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ABOUT CHESS (And some interesting positions)

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(WARNING: If after reading this post you feel absolutely confused, it’s normal. In fact the idea is to make you feel so so as to make you start thinking about Chess from, perhaps, a different point of view.)

I have mentioned this before: Does Chess build your character or simply it shows your character? The same question can be applied to music, or any other form of art. Since I was taught the game when I was a young boy and began to play seriously from 1979 onwards and official CC since 1986 , I have tried to find some explanations with a bit of non-professional self-psychoanalysis…

It is very beautiful to add a bit narrative to the matter and speak lyrically of the matter. No, that is not the way. My conclusions contain more questions than answers, more doubts than certainties and, sometimes, the answer poses more problems than the question itself…

I think Chess helps both to build the player’s character but also shows certain peculiarities of it. (Then you can notice it, maintain or try to change those findings…).In my case, for instance, Chess was a powerful tool which helped me to lose a pathological fear to taking decisions (for fear of making mistakes, accept the responsibility of them, etc.). It also helped me to avoid that common mistake in many people which consists of always looking for someone to blame for everything which happens instead of dealing with the mistakes or wrongs, and putting the effort not on finding a real or imaginary culprit but on dealing with the error straightaway.

Another point worth mentioning is to accept that everything in Chess and life is relative. There are no absolute truths, universal patterns of behaviour, hidden or occult systems to get everything at will.  Chess taught me that there are many logical things and they can be good guidelines but also that there are many illogical, contradictory, absurd even apparently impossible things, situations which, nevertheless, can also take place. And the latter can be wonderful grounds to learn something new outside our old patterns . And so  in the same way we must accept that there are as many ideas or opinions as people in the world, a Tal or a Shirov coexist with a Petrosian and a Karpov. In Chess, as in life, the sum of the parts is always greater to the whole itself… Contradictory? Yes. Wonderful? Again, yeah.

I think it was B. Lee, influenced by  studies of different schools of philosophy, who said that “all form of knowledge is really self-knowledge”. And another reference for those interested in the matter of “self-awareness and knowing that one knows” is the medieval Islamic philosopher Avicenna (980-1037) (I have found a very interesting  paper by Deborah L. Black , Department of Philosophy and Centre for Medieval Studies , University of Toronto.)

Another thing I have realized with the passing of time is that that old way of classifying chessplayers into “positional” or “attacking” ones may be helpful to a certain extent, but it can become too restrictive when not directly wrong. Take Fischer for instance: is he an attacking player? Yes, but not like Tal, so… Is he a positional player? Yes, but not like Petrosian or Karpov, so… Nevertheless, Karpov and Fischer shared their admiration for the same player: Capablanca. And this explains why those super GMs always reject being ascribed to a certain style. Karpov reacted with dislike when somebody asked him about what his Chess style was like: “Chess style?.- I don’t have a Chess style”.

I suppose “your style” is more the openings you like and the type of positions they can lead to: Fischer played 1.e4 in nearly all his games. Karpov played 1.e4 as his only first move for many years. BUT Fischer preferred reaching open positions even with no Pawn in the centre while Karpov always aimed mainly to half-open positions. (And Spassky preferred 1.e4 leading to complicated if not chaotic middlegame plans “though there is a method in it”, according to his character).  You can play Sicilians Fischer/Shirov style or play Sicilians Karpov style: in one case you will be playing aggressive Najdorf variations and in the other, quiet Paulsen-Kan ones.  And so on…

I have always been interested in the ideas of self-awareness, the state of alert (taken from Gudjieff), how to avoid living/acting out of sheer inertia, and how to learn not only data and facts but learning how to learn. We contemplate everything -Chess too-  from behind our eyes, the world seems to always be opposite us… Can we contemplate ourselves from the other side of Chess, or rather from “inside “ Chess?. Is it possible?. Where do learning and self-learning really lie? .- Over to you…

Now the exercises will be a bit different: endgame compositions with no long solutions but really beautiful because they may represent the logical and the irrational at the same time. (Solutions below the positions)

1.- Kliatskin 1924. White to move , wins. Find out how (three moves solve the problem)

Kliatskin 1924

2.- Saritchev brothers 1928. White moves and manages to draw.  A Kasparov’s favourite -I have read somewhere-.

Kakaritchev brothers 1928

3.- Gurgenidze & Mitrofanov, 1928. White to move and wins. Difficult but beautiful.

Gurgenidze and Mitrofanov 1982

Well, put the position on  your chessboard and try to find the first move. Look it up and play the first correct one by White and Black’s reply. Keep on doing so with the rest of moves . Good luck!

Solutions:

1.- 1. c7  Rc7 (1…Nc8/2. Rb7!!) 2.ab6  Rb8  3. b7 .-

2.- 1.  Rc8!  b5  2. Rd7!  b4  3. Rd6!  Bf5  4. Ke5!  Bc8  5. Kd4  Ba6  6. c8Q  Bxc8  7. Kc4 It is a draw.

3.-  1. Rb1 c4  2. Kc6  h4  3. Kb7  h3  4. Ka8  c3  5. bc3  Qb8  6. Rb8  h2  7. Rh8! 

QChess.

Written by QChess

February 14, 2015 at 7:32 am

Paul Keres (1916-1975)

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-“How is that you never managed to become Chess World Champion?”.-

-“Because, like my country, I had bad luck” (Paul Keres)

(Curiously enough, the first time I saw this statement was in Spassky´s words. Both were friends, so …)

 ______________________________________________

I hardly remember when I began to admire him. Perhaps everything began when I managed to get a copy from Anthony Saidy´s book “The Battle of Chess Ideas”(around 1980). In this book the author confess he wants to follow Reti´s path and chose ten modern super GMs, wrote a biographical summary and included games and positions. He also wrote about the history of Chess and the Chess ideas/schools. The GMs Saidy´s analized were: Botvinnik, Reshevsky,Keres, Bronstein, Smyslov,Tal, Petrosian, Larsen , Spassky and Fischer. He also regretted having to pass over names like Korchnoi, for instance.

Or , perhaps like Keres, I have never had good luck either…

Years later, one of my CC opponents from Estonia sent me, as a present, the famous book -in Estonian- “Meie Keres” by V Heuer. And I managed to get other books by Keres : “The Art of Analysis”, “Practical Chess Endings” and an invaluable one: “My Chess Style” (aka “Chess As I play It“). (By the way, Keres is perhaps the only Chess GM who appears in a banknote. He is also a Estonian hero).

(I have written about Keres previously in this blog, so you can find other posts in this site.)

I cannot explain why I am so fond of Keres… Perhaps it is because his personality, his personal history and fate ,or perhaps because I was deeply moved by the images included in that Estonian book “Meie Keres”. What follows is a personal interpretation of the topic.

Keres was born in Estonia. But his country was annexed to the Soviet Union after WW2. The territory has a complex history (it is a borderland) . An independent state, with links to Sweden,the Russian Empire, invaded by the Nazi’s during WW2,later invaded by the USSR,…and so on. Anyway, Keres managed to survive the Stalinist terror regime, played for Estonia and later for the USSR (he died in 1975 being, officially , a Soviet citizen. For more information, please find those other posts in this blog). 

In 1938 Keres won the AVRO Tournament ahead of Alekhine,Capablanca,Botvinnik Euwe, Reshevsky ,Fine and Flohr. The winner of the event would be the official challenger to play for the World Championship (in the hands of Alekhine). But the outburst of WW2 frustrated the possibility of such a match. Estonia was invaded by the Germans and Keres had to survive accepting the new rules. At the end of the war, Estonia fell in Stalin’s iron claws and he had to survive again but being under a severe stress for many years.He managed to survive and protect his family again. Being a Soviet citizen he played for the USSR for the rest of his life , taking part in seven Chess Olympiads in which the USSR Team won the gold medal one after another. Keres can be considered among the ten best ever chessplayers of his time with victories over eight out of nine World Champions and drawing in two games against Anatoly Karpov, for instance. As an anecdote, he had an excellent score against Korchnoi, and Viktor once complained that “It is always the same: I always manage to beat Tal and Keres always manage to beat me”. Keres’ last tournament was in Vancouver (Canada) in 1975. When he was going back home via Helsinki, he suddenly died in the Finnish capital. Botvinnik stated that Keres’ death had been the greatest loss for the Chess world since the death of Alekhine. And Botvinnik very well knew what he was talking about.

(White side)

Smyslov-Keres

This position appeared in Smyslov-Keres, USSR Chess championship 1951. Black to move. Could you find the plan/moves Keres found to beat his extremely dangerous opponent?

(White side)

ranviir-keres .

And this comes from a relatively unknown game played in 1947 between Randviir (White) and Keres.

Smyslov Keres went:

36…, Bb1! 37. a3  a5! 38. Bd1 Kg6  39. Kg2  Kf5  40. Kf3  Ke5

 41. a4  g5  42. Ke2  Bf5  43. g4  Bb1  44. Kf3  f5  45. gf5  Kxf5  46. Kf2  Be4  47. Kg3  Kg6  48. Kf2  h5  49. Kg3  h4  50. Kf2  Bf5  51. Kg2  Kf6  52. Kh2  Ke6!   /White resigned in view of 53. Kg2  Ke5  54. Kh2  Bb1  55. Kg2  Ke4  56 Kf2  Kd3 (Suetin)

Randviir-Keres : Keres to move, what would your first move be?: (Remember this is a Pawn endgame, so the basic technique is that of “opposition”)

1… Kb5!! (the only way to avoid a draw according to Keres)2. a4  Kb6  3. Kc4  a5  4. d6  Kc6  5. d7  Kxd7  6. Kxc5  Ke7  7. Kd5  Kf7  8. Ke4  Kf8!!  9. Ke3  Ke7  10. Ke4  Kd6  11. Kd4  h6!  12. Ke4  Kc5  13. Ke3  Kd5!  14. Kd3  Ke5  15. Ke3  h5  16. gh5  Kxf5  17. Kf3  Ke6  18. Kg4  Kf7  19. Kf5  Kg7 / White resigned.

To end this post and for the lovers of  3-movers, perhaps you would like to have a try at the following mate in 3 moves “specially composed” by H. Alton:

Alton

 

QChess.

Written by QChess

February 7, 2015 at 10:02 am

Petrosian or The Art of Doing Nothing

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The first time I saw the catchphrase “The Art of Doing Nothing” associated to Tigran Petrosian was in 1978 (!) when I was reading my first ever Chess book: a collection of Petrosian´s games made by Alberic O’Kelly de Galway. An outstanding work. The game in question was Petrosian-Cardoso, Portoroz 1958. Influenced by this comment or not, in the following years a number of people have mentioned the idea in books and magazines. But, what is “the art of doing nothing”  in Chess ,where both players are compelled to make a move in his/her turn?. This is one of the details which makes of Chess a wonderful vital experience. In essence this “art of doing nothing” is related to the famous Taoist idea called “Wu Wei”.(In short  because this is not a Taoist Philosophy blog, let’s accept the explanation of “Wu Wei” as “no action or rather “active no-action”) Let’s go back to Chess now and I will try to explain how the concept could be understood.

Well,there are positions in Chess where the player cannot engage in active operations. The nature of the position is such that it cannot be improved (it can be worsened though) and the only practical chance is to hold it by making consolidating moves, avoiding committing oneself while, at the same time, one is trying to entice one’s opponent into some sort of activity which will offer us some sort of target. The opponent confronted with an apparently balanced or blocked position may try to do “something” to punish his opponent who is ,apparently,  wandering here and there with his pieces. But in fact Petrosian was doing so once he had consolidated his position to the utmost. His pieces were always coordinated and helping each other. When the occasion appeared, they would liberate the inner energy they had accumulated and his rivals’ positions collapsed without any apparent reason. Petrosian was able of spending many moves going to and fro with his pieces,manoeuvring incessantly. Many opponents fell into an illusory feeling of safety…Then, if they are not wiped out by a ferocious unexpected attack, their positions simply collapse as if by magic. (The key words above are “hold“, “consolidating” and “manoeuvring”. Many games have been lost because the player wants to do something when this “something” only leads to creating weaknesses or the appearance of a strong counterattack from the enemy’s side). This is why the expression “doing nothing” is too misleading.

Let´s have a look at the games:

W.: Petrosian (1)

B.: Cardoso (0)

Portoroz 1958

1. d4  Nf6  2. c4  e6  3. Nc3  Bb4  4. e3  d5  5. a3  Bxc3  6 bc3  c5 7. cd5  ed5  8.Bd3  0-0  9. Ne2  Nc6  10. o-0  Re8  11. f3  cd4  12. cd4  b6  13.Bd2  Bb7  14. Ng3  Rc8  15. Rb1  Rc7  16. Qa4  g6  17. Rfc1  Re6  18. Rc2  Qe8  19. Nf1  Kg7  20. Rbc1 (Once the centre is  fixed -Black cannot hit  on it: no flank Pawns to do so- Petrosian began  his oppressive manoueuvring strategy trying to lure his opponent into “activity”)   20…, Qd8  21. Bb5  Qa8  22.  Bd3  Rd7  23. Ng3  Rdd6  24. Kh1  Nd7  25. Qb3  Qd8  26. Ne2  Qh4  27. Qb2  Nf6  28. Rf1  Re8  29. Bb5  Kg8  30. Qc1!  Rc8  31. e4!!  de4  32. Bg5  Kg8  33. Ng3  ef3  34. Nxh5  fg2  35. Rxg2  Nxh5  36. Qc4  Nd8  37. Qb4  Re6  38. Kg1  Bxg2  39. Kxg2 Re4  40. Kf3  a5  41. Qd2 , Black resigned.

W.: Kasparov (0)

B.: Petrosian (1)

Tilburg 1981

1. d4  d5 2. c4  dc4  3. Nf3  Nf6  4. e3  Bg4  5. Bc4  e6  6. h3  Bh5  7. Nc3  a6  8. g4  Bg6  9. Ne5  Nbd7  10. Ng6  hg6  11. Bf1  c6  12. Bg2  Qc7  13. 0-0  Be7 14. f4  Nb6 15. g5  Nfd7  16. Qg4  0-0-0!  17. Rb1  Kb8  18. b4  Nd5  19. Nc4  f5  20. Qg3  Nb4 (Another attacking victory for Kasparov?. Unfortunately for him, Petrosian had learnt a lot from Nimzowitsch: prophylaxis, manoeuvring, all sort of defensive strategies…)  21. Bd2  Nd5  22. Rfc1  Ka7  23. Qe1  Bc3  24. Rc2  Qd6  25. Rb3  Qe7  26. Qe2  Rb8 27. Qd3  Bd6  28. Nb2  Rhc8  29. Nc4  Bc7  30. a4  b5  31. ab5  cb5  32. Ra2  Kb7!  (and in ten moves White´s position simply staves in…)  33. Bb4  Qe8  34 Bd6  Ra8  35. Qb1  Kc6! 36. Rba3 bxc4!  37. Ra6  Ra6  38. Ra6 Bb6  39. Bc5  Qd8  40. Qa1  Nc5  41. dc5 Kc5!  (and Kasparov played 42. Ra4 resigning at the same time.)

W.: Petrosian (1)

B.: Unzicker (0)

Hamburg 1960

1. d4  Nf6  2. Nf3  e6  3. Bg5  d5  4. c4  c6  5. Qc2  Be7  6. e3  0-0  7. Nc3  h6  8. Bf4  Nbd7  9. cd5  cd5  10. Bd3  a6  11. 0-0  b5  12. a4  b4  13. Na2!   Ne8  14. Nc1!(to b3)  a5  15. Nb3  Ba6  16. Bxa6 Rxa6  17. Qd3  Ra7  18. Rfc1  Nd6  19. Bxd6!  Bxd6  20. Rc6  Nb8  21. Rc2  Nd7  22. Racl  Nb6  23. Qb5  Nc4  24. Nfd2  Ncd2  25. Rxd2  Qa8  26. Rdc2  Rd8  27. Rc6  g6   28 g3  Kg7  29. Kf1! A well-known manoeuvre in Nimzowitsch’s practice)   Kg8  30.h4  h5  31. R1c2  Kh7  32. Ke1  Kg8  33. Kd1  Kh7  34. Kc1  Kg8 35. Kb1  Kh7  36. Qe2  Qb7  37. Rc1  Kg7  38. Qb5!  Qa8  39. f4  Kh7  40. Qe2  Qb7  41. g4  hg4  42. Qxg4  Qe7  43. h5  Qf6  44. Ka2  Kg7  45. hg6  Qxg6  46. Qh4  Be7  47. Qf2  Kf8  48. Nd2  Rb7  49. Nb3  Ra7  50. Qh2  Bf6  51. Rc8  Rd7  52. Nc5  b3  53. Kxb3  Rd6  54. f5  Rb6  55. Ka2,  and Unzicker resigned.

It is this uncomparable art of going to and fro holding the position till the opponent makes the slightest of slips and Petrosian’s position  springs at you… 

Well, a close study of Petrosian´s positional masterpieces will always be rewarding…

                                                                     ——————————————–

Pos. 1 :The following position is from Petrosian-Golombek, Stockholm 1952. What would you choose as the 35th move? (Solution below)

petrosian 1

Pos.: 2 : This other position appeared in Bisguier-Petrosian, USSR-USA Match, 1954. What would you play here? (Solution below)

petrosian 2

Pos. 1. Petrosian played 33. Qd5! The centralization of White’s Queen forces Black to exchange or to retreat with disastrous results. The game continued  33. …, Qxd5 34. cd5 Kf7  35. Nd2  f5?! ( better 35…Nd6)  36. Nc4  Kf6  37. f3  e4? Desperation :37…h5 would have been much better) 38.fe4  fe4  39. g4  h5  40. Kg3 hg4. The game was adjourned here but Black resigned.

Pos.: 2:  15… , b4! (a key critical moment: Black decides to close the Q-side forcing White to attack on the K-side. BUT Petrosian had seen that he could parry the attack by means of a counterblow in the centre)

16.Nd1  a5  17. Ne3  a4  18.Rab1  ab3  19 ab3  Ra2  20. g4 Nd7  21. g5 Re8  22. Kh1 Nc5  23. h4 Qd8!  24. Rf3  Bf8  25. Rg3  e5  26. f5  Nd4 !!  27. Qf1  Ndxb3  28. Nxb3 Nxb3  29. Qe1 Nc5!  30. Qxb4 Bb7  31. Nd5  Ra4  32. Qd2 Bxd5  33. Qxd5  Rb4!  34. Bf3  Qa8  35. Qd2 Qb7  36. Rg2  Rb8  37 Bd1 , Qxe4 38. Bc2  Qxc4  39. g6  Rxb2  40. gh7  Kh8  41 Rbg1 Qxh4  42. Rh2  Qf4 and White resigned. 

QChess.

Written by QChess

January 16, 2015 at 9:05 am

Positions to Solve

with 2 comments

abbott

Mate in three moves by J.W. Abbott

Some time has passed since I last wrote a post here… I have been playing CC, reading, thinking and sunk into depression,trying to survive to it, trying to find solution to problems both in Chess and in life… (these grey, rainy,cold,glum,winter days kill me one year after another…).

One of the solutions I found was to engage in more and more ICCF games. Apart from that, I proceeded to re-read Rudolf Reinhardt’s: Aron Nimzowitsch 1928-1935. A superb book of over four hundred pages with a wealth of information, annotated games, and so on. Unfortunately, its author passed away without seeing his wonderful masterwork published.

Well, many Chess writers insist on the idea that to learn Chess one must study and play. Everybody understands what “playing Chess” means. And for “studying”?. Of course you should study games, openings, interesting endgames, technique, and so on. When you are alone (I mean with no trainer) you may find it drab or boring. Anyway you should do it.

My two favourite methods are : 1) to solve mate in 3/4 move problems and 2) to choose games played by my favourite players, play the opening moves on a board (NEVER on the computer screen), cover their moves and try to find them on my own. Everybody knows these methods. It is very interesting to cross-check the move you want to play against the actual one played by the GM. And when I do not understand something, I make a tick on the move: when the process is over I replay the games and analyse the why’s and the why not’s. Incidentally, another good way to develope your analytical skills. So two birds with the same stone…  My only advice to you would be that though this method can be used with any GM, I would recommend you to use the players you feel most at home with. Not all “positional” players play the same way and not all “attacking” players play similar Chess. (among other considerations because although we use those words to classify chessplayers ,it is too broad, too vague and imprecise ,etc. The matter of the chessplayers’ styles I think it is an absolutely complex matter, with many sides, many shades, many details.)

These gloomy days I have been thinking about life (or rather my Chess life). I was taught the game in 1971: Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, Viktor Korchnoi, Anatoly Karpov,Tigran Petrosian etc. were young. Today Bobby and Tigran are dead, Korchnoi and Spassky can no longer play and what is worse: illness has confined them to wheelchairs. Only Karpov seems well though he is no longer playing Chess.

Wurzburg

Mate in three moves by O. Wurzbrg 

The following position is from Keres-Petrov, Moscow 1940. How would you continue as White?

Keres

In this position Keres played:

19. e6! and the game continued with 19…, Nd5 / 20.exf7 , Rxf7 /21. Bc4!, c6/ 22. Rxd5 , Qxc4 / 23. Qe8 and Black resigned. 

QChess.

Written by QChess

January 11, 2015 at 5:07 pm

2014 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Written by QChess

December 30, 2014 at 7:22 am

Posted in CHESS

QUESTIONS

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Those who play CC will recognize it immediately. 

You ask your national CC body to be inscribed in a another tournament. After a while, you receive the  list of players and the start date. You check the list and you see that some of the names there are familiar to you because you have already played against them or perhaps your new opponents are totally unknown to you. You know you have several games as White and several as Black. And your goal is to win the event.  Here  two possibilities may occur, both with the White and the Black pieces: 1) You have a fixed and tested opening repertoire and you will play your all-time favourite openings as White and as Black, or you begin to “negotiate” (with yourself)  what you are going to do. (In any case, CC players are always negotiating things with themselves, since the only clue you can get is a name and a rating. No body language, no feedback. Nothing at all from your opponent.)

As White: 1) You decide to play your chosen first move in all the games. O.K. 2) You decide to play your favourite first move (1. e4)  against  the players with a similar ELO as yours but to be a bit conservative against those with a higher rating (1.d4 or 1.c4) .

QUESTION: Are 1. e4-players more leaned to shift to 1. d4 than 1.d4-players to shift to 1. e4??

As Black: 1) You decide to play your favourite defences against your opponent no matter who s/he is. 2) You play your favourite Sicilian and Grünfeld/Benoni against players with a similar ELO as yours but decide to play the Caro-Kann and the Orthodox against your opponents with a higher rating…

QUESTION : Do you have full confidence in your defences or do you choose them according to rating factors??

Chessplayers are a curious lot… Have you ever try to understand why you decide to do what you decide to do?

(Tip: Let me recommend you the following book : “SUBLIMINAL”, by Leonard Mlodinow.)

QUESTION : If you are a CC player and use programs to check your moves, do you think that this way of acting changes the way you play OTB Chess?.  The question is relevant because in CC you always try to find the absolutely best move and you never expect your opponent to make a mistake. So you get used to expect  “always” the absolutely best opening line from your opponent and the absolutely best reply to your moves: factors like being short of time , tiredness or speculative play are ruled out, since the program will always give you the refutation to speculative play and, in a 99.99% of cases, you and your opponents have plenty of time for every move.

QUESTION: If you are a CC player, have you ever reach the conclusions that the more CC games you play the less you understand how Chess is played and  that you would find it impossible to teach somebody to play Chess?

QUESTION: When you are playing a CC tournament (or several), do you answer your opponents’ moves as soon as they arrive and you get a response to them, or do you retain your answer for  some time while re-checking them once you have decided what to play? (To rephrase it: do you take tournaments as a block or as individual games? After all, ICCF ratings are calculated over the number of finished games in a period of time, independently of the events they belong to.)

QUESTION: The more CC games you play the more questions you pose to yourself or the more answers you get from doing it?

QUESTION: Do you think playing Chess is also a way to knowing yourself)

QUESTION: Do you think Chess exerts a deep influence in the way you see life?

QUESTION: Do you think Chess builds your character and personality or otherwise it “shows” them?

QUESTION: The “Big One” : Could you live without playing Chess???

It would be interesting to hear your opinion. For some of these questions I have an answer. But several others are there, hovering over me like ghosts, without a clear or definitive answer. Somebody said that all knowledge is a sort of self-knowledge. What is your opinion?. If any of these questions open a new way of seeing things, this post will have fulfilled its purpose. (But don’t ask me why…)

Mate in 3

Mate in 3 moves.

QChess.

Written by QChess

October 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Openings and Scattered Thoughts

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Chess does not change. It is the player who changes. And perhaps this can be seen and even analyzed from a psychologicl point of view. Chess is a wonderful tool to self-examination. Chess is your Mind in action. This is why I think that in the matter of our game, the sum of the parts is greater than  the whole itself. Don’t believe it?

In CC you do not need to memorize openings. (This is one of the differences in relation with OTB Chess). CC players use books, magazines, databases personal notes , etc. Another difference (and there are many) is that CC players may have several games in progress at the same time. And a third difference would be that there are no professional players in CC. But there are World and European Champions, there are GMs and IMs, and so on. All of us struggle to maintain and improve our ratings, try to become IMs or GMs, etc. Different people, different approaches to Chess, different motivations, different personalities, different reactions to victories and losses…

In the particular matter of openings, I suppose there are several approaches too: there are players with a clear idea of the openings they want to use and , consequently, they employ them on a constant basis with the adequate update, and there are players who like using different openings depending on their mood at the time of starting a new tournament. Some players prefer complicated openings while others try to avoid long, involved variations and prefer getting out of the book (databases) as quickly as possible.

In my case (the one I best know…) I have played different openings/defences during my CC practice. At first (28 years ago) I used the set-ups I was using for OTB Chess: 1. e4 , the Sicilian  and the Nimzoindian/Queens Indian/Orthodox . As soon as I became more and more interested in playing CC, I began to use those other openings that had attracted my attention when studying GMs’ games: the English, the King’s Indian Defence and the Sicilian. Shifting from the English to the Queen’s Gambit is a natural step, so for a long time, I became a CC 1. d4  player (while for OTB Chess, 1.e4 kept on being my main option. (I remembering reading an article in a Correspondence Chess Bulletin in which the matter of the first move was discussed no databases/computers yet-.The author defended that since CC and OTB Chess were so different, the openings should be different depending on which king of  game you were going to play. ) All opinions should be respected.

Today, in 2014, we do not use stamps and postcards to play CC (there are events still arranged under that formula though, but the major part of today’s CC is played through the Internet). The amount of information is immense and most of the players can have access one way or another to it. (I still remember how over 30 years ago some games were published months after they had been played and this if they were published, with professional OTB chessplayers trying to get as many local and foreign Chess magazines as possible to try to get information about the latest TNs’… On those days “the Soviet chessplayers” were feared like the plague: they seem to be factory of new players and unknown opening novelties found by the players themselves, their trainers or even some obscure player in a remote region to be used in their games against the rest of the world. -In this respect , when I was a boy I read the following  story: Before the Candidates’ Final between Petrosian and Fischer in Buenos Aires 1971, Petrosian had to play against V. Korchnoi. A relatively unknown player, the then Candidate Master V. Chebanenko, found a TN in the Taimanov Variation of the Sicilian. He left his finding in a sealed envelope  that had to be given “to the winner of the Petrosian-Korchnoi match”. A wonderful example of loyalty to true Soviet principles! -Another version states that , in fact, the novelty 11…d5! had been found by Suetin -Petrosian’s second- and kept secret for nine years But aren’t nine years too many years to run the risk of other people, even Fischer himself, finding this move???)

To me, Chess -apart from many other things-, is also a self-psychological tool. I mean I try to understand myself through Chess (once again let me recommend GM Rowson’s books and Abrahams’ “The Chess Mind” among many others). So, today I still continue using different openings as White while as Black my all-time hypermodernistic approach has changed perhaps not towards full classicism but to a more eclectic approach (in short: these days I prefer seeing my Pawns on the centre than seeing my opponents’ ones with me trying to attack them from the sides…) So the Sicilian in its various forms keeps being my pet defence against 1. e4, but against 1.d4/1.c4/1.Nf3 I prefer a more classical approach, avoiding extreme defences like the Benoni or the Grünfeld. Even the Nimzoindian/queen’s Indian are being substituted by set-ups with the move …d5 (Orthodox or Ragozin, for instance. BUT WHY?

Another important matter concerning the differences between OTB Chess and CC is that in CC you never see your opponent. So, is the human being ready to accept a fight when the fighters cannot see one another?. Then,don’t we try to apply analogical processes to a strange situation because our mind needs some guidelines to act?. If so, how this process is done?. Once again, what I am writing is only my personal experience but after nearly 30 years playing CC I have noticed that the rating of the players involved is the first red thread everybody tries to follow. (The second would be te outcome of previous encounters with the same opponent). Since I do not want to state certainties, I will put it down in the form of questions:

When you are playing against some opponent with the SIM,IM or GM title, haven’t you noticed s/he never accepts a draw offer unless the position is absolutely drawish ? The same when your opponent is 40/50 or more ELO points above you. Isn’t it? 

When you meet that same titled player or the one with more ELO points that you and in a first encounter you had made a relatively easy draw as Black, if you have to play against him again, hasn’t it happened to you that s/he changes his opening for another perhaps more complicated one? (These days I m playing -as Black- against an opponent above me in the ranking. I had played before against him and in a Najdorf I had got an easy draw as Black against his 6.Be2 variation. This time I knew he was not going to play 6. Be2… And in our game he has just played 6. Be3 (!). The thinking process is clear: “I have more ELO than my opponent so I’m better than him. This time I will play aggressively to smash him because I’m better:”)  How many assumptions does this way of reasoning contain???  But “assumptions” both in Chess and life can be absolutely devastating: they are related to analogies and suppositions, and , in my humble opinion, they may lead you to a parallel non-existent world, especially when you continue linking one assumption after another to justify or explain your decisions. (After all, ratings are comparative evaluations, games have to be played and there are many circumstances surrounding the players and the process of playing Chess. In 1972 Fischer nad never beaten Spassky : some draws and three clear victories for Boris could have been considered  a terrible handicap for the American…)

When one takes something irreal as real, then the consequences derived may be also very real. And curiously, this seems to work only for bad consequences…

As time has been passing by, I have become an absolute relativist concerning Chess.Chess is so complex that every game always shows a sort of  a rather unstable balance. This is why games continue being won and lost. No matter if you are aided by a computer. In the end the computer find moves because the manufacturer has added an evaluation element.  In the end again, you have to play one move in a position and this implies analyzing, evaluating, using your intuition and experience, using your ability to anticipate your opponents’ threats/ideas, and so on. BUT all ths take place into your mind. Can we be sure the process we are using are correct????

(In the meanwhile, the human being keeps playing Chess throughout the world. Isn’t it wonderful?)

Kraemer and Zeppler

Kraemer and Zeppler. Mate in three moves.

QChess.

Written by QChess

September 26, 2014 at 7:15 am

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