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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tired of Bad Positions?

    There's nothing earth shaking or even particularly interesting about this post, but I can't resist showing this snapshot from Artur Yusupov's Website. Excerpts from his courses can be seen HERE.  I looked at some of the excerpts which can be downloaded in pdf format and there are over 100 of them, so if you just want to browse it's a good way to kill some time plus there are some snippets of information and some nicely annotated games.
      One reviewer commented, “I can't believe a 1500 player will get much out of them. I think 1700-1800 is a good starting range. Doing all 9 books means solving more than 2700 tough exercises spread out over all the subjects that chess study involves.” That sounds a little harsh because there are courses for under 1500 rated players.  But, it's hard for me to say because, to tell the truth, I am not sure exactly how good under 1500 players are these days.  Back when I played in tournaments, they dropped pieces like flies, for example.  As usual, I am guessing there is a lot of hype associated with the courses. There are 3 books for 3 levels of play:

Under 1500 (Orange cover books) The Fundamentals, Build Up Your Chess, Boost Your Chess, Chess Evolution
1500-1800 (Blue cover books) Beyond the Basics, Build Up Your Chess, Boost Your Chess, Chess Evolution
1800-2100 (Green cover books) Mastery, Build Up Your Chess, Boost Your Chess, Chess Evolution

      The rating guide given is for the level you are currently at and the books cover all areas: positional elements, openings, endgames, how to calculate, how to attack, etc.
      What I thought was interesting was the phrase, “Tired of bad positions? Play the main lines.” This is the same advice GM Alex Yermolinsky gives. Makes me wonder about all the opening books titled “Win With the (insert with the name of some crappy gambit).”
     Another thing is Yusupov insists that you should play through the examples on a real on board. I think this is good advice because you will probably retain a lot more. 
     Don't bother to buy his books, or any instructional book for that matter, unless you intend to really study it. The books cost about 30 Euros ($33 US) each, so a three book course at each level cost will be $100. Because I am not interested in improving these days (you have to know your limitations) the only books I buy are game collections because they are fun to pay through.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Two More Guys Who Abandoned Chess

     I have written about these two great but relatively unknown players from a bygone era before and when I came across this game from the Zagreb 1955 tournament, I couldn't resist posting it. 
     Zagreb was won by Smyslov who scored 14.5-4.5 followed by Ivkov and Matanovich who were two points behind. Filip finished 9th with 10 points and Fuderer tied for 14-15 with Nikolay Minev with 8 points. BTW, Minev, who was awarded the IM title in 1960 and contributed to early editions of the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings and the Encyclopedia of Chess Endings, along with his wife, immigrated to the United States in the mid-1980s. They live in Seattle, Washington. 
     From 1955 to 1962 Filip qualified for the candidate tournaments twice. Filip's play was characterized as serious, solid and deep. Outside of chess he had no problem with the Soviet invasion of his country in 1968 and remained loyal to the authorities and managed to do very well. Filip did not have a fanatical enthusiasm for chess and in 2002 he was invited to attend festivities for the 40th anniversary of the 1962 Candidates Tournament held in Curacao, but he declined, saying he had pretty much lost interest in chess. While in Curacao Bobby Fischer visited a brothel and when asked later how he enjoyed it, his reply was, "Chess is better."
     His opponent in this game, Fuderer, after a promising beginning ended up abandoning the game for his real passion, chemical engineering. His swansong was the 1959 Soviet Union v Yugoslavia where, only 28 years old, he showed what might have been by beating Bronstein, the victor at Gothenburg, by a score of 3-1. In the late 1960s he left Yugoslavia for good, living in Spain and working as a chemical engineer in Antwerp. He only played in tournaments outside Yugoslavia to acquire consumer goods which when he got home he could resell at a profit to finance his university studies. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Brilliant Carlos Torre

Torre circa 1925
     Torre was Mexico’s first grandmaster. During his life his health was always fragile and he suffered from insomnia. In The Psychology of Chess Reuben Fine told of Torre's eccentricities which culminated in a nervous breakdown that forced him to retire from chess at the age of 21. Torre could never sleep more than two hours a day, was given to eating up to a dozen pineapple sundaes a day and at one time he was arrested for running nude and for taking his clothes off on a bus. 
     It has been speculated that his mental instability may have originated as a result of his broken engagement, but this has never been substantiated (see the comments by his doctor below). Just before the last round of the Chicago, 1926 tournament (see the comments on this event below) he got two letters. One from his fiancee informing him she had married someone else and in the other he was informed that a teaching post he desired was not available because he lacked the necessary qualifications. 
     In spite of the speculation about his mental health one fact remains, he played some spectacular games in his brief career. He quit chess in 1926 at the age of 22 after playing only two years professionally! 
     Not much is known of Torre's childhood and early adolescence. About all anyone is certain of is that he was born on November 23, 1904 in Merida, Yucatan province, in Mexico and that he was the sixth of eight children. According to Torre he was taught chess at the age of six by his father and by watching games between his father and older brother. In 1915, before Torre's 11th birthday, the family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where, in a few months, he learned to read and write English and began his journey into the city's chess circles. During that time he delved into his first chess books which were those of James Mason. One of the books was on tactics which no doubt influenced his style. At the age of 13 a local organizer, Edward Z. Adams, was vice-president of the New Orleans Chess Club and he began to mentor the young Torre. See Number 3472, Adams vs Torre by Edward Winter for more details.
     By the time he was 14 Torre was considered the second best player in the city behind a veteran player named Leon Labatt, a judge. The magazine The Good Companion ran an article stating  "a new Paul Morphy has been discovered in the Old French City” and described how Torre had solved eight difficult chess problems and in simul against ten of the city's best players, he won eight games and drew two. 
     In 1922 Torre won the New Orleans championship and in 1923, the Louisiana State Championship. Oddly enough, only one game is known to have survived. Torre's earliest known game is the famous 1920 game against his mentor that features an amazing series of Q-offers, but many chess historians doubt that the game was actually played. In fact, some have speculated that Torre himself altered the game score just to demonstrate its artistic beauty. 
     In June of 1924 Torre went to New York City and joined the Marshall Chess Club because he was in search of stronger competition. In his first six tournaments, he finished first in five. This lead to speculation about how well he would do against the Manhattan Chess Club's best, so in 1924 a closed championship was organized and Torre was invited. Torre finished third behind Abraham Kupchik and Morris Shapiro, losing to both of them. 
     In 1925, he made his European debut and took tenth place in Baden-Baden, tied for third and fourth place with Frank Marshall, behind Aron Nimzowitsch and Akiba Rubinstein in Marienbad. Also, in 1925 he tied for fifth and sixth place in Moscow and for second and third place in Leningrad. 
     In Chicago in 1926, Torre needed only a win to finish first in a field that included Frank Marshall, Geza Maroczy and Edward Lasker. After defeating both Marshall and Maroczy, he lost his only game...to Lasker (who finished 8th) and as a result, tied Maroczy for second place behind Marshall. After the tournament he suffered a nervous breakdown and back in New York City, he attempted to remove his clothes on a Fifth Avenue bus. After a brief hospitalization, he returned to Mexico. In 1926, he finished ahead of Jose Joaquin Araiza, in Mexico City. 
     Chess master Alejandro Baez, who lived with Torre for many years, stated that Torre never cared much about winning or losing; he saw chess as an art. Even after he retired from international competition he still played chess with friends and often would get an overwhelming position then offer a draw and at times when he did win, he expressed regret over having defeated his opponent. Oddly, despite his considerable talent, he was never really very competitive. In fact, Torre once defeated Emanuel Lasker in a great game, but of it, Torre said, "To tell the truth, I do not consider it a good game, because both of us committed various errors."
     After returning to Mexico in October of 1926, for several years he lived in Monterrey where he was employed by his physician brother in the latter's drugstore. In 1934 Torre was visited by Reuben Fine and they played two exhibition games, only one of which, won by Fine, is known. Fine commented, “In chess, he is no longer the old Torre.” 
     At some point after that, Torre moved to Mexico City where most people were either indifferent towards him or tried to take advantage of him. While living there he worked at odd jobs, living in poverty. During that time, according to Baez, Torre had little interest in things like money or women but developed an interest in Buddhism. All the while there were recurrences of his nervous breakdowns, often requiring hospitalization. 
     Dr. Carlos Fruvas Gárnica, who treated Torre, reported that he was a victim of his own success: "In 1926 there was no Mexican politicians, rich retailers, or monopolistic millionaires that did not want Torre at their social gatherings." The result was that Torre was used by political, military and financial leaders to enhance their social standings and they were always inviting him to appear at social gatherings and only pretending to be interested in him and his career. According to the doctor, it got to the point that he often had to refuse invitations, which at the time was a dangerous thing and his doctor believed that stress was the cause of his problems and that is what caused him to have to retire. 
     Torre was not insane!! In his later life he retained his fantastic memory and could recall his games in detail and added, "I abandoned chess competition, but never my love for this beautiful game." 
     It wasn't until 1973 that Baez arranged for him to live in a nursing home.  While there he had occasional visitors, but many were local players who took advantage of him, much to Torre's annoyance, by asking him to analyze their games for free. 
     FIDE awarded Torre the title of Honorary Grandmaster in 1963 and in 1977 upgraded it to Grandmaster, but it's not known if Torre ever learned of it. He passed away on March 19, 1978 in Mérida, Mexico.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Day For Playing Online

Here Are Some Links To Old Chess Video Clips

British Pathe has several video clips on chess. Some samples: 1965 German Championship, Hastings 1969-70, 1948 World Championship at The Hague, 1958 Botvinnik vs. Smyslov match, etc.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fine Wins First U.S. Lightning Championship

In the Summer of 1942 the U.S. Lightning Championship was created and was won by Dr. Reuben Fine ahead of Reshevsky. Before the introduction of chess clocks in the mid-1950s chess club "rapid transit" tournaments had a referee who every ten seconds called out “Move!” or in some cases a bell or gong was rung.
Just about all famous players have played rapid chess, but what to a lot of them really think about it?
  • "Playing rapid chess, one can lose the habit of concentrating for several hours in serious chess. That is why, if a player has big aims, he should limit his rapid play in favor of serious chess." – Vladimir Kramnik
  • "Yes, I have played a blitz game once. It was on a train, in 1929." – Mikhail Botvinnik
  • "He who analyzes blitz is stupid." – Rashid Nezhmetdinov
  • "Blitz chess kills your ideas." – Bobby Fischer
  • "To be honest, I consider [bullet chess] a bit moronic, and therefore I never play it." – Vladimir Kramnik
  • "I play way too much blitz chess. It rots the brain just as surely as alcohol." – Nigel Short
  • "Blitz is simply a waste of time." – Vladimir Malakhov

Even so, almost all top players indulge; as Kramnik also said, "Blitz – it's just a pleasure."

The title in the first U.S. Rapid Championship was decided in the semi-final round when Fine and Reshevsky met. Fine faced an uphill battle when he lost the exchange early, but Reshevsky, who needed a win to finish ahead of Fine, could only reach a drawn position, so he forced the issue and ended up losing. The final standings were:

1- Reuben Fine 10-1
2- Samuel Reshevsky 9-2
3- George Shainswit 7.5-3.5
4- I.A. Horowitz 7-4
5- Isaac Kashdan 6-5
6-7- Matthew Green 5.5-5.5 (born Dec-28-1915, died Dec-16-2006, 90 years old)
6-7- Herbert Seidman
8- Albert Pinkus 5-6
9-10- Arnold Denker 3.5-7.5
9-10- Abe Yanofsky (Not sure why the 17 year old Canadian was playing)
11. H. Nadell 2-9 (another unknown player)
12. Herman Helms 1.5-9.5 (at 75 Helms was simply too old to compete successfully)

In the following game Fine should have lost. While analyzing the game the following position was reached and Stockfish was showing a clear win for white, but I just couldn't believe it. But, it's there; white won all five Shootouts!

White to move

Monday, October 26, 2015

An Nice Purdy Win and a Tribute to Ortvin Sarapu

Sarapu and Purdy
     Every player knows Cecil Purdy won the first world correspondence championship in 1950-53, and everyone knows he was an excellent writer on the game.  Few realize that he was also a decent OTB player. In gaining his world championship title he scored +9 -1 =3 to finish ahead of such correspondence stalwarts as Harald Malmgren, Mario Napolitano, Olaf Barda, Gabriel Wood, Theo van Scheltinga and Janos Balogh. The lone American representative, John W. Collins, finished 11-12th with +3 -7 =3. 
     Chessmetrics lists Purdy's OTB high rating at 2346 on the June 1980 rating list, but because he never played in any European tournaments, that rating is, no doubt, not totally accurate. However, in 1946 he held Tartakower to a draw in a radio match and in 1947 he drew with Harry Golombek, also in a radio match. 
    His opponent in this game, Ortvin Sarapu (22 January 1924 in Narva, Estonia – 13 April 1999 in Auckland, New Zealand), sometimes known as "Mr Chess", was a New Zealand IM who won or shared the New Zealand Chess Championship 20 (!) times from 1952 to 1990. 
     In 1945, just after World War II ended, Sarapu was invited to stay with a family friend in Denmark and in1946, he won the Copenhagen championship and the Copenhagen five-minute championship. One of his opponents at the 1949 Oldenburg tournament was former New Zealander Robert Wade and in a conversation after their game, Wade suggested that New Zealand would be a good place for someone like Sarapu, who wanted to escape war-ravaged Europe. Sarapu met his wife after the Oldenburg tournament and they married in 1950. Immediately thereafter they emigrated to New Zealand, arriving in Wellington in October 1950. 
     When he arrived in New Zealand here was a huge gap in strength between him and the rest. For example, in 1952 when he won his first championship he scored 10.5 out of 11. FIDE awarded Sarapu the IM title in 1966 after he won the Asian Zonal, making him the second New Zealand player to gain the IM title, the first being Robert G Wade. 
     In addition to Tartakower and Golombek, Sarapu played Bogoljubow, World Champions Bobby Fischer (a loss at the Sousse 1967 Interzonal), Garry Kasparov (a loss at the Lucerne 1982 Olympiad), and Boris Spassky (a draw at Wellington 1988).  He also drew with Viktor Korchnoi (at the Sousse Interzonal).
     In 1952 he played Purdy, then champion of Australia, for the championship of Australasia. The match, played at Auckland, was drawn, the players becoming joint champions for 1952.  Sarapu took first place at the Melbourne International Tournament in 1955. Oddly, his first and last international tournament in Europe was at Oldenburg 1949.  It was there he defeated former world  championship candidate Efim Bogoljubow with a sharp turnaround from a bad position. He finished in fifth place with 11-6, a point behind tournament winners Bogolyubow and Elmārs Zemgalis, and a half-point behind Nicolas Rossolimo and Herbert Heinicke. Chessmetrics lists his highest rating as 2436 in 1949. There is a nice tribute, including a radio interview, to Sarapu HERE.
    In the following game Sarapu makes a natural move, castling Q-side, and walked right into a stunning piece sacrifice by Purdy, who then followed it up perfectly. The position is a good one to remember in case it presents itself in a similar setting. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Moral Victories - an Historical Fiction Novel About Tartakower


     Moral Victories is an e-book by David Lovejoy about the life of Savielly Tartakower. This book is a historical fiction novel that takes as its basis Tartakower's life. Information on his life is actually quite scarce and the author has incorporated every biographical fact he could locate, but when no information was available he invented incidents and characters...he took historical liberties, but in notes at the end of the book, he has clearly indicated these instances. 
     During World War I he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army, and served as a staff officer on various posts. He went to the Russian front with the Viennese infantry house-regiment. He arrived in France shortly before its collapse in 1940. Under the pseudonym Cartier, he joined the forces of general Charles de Gaulle and fought in World War 2.
     The book, 263 pages, was first published in 2008 and slightly revised in 2012. There is also a Kindle edition. Look inside Great read and worth $4.99

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Best of Fred Reinfeld

 Here is a list of Reinfeld's top twenty best selling chess books with customer ratings. I have read but a few of his general books, but HAVE read his books on game collections of Alekhine, Nimzovich, Tarrach, Lasker, Capa and Keres and I can recommend them! His annotations are not always 100 percent accurate, but they are still good books and are far better than Reinfeld's general reputation when it comes to writing chess books.

1 - Winning Chess
5.00 of 5 stars
Beloved of chess-mad teenagers since it was first published in 1970, updated and repackaged in algebraic format. Written in lively, conversational style by two prolific and popular chess authors, it is aimed at players who have gone past the beginner stage and want to take their game to a whole new level. Its imaginative themes and instructional method are timeless, and the whole book is shot through with fun and humor.

2 - The Immortal Games of Capablanca
4.65 of 5 stars
Superbly annotated treasury includes 113 of the Cuban master's greatest games against Marshall, Lasker, Euwe, and many other formidable opponents. It also contains not only many games previously unavailable in book form, but a biography of Capablanca, his tournament and match record, and an Index of Openings. Look inside

3 - Development of a Chess Genius: One Hundred Instructive Games of Alekhine
4.50 of 5 stars
100 annotated games - in this book we see the slowly maturing genius of Alekhine as he struggles to master the game which commanded his life. Playing over these games offers hope to all chess players who are willing to work through them, enjoy them, think about them, and meditate upon them. A beautiful little book

4 - Chess Strategy and Tactics
4.25 of 5 stars
This is a nice selection of 50 games by the leading players of the period 1870 to 1933. This is one of Chernev and Reinfeld's earliest efforts, first published in 1933. You can never go wrong with games from the likes of Lasker, Tarrasch, Schlechter, Pillsbury, Rubinstein, Capablanca, et al, regardless of the notes

5 - How to Force Checkmate
4.20 of 5 stars
What a pity this book is not better known. 300 diagrammed positions, subdivided into situations of mate in one, two, or three moves, introduce you to a vast array of checkmate situations. For study, as entertainment during leisure moments or travel (you need no board), this book will help end your games with a brilliant touch. He also gives a few alternate moves in the solutions. The book teaches pattern recognition which is essential to finding attacks in all phases of the game. Highly recommended! 

6 - 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations
4.18 of 5 stars
When it comes to studying tactics there are three types of books, Mechanical Instruction book on tactics that spend a great deal of time telling what the mechanical parts of each tactic is with some examples (perfect for a beginner), Opening Traps books that cover from move one moves leading up to the tactic (effective for learning the ideas in your favorite openings as well), and tactics workbooks which give hundreds of different puzzle positions to solve. This book falls into the last category

7 - Fireside Book of Chess
4.06 of 5 stars
The Fireside Book of Chess is a huge grab bag, accenting the lighter side of chess. It is a reservoir into which the reader can dip to provide countless hours of relaxation and entertainment. Since it makes few demands on the reader, it is a virtually perfect gift for Christmas or any other time of the year. The book contains stories and articles by unsung chess heros like Billy Rose, veteran experts like Alfred Kreymborg, and devoted lovers of the game like Gerald Kersh and Solomon Hecht. The chess games contained were selected for their brefity as well as brilliance; some are amusing, others as devestating as an avalanche. There are sections on “Remarkable Games and the Stories Behind Those Games”, “Combinations”, “Quickies”. “Simultaneous Exhibitions”, “Women in Chess”, “Slugging Matches”, and twenty other such diversions. In brief, The Fireside Book of Chess contains everything necessary to delight the reader who knows that this ancient game is the most exciting and entertaining of all civilized sports. The Fireside Book of Chess is the World's Greatest Collection of stories, cartoons and amuning anecdotes about the game of chess. It also has curious and interesting chess games such as the game where the Champion of France lost in four moves, which is the quickest loss in chess history by a master. This book is famous not for the games it contains but for the stories, fiction and cartoons about chess.

8 - Hypermodern Chess: As Developed in the Games of Its Greatest Exponent Aron Nimzovich
4.00 of 5 stars
58 games, profoundly annotated, reveal how Nimzovich applied his own revolutionary principles. Reinfeld introduces Nimzovich not simply as a grandmaster, but also as an artist. What kind of artist was he? The majestic flowing, classical beauty ala Rubinstein wasn't his. Dramatic is the keyword. His temperament was stormier and more impulsive, more Beethovenian, if you will. He loves to "build", to gather the stormy clouds. That is why his games are seldom short.

9 - Win at Chess
4.00 of 5 stars
Players at all levels of ability will welcome this new edition of a classic, now completely revised by chess authority Fred Wilson and converted into the current algebraic chess notation.The 300 practical chess problems included here, taken from actual tournament play, contain scores of traps, sacrifices, mates, winning combinations, and subtle exchanges that will help sharpen players' eyes and test their skills against the masters. Helpful hints are given for each problem, and a table of solutions and alternative moves shows players how to evaluate their attacks. 300 black-and-white illustrations. Look inside

10 - Learn Chess from the Masters
4.00 of 5 stars
Reinfeld's book is a unique approach to chess. It provides you with ten actual tournament games in which you move against the masters and with a chance to grade yourself according to an easily-followed system ...The ten games were specially chosen for their interest, their clarity, and their easiliy-isolated principles. They illustrate the most common and the most useful openings, both modern and classical: Queen's Pawn, Ruy Lopez, Dutch Defense, Caro-Kann Defense, Vienna Game, Reti Opening, and French Defense ...

11 - Treasury Of Chess Lore
4.00 of 5 stars
This is a fun book for anyone who is addicted to chess. It's a potpourri of history and for the most part is easy and fast reading. A few of the selections seem repetitive but I could bear that, because I'm an addict. If you don't love chess, the book is not for you.

12 - 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate
3.88 of 5 stars
A 21st-Century Edition of a Great Checkmate Collection! Ask most chessplayers from the “baby boomer” generation how they acquired and sharpened their tactical skills, and chances are a Fred Reinfeld tactics collection will be part of their answer. And now, for the first time, 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate is available in modern algebraic notation. This may be the all-time great checkmate collection, with forced checkmate positions culled mainly from actual play. And Reinfeld's selection is simply marvelous, touching on all the important tactical themes. In short, this is an outstanding book to hone your tactical abilities. It will help you recognize mating patterns, develop visualization skills, enhance imagination, and improve tactical sharpness. And now, with a modern 21st-century edition of this great checkmate collection finally available, there is no excuse for not only improving your tactical skills, but also enjoying yourself along the way. Look inside

13 - Complete Chess Course
3.80 of 5 stars
Combining eight volumes into one, the most comprehensive book on chess ever published. From opening gambit to endgame, this home-study chess course is the classic in the field. An outstanding book for beginners. The book takes the player from beginner to the advanced stages of chess with outstanding advice on openings,middlegame and endings, all illustrated by master games. There are chapters on how to play the white and black pieces and a host of clear diagrams and easily understood explanations. Look inside

14 - Tarrasch's Best Games of Chess
3.80 of 5 stars
Tarrasch was the dominant force in European chess in the early 1890's and his ability to win top level tournaments continued via his huge triumph at Vienna 1898 on to the "World Tournament Championship" of Ostend 1907. Tarrasch was rightly regarded as the teacher of generations of European and world Masters , hence his title Praeceptor Germaniae - the Professor from Germany

15 - Great Brilliancy Prize Games of the Chess Masters
3.75 of 5 stars
Noted authority analyzes and annotates 50 games — spanning nearly 70 years of competition — recognized for imaginative and inventive combinations. Steinitz vs. Lasker, London; Capablanca vs. Janowski, New York; Alekhine vs. Marshall, New York; Botvinnik vs. Tartakower, Nottingham; and many more. Invaluable instruction for players at every level. 50 diagrams

16 - Lasker's Greatest Chess Games, 1889-1914
3.75 of 5 stars
Fine and Reinfeld wrote this book together, basically for self-education and out of a sense of veneration for the old man who ended his days in America. The writing helped Fine to become a grandmaster. The high level of analysis is evident on every page.

17 - Attack and Counterattack in Chess: How to Plan Your Game and Cope with Unexpected Situations
3.71 of 5 stars
This is a decent book on chess strategy from the perspective of both white and black. The explanations and reasoning behind many of the moves are clear though a bit lacking in terms of depth. There are also a fair number of annotative mistakes, including at least one diagram that depicts a position very different from the 5 moves it is supposed to be derived from. It's not the greatest book and it's not the worse.

18 - Keres' Best Games of Chess: 1931-1948
3.67 of 5 stars
UNIVERSALLY acclaimed as the most brilliant master since the days of Paul Morphy. Keres has delighted the chess world with his dynamic combinative play and slashing surprise moves. In this exciting collection of his finest games, his claim to world championship honors is documented by notable victories against such chess immortals as Alekhine, Capablanca, Eliskases, Euwe, Fine, Flohr, Najdorf, Reshevsky, Smyslov, Spielmann and Stahlberg. The artistry of Keres' play is highlighted bv Reinfeld's admirable annotations. Another valuable feature is the autobiographical introduction by Keres, in which he describes his rise to fame and appraises the candidates for World Championship.

19 - A Beginner's Guide to Winning Chess
3.62 of 5 stars
In this book the author presents the game of chess in a Programme-of-Instruction, which he calls his new Speed Method. This book is virtually guaranteed to teach th e game very quickly and to build great skill well beyond the beginner level

20 - How to be a Winner at Chess
3.61 of 5 stars
How, to Be a Winner at Chess is the result of twenty years' experience and study: and it is something unique in chess books -- an amusing, easily read, and even more easily understood book for the vast majority of "in-between" players, those who have been checkmated too many times or who have been bogged down in the innumerable rules of various experts.Reinfeld gives you twelve basic, simple rules for winning play. All the types of checkmates, the relative importance of the chess pieces, and simple, effective strategies are discussed succinctly. And there are three important chapters on the three strongest moves -- the check, the capturing threat, and the pawn promotion. Reinfeld always emphasizes practice over theory; he gives you the rules and demonstrates exactly how you should use them. Look inside


Friday, October 23, 2015

Strategy or Tactics?

     Wikipedia says strategy is the aspect concerned with evaluation of positions and setting of goals and long-term plans. A player must take into account such factors as the relative value of the pieces, P-structure, K safety control of key squares, diagonals, open files, etc.  Tactics is concerned with threats and defenses.
     Normally we think of players as either strategist or tacticians, but I recently came across an interesting, old article on Chedddotcom that had a refined list of styles. Here are the abbreviated descriptions: 

Technical player - usually plays the same positionally based openings and knows them extremely well. May become uncomfortable when confronted with a new and unfamiliar position. Sometimes they make concessions to avoid being attacked or giving up counterplay. A very practical style of play. They are very strong players and it requires too much understanding for lower rated players to successfully play this way. 
Positional Players - versatile in their opening choices and rely on general understanding to find the right solution in all positions. The difference between a "positional" player and a "technical" player is almost psychological, the positional players don't go out of their way to avoid unfamiliar positions, or positions in which they are being attacked. Easier to face for tacticians as it's easier to steer the game towards tactical positions. 
Attacking players – strive for the initiative. Want to be attacking. Some are not great calculators, but have a natural understanding of how to conduct an attack. May have some difficulty against technical players, who often don't even give the attackers a chance. Attacking players like to “mix it up” and their games can be very entertaining. 
Calculating players - generally work very hard because though their general chess intuition may not be great, they make up for it by calculating power. They are ready to pounce at the slightest miscalculation. Often end up in time trouble. 
Tricky players - Repeatedly play moves that you didn't even consider and sometimes look weird. They never give up and are constantly looking for ways to trap and attack. Entertaining and resourceful. Differentiated from calculating and attacking players mainly by the unorthodox nature of their play. 
Dynamic players - usually pretty well rounded, but lean more towards the aggressive/tactical side. Often play enterprising openings and aren't scared to mix things up and are fighting constantly. Not uncomfortable in strategic or dry positions. 
Practical players - Understand that chess is a game, and the object is to do everything possible to win and not always to find the absolute best move. Often will play very quickly, play openings they are very familiar with and can play many types of positions comfortably. Often have serious holes in their theoretical knowledge. They just hope to get a reasonable position out of the opening without spending too much time, and then to simply outplay you. 
Intuitive players - a weird group, you get the sense they simply understand where the pieces belong. May not be the best calculators, but they make up for it by moving quickly and confidently and are able to quickly find solutions where others may have to spend a lot more time. Their reliance on their intuition may sometimes be a weakness as they trust their instincts too much when the position demands harder work. 
Logical players - try very hard to try to understand the position. Solid at all phases of the game but not spectacular at any. Good at adapting to unfamiliar position. Have no preconceptions of what types of positions they would like to play and just try to find the best move. These players won't often try anything too unorthodox, however they also won't shy away from complications if they are necessary. 

     GM Alex Yermolinksy talked about tactics and strategy. Back in the days when he was living in Leningrad and earned his Master norm (around 2400 USCF or 2300 FIDE) they used to talk about ‘positional understanding’. Some players, they called them 'spirited fighters', would play any position, calculating variations on every move. Yermolinsky was one of the spirited fighters; he would find himself in trouble due to the unsoundness of his play, but he would keep fighting until a seemingly random tactical opportunity presented itself. The other group they called 'spit-and-polishers.' They would play solid openings, often using schemes to catch their opponents in positional traps. They valued things like better pawn-structures and detested unbalanced positions. Yermolinsky said he spent two years trying to learn ‘master's chess’, which would earn him promotion to the spit and polishers category. In the end he rarely played a 'clean' game with all strategy and no tactics and for all his effort all he accomplished was losing 50 rating points. 
    He recounted how the classic Soviet authors Panov, Romanovsky and the Patriarch, Botvinnik, constantly referred to positional understanding and how Botvinnik was claiming his tactical skills were diminishing with age but his positional understanding was growing and it was being unjustly challenged by tacticians. 
     Everything written about the Botvinnik vs. Tahl matches was about the strategist vs. the tactician. In their first match Botvinnik lost by 4 points and the next match he won by an even larger margin. How could those things be? 
     So one day Yermolinsky decided to actually look at the games. He expected to see wild attacks and sacrifices from Tahl and deep strategic plans by Botvinnik. What he saw surprised him... the difference in styles didn’t differ that much! Botvinnik went for tactical solutions very often while Tahl played strategic chess and had a surprisingly good understanding of endings. The main difference was that Tahl was more aggressive from the beginning. 
     Yermolinsky began to suspect that he had been lead to believe in something that didn't exist. He came to the conclusion that a player's main objective is to sweat it out at every move and find good moves and not worry about style and not put undue emphasis on either tactics or strategy
     He wrote that what is called positional play only means making moves based on positional principles: such as development, centralizing, controlling open files, P-structure. No calculation, except for a blunder-check, is required. Tactics is calculating variations and relate to the position on the board at the moment and continues along a calculated line as far as the moves are forced. Strategy is a long-term thing while tactics are short-term. 
     And, here's the thing that most players do not understand: a strategic plan can be conducted by tactical means, independent of the positional principles it was based on. It doesn’t happen very often, but it can. Tactical play consists of operations linked with one another and may or may not involve a sacrifice. In the end, elements of strategy blend with tactics in real game situations. Hence, the reason to study BOTH and not, as the current trend is today, rely on the saying chess is 99 percent tactics and exclude the study of positional play.  
     Most of us tend to ignore the areas of chess we don’t like. That's why I have always liked USCF Senior Master Mark Buckley's approach: he made it habit to study things he disliked or didn’t understand.
    In an unrelated matter, when it comes to analyzing a position, Buckley wrote about 'lines of force' and 'auras' of pieces (aura refers to the array of squares available to the piece). Imagine lines going through all squares, even those obstructed by other pieces. It will help you recognize pins, discovered attacks, etc. and gives ideas for which lines to open up with sacrifices or Pawn breaks. Buckley claimed aura/line visualization is a great way to improve your analysis skills, making it less likely that you will miss potential moves as you visualize variations in your mind.