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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

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 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

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

ABOUT CHESS (And some interesting positions)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kliatskin 1924

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

Kakaritchev brothers 1928

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

Gurgenidze and Mitrofanov 1982

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

Solutions:

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

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

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

QChess.

Written by QChess

February 14, 2015 at 7:32 am

Paul Keres (1916-1975)

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

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

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

 ______________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(White side)

Smyslov-Keres

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

(White side)

ranviir-keres .

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

Smyslov Keres went:

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

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

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

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

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

Alton

 

QChess.

Written by QChess

February 7, 2015 at 10:02 am

Positions to Solve

with 2 comments

abbott

Mate in three moves by J.W. Abbott

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

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

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

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

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

Wurzburg

Mate in three moves by O. Wurzbrg 

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

Keres

In this position Keres played:

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

QChess.

Written by QChess

January 11, 2015 at 5:07 pm

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