Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Getting that loving feeling
Username: nezha
Blitz Rating: 1500
Standard Rating: 1758.3
Theory Rating: 1534.3
Practice Rating: 1500

I've been doing chesstempo everyday for about 30 minutes or so and my standard rating is slowly rising. But more importantly, it seems that I've getting back my feel for tactics.

Although this so called "feel" is hard to explain. Is it intuition? I dunno.. Its just that my brain "suggests" moves when I encounter certain positions.

I seem to notice too that the pieces seems to have their own favorite moves.

For example, the queen seems to like moving in a triangular fashion. That is to say, it would first move along a rank then along a diagonal to deliver a fatal blow somewhere. Sometimes it makes the sign of Zorro.. (The 'Z' pattern)

The rooks remind me of crabs.. it almost invariably wishes to go sideways..

The knight seems like a wheel turning round and round in circles..

The bishops are daggers.. but it is one way. It moves to an extreme edge of a diagonal never to come back..

The hardest thing to see are pawn moves. They are the silent ones. Moving with great difficulty but with terrible force once they do.

Well, anyway.. yeah, I've been solving too many puzzles lately..

posted by Nezha at 8:22 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Friday, October 23, 2009
Totally addicted to puzzles
Well, I'm now addicted to solving tactical puzzles on chesstempo. In fact, I prefer doing that to playing standard chess games. Its been weeks since I last logged onto FICS..

Perhaps this is why I will never be a tournament player. I just don't have that drive to play over and over again.

(Its not like pizza. I could never stop eating pizza. I go crazy if a three days go by and I taste not a whip of my delicious triangular addiction.)

But playing chess games is something like a fad. It goes in and out of style.

Anyway, its good that whats distracting me right now is somewhat chess-related. The last time, the guitar called, and before that I wanted to learn java. But this time, I find that solving tactical puzzles can be quite relaxing. Maybe its because I don't have a time-table where I want to finish x-amount of puzzles in y-amount of time. I just go with the flow.

Anyway, I'm hovering at 1700 on chesstempo. My goal is to take that to 1800 at least or even 1900. This way, if I play another game again, Ill be so good tactically that it would be almost like never stopping to play at all.

But now, what to do about 'My System'..

hmmm.. a very good question.. a very good question indeed..
posted by Nezha at 7:13 AM | Permalink | 3 comments
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Finished half of 'My System'
Well, I've finished reading half of 'My System' finally. Half here meaning, what Nimzowitsch considers as elements of chess strategy

(1) The center and development
(2) Open files
(3) The 7th and 8th ranks
(4) The passed pawn
(5) On Exchanging
(6) Elements of Endgame Strategy
(7) The Pin
(8) Discovered Check
(9) The Pawn Chain

I would say that as of this moment, the chapter that had the best and most immediate impact on my game was chapter (1). The chapter containing information that 'evolved' my chess play are chapters (6) and (9). I was delighted to be able to learn how to win this position for example -

And I solved it purely inside my mind to boot!!

And the illustrative games(For example this, this, and this) regarding the pawn chain, chapter (9) - is so interesting that I am quite considering taking the french as a defense against e4.

The chapter that is most difficult are chapters (4) and (6). And lastly the chapters which is quite puzzling would be chapters (7) and (8) - The pin and the discovered check, aren't they wholly a member of the realm of tactics? I still don't get why they are considered to be atomic elements of chess strategy.

Now if it isn't obvious from the title, the book is actually not a treatise on the middlegame or the endgame. The scope is much broader than that. It is an attempt to teach an all encompassing 'system' of play. It is a no less than a way of thinking about chess.

If someone where to apply themselves dilligently and model their play according to the system, that someone would play very very differently from say a Magnus Carlsen. (I followed Mr Carlsen's victories on the recently concluded Nanjing tournament, and let me tell you.. the moves was very forcing. Not at all like the illustratrative games of Nimzowitsch)

That's why I think people that says things like this

'Overprotection has never gained the support of most grandmasters.'

Misses the mark. It doesnt really matter if every GM on the planet from Morphy to Capablanca to Tal to Botvinnik to Fischer to Kasparov doesnt support the system's concepts. All that matters is that Nimzo believe in what he wrote and made it work for him and followed it until the very end.

It is with this frame of mind that one should read the book methinks.

It you like to play differently go read Tarrasch's 300 games of chess, or Fishers My 60 greatest games or the books of Euwe or something. but if you want your play to have mysterious rook moves, then go buy this book and apply yourself to its diligent application.

The essence of the 'system'

As best as I can see, the system involves around the pawns. They are strategic points of attack and defense e.g. Chapter (9) but more importantly, Nimzo above all else was really preoccupied in how to prevent the passed pawn. The word 'Blockade' crops up almost every page (I've read just half of the book, but if I have a dollar everytime I read the word 'blockade' Id have a thick fat wallet by now) The blockade of a position and its ramifications is the one thing that permeates the entire book.

Seriously, you'll know youre starting to play like Nimzo when the first thing you ask yourself is not 'How do I improve my position' but rather 'How do I block this thing?'


I could be wrong so feedback is nice : )

Anyway, maybe I should re-read the chapters again and review the salient points. (But I'm really anxious to start reading the next half.) Or maybe I'll post what I think is the salient points here and ask for opinions, I dunno. I'll just see what goes I guess.

Que sera sera..
posted by Nezha at 9:22 AM | Permalink | 3 comments
Thursday, October 15, 2009
A poverty of understanding regarding two tactical motifs
Analyzing the problems I've failed, the large part of seems to be concentrated on these two themes

1. Problems involving threats on a square instead of threats against a piece.

Forking a knight and a rook, A threat involving just pieces, for example I rarely miss. But if the threat is to made against a square, I rarely get it right. Forking a knight and the g7 square for example (i.e. if my queen was allowed on the g7 square on the next move, mate will unavoidably follow)

Actually, it goes simpler. Even if there isn't a double-attack, even if the tactic just involves attacking a square - i do not see them.

For example, in this position


I looked and I looked and couldn't understand the motif or find the key move(*). I thought there wasn't any tactic and it was all a cruel joke. I just gave up and in the end and just moved randomly.

I can see where being proficient with such a motif can helpful. Threatening a square is a 'subtler' form of tactic harder to see than your regular run of the mill pin or fork. Well, harder for me anyway.

2. Knight fork that need multiple hops.

I see the fork if the fork just requires me to move my knight once, and then the fork is there already. But a tactic that involves me first moving my knight to an initial square, and then on the next move then and only then will the fork materialize - this is hard for me to see.

Something like this:


Its too bad I cant force chesstempo to serve me tactics having these two themes only. I am forced to wait for my turn, so to speak.

Anyway, for the next month or so, I'll be sharpening this area and holding off on learning strategy for the moment. The concepts I just learned from Nimzowitzch takes time to percolate and sink into practical play anyway. There really isn't any need to rush and finish off 'My System' during the weekend. Heck, Mr. Nimzo thought over the blockade for years before he was able to synthesize and make the system into a coherent whole. I reckon the book should be studied for a year slowly.

Some books are to be tasted, others swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
Sir Francis bacon

So i need to properly digest the book, and only then will I deem myself ready.

Ready for what?

Why to conquer the world and dominate all the chess world of course. I

'll start by defeating that kid who won the Nanjing tournament. Heard he's pretty good.

I'll show em.. I'll show em all!!! Gyahahahaha!! :Lightning crackles in the background:

(*) The correct answer was Re2 - Threatening mate on the square a2 on the next move.
posted by Nezha at 8:19 PM | Permalink | 4 comments
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
It gets worse
Problem Set: Standard ( 33299 in set)
Correct: 118 Incorrect: 74 Last Problem: 41267
Last Problem For Session
Session Finished

61% "success" rate.

A problem takes me about a minute to solve. So yes, the 192 problems took me about 3 hours or so to finish. I refuse to believe that I just wasted 3 valuable hours of my time, but egad.. this is wholly unexpected.

Considering that I am rated 1814 in FICS, the amount of problems I miss is unbecoming of my level.

Makes me think of what I can accomplish and how much rating I can add if I can boost my tactical acumen by just 10%.

There goes that word again - rating. I actually don't want to care about it, but it is the one of the leading indicators to tell me if I am improving or not so.. I an unable to discount it just like that.

And to top it off, I am angling to get a nice little round number rating of 2000. I dunno if that is possible, but I am thinking about it.

I probably need to make a coherent plan soon on how to accomplish this.
posted by Nezha at 9:27 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, October 12, 2009
A Pathetic Display of (Tactical)Power
I've been neglecting tactical study in favor of trying to absorb as much of 'My System' as I can, but I do know that such a thing must not go on indefinitely. 'A strategically won game that was tactically lost' is a theme I'm keenly familiar with.

Anyway, so now I'm trying to do some tactical exercises again. Even bought a book for this purpose. But the book is above my level. Sadly, I don't exists in a world where 10 move tactics are the norm. Give me the 2-move cheapo please!

So I turned to CTS. Now, I think I was one of the very first users of the CTS. I remember using it when the registered members can still fit in a single HTML page. It was good while it lasted, but lately, I find myself preferring chesstempo.

I dunno.. The puzzles seems less problem-like and seems more taken from an actual game to me.

But my current rating blows. Ewww.. a 70% grade will not do.. it will not do at all..

1. Total Rating
Problem Blitz Rating:1377.3
Blitz Av Seconds:20.7
Blitz Attempts:200
Blitz Success Rate:71.5%

2. A score from a typical session
Problem Set: Blitz ( 33299 in set)
Correct: 42 Incorrect: 9 Last Problem: 60751
Last Problem For Session
Session Finished

I hope to improve on this, perhaps a goal of 80% or so? The regimen will be thrice a week for 30minutes per session (About 50 problems)

150 problems at 80% solution rate per week seems good enough. Or good enough just to keep the rust of me anyways.
posted by Nezha at 8:20 PM | Permalink | 4 comments
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Its amazing what a little foresight can do
My Last game

The starting position

He wants to take the b-pawn. That much is certain. And coupled that with the pressure on the f7-pawn, it appears that white has a good game.

It is here where I felt a difference in my play. Before, I would consider moves like rb8 or qc8 to defend that pawn, I instead searched for a way in which I can take advantage if he really took that b-pawn.

I saw a line in which it appears I can activate my pieces and put pressure to him instead. He fell into it hook, line, and sinker.. Now, it is not a mating attack, nor was there a win in the end(The fact that he blundered on the very next move does not invalidate this fact). I just thought that the resulting position is better than the current position (Though I would lose a pawn).

What I foresaw, and what happened.

It's a good feeling.. to be able to see a plan and for events to fall into place. I mean, isn't this position better than the starting one? I think it is..

More importantly I should ask myself, isn't that improvement? To be able to take delight on such a small matter. But ah, it is part of the system.

'It is psychologically valuable to develop to the greatest length the faculty of being able to rejoice over small advantages. The beginner only "rejoices" when he an call checkmate to his opponent, or perhaps still more if he can win his queen. The master on the other hand is quite pleased, in fact royally content, if he succeed in spying the shadow of an enemy pawn weakness, in some corner of the board. The optimism here characterized is the indispensable psychological basis of positional play'

The other thing apart for being able to rejoice over small advantages is that lately, I am not anymore averse to losing my queen. In fact, it make no difference to me.. Well, it does. I still prefer a game with queens on board. But if it brings me a good position, so be it. This extends to exchanging in general. Massive exchanges that bring the endgame nearer is not to be feared anymore.

Like this game, the minor pieces are all gone by move 17.

The fact of the matter is, I realized that yes! one can win without bishops or knights on board, and I had better start learning how.
posted by Nezha at 2:31 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, October 05, 2009
Tuesday Musings
1. I need a loss or a losing streak

After that win against the 2000 player, my appetite for chess waned all of a sudden. It is as if I made it and is now self-satisfied. What I need is for someone to wipe the board with my ass so I get angry again and try to improve.

Losing and adversity is the fire that keeps my passion alive.

2. A master to study for later

Gaining the two-bishops seems to be a preoccupation for some people. As such, it is indeed one of the things I will attempt to study for later so coming across this little tidbit is a little find.

‘Janowsky was no chess scientist or theoretician. He knew what he had to do on the chessboard; but he did not know, or could not explain, why it had to be done. He had only two rules in chess: always attack; always get the two bishops (and, indeed, he used the advantage of the two bishops wonderfully). His main strength, indeed, was his extraordinary intuition, which gave him the exact feeling for what to do and how to do it.’

3. An interesting Alekhine quote

'In addition to all this, Stoltz, the first prize-winner, has a particularly fine feel for unexpected chess tactics. This cannot be learned from any book, and it is this “something” which makes a player a grandmaster. In general, he played the best chess and since he is at a favourable age (36), great things may be expected of him.'

Is this really the case? So either you have to be born with this 'something' or else toil in chess misery all your life?

4. A quote about Carlos Torre but is really about tactics in general

'He lacks technique and for the sake of his chess future, I hope that he will not hasten too much in cultivating it. Acquired naturally and as a result of the experience of play, technique is a valuable asset but the attempt to acquire it before one’s ability to combine has been fully developed has stopped permanently the improvement of a good many young players.’

Ok if you say so - (Nezha dramatically opens a tactics book and deeply ponders the secrets to chess. He feels his cranium expanding for each puzzle solved.)

5. My System - Why oh why did I not study it sooner

I have not completed reading this wonderful book and I intend to little by little post about the things I learned from it. Sort of an on-line diary. But I cant help but say that I wish I've bought this book sooner.

Nimzowitsch was a genius. The concepts he wrote not only are presented in a funny and engaging way, but it just plain makes sense to me.

And, ohmygosh!! the concept of prophylaxis. The true meaning is revealed..

It is apparently not just, say playing h3 to prevent a pin of the knight on f3, or to prevent the opponents knight from coming to g5.

The concept is quite astounding to my untutored mind.

I feel like a man who 'discovered' how to make fire for the first time (refer). It felt like I discovered the atomic bomb even. This right here, is some sick technique to master.

'My System' has replaced Simple Chess as 'the' best chess book to own if one were a chess player.

6. Some poetic Reti quotes

I also have in my possession 'Modern Ideas In Chess' which is basically an exposition about the development of chess from Andressen to Capablanca. It is really interesting to note and is quite thought-provoking.

For example - How did Morphy defeat Andressen when Andressen was a match in creating combinations with Morphy? Not only that, he possessed more imagination than him.

If only for such matters, the book is highly recommended. The book is already very good just for that. But what makes it even better is Retis somewhat poetic prose. Some examples given below:

Do you play chess because of this reason?

'Chess is particularly the game for the unappreciated, who seek in play that success which life has denied them'

I think I want to play like this sometime

'And indeed combinations by Schlechter are not artificially-reared roses which amazes everyone with their beauty and which to the true nature lover soon savour of excess; nay, they are rather the humble and hidden forest flowers that have to be looked for and the love of which increases with their gathering'

Or how about playing like this?

'With Rubinstein all is refined tranquility; for with him in building up his game the position to every piece is the necessary one. It is not a matter of fight for him, but the working out of a victory, and so his games create the impression of a great structure from which not one stone dare be shifted.'

And still

'The reproach which has often been aimed at Rubinstein is that he plays one opening only (Queens gambit). One writer expresses his censure on the point by saying that a great artist should never be one-sided. But Rubinstein is not a man who can do all things. He is no virtuoso, but rather a priest in his art. Can a single missionary teach at one time one religion and at other times another?'

And there are more, lots more.. Maybe later I will buy his other book 'Masters of the chessboard' too. The writings is quite different from any other. Just like Nimzo with his wit, Reti with his prose succeeds in catching attention.

Most of the old-writers seems to be like this. And in a way, its the reason why I prefer the older books to the new ones that comes out which seems dry and with no personality.

- Till next time -

posted by Nezha at 8:04 PM | Permalink | 2 comments