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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. Mate in four moves.



Written by QChess

September 26, 2014 at 7:15 am

The Opening, Once Again…

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If you are a CC player, the following may sound familiar. You start a tournament and , in general, only a few perfunctory words with the first move and that is all. Supposedly, “Amici Sumus” and so on, but the real scenery is that of a crude battle to beat you while you try not to be beaten and to beat them . From time to time one of your opponents respond continue sending messages and sometimes a good friendship starts. I have been discussing the matter of the odds White pieces/Black pieces and one thing is the (false) impression one gets and a different one the real fact. In my humble opinion the odds White/Black is 50/50. I would even concede a 52/48 to those who so strongly advocate the White side. This would lead us to a wider discussion under the heading “Why We Lose at Chess”. (By the way, one of the best explanations on this is in Abraham’s book ” The Chess Mind”). Many people prefer the white pieces -I don’t clearly know why, they will know…) perhaps because they can set the pace of the game by playing their favourite first move?. In my case, and perhaps due a strong influence on Nimzowitsch’s part, I consider the black pieces as strong as their white counterparts: my opponents may be glad to play 1. e4.Then I find it fascinating to play my Sicilian or some other defence I like. They may plan a closed game with 1.d4, but then I enjoy myself looking for new subvariations in the Nimzoindian, the Benoni the Orthodox or the Grünfeld. And if they play the English I find a lot of delight keeping them guessing after 1…Nf6 (Will I play a defence like the above mentioned making them play a Queen’s Gambit or will I torture them with 1…c5 and the myriad of symmetrical possibilities?)

So it is not a matter of being white or black but a matter of choosing the right opening, the right subvariation and analyse the lots of end-positions those subvariations lead to. Here is where we lose!: I am convinced that most losses are because we blindly follow theory and what is worse, statistical assessments given by chess programs. Then we see that a variation is assessed as advantageous to Black and we play it without analysing the end-position. Statistics are not the truth but a comparative truth : games are not won by themselves: you have to play moves, accept risks and take decisions, and it is in this process that your games are won and lost .If the opening line lead to a dead  position or what is worse, to a position in which only your opponent can improve the it, then you are lost. No matter what statistics say. Moreover, bear in mind that a 99% of the lines included in databases appeared in OTB games,not in CC ones. Apply final-result statistics (without any analysis) to CC may be devastating. And yes, everybody does it, and I do it too… 

Fischer became a deadly chessplayer when he realized the potentiality of the Black pieces (of course among other factors), and Tal said that when theory said Black was equal, that meant Black was already better. So I advocate a change in our mental state too: stop thinking that “with black you have to defend and stop white’s attack first” and that kind of rubbish: prepare your openings, play well and white will not have any attack except that coming from the black side.

Yes, I know some player may be considered a sort of “white-piece player” and you have heard that over-repeated statement of “win as white and draw as black” etc. But  we are talking of super-professional chessplayers playing in superprofessional round-robin events. They know that winning with White + drawing with Black with some victory -as black -too was enough to win a 99% of the events they had to play in. OTB Chess ideas do not work in today’s CC official tournaments (today all CC official events show a high number of draws due to the way of playing by using chess programs). In today’s CC events you cannot say “I’m going to win all my games as white and draw all my games as black”. Why?.- Because we are not playing OTB Chess, things do not work that way and this is 21st century CC…

Take for instance KARPOV: in Chess many things are written, many people read ithem , many people believe them and many people start repeating them becoming a sort of clichè statement repeated and repeated as if it were an absolute truth… But are they true by merely repeating them “ad nauseam“?. No. Karpov have won hundreds of games as Black. You can see how he won with the Sicilian -Paulsen/Taimanov, the Spanish as Black, the Caro-Kann, etc. But many people associate him with the “win-as white-draw-as-black-approach”. This is not true. Don’t believe everything you read. Find the facts, analyse them and make your own opinion, but always based upon facts.

Now perhaps you would like to find a mate in three in the following composition by Zigman (if it shrinks, click to enlarge. Position in Forsyth notation too.)


(8 – 6P – 8 – 1K6 – 1P6 – kN6 – prp5 – 2B5 )


Written by QChess

December 28, 2013 at 8:15 am

Changing One’s Openings

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Concerning the matter I am going to write about I think there are -at least two types of approaches and so of CC players since  I am mainly speaking  of CC – in relation to one’s opening repertoire: those who hardly ever change their openings and those who change them in search of new horizons , for the sake of experimenting after a painful defeat or due to an attack of sheer boredom with the line(s) they are using. All in all, some players may change their openings forever while others may change them for a time. After that period, they come back to the use of their favourite set-ups. Korchnoi said that when a player works to change his openings was because he was progressing. (Korchnoi’s opinion…)

Apart from this,I have mentioned two basic facts for which one may decide to go for a change. In general in CC you are playing several games at the same time, so you may have the same lines in many of them, especially as Black. It may happen that you get bored or that you start losing those games… It is normal that in the next tournament you try to play something different.Or not. But it may occur. Even OTB players do that: Karpov has played 1. e4 /1. d4 and 1.c4 as White. As Black he has tried the Sicilian (Kan or Taimanov), the Petroff,the Caro-Kann and 1…, e5/ in general. Of late, he has even played 1…,d5 against 1.e4 in blitz games. Spassky played 1.e4 and 1.d4 with he same degree of dexterity while as Black he opted for 1…e5 or the Sicilian against the KP and played different systems against the QP. Fischer nearly always played the Najdorf but had the Alekhine as a useful standby ,-OK, for a bunch of games :)-. He used more systems against the QP: the KID, the Grünfeld, the Benoni, the Nimzoindian and the Semi-Tarrasch. This is why GM Soltys wrote that “Fischer’s problem with his favourite Black lines was different: by the mid-1960’s he was too strong for some of them”.

Some lines are so much played that new ideas for and against are constantly appearing and if you want to play them you must keep abreast of the latest theory. Others become two tame, too drawish that are abandoned till someone discovers fresh new ideas. This is how opening theory developes in Chess. Years ago the Caro-Kann was one of my favourite defences. Then the 3. e5 variation (played already by Tal, for instance in his matches with Botvinnik) re-appeared and for a time many people had to put the black side in the freezer.. Najdorf players may remember the 6. Be3 craze and all the uproar around: a sideline suddenly became mainline… And so on.

And there is another small detail: why do you start losing with the line you know so deeply?. There is no clear answer: perhaps you “lose the grip”, start playing by inertia, stop updating it in the belief that with your knowledge nothing can happen to you,… If so, then it is high time for a change. Nevertheless our computerized age has provoked a curious effect: everybody seems to take statistics as a sort of Holy Writ. People label the openings accordingly and only play those with the best statistical ratings, despising the rest. So, only a few really try to breathe new life in old set-ups. This happens at GM level too, of course. So openings like the Pirc, the Alekhine, to mention only two of them are not played or analysed. But look: several years ago nearly nobody in the Chess elite played the Scotch until Kasparov arrived with new analysis and voilà, the Scotch became a sign of distinction. What would have happened if he had chosen  the Latvian Gambit or the Ponziani or…? Food for thought.

(I must insist that in this matter CC and OTB are poles apart: in OTB games the player must rely upon his/her memory. Mistakes are common in the opening and in the middlegame (the clock plays its role, pieces cannot be touched, etc. In the meanwhile, in CC today highly specialized at least in the ICCF- the players can consult any type of material and they can move the pieces and see the final positions of every line in their analysis. Even though, there are mistakes in CC too including clerical/transmission ones : you send the wrong move to the wrong opponent due to many reasons every CC player knows…, and games are lost and won either because your opponent knows more or better theory than you, you fall in positions with  no threats, different options and choose one which leads you to a worse position, etc. Sometimes I tend to think that in today’s CC you lose more games than your opponents win you, but this is a personal , psychologically biassed appreciation… More food for thought.) 


Written by QChess

December 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Posted in CHESS, Openings

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Panic on the 2nd Move

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Today, a position for a game played in Moscow in 1961. White (Muchnik) to move.The Black side was played by Estrin. Sharpen your combinative skills. Solution after text.


Basically, there are many types of correspondence chess (CC) players. We have those who prefer concentrate upon a few games, those who prefer having many games in progress, those who keep a balanced profile concerning the matter, those who prefer unrated friendly games, those who play for rating and norms, etc. And concerning the opening we try to play always the same openings or those who like testing new openings, trying new possibilities, and so on. If you like playing many games sometimes you may find it boring to have twenty-five 1. e4 -games or twenty Sicilians/ QGD, for example. So you decide to play 1. d4 in a bunch of games and the Grünfeld or the QID in another bunch of them. I have always thought this is very good: you have to study new openings, you find different fresh positions, you are widening your Chess knowledge.

The problem begins when in serious games you do the same and one day you realize that if the first move sets up the pace of the game ,the second move -mainly as Black-  may be a source of doubts! : 

“My opponent has played 1. e4. I will play my Sicilian: 1. e4 , c5/ 2.Nf3 :to your desperation your doubts start: 2. …d6, 2…e6 or 2…Nc6? .The type of game these three moves may lead to you are absolutely different! Suddenly you remember you have lost your last three Najdorfs, so 2…, e6 -but do I want to play a Paulsen???. And if 2…Nc6 I may land in a Paulsen, a Taimanov, a Scheveningen or a Sveshnikov …

My opponent has played 1. d4. OK. If I play 1…d5 it is clear my idea is far from trying Indian systems. If I play 1…Nf6/ and he plays 1.c4 I can play : Indian systems, QGA, QGD, even irregular set-ups.. So: 1. d4, Nf6/ 2. c4 and by the time this move reach you you-have-doubts-because-you-have-won-or-lost-with-this-or that-defence-so-you-.idea-was-to-test-a-Grünfeld-but-perhaps-it-is-better-that-Orthodox-you-have-played-so-many-times-and so on. So you don’t know what to play whether 2…,e6 or 2…g6 , you leave this game for the week-end but what usually happen is that in the week-end you still don’t know what to do because you are trying to convince yourself  -with rational arguments- of what may be a matter of taste… In friendly games this is not a problem: you try new openings and that’s all. But in ICCF games with ratings at stake…beware: a CC game may last many months (not an afternoon and tomorrow I will play a different opponent, etc). If you choose “the wrong option”, you may be compelled to play positions you do not like for many months, and eventually you may lose that game. And during those months, every time you set up the damned position to choose your move, an odd feeling of stupidity may be hovering over your head…

In Chess every move matters: the first, the second, even the third move (yes, the third one too: 1. d4, Nf6/2.c4, e6/3.Nf3 and now you have a lot of options again leading to completely different types of game: from a Bogoindian to a  Benoni or a wild Volga Gambit ), may decide the fate of the game not because they are bad, but because a wrong decision may keep you feeling uneasy with the game for months.

W.:  Tal (1)

B.: Pasman (0)

Riga 1953

1. e4, c5 /2. Nf3, d6/ 3. d4, cxd4/ 4. Nxd4, Nf6/ 5. Nc3, a6/ 6. f4, e5/ 7. Nf3, Nbd7/ 8. Bd3, Bd7/ 9. 0-0, 0-0 / 10. Kh1, b5/ 11. a3, Qc7 / 12. fxe5, dxe5/ 13. Nh4, Nc5/ 14. Bg5, Qd8/ 15. Nf5, Bxf5/ 16. Rxf5, Nfd7/ 17. Bxe7, Qxe7/ 18. Nd5, Qd6/ 19. Qg4, g6/ 20. Raf1, g6/ 21. h4!, Kh8/ 22. R5f3, f5/ 23. exf5!?, Qxd5/ 24. fxg6, Rxf3/ 25. g7, Kg8/ 26. Bxh7, Kxh7/ 27. Rxf3,Ne4!/ 28. h5, N7f6/ 29. Qg6, Kg8/ 30. h6 Ra7?!   (30…, Nh7-Koblentz)/  31. Kh2!, Re7/ 32. Rh3!, Nh7/ 33. Rd3, Qa8/ 34. Qxe4!, Qxe4/ 35. Rd8, Kf7/ 36. g8Q, Kf6/ 37. Rd6, Kf5/ 38. Qg6, Kf4/ 39. g3, Ke3/ 40. Rd3, Qxd3/41. Qxd3 Black resigned. 

The solution to the above position is:  1. Rb3, Qa1/ 2 f6, Bxf6/ 3. Bxg7!, Bxg7/ 4. Bh7, Kh8/ 5. Rxa1, Bxa1/ 6. Be4!, Bg7/ 7. Rh3 winning



Written by QChess

October 18, 2013 at 1:58 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

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