Sunday, August 30, 2009
Reassessing my chess
Having been away from playing for close to two years, I am in a position where I'm having to learn again. I've forgotten almost all the things i previously studied. It seems that chess is not like bicycle where you keep what you learn forever. On top of it all, I'm so slow in calculating that i am continuously reminded of a frozen river. Like its water that flows so slowly, so do the variations come in like manner.

Though the good thing is I've unlearned the bad habits I have before. It is quite liberating to not know anything and to be open to ideas.

But lately, I feel as if I'm starting to get trapped again on the same cycle I was before. And so, before the habits form I am stopping all chess learning activity. This includes reading books, analyzing games, etc.

I feel that this is the wrong way to go about things. In life there is a proper time and a proper sequence to do everything under the sun. And reading chess books is not the first thing to do in order to improve.

"'Begin at the beginning"', the king said, very gravely, "and go till you come to the end: then stop"
Alice in Wonderland

The very first thing that I aught to study is to learn how to remove simple blunders. Even once per game. Failing to cure this will limit me and chess will forever be succession of heartaches.

But how to remove such things? If it was so easy it wouldn't be eating me on the insides.

You might already gave an inkling as to what is the answer to such a question. It is after all the theme of my recent posts. But I found that the concept was too vague and too simplistic. So I reassessed it and came away with the following system.

But first a curious fact:
My chess moves are done at an average of one per minute.

Imagine, I cant even solve medium difficulty tactical puzzles in that time. Why do I then move at such a speed? (I would weep, but for the fact that most of my opponents move even faster. It is not uncommon that at the end of the game they would have gained minutes from whence we started. Take a look at my last game. Pay attention to the clock.)

This is not the only thing that ills my chess, but it is a good place to start. And so, from here I begin.

1. Looking around is more important than looking ahead.

I am henceforth forcing myself to NOT calculate. The first minute will be spent looking at the board. Just looking around and searching if there is a tactic on. Something that is going on RIGHT NOW. Not three moves later, but right now. So questions like - Do I have an immediate capture? Does he have an immediate capture? - and the like should be answered satisfactorily. Only then shall I think about something else.

CJS Purdy called looking like this the true fundamental of chess. And what to look for is as written in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Some things are hooey,
and most others lies;
But forks you mustn't miss,
nor pins, nets, ties.

2. Playing around the opponents pieces.

In close relation to the above, I will move my opponents pieces. What are the squares that his knight can go to one or two moves ahead? What about the queen? The bishop? What pawn moves can he do?

Now an important thing to note is that I will do this from left to right. Irregardless of what piece he moved beforehand. Left to right, wax in, wax out. This is to break my train of thought. To step away from the position so to speak and try to look at it in an objective dispassionate eye.

For indeed, there were many games i lost because I concentrated too hard on what my opponent just did. What happens in this case is that I tend to zoom on a corner of a board and forgot about the rest. Missing important defensive moves or worse, realizing all too late that the point of the move was on another sector of the board altogether.

3. Before doing the move physically, move it first from my mind

The selection of candidate moves and judgement and planning I will leave at this time to intuition. But what is more important is that before moving physically - I move it first from my mind. Checking again. checking again. Perhaps I missed something. Check, check check.

As was said - 'Only the paranoid survives'

Now, it is time to ask - does it look like I can do all this in under 1 minute? Can I really check that fast? If not, then why oh why oh why do my hand reaches out to a pawn like a lover. Impatiently grasping it and tenderly moving into another square. Only to find out that it was all a mistake and that love that was so sweet finally in the end turns into dust.

I must discipline my thoughts and my self. I must not fall into a hazy mind fog at any time of the game. I need to think, think, think. Check, check, check. Like a brook in a stream in an echo of a dream.

It sounds so simple, this three. Anyone should be able to do it. Aye, but that is not the issue here. The issue here is not if any half-wit can do it, but rather if this particular half-wit be able to?

That would be next
posted by Nezha at 10:34 PM | Permalink | 6 comments
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
If he can move again... Part II
Continuing my attempt to use the simple question "If he can move again.." during games. Here are the first four of them.

Game One - For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

The game is just so.. meh! My first attempt to remove simple blunders from my game, and what do I do? A simple blunder. I saw the knight attack immediately after I made my last move(see game and guess where it is) and oh boy, it was all downhill from there.

Its kinda like, if I ask you not to think of a white elephant dancing in a pink tutu, you will immediately think of an elephant dancing in a white tutu even though I specifically told you not to.

Did I mention that games like this makes me hate myself a little?

Game Two - Straight out of the book.

Did you know that the first chapter of Art of Attack is titled "Attack against the un-castled king" and that the first section of this chapter is called "The attack along the e-file"?

He played Nxb4

The surprising thing here is that it felt so easy and yet when I looked at the opponents rating, I had to do a double take as he was higher than mine. It wasn't supposed to be this easy.

I don't mean to sound as if I'm bragging because, clearly as the first game shows I have a lot to learn. But the win in this game felt that is was just a "matter of technique".

Game Three- Locked and loaded

The first game in which I am able to extensively practice the question. This games was very tense and very long. Long not in the number of moves, but in the time me and my opponent spent thinking about the position. We were both down to ten minutes. A very good game all in all.

1. This is a Ruy Lopez. The jockeying for position was enjoyable. The plan was crystal clear for me. This reflects my, what I think is a developing understanding of chess principles.

Allow Mr. CJS Purdy to tell it for us:
"As Nimzowitch explained in his book My System, a pawn center is regarded as an asset only because a piece center is usually not possible. But if you can get the later it is much better."

I don't know what does that tells you, but for me, in this game at least, I somehow got the idea to, to centralize my pieces in preparation for the impending liquidation of the center . I reasoned that since I will not have pawns in there, better that I replace it with my pieces.

Locked and Loaded

2. The second strategy I had was that I was gonna gain the two bishops. On an open board with the center removed of all clutter, I reasoned that the influence of my two bishop will soon tell.

Ok back to the question

I was able to use it mostly throughout the game. I knew at all times that his strategy lay in the fact that he wanted to push his advanced pawn. With that in mind, his moves was a little bit predictable. And as a culmination of it all, below is the position where the question best served me well.

White just played Nh4

If he can move again what would he do?

Game Four - Much too fast

A game in which I suffered a major letdown. Oh, I won alright but it was again too easy. My opponent was rated 1700 so it was with expectation that I can work on practicing the question while he's attempting to crush me.

But as early as the third move, I noticed he was playing much too fast. I would take some time thinking about my move and he in turn will immediately bang his reply. At the end of the game,he actually gained more than 12 minutes from when we started. Uhhm!?

It wasn't at all what I expected. Winning is good and all but well, I wanted to learn :(

Not all wins are delicious

The only time I was able to practice answering the question was when he was generating an attempt on my kingside. An 'attack' parried easily enough.

I'm officially worried. Its not supposed to be as easy as this. I've not been playing too long since my break so I don't think I'm stronger than my rating. Maybe this is a setup before the fall. After all, there is an old saying "They first make mad, whom the gods will destroy" - :fear: -

Next: I'll update when I've played six more games.

posted by Nezha at 8:18 PM | Permalink | 4 comments
If he can move again... Part I
I. But first

I got over 1600 today.

For the past two weeks I kept fluctuating inside the 1500 level, like a butterfly trapped in a bottle, beating helplessly against the glass. It didn't help that I dropped five games, and four of them in winning positions at that, due to disconnection.

How does one say it in America - Bummer?

Well, anyway so I've been hard at work analyzing the games contained in the Art of Attack. But I don't want to overdo it (If clutching the book everyday and looking at the position every so often can be called "not overdoing it").

The problem (for me at least) with studying too much is that I tend to think I'm gaining all this chess knowledge and that the next time I play, I'll just use it to crush all competition, leaving a trail of broken tears in my wake.

Of course the very next game, I'll hang a piece and go all depressed and wrathfully declaim "Why do I even bother studying" over the burning embers of the book.

But that is unfair to the book, which after all is very good. No, the fault lies with me and mine. Specifically, in another area of weakness that I think I need to address otherwise I'll forever be stuck in the same place. No matter what I read.

II Blunders: An old friend; an old enemy

The first step on the road to greatness is to eliminate all simple blunders from my game. I'm not talking about things like a three-move combination that I didn't see, or even simple tactical motifs that I just didn't know was present till it was done.

What I'm talking about is the time when immediately after you make a move, you go all "Oh #$%^ what did I just do?".

I'm pretty sure most are familiar with it. After thinking and analyzing and comparing candidate moves, you finally select one and make it OTB. But no sooner was the move made when regret was instantly in the offing.

Maybe it was a hanging piece I just forgot, or something.. anything.. that I know I should have countered and yet did not.

III. Thinking Process: Identify threat

The thing is, I've been trying to remove such things from my game and just could not. I finally just gave up and let things fall where they may.

But now I need must confront the inner demon again. I don't want to be like this forever.

One thing I will not do however, is create a list of things to check and rattle it in me head each move.

I tried it. Didn't work.

I still remember the first list I made. A 35 points monstrosity. Not only did it not help, but I became so distracted trying to think about the list, that I barely had time to think about actual chess instead. Ugh!

But I think I found the perfect description to what I hope will be a solution.

A threat is nothing more than what a player would do if he could make two moves in a row.

Simple, direct to the point. I like it.

This single thing is what I will ask myself after the opponent moves - If he can move again, what can he do?

Just one thing to ask. No more. No less.

What would happen if I just keep it as simple as that? but is it really that simple or am I just deluding myself into a false sense of security.

I'll try it in the next ten games.

Next: What is the result?

posted by Nezha at 5:06 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, August 23, 2009
A new book (again)
As every Russian school boy knows, being a chess player means that you compulsively try to buy every chess book in existence irregardless of cost or if one actually has time to read said books.

As far as I can tell, this maladyhabit is unique to chess players. After all, whoever heard of engineers compulsively buying engineering books or a lawyer buying lawyerly book.. errr..

Anyway, I was just passing through the bookstore when I saw something called "CJS Purdy's Fine Art of Chess Annotation and Other Thoughts, Volume One" and it, looking like a decent book, the old compulsion took over and next thing I know I was carrying the book home.

The book has many interesting columns inside particularly on how one ought to improve at chess.

Here are the two salient points

1. Play games.

How to improve
The one infallible way to improve is by practice, but I don't mean just playing chess. ... But by practice I mean playing against champions - any master will gladly play you at any time of the day or night, and, moreover, bring along two other masters to help you out. They don't ask for fees or even refreshments; as a matter of fact, they may all be ghosts from the last century, but they will play none the worse for that.

How to play through a master games
Play one side only - usually the winner's, if it is not a draw. Cover the moves with a card in which a niche is cut out of one corner. Think out each of your side's moves before you look, taking as long as you would in a match game.
Then slide the card over till the move is exposed by the niche. If you guessed differently, try to find out if and why your move was bad. Never let your eyes stray over the annotations beforehand. Look at the opponent's reply immediately. For one thing, it may assist you in discovering some fault in the move you yourself had made.

An interesting technique to be sure. I am now trying to work through his book using the said method. I've cut off a piece of paper and is sliding it so to speak. Only sometimes I get impatient and cheat.. :(

And also, it takes me multiple time going through the same game to understand some of the moves made.

Just last evening, I had an "AHA!" sort of epiphany. Something about why should white take with the d-pawn instead of an f-pawn. When I finally understood that - it is to play f5 of course, I felt so dumb for not noticing it earlier, but so happy that I now at least understood a little bit more. Such a small thing and yet, the game revolved around it.

Truly a single move can become a fulcrum of a game.

2. What is wrong with everyone's chess?

This is the title of a chapter in the book. The simple answer is - Lack of combinative vision.

He said and I paraphrase - "You might think that you do not belong with them (people with lack of combinative vision), but the odds are 50 to 1 you are wrong"

And I fully agree. Even though one might think he or she already has a very good grasp of tactics, and yet chances are you are only delluding yourself and that is not the case.

I am keenly aware of it. I'm studying tactics everyday and yet finding combinations seems out of grasp. Other times, as a latest game of mine shows (I am mantakaya in here), I feel there are hidden tactics there, If only I can just find it.. the game could have been more..

Well, anyway it is a good book. Ill try to go through the games completely. Perhaps one each day should do.

I'm not expecting that every game should bring me an aha moment, but if I understand a little each time, then by the end of it perhaps I would be able to pierce that mystical veil that keeps people from breaking the 2000 elo barrier.

posted by Nezha at 8:35 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
How the Art of Attack book is helping me.
Excuse me if I'm pimping the Art of Attack book lately. It just that this book (Or books like this, e.g. How to become a deadly chess tactician) is I think the natural evolution for someone who studies tactics deeply and wishes to take his game to the next level. However, this presupposes that this person wants to play in a certain style.

The beauty of chess is that it is a "multi-paradigm" game. There is no one way to win. One, for example, can engineer to develop a queen-side pawn majority and then exchange pieces trying to win on the endgame. Or perhaps the zugzwang and prophylaxis is closer to ones liking. A slowed jockeying for position akin to an anaconda squeezing.

There are lots of ideas and plans you can try on the board and each game the clash of two opposing ideas makes for a fascinating backdrop on an otherwise dull moment.

As for me, I try to play using a plan called "Suicide Red". A term I borrowed from another game, but in chess I mean to say an uncompromising attack on the enemy king.

Chess is just a hobby and the only reason I play it is because I find some of its ideas interesting. Consequently, there are just (uninteresting to me)things I would not bother to learn or do. Getting the full point is nice as is a good rating, but as much as possible I've much rather try to win on my own terms. It would limit my chess growth to be sure, but life is a series of self-limiting choices. Two roads diverged on a road and I, I'm sorry I could not travel both..

Back to Art of Attack, to give you an idea of how it affected my play.. Let me give you a position taken from a recent game.

Look first at this diagram and what do you see? I'm playing Black. What is the plan that pops into mind?


The main thing here is that there are two targets on whites positions. What Vokuvic termed
as focal points. In this case, The squares/pawns on H3 and G2. In addition to the H-file.

There are three end-positions I was trying to bring to life

1. Doubled Rook on the H-file. The strategy revolves around swapping the queen and the bishops so there would be no interference.

2. A Queen Mate
A variation of the first part

3. A very hazy Bishop-Rook Mate
The most far fetched, but hey stranger things have happened!

Now, of course these are not the only end result that Ive been mulling in mind. Only that three
most thematic.

And here is where the AA book excels. In teaching the thematic things that one can incorporate
when one is conceiving of strategies.

And not only that, the stated manner in which one should plan in the book is greatly influencing me.

It is almost like Vukovic's speaking softly during the game

..The winning position is prepared by a calculated deployment of the pieces

..First of all post the heavy pieces in their assault positions

..The most important focal-points where castling king-side is concerned are g2 and h2.

..Attacks against g2 are more dangerous (Than attacks on h2)

And I take back what I said about AA being dry and musty. Comments like this -

"Malicious old men said that this was the only sacrifice ever risked by the cautious master Burn in his whole chess career. To this observation one might add, 'and even then it wasn't correct'."

Makes me giggle. Hehe. Humour is best served dry. :)
posted by Nezha at 3:14 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Disciplining my thinking process
A few days ago, I realized that I have a very lazy approach in over the board play. I would look at a position, see a somewhat reasonable move, 'calculate' one or two moves deep and then play.

Which is ironic given that when I'm solving puzzles, its normal for me to sit on a position and sift through variations looking for the correct move. And yet in an actual game, I cant seem to do the things I practice.

This is an old problem and there are times where I despaired of ever curing it.

But anyway, I resolved to at least force myself to analyze more deeply and to do deeper a variation and stop analyzing only until everything is quiet and there are no more forcing moves.

To 'cure' my thinking process so to speak.

This game is the result.




I used the word I ironic and here I am forced to use it again. It is ironic thatin a game where I tried to "apply" my new found resolve, it will be one wherein I would find myself making patzer moves after patzer moves.

Its funny how the things we avoid are the things that happens to us.

And most hurtful of all is that I have been hard at work analyzing games and going through the Art of Attack book. Only to fall for such elementary tactics.

There are deaths, and then there are deaths.

In disciplining my thinking process, my thinking process disciplined me.

posted by Nezha at 9:11 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Focal Point H7
Continuing my ongoing study with the Art of attack book;

But before that, let me just state that I find the book itself dry and hard to read. There are times when I dread having to read that book as the experience is akin to having nails pounded on ones head. It is certainly not like reading 'simple chess' or 'how to become a deadly chess tactician'

But for all this, the book has a very good collection of games and it does give you ideas focused around a central theme; that of attacking the vital parts of an opponents position. The analogy that comes to mind is that of a swordsman. A true master of the blade does not go in hacking blindly, but instead each cut or swing is aimed on a body part. Perhaps the arm, or the legs, or some other sensitive organ. In like manner, in giving games where the central theme is an attack on a particular square, I am given ideas and targets in which to bent my frustrations.

I'm not a master by any stretch of imagination as the next game I'm about to show illustrates, but having some plan is better than having none at all.

Anyway, this game is my latest effort on applying what I've been learning. Its a horrible game actually, but at least I was able to use the idea of - An attack based on the focal point H7.

In the game, I played 10 nh3 hoping to sacrifice my bishop but alas, too late did I notice that my opponent had a very strong defensive move, which he found by the way.

Although, the maxim 'The winner of a chess game is He who made the second to the last mistake' held true.

posted by Nezha at 8:57 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Having a rough patch due to a losing streak lately. Ive lost everywhich way I can imagine. Pawn endings, outright blunders, simple combinations. You name it, I lost it.

And then I played this game and lifted my spirits up a bit.

Although, all those loses is not a total loss I guess as I'm slowly re-learning things. Particularly regarding the importance of time and rapid development (Looking at the final position below, I got all my minor pieces developed with the rook coming up - as against his bishop and knight)

What I like this game is that I once again tried to think things through. Those last few games, I think I didnt analyze the positions nearly enough. And in here, even though time control is 30/30 and it only lasted 12 moves, I consumed a full 15 minutes. Particularly on the 11th move, I spent almost 7 minutes thinking about the position until I got the idea of h4.

Oh, btw my oponent didnt seem to think that much. The longest he took was about 6 minutes and then he just abruptly resigned.

And I just re-read anderssens immortal game hence the kings gambit.

- Some days are better than others :p -

posted by Nezha at 11:54 AM | Permalink | 3 comments
Monday, August 03, 2009
Attack on the uncastled king- the open E-file/Weak F7 square
Continuing my previous post..

Here are two games I played recently demonstrating the weakness of the F7 square and the danger of the e-file. Oddly enough, the opening most conducive in exploiting this weakness seems to be the italian game. Well, it seemed to me at least.

1. I lost this game although I think I did enough to win. Two passed pawns and a cramped enemy should had been enough. But alas, my technique is not what it used to be. (Time pressure also contribute heavily). Just goes to shown that a few imprecise moves ruins a good position.

2. He just made some blunders. Although this miniature did re-enforce the idea of the weakness of the F7 square

All in all, these had been two good games training--wise.
posted by Nezha at 9:13 PM | Permalink | 0 comments