Random Posts

Monday, March 31, 2014

Quick Quiz

What does White play in this position from Christensen vs. Browne, Las Vegas 1990?

Highlight for answer: White should play 8.Bh4 because capturing the N would only help Black develop. Retreating 8.Bf4 was also acceptable. After 8.Bh4 if Black plays 8…g5 White won’t retreat to g3; he will play 9.e3 and if gxh4?? (9…Ng6 with equality) 10.Qh5+ Ng6 11.Qxg6+ Ke7 12.Nd5#

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Tarnished Oldie

Sometimes, just for amusement, I like to go back and reminisce over my old games and I came across this one. I remember my opponent was a dentist from Detroit, Michigan. My attack initiated at move 17 wasn’t very dangerous, but I was already mentally committed to it with my previous move. Black let me back in the game at move 19 when he overlooked a discovered attack on his f7. Eventually things settled down to what looked like a draw, but Black thought that with his a and b-Pawns a little further advanced than my g and h-Pawns he might have winning chances. But because of the position of his K and my R, my g-Pawn was able to race to g7 with lightening speed. The game was still a draw when at move 45 Black saw the possibility of a mate and, overcome with joy, didn’t look any further. The result was he missed my 47th move which won the game.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Simple Chess

...by John Emms is a book I would recommend for anyone interested in learning positional basics. Be aware that the title Simple Chess is the same as a much earlier work by Michael Stean published in 1978.

Emms covers outposts, the two bishops, and the isolani, etc. and uses over 50 modern grandmaster games. A lot of his explanations are written in prose, not just a list of variations. Emms shows how strategic ideas arise from the openings and how they are applied. What’s really good that in many games Emms shows how these positional elements lead to superior positions that can be resolved tactically. Players in the 1400-1700 range should find it helpful.

Studying Endings Made Easy

I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli. - George H. W. Bush  

     Most players feel that way about endings and agree with David Janowsky when he wrote, “I detest the endgame. A well-played game should be practically decided in the middlegame,” but who are you going to believe? Capabanca wrote, “In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else…just forget about the openings and spend all that time on the endings.” Pal Benko said he always urges players to study composed problems and endgames. Luke McShane said it's important to develop a good 'feel' for which endings are likely to pose practical problems for the opponent and the knowledge that you know how to handle a particular endgame is invaluable. For the amateur it’s more fun to study openings and tactics but I think most would agree with Capa, Benko and McShane that studying endings is good for us.
     When you do decide to study endings the first step is usually to buy one of the popular books but even then, after reading them many players understand almost nothing. Then there exists a boatload of videos, CD’s available. Also, there is the question of exactly what to study. Beginners just need to know basic checkmates and how to promote a pawn. I think some things can be dispensed with though. I remember one player rated 1400 or so who was trying to learn how to mate with a B and N vs. a K. I advised him he was wasting his time because in over 50 years I have never seen this ending arise. If it does in one of my games, I’ll try to recall the procedure for 50 moves then agree to a draw...oh well! Studying K and P or R and P endings would have been more productive for him, but he thought he knew better...he’s still a 1400, but a 1400 that can mate with a B and N vs. a K if it ever comes up in one of his games.
     Endings require knowledge of technical positions. You should start with King and Pawn endings and after going over a particular subject, whether from a book, CD or video, you need to put your knowledge to the test. One good way to do this is to use the Shredder Endgame DatabaseYou can set up any ending with 6 pieces or less and then see the results for every move.  You can also play out the ending against an engine, but there will be some situations where engines will give a wrong evaluation or they won’t play perfect, but the practice will still be valuable.

Deep Rybka 4, Fritz 12, Komodo 5, Naum 4.2, Stockfish and Houdini 2 all got the only move that wins in this position almost immediately:
1.Kf4 Ke7 2.Kg5 c5 3.Kf5 Kf7 4.f4 c4 5.Ke4 Ke6 6.Kd4 Kf5 7.Ke3 Kf6 8.Kf3 Kf5 9.Ke3 Kf6 0.00/29
1.d4 c6 2.f4 Ke7 3.f5 Kf6 4.Kf4 c5 5.dxc5 dxc5 6.Ke4 c4 7.Kd4 Kxf5 0.00/29
1.f4 Ke6 2.f5+ Kf6 3.d4 c6 4.Kf4 c5 5.dxc5 dxc5 6.Ke4 c4 7.Kd4 Kxf5 0.00/29
1...Ke7 2.Kg6 d5 3.f4 d4 4.Kf5 Kd6 5.Ke4 c5 6.f5 Ke7 7.Kd5 Kf6 8.Kxc5 d3 9.Kd4 Kxf5 10.Kxd3 Ke5 11.Kc4 Kd6 12.Kd4 Kc6 13.Ke5 Kd7 14.d3 Ke7 15.Kd5 Kd7 16.d4 Ke7 17.Kc5 Kd7 18.Kd5 Ke7 5.57/38

W.A. Fairhurst

Fairhurst in 1964
    William Albert Fairhurst, CBE (21 August 1903, Alderly Edge, England - 13 March 1982, Howick, New Zealand) was born in Cheshire, but his family moved to Manchester when he was five, and he learned to play chess at the age of thirteen. He failed to get into a grammar school because his interests were purely technical: "Classics escaped me completely." He attended Salford Technical College and Manchester Tech., where he gained a diploma in engineering. By the age of twenty, he had started the designing of bridges, which was to become his life's work.

     Fairhurst went to Glasgow in 1931 to join the firm of F.A. Macdonald & Partners from British Reinforced Concrete Engineering Company Limited. He had been invited to apply to fill the vacancy of "chief assistant" by Arthur Legat, one of the two principals (along with George Dunn) of the firm at that time, and with whom he had earlier worked at B.R.C.E.Co.
     Fairhurst became a director in 1938, and Managing Director of F.A. Macdonald (Glasgow ) Ltd. in 1941. In 1946, the then directors moved their office premises to 11 Woodside Terrace, Glasgow.
     Fairhurst's name is associated with several books relevant to his professional work. In 1945 there was published Arch Design Simplified, a text-book on the rapid and economical design of arch bridges. By 1946, at which time he was Chairman of the Scottish Branch of the Institution of Structural Engineers, he was also associated with the "Whitson-Fairhurst" housing system, which involved a special framework for a prefabricated house. After World War Two the firm expanded into many areas of work, although designing bridges retained its importance following publication in 1948 of "Design and Construction of Reinforced Concrete Bridges", which was co-authored by Fairhurst, Legat and Dunn.
     At the end of 1959, it was announced that the firm had been appointed as engineers for the design of the Tay Road Bridge. This was a major commission at that time, attracting much public attention via the media, and one which was ultimately to be the catalyst for the change of the firm's name to W.A. Fairhurst and Partners. For his engineering achievements, he received a doctorate, and through The Queen's honours list, a CBE. At the pinnacle of his profession, Fairhurst was honoured with the Presidency of the Scottish Branch of the Institution of Structural Engineers. In his time, he was the author of the text Arch Design Simplified and a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland.
     His engineering company continues to thrive today, working out of 15 principal offices and employing 500 staff. Today it is one of the largest private consultancy companies in the UK, trading since 1 January 2012 under the name Fairhurst. Fairhurst incorporated chess motifs in the design of the Tay Road Bridge.
     After arriving in Glasgow in 1931, Fairhurst immediately involved himself in the chess life of the city. He became a member of Glasgow Chess Club, as well as involving himself at national level. He won every tournament that he entered in Scotland, as indicated above; 11 Scottish Championships; 16 West of Scotland titles; 18 times Glasgow Chess Club Champion.
     But Fairhurst also has to be recognized as an outstanding force of motivation in Scottish chess. He guided and encouraged young players; organized a series of Scotland v England matches to give Scottish players exposure to higher levels of play; was involved in bringing internationally recognized players to the Glasgow International Tournament of 1953 and the Dundee Centenary Tournament of 1967, and brought visiting masters to Scotland to provide training opportunities. He became the chess correspondent of the Glasgow Herald in 1959, after the resignation of D.M. MacIsaac.
     Fairhurst, who was president of the Scottish Chess Association from 1956 to 1969 not only contributed a great amount of time and energy to the development of chess in Scotland, he also contributed generously to many events with his own finances. After retiring from his professional life, Dr Fairhurst emigrated to New Zealand, where his son lived. He retained a connection to Scotland as he visited the country almost every year, and in 1981 the Glasgow Club presented him with a scroll on the occasion of his 50 years of membership.
     Dr Fairhurst continued to play chess in New Zealand, taking part in several national championships, and representing the country on top board at the Nice Olympiad of 1974.

British Champion 1937.
Scottish Champion 11 times: 1932/33/34/36/37/38 - 1946/47/48/49 - 1962.
West of Scotland Champion 16 times: 1932-37; 1946-49; 1951; 1953-54; 1959; 1960, 1961.
Glasgow Chess Club Champion 18 times: 1932-38; 1945-49; 1952; 1955-58; 1963

He won the Championships of Scotland, West of Scotland, and Glasgow CC every time he entered. He represented Scotland in four matches against England: 1951, 1955, 1958 and 1962. He played top board for Scotland at the Olympiads of 1933, 1956, 1958, 1964, 1966 and 1968.

After moving to New Zealand, he represented that country at the 1974 Olympiad, again on top board. He was also Cheshire County Champion four times, Manchester Champion four times, Lancashire Champion twice, and 'Three Counties Champion' (Birmingham Post Cup) eight times.

International Master 1951.

Other Major Events:
1927 Scarborough: =2nd, including wins against Colle and Bogolyubov.
1928 Tenby: =4th & 5th, scoring 6½/11 in the British Championship.
1930 Scarborough 1930 (Major Open): 1st, with 9½11 ahead of Noteboom.
1932 Glasgow: 'Blindfold' simultaneous display, 27 February, by arrangement with Polytechnic CC. Played twelve opponents of good average club strength, winning 9 and drawing 3 in five hours.
1932 London: British Championship.
1934 Chester: =2nd in the British Championship.
1935 Margate 1937/38 Hastings
1946 London (Section 'A').
1947 Harrogate: British Championship.
1947/48 Hastings: 5/9, unbeaten, scoring eight draws and one win.
1948/49 Hastings: 5/9, sharing 4th-6th places.
1949 Felixstowe: British Championship (Swiss System) 6½11.
1950 Buxton: British Championship.
1951 Oxford: Commonwealth Championship, 1st.
1952/53 Hastings: scored 5/9, a half point behind four players on 5½.
1953 Glasgow International Tournament: shared 2nd-5th places with 4½/7, behind J. Penrose.
1954/55 Hastings. 1957 Dublin: Zonal Tournament (FIDE)
1959 Ilford
1959 Paignton

1933 Glasgow: drew a six game match with Erich Eliskases, the Austrian master.
1937 Glasgow & Edinburgh: 1st match against Dr J.M. Aitken, won by Fairhurst 3½-2½
1937/38 Glasgow & Edinburgh: 2nd match with Dr J.M. Aitken, who won 5½-2½
1937 England v Holland: drew both games against Fontein on board 4
1938 England v Holland: lost one game and drew the second against Euwe
1946 Britain v USSR Radio Match: scored 0 ½ in two games against Flohr on board 5
1946 Scotland v Northern Counties Chess Union
1947 Britain v Czechoslovakia: on board 4, scored 0 ½ in two games with Opočenský
1947 Britain v USSR: on board 7, drew both games with Flohr. 1947 Britain v Australia Radio Match: on board 7, defeated M. Green
1948 Britain v Australia Radio Match: on board 5, he drew with M.E. Goldstein
1949 England v Holland: on board 4, lost both games to van Scheltinga
1952 England v Holland: on board 8, drew both games with Bouwmeester
1953 Glasgow: Match v R.G. Wade. Fairhurst loses 2½-5½
1954 Britain v USSR: on board 8, scored 0 & ½ in games with Boleslavsky

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chess and Psychology

     In an article titled How to Get Good at Chess Fast, published in 2013, Gautam Narula offered two simple rules. In fact the rules apply in other areas as well. Narula says, "If chess is anything, it is a game of second chances. Chess, like life, rewards perseverance. I've turned countless losses into draws and wins because my opponents got overconfident while I dug in. I've also turned wins into losses because I was too intimidated by my opponent's rating or reputation.”
     Chess psychology can be distilled to two rules: 1) Don't ever be afraid of your opponent and 2) Fight as hard as you can until the game is over. According to Narula, following these simple rules will add hundreds of points to your rating. Hundreds of points may be an exaggeration, but it’s still a good rule. There's a footnote to the second rule, saying if the situation is absolutely hopeless, it's good etiquette to resign rather than drag the game on needlessly. Narula also observed, "If my opponent were playing Magnus Carlsen in this position, would Carlsen be able to win?" If the answer is yes, keep playing. If it is no, then resign.
     Some highlights: What does it mean to be “good” at chess? He defines “good” as the 90th percentile which, on the USCF rating list is a rating of 1800. The author claims that you can become better than the vast majority of players with minimal but targeted effort. He claims that to improve quickly you need to play in tournaments often. Online is not enough! Use online games (15 minutes per side or slower) to explore openings or for practice.
He did two types of tactics training. The first was “Chess Vision” and “Knight Sight” exercises, as described in his article. He claimed they may sound stupid, but they worked. His primary method of tactics training was using the CD, Chess Tactics for Beginners. One observation that made a lot of sense was that online tactics sites don’t cut it because they aren’t structured so that you learn based off previous ideas.
Analysis is by far the most undervalued part of chess training. Use analysis to brush up on openings and endgames and practice strategic play. More good advice is the observation that you should NOT rely heavily on engines for analysis. Engine analysis should be done only after you analyze the game on your own.
Do not devote a large amount of time to openings. Just make sure you know the basic opening principles.
You should be picking up strategic play from analyzing your games and going over annotated games. Once again, it goes back to the often ignored advice of playing over master games and absorbing them to gain pattern recognition. Still, I think a good middlegame book on strategy is necessary in order to get a basic understanding of strategy.
He recommends Silman’s Complete Endgame Course. My own experience was to study K and P endings to get the basics then move on to R and P ending because they seemed to be the most common.
Annotated Games
Go over at least one annotated game a week. Personally, I think more is better.

     In an article appearing in the World of Psychology the author observed that the people who are drawn to the game often are intellectual types and that chess draws players who are inclined to be intelligent and then asks does chess affect personalities? His opinion was that chess does indeed influence personalities. For example, he said that as a result of thinking so much during chess, he now over-analyzes nearly everything. Spending so much time in his own mind helped him become more self-aware of tendencies in his thinking. His tendency when playing chess was to perform superficial analysis and he noticed this same tendency manifested itself in real life. Studying chess trained him to study hard for tests in school even when he didn’t have any interest in the subject and trying to figure out the best moves improved his creativity and decision-making. Thinking about it, most of us tend to ignore the areas of chess we don’t like. Early in his career USCF Senior Master Mark Buckley made it habit to study things he disliked or didn’t understand.

     In a Brief Survey of Psychological Studies of Chess , a term paper written by Mark Jeays, the author also has some interesting observations on chess and psychology. His paper is overview of psychological research into chess.
     In Binet’s well known research one interesting finding was that masters differed on whether they used visual or abstract imagery to represent the board. The majority said that they used only an abstract representation, combined with sub-vocalizations of previous moves, to mentally examine the board. A small majority, J.H. Blackburne for example, claimed to visualize an actual chessboard with pieces on it corresponding to the current position, "just as if before the eyes."
     The first psychological enquiry into the minds of chessplayers was made by the Dutch psychologist and chess master Adriaan de Groot.  de Groot gave his subjects a position set up on a board and their task was to determine the best move, and to attempt to verbalize all of their thoughts.
     Four distinct stages in the task of choosing the next move were noted. The first stage was the phase of orientation, in which the subject assessed the situation and determined a very general idea of what to do next. The second stage, the phase of exploration, was manifested by looking at some branches of the game tree. The third stage, or phase of investigation, resulted in the subject choosing a probable best move. Finally, in the fourth stage, the phase of proof, saw the subject convince himself that the results of the investigation were correct. One important difference between masters and average players was that the average players tended to assume their opponent's would play as expected.  Masters tended to falsify their hypothesis.  That is, they tended to look for ways their opponent could refute their intended move.
     de Groot exposed subjects to a position taken from a game for a brief period (usually 3 to 4 seconds). de Groot found that the top players (grandmasters and masters) were able to recall 93% of the pieces, while the experts remembered 72% and the class players merely 51%.  de Groot interpreted the results by regarding the stronger performances by the higher-ranked players as a product of their experience. This is borne out by a study done by Chase and Simon, in 1973. de Groot suggested that relationships between the pieces were remembered better than the actual position. A bishop pinning a knight to the queen would be remembered in terms of the pin relationship, rather than by recalling the bishop to be at g5, the knight at f6 and the queen at d8.  Buckley also mentions such things as the "aura"  and "lines of force" of the pieces.
     Chase and Simon conducted an interesting experiment called "pennies-guessing." Subjects are shown a chessboard with pennies representing each piece, taken from a real game position. Their task is to recreate the position by guessing which piece belongs on each square. In addition, the player is told the number of moves that have been made in the game, and whose turn it is to move. The results? Masters are virtually perfect in placing the correct pieces on the board, while class A players averaged over 90% correct. So, what does this experiment prove? That large libraries of likely piece configurations are known to skilled players (i.e. pattern recognition).
     One piece of experimental evidence that seems to conflict with the previous findings comes from studies of players of different ages. The average 20-year-old player rated 1569 considered nine episodes and 22 total moves, while the average 20-year-old rated 2000 considered 12 episodes and 49 total moves. However, 50-year-olds with a rating of 2000 averaged 9 episodes and 36 total moves, which are numbers much closer to the lower-ranked 20-year-old rather than the higher-ranked one. Clearly, age makes the search process more efficient, since the players are achieving the same results with different amounts of effort. Presumably, the experience of the older players allows them to choose better candidate moves and to search more efficiently. So why the decline in results by older players?  Most likely it's due to a couple of factors.  One, most older players tend not to be current on theory and practice and two, most find long hours at the board tiring.  I know these days I'm "chessed out" after playing an hour or so and simply don't want to play any more.
     One facet of chess skill is being able to make an accurate evaluation of a position. An interesting case comes in certain ambiguous positions in which it is unclear to which side the advantage lies. These are often very good indicators of chess skill, since players of different rankings tend to predict different outcomes for the game. Comparing these with the "true" result (for practical purposes, the evaluation that a grandmaster would give it) of the game gives a very good indication of a player's relative strength. It is interesting to note that players of differing abilities tend to judge middle-game positions as a win, draw or loss equally well. However, in judging end game positions, weaker players tend to make poorer judgments, presumably because their knowledge of positional play is weaker. That's food for thought.
     Saariluoma conducted an experiment with nine strong players where a rather standard smothered mate in five was possible. There was an exception in this particular position though…there was a mate in four possible. None of the strong players found it without clues that such a mate existed from the experimenter. This experiment showed that players use their existing knowledge whenever possible even at the expense of finding the most efficient solution...they apply pattern recognition skills.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Want a Super Chess Memory?

     Piotr Wozniak is supposedly the inventor of a technique to turn people into geniuses. A portion of this technique, embodied in a software program called SuperMemo ($60 US), helps people mainly in learning languages. 
     SuperMemo is based on the idea that there is an ideal moment to practice what you've learned. Practice too soon and you waste your time. Practice too late and you've forgotten the material and have to relearn it. The right time to practice is just at the moment you're about to forget. Unfortunately, this moment is different for every person and each bit of information.
     Supposedly forgetting follows a pattern. We forget exponentially. A graph of our likelihood of getting the correct answer on a quiz sweeps quickly downward over time and then levels off. This pattern has long been known to cognitive psychology, but it has been difficult to put to practical use. Wozniak realized that computers could calculate the moment of forgetting if he could discover the right algorithm.
     SuperMemo is the result of his research. It predicts the future state of a person's memory and schedules information reviews at the optimal time. SuperMemo keeps track of bits of information you've learned and want to retain. For example, say you're studying Spanish. Your chance of recalling a given word when you need it declines over time according to a predictable pattern. SuperMemo tracks this so-called forgetting curve and reminds you to rehearse your knowledge when your chance of recalling it has dropped to, say, 90 percent. After SuperMemo reminds you of the word, the rate of forgetting levels out. The program tracks this new decline and waits longer to quiz you the next time.
     Can you use the program to improve your chess memory?  I don't know, but if anybody is interested and has $60 to spend, it could be worth a try.  I know...$60 is a lot of money, but how many of us have $60 worth of chess books that never did us any good?  Another option is to read one of the below books.  Do they work?  Again, I don't know.  I'm at that place in life where I can start forgetting stuff.  When it comes to chess, sometimes I think I have forgotten more than I ever knew.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Walther vs. Fischer Zurich 1959

     Years ago I played a correspondence game against an opponent from England who graciously mailed me a copy of the tournament book (with no notes) from Zurich, 1959. It was a welcome gift because in those days chess books from overseas were rare.
     Ten grandmasters were invited to compete against six top Swiss masters, including the Swiss champion; the tournament was held at from May 18th to June 8th, 1959. Although Tahl viewed the tournament as a minor event, it turned out to be closer than he would have expected. Although he easily defeated five of the six Swiss players, Edwin Bhend dealt Tahl a blow in the first round in a surprising defeat of the future world champion. After that Tahl was in fine form, but then lost again, this time to Gligorich, who would trail him only by half a point in the final. This was also a significant tournament for a young Bobby Fischer. His play was already improving dramatically in international events against stronger opposition, and he came close to tying Tahl in the final. Alas, a loss to the Swiss champion, Dieter Keller, in the penultimate round cost Fischer a spot at the top and he had to settle for shared third with Keres. Fischer also lost to Gligorich and was held to draws by Tahl, Larsen, Barcza, Max Blau and his opponent in this game, Edgar Walther. This game was a very narrow escape for Fischer. In his book, Fischer wrote that he would have resigned on the spot after 37. Re8, creating zugzwang in a few moves.

The final standings:
1st Tal 11½/15
2nd Gligoric 11/15
=3rd Fischer 10½/15 ½
=3rd Keres 10½/15 ½
=5th Larsen 9½/15
=5th Unzicker 9½/15
7th Barcza 8½/15
8th Olafsson 8/15
9th Kupper 7/15
=10th Bhend 6½
=10th Donner 6½/15
12th Keller 6/15
=13th Walther 5/15
=13th Dückstein 5/15
=15th Blau 2½/15
=15th Nievergelt 2½/15

     Fischer's opponent in this game was an FM. Wather passed away last year at the age of 83 in Zurich. He gained a measure of notoriety at Zurich when he had a winning position against the eventual world champion, but thanks to a stroke of luck, Fischer managed to draw when Walther misplayed the ending.
Walther - Fischer at Zurich

     Walther took four national titles: three times he was Federal Champion (1949, 1957, 1971), in 1965 he won the Coupe Suisse. Oddly, he never managed to win the Swiss Championship. The closest he came was in 1965 when he lost the playoff against Marcel Markus after they tied for first.
     As a long-time member of the Swiss national team Walther played in six chess Olympiads. He was a long time member of the Zurich Chess Club. He was also well known in correspondence chess. In 1967 and 1971 he won the tournament for the "Golden Springer," which earned him, for the second time, the Swiss Correspondence Champion title.  In the semi-final of the 8th World Correspondence Championship (1972-75), he tied for first and second and in the final he came in at number 11, for which he earned the title of International Correspondence Master. His last FIDE rating was 2254, down from a high of 2316 in 2007. Kingscrusher does a nice job (in three parts) analyzing this tricky ending on Youtube HERE.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Your Chess

Here’s an interesting site with a lot of material that you can arrange to your own liking to include whatever interests you. To quote from the site:  Your Chess born with the idea of making available more information regarding the world of chess. The information is in the form of rss feeds / podcasts, embed objects, flash video or any scripts / application that allows to return contents. All contents are posted by registered users, in fact, Your Chess portal was built through the contributions of the users.  Do you have your own feed RSS or embed application? Do you want to recommend one? Place it in the directory and share it with other users.  Customize your portal.  VISIT YOUR CHESS

Taubenhaus vs. Schallopp

When I got rid of almost all of my chess books a couple of years ago, 500 Master Games by Tartakower and Dumont was one of the keepers.  This collection of games dates from 1798 through 1938, and is well-annotated with the games being arranged by openings which is another nice feature. While playing over some of the games recently I came across this Taubenhaus vs. Schallopp game that was short, sharp and entertaining.  If you want to sharpen your tactical vision, this game is a good one to play over and a close study of it will be rewarding.  Otherwise, it’s just fun to play through.  Enjoy it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chess Columns on Huffington Post

     GM Lubosh Kavalek has some very fine articles on the Huffington Post. The name Kavalek may not mean much to a lot of today’s players who are ignorant of chess history of the great players og yesteryear, but at one time Kavalek, a Czech-American, was a world-class player.
     Kavalek won two Czechoslovak and three U.S. championships, and at one time was rated among the world’s top 10 players. He was inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2001.
     Kavalek was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He studied communication and journalism at Charles University. He won the championship of Czechoslovakia in 1962 and 1968. When Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in August 1968, Kavalek was playing in the Akiba Rubinstein Memorial in Poland, in which he finished second. Kavalek, who had always hated Communism, decided to defect to the West rather than return to Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia. He bought several crates of vodka with his winnings, used them to bribe the border guards, and drove to West Germany.
     In 1970, on the way to the United States, Kavalek won a strong tournament in Caracas. He played the first half under the Czechoslovakian flag, the second half under the American flag. He represented the United States before officially setting foot in his new adopted country.
     Kavalek moved to Washington, D.C., studied Slavic literature at George Washington University and worked at Voice of America. In 1973 he became a full-time chess professional. He later became a United States citizen and now lives in Reston, Virginia.
     Kavalek finished third at the 1966 The Hague European Zonal (Gligorić 12.5/16, Bilek 12, Kavalek 11.5) and qualified for the 1967 Interzonal in Sousse, where he was one of the three players to draw with Bobby Fischer. In the Manila Interzonal in 1976, Kavalek finished seventh. He also qualified for the 1979 and 1987 Interzonals.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Olaf Ulvestad

    The Northwest Chess website contains news from Washington and Oregon and is an interesting site worth browsing. While looking it over I came across the name of one of the more obscure masters (these days, anyway) in US history…Olaf Ulvestad.
     Ulvestad was born in the state of Washington (either in Tacoma or Seattle, depending on the source) the 27th of October 1912. His ancestors originated from Norway. His entry to the chess scene was at the legendary match, the Soviet Union - USA in Moscow in 1946, where he won one of his two games against David Bronstein.
     Ulvestad was champion of the State of Washington in 1934, 1952 and 1956. In the sixties, he went to live in Andorra (a small country between Spain and France), and played first board in the 1970 chess Olympiad in Siegen. He is also famous for the Ulvestad variation of the Two knights defense: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 b5. John Donaldson has published a small (36 page) booklet on Ulvestad, An American Original.
     Ulvestad learned to play at age 17 and remained a rather obscure player because Washington was so far from the center of chess in the U.S. Despite that, in the decades of the '20s and '30s there were a number of strong players in Washington and Oregon. Ulvestad’s first known result appears to be a third place finish in the 1932 state championship.
     While still in high school he began practicing blindfold play and when asked if he was able to play by memory or did he keep a mental image in his head, he said, "I try to keep a clear mental picture of the boards in my mind. Of course the board where I'm playing at the moment is the clearest in my mind, but subconsciously keep the image of all ten boards. I guess it's a kind of idea, photographic mind." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October, 1934).
     Jack Nourse (Washington Chess Letter, October, 1951) gave a glimpse of the young Ulvestad: "In his early years Ulvestad was a sensitive and thoughtful young man with a great sense of humor was also endowed with a rare attribute among chess masters-the endearing trait of modesty.” He kept those traits all through his life.
     Ulvestad spent nearly three years in Alaska (from late 1935 to late 1938) in search of work but eventually returned home. After excellent results in tournaments on the West Coast, he decided to try for national recognition and moved to New York City.
     In his first major tournament against some of the best American players at Ventnor City, 1939, he produced a sensational defeat of Anthony Santasiere. In 1939 the U.S. Open Championship Preliminaries Ulvestad finished 2nd behind Reshevsky with 4.5 points out of six and so qualified for the finals. In the finals he scored +3 -7 =3 and tied with Weaver Adams for 9th place out of 12 players. He defeated Adams in their individual game
     In 1941 Ulvestad became better known on the chess scene with the publication of the newsletter along with Kenneth Harkness, Chess Charts, a little opening pamphlet of 16 pages containing opening analysis. In the Spring of 1941 he enlisted in the military and that was the end of the bulletins. For whatever reason, Ulvestad did not like to discuss his time in the military. What is known is that he was assigned to a battalion of tanks in North Africa, going on to Italy, France and Germany with the Allied advance until his return to U.S. the summer of 1945.
     After WW2 Ulvestad, along with R.P. Allen, published what John Donaldson called the rarest book ever: Neo Chess. Donaldson claims the only copy of which he is aware is in the Seattle Public Library.
     He returned to competitive chess in 1946 at the U.S. Open with spectacular results; he easily qualified for the finals, scoring +6 -1 =1, which was good enough for first place ahead of Herman Steiner, Abraham Kupchik and Gerald Katz. But, he only finished 5th (out of 10) in the finals, scoring +2 -3 =4
     In September,1946 in the match against the USSR, Ulvestad, playing on last board (10th) and managed +1 -1 =0 against David Bronstein. Ulvestad’s best result came in the 1948 US Championship where he finished tied for 3rd and 4th with George Kramer behind Herman Steiner and Isaac Kashdan.
     The 1950's began with the first of his three marriages and his participation in a little known radio match against Yugoslavia in which he lost both games against Milan Vidmar Jr. Then in the early 1950’s he participated in tournaments in Florence and Milan. Back in the US he continued to score successes in open tournaments.
     Along with other players, in 1957 he founded the Seattle Chess Center. There were no annual fees; visitors paid 25 cents an hour to play. The center was not very successful and after about two years it failed and after the divorce from his wife, Ulvestad left town.
     The March 1960 issue of the Washington Chess Letter contained Ulvestad’s farewell letter in which he stated he was going to visit Europe for two years with the first stop being to see Dr. Euwe in Amsterdam. His intended two year visit to Europe ended up lasting 26 years with most of his time being spent in Spain. 
     Ulvestad had a baritone voice that he hoped would enable him to sing professionally, but as in chess, it was not at the highest professional level. He died in 2000.

EDIT- Thanks to reader Alejandro here are two excellent links (in Spanish) on Ulvestad in Spain: HERE and HERE

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waiting for a Mistake

     Anand, commenting on game 5 of his match with Carlsen, said, “…there were small mistakes, here and there. I didn’t lose the game in one move. I lost it over several and it’s exactly what I had hoped not to do but it was exactly what I did.” This is the way we lose games sometimes after we have played well. Not one blunder, but the game just slips away.
     I remember one game from my tournament days back in the 1970’s. I was paired against 2300+ Soviet master and we played until adjournment. I kept wondering why he would not offer me a draw because the position was clearly drawn, or so I thought. When adjournment came I grabbed a quick lunch then set up the position on a picnic table outside the venue and after about a half hour came to the conclusion that I was dead lost so resigned without resuming play. What had happened? I never made any obvious mistakes. Later analysis revealed that he just waited me out. I was the lower rated opponent and he knew that if he just waited, sooner or later I would either blunder or let the game slip away.
     I have played titled players and they never take things lightly. They play the same openings, no off the wall, weird stuff trying to catch me in some trap, that they play against their peers. No hasty or risky tactical tricks thinking, “He won’t see it.” Why should they risk anything? They know that sooner or later I will mess up. Look at the following position from one of my recent online games.

     My opponent (White) was rated nearly 1700 and he had me on the ropes for a long time. In fact, Houdini 2 gives white a nearly two Pawn advantage here…enough to win. So what happened? I have just played 47…Ng4-e6 and he apparently had his next move already in mind because he instantly played 48.Nc7 and then had to resign when I took the N. It was a narrow escape, but I had been hoping that sooner or later he would blunder and he did.
     Someone on a forum recently claimed Carlsen has a boring style because he plays a waiting game. That’s not true. Carlsen does not sit around waiting for things to happen. He often ventures into unclear waters, but he also presses when he is in a slightly better position and if he sees a line, he consider his opponent will see it, too. But Carlsen does not like draws so in nearly equal positions, he will maneuver, giving the impression he isn’t doing anything. What he’s really doing is looking for ways to pressure his opponent and many times this approach works. It’s a killer instinct, but one that requires patience while stalking an opponent. This is in contrast to a lot of top players today; they accept early draws and go for the win only if the position warrants it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How Grandmasters Got Started

    Just about everybody wants to improve and there’s no paucity of advice on the internet or books on the subject. So, how did grandmasters get where they are? How do you really learn to calculate variations, develop tactical vision, gain positional understanding and endgame technique to reach such heights? Here’s how some Grandmasters got their start.
     GM Vladislav Tkachiev said you need to practice a few thousand tactical exercises before you start to notice a difference. In addition you have to have some endgame technique. Books that helped him were Rook Endings by Smyslov and Levenfish, Endgame Strategy and Features of the Endgame by Shereshevsky. In learning how to calculate Think Like a Grandmaster and Play Like a Grandmaster, both by Alexander Kotov, and the works of Mark Dvoretsky and John Nunn were helpful. 
     Tkachiev advised that this was a very time-consuming stage and required a lot of work. Openings? He advised that you do not trust examples from “the endless stream of chess pulp literature, which is out of date even before it’s typeset.” Instead, he advises to start off from your own conclusions based on thematic games in your own database.
     Tkachiev advised (he is not the first to give this often ignored advice) that one of the most effective means of improvement is to guess the moves from the games of great players. You choose games won by your favorite player and try to guess all of the moves as if you were playing in his place. At first the results will be very depressing, but keep at it and Tkachiev says he will “guarantee you wonderful results.” Endless practice, these days on chess servers is also essential because it enables you to test everything.  
     Tkachiev also advised that before you undertake all this, make sure you really want to invest the time and effort because if you don’t, you will be wasting your time. 
     GM Sergey Shipov also echoed this advise saying, “...you have to take chess seriously – that’s the main thing.” Shipov’s recommendation were mostly Soviet books: First Chess Book by Panov, World’s Great Chess Players, Features of the Endgame and Endgame Strategy, all by Shereshevsky. Shipov also advised that painstaking, serious and critical analysis of your own games was essential. You can’t fool yourself into thinking you played well but made a stupid blunder, your opponent got lucky and other lame excuses. You have to be a harsh critic of you play.
     Another piece of advice Shipov gives is the same advice Alex Yermolinsky wrote about, but it’s advice that is not popular with hack authors. That is, play openings which are solid and mainstream. He says, “Off-beat openings give you short-term advantages, but they slow down a player’s general development. So if you hope to achieve a serious level of play don’t be tempted by variations involving cheap tricks. Take your example from good grandmasters – those who play in a similar style. They won’t let you down.”
     GM Alex Moiseenko’s favourite books were Selected Games by Nezhmetdinov, Analytical and Critical Works, in 3 volumes by Botvinnik, Alekhine’s Chess Legacy by Kotov and Questions of Modern Chess Theory by Lipnitsky.
     GM Ivan Morovic read dozens of chess books of the games of the world champions starting with Morphy and Staunton and ending with Fischer and Karpov. When it came to openings, he liked to compare the openings from Bronstein’s Zurich ‘53 with modern ones and try to find new variations. Other books he liked were My System by Nimzovich, Fischer vs. Spassky: The Chess Match of the Century by Gligoric and Alekhine’s Chess Legacy by Kotov.
     GM Sergei Rublevsky’s favorite books were Akiba Rubinstein by Razuvaev , Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 by Bronstein and Montreal 1979: Tournament of Stars by Chepizhny. What he did was play through the games and try to guess the next move.
     GM Evgenij Miroshnichenko engaged in analysis of the games of the outstanding masters of the past - Alekhine, Rubinstein, Botvinnik, etc. and worked on typical endgame positions. He also stated that one exercise which was very useful was guessing the moves of grandmasters in classical games. Among his favorite books were 300 Selected Games of Alekhine by Panov, My System by Nimzovich and With the Grandmasters by Hort and Jansa.
     GM Murtas Kazhgaleev read a lot of the basic literature by Botvinnik, Karpov, Kasparov as well as My System by Nimzovich. He tactical puzzles and studied endgames from books by Averbakh.
     GM Joe Gallagher read 60 Memorable Games by Fischer, 50 Selected Games by Larsen and Gligoric's Selected Chess Masterpieces. He played through the games over and over. For openings, he learned the Polugaevsky variation of the Najdorf by heart and played it all the time.


*practice thousands of tactical exercises
*learn some endgame technique
*do not trust examples from books ( especially offbeat gambits, etc.)
*play openings which are solid and mainstream
*play through games and try to guess the next move
*practice on chess servers
*take chess seriously
*critical analysis of your own games

Books – many of the books noted by these GM’s are Soviet publications, but similar books are probably available in just about any language. I have several books in Russian and while I do not read or speak Russian, I find the games and notes fairly easy to follow. I also have a few books in German and can read enough of it to understand them fairly well. So, don’t let the fact that a book might be in a foreign language discourage you from purchasing it if you think it might be interesting.

Rook Endings by Smyslov and Levenfish
Endgame Strategy by Shereshevsky
Features of the Endgame by Shereshevsky
Think Like a Grandmaster and Play Like a Grandmaster by Alexander Kotov
works of Mark Dvoretsky and John Nunn
First Chess Book by Panov
World’s Great Chess Players by Shereshevsky
Endgame Strategy by Shereshevsky
Selected Games by Nezhmetdinov
Analytical and Critical Works, in 3 volumes by Botvinnik
Alekhine’s Chess Legacy by Kotov
Questions of Modern Chess Theory by Lipnitsky
My System by Nimzovich
Fischer vs. Spassky: The Chess Match of the Century by Gligoric
Akiba Rubinstein by Razuvaev
Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 by Bronstein
Montreal 1979: Tournament of Stars by Chepizhny
300 Selected Games of Alekhine by Panov
With the Grandmasters by Hort and Jansa
60 Memorable Games by Fischer
50 Selected Games by Larsen
Selected Chess Masterpieces by Gligoric

Edit: In a Reddit interview Magnus Carlsen said, "… as a child one single chess book, Kramnik: My Life and Games, had "made a big impression", helping him become immersed in chess theory before the age of nine."