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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Unusual Chess Sets

Eldrbarry's Search for Unusual Chess Sets: this is an interesting site if you like to browse antique chess sets! The author is putting together a series of pages and pdf documents so you too can enjoy the variety of unusual designs of sets.  The site also has a lot of interesting links to on-line sources for unusual sets. It was fun looking!

New Hall of Fame Inductee

Congratulations to GM Alex Yermolinsky (born April 11, 1958 in Leningrad) who was inducted into the chess Hall of Fame this month.
       Yermolinsky won the US Championship tying for first place with Alex Shabalov in 1993 and in 1996 he was the sole champion. From the mid- to late-1990s “The Yerminator” won virtually every major open Swiss in the US.  He is also a three-time winner of the World Open (1993, 1995 and 1996) and in 1999 he was equal first with other nine players. In 2001 he won the American Continental Championship.  He is married to the WGM Camilla Baginskaite and now lives in South Dakota where he works with the South Dakota Chess Association as a coach, lecturer and tournament director.
       After emigrating from the Soviet Union in 1989, he played on several U.S. Olympiad teams. He has written two books and the widely praised “The Road to Chess Improvement,” is one of the most instructive books a player seriously determined upon improvement can get.
       Despite his successes Yermolinsky was something of a late bloomer by chess standards, earning his grandmaster title in 1992 at the age of 34.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Houdini 3 is Out

      According to their website, Houdini 3 contains many evaluation and search improvements and is about 50 Elo stronger than Houdini 2. The opening improvements are mostly related to piece activity and space management and in the middle game Houdini 3 has enhancements for recognizing pieces with limited mobility and in king-side safety. In end games Houdini 3 will seek deeper and solve more positions than before.
      There is also something called ‘Tactical Mode’ where it adapts its search strategy to prefer tactical solutions rather than positional moves in the root position. It also has a ‘Smart Fail-High’ feature that is supposed to be especially useful in very deep analysis when a different move becomes best at very high search depth. Its cost is about 40 Euros or $52.
      I thought about downloading it, but then got to thinking about it and decided not to. $52 is not a lot of money but for that much I could fill up with a tank of gas and have enough left over for a cup of coffee and some Ho-Ho’s. Or I could buy a Nook book card. Or, since we are going to Disney World in a few weeks, it would probably be enough money to buy lunch or a souvenir T-shirt. Best of all, I could save it. There are all kinds of things I could do with $52.
      The real reason I decided against it though is because I don’t need it. The Standard version supports up to 6 cores and 4 GB of hash but I can’t take advantage on that because my laptop is only 2 cores. I have no idea what its hash size is. The Pro version supports up to 32 cores and 256 GB of hash memory and NUMA-architecture (whatever that is). Short version, it won’t win me any more games on LSS because I have such puny computing power. There’s also the fact that, as I’ve pointed out previously, even using an engine you have to be at least 2300 OTB to even think about getting close to the top on LSS…or doing well in ICCF play, for that matter. So, no matter what engine I use, I’m not going to do any better on those sites.
      BTW, I did play a couple of games on Queen Alice a while back (no engines allowed on the site) against a guy rated over 2400 and at no time did I suspect engine use. Post-game analysis of our two draws didn’t yield a very high matchup rate and we both got a couple of question marks from Houdini. In fact, in one of the games we both missed winning tactical shots. The one he missed was a B sac on h3. I think he missed it because it required a second sacrifice…a R on g2. The N sac I missed, I never would have seen in a million years. It seems Queen Alice has solved their server problems. A few months back the whole site crashed a couple of times and as a result one of my tournaments got wiped out. Included were two games I was losing, so it wasn’t all bad! I may go back to playing there.

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Ending to Analyze

This is an instructive ending to play around with. It’s from one of my games played back in 1971.  I am Black and my opponent was rated, it memory serves, about 2300 and he later went on to gain his IM title.  My feeling was that I was going to draw, but take a look at the position and see if you can find a plan for White that offers him winning chances.

He played 23.Kf3 which was the beginning of a plan to occupy b6! A few moves later we reached this position and I still did not appreciate the danger I was in.
I should have retreated the K and kept the N on, but I reasoned that after 26…Nxg3 things would be ‘simplified’ and the draw guaranteed.  Wrong!  I needed the N for ‘tempo purposes.’  We soon reached this position.
It’s clear that after White plays 32.a5 White will run his K to the K-side but I can hold him off.  Unfortunately then, because he has more Pawn moves available, he can run me out of moves and my K will have to give way allowing him to win easily.  It is an instructive position to mess around with.

Another Loss

      When I entered the aforementioned tournament on LSS it was an open event and my section contained players rated from 600 to over 2200.  Of course when you are playing in events where engines are allowed, a 600-rated player is just as dangerous as a 2200-rated.  Also, gobs of rating points are at stake, but because ratings are pretty much meaningless that’s really not a major consideration for me. I have played over some games by lower rated players on LSS and it’s evident they do not use engines at that level, but for this tournament the ones in my section apparently made an exception for this event.  One player was new to the site and for some reason his starting rating was about 600.  Another fellow was rated around 800 and about half of his games were either won or lost by forfeit so there was a distinct possibility he would not even finish the event. As luck would have it, I lost my game against him.
      What left me perplexed was the game itself.  The opening line we played is a popular one that has a good success rate for White both in OTB and CC, but early on it seems that Fritz found an improvement for Black.  My ninth (!) move allowed him to seize control of the d3 square and from there on, I was struggling to equalize and the challenge proved to be too great.  I can’t believe White is lost after move nine, but I can’t find an improvement either.  As a result, I am kind of at a loss to understand what happened.  Need a GM to explain it, I guess!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Efim Dmitriyevich Bogoljubow (April 14, 1889 – June 18, 1952) was a Russian-German. Bogoljubow was a chess giant by any standards, but in his native Russia, he was a ‘non-person’ and his reputation was tainted by his later Nazi associations.

For over a period of more than 15 years, Bogoljubow was among the challengers for the world title. During these years he managed to win several top tournaments against almost all best players of the time. He played in about 120 tournaments, winning prizes 48 times.  He also played 29 matches, 16 of which he won.

      Bogoljubow came into prominence in 1911 when he tied for first place in the Kiev championship and then a little later finished 9-10 in the Saint Petersburg (All-Russian Amateur) Tournament. In 1912, he took second place in Vilna and in 1913/14 he finished eighth in Saint Petersburg (All Russian Masters' Tournament and eighth in the 1914 Russian Championship.
       In 1914, he played in Mannheim tournament and was 8-9 place when the tournament was interrupted by World War I.  After the declaration of war against Russia, eleven Russian players (Alekhine, Bogoljubow, Bohatrichuk, Flamberg, Koppelman, Maliutin, Ilya Rabinovich, Romanovsky, Saburov, Selenieff and Weinstein)  were interned by Germany. In September 1914, four of the internees (Alekhine, Bogatyrchuk, Saburov, and Koppelman) were allowed to return home via Switzerland but the remaining Russian players played in a series of tournaments held during the remainder of the war.  Bogoljubow remained in Germany, married a local woman and spent most of the rest of his life in Germany.
       After the war, he won several international tournaments.  In 1924 he briefly returned to Russia, which had since become the Soviet Union, and won the Soviet Championship in 1924 and 1925 and scored well in a few international events.
       In 1926, he returned to Germany where he continued to successfully participate in international events. Bogoljubov won two matches against Dr. max Euwe (both 5.5–4.5) in 1928 and 1928/29 and played two matches against Alekhine for the world championship losing 15.5–9.5 in 1929, and 15.5–10.5 in 1934.
       In the 1930’s Bogoljubow was extremely active in the international area: He represented Germany at first board in the Olympics at Prague 1931, winning the individual silver medal.  In 1930, he twice tied for 2nd–3rd with Nimzowitsch, after Alekhine, in San Remo.  In 1931, he tied for 1st–2nd in the German Congress. In 1933, he won at Bad Pyrmont.  In 1935, he won at Bad Nauheim and Bad Saarow, tied for first at Berlin and in 1936 and 1937 he shared first place at Bad Elster. He also had first place finishes at Bremen (1937), Bad Elster (1938) and Stuttgart (1939)
       During World War II, he lost a match to Euwe (+2 −5 =3) and drew a mini-match with Alekhine (+1 −1 =0) in 1943. He also played in numerous tournaments held in Germany throughout the war. After the war, he lived in West Germany where he continued to win small events.
       He is little recognized as a great player these days because he played in the era of Lasker, Alekhine, and Capablanca who dominated the chess scene during his peak playing years.
       At the beginning of World War 1, when he was taken prisoner while playing in Mannheim the players' initial treatment was harsh, but their status as chess players ensured them good treatment, and they were able to choose their own place of confinement. They chose the resort town of Triberg and Bogoljubow married a local girl, Frida.
       After the First World War Bogoljubow rapidly ascended to to the position of the best players in the world. His crowning achievement came in the Moscow 1925 supertournament, where in 21 rounds he won 13 games and lost only 2, finishing a full point and a half ahead of Lasker, and even further ahead of Capablanca, Marshall, Torre, Reti, Rubinstein, Spielmann.  Despite his successes, his results were inconsistent, and by 1929, when Alekhine played him for the World Championship, Bogoljubow, at 40 years old, was probably past his peak.
       After his victory in Moscow 1925 the Soviet chess political machine came into being and began to distribute favors. At this time Bogoljubow, faced with little income and a lot of debt because the bureaucrats restricted his access to a couple of tournaments, he renounced his Soviet citizenship in 1926. From that point onward he was condemned by the Soviet State and his name was erased from all records, including tournaments.
       In 1938 he became a Nazi.  Some claim he did it in order to keep his home in Germany, and to assure that his daughters could go the University since they were deemed not to be of Aryan blood. Also his German wife also wanted to remain in Germany.
      Bogoljubow doesn't seem to have been ideologically inclined and was said to have disliked the Nazis intensely. Even as late as 1950, however, FIDE didn't make him a Grandmaster becaused of his alleged 'Fascism'. He got the title the next year, not long before his death in 1952.

In the following snappy game against Grob, I especially like the Rook Lift at move 20.  For more on Rook Lifts, see an instructive video by GM Dejan Bojkov HERE.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Greatest Players in History

Here’s my list in no particular order.

Since becoming world champion Anand, unlike some others, has played in a number of events and won a lot of awards for his outstanding contribution to chess. He was awarded in India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan and as well as India’s highest sporting Honor, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. Anand's contribution to Indian chess has been remarkable. He has inspired thousands of children and their parents to look at chess as something more than a mere hobby. It’s not just the Indians who like Anand; he is popular around the world. Anand may not dominate the chess world like some of his predecessors, but he remains a class player and person. For the most part he has accomplished his chess successes all by himself. From what I understand Anand is always polite, humble and a genuinely friendly person. Anand held has won the World Championship in three different formats: Knockout, Tournament, and Match and is one of the few players in history to break the 2800 mark on the FIDE rating list. Fischer A dastardly skunk, but his chess career speaks for itself.
No doubt about it…he dominated his rivals but it’s hard to say exactly how good he was because he did not pursue a career in chess. After he had defeated all the English players, except Staunton, who begged off playing, he went to France where he easily defeated the best players. After that he returned home and retired. Who knows how far he could have gone or what other contributions he could have made to chess theory had he continued.

He used to be on my list, but not anymore. It appears that, known or unknown to Botvinnik, there were ‘outside’ influences and pressures put on some of his rivals to make sure he ‘won.’ IMO this makes his accomplishments suspect.
Became World Championship defeating the legendary Jose Capablanca. At the age of 16, he was already one of Russia’s strongest players and by age 22 was considered one of the strongest players in the world, winning most tournaments he played in throughout the 1920’s and early 1930’s.
His games are known for their clarity and his logical and direct play made chess seem simple.
Highly positional player who improved his position by moves that showed deep positional understanding meant he did not make a lot of mistakes. His mastery of the ending was superb. Very boring, but also very, very difficult to defeat.
Their matches were a nightmare but he beat Karpov. Unlike Karpov, Kasparov played exciting chess.
Health problems hindered him. If it were not for that, it’s hard to say how far he could have gone.
Not greatly appreciated, but Bronstein narrowly missed being world champion. He should have beaten Botvinnik, but it is quite possible he was a victim of ‘outside influences.’

In the 1890s Tarrasch was one of the top 3-4 players in the world. His games, not too well-known today, are positional gems. Tarrasch taught generations of players how to play chess. I think his games are still worthy of playing over.
His star did not last long, but from about 1910 to 1913 Nimzo was one of the best players in the world. He faded fast after that though. To me, real boring.
Odd pick, I know. But…from about the mid-1920’s until the mid-1930’s Bogo was one of the top 8-10 best players in the world.
World Champion for quite awhile, even if in those days you didn’t have to play a match if you didn’t want to. Never cared much for his play.
From the early 1900’s to the late 1920’s he was among the best. Another boring player.
There was a time he probably could have beaten Botvinnik, but the Russians wouldn’t allow him the chance.

As an afterthought, I just decided to throw in Fischer’s list of the 10 greatest players in history: Morphy, Staunton, Steinitz, Tarrasch, Chigorin, Alekhine, Capablanca, Spassky, Tahl and Reshevsky

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Just a Couple Observations

While forum hopping I notice the same issues seem to keep cropping up on a fairly regular basis.
One guy posted:
…there are only three types of chess players who have a real reason to want/need Houdini 2.0…they’re either super GMs, people who don’t understand they don’t need it, or cheaters (so they can beat other cheaters).
      Somebody did make a sensible response by adding another type: legitimate centaurs
I play on ICCF and LSS against opponents using engines and I don’t consider it cheating because the rules allow it and I know they are using engines. Now on the CCLA I played a few engine users and that was a different story because their rules prohibit the use of engines.
      What kind of ignoramus must a person be if they can’t understand such a simple concept that if a site allows engine use then it is not cheating to use one? But then I have also seen people who think the use of opening books in correspondence chess is cheating even though their use has been allowed almost from the beginning. These folks don’t seem to grasp the fact that OTB chess and correspondence chess are not the same even though that fact should be obvious.
      Of course there also exist computer chess enthusiasts who want to test, analyze and compare the newest engines simply because they enjoy tinkering with that kind of thing. If they are having fun and want all the engines available to play around with, what’s the problem?!
      And there is also the frequent comment, “You don’t learn anything using an engine.” What makes some people think that everybody who uses an engine is trying to learn anything? There are even some people without engines who don’t study…they just play. That must be hard for some folks to imagine, but it’s true.
This appears to me to be a new site offering chess lessons online. The site says:
Chessonlineinstruction was created to give chess players a unique chess coaching experience where they are in control of what gets taught. We found that most chess instruction sites make videos that the coaches think are good but may not necessarily be what the student wants to learn. We feel that the student should be more involved in the coaching process so he can get a lot more out of the experience.
      Actually, it's not unique. GM Alex Yermolinsky complained of this very thing: students telling the teacher what they (the student) think they need to study in order to improve. In Yermo’s opinion most instructors don’t have much choice but to comply. If they don’t, the student just goes elsewhere. At least this site is honest in telling you up front they will teach you what you think you need. 
Opening Study
One fellow announced his ‘study plan’ was to spend one hundred percent of his time on opening study. He is going to ask his friends to start from specific positions, play 45 minute games then analyze them.
      At least I’ll give him credit for realizing playing five minute games online didn’t help him improve so he’s trying something else. Good for him. Maybe when he realizes opening study alone won’t bring better results, he will try something else.
      USCF Senior Master Mark Buckley had a better idea: study everything he did not understand or did not like. The goal was to become an all around player. He hated endgames, so he studied endgames…that kind of stuff. In school you study more than one subject at a time so I see no reason to study one area of chess at a time either. Tactics, strategy, ending, playing over GM games. It seems you could divide your study time up to cover all these subjects.
For me chess is fun. I enjoy playing over GM games from books and admiring their play whether it involves opening innovations, long-range strategy, brilliant tactics or subtle endgames. I enjoy playing an occasional casual OTB game at the local coffee shop. I enjoy playing games using engines on LSS. I enjoy an occasional blitz game on Chessdotcom. I enjoy reading about chess history and chess players. Two things I no longer enjoy: playing in OTB tournaments and seriously studying. I never liked chess problems and was never interested in collecting chess stamps. That’s the great thing about this game. You can do what you enjoy and ignore the rest…and you don’t have to have a high rating to have fun.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


      FinalGen is a program you might find handy, but I would recommend it only if you have a lot of HD space on your computer.
       What is FinalGen? FinalGen is a FREE endgame tablebase generator for Windows.It generates tablebases for endgames with up to one piece per side, and any number of pawns.
       A Search for draw option allows speeding up the process by searching only for drawn results, but can run up to 10 times faster.  You can pause and resume the process at any time. A very nice feature is that the program displays the estimated time remaining, the required hard disk space and the number of positions calculated.  It is available in English, French, Spanish, Russian.
       Most engines play endgames fairly well, but in some situations they exhibit serious defects and most engines can consult tablebases which help them decide whether to exchange down into an endgame covered by the tablebase.   Tablebases of all endgames with up to six pieces are available for free download but their size is enormous which means you need to consult online tablebases from sites like Shredder or Lokasoft.  FinalGen is able to solve chess positions with 7 or more pieces; it can also generate them for 8 or more pieces, but that is a very long process. For 7-piece positions, the process can take between 30 minutes and 3 hours.
       A major limitation is that it can only manage endgames with up to one piece per side, and any number of pawns. e.g endgames in which there are 3 knights and king versus a king cannot be solved. But, if you end up with an ending with a rook and two pawns versus a rook and two pawns you can use FinalGen to generate the tablebases for the position. What is nice is it will generate tablesbases for positions that are not available in the online Shredder and Lokasoft bases.  For example, in the 11-piece position shown.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chess War Engine Tournament Completed

Full Report

Match involving 30 engines in a 15 round Swiss
Start date: April 2012
40 moves in 40 minutes. No commercial engines.
Top 5 finishers:
      1)Spike 1.4
      2)Critter 1.4x64
      3)Komodo 4.402x64
      4)Hiarcs 13.3
      5)Stockfish 2.2.2x64ja


Monday, October 15, 2012

Can I Continue to Play Correspondence?

Having entered a major CC event on LSS where engines are allowed, I have been giving some thought about playing chess this way. Places like ICCF, FICGS and LSS all allow engine use. The claim of all serious top-rated CC players is that chess engines have not and will not kill CC; they have just changed it. Maybe engines have not killed chess for them or for lower-rated players, but for some of us in-between players, that may not be the case.

      I started to play CC in the postal age using post cards and Glicher postal recorder albums. When computers entered the game I quit for a number of years and when I returned engines were playing at my level and I quickly discovered that even on sites which disallow them, most players at the expert and master level were using engines at least to some extent.
      I really like playing CC and at first did pretty good without the aid of engines, maintaining an CCLA/ICCF rating of around 2050. That was in the days of Fritz 5 but as engines got better and better, I have discovered that even with massive databases and refined opening books, in order to be really successful you need a more powerful computer than my two year old dual core laptop and you need the positional judgment of a 2300+ OTB player. It is also very time and money consuming. Obviously engines still have their weaknesses but it takes a very strong OTB player to ferret them out.
      The use of engines in CC is not cheating, whatever OTB players might think, if their use is allowed by the rules. CC is a game of analysis, and engines are now standard for that. In fact, conducting serious analysis nowadays without a computer is impossible even for world champions. Play over any game from pre-computer days and see how many analytical errors the annotator made.
      My problem is that engines are now far stronger than the people using them and as a result most CC games end up being simply engine matches. Now that engines are stronger than me, I simply can’t come up with anything better than the engines suggest and my dual core laptop isn’t powerful enough to compete with the stronger machines.
      Experience proves an average player like myself using an engine will not play as well as a GM using an engine. Engines still have a few weaknesses and GMs are good at taking advantage of them, but not me. Engines do not have perfect positional understanding no matter how long they think and if they have several moves of about equal value there is always a chance they will recommend an inferior one but how would I know? In the ICCF World Championships the usage of computers is allowed but you find very few relatively weak players doing well; the vast majority of top rated players are also very strong OTB. Obviously only a strong OTB player can understand and use the information coming out of the engine.
      Strong players can find moves that Houdini doesn't like but 5-10 moves down the road it may determine it is a good move. For me to do that, I’d have to experiment with dozens of moves and let the laptop run overnight to check each one, all of which is not practical time wise. In one of my current games on LSS against a player rated nearly 2300, Houdini and Critter show the top 4-5 moves as being nearly equal in value. I even tried out several different moves of my own. The result: both engines rated them equal with their own top recommendations. So, I have a choice of about a dozen moves the engines all rate about the same. How am I to know which is really the best? I don’t, but my 2300-rated opponent probably does.
      2400-rated players may talk about how easy it is to beat players who take an engine’s top few moves and simply play them, but for me, I have rarely been able to improve on an engine’s suggestions. As a result my LSS rating is gradually drifting downward and I see no hope of stopping it. Oh, sure, I’ve won a couple of games against titled CC players, but to offset that, have drawn or lost a few to players rated quite a bit below me and the results are about half my games are drawn and I have a measly +2 overall score for my efforts.

I am starting to have thoughts that CC may no longer be a feasible pastime for me.

Friday, October 12, 2012


    I originally determined that this Blog would be about chess only and I've pretty much stuck to that self-imposed rule, but it's my Blog so I don't have to obey it if I don't want to. So here goes another non-chess rant. 

A few days ago my wife was on Facebook when our laptop suddenly shut down and restarted then began downloading and installing 'Microsoft security updates.' After it finished the laptop was running at a snail's pace and she had trouble with the Internet. When she tried opening Word, it wouldn't open. 

It was about midnight so I decided to mess with it in the morning. The first thing I did was suspect the 'security updates' did something, so I restored the laptop to a previous date, but that didn't help. That's when I noticed my Norton Antivirus icon was missing and I was unable to open it from the Start Menu. 

I did manage to get on the Internet and Norton recommended deleting the program and re-installing it which I did, but that did not resolve the problem. That's when I was sure I had a virus. I called the Geek Squad and managed to get the tech to take over my computer and run a test on it. He couldn't find anything and said he thought it had something to do with Norton and recommended I take the laptop in to Best Buy. 

Before doing that and while I was still on the Internet, I looked up Norton and called an 800 number listed. Some woman whose English I found difficult to understand asked me to go to a website which appeared to have nothing to do with Norton. She asked me to download a program that appeared to be designed to 'clean up' slow running computers. That's when I asked her if she was a Norton employee and she said no, she represented a third party, but they know all about Norton. I replied I had wanted to speak to a Norton tech rep. After more haggling I asked her “Why are we not talking about the fact that the Norton Antivirus isn't working?” Somehow that's when we got 'disconnected'...or did she hang up on me? 

After that I took the laptop to Best Buy over at the mall. When the tech started up the laptop, she said, “You have a virus; I can tell just by looking.” It turned out the Start Menu icon in the lower left corner was not the icon for Windows 7. In order to get the laptop fixed, I had to buy a two year service contract which also includes a new Antivirus program. Cost? $285. I kind of felt like they held me up by claiming they would not remove the virus unless I bought the service contract. On the other hand, it is good for two computers for two years. Back home I felt it was a good idea to get out my Nook, go on the Internet and change all my passwords which killed a lot of time. 

Reminds me of the time I had a small crack develop in the lens of my glasses and it was a little annoying, so I went to Lenscrafters to get the lens replaced. The lady said they would not replace the lens unless I got an eye exam. I informed here I didn't need and eye exam, I just wanted the cracked lens replaced. It was against their policy. I threw a hissy fit in the store so they agreed to replace the lens and in an hour it was ready. 

Maggots...that's what they are, but what are you going to do?

No Title

I recently read a free 'Special Report' called How to Double Your Way to a Million by motivational guru Stuart Goldsmith. How does it work? Simple. Find a penny, double it to two cents, double the two cents to four cents, etc. In 28 steps, you've doubled your way to a million dollars. He suggested you find some partners so you can encourage each other, put your heads together and brainstorm how best to use your skills, abilities and creativity to succeed one step at a time.

I got to thinking there ought to be away to apply this to my chess rating, but instead of a penny it would be rating points. Then I could write a book and retire. No, wait, I am retired. Maybe I could make enough money to go to Disney World. No, wait, we are going there in a couple of months. I guess I don't need any more money, but the rating points I could always use. Actually, the extra money does sound nice though.

Back to the 'get rich theory.' I was reading about one lady who was very enthusiastic about this idea and decided to Blog about her attempt to follow the 'plan.'

I know you're all dying to find out how she did. She got up to 64 cents. The problem then was to figure out a way to double that. She considered maybe buying something for 64 cents and selling it on e-bay at double the cost. But, she added she couldn't get money to start coming in on that project until she made room for stocking the item. That meant getting rid of clutter and cleaning the 'wreck' her house was in.

The difficulty there was she felt she had no time. An article she read said as long as you believe you haven't got enough time, you won't have enough money...they are connected. She would wake up determined to accomplish something, but the day always got away from her. She needed to focus. Stop running around like a chicken with its head cut off, list the top five things that need done and take action. She thought meditation would help because it would enable great ideas to come to her. She chose a time to start meditating...noon the next day. So, what happened? Did she double her way to a million dollars? I don't know because she quit Blogging.

Thinking about her gave me the thought that she sounded like most chess players who determine to raise their rating. We buy books, sometimes even books that make equally hare-brained promises about becoming a master, and start off well but after a short time get sidetracked, lose motivation or can't focus. Some people, of course, stick with it; I know lots of players who have been studying for years and got stuck at the 64 point rating increase, if they even got that far.

What's wrong with us? Do we have an inherent lack of gumption or are we studying the wrong things, or in the wrong manner or...could it be that because 99.5 percent of chess players never reach master, one either has the natural ability to excel or they don't.

What? Me Worry?

What? Me worry?
 From a Chessbase article appearing recently titled The State of Elite Preparation

What would you do if you knew for a certainty that the best you could hope for with all the opening preparation in the world, was a minimal advantage, and the most likely case was no advantage at all? That is very much the quandary of the absolute elite nowadays, a problem that lesser mortals such as those merely rated 2700 do not face quite yet. Back in the day of Garry Kasparov, or more specifically, when he was the domineering force classified as being years ahead in the opening, the level of preparation was very unequal, depending on the player himself and the quality (and number) of seconds to feed him his secret moves. While the words “depending on the player himself” might sound like equal footing, it meant that if you were 100 Elo stronger than the others, you had that much of an edge in analysis as well.

Fast forward to 2012 and the situation is completely different. Everyone has a team of tireless seconds, and they are the same seconds for everyone: Houdini, Rybka, Stockfish, Critter, Fritz, etc. These seconds are already considerably stronger than the highest rated human, and readily available to all. When Anand chose an opening in the world championship, he did not even need to unleash any great novelty for the opposing team to be all over it, knowing the world champion felt there was something, and analyze it to death. By the next day, with ten computers running all day and night, any potential danger had been effectively neutralized. No one is “years ahead of the rest” in opening preparation. In fact, no one is even months. This is especially true of the absolute elite who tirelessly work to patch up any broken links in their armor.

What is one to do? The solution varies somewhat from player to player. Some will deliberately take extra risks, knowing the road they are walking down is unsafe, much to the delight of the spectators, but less so to the loss of the player’s equanimity. When it scores points, the player is readily described in reports as “brave”, and “fearless”, but when it loses, they are labeled as “foolhardy” or “unwise”. Magnus Carlsen seems to have his own solution for the moment: since no edge is expected, do not bother chasing one. Leave ultra-analyzed theory as soon as possible, without going so far as to be actually worse, and play chess. It is the reason for openings such as the Philidor...

I don't really feel sorry for those elite GM's; it's just another problem they have to face and most of us would love to have such a problem.  As it is, chess for all us down in the trenches will still be rife with blunders no matter what the opening.  In fact, maybe it's good for chess because perhaps we will be seeing more Philidors.  Or maybe Ponzianis, Alapin Openings, Nimzovich Defenses, Budapest Defenses, Polish Openings or even as Miles once played against Karpov, 1...a6

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Purdy said...

      At the end of an article discussing how to improve in chess C.J.S. Purdy made the astute observation: The main point is that practice is better than theory but practice against other is of little use because they do not take advantage of most of your errors, so that you go on making such errors.  And you cannot, in common humanity, ask an expert to play with you.  Not only will it bore him, but it may have a really bad effect on his play.  I have known players to go right off their game through being inveigled frequently into playing weak opponents. 
      A book of exercises from actual play or a book of games is practice of the very best sort, always provided you never peep at the solution or the text move until you have ‘had a go.’  And provided that if you went wrong, you try to find out why you went wrong. 
      As I always say, even if you only understand fifty percent of the moves, you are getting somewhere and your percentage will rise.  Don’t expect to understand everything at first – just forge ahead.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nothing To Do With Chess

It’s time for me to start wearing another wrist band.  The CX2 Wristband.  It’s just a rubber bracelet with a shiny hologram or something that goes on your wrist and the claims about how it uses the body’s vibrational system to move your body to its optimum vibrational level and achieve desired results sounds like, well, I don’t know what it sounds like, but it left me feeling pretty skeptical. 
I’m not much into diet and exercise, herbology, food therapy, tai chi, or acupuncture and certainly didn’t expect much from the CX2 Wristband because I am not a believer in ‘using external intrinsic energy to interact with the body’s energy fields based on a principle of physics called entrainment’. This principle describes how the energy of one object has the ability to interact with and affect the energy of another without physically touching it.  Supposedly the energetic charge within the wristband interacts with and allows the body to naturally balance itself. Yeah, right.
That is until I tried one and realized I did feel more energetic.  A friend asked me about the one I was wearing and then explained that my results were purely psychosomatic. You know, the power of suggestion or positive thinking.  He could be right, and probably is, but my thought was, if the wristband really does do something that makes me more energetic or if it’s all in my head, what’s the difference?
Normally even the thought of drinking tea triggers my gag reflex, but their tea isn't bad either.

Studying Chess

      What and how should I study? This is an oft-asked question by just about everybody below master. Apparently masters have already found the answer to the question…at least they discovered what worked for them. Internet forums abound with advice, but sometimes it isn’t even working for the poster.

      Several years ago there was a young player posting his advice on what people should be studying on one of the forums and most of it was just plain bad advice. How do I know it was bad advice? It didn’t work. He was an advocate of playing weird, unsound, sometimes just plain bad openings and spent hours memorizing them. He’d beat a few low rated players using his openings and get his rating up but then start losing to better players. His solution was to go back and revamp his opening repertoire; usually with starting from scratch with another bad opening. And tactics! The guy was a maniac for studying tactics. Funny thing is, by his own admission he was still missing them in his own games. The solution? Back to the tactical servers.
      He got from about 1400 to around 1700 but then he was no longer eligible for the lower rated sections and had to start playing others with similar ratings. The result was he dropped back to the 1500s which was apparently where he really belonged. His answer was to change openings (yet again) and study more tactics. He repeated the cycle a couple times then in frustration quit chess.
      Some good advice came from Mark Buckley, a USCF Senior Master, who wrote that his goal was to become an all around player and he determined to study everything he disliked or didn’t understand. One of those areas for him was endings, so he studied endings. Basically he was hitting the books in the areas where he was the weakest.
      Some like a regular time to study (probably a good idea) and determine to do so many tactical puzzles a day or work on a particular opening line or, perhaps, a particular ending, allotting themselves a set amount of time for the task.  One thing most do not do is critical and that’s just playing over master games…lots of them!
      In any case, one piece of advice I got was that instead of just, say, setting a limit on doing so many tactical puzzles, a better idea is that when you see one that is especially intriguing…STOP! Tear that one apart and see what makes it work. When you are playing over a game and come to an interesting situation, be it a combination, a strategic point or an endgame position that catches your attention…STOP!! Study whatever it was that grabbed your attention until you understand it. If that means doing one puzzle, working through one R and P ending or playing over one game for three days, then that’s what you should do.
      The point is if you get bored after an hour but have determined to study for two hours, you’re wasting time if you continue beyond the point where you lose interest and your study will be non-productive.
      For me personally I no longer “study” but just play (whether my correspondence games, at the club, or playing over games or browsing a book) for about an hour because after that, I’m “chessed out” and don’t want to play anymore but there are those who can go on for hours without losing interest. You have to do what works for you but whatever you are doing, if it isn’t working, you have to try something else. Like the young man mentioned, you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.