"...a Chessmaster should be a combination of a beast of prey and a monk."

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Here are some studies I have solved recently. White to move and win in both. I found the first one easier than the second one.


Haven't updated in a while but I'm still playing in the weekly slow chess league on chess.com. But more importantly I decided to take lessons. I've tried this before and was less than thrilled with the experience. So, going into it this time I was a bit more specific. I wanted the coach to review my games with me. Basically I just don't feel that reviewing with the engine is very useful for me. I like getting a more verbal discussion. The other issue is that I don't want to do tactical problems during lessons. So, just kind of by luck I came across the website of a coach and emailed and did the free trial lesson. So, including that trial lesson I have done 9 lessons with him now. So far I'm quite happy. If I have a game to review we do that and then we usually go over a master game. During this process he will ask me questions about what is the appropriate plan, or was this a good move, or other things like that. So, it's a good way to engage my brain while I am going over the game which of course makes the experience much more valuable. During the process he will draw arrows and color different squares to highlight the concept. The nice thing is that after each game I am able to save it with all these markings included so it is easy to review the games. So we use skype audio, and the playchess server. On the whole I would say I am quite satisfied. His basic emphasis is strategy or positional play and endgames. For me I of course need to keep the blunders down. But I think having a strong direction to my learning instead of the jumping around I've been doing for a long time can only be a good thing. I know what I need to do about the blunders. Play more and consider my opponents options more.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Some various thoughts

New Job
One issue for me lately has been a new job. So I don't have as much time as before for chess. Just kind of tough sometimes after a longish day to come home and have the energy to play a serious game. However, blitz too requires attention and concentration. I still feel pretty committed to chess though and have been playing when I can.

Server Comparison
I've been playing on FICS again after a long time of just playing on chess.com. I like FICS because there is more of a social aspect. There's a lot more chat in the channels. I also like to read people's finger notes. But probably the biggest issue is that it is the server where I have had the easiest time finding slow games when I just want a pick up game instead of a negotiated time game like in the slow league. I quite like the Babaschess interfaces as well. I've also never had anybody abuse me on FICS. ICC is nice for some of the perks like the videos but when I was a member there it was very rare to be able to get a slow game when I wanted one. Also there's not much chat in the channels there. One problem with chess.com is all the ads. As to lichess, I really hate the smug attitude of the zealots for this site. I also had a bad experience playing blitz there where I was only able to play black because the opponents would always abort when they had black. I have also seen that they will ban you if they decide you are artificially altering your rating, like losing on purpose to lower it. I am a very erratic player though and sometimes I play really crappy. I don't want some big brother looking over my shoulder constantly ready to call me a cheater and ban me for the slightest infraction. Anyways, just some thoughts.

Training Strategy
As to training. One thing I did a couple of weeks ago was to come up with a list of various strategies for improving that I could think of. Then I listed what I saw as the pros and cons of each of the strategies. What I settled on was that I wanted to play more slow games. I seem to improve when I play more. So that was the core of my improvement strategy.

Issues with reviewing, particularly with an engine
However, I also think reviewing games is important. The major problem I find with reviewing games is that it's quite time consuming and I often don't really feel like I got all that much out of it. There's always the engine but there's some problems with that. First is a good amount of the engine output is kind of meaningless to me. I don't know what to make of the variations a lot of times. The second issue is that somehow it seems a bit like cheating. Basically instead of thinking for yourself, you just check what the engine says. I guess thirdly is that without a good bit of work the computer doesn't really comment on how sound your ideas were. It just shows a much much much stronger view of the game. That doesn't necessarily help me improve at the level where I am.

Letting some time pass before reviewing
So reviewing is tough because if I don't use the engine then it's easy for me to stay stuck in the thoughts that I had during the game. Then I don't really learn much. I think one thing that I have noticed helps is to let some time elapse before I look at the game.  Basically, it should be enough time that I am able to look at the game with fresh eyes instead of just seeing what I saw when I played the game. However, I think it's better if it hasn't been so much time that the thought process of the game has been completely forgotten, because then it just seems like someone else's game.

Thought process, the key is considering the opponents possibilities.
Quite awhile ago I was concerned with the issue of thought process in chess. I think in some ways I was really on to something but I didn't really know what the main point was.  One thing that happened when I was playing games against the handicapped engine was that a lot of the times I was just throwing the pieces around. For some reason it was really hard for me to play seriously against the engine. Basically, I realized that if I was going to play I had to take into consideration what the opponent would do.  This is actually a really big issue for me. I know it may seem stupid but a lot of times I have fallen into just thinking about what I could do. But when I force myself to actually look at the possible moves for the opponent then I do better. So the exaggerated problem I was having with the computer was actually a problem I was having in my games with people too. So I think the first step is just to remember to actually check the opponents options. I think my problem before was that I kind of heard the checks, captures, and threats idea but I didn't really realize that the main point there is just to consider what the opponents options are. The checks captures and threats is just a convenient was to actually consider that issue. I know it may seem like a trivial distinction but it has been significant to me to think about it like this. I think another way to approach it is to try to come up with a variation, a way the game might go, at every move. Maybe particularly when the situation isn't very tactical and forcing. This way I am forced to actually try to figure out the best move for the opponent.

A draw I should have lost and also should have won

Zigizaw (1382) - JabotScrob (1455)

Result: 1/2-1/2
Site: Chess.com
Date: 2017.08.20
[...] 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.¤c3 ¤f6 4.¤f3 ¥e7 5.cxd5 I've played against the QGD exchange a fair number of times but I've never before seen this move order with 4. Nf3. It appears in the database but is much less popular than 4. cxd5. I decided to follow the normal development scheme. 5...exd5 6.g3 c6 7.¥g2 O-O 8.O-O ¦e8 9.¦e1 h6 This move may seem strange. I wanted to play Bf5 but was worried the bishop would be chased or traded by Nh4. h6 was to give the bishop a retreat square on the same diagonal. 10.¤e5 ¤bd7 11.¤xd7 ¥xd7 12.a3 £c8 13.b4 b5 14.e3 ¥h3 15.¤e2 ¥xg2 16.¢xg2 My idea here was that he's left with a bad bishop on c1 and I hoped maybe I could attack on the light squares since the defensive bishop is gone. 16...¤h7 17.¤g1 ¤f6 My idea had been to go Ng5, but that seemed like a dead end after Ng1 so I thought maybe rerouting like Nd7, Nb6, Nc4. But I think this and the following moves show a general planlessness. 18.f4 ¥d6 19.¤f3 ¤g4 20.¤e5 ¤f6 21.£c2 ¥xe5 22.dxe5 ¤e4 Right now it kind of seems like I have a good knight versus a bad bishop. My knight is outposted and can't really be kicked or traded. White's bishop is still undeveloped and doesn't seem to have much to do. 23.¥b2 £e6 24.¦f1 £g4 25.¦ae1 (25.£xc6 £e2+ 26.¢g1 £xb2) 25...¦ac8 26.£e2 £xe2+ 27.¦xe2 ¦a8 What I failed to appreciate here is that after the recapture on the second rank, white is now able to double against the c-pawn. Maybe better was Rc7, although it's unclear how I will play from there. In some ways Ra8 followed by a5 seems more active, although it would be better if I had chosen it with more conciousness of the consequences. 28.¦c1 a5 29.¦xc6 axb4 30.axb4 ¦a4 31.¦ec2 ¦xb4 32.¦c8 ¦xc8 33.¦xc8+ ¢h7 34.¥d4 I end up with a passed b-pawn but it's unclear how I will promote it. 34...¦c4 35.¦b8 b4 36.¦b5 ¤d2 37.¦xd5 b3 38.¦b5 ¦c2 39.¢h3 ¤c4 This just blunders the b-pawn. For some reason he didn't grab it. 40.f5 b2 41.e6 fxe6 42.fxe6 His king-side majority has produced a passed pawn on the 6th rank and I can't see how to promote my b-pawn. Here I was pretty sure I was losing. 42...¤d6 43.¦xb2 ¦xb2 44.¥xb2 ¢g8 45.¥a3 ¤c4 46.e7 ¢f7 47.¥c5 ¤e5 48.g4 g5 49.¢g3 ¤c6 50.e4 ¤xe7 51.¥xe7 ¢xe7 White is winning. 52.e5
52.¢f3 ¢e6 53.¢e3 ¢e5 54.¢d3 ¢e6 55.¢d4 ¢d6 56.e5+ ¢e6 57.¢e4 ¢e7 58.¢d5 ¢d7 59.e6+ ¢e7 60.¢e5 ¢e8 61.¢d6 ¢d8 62.e7+ ¢e8 63.¢e6 h5 64.gxh5 g4 65.h6 g3 66.h7 g2 67.h8=£#
52...¢e6 It should be a draw now. 53.h4
53.¢f3 ¢xe5 54.¢e3 ¢d5 55.¢f3 (55.¢d3 ¢e5 56.¢c4 ¢f4 57.¢d5 ¢xg4) 55...¢e5 56.¢e3 ¢d5 57.h3 ¢e5 58.¢f3 ¢d5
53...¢xe5 Still a draw if white captures on g5. 54.h5 (54.hxg5 hxg5 55.¢f3 ¢d5 56.¢e3 ¢e5 57.¢f3 ¢d5) 54...¢e4 I was just so glad I wasn't losing anymore that I hit the draw button without properly thinking. I'm actually totally winning here and I realized it only after I hit the draw button. He accepted so it ended here in a draw. The winning line is pretty straightforward although it is still possible to go wrong and allow a draw. 55.¢h3 ¢f4 56.¢h2 ¢xg4 57.¢h1 ¢xh5 58.¢h2 ¢h4 59.¢h1 g4 60.¢h2 g3+ 61.¢h1 ¢h3 62.¢g1 g2 63.¢f2 ¢h2
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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Don't Lose in 6 Like Anand

I was recently reminded of the title of this video on youtube:

Don't Lose in Six like Anand; Know your Openings!

tactical_chaos (1543) - JabotScrob (1437)

Result: 1-0
Site: Chess.com
Date: 2017.08.18
[...] 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.¥c4 ¤c6
4...cxb2 5.¥xb2 This is the main line. I got scared about my opponents potential development advantage so I wanted to develop a piece instead of grabbing a second pawn.
5.¤f3 ¥e7 Here I was focusing on Ng5 ideas. So my move is to prevent that. But I completely missed my opponent's next move. I considered Nf6 but I was worried about e5 in reply. 6.£d5 The game ended here because I resigned. There's two moves to defend f7 and they both seem to lose a knight. However, the truly shocking thing here is that Komodo gives less than a 1/3 pawn advantage to white. Game continuation is Komodo's line. 6...¤h6 (6...¤e5 7.¤xe5) 7.¥xh6 O-O (7...gxh6 8.£xf7#) 8.¥xg7
8.¥c1 This seems like a more human move, to prevent cxb2 winning the rook in the corner and staying up a piece but Komodo gives more than .5 advantage to black. 8...¤b4 9.£h5 d5 10.exd5 ¤c2+ 11.¢f1 ¤xa1 12.¤xc3 ¤c2 Advantage black.
8...¢xg7 9.¤xc3 d6 10.O-O
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So, basically the issue comes down to the fact that I didn't know the opening and I got toasted. This is one of the tough parts of chess. I have only seen this Danish Gambit once before in a game and it was years ago. I looked up the opening at that time and memorized the main line but I have long since forgotten it.

I am reminded of the first game in the Twin Ports Open that I played in 2015. I played 1...e5 and got the Vienna game. Again I didn't know the opening and got smashed very quickly.

I think it's quite challenging to cope with this problem but it is just a fact that if I am going to play 1...e5 I have to be prepared for these gambit lines.

I have a copy of the Chess Position Trainer but it is like anything, if you don't use it regularly then you will forget.  I guess it's like practicing scales for a musician or something. Anyway, I have input my chosen line against the Danish gambit into this software and hopefully I can keep on top of some of these rare lines.

I would love to hear anyone's suggestions for keeping on top of these rarely played but dangerous variations. How do you keep them in memory when you don't see them except very rarely?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

St. Louis tournament

I visited the US this summer, and as I did two years ago I took the opportunity to play a slow time control tournament. This time I played one in St. Louis at the chess center there.

 It was cool to be playing in the same place where the greats play. I saw Caruana, Kasparov, and Akobian (separately) hanging out near the chess center.

It was supposed to be four rounds in one day. Unfortunately, the last round I was assigned a full point bye. Then they apparently found a player to join for just that round and play me. Somehow between the time that he signed up (and joined the USCF) and game time, he changed his mind and decided he didn't want to play.

So, I'm embarrassed to admit I went 0-3. Which was disappointing. But on the whole I'm glad I did it.

Reviewing these games makes me cringe. I'm still very low level.

me - tournament winner

Result: 0-1
Site: Chess Center St. Louis
Date: 2017.07.22
[...] 1.e4 b6 2.d4 ¥b7 3.¤c3 e6 4.¤f3 ¥b4 5.¥d3 ¤f6 6.£e2 d5 7.e5 ¤e4 8.¥xe4 So although I had tried to work on my openings before the tournament, I definitely hadn't looked at 1...b6. My opponent showed me after the game that I was following theory till here. This is obviously a blunder as he showed quickly. Apparently the proper move was Bd2. Then he will take with the knight as this gives him the bishop pair and I accomplish what I wanted to do with my move, that is getting rid of the knight on e4. 8...dxe4 9.¤d2 £xd4 10.a3 ¥xc3 11.bxc3 £xe5 12.¥b2 O-O 13.¦b1 f5 14.c4 £f4 15.£e3 I actually played this thinking he would want to keep the queens on and that he would move his queen. 15...£xe3+ 16.fxe3 ¤d7 17.O-O ¦ad8 18.¤b3 ¥a6 19.¤d4 ¥xc4 20.¦f2 ¥d5 21.¤b5 c6 22.¤d4 My threat was empty. If I take on a7 my knight is trapped. 22...¦fe8 23.¦c1 b5 24.¦f4 I remember Dan Heisman saying somewhere that you should either resign or play at full strength. Don't continue if you aren't going 100%. Here is where I failed to do this. I was beaten mentally as well as on the board but kept playing until this blunder. 24...e5
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little girl - me

Result: 1-0
Site: Chess Center St. Louis
Date: 2017.07.22
[...] 1.e4 e5 2.¤f3 ¤c6 3.¥c4 ¥c5 4.O-O ¤f6 5.¤c3 d6 6.h3 O-O 7.d3 h6 8.a3 a6 9.¥a2 ¥e6 10.¤d5 ¥xd5 11.¥xd5 ¤xd5 12.exd5 ¤e7 13.c4 f5 14.¥e3 ¥a7 15.¤d2 f4 16.¥xa7 ¦xa7 17.¤e4 ¦a8 18.¤c3 ¦f6 19.¦e1 ¦g6 20.c5 £d7 21.¢h2 ¦f8 22.cxd6 cxd6 23.¤e4 ¤f5 24.¦c1 ¤h4 25.¦g1 (25.£h5 too early 25...¦xg2+ 26.¢h1 £xh3#) 25...£b5 26.b4 (26.£h5 £xd3 27.¤c3 h4 knight is lost) 26...£xd5 27.£e2 (27.£h5 £xd3 28.¤c3 h4 knight is lost) 27...£f7 28.f3 (28.£h5 ¤f5 it doesn't work anymore) 28...d5 29.¤f2 ¦e8 30.¤g4 ¤f5 31.£e1 ¦ge6 32.¤f2 ¤e3 33.¤d1 d4 34.¤f2 £g6 35.¤e4 ¤f5 36.¦c2 ¤d6 37.¤f2 ¤b5 38.¤e4 ¤xa3 39.¦c7 ¦b6 40.g3 ¤b5 41.gxf4 £h7 42.¦xb7 ¦g6 (42...¦xb7 43.¤f6+) 43.fxe5 ¦xg1 44.£xg1 ¦xe5 (44...¢h8 45.¤f6) 45.¤f6+
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me - teenager

Result: 0-1
Site: Chess Center St. Louis
Date: 2017.07.22
[...] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.¤f3 ¤c6 4.d4 ¤f6 5.¤c3 ¥b4 6.¥d3 O-O 7.O-O ¦e8 8.e5 ¤h5 9.¤d5 ¥a5 10.¤xf4 ¤xf4 11.¥xf4 ¥b6 Komodo gives me north of +7 here based on 12. Ng5. At the time I considered Bxh7 and komodo gives that north of +5. 12.c3 (12.¥xh7+ ¢xh7 13.¤g5+ ¢g8 14.£h5) 12...¤e7 13.¥g5 d6 14.£e1 c5 15.£e4 g6 16.¥f6 ¥f5 17.£e3 ¥xd3 18.£h6 ¤f5 I missed this move. When I played Qh6 I thought there was no way to stop mate. 19.£h3 £d7 20.¤g5 h6 21.¦xf5 h5 22.¦f3 £xh3 My attack is over and I am worse according to komodo 23.¦xh3 ¥f5 24.¦h4 cxd4 25.cxd4 dxe5 26.¥xe5 ¦xe5
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Friday, August 4, 2017


I used to think blitz was basically evil. Kind of like the junkfood of chess. No nutritional value.

Lately I have come to change my mind about that. I now think of blitz more like a sandbox. A place where you can try things out and see how they work. Because the games are shorter and less intense than a slow time control game you can feel free to experiment more.

I think it also promotes board vision, basically just staying aware of the basics of not blundering pieces (at least at my blitz level). I think this is useful for me because I still blunder even in long time control games getting distracted and thinking of my plans instead of checking what the opponent can do.

I still think of slow chess as the thing I want to get good at, but I am coming around on the value of blitz as practice.