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History: We are What we Come from

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The Soviet GM Alexander Kotov has served as inspiration to some generations of chessplayers. His three books “Think Like a Grandmaster”, “Play Like a Grandmaster and Train Like a Grandmaster have become beacon fires for millions of chessplayers all over the world. Kotov divided the different middlegame positions into two great groups subdividing the second one:

1. Intuitive Positions

2. Resolvable Positions :

-2a)  By Logical Plans                                                                                                                                                                                       -2b) Calculable positions :                                                                                                                                                                                                   2b1) Combinational                                                                                                                                                                                           2b2)  With forced variations                                                                                                                                                                           2b3) With alternating blows                                                                                                                                                                            

 -2c) Manoeuvring Positions.  (Kotov explains this consists of shot-term plans and “tacking to and fro move by                                                                      move”, insisting that this method is only valid for level positions). He criticized those especially among young players, who resort to this way of playing in nearly all sort of positions because Kotov believed it was caused by the desire to play too many tournaments having no time for home study and showing a manifest lack of creative attitude.) 

In my opinion, this succinct description of the possible middlegames is outstanding, and may help the player a lot when studying chess games. 

The problems everybody has to face when studying annotated games are clear: if the game is annotated by a professional player in active, do not expect great revelations… If the game is annotated by journalists everything will depend on their ability for annotating games, space provided by the editor, time little they have to devote to the matter, etc. (I have compared notes provided by world-class GMs to the same games and the result is -to say the least- worth thinking about… If the notes are written using  a computer and providing variations only, they will lack any strategical or positional guideline, and so on. My advice: try to do your own notes, try to see positional plans and strategical ideas.

Concerning the above classification, the first idea is to try to attach names to the different parts, because it is not a matter to describe middlegame possibilities, the classification also identifies styles of playing Chess. It is true every top player  masters the different ways of dealing with middlegame positions, but certain middlegames tend to appear out of the same type of openings, and one´s opening repertoire has a lot to do with one’s approach to Chess and ,ultimately, with one’s style. I guess many people would associate “intuitive positions” to Tal and Shirov, for example. I would put Fischer under the heading of resolvable positions (but also Tal, Spassky,…), and leave a Petrosian or a Karpov for “manoeuvring positions”. Let me insist, this is but only a bit of speculative passtime, as I have explained above: Tal played beautiful positional games and Petrosian knew how to sacrifice pieces and Pawns. And I insist once again: this classification is, primarily, a classification of middlegame positions, not of chessplayers.

Alexander Alexandrovich KOTOV was born in 1913 and died in 1981. He became a GM in 1950. Let me recommend you the three books mentioned above. He also wrote several other books, magazine articles and compiled the life and games of his hero Alexander Alekhine. He also wrote a book with Yudovich about the history of the Soviet Chess School, with very interesting historical facts. He was considered an attacking chessplayer and was known as a” giant killer” because he defeated the cream of the cream of his fellow GM companions.

When I managed to get his book “Think Like a Grandmaster” it was like “seeing the light” or having found a secret knowledge.. I cannot remember how many times I read the book and worked following the pieces of advice it contains.

W.: Kotov (1)

B.: Barcza (0)

Stockholm 1952

1. d4, Nf6/ 2. c4,g6/ 3. Nc3, Bg7/ 4. e4, d6/ 5. g3, 0-0/ 6. Bg2, e5/ 7. Nge2, exd4/ 8. Nxd4, Nc6/ 9. Nc2, Be6/ 10. b3, Qd7/ 11. 0-0, Bh3/ 12. f3, Bxg2/ 13. Kxg2, a6/ 14. Bb2, Na7/ 15. Qd2, b5/ 16. Ne3, c6/ 17. Rad1, Rad8/ 18. Ne2!, Qc7/ 19. Bc3, Qe2/ 20. Nd4, Ne8/ 21. Ndf5!, gxf5/ 22. Nxf5, Qc7/ 23. Nxg7, Nxg7/ 24, Bf6!! , Kh8    (Kotov said that if 24…, Ne6/ 25. f4!,Rfe8/ 26. f5,Rd7/ 27. Rf4, h6/ 28. Rg4, Kh7/ 29. Qxh6, Kxh6/ 30. Rh4  .- if 24…, Ne6/ 25. f4, h6/ 26. f5, Ng5/ 27.Bxf5, hg5/ 28. Qxg5)

25. Qg5, Rg8/ 26. h4, Rde8/ 27. h5, Re5/ 28. Bxe5, dxe5/ 29. Qf6!, Nc8/ 30. h6, Ne7/ 31. Rd2  Black resigns. If 31…, bc4/ 32. Rfd1, cb3/ 33. hg7, Rxg7/ 34.Rd8, Ng8/ 35. Rxg8, Kxg8/ 36. Rd8, Qxd8/ 37. Qxd8 -Kotov-)

W.: Botvinnik (0)

B.: Kotov (1)

USSR Chess Championship 1944

1. d4, Nf6/ 2, c4, e6/ 3, Nc3, Bb4/ 4. a3, Bxc3/ 5. bc, d5/ 6. cd, ed/ 7. Bg5, c5/ 8. f3, h6/ 9. Bxf6, Qxf6/ 10. e3, 0-0 / 11. Ne2, Re8/ 12. Kf2, Qe7/ 13. Qd2, Nd7/ 14. Nf4, Nf6/ 15. Bd3, Bd7/ 16. h3, Qd6/ 17. Rhb1, b6/ 18. Bf1, Re7/ 19. a4, Rae8/ 20. Re1, c4!/ 21. g4, g5!/ 22. Ne2, Rxe3!/ 23. Ng3, Qxg3!/ 24. Kxg3, Ne4/ White resigned.

Today’s position to solve: Mate in 3 moves.

Mate in 3


Written by QChess

October 25, 2013 at 2:17 pm

The Way They Used to Play.

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In one of my first books on Karpov -I bought it around 1980- I saw a note by the author pointing out that the plan followed by Karpov had appeared in an earlier game. Nothing to write home about. That was the way they and we worked those days: you had your opening repertoire, try to find GM games with those lines and try to follow the strategical specifications.

Some days ago, while perusing the webpage <>, I came across a note in a game of the European Individual Women’s Championship, Belgrad 2013. Evgeni Shirov tried to explay the surprise showed by the official commentator GM. Atalik, who did not understand why some of the players, instead of following the plans played by Fischer,KarpovnTaimanov, etc. played the position quite the opposite way. E. Shirov’s explanation astounded me: “The players’ preparation is limited to the recommendations given by her coach and Houdini, so she has no idea of Taimanov´s plan” (in a certain position) 

So that is the key today! No Chess “culture” or something like that: a coach + Any engine and the point is what matters. Perhaps this explain why I find today´s Chess so BORING??.- In the past we discussed the different styles of Petrosian and Spassky, Karpov or Fischer, Botvinnik and Tal… Today perhaps they discuss the different styles  of Rykka and Houdini !!?? … so ignoring the immense Chess lore accumulated throughout the centuries… Food for thought… The more I read these things, the more I love my dear old Chess books.

Going back to my story, while I was preparing the post I found a curious fact: There were at least two previous games to that of Karpov. The first one was played between Polugaevsky and Uhlmann. The East German GM lost, but learnt a valuable lesson:

W.: L. Polugaevsky (1)

B.: W. Uhlmann (0)

Amsterdam, 1970

1. c4, Nf6/ 2 . Nc3 , g6/  3. e4, d6/ 4. d4, Bg7/ 5.Be2, 0-0/ 6. Bg5, c5/ 7. d5, e6 / 8. Qd2, exd5/ 9. exd5 ,Re8 / 10. Nf3, Bg4/ 11. 0-0,Nbd7 / 12. h3, Bxf3/ 13. Bxf3, a6/ 14. a4, Qe7/ 15. Rae1, Qf8/ 16. Bd1, Rxe1 /17. Rxe1, Re8/ 18. Rxe8, Qxe8/ 19. Bc2, Nb6/ 20. b3, Nbd7/ 21. Bf4, Qe7/ 22. Qe2, Kf8/ 23. Qxe7, Kxe7 / 24.a5, h5/ 25. Bd2, Ne8/ 26. g3, Bd4/ 27. Kg2, Ng7/ 28. f4, Nf5/ 29. Nd1, Nh6/ 30. Kf3, f5/ 31. Bd3, Kd8/ 32. Ne3, Ke7 33. Nc2, Bb2/ 34. Ke3, Nf6/ 35. Ne1, Bd4 / 36. Kf3, Bb2, 37. Ng2!, Nd7 /38. Nh4, Kf6 /39. Ke3, Nf7 / 40. Bc2, Ba1/ 41. Ke2, Bb2/ 42. Be1, Ba1/ 43. g4!, hxg4/ 44. Nxg6, Kg7/ 46.Nh4, Kf8/ 47. Bf5, Nf6 / 48. Bc8, Nd8/ 49. Nf5, Nh5/ 50. Bd2, Bd4/ 51. Nxd4, Black resigned.

So, later that year, Uhlmann applied the very same strategical recipe to Gligoric !:

W.: W. Uhlmann (1)

B.: S. Gligoric (0)

Hastings 1970-71

1. d4. Nf6 2. c4, g6/ 3. Nc3, Bg7/ 4. e4, d6/ 5. Be2, 0-0/ 6. Bg5, c5/ 7. d5, e6/ 8. Qd2, exd5/ 9. exd5/ 10. Nf3, Bg4/ 11. 0-0, Nb7/ 12. h3, Bxf3 /13. Bxf3, a6/ 14. a4, Qe7 / 15.Rae1, Qf8/  16. Bd1, Rxe1/ 17. Rxe1, Re8/ 18. Rxe8, Qxe8/  (The same position as in the previous game. Now White follows the very same plan and beats his opponent. ) /19.Bc4, Qe7/ 20. Qe2, Kf8/ 21. Qxe7, Kxe7/ 22. a5, Ne8/ 23. Bd2, h5/ 24. Kf1, Bd4/ 25. b3, Ng7/ 26. Bc2, Ne8/ 27. Ne2, Bb2/ 28. f3, Ng7/ 29. Kf2,, Bf6/ 30. Nc3, Bd4/ 31. Ke2, f5/ 32. F4, Ne8/ 33. Bd3, Bxc3/ 34. Bxc3, Nef6/ 35. Be1, Kf7/ 36. Ke3, Ke7/ 37. Bc2, Kf7/ 38. b4,cxb4/ 39. Bxb4, Nc5/ 40. Kd4, Nfd7 / 41.Bd1, Ke7/ 42.g4, hxg4/ 43. hxg4, Kf6/ 44. Ke3, b6/45. gxf5, gxf5/ 46. Bxc5,Nxc5/ 47. axb6, a5/ 48. Bc2, Ke7/ 49. Kd2, Kd8/ 50. Bf5, Nc4/ 51. b7, Kc7/ 52. Bc8, Nc5/ 53. f5, Ne4/ 54. Kc2, Kb8/ 55. Kb3, Nd2/ 56. Ka4, Nxc4  / 57.f6,Ne5/ 58. Kxe5 , Black resigned.

And four years later (!) Karpov, who knew those games, used a similar plan this time in a slightly different position (this game is, perhaps, a bit more involved than the others, but notice the similar Pawn structures, the exchange-of-certain- piece manoeuvres, etc.)

I played through these games several times one August Sunday afternoon and spent a delicious time “LEARNING”

W.: A. Karpov (1)

B.: B. Spassky (0)

Candidates’ Match , Leningrad 1974

1. d4, Nf6/ 2. c4, g6 / 3. Nc3, Bg7/ 4. e4, d6 / 5. Nf3, 0-0/ 6. Be2, c5/ 7. 0-0, Bg4 / 8. d5, Nbd7/ 9. Bg5, a6/ 10. a4, Qc7/ 11. Qd2, Rae8/ 12. h3, Bxf3/ 13. Bxf3, e6/ 14. b3, Kh8/ 15. Be3, Ng8/ 16. Be2, e5/ 17. g4, Qd8/ 18. Kg2, Qh4/ 19. f3, Bh6?! / 20. g5!, Bg7/ 21. Bf2, Qf4, 22. Be3, Qh4/ 23. Qe1!, Qxe1/ 24. Rfxe1, h6/ 25. h4, hxg4? (f6)/ 26. hxg4/ 27. a5! f6/ 28. Reb1!, fxg5/ 29. b4! Nf5/ 30. Bxg5!, Nd4/ 31. bxc5, Nxc5/ 32. Rb6!, Bf6/ 33. Rh1, Kg7/ 34. Bh6, Kg8/ 35. Bxf8, Rxf8/ 36. Rxd6, Kg7/ 37. Bd1, Be7/ 38. Rb6, Bd8/ 39. Rb1, Rf7/ 40. Na4, Nd3/ 41. Nb6, g5/ 42. Nc8, Nc5/ 43. Nd6, Rd7/ 44. Nf5, Nxf5/ 45. exf5, e4/ 46. fe, Nxe4/ 47. Ba4, Re7/ 48. Rbe1!, Nc5/ 49. Rxe7, Bxe7/ 50. Ra1, Kf6/ 52. d6, Nd7/ 53. Rb1, Ke5/ 54. Rd1, Kf4/ 55. Re1, Black resigned.


Written by QChess

August 9, 2013 at 6:57 am


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(Please remember my main aim is not to teach or preach, but to entice the reader into thinking on his/her own. Sometimes we read something which acts as a trigger, making us realize that a change in our point of view may help to throw new light into an unsolved -so far- problem.- The author: QChess.-)

When we started playing Chess I guess all of us had our Chess idol. Even when many years have passed, players still have their beloved admired predecessors. It is well-known that even the greatest chessplayers have had their admired ones. I have written that Karpov liked Capablanca, Kasparov and Spassky ,Alekhine, Fischer mentioned Steinitz and Capablanca… Others cite Tal or Petrosian or Keres, or Botvinnik,or Lasker or Nimzowitsch and so on “ad infinitum”. Most players try to “play like them” adopting his/her idol’s set of openings.

The problem is: given the quick development of Chess theory ,can one still try to play with the same weapons Fischer, Botvinnik etc. used? And what about trying to use Capablanca’s openings or Nimzo’s lines?. I have tried to do so simply to see how many of the opening variations used by those genius are today surpassed by new opening discoveries (please remember that my field is that of Correspondence Chess, where engines are used). So, perhaps in OTB Chess you can still use opening variations used by Tal, Fischer etc. and win. But not in CC. Today’s Chess books on openings are dangerous weapons because they can become out of fashion in a matter of weeks… Of course, this did not happen in the past. 

Some (important) people say that “today everything can be played”, and that “if this or that opening had been played by Karpov or Kasparov it would have become absolutely fashionable”. As a declaration of intentions this is a good try… My experience is quite the opposite: Kasparov and Karpov did not play this or that opening because for one reason or another it was too weak (to say the least.) One can accept it or not, but in my opinion there are the following types (approx.) of openings:

1.- Good, sound, time honoured openings (Most lines in the Ruy Lopez, Sicilian, Queen’s Gambit, etc)

2.- Good openings out of fashion today (let’s mention the Italian, for instance)

3.- Dangerous openings to play (The Budapest , Latvian or the Albin countergambits)

4.- Unsound openings. (I will not mention any of them to avoid hurting some of the  readers…)

(Please bear in mind groups 3 and 4 do not mean that if you play those openings you are going to lose automatically…).

In my case, and due to my own defects as a chessplayer, I have realized that it is much better for me to remain in groups 1 or 2… (One of my last experiments out of these groups was playing the following in an official ICCF Master class event. I was Black and wanted to “surprise” my opponent: 1. e4 , c5 2. Nf3, Nc6  3. d4, cxd4  4. Nxd4,  d5 (one of Nimzo’s ideas!). My opponent played following the scarce theory available , avoiding Nimzo’s games ,playing in a rather classical way and making the position explode on my face : 1-0. (You may say, “Alas QChess, perhaps the opening had nothing to do with your loss, etc.” : Believe me: that was not the first time I tried to make such experiments: nearly all of them sent my Chess laboratory in flames. It did have to do with the opening…)

Well, if it were so, why do we continue buying and studying books with the games played by the geniuses of Chess?. I suppose because we do not buy them to serve as opening manuals… In fact what we try to do is to learn HOW THEY THOUGHT, how they played the middlegame, how they set up middle/endgame problems and how they managed to solve those posed by their opponents. And this is how, sometimes rather subconsciously, we train our brains for Chess. Once this is established, we may attempt to play like our idols, though perhaps we will not be able to exactly use their opening lines as our main lines today. Nevertheless, I understand that the more we admire a chessplayer, the more we prefer playing his/her favourite openings because one will always try to reach positions similar to those reached by the player one has studied.

And this has to do with a concept I have written about in another post: that of the “possible playable positions”. It is not necessary to go back much: If you compare the end of the sixties and the seventies (20th century, Fischer´s time + the beginning of Karpov´s one) with today, you will see that the number of possible playable positions has expanded like the exponentially. It is easy: take an opening book written in 1975 and another written in 2013 or a database!- and compare the new possible variations and subvariations that have appeared since then… In some cases, the game may have been main line there and today may have disappeared or considered as an inferior subvariation…

The conclusion is that you can play your favourite’s chessplayer openings, but do not expect playing all of them as mainlines because new moves are being introduced constantly. As I have written above, apart from this, the most important idea is that of trying to understand your favourite’s player style and way of thinking. This is also  an important part of what we know as “Chess training”. Good luck and persevere, persevere,persevere.

Now have a look at the following game.Shirov had already played this line and you can find the game in his books:

White: M. Sion (0)

Black: A. Shirov (1)

Leon   ( Spain) . Master T. (Cat. 14), 1995

1. e4 , c5 / 2. Nf3 , d6 / 3. d4 , cxd4 /4. Nxd4, Nc6 / 5. Nc3, Nf6 / 6. Bc4, e6 /7. Be3, Be / 8. Qe2, a6 / 9. Bb3, Qc7 / 10. 0-0-0, 0-0 / 11. Rhg1, Nd7 / 12. g4, Nc5 / 13. Nf5, b5 / 14. Bd5, Bb7 15. g5, Rfc8!? 16. Rg3, Ne5 / 17. Bxb7 (better seems 17. f4), Nxb7/ 18. Nxe7, Qxe7 19.Bd4, b4 / 20. Na4, Nc4/ 21. b3, Na3/ 22. c4, bxc3/ 23. Nb6, Nb5/  24. Bf6, Qc7/ 25. Nxc8, Rxc8/ 26. a4, e5/ 27. Qa2, c2/ 28. Rd-d3, Qa5/ 29. Reg3, Nc5/ 30. Rd5, Nc3/ 31. Qxc2, Nxd5/ 32. exd5, Nxb3 33. Rxb3, Qe1/  White resigns.

(This event was won by GMs Michael Adams (Eng) and Evgeni Bareev (Rus)


Written by QChess

August 4, 2013 at 7:46 am

Critical Positions, The GMs’ Secret.

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What makes that a chessplayer starts to dominate the Chess scene becoming unbeatable and beating all of his opponents?

Fischer, asked about it, replied: “They make mistakes”. Kasparov, somehow obscurely, wrote speaking of Karpov and himself-  that champions and candidates had managed to pass to a different era keeping themselves active. He also mentions that Karpov was able to find the algorithm which allowed him to readapt and readjust himself to the new and changing conditions (once he reached the summit. (Curiously enough, around 1992 I  heard GM Leonid Yudasin speaking about the same  idea in an interview: he was looking for “the algorithm” that would allow him to improve and keep among the best chessplayers in the world…)

So the rest of us when we try to understand the GMs’ ideas are doing the same: we are looking for an algorithm. One of the problems is that no matter how many books you can read, how many annotated games you may study. In fact, they (the leading and top GMs), never discover their real secrets.

But from time to time some small bits appear passim, here and there, passing nearly or totally unnoticed. This is why, after having listened Spassky said that one of his major qualities is that of “appreciating the critical points in the games”,  after studying thousands of games trying to find the slightest of evidences and after reading GM Dorfman’s book about his “method”, I realised that the theory of the critical points is of paramount importance to understand Chess and improve one’s level. (Dorfman’s book is difficult to understand. He apparently derives a method of his own games. This has always been suspicious to me: you had the method and this allowed you to become stronger or you played to the best of your understanding and then suddenly you realised your play contains a method or what else????. But if he wants to try to hold his “method” he is compelled to give away some secret, he does it but the result is very poor, as if he had done it very, very reluctantly : he only mentions 3  principles to recognise critical points. But the clue is enough to catch him on the hop.

First, we can understand a “critical point” as a juncture in the game where a decision has to be taken and this decision may imply altering the strategical characteristics  of the position or deciding which type of strategical set-up we want to arrive to (when you have to decide whether you want to accept an isolated QP or hanging Pawns, you are in a critical position. When you have to decide whether to play  “d5”  closing the center or  “de5:” opening it, you are in a critical position. ) In many notes to games we have been told that there are three phases in a game: the opening, the middlegame and the endgame, and that the best chessplayers have  mastered the art of the transition between them etc, etc, etc. This is true in very general lines, so general that in fact we have managed to learn the “mantra” without really understanding it.

In fact this is so but as happens with icebergs, the largest portion is under the water.

In my humble opinion, a critical point appears when:

1. -Theory ends (because it really ends or the player knows no more.)

2.- Exchanges of pieces have to be made and the player has to decide whether to keep them or not in view of strategical considerations.

3.- When the player has to decide whether to exchange Queens or not.

4.- When a liquidation into an endgame has to be carried out or not.

5.- When a counterstrategy has to be decided to respond to the opponent’s attack (for instance to reply with a center action, an attack on the opposite flank,etc.)

6.- When a transformation in the nature of the position has to be decided
(for instance closing or opening the position)

7.- When the type of center has to be decided.

8.- When the player has to decide to enter a position with heterogeneous forces different balance of forces, (for instance , pieces +Pawns vs. Queen)

9.-When decisions on the Pawn structure have to be taken so deciding the type of the ensuing strategical play: for instance accept an isolated Queen’s Pawn, hanging Pawns, to retake an opponent’s capture on c6 with the “d” or the “b” Pawns.)

10.- When the player finds a new move on the board and has to decide to play it or follow the book continuations.

The following game is a tense struggle. Not all interesting games are those ending with a victory.

W.: R. J. Fischer  (1/2)

B.: B. V. Spassky (1/2)

Rejkjavik 1972. World Championship .4th. Game.

1. e4  c5  2. Nf3  d6  3. d4  cd4  4. Nd4:  Nf6  5. Nc3  Nc6  6. Bc4  e6  7. Bb3  Be7  8. Be3  0-0  9. 0-0  a6  10. f4  Nd4:  11.  Bd4:  b5  12. a3?!  Bb7  13. Qd3  a5!  14. e5  de5  15..fe5  Nd7  16. Nb5.  Nc5!  17. Bc5:  Bc5:  18. Kh1  Qg5  19. Qe2 (Smyslov suggested 19 Qg3 as better)   Rad8  20. Rad1  Rd1:!  21. Rd1:  h5  22. Nd6  Ba8  23.  Bc4!  h4  24. h3  Be3!?  25. Qg4  Qe5:  26. Qh4: g 5  27. Qg4  Bc5  28. Nb5  Kg7  29.  Nd4!  Rh8!  30. Nf3  Bf3:  31. Qf3:  Bd6?  32. Qc3!  Qc3:  33. bc3  Be5  34. Rd7  Kf6  35. Kg1  Bc4:  36. Be2  Be5  37. Kf1  Rc8  38. Bh5!  Rc7  39. Rc7:  Bc7:  40. a4  Ke7  41. Ke2  f5  42. Kd3  Be5  43. c4  Kd6  44. Bf7  Bg3  45. c5 Draw agreed.

W.: Tiviakov (0)

B.: Kasparov (1)

Wijk aan Zee 2001

1. e4  c5  2. Nc3  d6  3. f4 (Grand Prix Attack) , g6  4. Nf3  Bg7  5. Bc4  Nc6  6. 0-0  e6  7. d3  Nge7  8. Qe1  0-0  9. Bb3  Na5  10. Be3  b6  11. Bf2  Bb7  12. Bh4  Nb3:  13. ab3  Qd7  14. Qg3  f5 !  15. Rae1  Nc6  16. ef5  gf5  17. Re2  Rae8  18. Rfe1  Kh8  19. Qh3  Nd4  20. Nd4:  Bd4:  21. Kh1  Rg8  22. Nd1  Rg6  23. c3  Bg7  24. Ne3  Rf8  25. Bg5  h6  26. Bh4  b5  27. Nf1  b4  28. cb4  cb4  29. Ne3  Rg8  30. Bg3  Bd4  31. Nc4  R8g7  32. Qh5  Kh7  33. Ne3  Qb5  34. Rd2  a6  35. Qh3  h5!  36. Re-e2  h4  37. Be1  Be3:  38. Qe3:  Qc6  39. Qh3  Qc1 -+  40. Qh4:  Rh6  41. Rc2  Qd1  42. Rc-d2  Qb1  43. Qf2  Rg2:  44. Qg2:  Bg2:  45. Kg2:  Qa2  46. Rc2  Rg6  47. Bg3  Qb3:  48. Re-d2  a5  49. Kf2  a4  50. Rc6  a3  51. ba3  ba3  52. Ke2  e5  53. fe5  f4/ White resigned.


Written by QChess

August 30, 2012 at 5:07 am

Chess Thoughts: In Search of a Better Understanding

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I would like to quote the words of Prof. A. de Groot because they are worth thinking about them :

“GMs strongly concentrate themselves on the threats posed by their opponents last move and in the matter of how this move has altered the slightest details in the position. They also have a great capacity to evaluate how the neutral exchanges of pieces may  have a favourable or unfavourable effect on the control of key squares and the initiative.. They also spend their (thinking) time with the precise evaluation of the immediate moves , avoiding deeper lines which will never take place in the  game they are playing. “

Words of wisdom which can help a lot to improve one´s approach to Chess!.

(In my opinion it is very important to think about one´s approach to Chess.)

In today’s Chess, it is clear that all  leading GMs pay more  attention to the combination of dynamism + initiative  than to purely static features.

(Please remember that in Chess, when someone makes a statement it i under the conditions known as “CETERIS PARIBUS” : “BEING THE REST OF ALL THINGS EQUAL”).

Then, how much attention do we pay to ideas like the following ones?:

– Dynamism at the cost of Pawn structure.

-Double attack and intermediate moves both in attack and defence.

-Do you pay attention to pinning / unpinning manoeuvres?

-Do you pay attention to decoy manoeuvres?

-Are you influenced by the fact of playing the White or the Black pieces? (In my practice I normally  keep an average of  50 CC games all the time  I have realized that in some of the games ,I play as Black “without considering it” -I mean I play for a win going directly for my opponent without being influenced by defensive considerations of the type: “I’m Black I have to defend my   position first, etc. After all, the odds W/B are similar and subject to too many  particular considerations. Having the White pieces means nothing: you have to play good strong moves one after another. Make mistakes and your Black opponent will crunch you.As Tarrasch used to say: “it is not enough to be a good chessplayer.You have to play good moves too”. I add: “as White too!”.

-The correct assessment of neutral exchanges of pieces (an apparently neutral exchange of pieces in the opening/middlegame may mean a winning or losing endgame with the right/wrong pieces left of the board…)

-Do you pay attention to the matter of opening transpositions used as a weapon from the beginning of the game?

-Follow the book blindly till the end of the line waiting for the opponent to play the following out-of-the-book move or introducing yourself a new move which may be a neutral one. It is not necessary to find a superb TN in every   game.

-The differences between OTB Chess and CC (if you play both) .

-Our opening repertoire: do you play solid openings or (from time to time/always…) you are ready to try gambits like the Budapest, the Evans, etc.?

-When facing new opponents in both CC and OTB, do you play the man/woman,his/her ELO or against the pieces?. Do you change or choose your openings depending only on your opponents’ ELO? I have played in ICCF tournaments in which I was the lowest ELO and others in which I was the highest… Some players may say it is the same to them. Not in my case. But I have learnt a lesson: no matter if you are the lowest or the highest rated player: you must play carefully, avoid stupid opening experiments and respect your opponents. Or they may beat you, sometimes with your own help!

A wonderful game with an outstanding final position:

W.: Jan Timman  (1)

B.: G. Kasparov (0)

Hilversum  1985

1. e4  e5  2. Nf3 Nc6  3. Bb5  a6  4. Ba4  Nf6  5. 0-0  Be7  6. Re1  b5  7. Bb3 d6  8. c3  0-0  9. h3  Bb7  10. d4  Re8  11. Ng5  Rf8  12. Nf3  Re8  13. Nbd2  Bf8  14. a3  h6  15. Bc2  Nb8  16.  b4  Nbd7  17. Bb2  g6  18. c4  ed4  19. cb5  ab5  20. Nd4:  c6  21. a4  ba4  22.  Ba4:  Qb6  23. Nc2  Qc7  24. Bb3  Ba6  25. Rc1 Bg7  26. Ne3 Bb5  27. Nd5 Nd5:  28. Bg7:  Kg7:  29. ed5  Ne5  30. Ne4  Nd3  31. Qd2  Ra3  32. Nf6!!  Re1:  33. Re1 :  Kf6:  34. Qc3  Ne5  35. f4  Ba4  36. fe5  de5  37. d6!  Qd6:  38. Qf3!  Qd6:  39. Qf7:  Kd8  40. Rd1  Ra1  41. Qf6  and Kasparov resigned. The position deserves a diagram:

The Black King is in check. The Black Queen,  White Bishop and Rook are  pinned . A wonderful field of forces!


Written by QChess

August 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Programs, CC and Losses. Part 2.

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You must assume that it is possible to do everything well and even so,  get a bad result”.  “Law & Order : Criminal Intent.”


Leafing through old Chess mags I found a very interesting article written by the late ex-Soviet GM E. Gufeld. He made the following reflection:

“The discussion about whether one can win a game  if one’s opponent makes no mistakes is as old as the mountains. Many chessplayers in my generation (including myself) have grown up under the influence of the attractive traditions of the SOviet Chess School, and have learnt a great truth: the resolution of the fight comes determined, before any other thing, by a better strategy” (Bold letters  mine.- Questchess).

(This is the linking point of the previous and the present posts in which we are talking about playing CC with the aid of powerful programs and the possibility of continuing playing CC in spite of it)

Gufeld included one of his games (see previous post) in which he finds it difficult to pinpoint a clear mistake on the loser’s part. He also quotes Botvinnik saying:

“There are times when it is possible to find oneself in a lost position without making any mistake”.

So,in my opinion , it implies it would be possible to win against any apparently infallible chess program by trying to beat in in the field of strategy: both sides play their opening moves, choose the best plans according to the position and if there is no tactical melées, in a pure strategical struggle, one of them comes on top.  (You may say this is very nearly impossible to do. O.K. But as chessplayers we are obliged to look for solutions and try to make them happen. This is today’s challenge, isn’t it???).

Curiously enough in the same magazine there was another game in which the annotator (GM Seirawan) was unable to find a clear explanation of what happened except that of “a superior strategy”. In that game a mistake at last occurred and decided the game, but what I am interested is in the previous 29th moves.:

W.: V. Korchnoi (1)

B.: A. Shirov (0)

Buenos Aires, 1993.

1. c4  Nf6  2. Nc3  g6  3. e4  d6  4. d4  Bg7  5. Be2  0-0  6. Nf3  e5  7. 0-0  Nc6  8. d5  Ne7  9. Ne1  Ne8  10. Be3  f5  11. f3  f4  12. Bf2  h5  13. c5  g5  14. a4  Ng6  15. a5  Bh6  16. Nb5  a6  17. Na3  Kh8  18. Nc4  Rg8  19. Ra3  Nf6  20. cd6  cd6  21. Nb6  Rb8  22. Rc3  g4  23. fg4  Ne4  24. Rc8  Rc8  25. Nc8  Qc8  26. Bb6  Ne7  27. gh5  Nf6 (Here Seirawan says that Black has an advantage without White having made a clear mistake:both sides have developed their plans and Black has emerged on top). -After a long reflection Korchnoi played :

28. b3  (and the game continued): … Ned5  29. Bc4  Qc6  30. Rf2! – here Shirov falters with 30…., Rc8?  because he thought that after 30…, Rf8! White would get the advantage…-

31. Bd5  Nd5  32. Rc2 Nc3  33. Qg4! Bf8  34. Nd3  Qe8  35. Nb4  d5  36.  Nd5  Bc5  37. Bc5  Rc5  38. h6  Qf8  39. Rc3  Black resigned.

A conclusion seems clear: if you want to beat the computer try to do it in the field of strategy, trying to reach positions (from the adequate opening) where the program evaluations are absolutely similar. A program can “see” every tactical/combinative nuance, but not strategical shades  when the position offers several equivalent possibilities. In the end it has to propose  move, and nobody can explain why it chooses a),b),c) or d) when the evaluation is similar or the same. If you submit one of these levelled positions to the computer, you can see two effects: 1) It chooses always the same move or 2) It chooses one move at one time, and other of the moves at other time.

There are positions where “the only very best move” does not exist. This is the field we will have to choose as our battleground.


Written by QChess

July 26, 2012 at 7:28 am

Programs, Correspodence Chess (CC) and Losses: Part 1.

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(I have no absolute truths, no cure-all solutions.)

In the field of Correspondence Chess (CC) many people have stated that the intrusion of strong Chess programs may kill (or has already killed) this way of playing the game. I don’t think so. I think it would be better to think that the use of these programs + powerful databases have changed the way of playing CC, but have also taught us a new way of thinking, helping us to develop some qualities like the following ones:

– New attitude in the field of strategy and the assessment of the positions.

– Unstoppable growing of the importance of tactics.

– New ways to deal with the openings.

– Development of a new form of “intuition”

– Development of the tactical insight perhaps more in the field of preventive thinking.

The importance of the study of concepts like “control”, “planning” and “strategical control”.

In CC you may use a program in two ways:  a)  In a defensive way and b) In an aggressive one. When it is your turn to play, you may submit the position to the computer and follow its recommendation blindly. This is B). Or you can analyse the position, choose your move and submit it to the computer to find if there is any tactical mistake you may have overlooked.  This is a).

But in the end you will have to take decisions and assume risks, because in many positions the program assigns very similar evaluations to different continuations. On the other hand, before reaching the middlegame, you will have to play the opening, and here evaluations are even more complicated to assess.: in the end you will have to decide again!.

It is in this process where games are won and lost. It is in this process where CC players must work upon to defeat his/her opponents.

Apart from this, one of the marked differences between CC and OTB Chess is that in CC the player has many problems (to put it mildly) to make speculative sacrifices and cash in on them. Why?.- Because speculative or too risky sacrifices play with two main aspects: 1)the complexity of the ensuing positions and 2) the clock!.  The clock is the element CC lacks of. In many OTB games we have seen wonderful sacrifices. The inherent complications and the time pressure factor are telling elements. In cases like this one OTB players may feel the time factor as something “tangible”, knocking wildly on your nerves.  In CC, with the possibility of calm home analysis, time enough to devote to the position and, yes, “GMs Fritz or Rybka or Deep…”, you cannot play that way. In CC if you sacrifice it must be for something very concrete in exchange.

A question: Do you think a program may be of some use to GMs well over 2800 ELO points????. You may say programs have destroyed Chess in certain ELO limits, but I still think the human mind can find ways to fight against it. And the more I think about it the more I see that strategy must be the subject of a deep reassessment. New strategical creative ideas + control + preventive thinking + good handling of those “open” strategies mentioned by Nimzowitsch, can defeat any program. Trying to beat the monsters with tactics, is to no avail.

But the mentioned ideas have to be studied, reassessed and thought about.

I would like my fellow-CC colleagues to stop complaining and devote time to look for genuine imaginative solutions!

(To be continued).

(The following game is linked to the second part of this post)

W.: E. Gufeld

B.: V. Bagirov

Tallinn , 1981

1.e4  c6  2. d4  d5  3. Nd2  de4  4. Nd4  Nd7  5. Bc4  Ngf6  6. Ng5  e6  7. Qe2  Nb6  8. Bd3!  h6  9. N5f3  c5  10. dc5  Bc5  11. Ne5  Nbd7  12. Ngf3  Qc7  13. 0-0  Bd6  (Black chooses a bad plan?- Gufeld’s impression-) 14. Nc4  Be7  15. Nd4!  Nc5  16. Nb5  Qb8  17. Rd1!  Bd7  18. a4! (By the way: the -!- marks are  by Gufeld in his notes to the game.) 18…, a6  19. Nd4  Qc7  20. Ne5  Nd3  21. Rd3  Rd8  22. Bf4  Qc5  23. Rad1  Nd5  24. Qh5!  g6  25. Qf3! Rh7  26. Bg3  Bc8  27. c3!  a5  28. Nb5  g5  29. c4  Nf4  30. Rd8  Bd8  31. Bf4  gf4  32. Qd3!  Bb6  33. Nd6  and Black resigned.

To anticipate my next post let me say Gufeld believe that in this game Black loses without making a mistake except that inherent to choosing a plan and following it.

P.S. Several writing mistakes have been detected and corrected. Sometimes the brain works faster than the fingers on the keyboard!. Be indulgent: sorry.)


Written by QChess

July 19, 2012 at 6:55 am

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