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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.

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 2)

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(Note: You may notice sometimes I employ some terms which would be  more appropriate for human beings. It is for the sake of clarity. I would like to make it clear that a machine is a machine  and a human being is a human being. Bear in mind though that  any Chess program has a human team working in the shadow.)

Q.3.- This is evident: they see every tactical trick, they see the strongest points in their openings and the weakest of moves in yours. They are able to exploit the slightest of inaccuracies and make you commit more mistakes. In zeitnot positions, you are ,simply, lost.

They always see any attacking possibility, as well as the way of carrying the attack out without hesitation by using direct attacks, weird regrouping of pieces, intermediate moves, etc.

They also perceive all the drawbacks in any move immediately pinpointing it and taking advantage of it. They never tire, so they are always looking for the strongest attacking move in every position. When calculating, they never change the move order by mistake, forget moves and they continually put you under a stressing pressure .

Q.4/Q.5: When you play against one of this programs, you feel a terrible pressure.(They play on your nervous resistance too). This is because they always manage to turn the position into a tactical battle. Even in closed positions they are always  building up pressure by the continual creation of threats. The more they put pressure on your position, the quicker it will be torn apart (with your pieces lacking coordination until the position is impossible to be hold together and breaks down). Their amazing opening book and their skills at assessing positions (the more tactical the better but I think they are no longer afraid of strategical positions either) turn them into formidable opponents. When they clinch something, it is forever, no matter if it is an advantage or material. This is why gambits for the sake of them are disappearing from CC (remember: you cannot speculate against a computer. Your way of seeing things is not “their” way of the same.) Another feature is that they abandon their own opening book when they find something better while analysing. A human chessplayer only leaves the book when his opponent does it first, when s/he has a TN of his/her own , when s/he forgets the moves or when the book line ends.

Threats, threats, threats: they are always creating threats and forcing you to take defensive measures, having to change your best-placed pieces and keep the clumsiest ones.

Another amazing skill is the apparent easiness with which they provoke play with heterogeneous forces. They are very cunning in this field. While you may be contemplating lines with the same balance of forces they are always exploring changes ( Queen vs. 3 pieces or 2 pieces and 2 Pawns, or vs. 2 Rooks, etc.) They seem to possess an extreme ability at assessing these positions and go for them. So the human opponent , only thinking in the same correlation of forces may be abruptly woken up by a sudden change in that correlation of forces.  (Boris Spassky has always said Bobby Fischer was the first in showing a computer-like style of playing, and Bobby was very good at this method too (see my post “A Contribution by Bobby Fischer”, published on Feb 1st, 2014 in this same blog). Another feature opposite to humans in many cases is that they do not particularly feel any leaning towards keeping the Bishops/ exchanging BxN, but when they decide to keep the Bishop pair it can be lethal . They have reached a deep insight into what to change / what to keep in the matter of B’s and N’s.

Q.6.- Of course an absolutely strong GM could beat a program any time or at least one time. The problem is how many times in a row and after how many previous (human) defeats in a row too, etc. I think nobody would try to do it in short-time scheduled games like blitz. Perhaps a good test would be a 40-move-in-two-and-a-half-hour game  + a classical adjournment with home analysis using a computer to analyse (so as to level the chances. After all, the program has a program to analyse too! But the matter of openings should have to be somewhat rebalanced. Or perhaps not, to leave the human being to their own devices  ). Moreover, considering that players use programs in CC and victories keep taking place, I tend to think that a hole , leading to some sort of mistakes , does exist…Where is it if any?

(So as not to tire the reader, I will leave the matter of the possible weaknesses of programs and the answer to the 7th question for the next post.)

 williams

Mate in 3 moves. P.H. Williams 1904

wieck

F.G. Wieck 1859. Mate in 3.

Happy New Year 2016 to all my readers!.

QChess.

Written by QChess

January 1, 2016 at 9:05 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

QUESTIONS

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Those who play CC will recognize it immediately. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mate in 3

Mate in 3 moves.

QChess.

Written by QChess

October 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

101 Posts. Contradictions.

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What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence” Wittgenstein.

I have been writing in this blog for many months. Now I am in a stand-still because I have fallen in a curious state: I think I cannot write about Chess. 

Firstly, I am not a professional OTB player. I’m , simply, a CC one. Secondly, perhaps I could tell my own experiences, but nothing more. Even top professional GMs have problems with trying to write about the game.

I suppose Chess is so vast a world that it cannot be taught. It can only be learnt. In my writings I have tried to show that CC and OTB Chess are very different, and this implies different ways of training and studying Chess. (One single fact: for an OTB player memorizing opening lines is vital. Not for a CC player, who has databases to look up during the game. So, as time has been passing by, I tend to think perhaps wrongly- that I hardly know opening lines… (or am I being too self-critical?). In any case , CC players can vary their opening repertoires as much as they desire because they do not need to commit to their memories tons of opening variations. 

The present state of Chess theory is overwhelming. It is nearly impossible to know everything about several different lines. Only professional players can try to keep  all the Najdorf lines, all the Ruy Lopez and another system as Black against 1.d4 in their minds. In CC this problem is relative: you play the opening with your databases, so in the same tournament you could be playing two Najdorf, two Spanish , two Italian, one QGA, three Nimzoindian one Benoni and two Queen’s Indian openings/defences without fearing to forget / change moves or not knowing entire subvariations… And in another tournament perhaps at the same time, you decide to play the English as White and the Grünfeld as Black…In a sense the challenge is (to me ) absolutely attractive. CC is the continuation of the eternal game but with other means at our disposal.

I don’t know if possible CC players reading this blog agree with  this (of course you may  be the type of CC  player  with a fixed opening repertoire  . Then your situation is a bit different. But I guess most average CC players like changing the openings they use for the sake of exploring new alternatives, play different positions -more aggressive/more strategical, etc- because they have everything and everything updated in their databases.) To put it in a nutshell: you don’t need to memorize opening lines to play CC now.

As for the CC players’ approach (I’m thinking of the ICCF), today nobody plays for fun (and this is great, in my opinion). Nobody spends time and money to play in the ICCF simply for fun, for making new friends and so on. People are out for blood. They play to win because victories give you rating points and the possibility of reaching norms. The use of computers have turned CC into an extremely specialised matter. The ICCF outstanding webserver have nearly finished with the old practice of postcards + stamps (the costs have been drastically reduced and everything is under control with no possibilities of moves going astray in the post, expensive registered letters, misunderstandings, etc.). So people play out their games till a result is nearly unavoidable.

These days I have also been thinking about the players who have most influenced me. A trip down memory lane. This has led me to try to understand how I play Chess and which my most important defects are.

When I began to study Chess my first books/influences were Karpov, Nimzowitsch, Petrosian, Reti and Botvinnik. So I was influenced by strategical/positional players rather than by tactical ones. (Everybody says you must start learning tactics, combinations, etc. I began the other way round: by trying to understand Petrosian’s and Karpov’s positional games, Nimzowitsch elaborated -sometimes tangled- expressions…) Curiously enough, this has had a consequence affecting my character: that chessic influences have affected my life outside Chess. I tend to analyse, see or understand everything from a sort of strategical point of view, trying to solve all the matters in life in a strategically planned way (forgive me but it is easier to understand it than to express the idea with words. I hope you understand what I mean).

And here I am: re-reading Chess books, thinking about how to improve my play and in a terrible contradiction. After all, who am I to write about Chess? The Internet is full of Chess blogs written by GMs. You can buy those wonderful books by M. Dvoretsky, J. Nunn, J. Rowson, J Aagaard, A. Soltis, J. Timman, etc. 

This blog began to be written in February 2012. When I am writing these words (end of  August 2014 )it has  had well over 6,300 visits. I am very grateful to all the people who have spent their time having a look at it. 

Now, you may like to solve these 3-movers: 

Otto Fuss

Otto Fuss . Mate in 3 moves

Galitzky

A.W. Galitzky. Mate in 3 moves.

QChess.

Written by QChess

August 31, 2014 at 3:34 pm

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