Wednesday, July 30, 2008

That one is still dazed and confused in round 02

Round 02 was a very short one. I opened again with my Bishop before my Knight. I wouldn't do that if I were to play again, one of the lessons I should learn from Likesforests aka The Endgame Tactician. He was kind enough to take the time and annotate the game from round 01. I really appreciate the effort and I will learn from these lessons.

Putting the Bishop at d6 is also wrong because it blocks the d-Pawn. But I don't think I made blunders anywhere near the size of Jabba in this game. First he puts his Queen en prise and then forgets to remove his Knight. In the 8th move I planned to exchange Knights and then attack his Bishop(s), Pawns and Rooks with my Queen. Those were undeveloped and didn't have to many places to go. With a serious response I would have developed further, that was what I was preparing for anyway: I already fianchettoed to allow the Bishop in the game to put some pressure on his King side.

It's hard to decide when to develop further and when to take advantage of the situation. This one turned out all right for me, but it shouldn't have happened in the first place.


I'm curious if there's anything I haven't seen yet, as always, feel free to comment!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The one who blunders most...

Last week Jabba and I played a few games. In this first one I made a big blunder, I was quite fortunate he did the same. We both did see it, but we both went looking for alternatives and forgot about it (move 20). In the end he thought he could give me a back rank made and he missed the mate in one, I think he was still somewhat dazed and confused after missing the grand opportunity.


I did try to see some alternatives and variations for myself, but I could come up mostly with suggestions for his side. The blunders are obvious, I think.

I hope someone can give my some suggestions and if anyone would know how to change the colours of the white squares (for instance to the one of chessup, see my endgame post), would be nice info as well.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tour de Chess

Today the last stage in Le Tour de France was ridden. An opportune moment to pick up an idea proposed by chessloser inspired by this post of mine: Jerseys, or something of the like for chess tournaments. It should be an event of multiple days or a league with different time controls.

Yellow - overall leader
Black on yellow numbers - best team
Red on white numbers - most attacking player
White - best performing player under a certain rating or under a certain age
Red Lantern - at the end of all games awarded to a single losing player

The hardest (open to discussion):
Green - (sprint) fastest time/least moves to a win (points for fastest, second etc)
The checkered jersey (Polka dots) - (mountains) most won games (first one on top)

This above is very open to comments and suggestions.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How I didn't stop worrying and still dread the endgame

In the games I play with my friend Jabba we almost never reach an endgame. Usually we both make a blunder and the one who makes the biggest blunder loses while the board is still full with all kinds of pieces, mostly of the winning side, and pawns. My endgame training hasn't reached further than "mate in 2", so when I suddenly found myself in an endgame, I just didn't really know what to do. Clearly I'm not Dr. Endgame yet.

Last Sunday a friend of mine wiped two others of the board, and then challenged me to a game. Quite unfortunately I didn't see the other two games, so had no idea what to expect. He had been asking if I knew how to play chess for some time and I always stated that: "I know the rules of the game."

So he put down the board, the white pieces on my side and, perhaps overconfident after two victories, said he didn't mind if I took the white pieces. I don't really think it mattered a lot in the end on my level of play, but perhaps it hindered him a bit.

It was an interesting game and we both made some mistakes: I forgot to see what he could do after my move, so when I was heading to fork his queen and rook with a knight I found that he forked both my rooks and queen with his knight on his next move. I was able to limit the damage and got back in the game with this pretty combination.

The Bishop on d3 was there attacking the b1-h7 diagonal and once I moved my Queen and threatened mate in one he moved his pawn forward, this made a hole in his castled position and I've read that that is supposed to be good (Okay, so I actually had the small hope that he wouldn't notice and we would get this over with, silly me: Imagine what Dan[1] would say!). I don't remember the complete position on the board, especially which of White's black Bishops and f3-Knight actually was there, I think it was the Knight. If it was, it was defended. White to move.

Now I first spotted the possible Knight fork on f6, if only there wasn't a Bishop on e5. This kind of thinking was recently brought to my attention when I read the first chapters of LCT, I probably already did this, but now I realised I was doing it. I fastened my seat belt and drove off: 1. Nxe5/Bxe5 dxe5 2. Nf6+, and only now my opponent saw 2... Kh8 Nxd7.

The rest of the game I had the advantage and with the reversed analogy of that "trading pieces mostly serves the player that has the advantage" and not a real clue on how to proceed that's exactly what I went doing and eventually we reached an endgame position. Now, I probably did a lot of things wrong even to get to this position, but here I just thought to much.

Obviously in this position it's Black to move. Once I got to this beautiful fork of Rook and King I started to think that I didn't want to take his Rook, because then he could promote. But what to do? So I didn't take his Rook, moved my Queen a bit around and, because other people around us started to become impatient offered a draw my opponent accepted.

As soon as I got home I put the position up in ChessPad and had Crafty analyse the position. Take a moment here and contemplate what the machine might say.

I'll give you a hint 10:6 vs 18:9? Indeed! Crafty says: 1... Kh1 2. Qxe8 f1Q 3. c8Q Qd1+ 4. Kc7 Qc1+ 5. Qc6+ Qxc6+ 6. Kxc6. And the rest is won. Now I'm not sure if my opponent had played this way, but at least I now know better.

The thing I regretted the most is that I didn't record this game, it would have been a great game to share, analyse, annotate and learn from.

[1] Referring to Dan Heisman, more especially to his wonderful Novice Nook on flip-coin chess, hope chess and real chess. You can find the article here. Please note that this is not an example of hope chess, but when I got myself forked is.

For more of Dan Heisman's splendid articles follow the link on my sidebar to visit his site trough which you can find all the Novice Nooks he wrote for I cannot imagine I actually have to recommend this, since the praise he gets everywhere, but if you've missed it so far: Stop reading here and start catching up!

A reply to comments
Apparently my writing wasn't clear enough on a few things, I hope this will help to better understanding of what I meant to say. First let met state that I'm very thankful for people to take the time and trouble to comment on my post, especially if it's a post on the endgame by one who is known as "the endgame tactician". Second, the part above "reply to comments" is a reference to a book that in an updated edition has an appendix called "a reply to critics". Now let's proceed to what we're all really here for.

In the first diagram only one of the f3, f4 and g3 squares was there in the game, I just don't remember which one.

The point I was trying to make on the endgame, was not so much that I didn't see it as deep as Crafty did, but that I made the fork and then very consciously decided to do the wrong thing. Even the plain logic of counting how much the difference is between my Queen and his Rook vs. My two Queens vs. his lone Queen could have made the difference. The point I was trying to make is explained very short and powerful in likesforests' first paragraph

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Additions to my chess library

I've had two orders with chess books coming in, adding the following titles to my small, but expanding chess library. In some posts I've mentioned some of the books, but not always stating that I had them already.

I think the books I have now should be able to take me a long way. I don't have a specific endgame book yet, but in the Steps Method there is some attention to basic endgames. Now I just have to come up with a study program for these books and then "just do the work".

Here are the two deliveries. The bold letters represent a shorthand to mention these books.

First these four:
LCT John Nunn, Learn Chess Tactics;
IYM Chris Ward, It's Your Move;
IYM.I Chris Ward, It's Your Move Improvers;
IYM.TP Chris Ward, It's Your move. Tough Puzzles.

These arrived a couple of weeks later:
MBC Graham Burgess, The Mammoth Book of Chess;
LC Irving Chernev, Logical Chess. Move by Move;
UC John Nunn, Understanding Chess. Move by Move.

Full information about these books and others can be found in the original and updated My Chess Library post.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The end of the beginning

Things I learned in this first week:
- Nunn's Learn Chess Tactics is nothing like CTS, at all!
So I'll have to approach both in a different way.

- Don't judge a book by its first chapter's exercises, those in the second chapter can appear much easier.
In Nunn's Learn Chess Tactics the second chapter is on the discovered attack, somehow the exercises appear less hard than those in the first chapter on the pin.

- For Nunn as for CTS, each in it's own way: slow down, think!
Actually I managed to do this on CTS last night, a lot better than in the previous week, I had 88% correct. Furthermore I've noticed that while I lose some rating while thinking on the easier problems, I have more success in solving the harder problems. Thus while my rating doesn't change much, my success rate goes up! That is win-win in my book.

- It doesn't matter if I agree with dk's strict interpretation of how to use CTS.
If I want my success rate to climb, I'll have to aim more for his approach, since mine gave me a decline in success rate, 154 seconds on a problem is okay, as long as you solve them!

- From a Novice Nook by Heisman: The second book in the It's Your Move-series by Ward (It's Your Move. Improvers) actually is the easiest.
It is only a little out of reach: I solved Test 1 Question 2 correctly.

- It may be a rule of blogger etiquette to notify someone when you link to him or her, either in a post or on a sidebar?

- The Mammoth Book of Chess and The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games are actually two different books.
No problem, I'll just have to get them both.

Friday, July 11, 2008

1000, It's not a rating

Tonight I just present you the data, no stories or conclusions from my side, yet.

Between brackets is the value from the first time I posted on Chess Tactics Server.

Handle mentat
Country Netherlands
Rating 1186 (1204)
Current RD 28.3 (48.8)
Highest Rating 1247
Date of HR 2008 Jul, 03 - 10:38
Tries 1000 (705)
Success 65.3 % (65.5 %)

Thursday 03 July 2008 - 35/49 correct = 71,4%
Saturday 05 July 2008 - 29/50 correct = 58%
Monday 07 July 2008 - 30/45 correct = 66,7%
Tuesday 08 July 2008 - 32/50 correct = 64%
Wednesday 09 July 2008 - 29/50 correct = 58%
Thursday 10 July 2008 - 33/50 correct = 66%
Friday 11 July 2008 - 38/50 correct = 76%

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What Step to take? Baby Steps!

"To proceed with the third step the knowledge from step two is indispensable, but apart from that step three is not really difficult."

The above quote, straight from the Steps Method site made my decision on how to proceed with the Steps Method an easy one. If I have so much trouble with Step 3, than I must have missed something from Step 2, or it slipped away in a few months. I have restarted from square a1, or h8 if you have to play the black pieces.

After reading trough Step 1 I did the first exercises of Step 2, those are a test on Step 1 anyway. Now I'm working my way trough Step 2 again and only after finishing that one I'll restart in Step 3.

Hidden Leaf recommends
I would like to use this moment to recommend the puzzle section on the Steps Method site. It has daily and weekly puzzles on all levels. They don't have an archive, that I could find, so you'll really have to try them weekly.

Help feature
If you're really lost you don't have to use trial and error all the way: the question mark button will highlight the piece that has to be used. Also, it's good to know that when you make a wrong move in a combination, you don't have to go back all the way, another possibility exists: just click the last correct move in the notation.

Challenges on all levels
Whilst looking at some of the Endgame puzzles, clearly above my chess ability, I realised the truth in the quote: "Studying openings teaches you openings, studying endgames teaches you chess." I can see how, by studying the endgame, one learns the true nature (I couldn't resist this one) of the pieces and how they cooperate.

You can find these amazing puzzles on all levels by either clicking on the link in the sidebar or by clicking here.

I've shamelessly borrowed, copied and stolen quite a lot of links from other blogs and sites, but I haven't seen anyone linking (directly) to this one. I hope at least a few people will enjoy it and find it useful in their quest for chess improvement.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A balanced approach

Chess blogs of (re)starting and improving players usually have (lack of) progress posts along a scale from "let's hear how much I rule..." to "... and now back to how much I suck". My last post may have been one of careful optimism, this one falls generously in the latter category, giving at least my chess blogging a balanced approach.

Besides CTS I did some exercises everyday, one day from Gillam's Simple Mates, the other day from his book on tactics. Today I found out that it's called Simple Chess Tactics for a good reason. Yes, the emphasis on "Simple" is mine.

A few months back I made it to Step 3 of the Stepsmethod, but got stuck in Chapter 10's exercises; those exercises deal with the material covered in Chapters 1 till 9. Yesterday I decided to give them another go, but to no avail. What was I to do next? Restarting Step 3 or while I was at it Step 1 seemed genuine options, I planned on going trough them from the start before or after Step 4 anyway.

The mailman however seemed to hand me an easy way out: It brought me Nunn's Learn Chess Tactics. While considering what to do in what order I would browse trough this books, with ease! Weren't the books of Gillam a piece of cake by now, this would be the same, but different.

After reading the the first chapter, on forks yesterday evening, I decided that I had an extra half hour, that would be more than enough to do all of Chapter 1's 46 exercises. Can you taste the hubris already?

A few exercises and the 46 were halved to only 23: Chapter 2 had only 27 exercises anyway, so it wasn't hard stepping down a bit. But after 23 exercises I was getting desperate, in about half those 23 exercises I either wasn't sure of my answer or couldn't come up with a single move altogether. And this is from the very first chapter in a book that states clearly that the only perquisite is to know the chess rules, and I am quite a bit above that.

I must however add on my behalf, that Chapter 1 covers more than plain and simple forks, it delves into sacrificial combinations and checks in preparation of the eventual fork as well.

Let's say it like this, especially for Chessloser, if Gillam's books are the prologue of tactics, than after finishing with Nunn I'll be wearing polka dots!

I'm not yet sure what to do next, I probably will give Nunn's LCT another go, if that fails I'll probably will restart the Steps: back to square one.

My Chess Library

This post will be used to list my growing collection of chess books and other tools I use in training.

Last update: January, 16, 2013.

abbreviation author, title. subtitle, publisher, year of publication, number of pages.

CTS Chess Tactics Server

DCO John Emms, Discovering Chess Openings. Building Opening Skills from Basic Principles, Everyman Chess, 2006, 248 pages.

IYM Chris Ward, It's Your Move, Everyman Chess, 2000, 143 pages.
IYM.I Chris Ward, It's Your Move Improvers, Everyman Chess, 2001, 144 pages.
IYM.TP Chris Ward, It's Your move. Tough Puzzles, Everyman Chess 2004, 160 pages.

LC Irving Chernev, Logical Chess. Move by Move, Batsford, (1957, 1998 First Algebra├»c) 2000, 256 pages

LCT John Nunn, Learn Chess Tactics, Gambit, 2004, 160 pages

M60MG R.J. Fischer, My 60 Memorable Games, Faber and Faber, 1972 (or a later reprint), 384 pages

MBC Graham Burgess, The Mammoth Book of Chess, Robinson, (1997) 2000 2nd revised edition, 537 pages

S1 Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 1
S2 Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 2
S3 Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 3
S4 Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 4
S5 Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 5
(= Let's Play Chess. Step 1 etc.)

SC A.J. Gillam, Starting Chess, 1977/1978, 128 pages
SCT A.J. Gillam, Simple Chess Tactics, 1978, 136 pages
SCM A.J. Gillam, Simple Checkmates, 1978, 128 pages

TCT TASC Chess Tutor (Software programm using the Steps Method)

UC John Nunn, Understanding Chess. Move by Move, Gambit, (2001) 2007, 240 pages

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Chess Tactics Server

This morning I had a small session on the Chess Tactics Server, it really amazes me that, if that information is in fact accurate, there are so many Dutch tacticians there. Apparently there is a huge Dutch chess scene, in combination with good Internet access.

With the first third or so problems I really was in some kind of flow, no matter what the rating I just knew what to do. I did lose some points there, but I just didn't fail. Then in the second third it was 50/50 and the last third went rather well again. In the end I had a score of 35/49 correct, which translate too 71,4%.

Although I don't particularly like seeing my rating drop, I really feel that getting my succes percentage from at least 2/3 to 3/4 is the right path to follow. After all, practicing tactics is a mean and not an end. One missed tactic can and will loose a game, a few tenths or hundreds of seconds won't necessarily do so.

This is my current status at the Chess Tactics Server:

Handle mentat
Country Netherlands
Rating 1204
Current RD 48.8
Highest Rating 1247
Date of HR 2008 Jul, 03 - 10:38
Tries 705
Success 65.5 %

I hope to be doing session of, for starters, about 50 problems daily. Let's see what happens. I won't write about it daily, I don't want to bother my, so far non-existent(?), audience and I'm more interested in long-term results.

Look at the steep climb that starts around the 150 last problems, that was that flow I was talking about.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Books to start with, books to begin with

People who want to improve their chess like buying books and at that I'm certainly no exception, I have to hold myself back from buying books anyway.

When I got tired of just reading chess blogs, that went largely beyond my comprehension anyway, when I was done doing some exercises on the Chess Tactics Server on an irregular base, and when I had had it with getting my ass handed to me with the very few games that I played I started thinking about getting a bit more serious about chess and improving myself. The natural response is obvious: start buying chess books!

So that's what I set out to do, but where to start. A friend of mine, we'll call him Jabba, lend me a copy of a Dutch translation of:
A.J. Gillam, Simple Chess Tactics, 1978.

Whilst working my way trough this book I wanted more, more exercises and a more thorough understanding of the basics based on a modern method. To start with the latter, thankfully I live in the Netherlands where there are several choices for books that are based on the infamous Steps Method. This is also the method where Tasc Chess Tutor is based on.

I got myself a complete series of five books so I had all Steps. ("Step" is the English translation of the Dutch word Stap.
Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 1
Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 2
Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 3
Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 4
Brunia & Wijgerden, Lekker Schaken. Stap 5
(= Let's Play Chess. Step 1 etc.)

Now I had the basics covered and got Dutch translations/editions of the first three of a four book series that would provide me with quite some exercises. I can't find proof of existence of that fourth one anywhere, although it is mentioned in at least one of those books. It's possible it wasn't published, or that at least there wasn't a Dutch edition of it.
A.J. Gillam, Starting Chess, 1977/1978, 128 pages (nice to have the first part of the series as well, however it's useless compared to the Steps!)
A.J. Gillam, Simple Chess Tactics, 1978, 136 pages
A.J. Gillam, Simple Checkmates, 1978, 128 pages

Then I got myself a birthday present and a motivational tool: Once I can understand this one, I'll know a thing or two about chess.
R.J. Fischer, My 60 Memorable Games, Faber and Faber, 1972 (or a later reprint), 384 pages

Currently I've ordered a few books, but I'll write about those once I've got them.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

And so it begins...

After lurking in the shadows for months, after having acuired several books and after having made some comments and even, I might say, small contributions to the chess blogosphere, having decided that, at least for this summer, I'm going to try to study chess on a more regular schedule, I thought it was a nice idea to track my progress, ideas and challenges.

I want to write about the plan that will make me a force to be reckoned with, the books and other materials that I have and use and those I would like to have or use at a certain moment in time. And, if there are any, the games I've played.

The fact that I'm now unable to get my rating at the Chess Tactics Server below 1100 and that at one moment in time Blue Devil Knight had a rating there that wasn't much higher gives me the feeling that all is not lost. My name on CTS, is mentat, it's the same at Chess Tempo, but I haven't been as active on the latter compared to CTS.

That's all for today folks.

P.S. I'm not sure yet if I'll stay here or start at wordpress with their nice tabs.