Nunn and Emms published in 1998 and they did check all the games using Fritz. Their analysis suggests several defenses, the first choice being 27.Ng1, but they commented that none of the defenses are sufficient. Of course that’s not true because after 27.Ng1 it’s a perpetual check.

I tried the position on Firebird, Fritz 10 and Rybka Human and they all quickly arrived at 27.Ng1 as being best. After 27.a4 they all found the mate very quickly. So it would appear the best defense was missed because of faulty human analysis or, if an engine was used, it wasn’t very strong by today’s standards. Or possibly it wasn't given enough time to ponder the position.

This is the reason why GM’s never completely trust engines and Mark Buckley said in Practical Chess Analysis, “always challenge the annotator.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Editorial on Positional Play

     Lower rated players in their quest to improve always seem to concentrate on openings and tactics. I’ve heard many say they’ll wait until they reach 1800 before studying strategy and endings. Unfortunately most will never get that far. Most don’t know what ‘strategy’ or ‘positional’ chess means. A lot of the world’s greatest players couldn’t explain it either. Nimzovich sneered at the old idea that every chess move was either "attacking" or “defensive.”
     I’ve seen a lot of requests from lower rated players asking if any books existed that explained chess mostly in words and not variations. For the most part the answer has to be “No.” because masters think mostly in variations, not in words. And the variations they are calculating often come more from intuition than verbalizing the salient points of a position. It’s very difficult to explain intuition! As CJS Purdy observed, amateurs often view chess strategy and tactics as if they were different animals - one is a bird and the other a fish. The amateur wants words because nothing but moves leave him befuddled. He lacks the master's intuition skill.
     Steinitz realized chess could not be reduced to simple concepts and rules of attack and defense so he saw positional play as an accumulation of minute advantages.
     Nimzovich wrote in My System: Another erroneous conception may be found among masters. Many of these and numbers of strong amateurs are under the impression that position play above all is concerned with the accumulation of small advantages in order to exploit them in the endgame .... We are inclined rather to assign to this plan of operation a very subordinate role .... There are quite other matters to which the attention of the positional player must be directed, and which place this "accumulation" wholly in the shade.
     So what is position play? Position play is a systematic application of safety measures that is concerned with avoiding for oneself and/or exploiting positional weaknesses in the opponent’s position.
     Nimzovich wrote: In the last resort, position play is nothing other than a fight between mobility (of the pawn mass) on the one side and efforts to restrain this on the other. In this all-embracing struggle the intrinsically very important device of the prophylactic is merely a means to an end.
     In most all games between masters nearly all the moves will be positional, but Nimzovich’s definition is not complete. CJS Purdy writes: Position play is the treatment of positions in which sound attacking play is not possible, and purely defensive play is not necessary. It means either strengthening one's own position or weakening the enemy's.
     The average player finds many moves in master games which he cannot understand but many of them would be clearer once you get hold of the general idea that the master was trying to strengthen his position. When there is nothing you can accomplish by force and nothing you are forced to do, what’s left? You try to strengthen your position or weaken your opponent’s.
     Most average players are always looking for a way to attack, even if it’s not justified. This is wrong! The result is they mess around looking for a trap, hoping the opponent will make a blunder. Either that or they sac something. But what if the opponent doesn’t fall for the trap or defends well? The trap or sac may have been positionally bad.

Positional play, unlike tactics, is not concerned with calculated lines of play of the type I go there, he goes there, etc. If your move is not forcing, i.e., if it is positional, then usually the opponent has a fairly wide choice of replies. Therefore your move must be of a sort that will serve you well in every possible situation. Developing moves in the opening are a good example.

You can’t select positional moves by calculation. Of course before playing any move be sure you are not giving the opponent the chance of a sound tactical reply! Thus in positional play you do not calculate so much as rely on judgment and knowledge. This is where the playing over of master games will be a big help. It will help us build up the intuitive judgment which guided the master.

Plans are important in position play, as a rule, but not always necessary! For instance, looking at a certain type of position, a strong player may decide without making a plan that White should play h3 to make a "luft" for his K. There is no specific threat, but the move will free his pieces from the task of guarding the back rank. Such a move could be deemed positional but no plan was involved. He just made a strengthening move.

One very important aspect of planning is to maintain the cooperation of the pieces. The average player is often uncertain if his position is superior, equal, or inferior because he lacks positional judgment and intuition. Therefore an understanding of positional chess is absolutely essential for the improving player. It may not enable us to find the best move but it will help to know what we should be trying to do.

I don’t know of any school that teaches students only one subject at a time. Nobody is going to claim you shouldn’t study history until you learn how to read better but that is exactly the approach taken by a lot of players. Rather than waiting until one is at a certain rating, I can see no reason not to study openings, tactics, positional play and endings all at the same time in an effort to become an all around player.


This Blog is about chess and I really want to keep it that way. If I want to comment about other things I probably should start another Blog, but I can’t resist making a statement here. This isn’t about chess, but it illustrates an important point it would help us all to remember. On a certain chess forum, a fellow asked a leading question that was derogatory to the United States. Without getting into specifics he made reference to certain unsavory events early in North American history…events that happened before there was a United States.

I simply pointed out to him that it was his ancestors who perpetrated these events because the US did not even exist in those days. His reply was, “We prefer to think of them as a bunch of unwanted rejects who committed treason rather than pay the taxes they owed. That puts your lot just barely above the French but still somewhere below the Spaniards.”

There is a lot wrong with his comments but I didn’t answer because I didn’t want to argue with him and I understand ignorance never lost an argument.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Complaining About Engine Use...Again!!

On a recent forum somebody wrote: I couldn't believe my eyes. A master level player was discussing an opening variation with another player and mentioning that he ultimately prefers OTB games because he can be reasonably sure that his opponent is not using computer assistance. To which the other player replied that using computer assistance is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE and that he belongs to a circle of people that have taught him how to "reasonably integrate computer assistance into their games" and for someone to bring up computer assistance as an objection to playing CC was really beyond the pale as there is nothing wrong with using it.

The poster went on to say he was astonished that this master level player didn't take the other fellow to task for his stance because it is totally unreasonable.

He also said that he would like to point out to this person that automatically generated candidates can only weaken a player's actual chess skill because they do not learn to develop candidates for themselves. He also pointed out and computers do not think like live players do and are able to generate an advantage over human play that is terribly unfair.

My reply was:
I saw a discussion a few years ago in which engine use in cc games was called “ethical cheating.” Whatever that means. One strong otb and cc player said he always assumes his opponent is using every “help” that is available.

This is not uncommon at that level. Most players at the upper levels of international cc play feel engine use is justified and they see nothing inherently unethical in their use. Engines are viewed as just an additional tool to be used in determining a move. That said, at that level engine generated moves without the input from a really strong player won’t win any prizes. It won’t get you an international cc title either. If all it took to play at that level was an engine, I’d be playing for the world cc championship.

I’ve played in a few tournaments on a site where engine use is allowed and personally did not find a lot of satisfaction in plugging my games into a computer and just accepting the generated moves. However, I accept the fact that some people find this fun and if they enjoy playing chess that way, it’s OK with me.
Most engine users will be at the upper levels so for most of us the chances of playing them are rare and they will mostly be playing each other.

My feelings may be colored by the fact that I’ve been playing cc since 1959 and haven’t actually studied chess for years because I no am longer interested in things like ratings and improving …just having fun.

I didn’t post it on the site, but what this poster failed to realize is that people who use engines could not care less about improving. They are not playing on these sites with the idea of improving their game; they are motivated by other factors.

As usual this fellow was rather low rated. I don’t know why, but for some reason the lower rated a player is, the more they complain about engine use. Most higher rated players (unless they are using an engine themselves) accept engine use as a fact of life and just go ahead and play the game. I’m not really sure why a 1200 who mostly plays other 1200’s would care what is happening at the master level!?

GM Yermolinsky Sez…

In reviewing The Road to Chess Improvement by Alex Yermolinsky, John Watson had this to say:
“Yermolinsky, a U.S. Champion and 2600+ grandmaster, has not only opened his chess notebooks to one and all, but has given us fresh and insightful ideas about nearly every aspect of practical play. He is refreshingly frank, and doesn't shy away from presenting his own failings and frustrations. In my years of reviewing, I have never been tempted to make a dramatic 'book of the year' pronouncement, but I can't imagine anyone else topping this effort in the near future.”

Watson also commented, “I have roughly every third page of this book earmarked to denote interesting comments and original ideas; they just permeate this book!”

I’m quoting an excerpt from this book at length. Read Yermo’s comments carefully! There is a lot to be gleaned from what he says about modern day chess teachers, authors, openings and how they relate to players below the master level who are trying to improve. Great stuff!!

"Nearly all grandmasters in the United States are involved in the teaching business, at least to some extent. While some…have found this line of work enjoyable and financially rewarding, most of us simply do it out of necessity…When you view teaching as something you can always do…it creates a certain attitude that carries on..and contributes to the overall poor quality of common chess instruction. Many think they can teach anybody below their level simply due to the sheer difference in chess strength…

…you're doing well when you keep your students, or that something must be changed when your students begin to disappear. As a result, what a teacher does is to follow his students, not the other way around like it's supposed to be. You had better do what your student wants you to do, or he will find someone else…
Most people…are looking for a 'quick fix', some practical advice, something that will produce results in the near future. And, as a rule, sooner or later they come out disappointed. The question is, why?
From my experience I have learned that the initial gain in results, produced by the boost of confidence given by the very fact that one is taking lessons from a grandmaster, soon wears off…

Like many amateur chess teachers before and after me I was tempted to cut down that number by offering 'simpler' opening systems. But soon I realized that…with no additional work to put in is not reliable. In fact, it's no more than an illusion and practicing it borders on plain old cheating. Yes, it is easy to convince your students in pretty much anything, when your grandmaster credentials speak for you.

The teacher can adjust the chess truth a little - with the good intention of making things easier to understand - by omitting critical variations from his opening reviews. This patronizing attitude - 'I know what's good for you, and what is the stuff you'd better to be blissfully unaware of' - creates an illusory world of 'simple chess' that keeps its doors open for anybody with a few hundred dollars to spare for lessons. Open your checkbook and you'll be welcome to join.

There are plenty of examples of bad teaching. A disproportionately large number of class players (i.e. below 2000 USCF) in the United States think they have what you call 'an attacking style'. Usually, it's expressed by pitching a pawn early in off-beat openings such as 1 d4 d5 2 e4? The books written on that subject are very enthusiastic; they keep popping up every year even if the practical material of such study remains thin and mostly refers to obscure games. Such conditioning goes a long way towards creating an illusion of 'original’ and 'making your opponent think on his own as early as possible' regardless of the true value of what you do on the chessboard.

A friend of mine, who had been brainwashed by these methods of 'teaching' for years, ended up with the weirdest opening repertoire I’ve ever seen. He would open with 1 e4 with the idea in mind: to sac this pawn as soon as possible…He couldn't even think of anything else. As a result, nearly every game of his saw the same scenario: he would drop a pawn in the opening, then invest more material into 'sustaining' his non-existent initiative, get a couple of fireworks out of it and soon resign.

It was painful to watch him struggle with variations even I would find difficult to play. Instead of putting the pressure on his opponent- like the books he bought and studied promised – he was dealing with enormous pressure himself, the pressure of having to find the only moves and ideas that would justify, at least to some extent his sacrificial strategy. It's amazing how the gambit style of play gets widely advertised in books targeted for class players. Nobody thinks that Shirov's style is easy to master… but for some reason, imitating it is considered advisable able to weaker players.

Another hot selling item is an approach familiar to us…Wide masses of rank-and-file players are being told that there are certain ‘secret’ openings that would allow them to handle the resulting positions with ease, with 'ideas' and 'schemes' instead of memorizing variations and calculating tactics. That would usually mean avoiding main lines…

Some chess teachers have a low opinion of their audience; they fear their students will not understand sophisticated positional and tactical concepts. Here, at the Yermo Chess Academy, we do not practice a 'quick fix approach' that is popularized by many teaching GMs. There is no 'chess made easy' advice that would immediately improve your chess. Widely disseminated promises to introduce 'new methods', to reveal 'secrets of the Soviet School of Chess', etc. are no more than smart advertising moves ... "

Monday, May 17, 2010

More old pdf Chess Books

The following books are available for downloading at the right.

The Russians Play Chess by Irving Chernev
56 games in English descriptive notation played by Soviet players through 1960, these games are mostly unknown masterpieces.

Chess Strategy and Tactics by Reinfeld and Chernev
Forget about the title. This book has 50 games (English descriptive notation) up to 1933. Contains some really great games by the old masters: Pillsbury, Marshall, Bogoljubow, etc. There’s not a lot in the way of lessons, but the games are great.

These downloads are no longer available

Another Loss at Queen Alice

After getting through the preliminary rounds in two tournaments at QA, I’ve been dropping games like flies in the finals. This game was my second loss in a row to “cunha” from Brazil, rated 2697 on the site, which puts him 4th on the rating list. So far in the last ten games my record has been a dismal +3 –6 =1.

In this game I seemed to be doing well until I suddenly realized he was making small inroads into my Q-side. His 20. …b4! confirmed my suspicions that just maybe I was going to lose. Looking back over the game I really can’t pinpoint a specific place I could have improved but my 9th move and wasted time with said N may have had something to do with it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chesshere Site

Speaking of crappy sites to play chess on, this one has got to be the absolute worst! I won’t go into the history of the site, but when I started looking for server sites to play on a few years ago I tried this site out and it wasn’t very good then.

That was back when a fake GM Amir Bagheri was showing up all over Internet chess sites giving plagiarized and inane advice and never actually answering any serious questions. He got kicked off of at least two sites I know of before showing up on Chesshere where he successfully pulled of a takeover of the site. I know the guy was a fake because I exchanged some private e-mails with him when he asked me to be a site moderator. Apparently the fake Bagheri is either no longer involved with the site, has dropped the persona and adopted a new name, or sold it. Who knows?!

The site has more ads and annoying popups than any site I’ve ever seen! It makes you want to scream!!

I just checked out the site and recognized none of the names that were playing when I was there a few years ago. I also noticed their top CC players who also have realtime ratings have huge discrepancies. By that I mean, for example, the top rated realtime player is rated 2504 and his CC rating is a paltry 1379 with one win and 3 losses. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Of course all CC sites are riddled with engine users at the top, so that really means nothing. This could be a good site if it wasn't for all those stupid and annoying popups.

Chess Hotel Review

I recently added this site where you can play realtime chess at the bottom of this blog. Chess Hotel was created by David Shore and Daniel Mendes and is new realtime chess site. Because this is new site apparently it has a lot of bugs. Of course it also has its fair share of jerks. Some comments:

* Some weird bugs on the site. Once I was about to checkmate someone, and then somehow he took control of my queen and a rook of mine disappeared. Really odd.
* This site if full of jerks that will abort out of a losing game to leave the other person sitting for 5 minutes plus to get their win.
* My opponent's clock says 0:00 and I'm up a queen and the server connection is lost and I lose?!?
* I've had many opponents that sit out the whole 10 minutes and never make a move.
* En passant not supported!
* Nobody play with G*UY. He is such a jerk leave u waiting for an hour so if u leave

I’m not surprised at the number of jerks on the site because Internet chess sites are crawling with them. Nor am I surprised that as new site that it would have its share of bugs. The most serious would appear to be the fact the en passant doesn’t work.

Be that as it may, I’ve logged in as a guest and played a few games without any trouble. The players didn’t appear especially strong, but it’s OK if you just want to play a quick 5 or 10 minute game and aren’t worried about the result or rating (which you won’t have as a guest anyway).

At this point I certainly wouldn’t take the site seriously but, like I said, if you want a quick game with no fuss, it’s OK. For serious games you would, of course, play on an established site.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Old Chess Books in pdf

I have added the following pdf books for downloading: Don’t let the fact that they are in the old English descriptive notation stop you! If you’re a chess player then you are smart enough to learn it in a few minutes. Back in my day I learned it as a 10 year old kid, so how hard can it be? Google Descriptive Notation Chess and find a site that explains it. The links are at the right.

San Remo 1930 with notes by Alekhine, Botvinnik, Nimzovich, et al

Alekhine’s Last Years and Nazi Collaboration Copies of Chess magazine pages from 1944-1946 discussing his war activities. Some pretty fascinating reading.

Madrid 1943 by Alekhine. Published in 1944. Don’t let the fact it’s in Spanish Descriptive notation stop you. With a little practice it’s easy to follow the games and notes.

Chess for Amateurs by Fred Reinfeld. One of his better books discussing chess with questions and answers. Old Fred got a bad rap for his books, but some of them were very good. It was only when he realized he could actually make more money writing junk than he could good books that his writing took a turn for the worse. Be that as it may, when in 1957 (I think) my parents were visiting Puerto Rico and my brother bought me a couple Reinfeld books. One was The Art of Attack and Counterattack (or something like that) and the other was a book of miniatures. The books themselves weren’t very good, but I actually learned quite a bit by just playing over and over the games in them.

Keres Best Games 1931-1948 by Fred Reinfeld and Dr. Reuben Fine. Classic games. Keres was a master of attack and these games are well worth playing over!

GM Andor Lilienthal Dead at 99

Hungarian Grandmaster Andor Lilienthal (1911-2010) passed away May 8th at the age of 99. Read ChessBase article. Lots of photos.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Site Worth a Visit

A fellow named Kevin Penny started a site called Chess Sets and More where he posts various things about chess. Worth keeping an eye on. Pay him a visit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I saw an ad in the last issue of Chess Life magazine called Chess Lecture. Apparently they are the new sponsors of the US Grand Prix and they were hawking one of the largest chess video libraries in the world. They advertise over 1200 videos available for online and iPhone viewing with 5 new ones added every week.

Sounds interesting, so I checked out the site. Surprise! It's not free. It costs, depending on the membership level you select, $12.95, $14.95 or $24.95 PER MONTH. Who’s going to join at those prices?!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


I don't collect autographs, but considering all the great players I've met in the past I wish I had. There are only two. I met former World Champion Dr. Max Euwe when he was in Cleveland, Ohio back in 1957 (I think that was the year...can't remember!)

And finally I have a whole set of post cards signed by Samuel Reshevsky from when I played a postal game with him.

I think of all the ones I could have had: Nicholas Rossolimo, Anthony Miles, Bobby Fischer, William Lombardy, Arthur Bisguier, Pal Benko, Edmar Mednis, Leonid Shamkovich, Walter Browne, Andrew Soltis, Vasily Smyslov and the list goes on and on...should have gotten them when I had the chance! 

After the last round of the 1975 US Championship they sold the sets and the paper boards that were used for the games.  The boards were autographed by the two players that used the set.  I was following the Reshevsky-Benko game and really wish I'd have bought it. I don't remember the cost, but it was nominal...the price of the Drueke Player's Choice Set. They were really great sets and today sell on e-bay for $100-150.  I had one and one day when I got home from a tournament I discovered I'd left several pieces at the event.

The best set I ever owned was the Windsor Castle set. It was solid plastic, and heavy and was used just about everywhere in the US in the 1950's and 1960's. Fischer is playing with one here:

New Recommended Sites

I was surfing the web today for interesting chess sites and/or material. I added links to free instructional material, most of which is good for beginners or teaching beginners. I also added Webmaster Frank’s site that I thought was kind of fun browsing and at the bottom of the page, Chess Hotel. You can just log in there and play a game online. The players aren’t as strong as you’ll find on Playchess, for example, but it still looks to be a pretty good site for a quick game. In addition I’ve added links to the following sites:

Chess Channel
has produced hundreds of webbased audio-visual lessons about chess openings, including classic videos and TV shows originally released by GM Video, and now digitally re-mastered for Chess Channel. To watch shows at Chess Channel, you will need to register an account and download Chess Channel viewer. You can use it to watch free, extensive excerpts from all the shows - and if you wish, you can use the viewer to watch full length videos with Chess Channel "Pay per View". Grand masters as Nigel Davies, Chris Ward and Julian Hodgson among others function as commentators.

Chess Publishing
has more than 5000 pages GM-analyses of different openings. Every opening is updated monthly

The Chess Portal
Links to all kinds of chess stuff!

Chess Teacher Lessons
Chess instructions and exercises available to improve chess skills. The lessons may be useful for Chess Teachers.

Free Chess Instructional Material

A couple years ago the local library started a chess club. Two kids showed up and it fizzled out in two weeks, but I used the handouts from a site called Rockford Chess. Their handouts are downloadable in pdf format and are good for teaching beginners about the board, pieces and other elementary aspects. If you’re trying to teach beginners, they have some good stuff.

The Oklahoma Scholastic Chess Organization is an excellent site that offers tons of downloads that can be used in teaching chess.

Professor Chess has some good material for teaching students. They have 25 files available to all visitors for free downloading and subscribers can download 900 pages of instructional material.

BTW: There’s a site that offers downloads of books in Russian as well as other books at a place called Chesszone but DO NOT visit the site. According to Norton Antivirus the site contains Trojan Horses. I only mention this site because I’ve seen some links to it on various forums.

An Amusing Site

I ran across this site the other day and amused myself for about half an hour poking around in it. I'm not saying this to mean, but it reminded me of a magazie called Mad and Alfred E. Newman. The name of the site is The Thematic And Dynamic Chess Method and it's operated by Webmaster Frank. I think you'll enjoy it.

QGD Lasker’s Defense

In this variation Black tries to trade off several pieces in a bid for freedom; it results in a sound but barren position. That’s exactly why I like it! In this game White didn’t make any serious mistakes but allowed me a positional advantage on the Q-side, then made a slight weakening on the other side. The combined advantages allowed me to win the game. His correct strategy should have been, as is always the case, meeting a flank attack by an attack in the center.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Never Trust Anybody

Writing in the book Practical Chess Analysis, Senior Master Mark Buckley advised that when studying annotated games you should always challenge the annotator. Maybe the annotator is right and maybe he isn’t, but in either case it behooves you to make sure you understand why he is…or isn’t

I learned years ago not to trust published analysis, so in the following game against one of Queen Alice’s top-ranked players, I ignored my own advice. I trusted two players of the caliber of Shirov and Sokolov. If Sokolov allowed the capture of his B on move 9 and Shirov refused the gift, then its capture must be bad…right? I should have checked it out; my opponent did.

I’m nowhere near as strong as Sokolov and Shirov of course, so I may have come to the conclusion that the capture of the B is bad for White. In fact I probably would have because I’ve seen many games where Black’s attack is based on allowing the capture and it was successful. That’s not the point. I should have at least looked at it instead of making the assumption that all was well until we got out of the opening database. Truth is, I'm not sure at what point I was going to start looking for an improvement for Black.

During the game I actually considered White's playing 10.dxe5 and 11.Bg5, but ignored it because I was prejudiced by the db result. Another old fault: analysis based on the result. I’m afraid I wasn’t very objective in this game.

This game was a sad lesson relearned. I admit it. I was lazy.