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Monday, January 31, 2011

Poll on Engine Users

The votes on what you would do if you knew your opponent was using an engine were pretty evenly divided. Six people would also use an engine just to level the playing field. Six would report them and presumably continue playing. One person voted that they would simply resign in disgust.

I understand resigning. Back in the early 1980’s when Chessmaster was rated about 2000-2100, I was playing in a couple of USCF postal tournaments and became suspicious that some of my opponent’s were using the program. I ran all the games through Chessmaster and discovered that out of 12 opponents at least 8 were using because their moves were identical to those suggested by Chessmaster. After over 20 years of postal chess I was disappointed that that was what it had come down to so I simply resigned all the games and lost over 300 rating points. I resumed CC back in 2004 and found things had not improved any.

For the most part my opponents are over 2000. If I play a lower rated player, I play on my own and actually I prefer players in the 1600-2000 range because they usually are not using engines and are good enough to make the game interesting. Over that and it’s a tough call because somewhere between 2000-2200, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. If I suspect an opponent is using an engine, I’ll run the game through Fritz and see what moves it’s recommending and if I find a significant number of matchups I will also use one. I didn't always feel that way. There was a time I'd try to see if I could beat the engine, but nowadays that's impossible and I got tired of beating my head against the wall. What usually makes me suspicious is when I start seeing moves that don’t make any sense to me. I figure I should have some idea of what my opponent is trying to do if we are about the same rating but if his moves make no sense, then something’s up.

Recently though it’s becoming harder to detect engine use. Or, rather I should say, which one is being used.  That's because there are so many good ones available and I’ve noticed Fritz rarely chooses the same move as the stronger Houdini. Add to that the fact that sometimes you have to let the engine run a long time get a decent evaluation. However, I’ve noticed most engine users will play whatever Fritz suggests within the first 30 seconds or so. That’s probably because many of them are playing lots of games and don’t have the time to let an engine run overnight. For opponent’s over 2400 there isn’t much to think about…they’re using…trust me. One point I should make here is that there ARE a lot of good players out there. When I started playing chess “good” players were few and far between. It’s a function of numbers; with millions and millions of players a LOT of them are going to be good. That wasn’t the case back when the USCF had 5000 or 6000 members and there were 100 GM’s in the world and you knew all their names!

The problem with reporting engine users is that many sites simply do not have the staff to check hundreds or thousands of players and games. Most sites will require substantial proof and to get the ball rolling, you will probably have to provide some evidence yourself and that means analyzing 15 or 20 of your opponent’s games on your own for submission to the proper authorities. Another reason most sites are loath to kick off engine users is because if they examined the games of their top players most of them would be gone.

One site I’m aware of recently kicked off some people but I think that was probably a token. Another has what they claim is a foolproof method of catching them but I’ve seen 1200’s banned for engine use so I’m a little skeptical. Another major site had a couple of their top players, in a moment of weakness, confess that they used engines, but they promised not to do it anymore so no action was taken.

Final analysis…engine use is here to stay and not much can be done about it. But unless you are playing consistently at around the 2200 level they should not be a problem unless you meet someone on their way up through the ranks. Even then I wouldn’t worry about them because at some point they are going to run into a whole gaggle of other engine users and if they are not really good players who are able to break through the ranks of other engine users they’ll get stuck and go no higher.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Find a Local Tournament

There is a new site listing chess tournaments all over the world that could be of some use if you are looking for some  place to play. It might be worth checking out.  Open Chess Map

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Klaus Junge

Stoltz vs. Junge, 1942
Klaus Junge (1 January 1924, Concepcion, Chile – 17 April 1945, Welle, Germany) was a promising player who was considered one of the strongest players in Germany. Although he was born in Chile his parents were Germans and in either 1928 or 1930, they moved to Hamburg because they believed their sons would be better educated in Germany. His father, Otto, was a strong player who won the championship of Chile in 1922.

Junge competed successfully in several tournaments during the early years of the Second World War. At the age of 17, he shared first place with Paul Schmidt in the German championship of 1941, but lost the play-off (+0 –3 =1). In 1942, in Prague, he tied for first with the world champion, Alexander Alekhine.

Junge was mobilized in the German army and was the last of the three brothers to die in the war. As a lieutenant, refusing to surrender, he died in combat against Allied troops on April 17, 1945 in the battle of Welle just three weeks before the war in Europe ended.

Apparently Junge was a member of the 12th SS battalion most likely is SS-Panzergrenadier Ausbildungs- und Ersatzbataillon 12 which was stationed in Nienburg on the river Weser in winter 1944/1945. The major part of the battalion was captured near Soltau on April 18th, 1945. According to German Wikipedia he had collected about a dozen stragglers from various units on the day of the battle and Junge and two other soldiers died when they tried to stop the attacking tanks with Panzerfausts.

In the February, 1976 issue of Chess Life and Review George Koltanowsky wrote: “During the Second World War Dr Alexander Alekhine, then Champion of the World, participated in a number of tournaments. In 1942 he played in Prague, under the sponsorship of Germany’s Nazi Youth Association. There he met 18-year-old Klaus Junge of Leipzig, who was acclaimed as a future world champion by the German press, and who was stabbed to death in a chess club fight in 1942!”

In the April 1976 issue of Chess Life and Review Paul Schmidt wrote to straighten out Koltanowski’s statement. Schmidt wrote: “Klaus Junge, one of my best friends, was not “stabbed to death in a political brawl in a chess club in 1942” as stated by George Koltanowski in the February issue. He died in combat, as a German officer, on the last day but one [sic] of World War II, i.e. in 1945. Nor did Alekhine meet him for the first time at the tournament in Prague, 1942, where they tied for first and second place. They met for the first time at the 1941 tournament in Warsaw-Cracow, their individual game ending in a draw, … and then again in 1942 at the six-master double-round tournament in Salzburg, each winning one game… [as well as two other tournaments before Prague, 1942].”

“Klaus Junge also did not come from Leipzig. He was born in Chile as the son of German parents who, unfortunately, returned to Germany to get a better education for their children than was possible at that time in Chile – only to lose all their three sons to Hitler’s war. His parents lived in Hamburg.”

In his letter, Schmidt stated, “…had he not died in 1945 he would indeed have become a formidable contender for the world championship. He was equally fond of combinatorial and positional play, and his style was completely mature even at age 18. My book Schachmeister Denken! (Walter Rau Verlag, 1949) is dedicated to the memory of Klaus Junge.”

Junge’s father had been a member of the Nazi Party and one author wrote that Junge was a fanatical young man brainwashed by Nazi propaganda and was fully enraptured with the Nazi world-view. Whatever his political opinions, by all accounts Junge was a brilliant player who met an untimely end and we will never know just how good he would have become.

In the following game Junge conducts a typical attack. A collection of 106 of his games can be found at Chessgamesdotcom

Instant Chess Site Review

I just discovered a site called Instant Chess and thought I’d give it a try.

The site offers Real Time Blitz and Correspondence (classic as well as Fischer Random) chess and (I almost gag as I write this) but you can also play correspondence…checkers!

A regular subscription runs about $6.27 per 100 games or, for a premium subscription, about $7.86 per month…that’s a whopping $94 per year!! If you want to play correspondence or take advantage of any of the features you have to be a subscriber.

However you can play unrated games where the time limit, color and opponent are randomly selected by a computer. I played a few games there, a couple of which were against opponents rated 1500-1650 and have to say they were overrated by about 400 points. I did play one unrated opponent who was actually pretty good but after about 30 moves he blundered away his Q and resigned. The random time limits I got were 10 and 15 minutes but none of the games lasted anywhere near that long. You can’t save your games, but the site does offer a pgn button which when you click on it will give you a pgn of the game. You will then have to copy and paste it into a playing program and then save it. I didn’t play any games there that were worth saving though.

That said, if you don’t have anything else to do and just want to knock out a few blitz games, you might want to check this site out…for free and playing a quick game just to pass the time it’s not bad.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Capablanca's Death

The following article by Kenneth Harkness appeared in the March, 1942 issue of Chess Review magazine:

On Saturday evening, March 7th, Jose R. Capablanca sat watching a skittles game at New York's Manhattan Chess Club. He was in his usual excellent spirits, seemingly full of life and vigor. He joked and kibitzed with the others surrounding the board. Suddenly the Cuban Grandmaster's voice thickened. "Help me…help me remove my coat," he gasped, and fell to the floor. Carried to a couch, he lapsed into a coma before the arrival of medical help. Rushed to Mt. Sinai Hospital, Capablanca died at 5:30 a.m., never having regained consciousness. A cerebral hemorrhage was the cause of his death.

Thus, with dramatic but merciful swiftness, passed the most famous figure in contemporary chess. To the farthest ends of the earth, Capablanca and Chess were almost synonymous. While the names of other men needed explanation, the magic name of Capablanca was sufficient in itself. The whole world knew that he was a chess genius, a chess champion.

At the time of his death Capablanca was commercial attaché of the Cuban Embassy but had spent most of his time in New York, since his arrival here last May. The Cuban Ambassador, Dr. Aurelio F. Concheso, came from Washington to pay his respects to his friend as he lay in state. The Consular Service was represented by Consul General Roberto Hernandez and New York Consul Alfred Hernandez.

With ceremonies usually reserved for a Colonel killed in active service, Ca­pablanca was laid to rest in Havana on March 14th. General Batista, President of Cuba, took personal charge of the funeral arrangements.

Capablanca leaves a widow, his second wife, the former Princess Olga Cha­godalf of Russia; a son and daughter, Jose R. Jr., and Gloria, children of his first marriage; and a younger brother.

As Reti has so well expressed it, chess was Capablanca's "mother tongue" in which he "couched his thoughts in the proper terms with ease." Born in Havana, Cuba, on November 19, 1888, he learned to play the game at the age of four. His father and grandfather, both Spanish Army Officers, played chess. Young Jose was brought up to regard chess as a natural accompaniment of the home. He learned the game in the same subconscious way that a child learns to speak.

Jose Capablanca, however, was not an ordinary child. He was possessed of that mysterious genius for the game which manifests itself in few individuals. Others may look at the chess board and see inanimate pieces of wood on check­ered squares but Capablanca saw a living, moving, dynamic picture in which the Queens and Bishops and Rooks and Knights radiated their power. At a glance he saw how their forces were concentrated on certain squares, left others weak. Whereas the ordinary mortal laboriously calculates the outcome of a series of moves and soon becomes befuddled, this boy followed the changing picture of the board with effortless ease. In his mind, the pieces moved from square to square and the final position stood out sharp and clear. Like most chess prodigies, he could not explain this gift. He just "saw" it, that was all.

When Capablanca joined the Havana Chess Club he was by far the youngest member but was soon taking the measure of the older men. At the age of twelve he astonished his countrymen by winning the chess championship of Cuba, in a match with J. Corzo, by a score of 4-0 with six draws.

This early training and experience was reflected in Capablanca's later play. To quote again from Richard Reti: "In one's native language grammar is an unnecessary crutch, which is re­placed by one's feeling for the language, the rich experience stored in one's subconscious mind. And Capablanca has the finest possible feeling for chess. Just by referring to that superior pattern in his mind he has succeeded in point­ing out errors of exaggeration in many of the old rules."

As a youth, Capablanca attended a finishing school in New York and studied engineering at Columbia University. It was in this period that he developed much of his strength as a chess master. He studied the end-game exhaustively and played thousands of skittle games for money stakes so that he was forced to concentrate. He became a member of the Manhattan Chess Club and at the age of 18 was considered one of the leading players in this country.

It was in 1909 that Capablanca obtained recognition as the outstanding player of Pan-America. In that year, as a young man of 20, he defeated the American Champion Frank J. Marshall in an unofficial match by the remarkable score of 8-1 with 14 drawn games. Two years later he made his first European appear­ance at the International Tournament in San Sebastian, Spain. It was a brilliant debut. Against such outstanding masters as Rubinstein, Vidmar and other top­flight competition, he won first prize with the loss of only one game.

For many years thereafter, the name of Capablanca became increasingly famous. Apart from a string of international chess victories, there was some­thing in his romantic background, his polished manner, his handsome appear­ance, even the euphony of his name itself, which caught the public's fancy. People who had never played chess in their lives knew his name, respected his talents, admired his accomplishments.

His achievement at San Sebastian, in 1911, stamped Capablanca as the lead­ing contender for the world title. He attempted to arrange a match with Dr. Lasker without success. When the latter won the St. Petersburg Tournament in 1914, defeating Capablanca in a famous game, the aspirations of the Cuban temporarily subsided. Furthermore, war conditions made it impossible to hold a match for the title. During the war, Capablanca competed in three tournaments in New York and won first prize each time.

After the armistice he returned to Europe and again attempted to arrange a match. Dr. Lasker had relinquished the title but Capablanca refused to accept this and insisted that they play for the championship. Finally, the match was agreed upon and was held in his native Havana in 1921. Capablanca won the championship of the world by a score of 4-0 with ten drawn games.

The new world champion then won the great international tournament in London in 1922 with the tremendous score of eleven wins, no losses, four draws. It was around this time that he began to be spoken of as "unbeatable"-a "chess machine" overcoming all opposition with deadly accuracy and precision. As a result of his early training he never got into time-trouble, never committed a serious blunder. From 1916 to 1924 Capablanca did not lose a single game of chess in master play. For twenty years, from 1911 to 1931, he was never lower than third in all the tournaments in which he competed.

Capablanca reigned as world champion from 1921 to 1927. Near the end of his reign, he achieved one of his greatest successes when he won first place in the four-round tournament of six masters at New York. The "coming man" Alekhine competed in this tourney and placed second. A match was arranged between them for the title and everybody expected Capablanca to win with ease. The match was held in Buenos Aires. In the very first game the champion was defeated. He never recovered from the psychological handicap of this ini­tial set-back and lost by a score of 6-3 with 25 drawn games. Endless negotiations for a return match have taken place ever since 1927. Capablanca accused Alekhine of demanding impossible conditions while the new champion claimed that the terms were the same as those he had been called upon to meet. Whatever the reason, no return match could be arranged.

Up to the time of his death, Capablanca was still striving to prove that he could defeat Alekhine. He came to this country last May in order to interest the U.S. Chess Federation in sponsoring a title match in this country. An attempt was made to bring Alekhine here but the champion was unable to obtain pass­ports.

Perhaps it is just as well that this final attempt failed. Of recent years, Capablanca's power had waned. Since losing the title, he had registered many important tournament and match victories, including the famous tourneys at Moscow and Nottingham, 1936, but the young generation of Masters were beginning to outshine the ex-champion. He experienced more and more difficulty in maintaining his position. The man who had never been in time-trouble was no longer able to disregard the clock. He found it increasingly hard to concentrate. When he gave his last simultaneous exhibition at the Marshall Chess Club on November 6th, 1941, the players and audience could not help noticing how laborious he found this once simple task. The "chess machine" was beginning to run down.

Now he is gone. His remains lie buried in his native Havana. But the name of Capablanca and the games of Capablanca will live forever. (End of article)

In a December, 1942 interview Samuel Reshevsky commented on Capa’s play at the end: "You often hear that Capablanca, for instance, fell off and played badly in his last years. Personally, I don't think he fell off much. He played just about the same as he ever did but the younger masters just played stronger and better."

A couple of articles on Capablanca’s widow can be read at: Jack Lummus and US Chess Trust article.

Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York City as seen today

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sports Illustrated Bobby Fischer Articles

Several articles on Fischer are available from the Sports Illustrated archives such as:

January 23, 1961 detailing his win of the US Championship
September 14, 1962 about his match with Spassky
April 4, 2005 His release from a Japanese prison
January 28, 2008 article on his death

You can also search articles on Tahl, Botvinnik, Spassky and others from their site.

Laszlo Szabo

Szabo vs. Botvinnik at Oberhausen, 1961, European Team Championship
László Szabó (March 19, 1917 – August 8, 1998) was a Hungarian Grandmaster who remains little known by today’s players but he was one of Hungary’s top players and in the post-WW2 era was also one of the best players in the world. Szabo was primarily noted for his aggressive style of play and startled everyone when he won the 1935 Hungarian Championship at the age of 18, which at that time was considered a remarkable feat; he would go one to win it a total of 9 times.

Prior to WW2 Szabo also finished first at the 1938/39 Hastings tournament. In his non-chess life he was a banker and at the outbreak of war, was attached to a Forced Labour Unit and later captured by Russian troops who held him as a Prisoner of War.
After the war, he returned to chess and played in many major international events. He finished fifth at Groningen 1946, an extremely strong tournament which included Botvinnik, Euwe, Smyslov, Najdorf, Boleslavsky and Kotov. Then in 1948 at the Saltsjobaden Interzonal he finished 2nd behind Bronstein and then finished first at Hastings 1947/48, Budapest 1948 and Hastings 1949/50. After scoring strong finishes if other major tournaments he was awarded a place in the Amsterdam Candidates tournament in 1956. His finish there was a tie for third with Bronstein, Geller, Petrosian and Spassky behind Smyslov and Keres. Pretty good company!

In the 1960s and 1970s, he continued to excel in international competition; first at Zagreb 1964, first at Budapest 1965 (with Taimanov and Polugayevsky), first at Sarajevo 1972, first at Hilversum 1973 (with Geller) and tied for first at Hastings 1973/74 (with Kuzmin, Timman and Tahl). Szabo represented Hungary at 11 Olympiads, playing first board on five occasions. In 1937 he took the team silver and individual silver medals, in 1952 an individual bronze, in 1956 a team bronze and in 1966, team bronze and individual silver. In the early to mid-1960’s he was finally overtaken by Lajos Portisch as Hungary’s best player and it’s a pity his games are not better known.

In the following game he defeats GM Alexander Kotov in the first great post-WW2 tournament.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Must Have Books

Chesslodge is the Blog of IM Miodrag Perunovic, GM Alex Finkel and is edited by Goran Urosevic who, among other things is one of the owners of Chessdom. While looking at their Blog recently I noticed they have listed under “Must Have Books” three books:

Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by IM John Watson
The Road to Chess Improvement by GM Alex Yermolinsky
Forcing Chess Moves: The Key to Better Calculation by FM Charles Hertan

The first two are books I have recommended in this Blog, and now these three titled players have recommended them, so you know they must be good books. Check out the reviews and if you are serious about chess, then consider making one of them your next purchase. And, no, I don’t have any financial interest in any online seller of these books. While I do have an Amazon Associate account, the last time I checked there was only $0.15 in it and it doesn’t matter to me where you buy your books.

Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy , The Road to Chess Improvement, Forcing Chess Moves: The Key to Better Calculation

Chess experts use brain differently than amateurs

Another good link from reader Kirk...thanks!  This is the Yahoo article:
Thu Jan 20, 10:07 pm ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Experts use different parts of their brains than amateurs, maximizing intuition, goal-seeking and pattern-recognition, says a new study that examined players of shogi, or Japanese chess.

Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to compare the brain activity of amateurs and professionals who were presented with various shogi board patterns and were told to think of their next move.

They found that certain regions of expert brains lit up, while the amateurs' did not, said the research led by Japan-based scientist Xiaohong Wan and published in the journal Science on Thursday.

When they asked players to mull their next move, experts' brains showed more activity in the area associated with visualizing images and episodic memory, known as the precuneus area of the parietal lobe.

When pressed to come up quickly with a move, activity surged in another region called the caudate nucleus, where goal-directed behavior is rooted.

"This activation did not occur in the amateurs or when either group took their time in planning their next move," said the study.

Researchers believe that experts who train for years in shogi are actually perfecting a circuit between the two regions that helps them quickly recognize the state of the game and choose the next step.

"Being 'intuitive' indicates that the idea for a move is generated quickly and automatically without conscious search, and the process is mostly implicit," said the study.

"This intuitive process occurs routinely in experts, and thus it is different from inspiration, which occurs less frequently and unpredictably."

From Wikipedia:

Precuneus: The mental imagery concerning the self has been located in the forward part of the precuneus with posterior areas being involved with episodic memory. Another area has been linked to visuospatial imagery.

The precuneus is involved in memory tasks, such as when people look at images and try to respond based on what they have remembered in regard to verbal questions about their spatial details.  The precuneus has been suggested to be involved in directing attention in space both when an individual makes movements and when imaging or preparing them.

 Caudate Nucleus

Learning and memory Historically, the basal ganglia as a whole have been implicated in higher-order motor control. The caudate nucleus was initially thought to primarily be involved with control of voluntary movement. More recently, it has been demonstrated that the caudate is highly involved in learning and memory, particularly regarding feedback processing. In general, it has been demonstrated that neural activity will be present within the caudate while an individual is receiving feedback. People with "superior autobiographical memory" appear to have slight increases in the sizes of the caudate nucleus as well as of the temporal lobe of the cortex

The left caudate in particular has been suggested to have a relationship with the thalamus that governs the comprehension and articulation of words as they are switched between languages.

Role in obsessive compulsive disorder
It has been theorized that the caudate nucleus may be dysfunctional in persons with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), in that it may perhaps be unable to properly regulate the transmission of information regarding worrying events or ideas between the thalamus and the orbitofrontal cortex.

A neuroimaging study with positron emission tomography found that the right caudate nucleus had the largest change in glucose metabolism after patients had been treated with paroxetine. Recent meta-analyses of voxel-based morphometry studies comparing people with OCD and healthy controls have found people with OCD to have increased grey matter volumes in bilateral lenticular nuclei, extending to the caudate nuclei, while decreased grey matter volumes in bilateral dorsal medial frontal/anterior cingulate gyri. These findings contrast with those in people with other anxiety disorders, who evince decreased (rather than increased) grey matter volumes in bilateral lenticular / caudate nuclei, while also decreased grey matter volumes in bilateral dorsal medial frontal/anterior cingulate gyri.

Does this suggest GM’s “speak” chess?  Does it account for why some chess players’ behavior has been, well, odd?  As chess players should we be studying differrently?  Interesting stuff.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frank Marshall

For the first time in a long time I was browsing Frank Marshall’s My Fifty Years of Chess and I had forgotten how much I really enjoyed this book.

When people think of Marshall they often think only of how he was soundly whipped by players like Capablanca or Lasker who were obviously far better players, but that’s only part of the story. Playing over his games are fun.

Frank Marshall (August 10, 1877 – November 9, 1944), was the U.S. Champion from 1909–1936. Born in New York City, he lived in Montreal, Canada, from ages 8 to 19. He learned chess when he was 10 years old and by the time he was 13, he was one of the leading players in Montreal.

He actually won the U.S. championship in 1904, but did not accept the title because the current U.S. champion, Pillsbury, did not compete. Even when Pillsbury died, Marshall still refused the title until he felt he had won it in an actual competition which he did in 1909.

In 1907 he played a match against World Champion, Emmanuel Lasker for the title and got beaten badly, losing 8 games and winning none. Then in 1909, he played a nontitle match against a new player named Capablanca. The result was another disaster when Marshall lost eight games, drew fourteen and won only one.

After this defeat Marshall did something rarely seen today: he claimed Capa had immense talent and deserved recognition. It was at Marshall’s insistence that Capablanca be permitted to enter the 1911 San Sebastion tournament and the rest was history. Despite protests from some of the competitors, Capablanca won the tournament.

Marshall finished fifth in St. Petersburg in 1914 and Czar Nicholas II the title of “Grandmaster” on the finalist: Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch and Marshall. Among those who failed to quailfy were Bernstein, Rubistein, Nimzovich, Blackburne, Janowski and Gunsburg. At least that’s what Marshall claims in his book. However there remains some controversy over this because the book was reportedly ghostwritten by Fred Reinfeld and according to Edward Winter there may be some reason to doubt the veracity of Marshall’s claim.

In 1936, after holding the U.S. championship title for 27 years, he relinquished it to the winner of a championship tournament which turned out to be Samuel Reshevsky.

Marshall has a number of openings named after him, but the most famous, of course, was played in a game he lost to Capa:  Ruy Lopez-Marshall Attack.  Lesser known is a gambit in the Semi-Slav Defense: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 e6 4.e4!?

It’s not generally known, but Marshall dabbled in chess problems and his first composition showed some promise. His first problem, which by the standards of the day, was well constructed, appeared in the Montreal Daily Star, June 19,1894.  Unfortunately, after a second problem was published in another newspaper and was less well received, Marshall gave up composition but remained a fan of problems and studies even to the point of taking part in a solving contests.

When people think of Marshall they usually think of one-sided player who didn’t know how to do anything but attack. That’s not correct because Marshall did play a lot of games that were models of strategy.

Some interesting links on Marshall are:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Houdini Analysis

I played an Internet blitz game yesterday where, as White, I used my favorite Torre Attack and I was advancing against my opponent’s K while he was expanding on the Q-side…normal procedure in the line we played. Right when it looked like my attack was going to crash through my opponent found a defensive move that brought the attack to a grinding halt. That’s when I realized, not only was I probably going to lose, but I had only a few seconds left. With no time to think I just threw some spite checks at him and that’s when he blundered giving me a winning attack…which I failed to see. The remaining moves were played at lightning speed by both of us and after Black played 41…Qb1 to pick off the B, I moused my N to play 42.Ng6+ just as time expired.

Out of curiosity I analyzed the game with Houdini 1.5 and was very surprised at the results! The position was more complicated that I thought but what amazed me was Houdini’s analysis. It analyzed one variation from move 44 to move 145. I don’t know how accurate all that is but it’s a pretty impressive feat.

Just as an aside, in view of the recent posts about engine use, I have to ask what if a titled player reached the position after Black’s 44…Rxc2 where it took Houdini a hundred moves to figure things out? Of course one would never rely on that string of analysis, so it would take even more investigating. No wonder these world championship CC tournaments can last 10 years.

It also leads you to believe that when analyzing with an engine there’s more to letting it think for a few seconds and then trusting its output.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Six Pawns Attack

You know what the 4P’s Attack vs. the K-Indian is.  Well, this is the 6P’s Attack against a defense that was something like the K-Indian Defense. Or maybe a Q-Indian Defense?  Or a hybrid of the two? The game was played at 7 minutes (+3 seconds a move) but I actually had to play the whole game in less than 5 minutes.  For some reason, although it showed I had a good connection, I got disconnected several times. Upon reconnection each time I had lost 20 or 30 seconds.  My opponent, rated in the low 1500’s, finished with more time than he started with…he was spending 3 seconds or less per move!  If he would stop and think once in a while no doubt he’d be a couple of hundred points higher.

Thanks to Kirk

Reader “Kirk” submitted a link to a site called Top-5000 which offers free downloads of chess engines (for example, from Fritz 1 to Fritz 5.32, Rebel Pro-Deo and Rebel DOS engines) as well as some other stuff relating to chess engines from the 80’s and 90’s. Mostly old stuff that’s of not much interest because there are much stronger free engines available these days.

However, the main item of interest was the Million Base 1.74 pgn database. This file is a whopping 192MB rar file that took almost 90 minutes to download. To unzip these files you can use the free WinRAR program.

There are 1,749,375 games up to 2008 (actually only about 35 games are from 2008).  By way of caparison, the db that comes with Fritz 12 has 1,546,900 games up to 2009.  Both db’s have games played by non-masters and I’m not sure the extra 200,000 odd games in the Fritz db matters all that much.  These games are in pgn format.  What that means is if you are using Fritz and want to run a full analysis you cannot use it because with Fritz this option only allows using db’s in the cbh and cbf format. Nevertheless,if you are running a free chess program that handles pgn files and need a good, free, BIG database then this should work for you.

Engine Use Questions

Bear in mind we are talking about correspondence chess here where reference materials are, and always have been, the norm. Top levels CC players justify engine use because, as they point out, this type of chess involves delving much deeper into a position than it is possible to do in OTB chess. As such, in their view, engines are just another tool. I am not talking about them but your average CC player.

Here’s the rule for almost all correspondence sites:
While a game is in progress you may not refer to chess engines, chess computers or be assisted by a third party. Endgame tablebases may not be consulted during play but you may reference books, databases consisting of previously played games between human players, and other pre-existing research materials.

OK, so you can’t use openings lines from a computer tournament; that part is clear. It’s the last part that’s of interest… other pre-existing research materials. Exactly what does that include? These days it is not unusual for top level players to use, and even some opening books have, engine generated lines. If I’m using Nunn’s Chess Openings, for example, and play a line that has been engine generated (of which there are a few in the book), is that legal?

Almost all commercial databases contain some games involving computer input. Thus, any database of top level correspondence chess will contain some information generated by engines. If you play one of those lines, is it legal? This is pertinent because these days some opening variations go 20-25 moves deep. What if I am following my own unpublished opening research where I have used an engine to generate lines?

Which brings up another question. On most CC sites where I play my rating is ~2300 and it won’t go any higher unless I manipulate it by playing only opponents who I’m reasonably sure I can beat. Let’s say I decide I want to go for an official CC title. Since most players rated over 2400 on all sites are, in fact, using engines, what if I play one of them? Is it right to level the playing field by switching on Fritz? If it’s OK to use an engine against other engine users, where is the cutoff point where you say you won’t use one because it’s unlikely your opponent is? I guess it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you want a title, you have to be ruthless and win any way you can. If you are playing for fun then losing to a 2500 rated engine user really doesn’t matter.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Featured Site: Guide to Tactics by Ward Farnsworth

Ward Farnsworth is a law professor at Boston University and author of books and academic articles on a range of subjects. He has released his two volume set of books on tactics online for free under a CC license. The books are available in an interactive format at Chesstactics.org. and hard copies of books are available through Lulu, a print on demand publisher, in two volumes.

From his website:
Before heading to law school I spent some (well… a lot of) time, playing and teaching chess. Portland had several great coffee house where you could hang out and play chess all day. Currently chess is a very closed market. Very few books or applications are under open licenses. Most of the top chess playing programs are closed source and both of the top database programs are closed. I personally spent a lot of money on Chessbase and Fritz. When I would teach children it became clear that the cost of books and programs was a barrier to helping some kids learn to play, especially if their parents did not have a background in chess.

Each section has a simple introduction and all tactical problems have solutions with explanatory text telling readers what is going on and why the solution is correct. He gives very detailed systematic understandable explanations of chess tactics. In addition, when a tactic is not readily apparent, he also explains how to force the opponent into a position that allows you to execute it. This project especially is meant for those who like explanations in words. This site goes into greater detail than other books do in explaining each type of tactic and how to overcome the various obstacles that can arise in trying to make it work.

The site has two parts. The first part teaches chess tactics. The second part allows you to quiz yourself on positions from the book. In the book format there are over 700 pages in total, with more than 1,000 illustrations and commentaries. Link to Site

Ward Farnsworth on Freedom for IP.  Freedom for IP is a grass roots organization dedicated to exploring the interaction of Intellectual Property Legislation with Human Rights. Freedom for IP is committed to providing resources, references and news about issues related to Intellectual Property and Human Rights. Freedom for IP is actively engaged in researching and discussing ideas on how to balance conflicting interest of IP and Human rights in an information age.

Becoming a Master

An excellent article on becoming a master can be found in the USCF’s online magazine HERE.

In the article Matan Prilleltensky describes how he did it. He wrote, "...after crossing 2100 in late '07, I figured the next step couldn't be far off."  He finished first in the under-2300 section at the 2007 World Open but then states, “…my undergraduate years finished with 2200 no closer than it was two years prior.”

He makes an astute observation: “It was finally time to revise my thoughts about chess strength. Many of us are dishonest with ourselves when we examine our ratings. Of course we are underrated - unlucky against lower rated players, perhaps, or frequently having opponents stumble onto good moves. Nonsense! There seems to be some confusion about the rating system's purpose. It is not a measure of your ‘chess understanding', future potential, or anything like that. It is a quantitative reflection of your results in tournament chess. As such, it is inherently accurate to a considerable degree. If your four digit number is an unsatisfying one, play better! I promise that will make it go up.” Emphasis mine.

Even if your goals are more modest, his article is worthwhile reading. Be sure and check it out!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Featured Site Chess Videos TV

I’ve mentioned this site in the past, but wanted to feature it today because it’s one of the best sites I’ve found. What are you looking for? They probably have it. You have to register to take advantage of some features, but it’s free.

Key Features

The homepage is the place to read our site's latest announcements including video competitions, ChessVideos.TV members of the week, and other special features and initiatives. Featured videos are posted on the right-hand side of the page. Finally, links to the forums and other tools and articles are available on the homepage.

Discussion Forums These forums are primarily text-only.

General Chess Discussion
Here, members post ideas and questions about opening theory, online play, tournaments, and all other things pertaining to chess.

Chess Game Replays and Analysis
Using the ChessVideos.tv game replayer, members may post their own games to the forum for discussion and analysis. Our expert-level members have regularly offered helpful advice to posts in this forum.

Training Journals The best way to help yourself commit to attaining any goal is to tell others about it. On this page, you can create your own online chess training journal and let the ChessVideos community support you along the way. Members frequently use their journals to plan their training schedule and keep track of tactics scores and tournament results.

Interviews Forum Member, Robofriven, presents interviews with well-known chess players including Josh Waitzkin, Dan Heisman, and Jeremy Silman. Interviews with past Member of the Week winners are also posted here.

Video Forums
These forums contain free chess videos of all lengths. They are categorized by topic and skill level.

Beginner Chess Strategy Videos
In this forum, chess beginners post videos of their games and advanced players post video lessons with beginner content. Videos feature 1st person live commentary of a game in progress or analysis of a past game.

Intermediate or Advanced Chess Strategy Videos
More experienced players post their videos here. Videos feature 1st person live commentary of a game in progress or analysis of a past game.

Game Analysis Videos Here, members can post video analysis of their own past games or games posted by other forum members in the video forum or the game replay forum. Another possibility is to post analysis of famous games from chess history.

Master Hangout Chessvideos.tv is fortunate to have many chess masters among its members, including IM Greg Shahade (Curtains), FM Ingvar Johanneson (Zibbit), FM Charles Galofre (The Salesman), and FM Graham Morrison (sqmorr). Visitors to the site have benefited greatly from the insights they have shared with our community. Master Hangout is a special forum created for the use of these titled players. Videos feature 1st person live commentary of a game in progress or analysis of a past game.

Training Videos from the Masters
An ever-growing library of free instructional videos from titled players. Currently, we host videos from FM Dennis Monokroussos, IM Luis Coelho, and GM Josh Friedel. Videos are primarily analysis.

Make you own videos. They have instructions on Howto: Record a video - Guide for recording videos using free software, Howto: Post a video - Guide for posting videos to the site. It's easy and anybody can do it.

This week's special video:January 13, 2011 - by JoshSpecht
New from Dennis!
In this week's lesson, Dennis examines a classic: Game 5 of the 1972 Spassky - Fischer World Championship. The game features an incredible blockade in the Nimzo-Indian and sparkling middlegame/endgame play. Check it out!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Larry Christiansen

The first time I saw Larry Christiansen was at an international tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1975. I don’t remember where he finished, but I remember GM Andrew Soltis asking somebody, “How old is Chrisiansen?” and being duly impressed when they replied, “Nineteen.” Christiansen showed exceptional strength at an early age in his career. He won three invitational U.S. Junior Championships: 1973, 1974, and 1975. In 1977, at age 21, he became a Grandmaster, skipping over the International Master title.

He tied for first place with Karpov at Linares and was clear first on one other occasion, won the 2001 Canadian Open and Curacao in 2008. He is known for his aggressive, tactical play and has written two books: Storming the Barricades and Rocking the Ramparts.

He is also one of the most prolific internet chess players and can often be found playing one minute games on ICC. It’s been said that when playing him you are advised to defend your h7 pawn at least five times. He also has to his credit a 14-move miniature over Karpov.

This game against Anand was played in Munich 1991 in a blitz tournament arranged at the end of the tournament. Christiansen lost but the game is fun to play over. As Christiansen put it, “(the game) was one of the most hilarious blitz games I have ever played. I played straight man to Vishy the slapstick artist. He flung the pie squarely in my face.”

According to Christiansen, Anand won the blitz event effortlessly, usually taking just a minute or two to dispose of his opponents. Notes based on those of the loser.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Words of Wisdom

A certain young player desired to improve his rating so he studied tactics until he puked and played every wild, crazy opening he could buy a book on. He had a measure of success and rose to a little over 1700 and then decided USCF Expert (2000 ELO) was within reach. To reach that goal he decided to do more tactics and buy some more gambit books. I told him I didn’t think that approach would work because he could no longer play in lower rated sections. He had to start playing opponents who would not fall for his cheap tricks and who, generally, knew more about chess than he did. My advice was to study: strategy, endings and play solid main line openings and play over lots and lots of classic games. He promptly informed me that advice was, to use his word, "crap" and he knew what he was doing. I said nothing more.

The result was he lost well over 100 rating points, got frustrated, and quit playing chess. Well, now he’s back. His plan: don't study openings, just tactics.  I still haven’t said anything but if it didn’t work before, it won’t work now. In chess, like anything in life, you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

What a Disappointment!

I played this wild game yesterday and hate the fact that I lost due to a mouse slip, but as they say, it’s only a game. Still, it was pretty exciting.