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CHESS BLOGGING

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I confess I have thought about ending this blog, even erasing it from the web.  I have been thinking about many questions:

1.- Why do people write blogs?

2.- What use is it to tell what you think or do?

3.- Do blog authors write because they want to share their feelings / experiences with other people or do they write them because they want to show off , that is: because they only want other people to see how much they know about a subject (which would be sheer narcissism something I hate deeply)?

4.-Am I writing for myself or for possible interested readers?

These and other questions have been tormenting me from time to time. 
First of all, I have always insisted on the fact that I am no master and need no “disciples”. I write about my experience so as to order them on my mind, remember good and hard times,etc. And if it can help somebody else to contemplate Chess from a different point of reference, so far so good, I have also insisted on the point that nobody is going to do what is your task so as to make Chess progress.  Reading about Chess is a help to put you on location, to create a favourable state of mind , to confront your ideas with those by others, etc. But there is no a hidden secret , in fact there are no hidden secrets anywhere. And those who say they know something nobody else can /must know, are lying.

We study the games played by our great predecessors because we want to understand how they thought, how they were able to find the best move one time after another and how they used ,as their main tool, their understanding of tactics, strategy, planning and intuition. How they follow the rules sometimes and broke them on other ocassions. How they understood the rules and how wo the exceptions worked. Chess is wonderful to see the human mind working. How it uses logical tools, illogical even absurd tools, intuition. How it handles risk, emotion, fear… You can even see the world and the universe through Chess because Chess can also be a state of mind.

So do not blindly follow what other people say nor even any sort of self-proclaimed guru of anything. Look for your own path, check,check,check any information and… never surrender. 

Now, the training task: 

pos3

Mate in 3.- Brehmer

pos1

Mate in 3.- Höeg

pos4

J. Mugnos. White to play wins.

(I include the solution so do not continue reading if you want to have a try at it:

  1. Nf3  Kh1
  2.  Bd4  Qf7
  3. Ke3  cxd4 
  4. Kf2  Qf4
  5. Rc6  Qe3 
  6. Kg3  d3
  7. Ra6  Qc1
  8. Ra7  winning.)

QChess.

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Written by QChess

January 22, 2017 at 4:47 pm

BACK

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A Zen idea is that of that to do nothing is already to be doing something. And this is what I have been doing for so long a lapse of time: thinking about Chess,  thinking about  Chess programs and how to counter them at CC, winning games and some events, losing games and ending bordering disaster, drawing games too. I have also set up a new opening repertoire that is working well but which still needs several adjustments . The idea is to win as many games as possible avoiding drawish lines  and turn losses into draws as much as possible. Of course, easier said than done.

(The red threat is that at CC draws have increased by the ton. So many opening lines that are excellent for OTB Chess, are completely drawish at CC, where the element of  error is near to zero -always bearing in mind the “ceteris paribus” clause.)

The first step is to decide -as White- if you are going to play the same first move against any opponent (mine range between 2000 and over 2300 -remember I only play Correspondence Chess), or if you decide your opening according to your opponents’ strength. I exchanged a lot of ideas with other CC colleagues and took a decision.

The second step concerns my play with the Black pieces. I had played too many Sicilian Najdorf, Taimanov, Kan, variations etc. I have played excessively too many QID , Nimzoindian even Benoni and Grünfeld lines. I began to lose and draw excessively (by exhaustion of ideas ?!)

Some people use the “draw with the strong and beat the weak” approach. So they play different openings according to the opponent’s strength. This is a good idea and, correctly applied, works. But I began to wonder if there would be a good repertoire that included safety and active play at the same time.  And I found it for Black.  So I began to play a Sicilian variation I had never played before and a new line valid against 1.d4 /c4/Nf3. And it worked.

Now the White pieces. At first, I decided I would play 1. e4 against “the weak” and 1. d4/c4 against “the strong” -taking the ELO rating as reference. Why, because at CC only the Sicilian offers possibilities of a fight. All the rest are drawish -again the “ceteris paribus” clause, except if you are ready to take very risky paths and make experiments with your own ELO rating at stake. (By the way, this was one of my friends’ ideas). In my case, it did not work… All right, I managed to draw against ratings higher or much higher than mine, but with 1.e4 I was unable to get anything but draws against ELO ratings lower than mine. Then I realized that it would be better to change the plan: play 1. e4 against the strong -leaving them the task of taking risk to force positions, – and 1. c4 against  weaker players leaving them the task of understanding complex strategical positions. And this is working well so far. (By the way, in case of similar ratings or doubts I tend to play 1. c4 or 1. d4).

These days I am facing a curious challenge: I am playing my country (13th edition)  CC Cup Final: 13 games against a terrific field: I am the lowest ELO (2199)  and  it includes  players with 2311 , 2289, 2351, 2382 , 2398(IM) , 2349, or 2422 (IM). So I am clearly their lamb to slaughter, and feel myself as a small kitten surrounded by hungry wolves and  hyenas ready to kill me so as not to lose a single ELO point in their games with me. 

Will this be a correct approach?. Would it be better to play the same openings without looking at your opponents?. One thing is clear: today’s CC is a highly specialised task and we must learn to live with computers and Chess programs. I do not see it as a problem but as a challenge. It makes me think about different things, possibilities, stratagems and ideas. So, all is well that ends well…

(The following problems are for you to solve. I hope they are right. If not, drop me a line. Thank you so much.)

QChess.

 clausen-1932

Clausen 1931. Mate in 3  . “Tricky” according to my notes.

behting

Behting 1888. Mate in 3.

Written by QChess

January 14, 2017 at 4:41 pm

The Non-Human Factor (Part 3 )

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Q.7.- I have always thought that chess-playing engines do cheat. One may accept it or not, but they not only cheat, I suppose that to be able to play Chess, they have to cheat: when you play against one of them (OTB games) , you cannot use written notes, books, magazines etc. But they do use the opening book they have. This prevents them from forgetting opening lines, changing the order of moves, etc. And the same is valid for the analysis they carry out later in the game. As a human, you may end up mixing lines, playing wrong moves in advance, overlooking some move when having to play. They will never make such mistakes. Engines do not overlook  moves once they have decided on a certain line of play. And they do not change moves by mistake. So, if you want to beat them ,you will have to be more cunning than them ,but do not put your hopes in human-like type of mistakes. Then the question is still there: Can they be beaten? How?. Well, I do not have a straightforward answer. I do not think there is such an answer.  I suppose you should survive in the opening by achieving a balanced position, play positionally active during the middlegame without entering no-way-out alleys, choose the right balance of forces, assess the matter of the Bishop pair or the B vs. N as accurately as possible and try to keep the middlegame as closed as possible BUT as full of possibilities as possible. Today’s programs can play positional Chess with a high degree of proficiency. A different matter is when the game reaches positions with less and less tactics and more and more strategy. If the engine plays to win, it may give you some fresh targets to shoot at. If not, at least you will have the draw at hand… Playing against them as if they were humans, will not pay off. Forget about passive opening set-ups even if they lead to closed or semi-closed positions. With the initiative, you will be smashed. Forget about open positions or tactical melées with interchange of blows by taking pieces on each turn while it also takes yours: if it goes into such lines, it is because it has seen all the possible intermediate moves. The normal outcome would be ending up with one or several pieces down…So, the best policy for you would be to keep the piece balance as tight as possible . On the other hand, one may think that keeping it simple will be useful. Forget about it too. The main problem is to understand how they are able to “see”” all the drawbacks every move contains. And this is not easy to explain.

Well, you may be wonder why writing about this topic since everybody knows they are (nearly) unbeatable. Perhaps because the whole thing is our last frontier today and perhaps because it can help us understand the way we think too. 

Be that as it may, it has not deterred me from keeping on playing Chess. So, do not think about engines, plies and other time consuming , mind-boggling  concepts and … play the Eternal Game. The rest may only be an odd mental state. 

(Note: This is a personal view susceptible of change as time passes by. Please remember that in Chess the best opinion is your opinion, the best ideas are your ideas and that everything is relative. )

pridaux 1

Prideaux.  Mate in 3 moves

reinmann

Reinmann. Mate in 3 moves.

QChess.

Written by QChess

January 5, 2016 at 8:22 am

The Non-Human Factor. (Part 1)

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“Nor even top professionals play serious games against today’s Chess programs: they are too strong”.  I have read this  statement a lot of times. Well, once established the main idea, I was on a train some days ago, a bit lost in my own thoughts and yes, daydreaming, when I began to think about it. Because one thing is to say something, accept it without hesitation because it was said by someone “important” and a different think is to put the idea before us an try to explain it clearly. So, in my opinion, the main questions could be: 

1.Why are today´s programs so strong /much stronger than top chessplayers?.

2.-In which ways “they” play different to us? Conversely: in which way do we play different to “them”?

3.-What do “they” see we do not see?

4.-In what way do “they” see/assess the elements of a game that we are unable to match them?

5.-In what way do “they” apply the elements of Chess that we fail to match their prowess?

6.- Can we really make any attempt at beating them?

7.- And the Big One:  Do “they” cheat??

I have devoted a lot of time to think about all this. I suppose the main fields to investigate are the openings and the middlegames (and apply the above-mentioned questions to them. Why?.- Because if you survive to reach an endgame ,the game will be lost/won/or drawn, and everything will depend on accurate calculation of variations (if it is drawn or won. If it is lost for you, there will be no problem: you will be scientifically killed and dissected by the monster…)

Possible answers that may change as time passes by…:

Q.1/ Q.2 – They play much stronger due to a variety of factors: they never forget the openings and play them without mistakes. They are extremely strong at tactical calculation. They never speculate or feel fear. They have no interest in their opponents’ ideas, emotions, body language, noise, etc. They are not pressed by rating points, timetables, previous results, statistics, final standings, money they can earn or lose, they are never tired or bored, they are never hungry or sleepy, they never have “a bad day” and have no prejudices, there are no ugly moves/positions for them. They are only there TO PLAY CHESS AND ONLY CHESS. During the past few years,apart from refining the tactical side of the program as far as calculation of movements is concerned, programmers have learnt to include strategical ideas in their way of choosing a move, making them even more deadly: for instance the always complex matters of B vs. N , the change B for N, the different value of B’s and N’s according to the position -and more if the position is tactical, etc. 

(To be continued)

Bruski

Mate in 3 moves. Bruski 1906

Ernst

Mate in 3 moves. G. Ernst. 

Happy New Year 2016 to all my readers. 2015 has been very bad for me but let me tell you I wish all your dreams come true this next year. Thank you very much for being there.

QChess.

Written by QChess

December 30, 2015 at 7:19 am

Of Model Chessplayers

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What chessplayer do you want to imitate?. Do you follow  Fischer, Botvinnik, Alekhine, Tal, Korchnoi, Lasker, Capablanca,Nimzowitsch, Steinitz,…?. Then, you are studying these players’ games , play their openings, and so on. BUT one of he striking facts -which is more conspicuous in CC – is that many of the opening variations these gentlemen played are now outdated. In CC you try to play the Sozin against some Sicilian lines like Fischer did only to see that, as White, you have ended up on the receiving end…

During my Chess career I have found  many people who admired Lasker (to mention one of them). But, in Lasker’s days, the Sicilian was nearly unexplored. Or the King’s Indian, the Grünfeld, etc. So you are nearly reduced to very 0ld Ruy López variations and the French.  So, what to do?. 

Well, you may keep on studying all those GMs from the past to learn strategy,planning , endgame technique and combinations, But you should forget about playing their opening variations unless you find a forgotten move in one of the old lines they played. And you should not forget that OTB Chess has nothing to do with CC. (Several years ago I tried to play Korchnoi’s lines in my CC games ending up in sheer disaster. So never more!. In OTB Chess there is the factor of time (the clock!) and the fallibility of the human being. In today’s CC time is irrelevant and nobody is going to miscalculate because our Chess programs will immediately detect the slightest of errors.

I still remember the 80`s (20th century) when we played without programs, with postcards and stamps… Then you could employ Karpov’s or Kasparov´s latest innovation (if you managed to get it in those old printed magazines) and be happy…. I waited well over a decade to use the following line used by Karpov in Baguio: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5, a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5 . 0-0 Nxe4 6.d4  b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. de5 Be6 9. Nbd2 Nc5  10. c3 d4 11. Ng5 !!?. And when I employed it against a Dutch opponent I found myself struggling for a draw which I finally managed to achieve… On those days I had no a computer. I never knew if my opponent was using one (a pre-historic one anyway!). Karpov used to say that in the good old days you could find a TN and employ it a couple of times -or even more- before all your opponents knew it and found countermeasures, while today every TN can be used only once. In the past every chessplayer had to get as many Chess magazines as possible to keep abreast of the latest innovations. Today you may get it at home simply switching on your computer. One of the most important lessons to be learnt today is that in CC it is better not to speculate. Sacrifice a Pawn (or what be even worse: a piece!) for a nebulous attack and your opponent will take it and beat you in a consistent way. Remember: there is no zeitnot in CC, computer programs do not feel nervous or feel anxious. Forget about playing like Tal because he played OTB Chess, not CC.

I do not know why, but when I was a boy and was starting studying Chess seriously, I used to say  “I like this or that player. I want to play like him.” and so on. Now over thirty-eight years have elapsed and I find I can only speak of “influences”. Of course ,some of them are much stronger than others and it is very curious to see how one tends to go back to the very first one of them.

I must say that if you are an OTB chessplayer you would learn a lot by engaging in serious CC games. CC will teach you how to be practical without being speculative, how to be a rounded chessplayer instead of a gambler (or a “coffee-house” one) , how to look for the best and strongest move in every position without speculating with the clock. But remember that CC is a very serious matter: people here are out for blood and rating points (not for money). So, if you are not going to take it seriously, it would be better for you (and your ego) not to put your head into the lion’s mouth. It may hurt a lot…

(For those who admire Karpov and like learning endgame technique from complete games I would recommend the following book:  Karolyi’s & Aplin’s : “Endgame Virtuoso Anatoly Karpov”)

Now, here is something for you to train:

Dobriski

Mate in 3 moves Dobriski/Shinkman 1883.

Agapov

Agapov. Mate in 4 moves.

QChess.

Written by QChess

December 20, 2015 at 7:15 am

BACK AGAIN

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A long time has passed since I last wrote a post. I have been thinking , reading and playing CC. I thank you all the readers who have continued reading the different posts. So this post will be a recollection of readings, ideas, opinions.

I have read that Spassky never understood the way Karpov thought.(Nevertheless, in 2007, Boris told me he would be never afraid of Karpov any more…)

I have read that some critics believe Fischer never faced the strong opposition Soviet players faced in Soviet/world tournaments (we should  remember  some of the gruelling events held in the now defunct Soviet Union). (I must admit I have thought about this matter some time ago. It is very easy: make a comparison between the events Fischer took part in and the different tournaments players like Spassky, Korchnoi, Geller, Tal, Smyslov ,Keres ,etc. had to play in the same period of time. Could any US Chess Championship be compared to any USSR Chess Championsip of the same period? The answer is in the negative, in my opinion).

Today, every CC player has a computer at home. Some people do not use a chessboard + pieces any longer… They see the position on their screens, analyse, check the moves and send the them. No chessboard required.. Is this good or bad?. I must confess I have done it a lot of times… BUT: I keep buying brand new chess pieces because from time to time I like to make a review of all my games (I am playing over 100 CC games at the moment) using chessboard and pieces to understand the positions. So, my advice to you would be as follows: in many instances,you will receive your moves, analyse them, check them out with a program and sent your move. But it would be better for you to set up the board and chessmen and make an analysis of every game you have in play.

If you are wondering how it is possible for me to have over 100 games in play, my answer would be because I love playing CC. CC is not a money-making activity and it has always been a sort of therapy to me. 2015 has been terrible to me, so I am trying to use CC as a therapy. It compels me to open my e-mail page, my ICCF page, take down the move and find an answer to it.

As for training, let me recommend you to keep on solving 3-movers or 4-movers. (I have read Lasker used this system too.) So here I am going to leave some homework to you.

And thank you very much for being there..

Pos3

Mate in 3 moves. H.M. Prideaux.

QChess.

Written by QChess

December 17, 2015 at 1:27 pm

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

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